After years of planning, the expansion and remodeling  project of the Billings Airport was kicked off last week with a ground breaking. Among the dignitaries present, the $55 million project was, frequently, referred to as a “huge deal,” for Billings.

The project will expand the airport’s capacity and update it to provide the many amenities that passengers expect of a modern airport. It will make travelers “comfortable,” said Airport Director Kevin Ploehn, Director of Aviation & Transit. The Billings Airport – well on its way to having a record year for enplanements – is hosting almost a half million enplanements annually. Its freight business, too, is rapidly growing, tracking at a 22 percent increase for 2019.

None of the project is being funded by tax dollars, emphasized Ploehn. The funding has been generated through FAA ticket taxes and fees from concessions, some of which has come back to the airport through grants. Continued revenues from those sources will finance a bond for which the airport, (administered by the City of Billings) will be applying over the next couple of months.

Much of the first phase of the project is to prepare areas to accommodate airport activity during the next construction phases. It involves remodeling the queuing area and skylight, building the Cape Air gate, and completing the stairwell and elevator vestibule.  

The next phase of construction will be let or bid during the winter with construction to begin in March, to be completed in 2021.

Construction of the first phase, expected to take about six months, is being done by Sletten Construction for $3.3 million.

The project’s engineers are Morrison Maierle and the architects are from A&E.

The entire project is to be completed by the end of 2023. It will include expanding the number of gates from five to eight in a new terminal, new screening area, gift shop, kids’ play room, restaurants and concessions, a new great room, additional seating, rest rooms, etc.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual conference on Oct. 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn Missoula. Keynote speaker will be Boeing Helena Director Reyna Cardenas. Cardenas will share how Boeing Helena crafted a successful talent pipeline. For details go to Montana Chamber of Commerce website.

Registration is open for Big Sky Fit Kids (BSFK) Fall Fit Kids Day, a new and FREE youth program of the Big Sky State Games. Like the Big Sky Fit Kids spring program, the goal of Fall Fit Kids Day is to get kids more physical activity.  To register for Big Sky Fit Kids Fall Fit Kids Day visit or call with questions 406-254-7426. Town Pump is the Presenting Sponsor of Big Sky Fit Kids. KTVQ, and Albertsons are Community Sponsors and Contributing Sponsors include Montana Association of School Superintendents, Billings Clinic, and Wendy’s.

Registration is now open for the 16th Annual Young Ag Leadership Conference (YALC)! The conference is set for October 4-6 at the Copper King Convention Center in Butte. YALC is a collaborative effort between nine of Montana’s agricultural organizations, offering attendees a chance to discuss current ag issues, take part in various workshops, meet with industry leaders, and network with fellow young people. Anyone aged 18-40 and interested or involved in agriculture is encouraged to attend. The cost of registration is $50 including all meals provided. After the pre-registration date of September 25, fees increase to $60. To register, go to   and search Young Ag Leadership Conference.  Contact Leah Johnson at (406) 733-2079 or for questions. 

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, growing double dahlias in his garden,  or looking for dinasour eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living his life 24 crowded hours of the day.”

Dr. W. Beran Wolfe

By Evelyn Pyburn

Published Previously, August 1, 1989

(Even more true today.)

Not long ago a noted columnist, who had in mid-life left her career to devote more time to the role of being a mother, was being interveiwed on a radio talk show. She commented that she had, prior to her retirement, been criticized by a fellow columnist for writing too much about her children.

She retorted that he wrote too much about politics. After all, she said, raising children and living is what life is really all about – life is not about politics.

The point is well taken and too much overlooked, as our every waking hour is dominated with news of political battles and wars, Congressional actions, power grabs, charges of misdeeds and counter-charges, and the President’s latest sneeze.

While it’s commonly said that man is a political creature, a fully focused veiw on the breadth of humanity can hardly leave room to concur. despite the high profile of those involved with politics, they are but a pitiful minority. Most people are more interested in their children, their work, and their pasttimes – content to leave their neighbor alone, finding great joy and satisfaction in the daily challenges of living.

Frequently condemned as being apathetic, they most likely are not; at least not about thinga that matter the most to them. The fact that their interests are not shared by the politicians is not surprising considering the nature of politics. If one considers politics as the use of force to manipulate people and events, then indeed, such apathy seems wonderfully wholesome.

