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Florence couple brings apple spirits to Montana, Pulsara announces latest version of its communication platform, Great Falls named most affordable food processing market, state's first freestanding rehab hospital to open in Billings and more


PHOTO VIA BETTERROOT

Raising the bar: Florence couple's unique vision brings apple spirits to Montana

For Jesse Spaulding and Hannah Weinert, the journey of building a business based on the Bitterroot’s famous apple crop began a couple of years ago. It first started with the duo perfecting the art of creating handmade ciders for the business they named betterRoot and then continued last year, after investing in a custom-made, copper still, with their plan to start Montana’s only distillery focused entirely on creating a variety of fine spirits from apples. With a growing number of custom distilleries appearing across the state, the couple is not alone in their business venture. However, they are the first to make all of the products from apples, something the Bitterroot valley has an abundance of. And while the couple has planted their own orchard with cider-variety apples they hope to use someday to create their ciders and spirits, they are currently focused on distributing their first products - an Apple Jill brandy and other, soon-to-be-released gin, vodka, applejack and coffee liquor. [Ravalli Republic

Bozeman-based Pulsara expands to provide a comprehensive communication solution for entire regions

Bozeman-based Pulsara (currently hiring) recently announced the latest version of their communication platform, which includes real-time consultation between specialists, transfer functionality and streaming video. Pulsara is a regional communication network for healthcare. All healthcare providers in the region can communicate about a patient on a dedicated communication channel. The data gathered through the application can provide practical insights into referral patterns as well as reveal useful quality metrics for improving efficiencies in the transfer process. According to James Woodson, Board Certified Emergency Physician and CEO of Pulsara, “This iteration of Pulsara is a turning point for the company. Simplifying the jobs of clinicians and allowing for increased efficiency and optimized patient care has always been Pulsara’s goal. With the added features of consult/transfer and live video, we hope to streamline the communication process even further.” [PRWeb]

New study names Great Falls most affordable market for food processing

The Great Falls Montana Development Authority (GFDA) announced this past week that Great Falls is the least expensive market to operate a food processing plant based on a review of 25 U.S. cities. The study, conducted by The The Boyd Company, found that annual operating costs for a 325-person food processing plant in Great Falls are 25% less than the most expensive metro (i.e. Boston, MA). "We are pleased with the result of this extensive, in-depth survey. It shows companies that receive materials from our area will find it more cost effective to locate here, near the source of the ingredients, as they expand and grow," says Brett Doney, president of GFDA. The Great Falls region is an emerging destination for food processing plants with a recent investment of $20 million by Montana Specialty Mills on a new processing center. Other food processing companies in the region include Pasta Montana, which recently invested $6.5 million in a line expansion; Montana Eggs, which recently opened a new $9 million facility; Montana Milling; General Mills; CHS Nutrition (currently hiring) and others. [Benzinga

Officials break ground in Billings on Montana's first freestanding rehab hospital

Officials broke ground this week on the Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana, a two-story facility with 34 beds that will be built in west Billings. It is anticipated to serve more than 1,000 patients a year. The new facility will be managed by Kindred Inpatient Rehab Hospitals and is expected to be completed in 2019. Russ Bailey, COO of Kindred Inpatient Rehab Hospitals, said Kindred’s business model is to partner with high quality hospitals across the country. Therefore, the plan in Billings is for Kindred to partner with both Billings Clinic (hiring) and St. Vincent Healthcare (hiring). Bailey continued to comment that the state-of-the-art hospital in Billings will employ more than 150 employees at capacity, “many of which will be new jobs created for the local market.” This means more Montana jobs, including Montana healthcare jobs. According to City of Billings Mayor, Bill Cole, “Health care is truly foundational to the economy of Billings, and we want to be the very best partner we can be in attracting and retaining the quality health professionals we need.” [Billings Gazette]

The Montana High Tech Business Alliance summarizes five unique advantages to doing business in Montana

In 2017, the Kauffman Foundation funded a research study on Montana’s entrepreneurship ecosystems. The report confirmed that Missoula and Bozeman enjoy some of the highest levels of entrepreneurship in the nation in terms of startup and high-growth companies. The study also uncovered that the Montana ecosystem offers different and unique assets for growing businesses compared to traditional tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle or Denver. According to the research, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance recently summarized five unique advantages to doing business in Montana. (1) Dense networks of active local support organizations that are well-perceived and utilized, (2) active support and accessibility of Montana’s elected officials, (3) a high quality of life and an attractive destination for clients to visit for training or business meetings, (4) a high quality workforce with high employee retention rates and (5) the ability to grow through bootstrapping rather than high levels of capital. You can find a summary of the study here or can continue on to read the full report here. [Montana High Tech Business Alliance]

Sanderson Stewart named one of Zweig Group’s 2018 best firms to work for

Billings-headquartered Sanderson Stewart has once again been awarded “Best Firms to Work For” by the Zweig Group for 2018. The “Best Firms to Work For” award recognizes the top architecture, structural engineering, civil engineering, environmental, geotechnical engineering, landscape architect/planning and multi-discipline firms in the United States and Canada based on their workplace practices, employee benefits, employee retention rates and more. Sanderson Stewart, with offices in Billings and Bozeman, also serves the Denver/Fort Collins area. The company has been in business since the early sixties. And it’s also worth mentioning they are currently hiring. [Sanderson Stewart]

Film company started by MSU seniors sees international growth

Two seniors attending Montana State University have been providing a variety of services to filmmakers since establishing their own film company, Egerton Crescent Productions, in 2016. And now, they are experiencing a new level of growth after the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, now serving clients on an international scale. Owner Omar Parker said, “People are worried about the quality of the film and the picture. That’s fantastic, but you need both sides to it. We have been able to offer a lot of things like financing help, management, organization and accounting.” The business partners have grown to love Bozeman and plan to keep the company in Bozeman after graduating. Furthermore, looking into the future, the two partners plan to continue to work on short films but also hope to break into bigger media platforms such as TV. [KXLF]

