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Red Lodge High School opens new center focused on trade skills, Montana hits record-low unemployment, Whitefish Foundation receives $1 million gift... and more

Red Lodge High School opens new center focused on trade skills, Montana hits record-low unemployment, Whitefish Foundation receives $1 million gift... and more

 Image by Lauren Kemp

Red Lodge High School opens new center focused on trade skills

Red Lodge High School hosted the grand opening of its Career Technical Education Center that is giving students a leg up on just about any career path they choose. The new CTE center is described as a worker’s paradise, with many students stating positive feedback on their new school experience. The main building also houses a media arts room, complete with a floor-to-ceiling green screen, as well as a new student staff wellness center that was funded by an anonymous donation. Most of the building was paid for by the Carbon County bond measure. The state will pay up to $3,000 per year per student for anyone to become a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or welder. Red Lodge plans to open classes up to other schools within Carbon County as well as adult education classes inside the CTE center. [KPAX]

New David J. Thatcher VA Clinic in Missoula set to open February 1

The new 8.2-acre David J. Thatcher VA Clinic in Missoula is finally complete. The facility is set to offer expanded service to around 5,000 veterans and will introduce a new consolidated approach to their healthcare. Dr. Judy Hayman MTVAHCS Executive Director said, “This clinic was also designed specifically to reflect the patient-aligned care team model…when you come to get care here, you are the center of your team’s focus.” The clinic is named after World War 2 Veteran, David J. Thatcher. The final cost of the project comes in under budget at $8.8 million. [NBC Montana]

Montana hits record-low unemployment

Montana’s unemployment rate hit a new record low in December 2021, dropping 0.3 percentage points to end the year at 2.5% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of unemployed Montanans is at its lowest level since the BLS began the data series in 1976. Total employment, which includes payroll, agricultural, and self-employed workers grew by 3,137 in December, and payroll employment increased by 3,200 with strong job growth in retail. [KBZK]

Montana Wool Lab: building a sustainable future

The Montana Wool Lab, constructed in 1947, has served sheep and wool producers nationwide by conducting research and testing to help sheep producers improve their wool clip for fiber diameter and wool yield, which significantly influences their income from wool. This lab is one of only two testing locations for wool fiber left in the nation. The lab sits on the north end of Montana State University’s campus in Bozeman, and it will continue to build a sustainable future for the all-natural fiber, wool. Governor Greg Gianforte signed HB 14 which provided $5 million to build a new Montana Wool Lab on campus. MSU and the Montana sheep industry must privately raise $1 million in funds to support the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of the facility.

MSU Sheep Extension Specialist Brent Roeder described the Wool Lab’s major focuses: “We focus on running individual samples for genetic improvements. We have technology at the wool lab that we can determine the fitness of the wool. What the length is. A lot of different processing characteristics of greasy wool that then tells producers how that wool is going to process into yarn and other fabrics.” Roeder said the MSU Alumni Foundation has secured $450,000 in private funds as part of their million-dollar private funding campaign. [KBZK]

History being restored at Fort Harrison

A Helena artist is repairing an 80-year-old mural at the Fort Harrison Service club. “There are 70 years of cigar smoke and fun on this thing,” said Matt Engan, the man taking on the restoration task. Engan sprays and scrubs away smoke and grime while applying solvents to remove decades of damage to the mural. He says it is an honor to bring back the colors and vibrancy of the piece painted by Montanan artist, Irwin “Shorty” Shope an artist in the First Special Service Force. It is one of only three works in existence, the other two are in Pennsylvania and Florida at WW II mobilization stations. Completed in 1943, the piece depicts WW II mobilization units. [KTVQ]

Whitefish Community Foundation awards $25,000 to Land to Hand

The Whitefish Community Foundation recently awarded a $25,000 grant to the nonprofit organization, Land to Hand. The grant is intended to support the relocation of the organization’s building next to the Wildcat Garden at Columbia Falls Junior High School. Previously, the organization was in a small temporary building near Glacier Gateway Elementary school, and they have needed a larger space for quite some time. Land to Hand provides Flathead Valley residents with access to fresh, local food through the organization’s Food for all programs. The new location will serve as the ideal place for Land to Hand to offer gardening and healthy cooking programs for children, as well as to store, stage, and deliver food to those in need. [Whitefish Pilot]