While the disruptive activities of politics do impact (usually negatively) the lives of average folks, it is nowhere near as great as the impact (usually positively) from those who create and produce.

Ninety percent of the scientists who ever lived are quietly living right now. What they do and learn will have far more reaching effects in history than the most powerful political body in the world. The knowledge that they are gathering will shape the direction of all human beings in the future – and most especially political creatures, who are wholly dependent upon the rest of society for innovation, as well as material support.

So, to leave in peace those who have nothing better to do than raise children, dahlias and bridges, should be the highest aspiration of civilization. 

Montana State Fund (MSF), Montana’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company, presented a $25,000 check to Kids’ Chance of Montana, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships for higher education to the children of workers who are injured or killed on the job.

Kids’ Chance of Montana is an affiliate of Kids’ Chance of America. Montana’s chapter was founded in 2017, becoming the 43rd Kids’ Chance state organization. Since its inception, four additional states or districts have joined bringing the total membership to 47.

“Historically, Montana has been among the highest in the nation in workplace accidents and fatalities,” said Laurence Hubbard, MSF President and CEO. “That is certainly not a category we want to lead, and we are committed to improving the workplace safety culture by driving awareness. At the same time, it is equally important to continue to help injured workers and their families through programs like Kids’ Chance and Montana State Fund’s independent scholarship program. We are proud, and honored, to play a small role in helping these students achieve their dreams.”

Peter Van Nice, Chairman of the Kids’ Chance Board of Directors said  “Thanks to contributions like this, Kids’ Chance of Montana will have a lasting and meaningful impact on the lives of many students.”

Since the inception of Kids’ Chance of Montana, 11 scholarships have been awarded to the children of injured workers—six in 2018, and 5 in 2019.

The Montana High Tech Business Alliance has announced a list of 11 Montana Startups to Watch in 2019. The recognition is designed to shine a spotlight on promising early-stage high-tech and manufacturing companies in the state and give visibility to Montana’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.

 The 11 Montana Startups to Watch include:

1. Blacksford, Bozeman

2. Cardsetter, Billings

3. Charmed, Missoula

4. DRIMS, Missoula

5. DugalHealth, Bozeman

6. Ferho, Billings

7. The Insight Studio, Bozeman and Missoula

8. My Shipping Post, Bozeman

9. Neuro-ID, Whitefish

10. Prime Labs, Missoula

11. RavenCSI, Billings

  At the request of the Alliance, experts at Next Frontier Capital, Frontier Angels, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, MSU Blackstone LaunchPad, and UM Blackstone LaunchPad nominated early-stage companies they believe to be promising. To select the 11 finalists, the Alliance identified companies five years old or younger that fit at least two of the following criteria:

  • Steep revenue growth and/or are working in a high-growth sector
  • Poised to launch high-potential products or services
  • Own or are developing valuable intellectual property
  • On track to land major clients or enter new markets
  • Plan to expand operations or add a significant number of jobs this year
  • Have management teams led by experienced entrepreneurs or top experts in their fields

Company profiles are hosted at

“While Montana has long been recognized for its startup activity, more funding and mentorship opportunities are fueling the next generation of startups around the state,” said Christina Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. “Our newest list of startups to watch features companies solving important problems, receiving grant funding and investment, and creating high-paying jobs. We hope that Montana job seekers, investors, and government leaders will keep an eye on these innovative entrepreneurs.”

The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 320 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search Montana career opportunities at Photos, logo, and list of members by city may be downloaded at

The Policy Coordinating Committee that serves Yellowstone County and Billings approved the 2020 Billings Urban Area Unified Planning Work Program for the planning department, this month.

The Work Program lays out the budget, and priority transportation and land use projects that the planning department staff will be focused upon in 2020. Scott Walker, the transportation coordinator for the planning department, presented the plan during the monthly meeting of the PCC which is comprised of a county commissioner, the mayor of Billings, Chairman of the Planning Board, and the Montana Department of Transportation manager in Billings.

Among the projects that are top priorities to be advanced in the new fiscal year will be the Billings Bypass which will begin construction in October; continued design of the proposed Inner Belt Loop; and an update of the Growth Policy which directs future land use in the county.

Budget for the planning department in 2020 will be $2,659,085, slightly less than the 2019 budget of $2,786,000.

Revenues come from several sources: Fees charged by the planning department for development in the city is expected to generate $240,000; fees for development in the county, $57,000; a mill levy imposed on property tax payers will generate $490,000 and from the federal government’s transportation agencies will come $1,872,085.

