Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights April 1, 2021 +

    Watercraft inspection stations are opening up across Montana for the 2021 season. Just which inspection stations are open can be seen on a FWP website map. FWP officials claim inspection stations are the state’s first step in preventing the movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways. A report on activities from the 2019 season show the agency performed over 113,000 watercraft inspections and intercepted 16 mussel-fouled vessels.

    Senate Bill 379 has raised some eyebrows of the Montana PSC and environmental groups as it would allow owners of coal-fired power assets to recover costs for any underappreciated value and expenses from energy consumers. The bill would allow the utility to recover market value for new ownership of a coal power asset.

    Watercraft inspection stations are opening up across Montana for the 2021 season. Just which inspection stations are open can be seen on a FWP website map. FWP officials claim inspection stations are the state’s first step in preventing the movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways. A report on activities from the 2019 season show the agency performed over 113,000 watercraft inspections and intercepted 16 mussel-fouled vessels.

    Canadian coal company Teck Resources has paid a $60 million fine after pleading guilty to pollution discharges that have killed nearly all the fish in nearby waters. Canadian investigators found the mining company discharged hazardous amounts of selenium and calcite into the Fording River from two coal mines in the Elk Valley, just north of Eureka, Montana. Some of that selenium has been connected to fish damage in Montana Koocanusa Reservoir and the Kootenai River. The decision came in a Canadian federal court in Fernie, British Columbia. The fine is 10 times as large as any previous punishment imposed under Canada’s Fisheries Act.

     The city of Williston, North Dakota has negotiated a contract with Delta Airline to bring flights back to Williston. The one-year agreement promises to subsidize SkyWest Airlines which has partnered with Delta for flights to Minneapolis. If passenger numbers fail to make it profitable the city will reimburse losses to the airlines on a quarterly basis.

    Revolving Loan Fund.  In February, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $1.2 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District, Bozeman, to capitalize and administer a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).  Businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Gallatin and Park counties will be eligible for these funds. Special recognition goes to the City of Belgrade, which provided $250,000 for the local match requirement. The Department of Commerce estimates that the total investment will create 40 jobs, retain 125 jobs, and generate $10 million in private investment.

    Governor Greg Gianforte and Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles have announced the appointment of Kevin Gilbertson to serve as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of Montana.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) announced  a proposal to widen shoulders and add rumble strips to about 7.6 miles of Highway S 421, north of Lodge Grass. The project begins approximately seven miles south of Garryowen 7.6 miles ending approximately one mile northwest of Lodge Grass.  Construction is tentatively planned for 2024 depending on completion of design and availability of funds.

    NorthWestern Energy will begin upgrading the Montana Street substation in Butte to enhance reliability for 6,000 electric customers in the area.

    North Dakota’s daily crude output for January was 1.147 million barrels, a 4% drop from December. The decline was attributed to high winds in January that caused power outages that interrupted oil production. The outages knocked about 50,000 barrels per day offline.

    The U.S. oil pricing benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, has risen above $60 per barrel, where it sat at the start of 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic hit and sent prices crashing. Experts view the current price as a blip. Wells idled during the pandemic are expected to be brought back online. Uncertainty about the Bakken reins as ND producers worry about the potential shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a prospect that could come out of a court hearing slated for April 9. Producers are considering having to move more oil by rail or potentially trucking it from the Bakken across Interstate 94 past Bismarck and then south to Linton.

  • Montana Highlights 03-01-21 +

    B&F Excavating, of Columbia Falls has sold to Integrated Securities Solutions of Kalispell.

    The Northern Rockies Coordination Center, which is part of the National Interagency Fire Center, put the estimated cost of fighting the 75 large wildfires Montana in 2020 at $55 million. Those fires burned a combined 335,242 acres of land.

    The expansion of Headframe Spirits whisky making capacity will require a $1.8 million capital investment to expand distilling and whiskey-storage capacity. The company will become by far the largest producer of American single malt whiskey. Over the next six years, they expect to make 20,000 barrels, using Montana barley. The whiskey will be made and aged at the company’s Kelley site for a large distilling company that will anonymous, To live up to the terms of the contract Headframe will produce 24 to 30 barrels a day.

    The state health department will be forced by the legislative budget subcommittee to leave the former Montana Development Center campus in Boulder. The Legislature passed a bill in 2015 to close the center within two years. The state-run institution housed people with developmental disabilities. 

    Governor Gianforte recently got a firsthand look at the material that will go unused to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The Governor also talked with construction heads, energy managers and local officials who voiced their concerns about the president’s decision.

    Acela Truck Company, the Belgrade company which makes mobile morgue trailers has begun  making mobile vaccine trailers.

    The state of North Dakota’s eight commercial airports posted a total of 42,238 airline boarding’s for January 2021, a 57 percent decline in passengers from the same month last year.

    George Willett has sold Showdown Montana ski area to his daughter, Katie Boedecker, Willett has owned the ski area for 47 years.

    In Bozeman, the number of new real estate listings decreased 4.8% in January compared to last year, from 105 to 100. Pending sales were down 10%, going from 120 to 108. The number of closed sales decreased 23.8%, from 101 to 77. The average days on market decreased 62.7%, from 75 to 28. Median sales price increased 24.4% from $450,000 to $560,000. Sellers received 99.7% of their list price, up from 97.5% last January. The inventory of available homes dropped 66.8%, from 364 to 121, while, the months’ supply of inventory fell 70.4%, from 2.7 to 0.8.  

    In a study of 24 institutions of higher learning in Montana, Montana State University I Bozeman was ranked as the top college in Montana by intelligent.com for 2021.

    Longtime Great Falls business JJ’s Bakery has announced that it will close in April. Owners John and Erin Williams thanked their customers and staff saying. They plan to focus on their other business, The Burger Bunker, at 24 5th St. S.

    Bob Rowe, president and chief executive officer of NorthWestern Corporation announced changes. Brian Bird is to become president and chief operating officer; Crystal Lail is to become chief financial officer; Jeanne Vold, vice president – technology; Stephen Adik and Julia Johnson are retiring from Board; and Dana Dykhouse is to become chair.

    Following the Governor’s lifting of the face mask mandate, the city of Whitefish, enacted an emergency measure to re-impose, for 90 days, the mandate locally. Emergency Ordinance 21-01 requires that “all businesses, government offices, or other persons responsible for indoor spaces open to the public shall require and take reasonable measures to ensure people wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while entering or remaining in any indoor spaces open to the public.” 

    Montana’s pulse producers received some good news last month when it was announced that a major processing plant has reopened in Glacier County. A newly formed joint venture called AgroLink, LLC announced in early January that it is resuming operations at the Pardue Grain processing facility 12 miles west of Cut Bank. Pardue Grain elevators had been in operation on the 35-acre site since 1959.In 2018, the company completed an $8.25 million expansion project adding a food grade pulse processing plant and warehouse; however, Pardue Grain was forced into bankruptcy just a year later after U.S. exports of pulses — field peas, lentils and chickpeas — plunged due to excess global supply and the imposition of new import tariffs by China and India.AgriLink purchased the Pardue Grain plant last September at a lender ordered auction for an undisclosed price. AgriLink is a joint venture between Singapore based Agrocorp International and LinkOne Ingredient Solutions, a major producer of high quality pet foods based in Missouri.

