Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights September 1, 2020 +

    The Missoula International Airport has seen over 1,000 plus more private planes land at the airport as  compared to July 2019.

    The owner of Whiskey and Lace Clothing Boutique, located at 23 W. Main St.,  Bozeman, is Lee Ann Anthony.  The business began two years ago as a fully-online clothing store

    The Ruh Building, located at 605 N. 7th Ave., in Bozeman is set for completion in December. The building occupants will include a brewery, 16 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space. The building is owned by Bill and Karen Ruh. Last Best Place Brewing, will fill the building’s brewery space.

    Montana’s unemployment rate decreased for the third straight month, dropping by 0.8 percentage points to 6.4% in July. Montana’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percentage points below the national rate of 10.2% for July 2020.

    The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, has announced the cancellation of  the 11th annual Great Northwest Oktoberfest scheduled for this fall has been canceled.  The event takes place in downtown Whitefish on the last weekend of September and the first weekend in October.

    According to a new analysis from industry group Airlines for America, Montana experienced the smallest percentage decline in passenger flights out of any state in the country when compared to July of last year. Montana saw a 25% reduction in scheduled flights from July 2019 to July 2020. The national average was about a 50% decrease, and New York, the state with the most significant drop-off, saw flights decline by 70% compared to the same time period last year.

    Rapid Clean Car Wash, a new Bozeman car wash, will have a 160-foot wash tunnel and 17 car vacuums.  Rapid Clean plans to hire up to 22 employees when they open. The planned for  detail shop and large vehicle wash openings will hire 3 or 4 more employees..

    A huge expansion costing between $35 million and $40 million, that will more than double the capacity of the Dakota Access Pipeline to 1.1 million BOPD, was proposed by Energy Transfer Partners. Work will be completed by February 2021. The company said it is anticipated that crude oil production out of the Williston Basin will increase between 350,000 to 450,0000 BOPD over the next five years, with current production exceeding 1.3 million BOPD. The 36-inch crude oil pipeline runs 1,172 miles from Stanley, ND to Patoka, IL. The pipeline has reached its maximum capacity of 600,000 BOPD. (From Oil Patch Hotline)

    Hess Corp is building a $155 million expansion of its gas processing plant at Tioga, ND.  The turnaround at the plant will take place next year along with the new tie- in to expanded NGL pipelines. Total capacity will be at 265 Mmcf a day.

    Montana’s fire fund will be adequate to handle the fire season, according to the Governor. The fire fund has doubled to its statutory maximum, said Gov. Steve Bullock, and the state is well equipped to manage the COVID uncertainty with budget reserves of over $600 million. He said, “We are well equipped to handle two concurrent challenges with a fire fund that can cover nearly five average wildfire seasons and the reserves to sustain critical services and manage through the pandemic.” On August 15, $46.7 million was transferred from the general fund to the fire suppression fund, putting the fire fund at its statutory maximum of $101.5 million, or 4% of fiscal year 2021 appropriations.

    Construction crews are widening Highway 287 north of Three Forks to 4-lanes, which will help improve stopping and sight distance for drivers.  The 7-mile stretch of highway in Broadwater County between I-90 and Toston will connect the existing 4-lane sections to help with safety and design standards. The Montana Department of Transportation says with the increase in traffic throughout the area this project will help improve visibility.  

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw increases in closed sales, pending sales and median sale prices in July, while the inventory of available homes decreased in both the single family and condo/townhome markets compared to last year. The median sales price increased 5.8%, from $462,250 in July 2019 to $489,000 in July 2020. Closed sales increased by 21.4%, from 192 to 233, and pending sales jumped 73.3%, from 150 to 260. The inventory of available homes decreased 40.5% compared to last year, from 504 to 300, and the month’s supply of inventory decreased 40.5%, from 3.7 to 2.2. The number of new single-family listings increased 2.3% compared to July 2019, from 213 to 218. The average days on market increased 4.4%, from 45 to 47. Sellers received 99.2% of their list price last month, up slightly from 98.9% last year. Closed sales on condos increased 38.1%, and sale prices in the condo/townhouse market increased 6.8%, from $323,000 to $345,000.  

    Research activity at UM has grown substantially in recent years. This fiscal year, UM reported $104.7 million in research expenditures to the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey. This is a 16% increase over the previous high of $90.6 million in FY2018 and a 90% increase from FY2014.morbidities



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  • Montana Highlights August 15, 2020 +

    Rolling Acres Subdivision, located west of Columbia Falls Stage Road and north of Kingfisher Lane,  is being proposed by Unique Realty Developer Inc.. The project will include 77 lots on 114 acres with shared wells, individual septic systems, plus a community sand-mound septic system. Rolling Acres  located in close to a pair of conservation easements meant to protect riparian habitat along the Flathead River. The development has spurred concern from local residents and government agencies.

    Rattlesnake Dam was recently removed from Rattlesnake Creek. The planned renovation of the area includes a three year plan to restore the watershed. The dam was built in 1904, reinforced with concrete in 1924 and was an important part of Missoula’s water supply until 1993. The city  acquired the dam, along with 10 other dams on lakes in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, through the acquisition of the Mountain Water Company. The project includes 1,000 feet of stream channel restoration,

    Grocers and convenience store operators are commenting on the lack of beer and soda products which are packaged in aluminum cans. There is a nationwide shortage of aluminum cans due to people staying home and consuming these products thereby increasing the demand for aluminum cans.