Other projects on the planning department’s agenda are continuing, including the update of the 2018 transportation plan, completing a traffic model, planning the placement of way-finding signs for bike trails, updating the pedestrian/bike trail map required by the federal government, 5th Avenue corridor feasibility study.

The plan includes the Billings transit department, priorities for which were presented by new supervisor, Rusty Logan. Some of those priorities include developing grants for the purchase of new buses, technology and facility; continued development of the transit asset management plan; analysis of the possibility of extending service to Lockwood and Laurel.

The planning department has 11 staff members.

The Billings Urban Area Unified Planning Work Program was previously approved by the Planning Board, which oversees the Planning Department; the Billings City Council and Yellowstone County Commissioners.

The PCC is the Billings/Yellowstone County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) which is mandated by the federal government for communities with populations of 50,000 or more in order to receive federal funding for transportation projects. The Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are non-voting representatives of the PCC, and representatives usually telecommunicate to monitor its meetings.

By Derek Draplin, The Center Square

The U.S. Department of Interior announced over $170 million in grants funded without taxpayer dollars will be distributed to state parks and outdoor recreation projects in all 50 states.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that $170,623,713 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will be implemented by the National Park Service.

The grants aren’t funded by taxpayer dollars since the LWCF is funded by revenue generated from offshore oil and gas leasing.

Montana will receive $1,611,602.

“Using zero taxpayer dollars, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help rehabilitate and improve infrastructure at state and local parks and other recreation areas,” Bernhardt said. “Funds will also be used to maximize access by opening up landlocked public lands. A small investment in a little strip of land can open up thousands of acres to outdoor recreation enthusiasts.” 

LWCF, which was passed by Congress in 1964, was permanently reauthorized by Congress earlier this year.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group representing the oil and gas industry, noted that oil and natural gas development is the sole source of funding for LWCF.

“The industry is a strong environmental partner across the West, both through countless private donations to conservation groups and initiatives as well as direct on-the-ground conservation work,” Sgamma said.

The states allocated the most money are California ($14,564,940), Texas ($9,746,191), New York ($7,941,700), Florida ($7,869,846), Illinois ($5,726,425), and Pennsylvania ($5,430,820).

Of western states, Washington received $3,577,901, Arizona received $3,541,391, Colorado received $3,034,579, and Nevada received $2,292,912.

The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center in Bozeman is encouraging manufacturers to plan an event to recognize Manufacturing Day which is October 4. The organization says there are lots of options:

  • Tours of your facility, especially if you have new equipment or processes
  • Product demonstrations
  • Learning and hands-on activities for children and students, at your site or at schools.

Another idea: invite a teacher – or perhaps a group of teachers. They are the ones who touch the future generation who will carry forward the industry. To see first-hand how the technology to which they are introducing students is actually used is very enlightening and helps encourage students to understand the many opportunities before them.

