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MT business roundup: Next Frontier Capital adds new partner, Intercontinental Truck Body Co. to move to Anaconda and looks to add Montana jobs, Missoula's Xplorer Maps grows with new partnerships and more

MT business roundup: Next Frontier Capital adds new partner, Intercontinental Truck Body Co. to move to Anaconda and looks to add Montana jobs, Missoula's Xplorer Maps grows with new partnerships and more


Next Frontier Capital adds new partner in preparation for close of second fund

Les Craig, a West Point graduate, friend of ours at The Work Spot, former Ranger Platoon leader in the US Army and technical operations officer at the CIA and a two-time company founder will be joining the Next Frontier Capital team. Will Price, Founder and General Partner at Next Frontier, said “we could not be more excited to welcome Les to the Next Frontier Capital team.” Les, who for the past 16 months served as the Executive Director of Montana State University’s Innovation Campus and Director of MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, will focus on driving deal flow, facilitating new deal diligence and helping provide portfolio company oversight. Next Frontier Capital raised a $21 million dollar fund in 2015 and has invested in ten companies to date, including nine Montana companies: SiteOneTherapeutics, Submittable, Clearas, Quiq, Orbital Shift,  Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, IronCore Labs, OppSource, and Remix Labs. [CNBC].


Butte businessmen to move Conrad manufacturing business to Anaconda

Anaconda will soon be home to manufacturing company, Intercontinental Truck Body Co. (ITB) The company, who contracts with the U.S. Air Force, is co-owned by Butte businessmen Ron Ueland and Mike and Bert Robins. ITB, once exclusively a truck-body manufacturer, has now diversified into defense contracting mainly for the Air Force. With the move to Anaconda (from Conrad, MT) the company hopes to double its workforce to about 30. The owners are all well-known businessmen in the community. The Robins brothers are the owners of SeaCast, Inc. as well as 50 percent owners of Montana Precision Products. Ueland is an investor behind Montana Craft Malt. Jim Davison, executive director of the Anaconda Local Development Corp. said ITB’s move into the Arbiter Building “will definitely breathe new life into the building”. [Montana Standard]


Ataata announces successful closing of $3 million series A round

Ataata, announced the closing of its Series A financing with a $3 million round led by Bozeman-based venture firm, Next Frontier Capital. Ataata, a cyber security training platform designed to reduce human error in the workplace, is headquartered in Bethesda, MD but has plans to establish a presence in Bozeman. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate customer-driven product development and solidify its market prominence. Additional investors include TEDCO, 2M, SaaS Ventures, ARRA Capital and senior leadership from major technology and financial firms. [PR Newswire]


East Helena receives $500K grant to launch culinary training, arts program

East Helena was recently awarded $500k of grant funding from ArtPlace America to provide a culinary arts program, job training and community events over the next three years in East Helena. The project, called the East Helena Food and Culture Hub, will be supervised by five partners in addition to the city: the East Helena School District, Helena Community Offender Re-Entry Program, Myrna Loy Center, Environmental Protection Agency, and Shalon Hastings of Hub Coffee and the former East Helena Taco Del Sol. The project is expected to kick off in early 2018. [KRTV.com]



Hamilton receives $450K grant for Ravalli Early Head Start facilities

Hamilton has been awarded $450,000 through a grant from the Montana Department of Commerce to build a Head Start facility for Ravalli. Ravalli Head Start Executive Director Jon Filz said he is grateful, and it's excellent news for families, children and the program. The proposal and application for the Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) was a team effort including the Ravalli Head Start, City of Hamilton and the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority. The move to the new facility, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will free up space for Bitterroot College who is already eying options and looking at future opportunities. Other CBDG grant recipients are Beaverhead County, City of Helena, City of Roundup, Lewis and Clark County, Phillips County and Sanders County. [Ravalli Republic]



Nonprofit releases guide encouraging farmers to tap into tourism

AERO, a sustainability nonprofit based in Helena, released the guide this week following a survey of its members that showed an increased interest in agritourism — business that connects agricultural production with tourism to attract visitors. The AERO report lists a handful of farms across the state currently engaged in agritourism, including a farm-to-table dinner at B Bar Ranch in Emigrant and a “fork to farm” bicycle tour of several farms in the Bitterroot Valley. The guide, which includes a list of resources, is meant to give farmers and ranchers support to explore another potential source of revenue. According to Alan Merrill, president of the Montana Farmers Union, “there is huge potential for Montana farmers and ranchers to utilize agritourism as a way to add revenue to their operation and to educate the public on all agriculture has to offer our great state.” [Bozeman Chronicle]


Company proposes to turn vacant Anaconda school into training center for ‘bitcoin mine’ operation

BitPower LLC, a subsidiary of Burrell Group, recently proposed $100,000 to purchase vacant Dwyer Elementary School in Anaconda to create a training facility for a potential bitcoin “mine” that could bring 300 new jobs to Anaconda. The potential “mine,” which would be a data center where BitPower would “mine” the digital currency bitcoin, would be in the county’s Mill Creek Tax Increment Financing District. The Anaconda school board has declined to take action yet on the buy-sell agreement at this time. However, BitPower can pursue the matter again before the board. [Montana Standard].



Four bidders offer to buy Emerson lawn

Four bidders have recently come forward to purchase the highly sought after Emerson lawn in downtown Bozeman. Trustees voted in September to sell the Emerson lawn property, originally a school site, saying money from the sale is needed to buy land for a ninth elementary school in the fast-growing Bozeman School District. The lawn was recently appraised at $2.2 million. Intrinsik Architecture Inc. submitted three offers of $900,000, $1 million and $1.2 million. It proposes to build 10 to 16 townhouses in a development called Emerson Row at the lawn. Bridger Builders offered $1.8 million, and possibly more, depending on how the project pencils out as more information is gathered. It proposes to build 18 residential condominiums, with parking below the condos and underneath the green space between units. The Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture offered zero to $227,385, based on a 1990 appraisal. It proposes to enhance the lawn as open space where the community can “gather in the heart of Bozeman, surrounded by the arts.” And the Gallen family of Manhattan, New York, which owns property in Big Sky, offered $2.12 million. Jon and Amy Gallen propose residential construction or light mixed use, though without offering specifics. The School Board is expected to reach a decision soon. [Bozeman Chronicle]


Missoula-based Xplorer Maps grows with the help of Opportunity Resources and the developmentally challenged community

Under a recent partnership, Xplorer Maps, which now packages and ships over 5,000 mailing tubes of hand-drawn maps, joined forces with Opportunity Resources to not only develop an environmentally friendly way to package the maps but also the opportunity to do so utilizing the talents of nearly 750 disabled people in Missoula. This new partnership allows Xplorer Maps to expand and scale their business and allows the clients of Opportunity Resources to do meaningful work. [KULR8.com]


Medicine Springs Mineral Therapy earns national recognition

After five years of formulating their products, Medicine Springs Mineral Therapy began selling its products in 2014. The products help you create healing hot springs in your own home, bath tub or hot tub. The Montana startup has now been named to the top ten list by Vitamin Retailer Magazine. Creators, Brandon and Julie Price, say being highlighted by Vitamin Retailer is an exciting honor. They look forward to continuing to expanding their product lines into 2018. [KTVH]