Montana State Fund (MSF), Montana’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company, presented a check worth nearly $540,000 to the Montana Building Industry Association (MBIA). The check is in recognition of MBIA’s GRIP program (Group Retention Insurance Program) and their superior efforts to improve workplace safety. Approximately 250 of MBIA’s 1500 members participate in the program which is designed to reduce on-the-job accidents through safety training and awareness. Montana is near the highest in the nation in workplace accidents and fatalities, and the construction industry is one of the most dangerous.

“Montana State Fund applauds the efforts and determination of the Montana Building Industry Association’s GRIP program to reduce workplace accidents and send their workers home safely at the end of the day,” said Laurence Hubbard, President and CEO of MSF. “It is commitment like theirs that will have a lasting and meaningful impact on Montana’s workplace safety culture.”

MBIA Executive Director, Steve Snezek said “MBIA’s GRIP program has a strategic vision to reduce on-the-job accidents and fatalities. We know Montana, and especially the construction industry, leads the nation in these types of incidents. MBIA’s GRIP program is designed to reduce the occurrence of accidents and we are grateful to have a partner like Montana State Fund in this endeavor. The program is working, and this check proves that safety pays.”

The MBIA GRIP program has been in existence with MSF since 1997 and has resulted in nearly $6M in returns to deserving policyholders who are committed to operating a safe workplace.

The Federal Communications Commission granted formal approval July 15 for the transfer of six radio station licenses from Connoisseur Media to Desert Mountain Broadcasting of Billings. Desert Mountain Broadcasting is owned by Billings native Cameron C. Maxwell and was founded in July of 2018.  Radio stations involved in the sale are:

  • KPLN-FM (Planet 106.7)
  • KWMY-FM (MY-105.9)
  • KRZN-FM (96.3 The Zone)
  • KRKX-FM (94.1 K-SKY)
  • KYYA-AM (News/Talk 730 KYYA)
  • KBLG-AM (ESPN 910 KBLG AM). 

Maxwell said that the $3 million-dollar acquisition will benefit the Billings economy. “I partnered with local banks, local attorneys, accountants, insurance agencies and others to make this a smooth, successful transition,” he said, adding “It will bring about job creation in the future as we move forward.  And, being a completely local radio group will strengthen our brand and our commitment to our listeners.  Radio is a very intimate medium, connecting listeners to their community – and local radio does that best.  We look forward to serving our friends, clientele and business partners in the years ahead.”

Desert Mountain Broadcasting expects to announce additional acquisitions in the near future.

The 80 MW Grizzly Wind and Black Bear Wind projects proposed for Stillwater County is now able to proceed, with the Public Service Commission having taken final action, to establish contract rates and terms between the developers and NorthWestern Energy.

The two projects were designated Qualifying Facilities (QFs) by federal law, thus requiring NWE to purchase all their combined 160 MW of output on a “must take” basis.  When as in this case, negotiations break down, it’s the PSC’s job to conduct a docketed investigation, and establish the length, rates and terms of the contract based on the evidence. 

The “PURPA” statute requires that utility customers pay no more for the QF power than they would be paying for the next generating plant the utility would otherwise build for itself.  Termed “avoided cost”, the commission goes through a lengthy and involved process of calculations and forecasting before arriving at a number determined to be as accurate as possible.

The commission set the rate NWE customers will pay for both projects’ electricity at the around-the-clock rate of $21.35 per MWH.  This rate takes into account market price projections, wind intermittency (requiring ancillary services), capacity contribution, interconnection costs and a variety of other factors.

Commissioners wrestled with several key issues before the final vote, including contract length, pricing of the QFs’ output when NorthWestern has no need and must re-sell it on the market, and whether to factor the risk of future carbon (CO2) regulation into the rates.  The commission settled on a 15-year contract, market prices for unneeded energy, and a disallowance of any carbon costs added to the rates.

“While the two projects were pressing for 25-year level-price contracts, we believed that was excessively long, and burdened the rate-payer with unjustified risk,” said Commissioner Tony O’Donnell, (R-Billings.)  “There are entirely too many factors that can change dramatically over 25 years, to have any chance of arriving at an accurate and equitable avoided cost rate.”

Commissioner Roger Koopman, (R-Bozeman), addressed the proposed $2.23 carbon adder (a tax of sorts on renewable-generated electrons in lieu of CO2 penalties/taxes imposed on fossil fuel generation which the renewable user otherwise avoids).

“There is no carbon regulation in Montana.  Any way you cut it, we cannot charge ratepayers for something that does not exist, on the sheer speculation that someday it might,” he said.

The price of oil is a double edged sword for Montana. When the price is high the industry does well and so does Montana in terms of jobs and state tax revenue, but when it drops while the industry struggles, consumers benefit with a lower cost of living and lower cost of doing business.