    Great Falls, too, is hoping to land a medical school. The private, nonprofit Touro College hopes to partner with Benefis Health System for a medical school. Montana University System has approved New York-based Touro’s plan to offer post-secondary degree programs in Montana, and is working to attain accreditation for the new location through the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.

    WinCo Foods has opened two employee-owned 24 hour locations in Missoula and Bozeman. Last year, the Bozeman location started construction in June and, it took four weeks for employees to stock the new shelves. 

    Last week, Governor Gianforte signed into law SB 61, which makes fishing free on Mother’s Day weekend. Senator Pat Flowers (D-Bozeman) introduced the bill which got approval of the State Legislature.

  • Montana Highlights 2-15-21 +

    Lea and Dennis Doherty plan to open Whitefish SuperWash during the week of February 8. The SuperWash includes a spot for every type of needed wash from pets to RVs. The SuperWash is located at 6354 US 93 South in Whitefish. The wash itself and the materials used to clean vehicles are all environmentally friendly.

    Red Rooster, a home goods retail store in Missoula, has announced they are closing after 27 years in business. The store will be selling everything 20% off until Feb. 28 and some items are on clearance for 60% off.

    The Morse family of Columbia Falls held the grand opening of Flitter Bee Buzz Thru on Saturday, Feb. 13. They plan to sell hot and cold beverages, along with pastries like breakfast croissants and cinnamon rolls. Flitter Bee Buzz Thru is located at 2120 Ninth St. W. in Columbia Falls.

    According to the National Association of Homebuilders, lumber prices skyrocketed 130% between April and September of 2020, which has raised the cost of constructing a new single-family home by $16,000. According to Montana statistics:

    *  In 2004, there were 10,000 people in Montana employed by lumber mills or working in forestry. As of 2010 there were 7,030 and 7,641 in 2020.

    * The private forestry industry earned $508 million in 2004, $305 million in 2010, and in 2020, it was up to $347 million.

    Lumber production has dropped over 50% from 985 million board feet in 2004 to 428 million board feet in 2020.

    The Trailhead store in Southgate Mall, an outdoor gear shop focused on women’s clothing, has announced it is closing. The business is focusing on the two other Trailhead stores, one downtown and a boat shop near Southgate Mall.

    One of the steps taken to keep Montana Tech viable is the adding of 10 students per semester to the nursing program. The incremental additions will eventually increase the program size by 50% to 150 students by fall 2022. Nursing students at Tech will benefit from a state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Center. The bid goes out during February for construction of the $1.7 million project.  Students will be practicing their field skills at the center by spring semester of 2022.

    Tesla has invested approximately $1.5 billion in Bitcoin and announced plans to begin accepting the digital currency as payment for its vehicles shortly. The price of Bitcoin soared 15% with the Tesla announcement.

    Lone Mountain Land Company, which manages Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, Moonlight Basin and other businesses in Big Sky, have announced that they are collaborating with the Big Sky Community Housing Trust to develop affordable rentals on and near the site of the former American Bank building. The current plan is to build two 21-unit apartment buildings with a mix of one, two and three bedroom units. All of the units in the project will be deed restricted from becoming short-term rentals. The company has also purchased Buck’s T-4 Lodge to develop dorm-style housing. LMLC is also planning a few more developments, which include two 24-unit, dorm-style apartments and more rental housing.

    Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Montana Rivers and the Gallatin Wildlife Association filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Big Sky Water and Sewer District. The motion asks the court to prohibit the district from accepting new sewer hookups and irrigating the Meadow Village Golf Course with treated wastewater containing concentrations of nitrogen above 10 milligrams per liter. The groups also requested that the court require the district to disclose nitrogen concentrations in water used to irrigate the golf course.

    The Butte-Silver Bow health board amended COVID-19 restrictions to allow businesses to remain open until 12:30 am. County bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and casinos will be allowed to stay open longer. They have had to close by 10 pm since December.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) announced new load postings for the Coffee Creek Bridge in Fergus County. The postings are part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration.  The FHWA mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the last decade. Truck manufacturers are building specialized hauling vehicles, which are capable of legally carrying heavier loads than typical vehicles have in the past. Often times one or more axles can be raised or lowered as needed to comply with statutory weight limitations.  To comply with the mandate, MDT is updating load ratings for 4,500 public bridges across the state, an effort that is expected to take about four years to complete.  

  • Montana Highlights 01-15-21 +

    TC Energy Corporation has launched an open season to solicit binding commitments for crude oil transportation services on the Keystone Pipeline System from Hardisty, Alberta to Patoka, Illinois. Interested parties may submit binding bids for transportation capacity during the open season that will close at 12 p.m.MT on February 19, 2021. Information regarding the open season is available online or by contacting liquids_pipelines@tcenergy.com.

    Montana’s legislative leaders are highly recommending but not requiring face coverings for people participating in the Legislature. The panel voted 6-2, with both Democrats voting no, to temporarily accept recommendations that masks be highly recommended and temperature checks highly encouraged for people entering the Capitol and that people with symptoms or awaiting a test participate in the Legislature remotely. They also agreed to wear masks while interacting with legislative staff in their offices.

    Frame of Reference Fine Art from Whitefish, is opening a second location at 573 Electric Ave. in Bigfork. The second location will precipitate a name change to FOR Fine Art. The new shop will feature similar genres as the orinial location but also include work by artists exclusive to the Bigfork location. FoR Fine Art is tentatively scheduling a soft opening for Valentine’s Day 2021.

    The Ratkowskis family of Kalispell are launching Montana Milk Moovers, a family business they started last spring to connect customers with local agriculture producers. The Ratkowski family works with producers in Kalispell to collect fresh milk, meat, produce and other groceries every day. Recipients sign up online and indicate the quantity and frequency they’d like to have their orders. Customers pay to install a porch box that keeps their products cold and fresh, plus a delivery charge.

    Two conservation groups Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition have taken issue with clear-cut openings that have been proposed by Flathead National Forest officials as part of a forest management project near Bigfork. The groups claim that four clear cuts proposed within the Bug Creek Integrated Resource Management Project are larger than what the revised Flathead National Forest Plan recommends for such projects. The public has one month to provide comment on the four openings in Bug Creek.

    Great Falls-based Benefis Health System has  announced plans to open the space at 2960 N. Washington St. Helena, in the middle of the year. The new facility will complement the Benefis clinic being built at the former site of the Capital Hill Mall on Prospect Avenue.

    Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality has  issued a water quality certification for the Keystone XL pipeline project in eastern Montana, required since the pipeline would cross 201 wetland and water body features, including streams and rivers, that are regulated by the Clean Water Act. Conditions of the issuance include spill prevention measures as well as a re-opener clause, which would allow the certification to be modified to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable water quality standards. These conditions also include an oversight role for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation Office of Environmental Protection. Joe Biden has pledged to shelve the project, which was first proposed 12 years ago, although it is not clear what the legal framework for that would be, given that construction of the $8 billion project under the U.S.-Canada border has already begun.

    A proposal to allow “work camps” in the West Glacier region to house summer employees has been proposed by a land use committee for the area. In past years some employees have lived in campgrounds in tents. The regulations require that neighbors be informed of a proposed work camp. If the planning board, approves the new regulations, it would forward the regulations to the county commissioners for final approval.

    Scott Osterman of Applied Materials in Kalispell, has been nominated by Gov. Greg Gianforte to lead the Montana Department of Commerce. Osterman is originally from Northcentral Montana. Over his business career he has served in Fortune 500 companies and venture start-ups. He has been employed in the semiconductor, automobile and high-tech hardware and software industries.

    According to a Stanford University and University of California SD report wildfire smoke accounted for up to half of all health-damaging small particle air pollution in the western U.S. in recent years. Researchers used satellite images of smoke plumes and government air quality data to model how much pollution was generated nationwide by fires from 2016 to 2018 compared to a decade earlier.

    Helena Regional Airport is seeking to entice American Airlines to come to Helena. The airport plans to apply for a Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Grant.  The airport has met with several airlines in order to bring more opportunity to Helena. Currently Billings is the only Montana airport that has direct flights to Phoenix.

    Due to the crippling COVID restrictions on business another restaurant in Montana is closing. After almost 30 years of business, Santa Fe Red’s in Bozeman closed January 5.  A full-service Mexican restaurant and cantina that opened in 1994, the business managed for a while because they had outdoor seating, but when the weather got cold weather it ended their reprieve.

    At the same time, a new business is opening in Bozeman. A smoothie shop offering acai bowls, smoothies and post-workout recovery shakes called Blended Shakes and Smoothies has opened on Main Street across from Bozeman High School.  Michelle Ronsen is the owner of the shop which provides dine-in or to go smoothies

    St. Peter’s Health in Helena announced the completion of a $9 million expansion to its hospital operating room. The 2-year renovation project began in 2017. It included the expansion to the center’s operating room and sterile processing department, introducing cutting-edge surgical equipment and technology. It is expected the new facility will help in recruiting more surgeons and surgical specialties.

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw increases in closed sales and average sales price last month, while the inventory of available homes tightened significantly in November compared to last year. In November, median sales prices increased 46.4%, from $420,000 in November 2019 to $615,000 in November 2020. Closed sales increased 39.1%, from 110 to 153, and pending sales jumped 19.1%, from 89 to 106. The number of new single-family listings increased 21.3% compared to November 2019, from 75 to 91. The average days on market increased 14.6%, from 41 to 47. Sellers received 99.2% of their list price last month, up slightly from 97.9% last year. The inventory of homes for sale decreased 66.6%, from 467 to 156. The months supply of inventory decreased 71.4%, from 3.5 to 1.0 compared to last year.

    Allegro Group, Inc. has acquired LEAD 406, a leadership development and experiential learning company based in Bozeman. The acquisition expands Allegro Group’s consulting practice. LEAD 406 Managing Partner Phil Kornachuk joins Allegro Group as Managing Director of Leadership Development. He will head the company’s new office in Bozeman. Allegro Group, founded in 2015, helps companies build and develop high-performance leadership teams..

    According to homeselling platform iSoldMyHouse, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas and Maine have the happiest people, made happy by having the most affordable cost of living, low crime rates, high employment and graduate rates, longer average life expectancies, high-quality hospitals, pristine air quality, and plenty of sunshine. Montana was in the second tier of happy people. Unhappy people are to be found in states like California, Nevada, Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recently issued a new load posting for the Old Highway 10 Drainage Bridge six miles east of Hysham, in Treasure County. The posting is part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the last decade. Truck manufacturers are building specialized hauling vehicles (SHVs), which are capable of legally carrying heavier loads than typical vehicles have in the past. These SHV configurations concentrate heavy loads over a short length, and they have been found to overstress bridges beyond what was previously modeled by standard commercial vehicles.

    Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) has been selected to lead a national VHA pilot program to bring vaccines to rural Veterans. On the morning of January 21, a vaccination team will fly doses of the Moderna vaccine in special plug-in coolers from Fort Harrison’s ultracold on-site freezer to Havre. MTVAHCS staff has begun calling eligible enrolled Veterans to schedule vaccine appointments.

  • Montana Highlights December 15, 2020 +

    Blue Dog RV has opened on US Hwy 2 in Kalispell. The Kalispell store is the 16th Blue Dog dealership in the Western U.S. and the first in Montana. The new Blue Dog RV store will offer travel trailers, fifth-wheels, toy haulers and motor homes, along with parts and accessories. The store will carry several brands, including Forest River, Keystone and Thor.

    There has been a 29% increase in the number of property-related documents processed by the Missoula County Clerk and Recorder’s Office this year. This increase means 803 more documents processed per employee in the Clerk and Recorders office.  The Clerk and Recorder’s office has updated  their website and processes to accelerate their work.

    Brandy Kincheloe has joined the Montana Primary Care Association as workforce development coordinator. The workforce development coordinator provides training to Montana’s Community Health Centers and Urban Indian Centers.

    Montana will be represented in the inaugural Small Business Majority’s Holiday Gift Guide by Sarah Calhoun’s business Red Ants Pants of White Sulphur Springs. Small Business Majority is a national organization that seeks to empower entrepreneurs. It’s holiday gift guide highlights small businesses from across the country in an effort to encourage shoppers to support local entrepreneurs.

    Parkland Corporation has agreed to purchase Story Distributing Company of Bozeman which operates Casey’s Corner gas stations and convenience stores. The company now operates in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and North Dakota, with 12 convenience stores and about 175 employees. Parkland Corporation is the largest independent supplier of fuel and petroleum products in Canada and the Caribbean.

    Candace Carr Strauss, Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky CEO has announced her resignation from the organizations. She has accepted the position of president and CEO of the Sedona, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky organizations will conduct a national search for CEO candidates.

    Walton Homestead Medical Clinic has received approval from the city’s of Bozemans planning department. The new building will be on a lot at the corner of West Oak Street and North 15th Avenue.  The two-story, 9,300-square-foot clinic will have 16 exam rooms.

    Miles Community College has been gifted with $25,000 from Northwest Farm Credit Services  to help fund the newly established meat processing program. The gift is part of the stewardship commitment to improve the lives of their customers and communities. The meat processing program is a one-year certificate degree offered at the college. It is comprised of both general and industry specific courses, available both online and on-campus, and includes several paid internships at local processing plants.