    North Dakota lawmakers have halted the plans the Bank of North Dakota proposal for more coronavirus business aid. The lawmakers want more details before deciding on approval. Bank of North Dakota President presented the concept of loan interest relief for businesses hit by the pandemic, which would use $100 million of CARES Act money that’s expected to go unused. North Dakota received $1.25 billion of the aid. The nation’s only state-owned bank received $200 million, which went to fund the COVID-19 PACE Recovery loan program. The bank has provided $93.6 million through 114 COVID-19 PACE Recovery loans.

    North Dakota is one of four states and a city asked to be part of a task force that will help the federal government think about how to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available.

    The selection does not necessarily mean North Dakota will be first in line to receive COVID-19 vaccine, Given that COVID-19 has such an uneven distribution of risk, it is likely delivery will be prioritized to vulnerable populations first..

    Governor Steve Bullock announced that he will direct up to $20 million in funding to the Montana University System to support its fall semester COVID-19 strategy for testing students. MUS will prioritize rapid detection and isolation of new COVID-19 cases, rapid contact tracing for each of those cases, and rapid quarantine and testing of individuals who have had close contact with positive COVID-19 cases. To prioritize resources, MUS will not test each student arriving to its campuses, but tests will be available to those who need them and MUS will also use epidemiological surveillance testing to improve effectiveness of mitigation efforts. Funding for testing comes from the state’s allocation of federal relief dollars made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

    Bank of the Rockies, Livingston, announced  that Heather Malcolm was selected as a 2020 Rising Stars Honoree. Heather is the Vice President of Ag Lending for Bank of the Rockies and works out of their Livingston Branch where she’s been for 16 years. Each year BankBeat magazine, in conjunction with the United Banker’s Bank, honors rising stars in banking. Bank of the Rockies was founded in 1883, and is headquartered in White Sulphur Springs. The bank operates branches in White Sulphur Springs, Shields Valley, Emigrant, Livingston, Helena, Lewistown, and Bozeman.

    About half the number of bikers as usual were expected to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, in Sturgis, SD,  but that still amounted to about 250,000 people, and – lamented reporters – there was hardly a mask in sight. There were some attendees interviewed, who considered themselves at high-risk, and were making the personal choice to wear masks and said they were avoiding bars and restaurants. Since South Dakota has imposed no COVID –related restrictions the choice was up to the individuals involved. Concerned civic leaders said that they will be interested to see if the level of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, which has been relatively steady, will increase.



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  • Montana Highlights August 1 2020 +

    Glacier National Park has been investigating several fires tht are suspicious in nature. Several investigators were on the ground, along with the FBI and National Park Service assisting remotely. Portions of the park are closed due to the investigation

    The Billings REI store opened last Friday. The Washington-based outdoor retailer closed all its locations across the country in March. That included postponing the opening of the new Billings store at the corner of Shiloh Road and King Avenue West.

    Ramsay residents are still fighting  to prevent Love’s Travel Stops from locating a truck stop complex next to Interstate 90 about 7 miles west of Butte. Residents say a Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board decision that went against them bolstered their case. Love’s has purchased land for the truck stop at Ramsay and obtained a DEQ stormwater permit for general construction activities, but other regulatory approvals are still pending. Some Ramsay residents have opposed the project from the start, saying the truck stop will bring traffic, noise, pollution, transients and crime to the community.

    Eagle Mount Bozeman and Julius Lehrkind Brewing have teamed up to make a special release beer in support of the local nonprofit. Eagle Mount provides a variety of camps and activities for kids and adults living with disabilities or cancer. Because of COVID-19, the nonprofit has scaled back much of its activities.

    Sidewall Pizza Company opened this month in the Emerson Center in Bozeman. The first Sidewall Pizza Company was started in an old tire shop in South Carolina, hence the name, and the Bozeman Sidewall will be the first outside of that state. The menu features a variety of meat and vegetarian pizzas, all with the option of gluten free crust, and salads.

    Slow Drift Shuttle Service has opened in Bozeman offering shuttle service for the Madison River and Yellowstone River.

    Fishing on the Big Horn River is slowly recovering from a bad spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business has reportedly picked up in the past month and is looking better for following months. Many of the cancellations have been rebooked for October

    The Bowman family has been growing cherries on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake for five generations. The family business has grown from a single acre of trees to the two-state operation it is today. As Bowman Orchards celebrates 100 years of operation in 2020, the family looks back at a century of ups and downs. As the orchard grew, so did the cherry crop and the family’s success. In 1935 when a harsh early winter storm destroyed the orchard the family dug in and replanted the orchard.

    North Dakota airports are beginning to see a rise in passengers coming through terminals. The eight commercial airports saw around 24,000 people flying, including Williston, Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson – which is only 24 percent of the number of passengers in June of last year. Bismarck Airport says each day numbers continue to climb. In June, they saw more than 8,000 passengers– the highest since the pandemic began.

