Montana Highlights

  • 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.



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  • 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.



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  • 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.



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  • 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.



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  • 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.



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  • 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.



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  • Montana Highlights September 15, 2020 +

    Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) announced that JetBlue will begin a new winter seasonal nonstop service between BZN and Fort Lauderdale, FL beginning on Dec. 18, 2020. The new service will be the first and only nonstop service between Florida and Montana.

    Austin Grazier has been hired as the Director of Ag Safety, a position funded by the Montana State Fund. Participating organizations include the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana Pork Producers, Montana Cattleman’s Association, and Montana Organic Association. Grazier’s office is housed in Bozeman. Grazier, who grew up on a horse boarding facility west of Golden, Colorado, and attended Montana State University as an animal science major.

    Oboz in Bozeman has announced several new hires and promotions in product, sales, and operations to foster its continued growth. Amy Beck is Oboz President. Julie Ham Elliott joins Oboz as National Sales Manager. John Nehring has joined Oboz as Planning Analyst.  Dan Wehunt has been promoted to Director of Merchandising and Development.  Steve Lowry has been promoted to Sales and Operational Planning Manager. 

    The city of Belgrade received a $3 million contribution from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on a new $40 million wastewater facility to allow for more growth. City engineers estimated the airport’s water and sewer use to be 7.5% of the city’s total usage. The current wastewater and sewage facility is at its max capacity of connections, just over 4,000, and will double their capacity with the new upgrade.

    In West Yellowstone an agreement has been reached between guides and the company operating most of the area’s tours. The guides, Montana Right Now, listed off many concerns, from what they describe as over-staffing and poor management, to false promises and a non-livable wage. The tourism company, Delaware North, Buffalo, New York, say they’ve invested about $3.5 million into Yellowstone Vacation Tours, a business they have owned since 2016. Guides say they’re worried the company is monopolizing snowmobile travel in the park at the expense of local business owners. The guides do not want the park to renew Delaware North’s license to operate in the park when it expires in a few years.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) began reconstruction of a portion of Valentine Road 22 miles north of Winnett on September 14. The project begins at reference post 22.0, extends north 0.4 miles to reference post 22.4 and is centered on the Sage Creek crossing of Valentine Road. MDT awarded the construction contract to Wickens Construction, Inc. which plans to be finished in November. Proposed work will include adding drainage culverts as well as armoring of the roadway and roadside slopes. The purpose of the project is to improve drainage and armor this section of the roadway to prevent future damage from flooding as it has washed out multiple times in recent years.  The project is funded with Federal Highway Administration funds and State matching funds.

    The nonprofit community lender MoFi  uses New Markets Tax Credits Program in Montana to fund projects that create jobs. The U.S. Treasury recently awarded MoFi  $65 million in New Markets Tax Credits to lend to businesses and projects in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The NMTC Program was authorized under the Community Renewal and Tax Relief Act of 2000 to help stimulate private investment and economic growth in low-income and rural areas.

    124 projects at an estimated total cost of $61.9 million has been approved as Whitefish’s five-year capital improvement program. The city updates its capital improvement plan every few years listing the needed investments in capital facilities and equipment expected in the next five years. One of the biggest changes in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which was recently approved, is the sunset of the city’s tax increment finance district.

    The Montana Department of Transportation’s plan to redesign the interchange at Foy’s Lake Road on the U.S. 93 bypass will replace the heavily trafficked roundabout with a four-lane overpass. Two teardrop-shaped roundabouts on the east and west sides of the bypass on Foy’s Lake Road are part of the new design. The Department of Transportation and contractors KLJ Engineering and LHC Construction will remove the Foy’s Lake Road roundabout next spring. The project is on an accelerated design-build timeline, with the majority of the anticipated $14.7 million cost covered by a $12.7 million BUILD grant, MDT expects the new interchange to be open by November 2021.

    A proposed $19.1 million facility is being planned for Missoula which will comprise 120,000 square feet of production and operating space and six acres of backlot on about 17 acres of land in the Missoula Technology Park.  The facility will be home to a television and film studio for large-scale productions, targeting producers and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Hallmark. Preliminary plans were presented to Missoula County Commissioners for parcels of land the developers intend to purchase in the Missoula Technology Park, which is owned by the County. The facility would include three sound stages totaling 60,000 square feet, mill space where props could be built, office and flex space.

    The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued a mining permit for the first phase of the Black Butte Copper Project. Located north of White Sulphur Springs the project developer, Sandfire Resources America, is allowed to build roads and pads, and construct a small reservoir while applying for future permits to tunnel underground.

    Heather Greene has joined Florence Crittenton in Helena as development director. Heather brings more than 25 years nonprofit experience. She will be responsible for leading the development team at Florence Crittenton, which raises upwards of $750,000 per year.

    The Kimpton Armory Hotel, also called the Etha, will be welcomed its first guests last week after nearly a decade of planning and construction. The Etha Hotel will be home to three restaurants. Facilities include a 600-person capacity venue, the Armory Music Hall.

    Rebecca Skeldon has been named director of the Montana Discovery Foundation based in Helena. Skeldon originally was hired by the foundation in 2015 as the education coordinator. She has been instrumental in developing the Helena Master Naturalist program and Helena Snow School.

    United Airlines is adding an additional flight to Williston in October. Air service at the Williston Basin International Airport has been scaled back in recent months. United Airline has been operating one flight daily, but will now be adding an additional daily flight to Denver beginning Oct. 1. There is no information regarding Delta Airlines’ return service to Williston.

    Schlumberger is trading OneStim, its North American hydraulic fracturing business, to Liberty Oilfield Services in exchange for a 37 percent stake in the new combined operation. These two  hydraulic fracturing business giants are merging. The two companies share only a little overlap when it comes to customers.

    The Montana Chamber of Commerce has announced the organization’s opposition to the I-190 initiative. The initiative is also known as Montana Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.

    1,700 employees of Blackjewel, a bankrupt coal mining company would get up to $17.3 million in back pay under a proposed settlement. The former employees could receive checks early next year depending on the outcome of bankruptcy court hearings. The employees and their former employer reached a tentative settlement in March. The document remained sealed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court until September 1. The Blackjewel shutdown put about 600 employees in Wyoming out of work.



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  • 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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