But regardless, it is  projected that the petroleum prices will continue to lower.

As of Aug. 7, oil prices plunged to their lowest level since June 13 – down five percent at times during the trading session. West Texas Intermediate Crude was trading at $51.17 per barrel – down more than 4.5 percent, while Brent Crude was trading around $56.35 per barrel.

The price for Bakken oil tends to be lower because of the cost of getting it to market. A year ago oil prices fluctuated in the range of $70 to $80.

“Demand for gasoline] is likely to suffer not only because [of] the trade rift, but as summer closes, demand will drop,” Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at,

While inventories might have a short-term impact, an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China could weigh on prices.

Tensions ramped up over the past week as President Trump communicated his intent to impose 10 percent tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of goods coming into the U.S. from China. In response, China allowed the value of the yuan to drop to a more than 10-year low against the U.S. dollar – after which the U.S. labeled China a “currency manipulator.”

That means lower gas prices are likely on their way for drivers.

Prices may be under $2 per gallon again by Thanksgiving time, especially in mid states and southern states.As a point of interest: because of the supply vs demand issue, companies are ratcheting down production. Rig count in the US is 942 as of Aug. 2, 2019, which is  less than July 26, and 102 fewer rigs over a year ago.

William Perry Pendley, an attorney noted for his strong advocacy of private property rights, was appointed acting chief of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in a move by the Trump administration that drew the ire of environmental groups.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt temporarily re-delegated Pendley to serve as acting director of the BLM pending an appointee . Pendley joined the bureau earlier this month as deputy director of policy and programs.

The order comes just weeks after BLM announced it would move its headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.

Pendley was formerly president of the Colorado-based conservative public interest law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation, which focuses on protection of private property rights. He also served in the Department of Interior during the Reagan administration.

The move has drawn the ire of environmental and conservation groups who say Pendley is hostile to public lands. They cite a 2016 article by Pendley in which he wrote that, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold. After all, jurisdiction over real property, that is, property law, was given to the states.”

The Trump administration has received constant criticism from environmental groups claiming that he is weakening environmental regulations and expanding access to energy development on public lands.

“Appointing William Perry Pendley, a proponent of taking public lands out of public hands, to head [BLM] is an outright assault on our public lands system itself,” Western Resource Advocates tweeted.

“Anything they’ve ever said about not selling off public lands has just been a political smokescreen to distract from their real intentions: handing over public lands to their special interest allies,” Executive Director Chris Saeger said.

by William Haupt III, The Center Square

“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of ‘liberalism,’ they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.”

– Socialist Norman Thomas, 1928

During a decade of political chaos that brought us the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Aldous Huxley and Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell reacted to this mobocracy introducing the world to his dystopian Big Brother. His book “1984” was an attempt to dissuade existentialism in a world reinventing itself after two great wars.

During the rebuilding of politically polarized Europe, Orwell had concerns for the rise of regimes that promised liberation and freedom under the countenance of prorating free enterprise by controlling every action a citizen made. Orwell saw the past failed attempts to do this with artillery as a prime fortuity to complete this maneuver, replacing powerful weapons with words.

Words have always been a commanding form of control in adjudicating beliefs. When you short-circuit the capacity of a person’s ability to think logically, they will obey authority without force. In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty brought about a “rectification of definitions.” This was a ceremony in which the erosion of the meaning of tactical words used within previous dynasties was re-clarified by new rulers. The subjects were ordered to learn these new definitions and never use the old or it would cost them their heads. One who failed this litmus test and spoke wrongly was labeled a traitor. We are doing a repeat performance of this in our common core classrooms today.

After the Great Wars, it was apparent rhetoric and demography was a highly effective weapon for victory. Those who witnessed Adolph Hitler’s charisma and Lenin’s ability to sell socialism to a region after the bloodiest of battles in modern history took notice. The battlefields of the Cold War were fraught with threatening words, not deadly carcinogenic howitzers.

If you control language, you control the argument. If you control the argument, you control information. If you control information, you control history. If you control history, you control the past. We are living that nightmare right now in the 21st century.

“He who controls the past controls the future.”

– George Orwell’s Big Brother, 1984

In modern free societies, a vigorous war of words is being waged for those who know the benefit of tactical deception. Liberals call it political correctness, a phrase captioned by cultural Marxists for thought control. Operatives against republican democracy have entrenched “got-yas” in their rules for modern radicals. Progressive-socialist thought-crime laws control free speech. This handicaps expression of individualism and secularizes religious teachings with sanctioned ideology. It is now politically incorrect to scold an out-of-control government when they abuse the limited powers we relegated to them. The progressive propaganda machine must approve everything said today.