    When the coronavirus hit Montana and non-essential businesses closed, Misty Williams, Froid Grocery store owner, took the radical step of closing the front door of her “essential business,” restricting it to phone and Facebook orders and curbside pickup. Instead of shopping the aisles in person, customers “virtually shopped” by looking at photos of the shelves on the grocery’s Facebook page. Williams says the results were astounding as orders increased fivefold.

    Beginning July 20, the City of Livingston announced their offices would  be closed to the public since there were four or more active cases of COVID-19 in Park County. All persons on staff will remain available via telephone or email. In-person meetings will only be available by appointment. 

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw an increase in pending sales in June, while days on market, the inventory of available homes and new single-family listings decreased. The median sales price increased 6.7%, from $427,700 in June 2019 to $456,325 in June 2020. The average days on market decreased 3.5%, from 57 to 55. The inventory of available homes decreased compared to last year, from 472 to 364, and the month’s supply of inventory decreased 20%, from 3.5 to 2.8.

    Sellers received 98.4% of their list price last month, down slightly from 99% last year. The number of new single-family listings decreased 13.4% compared to June 2019, from 269 to 233. Pending sales jumped 32.9%, from 173 to 230, and the number of closed sales fell slightly by 0.6%, from 171 to 170.

    Two-Bit Saloon, The Yellowstone Raft Company, Rosie’s Bistro and Red’s Blue Goose Saloon were destroyed by a fire in Gardner, just six weeks after they were able to open following the COVID mandated closures.



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  • Montana Highlights August 1 2020 +

    Glacier National Park has been investigating several fires tht are suspicious in nature. Several investigators were on the ground, along with the FBI and National Park Service assisting remotely. Portions of the park are closed due to the investigation

    The Billings REI store opened last Friday. The Washington-based outdoor retailer closed all its locations across the country in March. That included postponing the opening of the new Billings store at the corner of Shiloh Road and King Avenue West.

    Ramsay residents are still fighting to prevent Love’s Travel Stops from locating a truck stop complex next to Interstate 90 about 7 miles west of Butte. Residents say a Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board decision that went against them bolstered their case. Love’s has purchased land for the truck stop at Ramsay and obtained a DEQ stormwater permit for general construction activities, but other regulatory approvals are still pending. Some Ramsay residents have opposed the project from the start, saying the truck stop will bring traffic, noise, pollution, transients and crime to the community.

    Eagle Mount Bozeman and Julius Lehrkind Brewing have teamed up to make a special release beer in support of the local nonprofit. Eagle Mount provides a variety of camps and activities for kids and adults living with disabilities or cancer. Because of COVID-19, the nonprofit has scaled back much of its activities.

    Sidewall Pizza Company opened this month in the Emerson Center in Bozeman. The first Sidewall Pizza Company was started in an old tire shop in South Carolina, hence the name, and the Bozeman Sidewall will be the first outside of that state. The menu features a variety of meat and vegetarian pizzas, all with the option of gluten free crust, and salads.

    Slow Drift Shuttle Service has opened in Bozeman offering shuttle service for the Madison River and Yellowstone River.

    Fishing on the Big Horn River is slowly recovering from a bad spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business has reportedly picked up in the past month and is looking better for following months. Many of the cancellations have been rebooked for October

    The Bowman family has been growing cherries on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake for five generations. The family business has grown from a single acre of trees to the two-state operation it is today. As Bowman Orchards celebrates 100 years of operation in 2020, the family looks back at a century of ups and downs. As the orchard grew, so did the cherry crop and the family’s success. In 1935 when a harsh early winter storm destroyed the orchard the family dug in and replanted the orchard.

    North Dakota airports are beginning to see a rise in passengers coming through terminals. The eight commercial airports saw around 24,000 people flying, including Williston, Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson – which is only 24 percent of the number of passengers in June of last year. Bismarck Airport says each day numbers continue to climb. In June, they saw more than 8,000 passengers– the highest since the pandemic began.

    When the coronavirus hit Montana and non-essential businesses closed, Misty Williams, Froid Grocery store owner, took the radical step of closing the front door of her “essential business,” restricting it to phone and Facebook orders and curbside pickup. Instead of shopping the aisles in person, customers “virtually shopped” by looking at photos of the shelves on the grocery’s Facebook page. Williams says the results were astounding as orders increased fivefold.

    Beginning July 20, the City of Livingston announced their offices would be closed to the public since there were four or more active cases of COVID-19 in Park County. All persons on staff will remain available via telephone or email. In-person meetings will only be available by appointment. 

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw an increase in pending sales in June, while days on market, the inventory of available homes and new single-family listings decreased. The median sales price increased 6.7%, from $427,700 in June 2019 to $456,325 in June 2020. The average days on market decreased 3.5%, from 57 to 55. The inventory of available homes decreased compared to last year, from 472 to 364, and the month’s supply of inventory decreased 20%, from 3.5 to 2.8.
    Sellers received 98.4% of their list price last month, down slightly from 99% last year. The number of new single-family listings decreased 13.4% compared to June 2019, from 269 to 233. Pending sales jumped 32.9%, from 173 to 230, and the number of closed sales fell slightly by 0.6%, from 171 to 170.

    Two-Bit Saloon, The Yellowstone Raft Company, Rosie’s Bistro and Red’s Blue Goose Saloon were destroyed by a fire in Gardner, just six weeks after they were able to open following the COVID mandated closures.



