The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau within the United States Department of the Treasury, has finalized a new mandate on bank lending. Though aimed at expanding access to banking services, CEI Senior Fellow John Berlau warns the rule will impose significant red tape and political worries on banks of all sizes:

“The final ‘fair access to financial services’ rule released by the Office of Comptroller of the Currency is the wrong answer for politically disfavored businesses and will burden banks of all sizes with more red-tape and government-interference with financial transactions. The rule will lead to more, not less, politicization of the financial sector as businesses from abortion providers to gun manufacturers can harangue Main Street banks for ‘political bias’ in routine lending decisions. CEI believes the government should neither pressure banks to avoid certain industries, as the Obama administration did in the now-defunct Operation Choke Point, nor force banks to provide financing to these industries, as this rule would do.

“It is especially disappointing that the final rule does not appear to exempt banks of any size from its reach. While the OCC states a ‘presumption’ of $100 billion asset threshold, it specifically adds that banks smaller than this size could be subject to the rule if they meet a vague definition of ‘raising the price’ of a financial service. This will leave a costly state of uncertainty for the nation’s smallest banks.

“As I noted in comments to the OCC, the rule ‘would particularly harm the new entrants to financial services that the OCC is now rightly championing. These firms may have specific fintech areas of expertise, or they may wish to specialize in serving businesses specific to their respective communities.’ Thus, these banks may get punished by this rule for excluding types of businesses outside their areas of specialization.

For Yellowstone County economic trends are expected to improve in 2021. How could they not?

Each major county in the state was given close scrutiny during the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) Montana Economic Outlook Seminar. Yellowstone County, the largest in terms of both population and size of its economy, is projected to regain its footing following the very negative economic impacts of the COVID virus in 2020, according to BBER Director Dr. Patrick Barkey.

Last year was an historic year, said Barkey but he predicts that 2021 “will turn into something equally historic as we return to some kind of normality.”

He cautioned, however, there is always the possibility of something going haywire due to unanticipated events – as a case in point just look at 2020.

The numbers will not accurately reflect the growth in 2021 because of large transfer payments to businesses and individuals in the county in 2020 in COVID relief grants from the federal government, which will not be repeated. But moving on into years 2022 through 2024 Yellowstone County is expected to resume its more traditional trend of about two percent growth in earnings.

Of the $3.2 billion that was awarded to Montana from the federal government in 2020, Yellowstone County received 13.8 percent or about $182 million plus $342 million in EIDL/PPP funds. The impact of those dollars helped keep wage losses at about one percent in the county while the job losses hit an historic 3 percent decline.

Average businesses did “ok” in Yellowstone County, but credit card information indicates that sales to restaurants and hotels declined by over a third – 34 percent. Some businesses did quite well during the crisis, although they have tended to be rather quiet about it, said Barkey.

Businesses in general in every industry sector in Yellowstone County saw wage declines in the first half of the year, except for government since no government jobs, at any level, were suspended due to shutdowns. Government revenues actually grew by about $2 million.

Average annual earnings in the county in 2019 was $56,008.

The declines experienced by health care were a surprise, said Barkey, but they were not as bad in Yellowstone County as in other areas of the state.

While the state bounced back from the dramatic job declines quicker than did most states, there remains about 16,000 fewer jobs now than a year ago, prior to the COVID shutdown.

Yellowstone County’s growth in 2021 will be exceeded by Gallatin County, which has led the growth rate among counties for a decade.  Yellowstone County aligns with Flathead County and Lewis & Clark,  as part of the second tier of growth, although Yellowstone will be facing some headwinds because of events unfolding in the oil and gas industry. 

Manufacturing, which includes refineries, comprises 19 percent, the largest segment for Yellowstone County’s basic industry revenues. Basic industries are those which generate most of their income from outside the county which means they are contributing new wealth to the county. “They are what drive the bus,” explained Barkey. (Secondary businesses such as some retail or service companies depend on the vitality of basic industries.)

The mining industry comprises the second most important for Yellowstone County at 11 percent, even though there are no mines in the county, Billings-based businesses support mines in other areas. Retail and wholesale trade at 12 percent ranks next, followed by the health care industry ranks which contributes 10 percent to the basic industry economy.

Yellowstone County still has a strong rate of growth having the largest economy in the state, 40 percent larger than Gallatin County.  The county also has the largest population at 161,000.

Steve Arveschoug, Director of Big Sky Economic Development, reported during the seminar that Yellowstone County has an $11 billion economy which in 2019 grew $2.6 billion in increased wealth.

Among the lessons learned about the economy over the past year, pointed out Arveschoug, is the importance of entrepreneurship.  “We need to lean into entrepreneurship,” he said as the state and county attempts to rebuild. Part of that support means continuing to buy local. “Friends don’t let friends shop on Amazon,” he said.