Before the rise of socialist Norman Thomas and his infusion of socialist ideology with Democratic Party politics, we saw limited threats of media manipulation in favor of the left. But the efforts of Thomas, Saul Alinsky, Henry Wallace, Mary Harris, Margaret Sanger, Barack Obama and others incited liberal thought that forced the press to betray their code of ethics. With the rise of new progressivism, media truth became a thing of the past. Our once trusted government watchdogs became lapdogs to exploit facts, exaggerate, distort and fabricate half truths and mistruths to advocate for far left progressive conceptualistic idealism.

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

George Orwell

Controlling the world’s communal language has been more effectual in making dramatic changes in history than munitions. Hypnotic rogue leaders appealing to disillusioned citizens have turned them into obeying subjects without firing a shot. The right words spoken at the right time, no matter how generically empty they are, convince people that corrupt, incompetent leaders will lure them into Elysian Fields. Sometimes it is as simple as reiterating one word like “change” to electrify an entire base! But when this prodigal son leaves them with only two bits in their purse, his proletariats must invent new catch phrases to keep this flock from backsliding into the world of real communication.

If one questions why the far left firmly sits atop the pantheon of the media manipulators, they do not have to look any further than their own gullibility. Scandalous headlines defaming institutional Constitutionalism, conservative politicians, and legitimate center right current events are generated daily by media-friendly leftists. They have their own personal staff of writers, marketers and press agents influencing the news to benefit leftist causes. This enables them to keep fake news trivia in the forefront of liberalist social media giants like Facebook and Twitter where most Americans go to read news about the current events.

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

– Vladimir Lenin

Stories about the Democrats who doubled welfare and destroyed private healthcare never make headlines. Yet liberal media’s obsession to defame Trump for his Constitutional assertiveness is a phobia. While Trump is proving he is the most prodigious economic leader in modern history, not one news source mentions this! Under his watch, unemployment hit 3 percent, the lowest of this century. Black and Latino unemployment is 4.6 percent; the lowest recorded level. That’s 50 percent less than under Obama. To control the dialogue, liberal elites write vitriolic hate articles to poison the narrative of the first non-politician, non-patrician citizen elected to run America since George Washington!

During one Civil Rights march, Dr. Martin Luther King told us, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Historical revisionism is a key component for enemies of capitalism to support claims of the success of socialism.

Media mistruth and progressive lies repeated on social media, local news, un-retorted in public forums are components for the left to realize their dream of American socialism. Relinquishing control of the language is surrendering control of our republic to legitimize progressivism. The left has reinvigorated the socialist movement that took root during the Depression. FDR, who was keenly influenced by socialism, deeply wounded U.S. capitalism and we have never recovered.

“All socialism means to me is democracy with a small ‘d’.”  – Bernie Sanders

George Orwell’s predictions about unprotected democracy in many parts of the world have come to fruition. As one of history’s most intuitive social critics, his knowledge of the frailties of mankind has proven uncanny. The left has taken control of our language and now control the message. They are Orwell’s “Big Brother” we feared for decades. They have stepped from the wings onto the stage to snatch republicanism right from under our noses. We’ve lost control of free thought and liquid conversation. We’ve allowed this so long, many people think this is what our nation is really about. Everything they say and publish is taught in our classrooms and pulpits and posted on social media

Gone is the McDonald’s at the 2333 Central Avenue in Billings and soon to arise from a new foundation will be a new McDonald’s store, rumored to be the largest in Montana.

The new store will feature a redesigned drive –through which will occupy two lots, including that of the former Don’s Car Wash. Opening date will be around the first of November. The previous McDonald structure was built in 1973, Pat Newbury acquired the business 15 years ago. Newbury also owns two other McDonald stores.

Montana State University has been awarded a federal grant to create a public-private partnership for growing tech companies in Montana.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration announced July 23 that it had awarded $750,000 to MSU’s Prospect Montana, a newly created program to promote high-tech economic development statewide.

The three-year funding will support three complementary efforts to see high-tech companies grow across the state, said Daniel Juliano, head of MSU’s Technology Transfer Office, who applied for the grant.

The Prospect Montana program will begin this fall with a competitive request for MSU gap fund proposals. Grant funds will be awarded to three to five applicants based on the commercial potential of their technology. Roughly $400,000 will go into the new “gap fund.”

Pho 888 Vietnamese restaurant has opened in Kalispell. Owners are Thomas and Shannon Trinh. Pho —pronounced “fuh” — is a traditional Vietnamese soup. Their menu mainly features pho and two other popular Vietnamese dishes: bun vermicelli and grilled lemongrass stir-fry. The new restaurant is located at 2385 Unit 4, U.S. 93 N. in Mountain View Plaza.