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  • Montana Highlights June 15 2020 +

    Cost to rent a cabin or campground at 12 rental cabins and two campgrounds in the Flathead National Forest have increased. Existing rental fees in the Flathead National Forest have not been changed for over 15 years

    Neuro-ID, the Whitefish technology company that provides insight into customer behavior during digital transactions is growing. The company just started a global partnership with TransUnion. The company has moved into a new office space on Wisconsin Avenue in Whitefish.

    The Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo has been canceled for the first time in its history. The rodeo dates back to the 1890s.

    Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s announcement to close the Glendive Diesel Shop has left several questions unanswered by BNSF. What jobs will remain after the diesel shop closes, what will happen with local railroad facilities and how will BNSF handle abandoned spur lines are some of the unanswered questions.70 BNSF positions will remain in Glendive, though the railroad would not provide information as to what departments they will fall under.

    Oasis Petroleum started the year with two rigs in the Williston Basin and two in its acreage in the Delaware. The company has completed 18 wells in the first quarter of 2020, and brought six online. These wells helped it cut first quarter spending below expectations.

    Golden Ticket Cinemas Butte 6 theatres opened on June 12 in the Butte Plaza Mall.  AMC theaters closed their doors in Butte on Feb. 20. Golden Ticket has theater complexes in Dubois, Pennsylvania; Lenoir, North Carolina; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Washington, North Carolina; Willmar, Minnesota; and Rapid City, South Dakota.

    The Gallatin City-County Health Board has voted to open poker rooms and allow people to sit at bars while maintaining 6 feet from other patrons. Those businesses can stay open until 12:30 a.m. Distilleries and breweries can seat people at countertops under the same rules but are

    Small businesses across the nation have been severely hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impact in North Dakota has not been as great, according to U.S. Census data. Over the four weeks of data, the percent of North Dakota small businesses reporting a large negative impact has been lower than the percentage nationwide. North Dakota businesses were likely to report moderate impact, and were more likely to report little to no impact as compared to other areas of the nation. Nationally, 51 percent of small businesses reported large negative impacts for the week ended May 2, but only 40 percent of North Dakota businesses reported large negative impacts.

    Beginning the first week in July, Delta will suspend its daily flight into Williston, ND. The US Department of Transportation exempted Delta Air Lines under the CARES Act from having to fulfill its obligation to provide one flight a day three days a week. Delta currently operates once daily service from the Williston Basin International Airport to Minneapolis, MN. 

    After a winter hiatus, Blink Rides E-scooters have returned to Bozeman. The scooters are made available at convenient locations. An app uses a bluetooth connection to unlock the scooter and pay for it. The scooters charge an initial fee for the first minute and then continue to add on for every minute afterwards.

    Kels Koch has opened the Wax Museum in Bozeman, a record shop selling vintage vinyl and other hard to find music. Koch reported that for the first time since 1986, vinyl is poise to outsell CDs.

    Sara and Dustin Harmon are expanding their Montana based business to Williston by opening a tasting room in August or September. The Harmons created Wild Calf Coffee in 2017. They roast, package, and ship their products from Bainville, and they are sold in grocery and gift stores  throughout North Dakota and Montana.

    Kart Kleen in Missoula is an emerging new business of Jason Gardiner, who has developed a machine to clean shopping carts. Gardiner plans to have the machines in stores throughout the state.

    KLJ, an engineering firm, announced that Mike Hinshaw has been promoted to Market Manager for the company’s water market. In his new role, he is responsible for executing business development strategies to best serve current and future clients’ needs. Hinshaw, who works from KLJ’s Bozeman location, has been with the company since 2019. He previously served as a civil engineer focusing on a variety of projects, specifically with extensive experience in hydraulic design.

    KLJ announced that Tim Uribe, project manager and project delivery manager, out of KLJ’s Helena office was recently recognized with the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve. The award recognizes supervisors for support provided directly to the nominating service member and their family. Ben Aarhaus, nominated Uribe, his supervisor, for the award for his support during recent events in which Aarhaus’ wife was deployed. LTC Alyssa Aarhaus is the Battalion Commander of the 193rd Military Police Battalion and Task Force Commander of the Colorado National Guard’s Task Force organizing an Alternate Care Facility to slow the spread of COVID-19.

    The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest’s update to its forest plan predicts the forest will contribute about 2,000 jobs in the next 10-15 years. Forest plans are overarching documents that drive management of forest lands.

    The Bozeman airport is seeing a record low for passengers. Brian Sprenger the Airport Director said he believes that the Bozeman airport has been the most impacted in the country. While on a typical day, the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport sees an average of 44 departures and 44 arrivals, with as many as 5000 people moving through the airport, the daily traffic has been closer to 50 during the COVID-19 shutdown. The lower traffic as in all cases means economic losses for the community. Sprenger estimated that the loss for southwest Montana amounts to $1 billion.

    Missoula County Commissioners have approved a resolution that outlines a plan that would re-establish the North Coast Hiawatha railroad service through southern Montana. Amtrak operated the routed from 1971 to 1979. It included Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula and Paradise, among other communities. It originates in Chicago and ends in Sand Point, where passengers may continue on to either Portland or Seattle. To be called Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, its organizers are seeking the support of other counties. If another county approves the resolution, the authority would be established.

