Our Blog > MT Business Roundup

Billings Public Library open to entrepreneurs, Montana's remote workforce, Missoula nonprofit MoFi wins grant from Facebook's Zuckerberg, Missoula-based women launch law firm for entrepreneurs, Cargill R&D facility opens in Great Falls and more

Billings Public Library open to entrepreneurs

The Billings Public Library is making moves to become a place for not only books, but for workforce and economic development. By collaborating with existing partnerships, the Billings Public Library helps train future workers in the Yellowstone Strengths Academy, a program created to address identified specific needs of employers in the Billings community. Given that Montana has more entrepreneurs per capita than any other state, with ten percent of Montanans owning a business as their primary jobs compared to just six percent of the rest of the U.S. population, this endeavor seems to be one of value. [Billings Gazette]

Report: Guided outdoor activities in Montana a big business

Guided activities in Montana include hunting, fishing, rafting, horseback riding and snowmobiling. And per a new report by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, those activities made up a $374-million-dollar industry for Montana in 2017. Jeremy Sage with the institute says the findings aren’t surprising given the trend of increased spending on professional guides in Montana. It was reported that outfitters and guides served more than 700,000 clients in 2017, of which almost two-thirds were from out of state. [Flathead Beacon]

Does remote work bring Montana workers big-city wages? Yes — for some

As better internet access connects even far-flung rural communities with the rest of the world, it seems to promise Montanans a way to have their cake and eat it too: a fulfilling career at a city wage without having to leave the Last Best Place. The state has sometimes been cited as having one of the highest telecommuting rates in the nation, yet reliable data on the number of Montana remote workers and their wages isn’t readily available. And while there are companies hiring Montanans for work-from-home positions such as customer service jobs, the typical remote worker in the state is someone with big-city experience who has found a way to bring their job with them to Montana. Montana-based remote workers interviewed for this piece — all in tech sector jobs — said they tend to like the arrangement because it allows them to avoid the cubicle and manage their own schedules. That said, they also acknowledge the barriers that telecommuting poses to social aspects of their work. And while remote workers in Montana may tend to clump within commuting distance of the larger cities, there are also great examples of companies offering telecommuting opportunities for those living in the smaller towns across the state. For example, event marketing materials company TicketPrinting.com says it has customer service representatives successfully working from home in small towns in central Montana. TicketPrinting.com CEO Lance Trebesch, of Bozeman, said the company employs a seven-person customer support team working remotely from Billings, Columbus, Lewistown, Big Timber, and a ranch outside Two Dot. (The company’s main production facility is in Harlowton, population: 1,000.) [Missoulian]

Butte’s Thompson Distributing sold to Great Falls company

After operating as a family-owned business in Butte for more than 40 years, Thompson Distributing Inc. has been sold to Eagle Beverage (hiring) of Great Falls. The purchase, which occurred October 1, will allow Eagle to expand its footprint in wine distribution. For the former owners of Thompson Distributing, the move was a major and calculated investment that allowed the family to maintain the real estate. The family will maintain ownership of the business park that was home to the distribution company. Today, the building boasts approximately 20 renters, including Eagle Beverage, which is leasing space for vehicle storage, and another Thompson business called SMT Storage. [Montana Standard]

Custer-Gallatin recreationists spend $223 million, add 2,000 Montana jobs

Outdoor recreation in the Custer Gallatin National Forest supports thousands of jobs in Montana, including dozens in Park County, according to a new report from the Outdoor Alliance. Overall, the report found that 3.5 million people — hikers, mountain bikers, skiers, rock climbers and paddlers — spend $223.1 million annually across local Montana communities. Additionally, the report noted that visitor spending on human-powered recreation helped create 2,172 full-time Montana jobs that provide $65.7 million in wages. The report comes at a time when the U.S. Forest Service is considering a forest plan revision for the Custer-Gallatin. That revision dictates how the forest will be used for the next two decades or so, including whether land will be designated as wilderness area. While most human-powered recreation is allowed in wilderness areas, mechanized recreation, like mountain biking, is not. [Livingston Enterprise]

New Cargill R&D facility opens in Great Falls

Cargill (hiring) has chosen Great Falls for an R&D facility conducting groundbreaking research, which includes the development of omega-3 fatty acids from canola plants to reduce reliance on fishmeal, increase the viability of farm-raised fish and reduce pressure on oceans. We’re thrilled one of the world’s largest privately held companies has chosen Great Falls, Montana, for their innovative research facility,” said Brett Doney, president and CEO of the Great Falls Montana Development Authority (GFDA). “This type of international research partnership is the first of its kind. Projects like this are essential components for advancing our food system and the heart of Montana, Great Falls, is the perfect location to achieve those breakthroughs.” Great Falls has seen a boom in investment, including larger, Japan-based companies like Pasta Montana, Columbia Grain, Montana Specialty Mills and Helena Chemical. In 2016, GFDA opened the Great Falls AgriTech Park to provide fully-served heavy industrial sites for food and agricultural processors. It's the region's first industrial park and is certified by BNSF Railroad to offer ready-to-build lots with access to utilities and rail. [Feedstuffs]

Missoula women launch law firm with full business services for entrepreneurs

A new law firm in Missoula is the only one of its kind in Montana, offering legal counsel and business-specific services to entrepreneurs. SOVA, founded by Jenn Ewan and Erika Peterman, combined their passions for creativity along with 25 years of experience in law and economic development to create a new approach to traditional legal services for entrepreneurs. They provide in-house counsel such as meetings, legal research, and letter writing – along with assistance in general business and corporate matters such as contracts, large- or small-scale employee issues and business expansion. Ewan said they also specialize in commercial and real estate transactions and business litigation. SOVA also represents companies seeking funding and can assist in creating pitch decks, structuring raises, and connecting their clients with investors, Ewan said. The firm utilizes its strategic partners specializing in web design, graphic design, in-depth intellectual property expertise and other services. [Missoula Current]

Missoula nonprofit wins $1M grant from Facebook founder Zuckerberg, Rockefeller Foundation

Missoula-based nonprofit, MoFi (hiring), recently won a highly competitive $1 million grant called the Communities Thrive Challenge from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, along with the Rockefeller Foundation. MoFi was one of 10 winners among more than 2,000 entrants from across the United States. MoFi will use the money mainly to hire specialists who will help businesses hire low-income workers across the Northern Rockies. “The grant we’ve received will allow us to scale up our work with entrepreneurs and business owners across the Northern Rockies to work with them to have a more inclusive and robust workforce,” explained Dave Glaser, president of MoFi, a community development financial institution. [Missoulian]

JetBlue about to take off in Bozeman

As Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport continues to grow, a new airline is about to take off. JetBlue will offer direct flights between Long Beach, California, and Bozeman starting this week, becoming the seventh airline to set up shop in the small but busy airport. Bozeman Yellowstone International has quickly become the busiest airport in the state, with about 600,361 people flying out in 2017. It also plans to expand by adding five new gates to the existing eight by 2021. According to airport director, Brian Sprenger, “As we grow, we will continue to see more options, with airlines and destinations.” [Bozeman Chronicle]