Also – “We learned the value of our health care hub status. It went through experience we never imagined it would go through. We learned that leaning into health care is one of key elements of our economic future,” he continued.

During the height of COVID hospitalizations about 50 percent of the patients in local hospitals were from outside Yellowstone County, reflecting the fact that the local health care industry serves a multi-state area and most of eastern Montana.

In 2020, 75 percent of the job postings in the county were for health care related positions.

In Yellowstone County, 23,000 of the jobs exist because of the health care industry, paying out about $1.46 billion in compensation or 30 percent of all compensation. Health care represents $3.2 billion as a part of the county’s GDP (gross domestic product).

Projecting the industry as one which will continue to grow and serve an ever growing role as part of the county’s economy, Arveschoug pointed out that there are hurdles that must be overcome, not least of which is that the average age of physicians in Montana is the highest in the nation.

Yellowstone County fares well when it comes to being competitive in terms of the cost of living which at 94.9 indexing is below that of the national average.  Bozeman’s cost of living is above the national average at 121.6 index rating and Missoula’s is 104.4, and Cascade County is 90.3.

Over the year, the median house price in Billings is $230,500, for Bozeman it is $434,200; Missoula, $305,500; and Great Falls, $201,100. All the prices have increased, for example in December the median price in Billings was $268,000.

Yellowstone County’s unemployment rate stands at about  4 percent which is about where it was prior to COVIC shutdowns. The number of unemployment claims stands at 3400.

Missoula County saw a one percent decline in jobs and an actual increase in wage growth of about a half percent.   2022 growth for Missoula is projected at just under 2 percent. Average earnings is $47,844. Government, state, college and federal made up 34 percent of the county’s basic industry. Health care suffered more than accommodations and food in wage losses in Missoula County. Total job losses were just over one percent, “fairly mild by state standards.” Wages increased by over a half percent.

Cascade County ranks fifth in population, which hasn’t changed since 2010. Cascade has a relatively young population with a median age of 38.  Average earnings are $50,737. Cascade depends on Malmstrom Air Force Base for 43 percent of its basic industries. Health care and manufacturing industries are growing rapidly in Cascade. Overall economic growth from 2022 to 2024 will fluctuate between 1.5 to 2 percent in earnings.

Gallatin County is expected to have 2022 growth of over 4.5 percent in earnings, a with population of 114,434 the county is highly educated with over half the population over age 25 holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Earnings per job is an average $49,345. MSU and other government contribute 30 percent of Gallatin County’s basic industry, manufacturing 15 percent, non-resident is 16 percent. The decline in job numbers was 3.5 percent in Gallatin County, with loses in Accommodates & Food largely overwhelmed by losses in other sectors. Little was lost in wages. Because of the huge rate of transfer payments and little down time in government jobs the county actually showed growth in wage growth.

Silverbow County with a population of 34,915, with an average level of higher education.  Average earnings per job is $54,728. Mining comprises 29 percent of Silverbow’s basic industry economy, state government supports 18 percent and manufacturing 11 percent. Declines in jobs was much the same as the rest of the state, with Accommodations and Food suffering the most, although the government sector actually declined in Silverbow, while mining increased in earnings. Overall the county suffered about a 5.5 percent job loss. While make-up growth in 2021 will be strong, from 2022 on growth will hover at just under two percent.

Flathead County has over a 103,000 population which has been growing 10 percent since 2010. Average earnings are $44,333. Nonresident travel as basic industry segment generates 21 percent of the county’s economic base, with manufacturing at 16 percent and wood products at 12 percent and health care at 17 percent, playing significant roles. Employment in Flathead lost over 4 percent in jobs in 2020 but are projected to make up those losses significantly in 2021, followed by a job growth of about one percent in years thereafter, with wages increasing above two percent. Because of transfer payments due to COVID grants the county’s personal income growth in 2020 increased almost 8 percent.

Town & Country Supply Association, Laurel, has acquired the Ray Judd Petroleum bulk liquid fuels division of Red Lodge.

“We are always looking for opportunities to strengthen our core business sectors,” said Wes Burley, the general manager of Town & Country Supply Association. “We felt this transaction fit into that philosophy.” As a result of the sale, new T&C patrons will be eligible to earn patronage on their purchases and lock in fuel contracts that fit their programs.

The acquisition will help T&C be more efficient in delivery to customers along the routes in Carbon and Stillwater Counties. “I’ve been doing business with T&C for a few years,” said Dave Judd, the third-generation owner of the Judd family business. “I trust them with my customers and I know they’ll do it well.”