    One business that is closing in Butte due to the COVID-19 closures is a gift shop on Main Street, Beautiful Butte and Beyond, which has been selling everything from t-shirts to mugs and homemade signs – mostly made-in-Montana items — for the past four years. The business was owned by Pat Campbell, who says she hopes to continue business through her website.

    A brother and sister in Manhattan have opened an outdoor theater in response to the COVID-19 social distancing restraints to great success. Porter Blanchard, a Manhattan High School Senior, essentially started his own business because they were “super bored” with the quarantine. They had an empty pasture and a big screen and utilizing the car radio for sound and some spray paint to mark parking spaces, and began an open air theater. They attract 20 – 30 vehicles each night. It’s called “The Pasture Drive-in Theater.”

    Public access to NorthWestern Energy’s property at Hauser Dam will be controlled to primarily daylight hours beginning in November. The change in public access is to mitigate illegal activities occurring in the area at night, including underage use of alcohol, drug use, etc. These activities create a risk to public safety, interfere with recreational uses in the area, and in some cases threaten residents



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  • Montana Highlights March 15 2020 +

    Blue Dog RV has opened on U.S. 2 East in Kalispell. The business offers a wide selection of vehicles and a full-service RV repair shop. The Kalispell store is the 16th Blue Dog dealership in the Western U.S. and the first in Montana. The business is opening in the former home of Pierce RV. Blue Dog RV, is locatred at 3138 U.S. 2 East.

    The city of Whitefish is exploring options for its recycling site currently located on the city-owned snow lot.  The city in 2016 consolidated its recycling into one centralized site at the snow lot after closing several satellite recycling locations.

    The Green Party has qualified to have candidates on the 2020 ballot in Montana. Signature gatherers turned in more than 11,000 signatures in Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Silver Bow and Yellowstone counties before the March 2 deadline. Enough were accepted to meet the minimum qualification requirements. Club For Growth Action, a conservative political action committee that supports state Auditor Matt Rosendale in his U.S. House race, filed paperwork in February to allow it to spend money to qualify the Green Party for the ballot. However a spokesperson stated that they had changed their minds after learning someone else had undertaken the effort. No other organization had filed paperwork with the Commissioner of Political Practices. Any spending would have to be reported by April 15.

    Despite a dry November and December, snowpack totals in river basins across Montana have improved and are near to above normal for this time of year. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Water Supply Outlook progress has been made due to normal to record-setting snowfall in February in mountain ranges that supply water to regional rivers and streams. Statewide, precipitation levels were 137% of normal, compared to 93% of normal around the same time last year.

    Hobby Lobby has announced an opening date of mid-May 2020 for its new Bozeman store. The arts-and-crafts business originally announced plans to open in March 2019. Hobby Lobby will hire between 35 and 50 people and pay $15.70 for full-time employees and $10.45 for part-time.

    As the amount of Bakken gas production has increased, future BTU limits on the Northern Border pipeline have become more likely. That is what is prompting a proposal for an alternative, high-BTU gas market in the Williams-Mountrail County region. Liberty Midstream Solutions is proposing a 4.7 mile, 8-inch residue pipeline on privately owned lands in the area to take high-BTU residuals to an existing third-party line, from where it could be sent to markets in Chicago.

    Construction has been completed on Montana Craft Malt, a facility near Butte that will produce 10,000 tons of malt per year from Montana-grown barley. Montana Craft Malt plans to tap into barley grown in Montana and supply specialty malt to the brewing industry in Montana and elsewhere. The U.S. Craft Brewers Association reports that revenue continues to grow in the industry and in 2018, grew to $27.6 billion. Craft beer now has a 24% dollar share of the U.S. beer market, state officials said in a news release. In Montana, 92 breweries are operating with four new breweries in planning as of January.

    A 65,000-square-foot, four-story hotel will be one of the first buildings to be built in the Yellowstone Airport Plaza. in Belgarde. The former gravel pit that will be transformed into a mixed-use site with hotels, restaurants and other businesses. The investment and development division of Energy Real Estate Solutions (ERES) announced its plans to build the 120-room hotel recently.

    Oil and gas prices plunged more than 30 percent recently. As Russia and Iran disagreed on pricing and production levels. This led to OPEC’s cutting its China crude oil price by $6 to $7 per barrel and ramping up its crude oil production by 2 million barrels per day. The sell-off was the biggest one-day drop since 1991 and the Gulf War.

    Continental Oil will ramp up its activity in the Bakken for 2020, running nine rigs instead of six, in an oil reserve Continental’s founder and Executive Director Harold Hamm has said is the best in the country.

    Continental’s Bakken crude oil production grew 14 percent year over year, while its gas capture exceeded 90 percent, according to figures presented by Continental executives during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. That was despite spending 60 percent of its 2019 capex budget in Oklahoma.

    In order to address the shortage of pilots across the country, an Air Force-funded program the Civil Air Patrol in Gallatin County is sponsoring a training program for about 30 cadets called the  Gallatin Composite Squadron. Cadets are between the ages of 12 and 18.

    Collette Hanson, Helena, who has worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana for 35 years, has been named president of the organization.