    The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources has released oil and gas production figures for September 2020. The state hit a record for gas capture percentage at 93%, but gas production was far below the record levels it hit in November 2019. Here are the numbers: 36,649,997 barrels or 1,221,667 barrels/day — September 2020 oil production; $31.59 — Average price of a barrel of North Dakota oil in September 2020; 84,409,981 MCF or 2,813,666 MCF/day — September 2020 gas production; 78,479,791 MCF or 2,615,993 MCF/day — September 2020 gas captured; 93% — gas capture percentage; 88% — state mandated gas capture goal for September. The goal went up to 91% Nov. 1); 15,377 — Number of producing wells in September 2020; 51 — Number of drilling permits issued in September 2020; 43 — Number of completed wells in September 2020, up from 19 in August; 11 — Average drilling rig count in September 2020; 80% — Decrease in drilling rig activity between January and September 2020.

    White Raven Winery has opened their tasting room in Columbia Heights, near the junction of Hwy 2 and 206. The winery is owned by Columbia Falls natives Dan and Rebecca Murphy. White Raven turns out 12 different wines, four of which are Montana made.  The grapes used in White Raven’s Montana wines Marquette, Frontenac and L’Acadie Blanc are all cold-hardy varietals originally grown in cold mid-western states.

    The Gallatin County Resource Advisory Council approved fee hikes at 14 rental cabins, three campgrounds and the Rendezvous Ski Trails. 23 other increases have been proposed across for 15 other campgrounds, 14 cabins and lookouts. The rental rates for popular cabins close to Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park would jump from $30 a night to $65. Rendezvous Ski Trails would see a family pass rise from $75 for a family to $190. One cabin in the Taylor Fork area, which has yet to be added to the rental program, is set to cost $75 a night.

    Mike Sartwell, president and CEO of Preferred Restaurant Group, Inc., has opened the first Slim Chickens, a southern inspired chicken franchise, in Montana. With 43 years of restaurant and franchising experience and a Slim Chickens location in North Dakota, Sartwell opened at 1450 Prospect Avenue in Helena.

    The Montana BioScience Alliance has chosen Marshall Bloom, M.D., as its 2020 Hall of Fame honoree. Dr. Bloom is the Associate Director for Science Management at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton. He also is Chief of the Biology of Vector-Borne Viruses Section. Rocky Mountain Laboratories is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Bloom oversaw the development of NIH’s first biosafety level-four research facility, which was constructed on the RML campus. Since the facility opened in 2008, the program’s scientists have helped develop an Ebola virus vaccine and are making crucial contributions to COVID-19 treatment and vaccine developments.

    The KLJ Solutions Holding Co. Board of Directors announced the appointment of interim Chief Executive Officer  Barry Schuchard, effective January 1 The appointment follows the resignation of KLJ Engineering LLC CEO, Dean Anagnost. Schuchard has been with the company since 1983 and served in multiple project-related and leadership roles over the years, including Chief Production Officer for a number of years and most recently as the company’s Chief Value Officer. Anagnost began his career with KLJ in 1991 where he was responsible for the formation of the company’s Telecommunications practice, which remains a key component of KLJ’s business portfolio.

    The Montana Department of Transportation recently issued new load postings for the Spring Creek Bridge, two miles northwest of Greycliff in Sweet Grass County. The postings are part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the last decade. Truck manufacturers are building specialized hauling vehicles, which are capable of legally carrying heavier loads than typical vehicles have in the past. SHVs are single-unit, short-wheelbase, multiple-axle trucks commonly used in the construction, waste management, bulk cargo and commodities hauling industries. Often times one or more axles can be raised or lowered as needed to comply with statutory weight limitations.  To comply with the mandate, MDT is currently updating load ratings for 4,500 public bridges across the state, including approximately 2,500 owned and maintained by MDT. This effort is expected to take about four years to complete.  

    The first and only Cat Café has been opened in Bozeman at The Market at Ferguson Farm. The Cat Show Cat Café is a lounge where people can work and adopt cats. Cat Show owner Josh Marks partnered with Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter to create a place where visitors can work, meet, and relax. People who want to visit the Cat Show can pay a single day fee or going a monthly subscription.

    The Gallatin Gateway School board passed a bond issue of $7 million to build a new school building or to remodel the existing structure. Gallatin Gateway is expecting to have at least 50 news students from the new subdivision development that is being built in the neighborhood. The new renovations will start in May 2021.

    Blue Dog RV has opened on US Hwy 2 in Kalispell. The Kalispell store is the 16th Blue Dog dealership in the Western U.S. and the first in Montana. The new Blue Dog RV store will offer travel trailers, fifth-wheels, toy haulers and motor homes, along with parts and accessories. The store will carry several brands, including Forest River, Keystone and Thor.

    There has been a 29% increase in the number of property-related documents processed by the Missoula County Clerk and Recorder’s Office this year. This increase means 803 more documents processed per employee in the Clerk and Recorders office.  The Clerk and Recorder’s office has updated  their website and processes to accelerate their work.

    Brandy Kincheloe has joined the Montana Primary Care Association as workforce development coordinator. The workforce development coordinator provides training to Montana’s Community Health Centers and Urban Indian Centers.

    Montana will be represented in the inaugural Small Business Majority’s Holiday Gift Guide by Sarah Calhoun’s business Red Ants Pants of White Sulphur Springs. Small Business Majority is a national organization that seeks to empower entrepreneurs. It’s holiday gift guide highlights small businesses from across the country in an effort to encourage shoppers to support local entrepreneurs.

    Parkland Corporation has agreed to purchase Story Distributing Company of Bozeman which operates Casey’s Corner gas stations and convenience stores. The company now operates in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and North Dakota, with 12 convenience stores and about 175 employees. Parkland Corporation is the largest independent supplier of fuel and petroleum products in Canada and the Caribbean.

    Candace Carr Strauss, Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky CEO has announced her resignation from the organizations. She has accepted the position of president and CEO of the Sedona, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky organizations will conduct a national search for CEO candidates.

    Walton Homestead Medical Clinic has received approval from the city’s of Bozemans planning department. The new building will be on a lot at the corner of West Oak Street and North 15th Avenue.  The two-story, 9,300-square-foot clinic will have 16 exam rooms.

    Miles Community College has been gifted with $25,000 from Northwest Farm Credit Services  to help fund the newly established meat processing program. The gift is part of the stewardship commitment to improve the lives of their customers and communities. The meat processing program is a one-year certificate degree offered at the college. It is comprised of both general and industry specific courses, available both online and on-campus, and includes several paid internships at local processing plants.

