Our Blog > Weekly Skim: MT Business

Bozeman-headquartered MeatEater acquires Idaho gear brand, MSU hosts Early Stage Montana HyperAccelerator, Utah call center ROI Solutions expands to Billings, PFL announces expansion in Livingston

What's not to love about these beautiful summer mornings in Montana (finally)! Get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below before we jump into July 4 festivities next week.

TIGER grant signed, makes way for employee housing in Big Sky 

This past week, just over 15 months after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Gallatin County, on behalf of Big Sky, had won a $10.3 million TIGER grant, the county signed the grant. The grant will enable much-needed improvements on Lone Mountain Trail and has allowed the Powder Light employee housing development to continue moving forward. “Gallatin County is leading the state in economic growth,” Sen. Steve Daines said in a March 6, 2018 statement when the award was announced. “This grant will help the county meet the infrastructure demands of this rapid growth and continue creating good-paying jobs in the community.” The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be used for the construction of approximately seven turn lanes on Lone Mountain Trail, also known as Highway 64, a pedestrian tunnel beneath the highway and nearly $2.5 million for the Skyline bus system, which will include adding four buses and six vans to the existing public transport between Big Sky and the greater Bozeman area. Now that the county has signed the grant, it returns to the U.S. DOT for a final signature before the funds are released and the county can call for bids on construction. With Montana’s short construction season, Grabinski said the proposed work schedule puts project completion and road opening at the end of July 2022, assuming the skies cooperate. The grant is a win for the community and bears witness to Big Sky’s cooperative efforts, according to the Big Sky Chamber CEO Candace Carr Strauss. [Explore Big Sky]

Bear Paw Development of northern Montana celebrates 50th Anniversary

Bear Paw Development Corp. of northern Montana celebrates 50 years of helping northern Montana communities grow and maintain a livable place for community members. "The partnership between the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Bear Paw represents, I think, the very best of how we can work together to empower and strengthen regions," EDA Denver Regional Director Angela Belden Martinez said. "In your counties, cities, small towns and tribal lands, our partnership and your grit has turned economic challenges into economic opportunities." Since 2006, Bear Paw's Economic Development District coordinated $139,344,049 for projects through the state, federal and local government sources. In the past 35 years, Bear Paw's business lending has leveraged $60 million for more than 319 private sector start-ups and expansions, creating about 1,516 Montana jobs within 31 years. [Havre Daily News]

Printing for Less announces major expansion of Livingston shop

A Livingston print shop is expanding, doubling the size of its plant. A large employer for Bozeman and Livingston, Printing For Less [hiring] will unveil its new production and warehouse space in mid-July, according to a news release. That will bring the total size of its building to 101,000 square feet. The expansion comes after PFL landed a $25 million capital investment from Goldman Sachs last year. PFL has grown past the point of just being a print shop to being half a marketing technology company and half an e-commerce and commercial printing center, said chief marketing officer Daniel Gaugler. With 350 employees in Montana, Gaugler said the production building won’t produce new Montana jobs, but the company is always looking for new workers, he said. As with much of the tech industry in the Bozeman and Livingston areas, PFL has felt the worker shortage, he said. The company has had the most luck recruiting through employee referrals and at Montana State University and the Montana Code School. “While we are 400 team members strong, we operate very much like a startup, but with the resources of a larger company,” he said. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

Utah call center ROI Solutions to expand business in Billings

A company that provides call centers and customer service to third-party organizations has chosen Billings for expansion, according to a press release. ROI Solutions [hiring], which is headquartered in American Fork, Utah, will expand to up to 100 employees in Billings by this fall, adding about 60 Billings jobs. The company first came to Billings in February, said Allison Corbyn, director of new business recruitment at Big Sky Economic Development. Since its arrival in February, the company has expanded to 40 employees, she said. It’s hoping to expand to 60 by the end of summer, and up to 100 employees by the fall. In vetting Billings as a location, ROI Solutions wanted a market that was similar to Utah, she said. “We were looking for a market that offered a quality workforce, that was easy for us to visit, and where our team leaders from Utah would want to live, and Billings made the short list,” Rob Schow, Chief Executive Officer for ROI Solutions said. [Helena Independent Record]

Large commercial plaza to break ground next to Bozeman airport

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport will soon be getting a large commercial plaza built nearby. It's the first commercial node next to the growing airport. Belgrade's planning director Jason Karp says they're recycling a longtime gravel pit adjacent to the airport as the site of the new Yellowstone Airport Plaza. According to Karp, phase one will be 53 acres with three leasable spaces. When it's all said and done, Yellowstone Airport Plaza will have restaurants, motels and even a movie theater. [NBC Montana]

Weeklong event held at MSU aims to help strengthen technology companies across Montana

An intensive week long program designed to strengthen Montana-based companies in their early stages was recently held at Montana State University. The event, known as a “HyperAccelerator” program, was hosted by Early Stage Montana, a nonprofit that helps accelerate the growth of emerging technology businesses in Montana with support from the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at MSU and 406 Labs.  For seven companies that performed well at regional showcase competitions held in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula, the event was an opportunity to receive a combination of classroom instruction and intensive hands-on coaching from more than 35 successful entrepreneurs and investors. Early stage companies included DugalHealth, Vision Aerial, Tadpull, and MyShippingPost as well as a few others. Topics covered throughout the week included best practices for business pitches; exit strategies; business models; strategy; sales and marketing; financing; and valuation, among other topics. According to Pat LaPointe, Early Stage Montana board chairman and managing director of Frontier Angels, “Even the most brilliant entrepreneurs tend to have limitations in their experiential filters on the world and benefit greatly from having other people share relevant experiential filters. The HyperAccelerator is designed to bring a rapid infusion of training, perspective and mentorship to these companies.” [Montana State University]

Bozeman-headquartered outdoors media company MeatEater just bought one of Idaho’s top outdoors gear brands

An outdoors media company helmed by popular hunting personality Steve Rinella, and with corporate headquarters in Bozeman, recently acquired an Idaho-based outdoor gear brand, according to a news release from both companies. MeatEater (hiring), a lifestyle website with a popular podcast and Netflix series of the same name, bought First Lite, a hunting apparel company out of Ketchum, Idaho. First Lite will remain headquartered in Ketchum, and its co-founders Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson will continue to work as co-presidents, the release said. MeatEater CEO Kevin Sloan will oversee the integration of the two businesses. First Lite gear is already available for purchase in MeatEater’s online shop. [Idaho Statesman]