For more ideas and for assistance contact MMEC at

  • SoClean, an international medical supply company, is opening its second North American location in Kalispell next month. SoClean anticipates having a workforce of 250 employees or more. The Kalispell facility will include sales, customer service, technology support, marketing, and human resources. SoClean makes and sells automatic cleaning devices for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines. (CPAP)
  • Attorneys for the Trump administration want a U.S. judge to disallow a lawsuit from Native American tribes trying to block the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Tribes in Montana and South Dakota say President Donald Trump approved the pipeline without considering potential damage to cultural sites from spills and construction. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris will preside over hearing on the government’s attempt to dismiss the case. Pipeline sponsor TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, is also seeking dismissal of the tribes’ lawsuit.
  • Consumer Direct Care Network was chosen last week by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for the Missoula-based in-home health care company to administer $500 million in spending to oversee providers of in-home personal care and respite.
  • Butte’s economic development team has hired the Texas-based analytics firm, Buxton, to help local leaders recruit retailers to Butte.  The BLDC was awarded $31,000 in grant funds for the project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Butte’s Tourism Business Improvement District. The official launch date of Buxton’s services begins Oct. 1, at which time the BLDC and other members of the economic development team will have access to detailed information on the local market. Buxton will provide 20 leads on companies, retailers especially, that Buxton believes would do well in Butte.
  • Montana’s Supreme Court has reversed a lower-court ruling that struck down a water pollution permit for a large coal mine near Colstrip. District Judge Kathy Seeley in 2016 ordered the state Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider the permit for the Rosebud strip mine, which fuels the nearby Colstrip power plant. She said regulators showed errors of judgment in allowing reduced monitoring. The ruling states  regulators have the flexibility to allow pollutants to be released into ditches that run dry for the majority of the year.
  • On average, Lewis and Clark County’s residential property values increased by 7.3% following the Montana Department of Revenue’s latest biennial valuation. The valuation is primarily determined by market value as of Jan. 1, 2018. While the 7.3% increase in Lewis and Clark County may seem high, it is much lower than the 19% average increase for residential property in Gallatin County. 
  • American Airlines has announced plans to add a direct flight to Philadelphia on Saturdays beginning in summer 2020. The airline will also add flights to LaGuardia Airport on Saturdays and Los Angeles daily.
  • The restaurant, Bisl, has been closed in downtown Bozeman. Owners Kierst and Davey Rabinowitz  point to high overhead and an unreliable customer base as reason for the closure.
  • The federal judge overseeing a tribal lawsuit against the Dakota Access Pipeline is allowing nine groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Congress of American Indians to weigh in on whether federal officials who permitted the pipeline properly consulted tribes. Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners unsuccessfully opposed the groups’ request, arguing that the issue of tribal consultation has already been resolved.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation has selected the Huntley Project Irrigation District to receive $75,000 for small-scale water efficiency grants. The grants will help the water entities use water more efficiently and improve water supply reliability. “This WaterSMART program improves water conservation and reliability for communities throughout the West,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. The Huntley Project Irrigation District in Ballantine, will install three permanent flow measurement stations to provide real-time flow measurement data. This will allow the District to monitor flows in its three major canal systems and monitor lift station efficiency. The project is expected to reduce spills and provide the start of a comprehensive water measurement network, leading to better overall water management.
  • A pair of new winter wheat varieties soon to be released by Montana State University breeders are designed to help address two issues that plague wheat farmers across the state, sawflies and stripe rust fungus, while improving crop yields. The Bobcat and Flathead varieties will be released this fall from the Montana Foundation Seed Program. The new varieties will be used to produce registered and certified seed through certified growers across Montana and should be available for purchase by the public between the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons. Two varieties released in 2018, Ray and Four0six, are now available for purchase statewide.
  • Eric and Keri Brown have teamed up with Cheryl Olson to offer smoked brisket and pulled pork sandwiches in the Sidney area. Located at the Elks Lodge, 123 3rd St. S.W., is open to everyone from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
  • Williston Basin International Airport will hold its grand opening on Saturday, October 5 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tours of XWA, a new $270 million regional airport will be given and the facility will be on display for one day only. The airport begins operation on Thursday, October 10.
  • Morton Buildings is making its way out west establishing a location in Sidney as of January. With a salesman on the ground and several buildings up, Morton knows one thing for sure – it’s economic boom in the area is just beginning. “If you’re only looking at the oil activity, sure you could say we’re a little late,” said Tom Janke, area manager for the Northern Plains North region of Morton. “But farming is still farming. If the oil wasn’t there we would still be really attracted to the area.” The employee-owned company sells a variety of buildings, from suburban garages to large shops, warehouses, dealerships and homes. Morton is looking to provide five jobs in Sidney.
  • Business for Montana Outdoors reports more than $7 billion was spent on Montana outdoors activities, creating 71,000 jobs and with well over 80% of Montanans surveyed calling themselves “outdoor recreation enthusiasts.” 68% of those polled say a loss of wildlife habitat is a “serious problem” in the state.
  • The Wise River Club , a quintessential small-town café, and a favorite stopping point for tourists who travel to Highway 43 in Big Hole Valley, is for sale. It is a historical site for Wise River, a region known for world-class fly fishing, river rafting, mountain biking hunting, snowmobiling, etc.
  • The Montana Department of Transportation is proposing to seal and cover about 1.38 miles of Airport Road, in Lewistown, Fergus County. The project begins at the intersection of Main St. and Airport Road and extends southeasterly for 1.38 miles ending near the airport terminal. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in spring of 2021.
  • The Montana Department of Transportation is also proposing to resurface 11.5 miles of US-212 east of Busby, Bighorn County. The project begins approximately 1.5 miles east of Busby, at reference post (RP) 27.15 and extends east for 11.5 miles, ending at the Rosebud County line. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2020, depending on completion of all project development activities and availability of funding. No new Right-of-Way or utility relocations will be needed.
  • Developers are proposing to move forward with an $18 million mixed-use  redevelopment of the riverfront Buffalo Crossing property and True Brew plans to open a second Great Falls location.
  • Stacey Indergard, RN, CPCP  has started a business in Sidney providing permanent makeup. Indergard completed her training at Simply Body Art Studio in Phoenix and has become certified as a professional.
  • Over the past year, Missoula County employers created more jobs than any other county in the state.
  • Great Falls Tourism has created a new event grant of up to $100,000 for a group of people to create a multi-day event for Great Falls on a Thursday-Friday anytime between the months of September and May. Applicants must submit a proposal by the end of the month.
  • The Great Falls City Commission approved the zoning and annexation of the Love’s Travel Stop location, a $12 million project that will include up to two fast food options and employ 30-40 people. 
  • The combination of two Helena-based companies will create one of the largest technology service providers in Montana. Anderson ZurMuehlen announced that it will purchase Information Technology Core. The agreement will expand Anderson ZurMuehlen Technology Services, an information technology consulting division. TC has offices in Helena, Missoula and Salt Lake City. It provides hardware and software services for businesses and public agencies. AZ currently has about 200 employees in seven cities around Montana. In addition to technology consulting, it provides public accounting and business advisory services.
  • A portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass in Glacier Park will close temporarily from Sept. 16 until Sept. 29 to allow pavement preservation crews to complete remaining work in the alpine section of the road. Logan Pass will remain accessible from the St. Mary entrance during the closure.
  • A report in Forbes magazine reminisces about the movie “A River Runs Through It,” saying it still – after 30 years – is having an impact on the fly-fishing industry and visitation to Montana. The movie was based upon a book by the same name by Norman Maclean, a Montana author.  “…travelers (both fly-fishers and land-lubbers alike) are still making a pilgrimage to Montana to find out if that river will give them the same transcendent experience that lifts the family in the film and haunts the sole surviving brother years afterwards,” writes the article’s author, Gretchen Kelly. After the film’s debut, the fly-fishing industry exploded, increasing 60 percent in both 1991 and 1992. She reports that because of that impact “The river in the book and the film has benefited as well. Today, the Blackfoot River is back as a fly-fishing destination. Thousands of dollars of contributions have helped the River recover and brown and rainbow trout fishing are booming.”