HeartStone Advisors commits $50,000 as a sponsor of Whitefish Trail

Local Whitefish business Heartsone Advisors has pledged $50,000 as a Legacy Sponsor to support Whitefish Legacy Partners (WLP) and the Whitefish Trail for years to come. With an increased interest in outdoor recreation, rising development pressure, and a growing need for front country recreation opportunities, HeartStone Advisor’s generous giving of $10,000 per year for five years is a long-term investment in the future of our local lands. The Whitefish Trail is the anchor project of Whitefish Legacy Partners and the result of collaborative partnerships providing public access and recreation while protecting clean water, thriving forests, and prime wildlife habitat on open lands located in the front country of Whitefish. To date, WLP and the City of Whitefish have established miles of a recreational loop trail system accessed by 15 trailheads. [Whitefish Pilot]

The State of Montana has selected LightBox for broadband serviceable location fabric and mapping solutions

LightBox, a leading information and technology company, announced that Montana has awarded the company a contract for their SmartFabric ™ product and GIS technology to create broadband serviceable location analytics and mapping capabilities for Montana. Montana joins the growing list of states that have selected LightBox to ensure they have the most accurate location fabric, analysis, and broadband maps. LightBox will also coordinate the collection, cleansing, and geospatial mapping of the ISP contributed data to create and maintain the broadband serviceability map for Montana. [AP News]

Fundraiser for those affected by West Wind Fire in Denton raises over $160,000

Organizers of a fundraiser for the town of Denton are celebrating after a successful event over the weekend. The Lewistown News-Argus reports the donations worked to help those devastated by the West Wind Fire. “It was a devastating year and the generosity from everyone has given so much hope to so many people,” Josey Carter-Koke said in an update. [Montanarightnow.com]

Montana Elks meet in Great falls, highlight scholarship programs

The Montana Association Elks mid-winter-meeting was held on the 21 of January to discuss their accomplishments over the last year. National Elks director, Jim O’Kelley stated “One of the biggest things we’ve been able to do was Covid. Obviously, a pandemic is not good, and the Elks were put in an unusual situation.” Although this situation has been challenging, the Elks were still able to come together to help the community. They helped relieve food insecurity and support scholarship opportunities, overall awarding $22,000 to Montana students and $2.4 million nationally each year. [KRTV]

Whitefish Foundation receives $1 million gift

Whitefish Foundation has received the largest gift ever in the foundation’s history from the estate of two longtime hospital and community supporters. The estate of Jake and Connie Heckathorn recently made a $1 million donation to the foundation’s endowment at the Whitefish Community Foundation. In addition to the hospital foundation, other gifts from the Heckathron estate were made to the Whitefish Community Library, Shepherds Hand Clinic, and the Whitefish Community Foundation. The $300,000 gift is also going into a permanent endowment fund to support community programs like the Great Fish Community Challenge in perpetuity. Alan Satterlee, Executive director of the Logan Health - Whitefish Foundation stated, “This tremendous gift to our organization will forever be a legacy to the Heckathron family and generate income for generations to come to support programs and capital needs of our local hospitals and clinics.” [Whitefish Pilot]

‘Heart’ of Little Shell

The Little Shell Tribal Health Clinic is slated to open in Great Falls on January 31, roughly two years after the tribal nation achieved its long-sought federal recognition. Louella Fredrickson has long created workarounds to fill gaps in the spotty medical care available to her as a member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana. The 86-year-old uses dollar-store reading glasses for her blurry vision because she is worried about the cost of an eye exam. Soon, getting care will be easier for Fredrickson and other Little Shell members living in and around Great Falls. The health clinic is to open in this city of about 60,000 people, roughly two years after the tribal nation achieved its long-sought federal recognition. Little Shell members will have guaranteed access to health services and see their culture reflected in the offerings for the first time. [MTFP]

Company Spotlights

Director of the Annual Fund Montana State University Alumni Foundation 

The MSU Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization committed to maintaining connections between MSU graduates and friends of the University connected to their alma mater. The MSU Alumni Foundation is seeking an experienced candidate to fill their position as the Director of the Annual Fund. This position requires developing, managing, implementing, and evaluating giving strategies. Ideal candidates for this position possess the ability for strategic planning and program development, as well as being a motivated self-starter with professional integrity. Check out the job description on our job board and follow the link to apply if you or someone you know is interested in the position. [Apply on our website]

Prospect Management & Research Specialist Montana State University Alumni Foundation

The Prospect Management & Research Specialist for the MSU Alumni Foundation is responsible for supporting the fundraising goals of the organization through the identification and research of alumni and friends who have the capacity to make philanthropic gifts to the University.  The Specialist fulfills targeted research requests/reports, coordinates and validates database wealth screenings, and implements other elements of a broader prospect management program in support of the organization’s goals. The Specialist reports to the Director of Prospect Management & Research. Qualified candidates will have experience in project or information management and be detail-orientated, with strong technical, analytical and communication skills.  A bachelor’s degree or equivalent combination of education and experience is required. [Apply on our website]