    The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources has released oil and gas production figures for September 2020. The state hit a record for gas capture percentage at 93%, but gas production was far below the record levels it hit in November 2019. Here are the numbers: 36,649,997 barrels or 1,221,667 barrels/day — September 2020 oil production; $31.59 — Average price of a barrel of North Dakota oil in September 2020; 84,409,981 MCF or 2,813,666 MCF/day — September 2020 gas production; 78,479,791 MCF or 2,615,993 MCF/day — September 2020 gas captured; 93% — gas capture percentage; 88% — state mandated gas capture goal for September. The goal went up to 91% Nov. 1); 15,377 — Number of producing wells in September 2020; 51 — Number of drilling permits issued in September 2020; 43 — Number of completed wells in September 2020, up from 19 in August; 11 — Average drilling rig count in September 2020; 80% — Decrease in drilling rig activity between January and September 2020.

    White Raven Winery has opened their tasting room in Columbia Heights, near the junction of Hwy 2 and 206. The winery is owned by Columbia Falls natives Dan and Rebecca Murphy. White Raven turns out 12 different wines, four of which are Montana made.  The grapes used in White Raven’s Montana wines Marquette, Frontenac and L’Acadie Blanc are all cold-hardy varietals originally grown in cold mid-western states.

    The Gallatin County Resource Advisory Council approved fee hikes at 14 rental cabins, three campgrounds and the Rendezvous Ski Trails. 23 other increases have been proposed across for 15 other campgrounds, 14 cabins and lookouts. The rental rates for popular cabins close to Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park would jump from $30 a night to $65. Rendezvous Ski Trails would see a family pass rise from $75 for a family to $190. One cabin in the Taylor Fork area, which has yet to be added to the rental program, is set to cost $75 a night.

    Mike Sartwell, president and CEO of Preferred Restaurant Group, Inc., has opened the first Slim Chickens, a southern inspired chicken franchise, in Montana. With 43 years of restaurant and franchising experience and a Slim Chickens location in North Dakota, Sartwell opened at 1450 Prospect Avenue in Helena.

    The Montana BioScience Alliance has chosen Marshall Bloom, M.D., as its 2020 Hall of Fame honoree. Dr. Bloom is the Associate Director for Science Management at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton. He also is Chief of the Biology of Vector-Borne Viruses Section. Rocky Mountain Laboratories is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Bloom oversaw the development of NIH’s first biosafety level-four research facility, which was constructed on the RML campus. Since the facility opened in 2008, the program’s scientists have helped develop an Ebola virus vaccine and are making crucial contributions to COVID-19 treatment and vaccine developments.

    The KLJ Solutions Holding Co. Board of Directors announced the appointment of interim Chief Executive Officer  Barry Schuchard, effective January 1 The appointment follows the resignation of KLJ Engineering LLC CEO, Dean Anagnost. Schuchard has been with the company since 1983 and served in multiple project-related and leadership roles over the years, including Chief Production Officer for a number of years and most recently as the company’s Chief Value Officer. Anagnost began his career with KLJ in 1991 where he was responsible for the formation of the company’s Telecommunications practice, which remains a key component of KLJ’s business portfolio.

    The Montana Department of Transportation recently issued new load postings for the Spring Creek Bridge, two miles northwest of Greycliff in Sweet Grass County. The postings are part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the last decade. Truck manufacturers are building specialized hauling vehicles, which are capable of legally carrying heavier loads than typical vehicles have in the past. SHVs are single-unit, short-wheelbase, multiple-axle trucks commonly used in the construction, waste management, bulk cargo and commodities hauling industries. Often times one or more axles can be raised or lowered as needed to comply with statutory weight limitations.  To comply with the mandate, MDT is currently updating load ratings for 4,500 public bridges across the state, including approximately 2,500 owned and maintained by MDT. This effort is expected to take about four years to complete.  

    The first and only Cat Café has been opened in Bozeman at The Market at Ferguson Farm. The Cat Show Cat Café is a lounge where people can work and adopt cats. Cat Show owner Josh Marks partnered with Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter to create a place where visitors can work, meet, and relax. People who want to visit the Cat Show can pay a single day fee or going a monthly subscription.

    The Gallatin Gateway School board passed a bond issue of $7 million to build a new school building or to remodel the existing structure. Gallatin Gateway is expecting to have at least 50 news students from the new subdivision development that is being built in the neighborhood. The new renovations will start in May 2021.

  • Montana Highlights December 1, 2020 +

    Acutech Metalworks of Columbia Falls has become a partner with Powerlift hydraulic Doors of Minnesota. The partnership is an extension of Acutech metal fabrication business throughout Montana and Idaho. Acutech is located on Montana Highway 40 in Columbia Falls.

    Hecla Mining Co. has completed the first phase of the reclamation of the Troy Mine. If the DEQ lives up to their obligation they should release almost $8 million dollars in reclamation bond money to the mining company. The next step in the reclamation process is the mill site.

    The Farm at River’s Bend near Whitefish is embarking on a plan to grow produce in storage units. The units are remodeled freight containers. The amount of water and nutrients used by the plants are computer controlled. The processes and remodeled container are products of Freight Farms located in Boston.

    Cascade County Commissioners have abused their discretionary powers by changing conditions which a lower board placed on Big Sky Cheese processing facility being constructed near Great Falls. Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment placed some restrictions on the cheese plant.. The County Commissioners threw out 9 of 17 conditions. They were reinstated by Lake County District Judge James Manley.

    Steps are being taken to repurpose the K-mart building in Glendive into a community fitness center. The projects planners will sublet the extra space in the building to other businesses who are looking for a community type location.

    110 health care workers who are part of an total of 200 to be deployed in the state until the end of the year have arrived in Montana. The registered nurses and respiratory therapists will help hospitals that are at or near capacity.  as part of a contract between the state and NuWest, which provides traveling health care workers. Benefis Health System in Great Falls, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, and Kalispell Regional Medical Center are the main beneficiaries of the traveling nurses.

    Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks saw their busiest Octobers ever. Yellowstone hosted more than 360,000 visitors, up 110% from 2019. The old record for October, set in 2015, was more than 252,000 visitors. The park has hosted 3,743,907 recreation visits so far in 2020 down 6% from the same period last year. The park was closed due to COVID-19 concerns beginning March 24, 2020. All five entrances have been open since June 1. Grand Teton National Park saw more than 351,000 tourists in October, up 88% from 2019. Glacier National Park also recorded a jump in October visitation. Glacier recorded more than 125,000 tourists compared to 78,000 in 2018 and an average of about 85,000 over the past three years.

    Marijuana is set to become legal in Montana on Jan. 1. Marijuana becomes legal to possess, use and grow for personal use on Jan. 1. The Montana Department of Revenue will begin accepting applications from existing medical dispensaries to open recreational dispensaries by Oct. 1, 2021, and those existing dispensaries will have 12 months to apply for licensing before it opens up to the general public. A study from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research report predicted that the 20% tax on recreational marijuana will bring in over $200 million in tax revenue between 2022 and 2026.

    Tumbleweed Teas in Big Timber, owned by Riza Gilpin and Laurie Rennie, recently received a grant from the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund to shift the manufacture of their company’s tumblers from China to Manhattan, Montana to be manufactured by Plastic Design & Manufacturing (PDM). The company markets a custom-blend of teas across the country.

