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5 Montana startups get intensive training, Rimrock's new treatment campus in Billings, Montana company changing indoor agriculture, Great Falls brewery continues growth, drone maker Skyfish secures funding...and more

5 Montana startups get intensive training, Rimrock's new treatment campus in Billings, Montana company changing indoor agriculture, Great Falls brewery continues growth, drone maker Skyfish secures funding...and more

Image by KE (Glacier National Park, October 2021)

UM taking Montana technology corridor to next level

The University of Montana and its Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC) are creating an innovation corridor along the Clark Fork River to support startup ventures in biosciences and other technical industries from across the state. The MonTEC business incubator is seeking developers with the vision, funding and expertise to undertake construction of new facilities on the Missoula College and MonTEC campuses, which will become the Montana Innovation Corridor Gateway. The 10-acre corridor ultimately will house best-in-class businesses, from startups to Fortune 100 firms and build on the existing assets already provided to Montana businesses by UM and MonTEC. According to Brigitta Miranda-Freer, who oversees MonTEC operations and serves as executive director of the Montana World Trade Center, the new corridor will provide more than physical space. It will serve as an extension of a team that can help researchers and other fledgling founders navigate the complexities of a startup. This extended team includes a continuum of support offered by UM’s Accelerate Montana, a coalition of programs that serves businesses at all stages of growth. According to UM President Seth Bodnar. “UM’s ability to adapt, innovate and replicate to meet Montana’s pressing workforce needs is rooted in Accelerate Montana. In the years ahead, the Montana Innovation Corridor Gateway will serve as the model for university-led public/private partnership development.” [K96fm.com]

5 Montana startups get intensive training

Five new Montana companies have been selected to participate in the 2021 Early Stage HyperAccelerator, a program of Early Stage Montana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of new technology companies. The five companies chosen are Harken Real Estate Solutions, a Billings-based Real Estate Data platform for commercial brokers and appraisers. PestNotify, a Butte-based company developing an early pest monitoring selection technology allowing landlords to avoid costly bed bug outbreaks. Nano Magnetic Solutions, a Bozeman-based technology offering a tissue-scale magnetic force application system that opens new avenues for in-vitro neuroscience research. SensorLogic, a Bozeman-based firm developing next-generation snow-pack monitoring technology to better predict water availability and drought conditions. And, Resilient Computing: A Bozeman-based firm creating radiation-tolerant computing solutions and building computers capable of operating in space. In late October, the five tech startups will gather at the Early Stage MT Statewide Showcase. More than 200 entrepreneurs, mentors, investors from around the country, and tech community leaders will join the event. [Big Sky Business Journal]

Rimrock to build new treatment campus in Billings

Rimrock is planning a new multi-building treatment campus which will be key for the region to meet the growing need for substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. This campus will allow Rimrock to bring all services and resources to a single site. Rimrock provides medical detoxification, inpatient, residential, substance use assessments, and outpatient services. Additionally, Rimrock is a licensed Mental Health Center and provides, family and individual therapy. With the growing demand for Rimrock’s services and the increasing opportunity for community partnerships addressing substance use disorder treatment and public safety, this new campus will become an integral part of the community’s strategy to provide needed resources. The estimated total cost of this state-of-the-art mental health and substance use disorder treatment campus is $22 million. Rimrock hopes to raise several million dollars through a capital campaign. Rimrock is working with local architects, Collaborative Design, and the new campus is expected to be open in late 2023. [Big Sky Business Journal]

Montana company Local Bounti hopes to become a game-changer in indoor agriculture

One Montanan company is setting its sights on changing agriculture by bringing innovation to indoor farming. Local Bounti built its first large state-of-the art-greenhouse in Hamilton, Montana ,and has plans for several more in the Northwest as it prepares to go public in the coming weeks. Hurlbert grew up in Billings and helped lead Billings West to a state basketball title in 1980. He’s one of the top amateur senior golfers in the nation, but his record as a business leader and entrepreneur is just as impressive.

Now he is hoping to become a game-changer in the world of controlled environment agriculture. The company grows leafy greens, like lettuce and herbs, indoors with technology that combines vertical and horizontal greenhouse farming. It provides some big advantages to traditional farming including bigger yields and less strain on resources. According to Hulbert, “It is really exciting to be doing it right here in the great state of Montana as a starting point for us.” [KTVQ

MSU manufacturing extension helps Great Falls brewery scale up efficiently

As the Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company grew from a small Great Falls establishment to one selling craft beer in 10 states, the company faced a challenge common among Montana manufacturers: how to scale its operations without getting bogged down by debt and old habits. That’s why the brewery’s namesake owner turned to the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University to help navigate decisions that can make or break a small business. Meeting with Doug Roberts, MMEC’s business adviser for the Great Falls area and northeast Montana, Johnson learned of several opportunities to reduce waste while increasing output, meaning greater profits as the brewery expanded to meet the growing demand for its beer. For Johnson, the consultation “has led to a tremendous increase in efficiency,” he said. [Montana.edu]

Wells Fargo establishes $2.4M in grants for Montana small businesses

A trio of Montana-based nonprofits have received nearly $2.4 million in grant money intended to spur small business growth from Wells Fargo. The Women’s Business Center at Prospera Network and the Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership Lab recently received $240,000 and $125,000 respectively and MoFi, a nonprofit lender, received a grant of $2.1 million earlier in the year. The money given to the Women’s Business Center is planned for the creation of a mentoring program, which could be available in every county in the state, Paul Reichert, the executive director of the Prospera Business Network, said. The Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership Lab said the money would go to help address issues women face when starting a business. MoFi already received grant money from Wells Fargo, and has put it toward lending for businesses affected by the pandemic. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

American drone maker Skyfish secures over $20 million in seed funding

American autonomous drone maker Skyfish has secured over $20 million in a venture-backed seed funding. The funds are earmarked to grow customer revenue, expand drone manufacturing capacity, add to its existing talent pool, and to continue providing its customers with the great service and outstanding solutions they have become accustomed to. The funding comes on the heels of Skyfish being recognized as the industry leader in engineering grade photogrammetry and 3D Modelling for inspection, precision measurement and analysis of critical infrastructure. [Global Newswire]

Global Clean Energy Holdings, Inc., announces relocation of the headquarters of its Sustainable Oils, Inc. to a new state-of-the-art facility in Great Falls

Global Clean Energy Holdings, Inc. (OTCQX: GCEH) recently announced that Sustainable Oils, Inc., its camelina feedstock subsidiary, is relocating its North American headquarters to a new state-of-the-art facility in Great Falls, Montana. This new facility will consolidate Sustainable Oils crop innovation programs, commercial grower support and executive and administrative activities at one location and will be fully operational by November 1, 2021. The new facility and the additions to its technical and commercial teams will support Sustainable Oils Camelina breeding and development program and Sustainable Oils’ goal of cultivating over one million acres of camelina to produce low carbon intensity, nonfood feedstock to be used at GCEH’s renewable diesel refinery in Bakersfield, California. [Business Wire]

​​S&K Aerospace wins multimillion-dollar contract

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) selected S&K Aerospace, LLC (SKA) as one of eight awardees of a $700 million-dollar multiple award contract for the sourcing, acquiring, and delivery of a broad range of ground and aircraft common support equipment (CSE) end items within the Support Equipment and Vehicles portfolio. SKA is a member of the S&K Technologies, Inc. family of companies, which for over 20 years has supported U.S. Military and foreign allies with parts and equipment support. The S&K Technologies, Inc. family of companies is owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) with headquarters in St. Ignatius, Montana. [NBC Montana]