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Bozeman-based Schedulicity raises $22M, 10 Montana companies make 2019 Inc. 5000 list, CM Manufacturing starts apprentice program for new grads, MSU awarded federal money for statewide tech grants, Butte business district commits $37K to local projects...

Bozeman-based Schedulicity raises $22M, 10 Montana companies make 2019 Inc. 5000 list, CM Manufacturing starts apprentice program for new grads, MSU awarded federal money for statewide tech grants, Butte business district commits $37K to local projects...

As these late summer drizzles (and even storms) continue to roll in during the evenings and back-to-school cray begins, take a minute to get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below.

Bozeman-based Schedulicity raises $22M in funding

Schedulicity (hiring), a Bozeman-based online platform for consumers to schedule appointments, classes and workshops in more than 50 industries, raised $22m in funding. Unnamed private investors participated in the round. The company intends to use the funds to launch a new payment processing platform, conduct an upcoming consumer-facing brand campaign, as well as grow the company’s Bozeman headquarters. In addition, this fall, the company will release a nationwide marketing campaign designed to elevate brand awareness among consumers and drive increased bookings for businesses using the platform. [Finsmes]

Ten Montana companies make the 2019 Inc. 5000 list

Inc. released its annual guide of the country’s fastest-growing privately held companies and ten Montana companies made the list. Topping off the list at #29 overall and #4 in software, Missoula-based LumenAd (hiring) noted 7,045% growth since 2015 and $11.8 million in revenue in 2018. Also on the list were Bozeman-based XYPlanning Network (#553 & hiring), Stone Glacier (#1,199), Energy1 (#2,159 & hiring), commonFont (#2,424 & hiring), Foundant Technologies (#3,488 & hiring), Advanced Electronic Designs (#4,587), Billings-based Yellowstone Health and Rehab (#2,172), Kalispell’s Health and Rehab Solutions (#3,541) and Missoula-based Submittable (#3,933 & hiring). You can find the full list here. [Inc.]

Eagle Bancorp Montana to acquire Western Holding Company of Wolf Point, Montana

Eagle Bancorp Montana, Inc. (NASDAQ: EBMT), the holding company of Opportunity Bank of Montana (hiring), recently announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Western Holding Company of Wolf Point, and its wholly owned subsidiary, Western Bank of Wolf Point. Opportunity Bank’s acquisition of the $100 million in assets, which is structured as a 50% cash and 50% stock deal, will further solidify its position as the fourth largest Montana-based bank with approximately $1.10 billion in assets. Western currently operates one branch in Wolf Point. The acquisition will provide Opportunity Bank with an additional $100 million in assets, $77 million in deposits, and $41 million in gross loans, based on June 30, 2019 information.  Opportunity Bank will have, upon completion of the transaction, 22 retail branches in Montana. [Global News Wire]

MSU awarded federal money for statewide tech grants

Montana State University has been awarded a federal grant to create a public-private partnership for growing tech companies in Montana. The U.S. Economic Development Administration announced July 23 that it had awarded $750,000 to MSU’s Prospect Montana, a newly created program to promote high-tech economic development statewide. The three-year funding will support three complementary efforts to see high-tech companies grow and create jobs in communities across the state, said Daniel Juliano, head of MSU’s Technology Transfer Office, who applied for the grant. Roughly $400,000 will go into a new “gap fund” managed by the university’s Office of Research and Economic Development, Juliano said, which will be awarded to advance technologies toward commercial applications or to build prototypes. Of the remaining federal funds, approximately $110,000 will go to MSU’s 406 Labs Business Accelerator, a program at the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, which will provide education and mentorship to keep the students and faculty who receive gap funding on track to launch their startups. The remaining money will go toward launching and promoting the gap funding program, preparing participants to submit gap funding proposals, and administering the program. The Prospect Montana program will begin this fall with a competitive request for MSU gap fund proposals. Grant funds will be awarded to three to five applicants based on the commercial potential of their technology. [Bozeman Chronicle]

California-based Susteen Inc. plans data center in historic Montana powerhouse

A California-based tech company, Susteen Inc., plans to repurpose a more than century-old Montana powerhouse into a data center. NorthWestern Energy (hiring) has submitted a plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for Susteen Inc. to lease the Rainbow Powerhouse in Great Falls. The former hydroelectric facility was built in 1910 along the Missouri River. The Great Falls-Cascade County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission has been working with the utility since 2011 to find a way to reuse the historic building at the Rainbow Dam. [Independent Record]

