From Center Square

Earning a salary of $100,000 a year is a major financial milestone for many Americans. The good news is that with steadily rising wages and increasing demand for skilled jobs, the goal of earning a six-figure salary is more attainable than ever before.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the percentage of individuals with a total income of $100,000 or more per year (in 2018 dollars) has increased dramatically. While only 3.5 percent of earners in 1980 had the equivalent of a six-figure salary, that number rose to over 11 percent in 2018. This upward trend closely follows the trend in mean individual income over the same period. Nationwide, the mean annual income was $50,413 in 2018 for all individuals ages 15 and over.

The share of high-paying jobs is expected to increase significantly over the next 10 years, especially due to increased demand in the healthcare, management, and technology industries. The average projected employment growth rate across all occupations for the period 2018-2028 is 5.2 percent, but occupations with a mean annual pay of $100,000 or more are expected to increase twice as fast, at almost 10 percent. High-paying healthcare jobs, in particular, will expand rapidly as an aging population requires increased medical care.

Jobs that are most frequently attaining this goal are CEO’s, college health specialties teachers,  Health Specialties Teachers, marketing managers, construction managers, administrative services managers, pharmacists, medical and health services managers, sales managers, computer and information systems managers, financial managers, lawyers, physicians and surgeons, software developers and programmers, general and operations managers.

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.


When it comes to how much income taxes Montana collects per capita, it ranks 24th highest in the nation collecting $ 1,119 for the most recent year in which there is data.

The individual income tax is one of the most significant sources of revenue for state and local governments, states The Tax Foundation.

In fiscal year 2017, individual income taxes generated 23.3 percent of state and local tax collections, right behind general sales taxes (23.6 percent).

On average, state and local governments collected $1,198 per capita in individual income taxes, but collections varied widely from state to state, a function of both rate structures and income distributions, with higher-income states generating significantly more revenue per capita whether they have a high graduated rate system, like California, or a modest flat-rate income tax like Massachusetts.

New York ($2,877), the District of Columbia ($2,815), Maryland ($2,390), Connecticut ($2,227), Massachusetts ($2,145), and California ($2,137) came in with the top five collections per capita. Tennessee ($37) and New Hampshire ($49) tax investment income but not wage income, making them the states with the lowest individual income tax collections per capita. Of the states that tax wage income, the lowest collections per capita in fiscal year 2017 can be found in North Dakota ($423), Arizona ($489), Mississippi ($614), Louisiana ($632), and New Mexico ($640).

American Chemet

Ash Grove Cement

Aspen Air

Barretts Minerals

Billings Clinic

Boeing of Helena

Calumet Montana Refining, LLC


City of Billings

City of Great Falls

Colstrip Energy Partnership

Community Medical Center


Express Pipeline LLC


GCC Three Forks

General Mills

Golden Sunlight Mines, Inc.

Grain Craft

Graymont Western USA Inc.

Hyperblock, LLC

Idaho Forest Group

Imerys Talc

America, Inc.

Judith Gap Energy LLC

Malteurop North America Inc.

Metra Park-Billings

Montana Dept. of Corrections

Montana Precision Products LLC

Montana Resources

Montana State


Montana State


Pasta Montana

Phillips 66 Pipeline

Phillips 66 Refinery

R Y Timber

REC Silicon

Rocky Mountain Power

Roseburg Forest Products

St. James Hospital

St. Patrick


St. Vincent Hospital

Stillwater Mining Company

Sun Mountain


Talen Montana LLC

Thompson River Lumber

United Materials Incorporated

United Properties Inc

University of


US Air Force

US Dept of Veterans Affairs

US Public Health Service

Vista Outdoor Sales

Western Sugar Cooperative

Westmoreland Resources Inc


Rosebud Mining LLC



Science News reports that ice walls along the outer edge of coastal glaciers help protect inland ice from warm ocean currents.

