It’s been a year since Billings business people and property owners packed the house at a public meeting about what can be done to address a growing problem in the city regarding street dwellers, including homeless people, substance abusers, vagrants, and partiers, who overstay their welcome.

Since then, while there have been some steps forward in dealing with the problem, there’s more that must be done, and the Billings Chamber of Commerce has put it on the forefront of programs for the coming year. “Public Safety issues have been identified by our business community as a priority that needs to be addressed. From Downtown to the West End, the Heights and Southside, public safety issues exist throughout Billings,” declares the Chamber.”

“People were appreciative of having been able to connect with each other,” said Daniel Brooks, Business Advocacy Manager for the Chamber. To facilitate continued dialogue and networking, the Chamber is helping to host another public discussion on October 2, from 8 – 10 am at the Northern Hotel. To RSVP go to

“To get to know our neighbors is important,” said Mike Nelson, owner /manager of the Northern Hotel, who is one of the business people in downtown Billings leading the charge.

Nelson announced the community meeting at the Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) executive board meeting last week. BSED Executive Director Steve Arveschoug said that BSED wants to be supportive of the effort.

Emphasizing the importance of the initiative, Mike Seppala, Western Security Bank, said that the economic vitality of the downtown depends upon it. “If nothing is done,” he said, the area will be “extremely compromised. People aren’t willing to go downtown already.”

Among the solutions that have been proposed is to increase the presence of police. The city council is currently contemplating an increase in mill levies to provide more public safety funding. But, says Brooks, “a public safety levy is only a part of the solution. Businesses really want to take charge and take some action steps.” The goal is to find ways to empower businesses.

The problem with focusing just on police intervention is that there is no room in the jail. Among other possible solutions is to curb the sale of “single serve” cans of high alcohol content products. “We have talked with a couple of businesses in corridor,” who are willing to make that change, he said.

“Businesses are ready to take responsibility for their neighborhoods by forming business-to-business small groups that watch out for each other, and hold businesses who enable criminal mischief accountable,” reads the announcement sent to members by the Chamber.

Businesses are also ready to make investments in their properties as recommend by the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which was the focus of last year’s public meeting. certified, creating a deterrence to crime.

The CPTED strategy is that of cleaning up areas, trimming vegetation, improving lighting and improving visual aspects of areas as a means to deter vagrancy or criminal activity in any area.  A number of local leaders, including Brooks, are taking advantage of the CPTED program training to become certified to identify problems and to recommend solutions.

The Yellowstone Valley Food Hub will be hosting its 3rd annual fundraiser at the Wild Flower Kitchen in Absarokee on Saturday, October 5. The event, “Chef Goldman’s Farm to Table Dinner,” will feature food raised by the Food Hub’s local producers. A Barn Dance will immediately follow the dinner at the same location.

“This has been an exciting year of growth for the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub, and our farm to table dinner is a great way to celebrate all we’ve accomplished and see where we are headed with the help of our local community,” said Annika Charter-Williams, a Shepherd rancher and President of the Food Hub Co-op Board.

“Our customers tell us how much they appreciate the taste and quality of our locally produced food over the products trucked in by corporate farms to big grocery store chains,” continued Charter-Williams.  “Food like ours, which is grown and raised by local producers who truly care, becomes even more delicious in the hands of a skilled chef like Nick Goldman. Whether you’re a hard-core foodie or simply someone who wants to enjoy an amazing meal that benefits family agriculture, we can’t wait to see you at the Wild Flower Kitchen in October.”

The Yellowstone Valley Food Hub was officially launched last year after the Northern Plains Resource Council and its Billings area affiliate, the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, brought together area farmers and ranchers to create an independent growers cooperative. Northern Plains helped the producers raise funds to hire a general manager and launch an online local food marketplace.  Chef Goldman’s Farm to Table Dinner is a fundraiser to help the growers cooperative spotlight quality local foods and grow in the year ahead.

Since its initial launch, the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub has expanded its product offerings and developed a system that allows customers to place orders online with weekly pickup locations in Billings, Red Lodge, and Absarokee.  

Attendees of the fundraiser can meet and socialize with the farmers and ranchers who produced the food served in the dinner. Locally-sourced raffle prizes and auction items will also be part of the event.

Chef Goldman’s Farm to Table Dinner is on Saturday, October 5, at the Wild Flower Kitchen in Absarokee. The 4-course dinner features food from 12 local farms and ranches. 

Doors open at 4 p.m. and the dinner lasts from 4:30-7:30 p.m. A Barn Dance follows the dinner from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; admission to the dance can be purchased with or without a dinner ticket.

Tickets for the Dinner only are $125 per person; tickets to the Barn Dance only are $25; and combined tickets for both the dinner and dance are $135. To learn more, visit

The fastest growing sandwich chain in the country, Jersey Mike’s Subs, has been opened in Billings by franchise owner, John Vagner.

The new restaurant, located at 1020 Shiloh Crossing Boulevard Suite 2, held its grand opening on Sept. 11, using the event to generate contributions to Tumbleweed, an organization that provides safety and assistance to homeless youth.