    The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, announced that Brad Close has been selected by the board of directors as the organization’s president. Close has been serving as Acting President since December and has been with NFIB for more than 18 years. NFIB is an organization of business owners who annually determine the organization’s positions and goals by a survey of members.

    Aaron Whitten has been appointed general manager of the new Kimpton Armory Hotel Bozeman. The property is the first Kimpton in Montana and is slated to open spring 2020. The 122-room hotel is located one block off of Main Street in the historic 1941 National Guard Armory building. It includes three dining venues and a music hall.

    The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided another $1.1 million in funding for HUD’s new Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Initiative. Ten housing authorities will receive this funding, continuing HUD’s efforts to assist young adults transitioning out of foster care. In January, HUD awarded nearly $500,000 to the FYI Initiative and an additional $260,000 in February

    Mild winter weather in the Bakken has created an unusual uptick in January’s jobs report. Williston’s Job Service saw 1,185 openings for the month. Construction and extraction work rose 40 percent while CDL transportation careers remain number one with a 20 percent increase. Out-of-state workers continue to move to the area as the average wage remains strong at $27 an hour.

    Rian Nelson has opened Big Sky Bakery and Coffeehouse at 110 N. Central Ave., in front of the Magic Mirror building, Sidney.

    Demolition began to make room for a new Town Pump in Uptown Butte. The new Town Pump will replace the Town Pump currently located at the intersection of Montana and Platinum Streets in Uptown. Jim’s Corner Bar was demolished to make room for the new gas station and convenience store. The new store will have an expanded deli, new gas islands and better according to Town Pump’s Director of Corporate Communications, Bill McGladdery.

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  • Montana Highlights February 15 2020 +

    The Flathead County commissioners have voted to purchase the CenturyLink building in Kalispell for extra county office space. The building is located at 290 N. Main St. Many of the Flathead County departments have requested additional space for several years. It is estimated this building would solve the County’s space needs for 15 years.

    Hunter’s Lair LLC, of  Williston, North Dakota, is proposing to build a restaurant, bar and hotel on property that was once a helicopter tour company just outside of Glacier National Park on U.S. 2. The company is asking permission to build on 36 acres. Only a portion of the property would be developed.

    Legend Soccer Company in Whitefish, has recently started a partnership with the Forest Green Rovers soccer club in England. The company produces a bamboo shin guard that is high performance and environmentally friendly. Estimates are that plastic shin guards have produced about 200 million pounds of plastic in the recent past. The company aims to offer high quality and environmentally friendly shin guards. With the new partnership, Legend now provides bamboo shin guards to the men’s and women’s professional teams, as well as the affiliated youth teams.

    Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, a chain based in Texas, will soon have locations in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula and Casper, Wyoming. The fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain will be serving  Baja-style Mexican food. The franchise is owned by John Johnson, of Johnson Restaurant Group Inc., in Casper. Fuzzy’s has close to 150 restaurants in 17 states.

    Gallatin Import Group has outgrown its location at the intersection of West Main Street and 19th Avenue in Bozeman. They have begun construction on a new dealership on the Frontage Road, east of Bozeman. The 30,000-square-foot building will be ready for occupation in June or July. It is located next to next to Gallatin Motor Company, a Subaru dealership.

    Recently, the ACLU of Montana, Western Environmental Law Center, and the Bahr Law Offices challenged two Montana state agencies’ refusal to release public records relating to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    Early Stage MT is a nonprofit program for Montana based tech companies to get mentorship and connections to financing. The program is planning to select 15 businesses from multiple showcases happening across Montana. These business will be presenting at a statewide showcase  and the first-place winner receives $50,000 in investment funding.

    FireRoots Spirits of Florence is for sale. FireRoots distillery currently produces and distributes,  Vodka, Gin, and two different Brandies. The distillery was licensed in 2017 and began distribution in 2018. 5 recipes and labels are all approved by the TTB.

    Montana State University has been recognized as a top global university by a well-known magazine. MSU tied for the 547th spot on U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Global Universities rankings. In addition to its overall rank, MSU tied for No. 239 in environment/ecology, tied for No. 263 in physics and tied for No. 373 in plant and animal science. The University of Montana ranked 736th. UM was ranked No. 103 for environment/ecology, tied for No. 224 in geosciences and tied for No. 276 in plant and animal science.

    The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved plans that outline a long-term cleanup process for a large coal ash impoundment outside the Colstrip Power Plant. DEQ has requested $107 million in bonding from Colstrip’s owners to cover the cost of remediation. The plans, submitted to DEQ by Colstrip owner/operator Talen Energy on August 30, propose strategies for how the company will remediate high levels of sulfates, boron, selenium, and heavy metals that have been polluting local groundwater for decades due to leaking coal ash ponds associated with Units 3 & 4 at the plant.

    The recent string of state-level marijuana legalization continues to impact commercial property demand and residential housing decisions throughout the US, according to the National Association of Realtors. Their study found that in states where prescription and recreational marijuana use is legal, there has been an increase in requests for warehouses or properties used for storage. The demand for storefronts grew, while one-fifth said there was a greater demand for land.

    Nielsen Commercial, Inc. (NCi), a general construction firm serving the Northwest United States, announced expansion into Montana and a new office location in Great Falls. The company looks to establish a local workforce delivering a diverse collection of construction projects throughout Montana. Jeffrey Nielsen, founder of Nielsen Commercial and former co-founder of BNBuilders, was born and raised in Montana.