The report says that “… while Antarctica’s coastal glaciers have experienced accelerating melt rates over the last few decades, the continent’s interior ice remains relatively stable.”

This stability isn’t well understood.

Using data collected by an array of instruments deployed along the coast of the Getz glacier in West Antarctica, scientists at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, were able to gain new insights into the influence of warm ocean currents on the continent’s ice shelves.

The research … showed the walls at the edge of ice shelves are surprisingly effective at protecting inland ice from warm water.

The Getz glacier has a floating section measuring several hundred feet thick. ..The end of this floating section features a vertical edge that plunges roughly 1,000 to 1,300 feet beneath the ocean surface… the new data showed most of the warm ocean currents are blocked by the vertical edge.

Good news out of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) highlights the fast-growing high-tech industry in Montana. Our state’s economy is rapidly changing.  

 Growing 9 times faster than the rest of Montana’s economy and paying an average wage of $65,000/year (nearly double the current median wage), the tech industry is rapidly diversifying our economy. Today, this industry alone is generating $2 billion per year in revenue in our state. According to the BBER, Gallatin County is now the 2nd largest economy in Montana—growing 47% since 2007. Missoula and Billings too, both saw 24% growth during that same time.  

 Montana’s growing high-tech sector is a rising star bringing diversity to our economy and providing high paying jobs Montanans deserve. It’s good news for all of us. As our population ages and ultimately retires, expansion of high-tech industries will bring fresh recruits to live and work in our state. Our relatively small population and outdoor recreational amenities are attractive lifestyle options for young professionals who wish to get out of the big city rate race. 

The Montana Chamber of Commerce sees the transformational opportunities high-tech brings to the table. We will continue to work with our partner organizations, business and community leaders, and our members to ensure this industry feels at home in Big Sky Country.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Justice Department, announced the release of the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit (BPSOU) consent decree.  This document provides the framework for the continued cleanup of mining-related contamination to protect public health and the environment in Butte and Walkerville, Montana. 

The consent decree requires Atlantic Richfield to undertake or finance over $150 million in cleanup actions, provide financial assurances for future cleanup actions, and provide enhanced community benefits through the implementation of end land use plans along the Silver Bow Creek Corridor.

Additionally, EPA Region 8 is releasing an amendment to the 2006 Record of Decision for the BPSOU Operable Unit in this matter that will expand cleanup efforts. The amendment will require the removal of contaminated tailings at the Northside and Diggings East Tailings areas and contaminated sediment and additional floodplain contamination from Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks.  The amendment will also require the treatment of more contaminated stormwater before it flows into the creeks, and the capture and treatment additional contaminated groundwater.  Once executed by the parties and entered by the Court, the consent decree will implement this amended remedy.

The release of the consent decree will provide the commissioners of Butte Silver Bow County – who must approve the document before it can be submitted to the court – an opportunity to consider the document in a public forum.  This process allows Butte Silver Bow County to inform and educate the public and the county commissioners about the content of the consent decree. Once that process concludes, the county commissioners will vote on whether to approve the document.

Once all consent decree signatures are obtained, the consent decree documents will be lodged with the federal district court of Montana.  The Justice Department will publish a formal notice in the Federal Register, stating that the department is accepting public comment on the document for a period of thirty days from the date the notice is published.  Under State law, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is also required to hold a public comment period on the consent decree, which will run concurrently.

