Our Blog > Weekly Skim: MT Business

Six growing Montana businesses, global tech powerhouse S&K Technologies, Bedrock Sandals relocating HQ to Missoula, Bozeman airport adds direct flights to Minneapolis...and more


Home of the free (and these breathtaking Montana sunsets) because of the brave. To those in uniform serving and to those who have served, we honor and thank you. Find this week's skim of Montana business news below.

Economic development grants awarded to six growing Montana businesses

Six Montana businesses are sharing more than $600,000 in economic development grant awards to support the creation of up to 114 Montana jobs at growing businesses across Montana. A release from Governor Steve Bullock says the reimbursement grants will be awarded through two programs at the Montana Department of Commerce: The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) and the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant (WTG). According to Governor Bullock in the release, “These grants are critical to making those investments and enhancing partnerships with private business as they realize growth and opportunity.” The full list of grant recipients includes: Billings | Big Sky Economic Development Authority on behalf of Fort Belknap Planning and Development Corporation dba Island Mountain Development Group; Bonner | Missoula County on behalf of Botanie Natural Soap, Inc; Butte | Ray Holes Leather Care Products, Inc; Hamilton | Ravalli County on behalf of Montana Studio, LLC; Malta | Phillips County on behalf of Big Sandy Meat Shop dba Hi-Line Packing; Missoula | Missoula County on behalf of Newfields Mining and Energy Services, LLC (hiring); and Missoula | Missoula County on behalf of The Insight Studio, LLC. [KULR 8]

Can Do: Montana tribe builds global tech powerhouse from scratch in St. Ignatius, Montana

On this episode of Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs, S&K Technologies CEO, Chad Cottet, shares what it was like after he took over the operational reins in 2018 after having served as board chair for seven years. Turning a seed funding of $150,000 from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 1999 into S&K Technologies (hiring), the company has grown to a family of five companies of more than 900 employees with offices throughout the U.S. and around the world. From its headquarters on the Flathead Reservation, nestled in the Mission Valley in rural St. Ignatius, Montana, the company manages a complex government acquisition business that includes a landmark $4.2 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force. [Montana Public Radio]

Gaining a foothold: Bedrock Sandals to bolster state’s booming recreation economy in Missoula

Missoula and state outdoor industry leaders recently welcomed news that adventure footwear manufacturer Bedrock Sandals will relocate its flagship retail store and repair workshop from Richmond, California, to Missoula, as well as its corporate headquarters. Bedrock Sandals co-founders Nick Pence and Dan Opalacz announced their move from the high-priced San Francisco Bay Area, citing Missoula’s lower cost of living, rigorous affinity for the outdoors and a surging economic stewardship model. They’ll arrive in early 2020. The local shop will open with 5-7 employees, until it grows. While it remains to be seen exactly where Bedrock Sandals will locate its shop in Missoula, the industry as a whole looks very promising for Missoula residents seeking work. Additionally, Big Sky Fulfillment, a Missoula distribution company located near the airport, will handle inventory and distribution for Bedrock. CEO Patrick Claytor said his office will add one full-time employee and one part-time employee to service the Bedrock Sandals account. [Missoula Current]

Supporting a community-led effort to boost eastern Montana tourism, business

Over the last year, the Montana Department of Commerce worked with partners to hold 14 listening sessions with tourism and economic development leaders from 23 eastern Montana counties digging into the region’s needs, goals and on-the-ground expertise when it comes to showcasing all that eastern Montana has to offer. As a result of these efforts, the Department of Commerce is now working on goals of increasing visitation and strengthening business growth through a community-led collaboration called the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative. As a part of this initiative, the Office of Tourism and Business Development at Commerce is investing $1.3 million over two years in promotional marketing, local grants, staff expertise and new research to support the region’s objectives of enhancing marketing efforts and strengthening tourism amenities. The initiative kicked off in May with regional marketing campaigns to promote eastern Montana’s diverse landscapes, outdoor recreation opportunities, cultural experiences and family activities. The campaign transitioned this fall to a marketing campaign featuring eastern Montana’s vast upland bird hunting opportunities and will continue to shift over the next two years. [Havre Daily News]

In demand: UM, tech industry announce initiative to train highly skilled workforce

Missoula County’s booming tech businesses have partnered with the University of Montana in an effort to train the thousands of highly skilled employees needed in the next decade. The resulting Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative was unveiled last week at Missoula College. Tech leaders said they anticipate a shortage of at least 10,000 skilled employees in Montana as an estimated 100,000 baby boomers retire over the next 10 years. Jobs like cloud computing, fiber-optic cable installation/repair, cybersecurity and software engineering already are in demand. The across-the-industry initiative will provide real-world, hands-on training for UM students. Growth in the tech business sector is up 11% in Missoula County – compared to only 4% across Montana, said Grant Kier, Missoula Economic Partnership president and CEO. Among the other sponsors of the Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative are Allegiance (hiring), ATG a Cognizant Company (hiring), Blackfoot, Community Medical Center (hiring), The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Glacier Bancorp (hiring), Glaxosmithkline (hiring), Inimmune (hiring), iResponse, LMG Security (hiring), LumenAd (hiring), Montana Hospital Association (hiring), Silvergate Recruiting, Stockman Bank (hiring) and Submittable (hiring). [Missoula Current]

Bozeman airport adds 8th airline, additional flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul

An eighth airline has been added to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport’s offerings to passengers, the airport announced earlier this week. Sun Country Airlines in June will begin nonstop seasonal service to Minneapolis-St. Paul two days a week. Airport director Brian Sprenger said one-way tickets could be available for as little as $89. Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce President Daryl Schliem said the additional flights may add a boost to the Bozeman economy. “Every time we open a new direct flight and a new direct market, we see multiple businesses and multiple homeownership come (as a) result of that,” Schliem said. He also said the new flights may help curb the summertime vehicle traffic coming to the area from Minneapolis-St. Paul. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

UM master’s degree in business analytics taps into booming job market

A fifth-year master of science degree in business analytics has the University of Montana College of Business looking forward and onward as data becomes increasingly crucial across the board. The beauty of the program is that Zoom video conferencing allows busy business professionals to enroll part time or full-time students to study locally or elsewhere. The 32-credit, accelerated program covers the bases in many high-paying technical jobs. The types of jobs graduates secure include marketing analytics, digital analytics, business intelligence, data science, marketing science and product management. [Missoula Current]