The Ray Judd Petroleum business has roots back to the early 1900s, when Dave Judd’s grandfather started a trucking company in Stillwater County. Dave’s father, Ray, expanded the business into aviation fuel, school bus contracting, towing, the Red Lodge Ford dealership, and finally, bulk fuels in 1977. Moving forward, Dave Judd will continue operating the aviation gas division at the Red Lodge Airport.

Town & Country Supply Association is a member-owned agronomy, energy, and retail co-operative based in southeastern Montana. With roots dating back to 1930, Town & Country was incorporated in 1997, with the merging of the Laurel Co-op Association and the Co-op Service Center in Billings.

Town & Country continued to grow with the addition of the Farmers Union Association of Big Horn County in 2009. T&C encompasses four divisions – Agronomy, Energy, Farm & Ranch, Supply, and C-Stores. Its trade region covers southeastern and southcentral Montana, as well as northern Wyoming.

Briana Rickman has joined the staff of Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW) as Director of Fund Development. 

Rickman brings over 12 years of non-profit experience including, most recently, as Executive Director for Dress for Success Billings. Additionally, Rickman gained non-profit experience and developed a passion for the Girl Scout mission while working previously at GSMW. Her experience ranged from Community Development Manager, recruiting and supporting volunteers, to Retail Sales Manager, promoting the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to members.  Fund Development is a critical component for delivering the Girl Scout program to girls in Montana and Wyoming. Within the GSMW council, 45% of girls are in need of financial assistance. Briana graduated from Montana State University-Billings in 2008 with her BA in Biology.  She enjoys camping, hiking, gardening, crafting, playing games, and spending time with her family and friends.

By Alan Olson, MPA Executive Director

President Biden’s recent executive order to rescind the permits for TC Energy’s Keystone XL, including a section of the pipeline that has already been constructed, will cause serious economic consequences not only for Montana but also for the United States.

 While some leaders in government believe they can create jobs, it is the private sector that is the job creator. Private investment in infrastructure such as the Keystone XL pipeline puts people to work in good paying jobs, provides a much-needed service, and creates wealth domestically without increasing the national debt. Through tax revenue, it funds much needed government services such as education, health and human services, and emergency services.

Just since 2008 About 42,000 miles of pipeline have been put into service in the U.S. carrying crude oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. In today’s global economic climate abundant energy supplies and North American energy independence will have a huge influence geopolitically and economically.

Keystone XL will enhance the existing pipeline system and provide new ways to safely transport the energy to fuel Americans’ daily lives, now and in the future. Keystone XL will provide a reliable source of fuel from a stable neighboring country that shares America’s values as well as facilitating the delivery of Montana and North Dakota crude oil supplies to southern markets. 

 Since TC Energy filed its first Keystone XL application in 2008 there has been years of rigorous review and the facts have never changed. A four-year certification process through Montana’s rigorous Major Facility Siting Act and every federal study done under both the Obama and Trump administrations has concluded Keystone XL can be built and operated safely, with NO significant impact to the environment. 

* In 2008 the permitting process for Keystone XL started.

* In 2011, the U.S. State Department (DOS) determined the project could be built with no significant impact to the environment.

* In 2014, DOS again finds Keystone XL can be built safely.

* In 2018, DOS again finds Keystone XL can be built with no significant impact.

* In 2019 the State permitting processes have been completed in all three affected states, Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

* In 2019 a supplemental EIS was released adding another 648 pages to the voluminous original EIS that reviews geology, soils, water resources, wetlands, wildlife, air quality and noise, terrestrial vegetation, fisheries, species at risk, cultural resources, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. 

In its 2014 environmental impact statement, the U.S. State Department determined that GHG emissions from the movement of this oil by other modes of transportation such as rail would generate 28 percent to 42 percent more GHG emissions than Keystone XL. The construction techniques identified in the permitting requirements of the affected states will ensure proper operating parameters. Environment and climate change concerns are met by adhering to regulations in the United States, not by not exporting this crude oil directly to foreign nation lacking those same restraints.

 Keystone XL is good business for the U.S. It will create thousands of high-paying construction jobs, pay millions into three rural states’ tax coffers, and inject billions into the nation’s economy. During construction, Keystone XL will create over 42,000 U.S. based jobs. Approximately 12,000 of the jobs will be created in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Wages supported by Keystone XL construction will generate $2 billion in earnings for U.S. workers. Construction of Keystone XL will inject approximately $3.4 billion into U.S. GDP and over $25 million in taxes paid to Montana’s state and local coffers in just the first year of operation will pay for education and social services programs as well as infrastructure needs. 

We are deeply concerned that the Biden administration would play politics with this very important project. At a time when Americans are struggling to find work, especially the good paying jobs that this project would provide, we cannot understand why the Biden administration would turn down private investment in critical infrastructure.