While the public comment period will not start until after the consent decree is lodged with the court, EPA, the state, Butte Silver Bow County, and Atlantic Richfield have posted the document on their websites, and paper copies will be made available at the Montana Tech Library (1300 W. Park St.) and Citizens Technical Environmental Committee (27 W. Park St.) for public review at


KMM Properties Llc/Mr. G’s Quality Construction, 614 N 30th St, Com Addition, $3,800

Rocky Mountain Oil Inc/Custom Concrete Inc., 4041 Grand Ave, Com Addition, $13,000

Sharon Ille Trust/C’s Construction Of Billings, Vinyl Siding 3405 Arlene Circle, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $57,077

VAP Family Limited Partnership/C’s Construction Of Billings,  Metal Roofing, 905 Main St   Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $46,000

Yellowstone Lutheran Brethren/JMH Construction LLP, 852 Governors Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $49,300

Broadstone WI MT ND LLC/Broken Arrow Construction Inc, tear Off Install 50 Mill Membrane 1025 Grand Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $21,400

Broadstone WI MT ND LLC/Broken Arrow Construction Inc, ear Off Install 50 Mill Membrane 1226 Main St, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $21,400

McCall Development/McCall Development, 6008 Elysian Rd, Commercial New 3+, $515,000

McCall Development/McCall Development, 6026 Elysian Rd, Commercial New Other, $112,385

State Of Mt Department Of Administration/Precision Plumbing. & Heating. Inc., 701 S 27th St, Com Remodel, $90,000

Valley Federal Credit Union/Master Protection Corporation, 207 N 28th St, Com Remodel,   $4,700

Billings Clinic/Dick Anderson Construction, 2800 10th Ave N, Com Remodel, $213,000

Charles King, 1540 13th St W, Com Remodel,  $80,000

Broadwater Ventures Llc/Neumann Construction, 1114 Broadwater Ave,  Com Remodel,   $8,000

Lutheran Retirement Home Inc/Yellowstone Basin Construction, 3940 Rimrock Rd, Com Remodel, $500


Aaron Lanford/Big Time Construction, 4703 Silver Creek Trl, Res New Single Family,    $304,535

Big Time Construction/Big Time Construction, 4626 Silver Creek Trl, Res New Single Family,    $319,038

J & M Development LLC/J & M Development, 1821 Sartorie Rd, Res New Single Family,    $205,073

ONEOK, Inc. announced a decrease in its 2020 growth capital expenditure plans due to the current commodity price environment. ONEOK, which operates in the Williston Basin and Montana, now expects capital-growth expenditures in the range of $1.60 billion to $2.40 billion with a midpoint of $2.0 billion, a decrease of approximately $500 million compared with the previously announced midpoint.

The changes include suspending plans for the expansion of the company’s natural gas processing facility in the Williston Basin and the reduction of plans to expand the Elk Creek Pipeline. They will also suspend plans for the expansion of the West Texas LPG pipeline in the Permian Basin.

The company said that it has the capacity to quickly resume these suspended capital-growth projects should economic conditions change.

This updated range provides ONEOK with the flexibility to adjust to market fluctuations.

“Given the significant inventory of flared natural gas in the Williston Basin and fully contracted growth in the Permian Basin, and factoring in the current commodity price environment and assumed rig reductions, we expect our 2020 results to be within our previously announced guidance ranges,” said Terry K. Spencer, ONEOK president and chief executive officer.

“Break-even prices for our well-capitalized producer customers have improved significantly over the last several years, which gives us the confidence that the Williston Basin is expected to remain a competitive producing region through this volatile and uncertain commodity price environment,” continued Spencer. “The potential for ethane recovery to meet downstream pipeline BTU specifications also provides a tailwind to our natural gas liquids volume expectations.”

“Despite the volatile commodity price environment in recent days, ONEOK’s financial flexibility, significant dividend coverage and investment-grade balance sheet position ONEOK well to weather these challenging market conditions,” said Spencer. “We recently completed a $1.75 billion debt offering enabling us to repay all of our commercial paper, leaving us with the full borrowing capacity available on our $2.5 billion credit agreement and approximately $600 million of cash on hand, demonstrating our strong financial position.”

ONEOK, Inc. is a leading midstream service provider and owner of one of the nation’s premier natural gas liquids (NGL) systems, connecting NGL supply in the Rocky Mountain, Mid-Continent and Permian regions with key market centers and an extensive network of natural gas gathering, processing, storage and transportation assets.