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Montana Precision Products continues growth and hiring, Growth Through Agriculture program still growing strong, 200 gather for Montana Young Professionals Summit, CEO of Benefis Health System says Montana workers hard to find...and more



Now hiring: Montana Precision Products is looking for people to grow with company in Butte

Butte-based Montana Precision Products continues to experience incredible growth and is on the hunt for talent. The company, which has more than doubled its size since it was founded in 2012, most recently shared that it has 168 employees and plans to grow by 30 percent from 2018 to 2019 and another 10 percent in 2020. Located west of Butte in the Montana Connections Business Development Park, Montana Precision Products manufactures components for jet engines as well as parts for companies like Caterpillar Inc. and Peterbilt Motors Co. The recent increase in demand for a new generation of engines from GE called “LEAP” is currently driving the tremendous growth at the company. LEAP engines can be found in aircrafts by Airbus, Boeing and Comac. According to Jeanne Nelson Kruse, head of human resources at Montana Precision Products, they are one of the fastest selling engines in the history of GE Aviation. To meet demand for LEAP engines, Montana Precision Products has been looking for people to fill a variety of positions, especially people who can learn the ropes of tungsten inert gas welding. To train employees, Montana Precision Products has set up a two-tiered, in-house paid training program. The training program represents a notable investment for Montana Precision Products, but company officials say training their employees is worthwhile because they want to hire people who are committed to Butte and are looking for a place where they can grow and move up the ranks. Browse current open positions with the company here. [Montana Standard]

Growth Through Agriculture program still growing strong

For 30 years, the Montana Department of Agriculture’s Growth Through Agriculture program has provided funding to encourage value-added agriculture projects throughout the state. The Growth Through Agriculture program aims to support local food producers and processors, and the demand has been significant. In 2016, the program reviewed 36 applicants requesting more than $1.2 million in funding for their projects. There were 27 projects funded to the tune of $650,000, with grants ranging from $2,000 to $150,000. From 2011 through 2016, 212 total projects were funded – an average of 35 projects per year – for a total of close to $3.6 million. And these funded projects created close to 300 Montana jobs. One such operation that benefited from the program is Stricks Ag, a grain merchandiser and industry expert located in the small town of Chester, Montana. The company received close to $150,000 in grant and loan money in the 2016 Growth Through Agriculture application cycle for the expansion of their pulse-processing facility, growing from 10 to 25 employees in a town of only 880 people. Further, the company says they aren’t done hiring yet. [Farm Flavor]  

200 gather in Butte for Montana Young Professionals Summit

About 200 young people from across Montana arrived to Butte last week for the third annual Montana Young Professionals Summit. Participants toured Uptown Butte businesses, attended conferences on leadership training and listened to guest speakers. Joe Willauer, the executive director of the Butte Local Development Corporation, helped organize the event. “To be able to show off our community to all these folks is really, really cool, and it’s a great opportunity for Butte,” said Willauer. Speakers included local entrepreneur Colin Higgins, owner of Butte’s MacKenzie River Pizza and several other franchise locations in Montana and Idaho, and Nick Smoot, founder of the Innovation Collective, a consulting and business incubator company based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. [Montana Standard]

Montana workers hard to find, CEO of Benefis Health System in Great Falls says

Great Falls' biggest private employer is having growing pains when it comes to filling entry-level jobs, and it isn't alone. John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health System (currently hiring), said the hospital has gone through a lot of growth over the past few years and with that comes workforce needs. Goodnow made the comments to the newly formed Future Ready MT Cabinet, a new state committee charged with helping prepare the state with a trained workforce. Also speaking to the panel was Sara Mines of Bozeman’s Mystery Ranch (also currently hiring). Mines said the company has had trouble finding people with experience, especially growing and developing employees to fill open leadership roles. Bullock said he hopes the panel, made of up mostly of his cabinet members, will be able to shed light on how to grow good-paying jobs in Montana. [Great Falls Tribune]