Montana Made: Paradise Dental Technologies

In this week’s Montana Made series, get a behind-the-scenes look into Missoula’s Paradise Dental Technologies (PDT). The company creates the number one dental instrument in the world -- the Montana Jack. It's a tool that hygienists and dental professionals say they cannot live without. PDT CEO Linda Miller says that 40-70% of dental professionals have carpal tunnel or some type of muscular skeletal disorder, which is a big reason why the company focuses on the ergonomics of their products. The company humbly started 18 years ago in Miller's garage. Today, the company is looking at 21% growth over the first quarter of last year, is ranked the #2 dental instrument company in the US, UK and Canada, is prevalent in roughly 50 other countries, won “Employer of Choice” Award of 2018 and gives back on a global level. And, the company is also hiring. [KPAX]

Montana State University named the best college in the state to help graduates find a job by Business Insider

Business Insider recently released its list of the best college, in every state, to help graduates find a job, and Bozeman’s Montana State University topped the list for Montana - noting a 90% placement rate. The career website Zippia used data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and CollegeScoreCard to find the college in each state with the highest percentage of graduates that had full-time jobs 10 years after graduation. Find the complete list here. [Business Insider

Butte-based app developer sees bright future in destination application concept

Butte-based couple Sean and Jessica Kalagher have turned a love for the outdoors into a concept that could give destination tourism a techy new edge. After years of excursions and lugging around heavy and expensive field guides, the couple had an idea. What if there was a smart phone app that would allow users to carry a variety of field manuals in the palm of their hands? This idea has now turned into an app, iXplore Yellowstone. The app, which launched in April of this year, helps users identify flora, fauna, geological features and other items commonly found inside Yellowstone National Park, ranging from the iconic geysers to the many buffalo. And critical to much of the park, the app can function offline without cell coverage and Wi-Fi, so long as the entire application is downloaded. It also has a journal function that allows users to take notes, upload photos and keep track of what they've seen in the park. The Kalaghers now have their sights set on creating other applications, possibly for other national parks and for the state. The couple said they would like to turn their application concept into a company and one day grow enough to develop several applications and maintain a staff. [Montana Standard]

ViZn Energy Systems secures funding, restarts operations

After shutting down operations and temporarily laying off employees in March of this year, Columbia Falls-based ViZn Energy Systems is back in operation with more than 40 employees and a new CEO. The large-scale energy storage company, which develops highly complex zinc-based redox flow battery technology, began welcoming employees back in late May but held off on a public announcement until financial documents were finalized. Company officials say the reboot comes after a successful round of financing, resulting in $15 million of new funding led by a prominent energy industry private equity fund and several of the firm’s long standing investors. The Montana-based location (in Columbia Falls) is the firm’s primary research and development facility and has always employed the majority of employees compared to outside of Montana. The company says the commercial organization will likely expand again in 2019. In the meantime, sales and marketing will be conducted primarily through strategic partners vs in house. [Flathead Beacon]

Missoula Early Learning Center to expand; businesses can reserve spots for employees

A planned approximate $2 million expansion of the Missoula Early Learning Center will potentially increase the center by an additional 10 rooms, allowing up to 220 children at the daycare center. The center currently serves 70 children ages 0 to 5. The additional 150 open spots will help ease the burden of a shortage in child care options for working parents. Kelly Rosenleaf, executive director of Child Care Resources in Missoula, said the lack of child care in Montana means some working parents are unable to find or afford care for their child, making it increasingly difficult for parents to stay in the workforce. The Missoula Early Learning Center and the Missoula Chamber of Commerce have said they will work together to build relationships with local businesses, allowing them to pay for reserved spots at the center for their employees’ children. Kim Latrielle, president and CEO of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, hopes that this model of allowing businesses to reserve spots for employees can be used in other Montana cities with a child care shortage, too. [Missoula Current]

New brewery in downtown Missoula will use greenhouse gas recovery system

Conflux Brewing Company is set to open in downtown Missoula later this summer with spacious outdoor decks, high-end pub food with a Southern twist and an innovative system that recycles the carbon dioxide created in the fermentation process. The new brewery has partnered with a Missoula green tech company CO Brew Inc. for a CO2 recovery system that will keep thousands of pounds of the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere and cut down on transportation costs. Taylor Woods, the founder and CEO of CO Brew Inc., said that each barrel of beer produces 11-13 pounds of CO2. And breweries also buy CO2 for further carbonation of beer, transferring liquids between tanks, cleaning kegs, packaging and in draught lines. “So they’re consuming 10-13 pounds per barrel. The problem is there has been a technology gap preventing breweries from taking a raw vapor and turning it into a pure liquid CO2, which is way more compact to store.” Woods’ company has developed technology to solve that problem. Conflux will be the second location with this system implemented, which is currently operating at another Missoula brewery, Lolo Peak Brewery. [Missoulian]

Montana's unemployment rate down slightly to 3.9 percent

Montana’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 3.9% for the month of May. For comparison purposes, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 3.8% in May. “Montana’s economy is strong and growing – more Montanans are on the job than ever before in our state’s history, and we lead the country in middle-class growth,” said Governor Bullock. “And we continue to invest in the workers of today and our workforce of tomorrow – all the way from pre-school to post-secondary education like college, apprenticeships and work based-learning.” Montana payroll employment posted a gain of 1,000 Montana jobs, while total employment levels posted insignificant changes over the last month. The largest gains were in the professional and technical services industries. [Montana.gov]