A national organization that aims to completely eliminate the digital divide in rural America over the next five years has expanded its presence in Montana. The Montana Chamber of Commerce has joined Connect Americans Now (CAN), a coalition that advocates for a mixed-technology approach to bridging the rural broadband gap, particularly by encouraging policymakers to clear the barriers so innovative technologies like TV white space can be pursued.

“This country has been working to close the rural broadband gap for nearly two decades, but we can’t fully tackle this problem without removing barriers to innovation,” said Shelby DeMars, a spokesperson for CAN.  “We’re excited to be expanding CAN’s broad-base of support on behalf of the thousands of Montanans who remain on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce is the latest in a growing number of Montana organizations who have joined CAN, including the Montana Rural Education Association, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and the Montana Stockgrowers Association, among others.

“Broadband access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Bridger Mahlum, Government Affairs Director of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.  “Access to reliable broadband is a necessity for our Montana businesses, it’s critical for our residents and students in rural areas that need to access the internet for online education resources and job training, and we owe it to our farmers and ranchers to make the latest and best technology available to them. In an evolving, high-tech marketplace we can’t let Montanans be left behind by not addressing the digital divide.”

CAN also encourages the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fix how it measures broadband availability in rural states. The FCC has admitted the current methodology is flawed, an issue CAN notes impacts both private and public investments in broadband deployment.

“We should at least know the full scope of the challenge and right now the FCC’s methodology does not reflect the true lack of broadband in rural areas,” DeMars said. “They’ve identified areas as having broadband access where none actually exists.”

In 2018, Microsoft conducted a study comparing usage data to the FCC’s broadband availability statistics. The study found that while the FCC claims 77 percent of Montanans have access to broadband internet, just 33 percent actually access the internet at broadband speeds.

The disparity is particularly large in Wheatland County. The FCC suggests 92.9 percent of the county has broadband connectivity, while the Microsoft study found just three percent of county residents access the internet at broadband speeds.