Montana Resources in Butte

Montana Resources (MR) began mining the Continental Pit in Butte in 1986. Since then, MR has produced 2.35 billion pounds of copper, 268 million pounds of molybdenum and 20 million ounces of silver. And while these are impressive numbers, MR is most proud of its 360 employees. Furthermore, the company continues to grow and is hiring more. MR is also proud of its economic impact on Butte and the state of Montana. In 2017, local goods and services purchased in Silver Bow County exceeded $21 million. Payroll exceeded $28 million, and taxes paid to Montana were in excess of $10 million, resulting in total economic impact to Montana of nearly $75 million. Additionally, MR is part of the Washington Foundation, which is underwriting some exciting projects in Butte, including the Stodden Park improvement plan which is under construction with WET Engineering and H & H Contracting (hiring). "Montana Resources is proud of our heritage, proud of our industry and most of all proud of our employees for their hard work and dedication to working safely," said MR's Mike McGivern. [Montana Standard]

New indoor sporting arena breaks ground in Bozeman

A local Bozeman couple is hoping to give residents a new option to stay active this coming winter. Jeff and Vanessa Stevens, former Montana State University athletes who have been working on bringing an indoor sporting facility to Gallatin County for the past three years, broke ground this past week on a new indoor sporting arena. Come rain or shine, people will be able to gear up and play all different types of sports including baseball, volleyball, basketball, soccer and even lacrosse. [KBZK

Laurel refinery gets tax break for $99M expansion

The Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners approved 10 years in tax benefits for CHS Inc. (currently hiring) early this week after construction completed last fall of the Laurel refinery’s $99 million hydrogen plant. The tax benefits are given to new or expanding industry and apply only to the $99 million value of the new hydrogen plant, which has allowed the refinery to expand capacity and be more efficient. According to Pat Kimmet, CHS’ Laurel refinery manager, it can be difficult to secure capital within CHS for expansion projects like the new hydrogen plant so this tax incentive is important to building projects and overall economic growth of the plant and area. The new construction added four new Montana jobs and brings the refinery’s workforce to 378 full-time and 53 part-time employees. Together with benefits, the average union wage paid to refinery workers in Laurel is more than $67 per hour, and the refinery’s annual payroll exceeds $50 million. Patrick Klugman of Big Sky Economic Development also shared some figures around the refinery’s recently completed turnaround. About 2,400 people worked during the turnaround, pumping about $6 million into local hotels and motels, as well as retail and restaurant establishments. CHS paid another $8 million for materials and supplies during the turnaround. [Billings Gazette]

Markovich construction and real estate businesses continue legacy in Butte

For more than 75 years, the Markovich family has been building iconic structures in Butte while also building a family legacy. Their unique blend of businesses in both construction and real estate has made them market leaders. Markovich Construction Inc. and Coldwell Banker Markovich Real Estate (formerly Markovich Real Estate) are family-owned businesses in Butte that span generations. The Markovich family entered the building business in the 1940s, and members of the family have continuously operated the construction company since its inception. Markovich Real Estate opened in July of 1981 as a compliment to Markovich Construction. Markovich Real Estate recently joined the Coldwell Banker franchise, becoming Coldwell Banker Markovich Real Estate. Most recent (and notable) projects include being named general contractor for the $35-million Praxis Center for Innovative Learning, a planned medical simulation center to be located in Uptown Butte, as well as Butte’s new $8.7-million Ridge Waters pool in Stodden Park. Additionally, the company just recently completed the new terminal for the Bert Mooney Airport having served as the general contractor. [Montana Standard]

Workforce shortages continue to plague manufacturers, survey says

The photonics market across Montana has drastically changed in the past 20 years. What was once made up of a few photonics businesses twenty years ago is now comprised of a slew of fast-growing companies. Bozeman’s Big Sky Laser Technologies (now Quantel) was founded in 1982, has grown to employ 60 Montana employees and is currently hiring. All a trend that one Quantel employee described as an upward trajectory indicative of a larger trend in Montana manufacturing. However, despite the positive nature of the growth, this same rapid growth in Montana’s manufacturing sector has left many businesses struggling to fill open positions, according to a recent survey. Conducted on behalf of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, nearly three quarters of the companies surveyed reported a shortage of workers. “Finding and retaining the workforce is becoming the biggest challenge for Montana manufacturers,” said Jenni West, associate director of MMEC. But, focusing on technical training programs such as Gallatin College (which recently graduated its first class of photonics technicians) and the efforts of the MMEC itself (which offers its own set of trainings and business services) is a good place to start, West said. [Bozeman Chronicle]