    The City of Belgrade is developing an urban renewal plan for its downtown that will allow the creation of tax increment finance district to revamp downtown city streets.

    The Montana Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on a proposal to resurface about 7.4 miles of Secondary Highway 421, near Joliet.  The project starts at the intersection of S-421 and US 212, and extends northwest for 7.4 miles.  The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Montana currently holds the greatest decrease in the percentage of self-response rates in the latest Census. Montana saw a 4.2% decline in its self-response rates this year, down from 64.6% in 2010. The national self-response rate increased from 66.5% in 2010 to 67.0% in 2020. The Montana decline could mean a loss in federal program funding and a possible additional representative in Congress.

    Mugs Coffee has opened for business in Fairview, by owner Jess Serafin, with the assistance of her father.

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market continued its recent pattern of strong sales activity in October, with increases in closed sales, pending sales and median sale prices in both the single family and condo/townhome markets.   Median sales prices increased 27.6%, from $458,600 in October 2019 to $585,000 in October 2020. Closed sales increased 59%, from 129 to 205, and pending sales jumped 78.1%, from 105 to 187. The number of new single-family listings increased 14.6% compared to October 2019, from 130 to 149. The average days on market increased 30.8%, from 52 to 68. Sellers received 98.5% of their list price last month, up slightly from 98.2% last year. 

    Passenger boardings at airports in North Dakota have increased 47% as that  experienced during the same month last year. This is also the highest monthly demand in airline passengers that North Dakota has experienced since the pandemic began last Spring.

    The Lower Yellowstone River Coalition reported that in August, “The governor announced that he is asking Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to identify $4 million in general license funding that could be applied to the creation and improvement of numerous recreational resources along the river. This investment could be matched by other sources of state and federal funding, which would bring the total investment in new recreational infrastructure along the Lower Yellowstone to $8 million. This commitment is an important first step in securing funding for recreation in eastern Montana, but it will require the Montana Legislature to approve the use of these funds in the next legislative session which begins in January 2021.” Plans include boat ramps, campsites, restroom facilities, access roads, parks, and hiking trails along approximately 170 river miles between Hysham and Sidney.

    The Montana Free Press reports that a plan to reduce Amtrak service to three days a week will cost Montana $38 million. The passenger rail line has been used by out-of-state skiers for decades as affordable and dependable transportation to reach Whitefish’s ski slopes.  It also serves many other Hi-line towns in Montana, which otherwise have limited transportation options. The plan, to reduce costs for the publically-funded Amtrak, is to make stops in Montana only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays traveling westbound, and Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays heading east. COVID has drastically cut Amtrak passenger numbers prompting the request for an additional $1.4 billion last May in funding, which it has not yet received.

    The Montana Department of Transportation is planning to resurface approximately 11 miles of US Highway 191, near Melville in Sweet Grass County.  The project begins south of the junction with Melville Road, at reference post  extends approximately 11 miles north ending at the Wheatland. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in summer of 2021.

  • Montana Highlights November 15, 2020 +

    The Great Northern Historical Trail will be undergoing “Tunnel Vision 2021” a project to bring in artists from the community to paint murals on the entrances to the three tunnels. The three tunnels are located in a public right of way, so Rails-to-Trails had to work with the city of Kalispell and the Montana Department of Transportation to get the approvals to put the artwork in place. The city of Kalispell and MDT will have final say in the artwork selections.

     A new bike ride has been announced for Whitefish on August 21, 2021. Called the “Last Best Ride” the ride offers two routes which will use the gravel roads around Whitefish. One route is 48 miles and the other is 78 miles.

    Voters in the Missoula Urban Transportation District approved a 20 mill levy increase that will provide Mountain Line with $3 million per year to increase services. The bus system plans to increase frequency on heavily-used routes and plans to convert its fleet from diesel to all-electric. Mountain Line provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, and ridership has increased since the debut of zero-fare rides.

    The sixth annual SnöFlinga Winter Festival is scheduled from January 21thru 24, in Butte. After communication between the board of directors of SnöFlinga and the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department, the popular winter festival will move forward with adjustments to stay within the protocol set for COVID-19 safety. SnöFlinga was founded by the Butte Community Fitness Foundation to highlight the everyday winter fitness opportunities in the Butte area. These activities include cross country skiing, ice skating, hockey, curling, fat bike riding and walking trails. There were 17 events and nearly 3,000 attendees in the 2020 festival.

    Helena has a variety of new or soon to be open new businesses: Slim Chickens restaurant will open soon at 1450 Prospect Ave; the Floral Cottage will move from their current location at 1900 Last Chance Gulch to a new building between Cedar and Custer on Sanders Street. They hope to open the new location in January 2021; Mariposa Massage has opened at 1221 Echelon Place – Ste D; Sassy Nails has opened at 1005 Partridge Place – Ste 2.

    District Court Judge Kathy Seeley has overturned a rule by the Montana Lottery which required any business that wished a have a sports betting license under the sports betting law to have a Montana State liquor license. The judge found that the legislature had not inserted any language to require a liquor license.

    Bridger Bowl Ski Area has discontinued selling some season passes in a move meant to limit capacity and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The ski area will continue selling day lift tickets. Reservations are part of the ski area’s plans for the season amid the pandemic. Daily limits for the number skiers of allowed on the mountain will also apply.

    The B. Sanderson Gas plant going up west of Williston has continued construction during the market downturn in North Dakota. The gas processing plant is now over 75% complete.

    The Williston Basin Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute to has cancelled its 2020-21 awards banquet. The event had been scheduled for Jan. 8 at The Well at Williston State College. The awards banquet is usually held in early November, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to postpone and to finally cancel the event.

    Cannabis promoters are pointing out that for Montana and the other states which have legalized recreational use of the drug, there is potential for job growth. Each newly legal cannabis state will need to build a new supply chain – from seed to sale – due to the continued Schedule I designation that prohibits moving cannabis across state lines. As a result there “We can expect to see a massive expansion in the number of cannabis farms, manufacturing centers and retail stores. This means Montana (alongside Arizona, New Jersey and South Dakota) can anticipate tens of thousands of new jobs as licenses are granted and regulations are adopted.”

    Oboz Footwear, the True to the Trail outdoor footwear company headquartered in Bozeman, has been named to Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work in 2020. The list honors businesses and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to welcoming environments that prioritize work-life balance and employee engagement.

    The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport reports that their travel numbers are at about 70-75 percent. In April, at its worst point of the pandemic, the airport saw just 3-3.5% of its usual travel numbers.

    The Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA) announced that executive vice president Lola Raska will retire from the organization at the end of this calendar year. The organization also announced that Alison Vergeront has been hired as MGGA’s new executive vice president, effective January 1 Lola Raska has been on staff at MGGA for 21 years, serving as the organization’s farm policy associate and website manager before being hired as executive vice president in 2006. Alison Vergeront was raised on the family farm near Polson, that was homesteaded in 1910. She has served as agricultural liaison and field representative for U.S. Senator Steve Daines for the past six years, regularly meeting with producers and other stakeholders across the state.