    The State of Montana plans to invest $80 million in community mental health services over the next five years. The Medicaid Severe and Disabling Mental Illness (SDMI) – Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver currently provides around $9 million dollars a year for services for people with severe and disabling mental illness. The state is working on expanding the budget to around $16 million a year, which will double the capacity of the program from the 357 current individuals to 750 by 2025.

    The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman is featuring an exhibit on reptiles that’s been in the works for three years. Turtles, snakes and lizards brought from Florida are making themselves comfortable as Bozeman’s newest residents. The reptiles are native to places like Madagascar and Australia. “Reptiles: the Beautiful and the Deadly” will be available for visitors to see until Sept. 13.

    Samples of the Wuhan coronavirus have been sent to scientists at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton to research to help combat the disease. Because of RML’s Virology Lab experience in researching other viruses, they are being called upon to help in searching for a vaccine to halt the spread of this virus. They will be researching how the virus binds to cells so they can develop therapies; determine how stable the virus is; establish an animal model to study; and, test the safety and effectiveness of treatments.

    The Northern Ag Network reports some positive news for Montana ag: Beef demand is strong and with U.S. cattle numbers plateauing, prices are likely to be stronger in the year ahead as consumers at home and abroad support industry profitability. That was the message delivered as part of the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

    A group of Williston, North Dakota, residents is raising money to build a $32 million hockey complex using an airplane hangar at the decommissioned Sloulin Field International Airport. Power Play Project Board Members say the current number of hockey players exceeds the capacity of Williston’s two indoor rinks.

    The price on entry –level homes in Missoula have increased 33 percent – since 2012 – faster than the increase in higher-end homes at 26 percent, according to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The difference is due to supply and demand. There is only currently 3.2 months’ worth of inventory for entry-level homes and 8.6 months’ worth of stock of higher-end homes. Missoula’s median home sales price soared to a  high of $315,000 in 2019, a jump of 8.62% over 2018.

    A public hearing is slated for March 6 in Williston on a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline slated to connect several processing plants in Williams County. Oneok wants to build the 75-mile line to carry natural gas liquids from the Hess Tioga, XTO Nesson and Flatiron Springbrook plants to another pipeline and, ultimately, to markets farther south in the middle of the country and on the Gulf Coast.

    In Sidney, the Family Dollar had a ribbon cutting on Thursday, Jan. 16 in celebration of their opening on Jan. 23.

    North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports finished calendar year 2019 with a statewide total of 1,191,569 passenger boardings.  This is a growth of 108,452 passengers or an 10% increase from 2018 numbers.  This also results in the second busiest year on record for North Dakota next to 2014, which occurred during the height of the state’s oil boom.  In 2019, the airports also saw 1,187,533 passenger deplanements for a grand total of 2,379,102 passengers that traveled through the commercial service terminal buildings in North Dakota over the past year.  

    Island Kitchens has opened in Sidney. It is located at 430 N. Central Ave., in the Shops at Fox Run. Brian Knight and Cal Gordon are co-owners.

    In North Dakota, Outrigger Energy II plans to construct, own and operate a new 250 million cubic feet per day cryogenic gas processing plant west of Williston to gather and process production from XTO, as well as from other operators in the area. The exact location has not been determined and there is a possibility that the size of the facility will be increased to 450 million cubic feet per day. Its operation will help reduce flaring in the Bakken. The liquids removed by the proposed plant, planned to open by next December, would travel on an existing Oneok pipeline system.

    North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner reported that North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases for the third quarter of 2019 are up 4% compared to 2018.

    Of the 50 states reviewed by the American Legislative Exchange Council-Laffer Economic Outlook, North Dakota ranked number three. The report indicates North Dakota’s recent tax changes contributed to its high ranking, as well as not taxing estate or inheritance, low average workers’ compensation costs, low minimum wage, debt service as a share of tax revenue and it being a right-to-work state. North Dakota has consistently ranked in the top five for the past seven years. Utah was No. 1, for many reasons, including a flat-rate income tax of five percent and its lack o an estate tax. Idaho was in second place, due to a low minimum wage, no estate and inheritance tax, and being a right-to-work state. Nevada ranked fourth, and Indiana, fifth.

    A new hemp plant has opened up in Sidney, called American Hemp. They will produce the whole hemp plant, which is noted as being different than marijuana, although closely related. Hemp does not have any concentration of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. The Sidney plant is an extension of ITC grain, a specialty crop business in Glendive handling pulse crops since 2016. With the price for chickpeas and lentils having dropped, ITC decided in 2018 it would expand into hemp, and founded American Harvest.



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  • Montana Highlights Feb 1 2020 +

    Ceres Bakery in Kalispell has re-opened after a two week closure for a remodel.  The bakery has become popular throughout the valley for its fresh-baked goods and its wholesale business. They are celebrating the 14th year in business.

    White Raven Winery will introduce their community to wines made at the winery. The Columbia Falls winery will use Montana grown grapes. The winery will carry wines from grapes grown on Finley Point, around Flathead Lake, in Billings and elsewhere in Montana.