Started in 1956, Jersey Mike’s now has 2,000 restaurants open and under development nationwide.

The growth is fueled by Jersey Mike’s fans who crave their subs made Mike’s Way with the fresh vegetables – onions, lettuce and tomatoes – topped with a zing of “the juice” – red wine vinegar and olive oil blended.  Jersey Mike’s meats and cheeses are sliced on the spot, piled high on in-store baked bread. 

The restaurant’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. 

By Noell Evans, The Center Square

The craft beer industry is starting to feel the effects of the months-long trade dispute between the U.S. and China, industry insiders say. And they worry the impact will only get worse as the dispute continues.

In March 2018, the Trump administration placed a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel. Since then, the costs of everything from cans to other equipment used by craft breweries have risen.

Before the tariffs, a single can cost between 15 and 18 cents. That same can is now 19 to 24 cents, brewers reported. When multiplied across the thousands of cans a brewery uses, the total can be significant.

The tariffs also are leading to jobs losses, industry insiders say. A study published earlier this year by the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association placed the loss of 40,000 beer industry jobs on the tariffs. The study reported that the tariffs caused a “lack of investment” in what was a growing industry.

A release provided by The Brewer’s Association, a non-profit trade association of “…more than 5,240 U.S. brewery members and 46,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association,” said “The Brewers Association continues to work alongside members of Congress and our industry partners regarding tariffs. Aluminum cans represent nearly half of packaged production for small brewers, and as such, our efforts on Capitol Hill include not only educating members on the potential impact these tariffs will have on our industry but advocating for the exclusion of aluminum sheet or “cansheet” imported in the U.S.”

Brewers fear the ongoing trade war will stifle what has been a booming industry: In 2000, there were about 1,500 craft breweries in the U.S. In 2018, there were, 7,450. 

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 in the western United States.

“This WaterSMART program improves water conservation and reliability for communities throughout the West,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “This cost-shared funding is providing an opportunity for these water providers and tribes to invest in using their water more efficiently.”

The Huntley Project Irrigation District in Ballantine, Montana, 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.

Under this funding opportunity, applicants can request up to $75,000 in Reclamation funding and must contribute a non-federal cost-share of at least 50% of total project costs.

In recognition of Labor Day, Montana Governor Steve Bullock proclaimed that the state’s economy will continue a growth trend for the next ten years.

Stats that support that projection  come from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. In its annual Labor Day Report the agency reports that Montana has added tens of thousands of jobs since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

So greatly is Montana’s job market growing, that the biggest problem to economic growth is the challenge of filling those positions. That fact is driving up wages, in keeping with the law of supply and demand – when a commodity is in short supply the price goes up.

The trend has been on-going for the last three years. Jobs have steadily been increasing but not so the number of workers.

Montana’s rising wages have had an impact on another economic gauge – median household income growth. Montana ranked sixth in the nation in income growth between 2016 and 2017. The state’s median income rose 6.7% to $53,386. The figure includes earnings from business ownership and investments.

Since 2009, Montana wage growth has increased by 2.7 percent – more than $10,000.

Montana’s economic growth has not been consistent across the state, however. Payroll jobs increased 19 percent throughout Southwest Montana, including Bozeman, over the past ten years.  Payroll employment in Eastern Montana, peaked at about 15 percent in 2013 during the Bakken Oil boom, but then dropped down to one percent growth.

North-central Montana has experienced negative job growth since 2009, losing about 640 jobs.

Overall the state has had an unemployment rate under 4 percent, but for some areas the unemployment rate persists at high rates, such as for American Indian Reservations where the unemployment rate can be two or three times higher than the state average, although it has been trending downward.

In general more men are in the job market than women by a difference of about 10 percent. Between the ages of 25 and 54, 88.5 percent of men actively look for work while only 77.6 percent of women.

One of the reasons given for not being in the labor force is a lack of child care. Licensed childcare facilities have capacity for only 40 percent of children in Montana under age five.

Among the older age groups 60.4 percent of workers say they are retired.

Labor Day Weekend saw the lowest gas prices in at least three years, AAA reports.

Gas prices dropped in every state except for Hawaii. Idaho saw the largest decrease of 16.8 percent, followed by Utah, Wyoming, Alaska and Colorado.

The national average of $2.58 per gallon is about 25 cents less than last year’s prices, and 5 cents less than 2017’s, during the same time period.

Louisianans, Mississippians, and Texans pay the least for gas, at about $2.20 a gallon, compared to Hawaii’s $3.66 a gallon.

The highest gas prices still tend to be in the West, upper Midwest and Northeast, AAA reports, where gas costs anywhere between $2.78 and $3.70 per gallon, and up.


Farmers nationwide could receive $15 an acre or more as part of the latest federal bailout plan to help offset losses suffered during ongoing trade disputes with China and other countries.

According to U.S. Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue, farmers will receive direct payments in three rounds. Much of the total assistance will be in the first checks, Purdue said.

The ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and economic rival China has hindered farmers’ ability to sell their product at a profit. Soybean shipments to China, for example, fell to a 16-year low in 2018. China purchased about $3 billion worth of soybeans last year, a 74 percent drop from the previous year.

Iowa, which ranks second in the country for growing soybeans, has about 31 million acres of the crop.

Last year, the Trump White House created a $12 billion plan in response to lower prices for farm goods and lost sales generated by the trade conflicts with the world’s second largest economy.

Iowa farmers would receive slightly more than $450 million at minimum to counteract trade damage to corn, soybeans and other crops suffering from low prices.

Perdue said that the new plan also established varying rates by county, which were calculated based on estimated trade damage caused by Chinese tariffs. He acknowledged that “there will be some disparities that are just impossible to overcome.”

Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Iowa to call on Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal.

By Marshall Swearingen, MSU News Service

When the headgates opened on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Huntley Irrigation Project on the Yellowstone River in 1907, the engineering marvel transformed the valley east of Billings from sagebrush rangeland into fields green with alfalfa and other crops. Today, the massive waterworks is at the center of another engineering challenge: helping fish access habitat.

Where the river flows over the project’s concrete diversion dam, it becomes a roaring wave that presents a major obstacle to fish trying to move past it. At a creek-like channel built to allow fish to bypass the structure, a pair of Montana State University graduate students have spent their summer gathering data that could one day help improve it.

The students are Haley Tupen, who is earning her master’s in civil engineering in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, and Ian Anderson, a master’s student in ecology in the College of Letters and Science.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks invited MSU to conduct the research after lengthening the bypass in 2015 with the idea that it would be easier for fish to navigate, according to FWP fisheries manager Mike Ruggles. This stretch of river hosts a sport fishery complete with sauger, a native relative of walleye, and burbot, an eel-like freshwater cod. Both species have experienced declines, causing concern among wildlife officials.

“We wanted to make sure this bypass is working, and if not, how it could be improved,” Ruggles said. “The hope is we could apply the findings to other areas as well.”

Anderson and Tupen are carrying on an MSU tradition of engineers and ecologists working together to better understand how structures can be designed to help fish overcome obstacles. Most recently, the MSU Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics Research Group studied ways to optimize fish ladders in the Big Hole River watershed that help Arctic grayling swim over irrigation structures and reach cooler waters during the heat of summer.

“More and more we’re finding that fish move around (in watersheds), and they move more than we expected,” said Alexander Zale, professor in the Department of Ecology and leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit. It’s thought that sauger and burbot are moving extensively up and down the Yellowstone River to spawn, feed and access the best winter and summer habitats, he said.

Starting in March, Anderson, working with technician Evan Matos, a junior at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, as well as FWP staff, captured more than 1,600 sauger, burbot and other fish and fitted each with a small radio transponder. The fish were then released downstream, and radio antennas at the bypass record when the fish pass through different parts of the channel.

“Every day there are multiple detections,” he said. “It’s a ton of data, which is good. It shows that fish are using it to some degree.”

But questions remain about whether certain kinds of fish are more inclined to use the bypass than others, and during what times of the year, he said.

Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI)

While this may not be a world burning issue it is certainly one that demonstrates how all –encompassing Big Brother has become. It’s about dishwashers. Yes, dishwashers.

Because of government interference in the market. Because of regulations dictating what manufacturers can build and what consumers must accept, dishwashers are less efficient and generally “crappier” than they were for our grandparents. And, to change that situation requires a full-fledged regulatory process, including a bureaucratic comment period necessitating that consumers say “yes” they want better performing dishwashers.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI)  citizens have until October 16 to submit comments on a proposed rule to allow the production of more efficient dishwashers.

Mind you, this regulatory change does not eliminate the regulatory barriers that exist for industry and consumers, but it allows the Department of Energy to create a NEW CATEGORY of dishwashers, featuring faster models that will at least give consumers freedom of choice.

DOE proposed the rule, in response to a March 2018 CEI petition, which would allow for a new class of dishwashers that would need only an hour to finish a cycle. This is in contrast to today’s dishwashers, which can take more than two hours due to the government’s so-called efficiency regulations. According to a GE Appliances survey of 11,000 dishwasher owners, slow cycle time is one of the four biggest sources of dissatisfaction for consumers. Last year, thousands of consumers sent comments to DOE in support of CEI’s petition.

Anyone can file a comment on DOE’s new proposed rule by visiting

It all began in 1987, when Congress directed the Department of Energy to issue efficiency standards for appliances. Over the years the agency’s rules have gotten tighter and more complicated.  In some cases they may have improved things, but at other times they’ve messed things up. 

If “high-efficiency” dishwashers are so great, then we don’t need laws forcing us to buy them.  Why not let consumers decide for themselves? queries CEI.

Fortunately, the law allows the Department of Energy to create a new category of dishwashers that work as fast as the old ones. This wouldn’t eliminate today’s “high-efficiency” models, but it would give consumers the freedom to choose what kind of dishwasher they want.