  • Montana Highlights November 1, 2020 +

    The City of Kalispell’s Building Department has issued 234 permits for single family and duplex housing projects. This number is approaching double the 121 permits the department had issued by this time last year. Multi-family permits have increased from 84 multi-family permits during all of 2019 to 132 multi-family housing units approved so far in 2020. compared to 84 multi-family units in all of 2019.

    The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has lodged complaints against four Flathead County businesses alleging the entities violated COVID-19 directives by failing to ensure employees and patrons wore masks and that the establishments displayed proper signage related to COVID-19 protocols. The lawsuits were filed against Sykes Diner in Kalispell, The Remington Bar in Whitefish and the Ferndale Market and Your Turn Mercantile/Your Lucky Turn Casino in Bigfork. The businesses have been given 21 days to respond to the complaints.

    U.S. senators have questioned the chief of Amtrak about job cuts and service reductions on the carrier’s long-distance passenger train routes, including the Empire Builder line that serves a dozen mostly rural communities in northern Montana. Amtrak CEO, William Flynn, testified that ridership remains down about 80% due to the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic forced Amtrak to reduce service on most of its long-distance trains to just three days a week. Flynn sought to assure senators the cuts are intended to be temporary.

    Yellowstone National Park announced this week that it will begin testing a low-speed automated shuttle system in 2021. The automated shuttle will serve the Canyon Village campground, visitor services, and the visitor lodging. Canyon Village is a popular area north of Yellowstone Lake. The most popular roads in the park are over capacity by about 29% during July. Those roads include the West Entrance to Madison Junction, Madison Junction to Old Faithful and to Norris Junction, Old Faithful to West Thumb and Norris Junction to Canyon Village. The park has tested out a few different ways to help relieve that congestion, like having extra staff stationed in extra-congested parking areas. A 2019 pilot project at Norris Junction stationed staff to help test the efficiency of the overflow parking on the Grand Loop Road. That project showed that staffing can help visitors safely access areas where parking is limited.

    Montana’s unemployment rate returned to a near-normal level of 5.3 percent in September after dropping from 5.6 percent in August. Economists typically consider normal unemployment levels to be between 4 percent to 5 percent. The national unemployment rate has remained higher than Montana’s, at 7.9 percent for September. Montana has the 9th lowest unemployment rate in the nation. 

    MSU has received a $498,217 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help Montana food and beverage manufacturers reduce waste and adopt strategies that can lessen environmental impact. MSU, working with the Montana Pollution Prevention Program and Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, will use the grant to provide small businesses in the food and beverage industry with on-site technical assistance and training on pollution prevention.

    Welcome Market Hall, opened in Sheridan, Wyoming last May, a first of its kind concept for visitors and locals to enjoy Sheridan’s finest food and beverage offerings in a unique setting. Market Hall was conceptualized by owner Tom Thomson and Stephanie Stalker who were looking to bring a memorable social experience through good food and great conversation, located inside a historic railroad station originally built in 1912. Renovation of the space was a collaborative effort by Stephanie and her father Dan Stalker, a lifelong Sheridan resident and architect. Guests can choose between six different dining concepts including Scipio’s offering pizza, El Cruce bringing a variety of tacos and tapas, O-Ke-Kai which serves poke bowls and fried seafood favorites; Protein for sandwiches and ribs; WMH Brunch for brunch and lunch.  Beverage offerings include coffee shop Up Café; cocktails by CB&Q Lounge, or Grand Bar for beer and wine.

    Negotiations are on-going among recreationists, the Crow Tribe, the Forest Service and private landowners, all with interests in the Crazy Mountains. The discussion is hopefully leading to a solution to a long-term conflict over land use in the Crazy Mountains. A community coalition is hoping that a land swap on the east side of the range will alleviate frustrations for all while allowing for more public access. The proposal will give the Forest Service over 5,200 acres of private land, including a new 22-mile trail, paid for by Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, in exchange for 500 acres of expert ski terrain from the Forest Service in Big Sky. Private landowners would get more than 3,600 acres in the land swap, by consolidating public lands already scattered between private lands.

    Whole Foods Market is planning their first Montana store in Bozeman at the Gallatin Valley Mall, managed by Steve Corning, as part of the Gallatin Mall Group. Whole Foods Market will join Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Regal Cinemas and JoAnn Fabrics in anchoring the 365,000 square foot center. 

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw large increases in pending sales, closed sales and average sales prices in October, while the inventory of available homes decreased significantly in both the single family and condo/townhome markets compared to 2019. Median sales price increased 18.9%, from $462,000 in September 2019 to $550,000 in September 2020. Closed sales increased 46.9%, from 130 to 191, and pending sales jumped 56.6%, from 113 to 177. The inventory of available homes decreased 60.1% compared to last year, from 537 to 214, and the month’s supply of inventory dropped 65%, from 4.0 to 1.4. The number of new single-family listings decreased 3% compared to September 2019, from 167 to 162. The average days on market increased 56.8%, from 37 to 58. Sellers received 99.1% of their list price last month, up slightly from 98.4% last year.

  • Montana Highlights October 15, 2020 +

    Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has created a dive team of six Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks employees who focus on controlling aquatic invasive species in the state’s waterways. Besides attempting to physically control AIS in lakes and streams the group also does education, detection and prevention. The team has inspected over 125,000 watercraft during 2020 with over 30 being detected carrying invasive species.

    Nomad Global Communications builds specialty vehicles with mobile communication systems to assist rural firefighters and law enforcement. The company has been building these vehicles since 2002 in Columbia Falls. The COVID 19 outbreak has caused the business to focus on vehicles allowing medical personnel to bring their treatment regimes to rural areas and impacted urban areas. Nomad has also responded to the pandemic with adaptations in both its physical design and digital approach. Nomad’s most recent updates include low-touch features and increased software security.

     The Ponderosa Chalet at Snow Bear Chalets on Big Mountain has been selected as one of Vrbo’s ( vacation rental by owner) top 25 all-time favorite properties. The online vacation rental business selected 25 properties out of more than 2 million listings worldwide in order to celebrate its 25th year in business. The chalets opened in 2017 as the world’s first ski-in, ski-out tree houses.

    A full liquor license and a beer and wine license are available in the Missoula area, according to the Montana Department of Revenue. The floater All-Liquor license is available for a minimum bid of $323,000 in a competitive bidding process, and is not eligible to offer gambling. A beer and wine license that can be located within Missoula or five miles of Missoula is available for a minimum bid of $42,000.

    The Downtown Missoula Foundation will offer Heritage Trail Tours and Dinner at one of three fine dining restaurants in downtown Missoula. Offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in October, the Heritage Trail Dinner Tours will feature a 90-minute guided walking tour paired with a three-course dinner for $100 per person.

