Endpoint Utility Corporation is a small tech company in the Flathead Valley aiming to democratize access to IT services for small businesses. The founders realized that large businesses could spend lots of money on IT while small businesses are underserved and face challenges competing when they don’t have access to the same tools. Endpoint Utility tries to meet the lower-level technology needs that a company requires, including security, laptops, and email. They are also focused on hiring local talent, including building a talent pipeline from the Flathead Valley Community College and local high schools. [Daily Inter Lake]
Despite challenges stemming from COVID-19, Montana’s manufacturing industry is on track to reach pre-pandemic levels of business. Manufacturers faced worsening supply chain issues, high costs of materials, and challenges finding employees. Manufacturing generated ~$3.5 billion in Montana in 2020. It is also growing quickly, at a rate of 45%, compared to a nationwide average of just 11% growth. Manufacturing employees, who constitute 4.5% of Montana’s workforce, are paid an above-average wage. Manufacturers worry that leveling employment numbers may have an impact on profits in 2022 if they can’t find workers. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]
The Children’s Museum of Montana located in downtown Great Falls is providing a STEAM camp to get kids out of the house during the Christmas break. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The camp’s focus is to teach kids a multitude of things before their break ends. Tim Luoma, museum assistant director described how involved the kids have been thus far at camp and how exciting it is to see them learn about science. The museum holds other camps during breaks from school to provide kids with fun learning opportunities. [KRTV Great Falls]
Wells Fargo donated $25,000 to the Red Cross of Montana to help with disasters across the state, including two recent wildfires in Denton and Great Falls that destroyed at least 24 homes. The Red Cross helps those affected by the fires by providing food, shelter, clothing, financial assistance, and mental health support to aid in a long-term recovery plan. Montana Red Cross Director Daine Wright stated “This incredibly timely and generous gift helps our team deliver comfort and care when it is needed most”. [KRTV Great Falls]
NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch on Christmas day, has a mission to be the premier device for observing the cosmos. JWST has been more than 10 years in the making and numerous engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and educators have worked on the project. Ryan Hannahoe, current executive director of the Montana Learning Center, worked as an intern for the JWST mission while attending Montana State University. He helped coordinate JWST’s role in various educational and public outreach events and worked to develop educational content, trained educators, and worked with others (such as celebrity Bill Nye the Science Guy) to bring information about the telescope to the public. [KPAX]
Rudy Ruana was quoted saying “You pay for the blade and the rest is free.” While not totally true, the main goal at Ruana Knife Works in Bonner has been to produce a cutting tool that will be reliable for its owner. Ruana knives have become very valuable, with some people tucking them away as family heirlooms however, this was not the case 50 years ago when the knives were mainly used by big-game hunters and carried in the field. Mike Hangas, a grandson of founder Rudy Ruana, keeps the business alive with his brother, Mark. The Hangas brothers are equal owners of the company today, with Mark being the main bladesmith and craftsman and Mike making all the sheaths for the knives, hatchets, and axes as well as handling administrative duties. Each knife is made custom by hand with the same craftsmanship that made them famous. [Daily Inter Lake]
In partnership with Operation Warm, The Missoula Rural Fire Department was able to raise 280 coats for children in need and the donations have not seemed to slow down. There are plans to expand the program outside of winter coats. Missoula Rural Fire Coats for Kids Coordinator Max Kottwitz stated “We are trying to build a more community-based program with our benevolent fund and kind of build-on coats for kids. It’s been a good starting point, but we want to try to identify other things that the community may need.” Items such as bike helmets seem to be a promising new area of donations for the program. [NBC Montana]
If you are looking for a way to get rid of your Christmas tree, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks may be able to help. Since 1990, FWP has been collecting trees in Great Falls and sinking them in the Tiber Reservoir for fish habitats. Much of the river is currently iced over, but during the spring, the Christmas trees will be sunk near the dam and marina. Katie Vivian, FWP Choteau-area fisheries biologist shared that they will get several hundred trees donated. The trees provide a place for perch to spawn and are necessary because there is very little shoreline vegetation for them to spawn due to fluctuations in reservoir water levels. Republic Services helps collect the trees and each year, with the help of Walleyes Unlimited, FWP disburses the trees. The location where the trees are placed depends on where they are needed most. Last year they were up toward the Willow Creek arm and the year before that they were placed toward South Bootlegger. After a couple of weeks, the trees will be covered in perch eggs which greatly helps their population. [KPAX]
Montana State University’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing is continuing its work to better serve veteran patients that the nursing students will soon care for. Associate Professor Dr. Angela Jukkala and her fellow collaborators created a space for students to roleplay healthcare, make mistakes, and learn. Students that participated were able to apply what they have been taught and learn how to navigate difficult topics, such as suicide. [KPAX]
Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen has announced afterschool organizations across the state will get $2.8 million to expand their programs. The Montana Office of Public Instruction awarded grants to 70 afterschool programs, run by nonprofit organizations and schools in more than 40 towns. This money is intended to help address the child-care shortage in Montana. Not all organizations that applied for the money received grants including three locations in Gallatin county, some of which plan to appeal the decision and provide more information showing the number of low-income kids they serve. [KPAX]
Now in its second year, Snow Buddies is an organization formed through the Montana Independent Living Project. It is a volunteer effort that promotes neighborliness and community-building through shoveling snow. The program helps anyone who is physically unable to clear snow off sidewalks outside their property and those who cannot for financial or time reasons. There are about 15 volunteers that have helped shovel snow this winter however, they are still looking for plenty more to lend a hand. [Montanarightnow.com]
Carroll College was “recognized as the number one regional college in the Western 15 states for 11 consecutive years” stated college President John Cech. Additionally, with the demand for nurses across the country and statewide, Carroll College launched its accelerated nursing program that allows students who already have a bachelor’s degree to return to school and earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and become a registered nurse in 15 months. They launched a new master’s program, the Master of Social work which prepares students to be licensed clinical social workers. For 2022, President Cech is looking forward to new initiatives and is hopeful for what is to come in the new year. [KPAX]
With hundreds of hidden gems across the Big Sky, there is one located in Kalispell that sticks out. Spring Brook Ranch, known across the country as a breeder of some of the best well-bred yaks, sits on a thousand-acre land. Jim Watson inherited the land from his late father-in-law and he and his wife Carol have dedicated their lives to the ranch. Jim and manager Christy Novak raise Tibetan yaks for the local meat market and supply breed stock across the country. Looking into the future, the priority is maintaining the beauty of this ranch for yaks with the focus on sustainability and wildlife to be surrounded by subdivision for the next generation of Montana wildlife. [Montanarightnow.com]
The Montana Historical Society (MHS) received $525,000 in gifts for the construction of the Montana Heritage Center and updates to its existing building. Already, MHS has raised close to $7 million. The state’s lodging facility use tax will provide an additional $41 million, and a $7 million bond from 2005 also is contributing to paying for the project. The five substantial gifts complete the private fundraising goal for the $15 million project. [KPAX]
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