With brand new terminal, Butte's Bert Mooney Airport pushes for more flights

Butte’s Bert Mooney Airport has a spectacular new terminal. Now, the airport is focused on getting more people — and more airplanes — to use it. The value of Butte's air service to the local economy is enormous. One oft-quoted budget analysis shows that more than 300 local Montana jobs are dependent on the existence of air service to and from Butte. Now, with the new $10.5 million terminal funded by a combination of $1 million from the county's Hard Rock Mine Trust and federal grants and loans, the airport is looking to increase its services by adding a Denver flight to its current two nonstop flights to and from Salt Lake City per day. In addition to grabbing a larger share of the Montana commercial aviation market, the airport is well positioned to take advantage of positive developments in the Mining City like the Praxis Center, a planned medical training facility that is expected to generate 3,500 to 4,000 trips to and from Butte a year, as well as the ever growing interest in the local outdoor recreation economy. [Montana Standard]

Montana high school students take part in first summer entrepreneurship program

Nine high school students from across Montana are participating in the first Montana Summer Startup Academy on Montana State University’s campus in Bozeman this summer. The new three-day program is a collaborative effort put on by the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the nonprofit One Montana and Blackstone LaunchPad to teach high school students the basics of entrepreneurship and running a business. Kregg Aytes, dean of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, said he hopes the program will help the students make decisions about college and their careers and prepare them for business and entrepreneurship after high school. Trevor Huffmaster, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU, said the program is aimed at equipping young students to be involved in business. “[It’s about] learning the tools and getting exposure to local entrepreneurship,” Huffmaster said. “We’ve done a lot of this with older students...this is a great space to get folks engaged at an earlier stage.” [Bozeman Chronicle]

Post-Colstrip economy will be rough for all of Montana, state Chamber of Commerce says

A study paid for by the Montana Chamber of Commerce says the early closure of the Colstrip power plant would hurt Montana's economy beyond just the loss of Montana jobs at the plant and the coal mine that feeds it. The study prepared by University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research says billions of dollars would be lost in economic output, tax revenue and wages if all four of Colstrip's units closed by 2027. The study assumes that Colstrip's two newer units could run until 2043, even though most of Colstrip's six co-owners plan to phase out their coal-generated electricity portfolios before then. Colstrip's two older units are scheduled to close by mid-2022. No date has been set to close two newer units, though Colstrip co-owner Avista Corp. has set a 2027 end-of-life depreciation schedule. Results of the study suggest that Montanans would collectively earn $5.2 billion less between 2028 and 2043, should the Colstrip Electric Generating Station close completely 10 years from now. Additionally, the study suggests that an estimated 3,300 Montana jobs would be lost both at the plant and statewide in state and local government and that more than 7,000 Montanans would leave the state in search of better economic opportunity. According to Webb Brown, Montana Chamber of Commerce CEO, “We want to get this out to as many people as possible and start planning. Our ultimate preference for this plant is to continue 3 and 4 for as long as possible. If this helps that discussion in ways we can do that, we’re happy to have it there.” [Billings Gazette]

CryptoWatt bitcoin mining operation ramps up production at facility near Butte

CryptoWatt, which purchased the former MSE site outside of Butte, has been moving at lightning speed to be up and running in the competitive business of cryptocurrency. Now, having invested more than $60 million in the site, CryptoWatt is considering other locations around the state - with intentions of keeping its headquarters in Butte. According to company spokesperson Matt Vincent, CryptoWatt currently has around 20 full-time permanent employees and still expects to employ around 50 more people when fully built out. The site is still under construction, and more power and racks of servers are expected to come online in the coming months. [Montana Standard]