A micro hotel is opening in downtown Belgrade. The Outpost, on 33 W. Main St., will open on September 1.With 14 rooms, developers behind the project aim to bring a form of lodging less common in the area, where either large chain or downtown Bozeman luxury hotels dominate.

Tax records show the number of mobile homes in Gallatin County has declined. According to data recently released from the Gallatin County Treasurer 167 fewer mobile homes have been on the tax records of the county from 2011 to 2019.

The Bakken production continues to drive Continental Resources engine, despite lack of North Dakota gas infrastructure. America’s oil champion, Continental Resources says, that the oil market is broken and this has prompted a buyback program that has already mopped up $92 million dollars worth of its own undervalued shares. It’s an aggressive strategy, but one that is fully warranted by Continental’s performance in the shale fields of America. In Continental’s second quarter earnings call, the company not only announced higher than expected production, but lower than expected costs.

Part of the Montana’s $400 million infrastructure investment package, passed by the state legislature and signed by the Governor, included $21.5 million for communities and schools negatively impacted by the decline of natural resource development. It’s called Delivering Local Assistance, and communities and school districts may apply before Sept. 30, for funding applicable to a range of infrastructure projects including water, sewer, bridge, public safety, government administration and schools. Awards will be announced this fall.

Enplanements at Sloulin Field International Airport (ISN) in Williston were up again in July. The latest numbers report 8,420 enplanements in 2019 compared to 6,639 in 2018. The first plane is scheduled to arrive at the new XWA on October 10, 2019.

After 40 years of business in Bozeman, Perkins Restaurant has closed. Owner Ray Ueland, who is retiring, attributed the closure primarily to a workforce shortage. He said that they needed about 50 employees to stay open 24 hours, and they only had about 25.

Airfares from Missoula remained the lowest in Montana through the first quarter of 2019 and continued to close on the national average price for a ticket, according to federal statistics. The Missoula airport has set record passenger counts in each of the last several years, including last year’s increase of nearly 15 percent. The average fare from Missoula fell to $386.89. That’s below other Montana cities, including Bozeman at $440.73; Helena at $482.58; and Butte at $533.37.  Billings’ average fare is $428.18. The national average is $352.

The Montana Department of Transportation is planning to replace bridges over the Judith River, Warm Springs Creek, and Irrigation Canal on Montana Highway 81 near Denton.    This project will be delivered using the Design-Build method and is scheduled for construction in 2020. 

Ascent Vision Technologies (AVT), Belgrade, was recently awarded a contract to deliver a full suite of counter drone vehicles to the U.S. Air Force. This unique capability, known as the eXpeditionary Mobile Air Defense Integrated System or X-MADIS, was selected by the Air Force after 18 months of testing, trials and evaluation across multiple military services and operational spectrums. The total contract value exceeds US$23mm and deliveries will begin later this year.

Natrona County and Casper, Wyoming are looking economically healthy, according to state economists. Natrona County finished the fiscal year $14 million ahead in sales and use tax revenue from the previous year — a 19 percent year-over-year increase. Business-cycle indexes also indicate statewide economic growth. Oil and gas are the probable reason. From this time last year, oil production is up between 15 and 16 percent. The increase comes from increased efficiency. Casper home values are up 1.4 percent from last year. Cheyenne’s improved 3.8 percent.

While Amazon has delayed building a giant fulfillment center in Nampa, it’s set to open a smaller delivery station in Boise. A delivery station serves as the final point between an Amazon fulfillment center and a fleet of company delivery vans that rush packages to homes and businesses., Amazon plans a much larger regional fulfillment center in Nampa, Idaho, in another year. It is expected to have 3,000 employees in a building with 2.6 million square feet, the size of 15 Walmart Supercenters. It’s expected to cost $130 million.

Visit Billings assisted the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture as they promoted Montana-grown products on the tables of restaurants in Billings.

“Taste our Place” aims to promote and increase the use of locally sourced ingredients at Montana restaurants, bars, and other establishments serving ready-to-eat food and drink. The program is a category of the Made in Montana program which promotes products made in Montana to residents and visitors.

According to research by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, 12.5 million people from out state visited Montana in 2018 and spent $667 million at restaurants and bars, an amount second only to what they spent on gasoline.

Visit Billings Executive Director Alex Tyson says, “Locally sourced products offer a unique travel experience for visitors helping them connect to Montana in ways that elevate agriculture as the state’s top industry.” 

While the Commerce Department administers and promotes the program and “Taste Our Place” members, the Agriculture Department helps connect members with local food producers. The program is free to join. In addition to promotional and ingredient sourcing opportunities, members receive a listing on the Made in Montana website and materials to identify them as being committed to serving food and drink made with locally sourced ingredients. Businesses are encouraged to review eligibility and register online at MADEINMONTANA