    Passenger numbers at the Missoula International Airport set a record in 2019 topping 900,000 for the first time. The airport handled 907,777 people boarding and getting off planes. That’s a 7% increase.

    Several new businesses are planning on opening in Missoula: A new pizza delivery restaurant called Headies Brick Oven Pizza will open at 1250 W. Broadway; Crumbl, a Utah-based company that sells fresh-baked cookies will open at 3075 N. Reserve St., Suite J; Pangea, a new two-floor full liquor bar and restaurant concept is being built at 223 N. Higgins; the Cambie Taphouse and Coffee is to open at 2413 S. Higgins Ave

    CryptoWatt in Butte has re-opened. Federal District Judge Brian M. Morris was asked to appoint a receiver to run the company’s affairs. Morris named Butte native Jeremiah Lynch, a longtime federal magistrate judge, as receiver. A timeline featured the quick re-opening of the plant was necessary to save the megawatts reserved for the company.

    The median price of a home sold in Gallatin County in 2019 reached $400,000, up 6.2% from 2018’s median price of $377,500. According to a report by Big Sky Multiple Listing Service, the price of homes has grown since 2018 in almost every part of the city.

    Hess Corporation is using a new well completion design to boost its Bakken well performance, one that the company projects will allow it to increase Bakken production in 2020 while still running the same number of rigs as it did in 2019. Hess has announced 2020 capital expenditures of $3 billion ahead of its third-quarter earnings call.

    The historic Irish Times bar in Butte was gutted by fire on Jan. 23. Located at Main and East Galena, other businesses were also impacted — including The Muddy Creek Brewery and The Post and UPTOP clothing.

    Big Sky was named to the list of Most Popular Ski Resorts and Destinations of 2020 by Vacasa. The travel company looked at data from visitors/bookings from December 2019 through February 2020 and compiled a list of ski towns that are seeing the biggest influx of guests this year.

    Montana Studios is a media production company in Butte, that will be locating in NorthWestern Energy’s old office building at 40 E. Broadway. The county is selling the building for $1 to Missoula-based Bitterroot Gateway Development LLC.

    Since 2018, POLICOM Corporation has ranked Bozeman as the strongest economy in a city with fewer than 50,000 residents. The group uses 23 different factors over a 20-year period, including wages, unemployment and welfare. Bozeman has ranked consistently in the top 20 since 2011.

    Lucky’s Market is closing 32 stores following the announcement of a primary investor, Kroger, in December that it planned to divest its investment in Lucky’s. Closures included its stores in Missoula and Billings, leaving open seven stores primarily in the mid-west. Lucky’s is headquartered in Niwot, Colorado.

    Businesses have been mixing it up in Missoula, with some closing and others opening. Following the closure of Herbergers in 2018, JCPenney in Missoula will be closing soon, joining other locally-owned businesses that are also closing as The Green Light and Pita Pit. But, while Shopko closed in Missoula (and Billings) last year in Missoula, grocery store, WinCo will buy that property with plans to open in 2020. In 2018, another large retailer, Herberger’s, closed down in the mall. Herbergers also closed in Billings in 2018, as did Sears.

    Nielsen Commercial, Inc. (NCi), a general construction firm serving the Northwest United States, announced expansion into Montana and a new office location in Great Falls. The company looks to establish a strong local workforce delivering a diverse collection of construction projects throughout Montana. Jeffrey Nielsen, founder of Nielsen Commercial and former co-founder of BNBuilders, has deep ties to the state of Montana.

    The board of directors of ONEOK, Inc., on Jan. 16, increased ONEOK’s quarterly dividend 2 cents per share to 93.5 cents per share — resulting in an annualized dividend of $3.74 per share.

    Montana Craft Malt, Butte, will produce thousands of tons of malt from Montana-grown barley. The facility, inspired by a market analysis report and a variety of grant and technical assistance programs through the Montana Department of Commerce, will employ approximately 20 people and provide high quality and specialty malt to the brewing industry.

    With the Montana State Legislature approving a set of incentives in 2019 for the film industry, filmmakers are expecting a new wave of activity in the state over the next few years, and a recent workshop in Bozeman was held to prepare crews for the projects.

    Susan Beckman was appointed by the White House in January 2020 to serve as Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Region VIII. Beckman provides regional executive leadership for Region VIII encompassing Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

    The Gallatin Ice Foundation in Bozeman received $120,000 in state grant money from Tourism Advisory Council to buy a third compressor that will allow the Haynes Pavilion to offer ice all year round. The  skating rink at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, currently has to close during the summer months. The rest of the needed funding will be acquired through fundraising.



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  • Zoot Annoucement +

    Zoot announced the results of the 2019 Lending Awards, where it was named “Best Technology Partner – Risk, Regulation and Compliance.” The Lending Awards recognize excellence and innovation in credit risk assessment in consumer, commercial and residential lending. Zoot’s lending solutions significantly improve the customer journey and enable smarter decisions through access to better data, faster policy changes and full configurability. Zoot was named as a ‘Top 20 Company in 2019,’  for its innovation, professionalism and the significant value it brings to its clients.



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  • WMK & Co +

    A few months ago, WMK & Co., a Billings-based steel fabricator, acquired KJ Fabrication in Butte, as part of a company plan to expand.



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