    Yellowstone National Park has reported that it had the most-ever September visitors. The increase contrasts sharply with May, when visitation rates were 90% lower compared to the same month last year. The park recorded about 837,000 visits in September, a rate 21% higher than September 2019 and 15.6% higher than the park’s second-busiest September on record in 2018. Visitation rates through June were down 49% compared to numbers from the first six months of 2019. A rapid uptick saw an increase of 2% in visitation rates in July and an uptick in August of 7.5%.The national park’s peak season is typically from May through September. Tourism tends to taper off in September and October. Most lodges, restaurants, stores and other services close for the year in October, followed by all park roads in early November.

    The Sky Shed, a ninth-floor rooftop bar and restaurant has opened in downtown Bozeman. with panoramic views of Bozeman. Situated on the roof of what’s now the tallest building in downtown Bozeman, the Sky Shed is essentially a glass restaurant that can be opened to combine the indoor and outdoor seating. Fireplaces dot the patio, surrounded by oversized furniture and tables.

    University of Montana researchers have received a $21 million government contract, bringing more support and longevity to what has been a grassroots effort to build a better climate monitoring network across the state. The funding comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    Heartland Forward published its annual report, “Most Dynamic Micropolitan Regions,” which ranks 515 micropolitans–regions whose populations range from 10,000 to 50,000–by their economic performance. Bozeman ranked sixth.  Pecos, Texas; Jackson, Wyo.-Idaho; and Summit Park, Utah, ranked as the first, second, and third most dynamic micropolitans, respectively. Tourism, energy, and robust entrepreneurship were the most common strengths among the top 30 places. The report offers a view of small cities’ economies heading into the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating which locations may be well positioned to capitalize on a potential exodus from large cities, and which may be most vulnerable to the economic impacts of the crisis.

    The Old Faithful Snow Lodge closed 10 days early, October 13, after staff started being diagnosed with COVID-19. Over a dozen cases were reported during the last two weeks, after a summer with only a few cases. Normally the lodge would have closed on October 25.

    Developers are planning to build a $19.1 million television and film studio in Missoula. A Montana-based company called Shadowcast Partners, LLC, is planning to purchase the county-owned land in the Missoula Technology Park, to build a large-scale television and film studio.

    A Finland study shows that older people today are smarter, stronger and faster than 30 years ago. The study compared the physical and cognitive performance of a group of older people in 2017 with a similarly aged group three decades earlier. Improvements were seen in almost every test, suggesting progress has been made extending the number of healthy years a person lives

    The Montana Chamber announced the hiring of Payton Dobbs as the organization’s Membership Relations Coordinator. Payton is responsible for member engagement, retention, and recruitment. Before starting her business selling insurance in 2018, Payton spent five years working in retail where her interest in business and entrepreneurship began.

    On Nov. 5, the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport will send off their first flight from their new B concourse terminal expansion. The expansion will add four new gates with the more than 75,000 square foot terminal area.  The $26.5 million new concourse will have food services and retail options.

  • Montana Highlights 10-01-20 +

    The Gallatin Association of Realtors reports that the median selling price of a single-family home in Gallatin County increased by $86,900 from July 2020 to August 2020. Median single-family home sales price was at $510,000, in July, but in August it jumped to $584,500. The biggest increase was in the greater Manhattan area where the median single-family home sales price increased by $115,450. It actually dropped slightly for Three Forks and Belgrade.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau Gallatin County has grown by 27.8% from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019.

    U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $2.5 million grant to the County of Stillwater, to make critical roadway infrastructure improvements needed to keep commerce flowing and support future business growth in the wake of flooding that impacted the county in 2019. The EDA grant, to be matched with $624,326 in local investment, is expected to create 200 jobs and spur $250 million in private investment.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 announced an award of $128,992 to the University of Montana to support fish advisory and consumption awareness related to fish harvested through invasive species reduction efforts in Flathead Lake and made available to food pantries. The grant is to monitor methylmercury in fish from Flathead Lake and impacts on users. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have made a concerted effort to suppress the invasive lake trout population.

    Evel Knievel’s son, Kelly, is suing the Walt Disney Co. and Pixar over a movie daredevil character named Duke Caboom. He has filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit in Las Vegas accusing the moviemaker of improperly basing the “Toy Story 4” character on Knievel, whose stunts in the 1960s and ’70s included motorcycle jumps over the Caesars Palace fountain in Las Vegas and a rocket shot into Snake River Canyon in Idaho.

    A fishing access site on the Big Horn River has been renamed to honor the legacy of a Montana public lands advocate. Friends and family of the late Tony Schoonen gathered to dedicate the site. Schoonen was passionate about a project to create a full boat launch and parking area at the Mallon’s Access Site on the Big Hole River. It was previously called Notch Bottom Fishing Access. In the mid-1960s, Schoonen spearheaded efforts to prevent the building of a dam at Notch Bottom. Today, the 150-mile-long Big Hole remains among the few free-flowing wild trout rivers in the United States

    Six former employees of a snowmobile guide company in West Yellowstone have settled an unfair labor practice complaint, marking what could be a major shift in the way seasonal employees in the small tourist town work.

    The charitable arm of Gibson, the iconic American instrument brand has partnered with Gallatin High School in Bozeman to bring the power of music to returning students this fall. Gibson representatives and country music artist Stephanie Quayle presented the young guitar players with a donation of 24 hand-crafted, high-quality, acoustic guitars from Gibson’s to Gallatin High School’s music department and pledged their continued support to the students.

    Montana State University is reporting its fifth-highest enrollment ever this semester despite the COVID-19 pandemic. There are now 16,249 students attending classes, fall semester, students have a choice of how they want to learn, between in-person, online, or hybrid classes.

    National Flood Services works with FEMA and the nation’s largest insurance carriers (Farmers, Allstate, Assurant) to help protect more policyholders from flood than anyone else. Their founder first started NFS in Chicago in 1986. But, unable to stay away from Flathead Valley, he relocated the company to his native Montana in 1988, and it’s been NFS’s home ever since. They’re celebrating 35 years of business in October and have over 100 employees in the area.

    UNAVCO, a global engineering and data firm, plans to move its headquarters to Missoula, where it can establish agreements with the Montana University System and capitalize off the city’s skilled workforce. The Missoula Economic Partnership received approval from Missoula County to submit a job creation grant on behalf of UNAVCO Inc., which is looking to create 27 local jobs.

    The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission reported that the state’s eight commercial service airports show increasing numbers for passenger boardings, moving away from the record low numbers in recent months. The commission reported a total of 43,559 passenger boardings for the month of August, which is higher than the statewide volume that has been seen in the last four months, and amounts to a 43 percent retention rate of the passengers that North Dakota experienced during the same month last year. North Dakota’s airline passenger demand has also been recovering faster than the national average which is currently estimated to be at 29% of pre-pandemic levels.