$17-$20 an hour out of high school: CM Manufacturing starts apprentice program

One Missoula business owner has created an employment path for high school students who want to make as much as $17 to $20 an hour right after they graduate. Ken Johnson, of CM Manufacturing (hiring), has been working with Big Sky High School and Missoula College for the last several years to develop a 15-credit, one-year machining degree for high school students. He’s had the help of guidance counselors, administrators and teachers at both institutions, and the first class is underway. “I feel the private sector needs to work with Missoula College in order to solve the shortage of skilled labor,” Johnson explained. “We need to get this moving forward. This is something that goes back 10-12 years. We have a lack of skilled workers out there.” Johnson sent his son Liam through the training program first as a test case to see if he could make it work with his high school schedule. It worked, and now several other students are in the program. [Missoulian]

Huntley Ritter builds Whitefish-based USeek to make video advertising more fun and interactive

In a recent interview with Huntley Ritter, Founder and CEO of Whitefish-based USeek, Forbes discusses operating at the intersection of consumer behavior and business transformation. Huntley shares the birth of the idea of USeek back in 2011 to the launch of the beta in 2015 in partnership with the University of Montana. Now with 15 full-time employees and approximately 15 more contractors the company is growing and expanding into the tourism industry. According to Hunter, he is focused on building something that's disruptive and solves the problems he was dealing with himself. Read the full interview here to learn about USeek. [Forbes]

Butte business district commits over $37,700 to local projects, events

Butte’s Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) recently committed over $37,700 to projects that its board members hope will promote tourism and more overnight stays in Butte. The TBID board consists of local hoteliers and collects a $1 assessment for every overnight stay in Butte. The board uses the money to allocate grants to performing arts venues, athletic facilities, and other venues hosting events along with allocations to festivals and other projects anticipated to contribute to visitation. The TBID also funds ad campaigns promoting Butte as a tourist destination, among other types of allocations. Grants the TBID committed to included: $2,500 to the Butte Civic Center, $2,727 to Hypoxia Crossfit Challenge, $2,000 to the Young Ag Leadership Conference, $6,500 to the Butte economic development team, $13,000 to the Butte Central Education Foundations, $10,000 to the Mother Lode Theatre and $1,000 to Montana Tech professor Kumar Ganesan. [Montana Standard

Kindred Healthcare, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare announce opening of rehabilitation hospital

Kindred Healthcare, LLC (hiring), Billings Clinic (hiring) and St. Vincent Healthcare (hiring) recently announced the grand opening of The Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana, located in Billings west end. The Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana is a partnership between the three organizations to operate the 34-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital. This is the first and only freestanding inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Montana. The hospital will meet the growing clinical needs of Billings, the state and region. Kindred will manage the day-to-day operations of the hospital, which is expected to employ more than 100 caregivers and staff. [Tullahoma News]

Bullock announces funding for workshops to help women negotiate better pay

Gov. Steve Bullock has announced new funding for workshops across Montana, aimed at promoting equal pay by giving women strategies for negotiating for salary or benefits. “Actually having the skills to negotiate a decent salary and working conditions – sometimes even those base skills can make a real difference, to the tune of thousands of dollars in the pocket,” he said. Bullock said the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will use $25,000 in grant money to support a series of workshops with the American Association of University Women of Montana. There will be two types of workshops: Start Smart, which will help young women entering the workforce for the first time develop negotiation skills; and Work Smart, which will do the same for those currently working and seeking a new job, raise or promotion. Leaders say 15 of the workshops will be set up around the state over the next 18 months. The schedule for these workshops will be published on the AAUW website. [KXLH]

What's the value of a college degree in Montana?

In the wake of a student loan epidemic where debt reached an all-time high in 2019, the question of the value of a college degree looms in the back of many students’ minds. Research shows that from a financial standpoint, earning a bachelor's degree is usually a sound investment. Some 62% of college graduates think their education was useful for helping them grow personally and intellectually. The statistics can be confusing for students in Montana considering a degree, where a worker shortage has opened up a number of entry-level jobs for high school graduates and certificate holders. “There are just a lot more jobs available at lower wage levels than higher wage levels,” said Barbara Wagner, chief economist for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. The worker shortage is expected to grow over the next 10 years in Montana, and as the cost of college increases, the state labor department is working with the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education to ensure that workforce training is aligned with the state’s economic needs. A new report by the two agencies found that college graduates working in Montana earn wages above entry-level pay within one year of graduation. However, those with higher levels of education face lower retention. According to the report, only 67% of bachelor degree holders earned income in Montana a year after graduation, compared to about 84% of those with an associate's degree. [Missoulian]