DIY?–Quit Counting on Government

Though it’s diminished somewhat, at one time the “Made in Montana” promotion was incredibly effective because it had a lot of support by local manufacturers and the public in general. When it comes to labeling meat products with the same message one has to wonder why its advocates need the government to make it happen. Just do it! Let consumers know. There are funds being collected with the sale of livestock to promote the beef industry, what better way to spend it? And, if that’s not enough or doable for some political reason, go at it another way. There are certainly no laws against promoting Montana produced meat and as many people know, you are up- a –creek if you find yourself dependent on government to achieve much of anything. Come to think of it, we need to regenerate the entire “Made in Montana” program as we work to regenerate the state’s economy. It worked.

Actually seeing the guns…

As bizarre as it is, it is undoubtedly so that many citizens are fearful of guns (among a lot of other things) and believe that every anti-gun law is going to protect them from a very great threat. By every measure their fears are unfounded but it doesn’t seem to matter what facts are presented, the relentless mantras of the anti-gun lobby overwhelms their common sense. Maybe it would help if they could visualize  exactly how very little threat gun owners really are. In all probability (at least in Montana) they are surrounded, every day, by hoards of firearms and nothing bad happens to them. In any given neighborhood should the occupants of every household within a one block radius, bring out every gun and box of ammunition they own and stack them in front of the timid citizen’s home, that citizen would see a mountain of arms that would leave them stunned. But, they would physically see the degree to which they are surrounded by guns every day of their lives and always have been, and maybe they would realize to what degree, in their sublime ignorance, they have lived peacefully and without any harm surrounded by firearms. Perhaps they would comprehend that gun owners, are not back alley thugs in a bad part of town, they are their neighbors, family and friends. And, maybe, just maybe, it is this fact that makes neighborhood safe.

Two rules explain it all…

If it’s true that people become more conservative as they get older, it might be because they increasing understand how the economy works. So that means that the sooner young people understand economics the better their decisions will be about life and politics. With that in mind, my experience would advise there are two basic economic factors to understand, and which once understood causes everything else to fall into place.

One is the rule about supply and demand which says that when supply is high and demand low, prices are low, and that when demand is high and supply low, prices go up. And to truly believe that that is always true, and that it is true in relation to all things at all times, even in politics and human behavior, it is a significant step in understanding economics.

A profundity, just as significant, is that “incentives matter.” It’s a factor that correlates with the common advice of “follow the money” although power and prestige can often override money. Incentives cut both ways, for good and bad. The vital thing to know is that they are always at play and the simple challenge is to identify what the incentive is and who is being incentivized — explains a lot.

Business leaders, farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders testified on Feb. 9 in support of Governor Greg Gianforte’s Business Investment Grows (BIG) Jobs Act.

A key initiative in Governor Gianforte’s Roadmap to the Montana Comeback budget, the BIG Jobs Act, H.B. 303, would exempt business equipment up to $200,000. The business equipment tax requires small business owners, farmers, and ranchers to value their property, file paperwork, and pay tax on their business equipment. The current exemption is $100,000. This initiative will relieve 4,000 small businesses across Montana of the burden of paying business equipment tax, encouraging those businesses to grow their companies and create jobs.

The BIG Jobs Act, which Rep. Josh Kassmier (R., HD 27) sponsors, has received widespread support from small business owners, farmers, ranchers, and representatives across industries in Montana. Many testified in support of the bill before the House Taxation Committee this morning.

Steve Arveschoug, executive director of the Big Sky Economic Development Council: “This bill…is a really important step forward for Montana’s broader state economy….It has that on-the-ground impact that we really need right now….It means a great deal to the businesses in the communities that I serve in our region in the state of Montana.” 

Daniel Brooks, director of business advocacy for Billings Chamber of Commerce: “One of the Billings Chamber’s priorities is to reduce the cost of doing business in Montana, and this bill does just that: reducing taxes and allowing businesses to be able to invest in growth….We also appreciate the backfilling of local revenues to ensure that local governments aren’t burdened with that choice of either raising taxes or cutting services because of changes that happened up in Helena. We’d like to thank the governor for his efforts to reduce the cost of doing business in Montana.”

Jason Brother, CEO of the Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative: “HB 303 would be a wonderful addition to attract new businesses and strengthen established businesses in the state. Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative supports these bills on behalf of the membership of the cooperative and encourages you to pass them for the great State of Montana.”

Cary Hegreberg, president and CEO of Montana Bankers Associations: “I’m here representing the thousands of small businesses that our bankers around the state serve with commercial loans, deposit accounts, and other services….Any relief that small business in Montana can get will be of great benefit, and we strongly support this bill.”

Cynthia Johnson, farmer, rancher, and vice president of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation: “I speak in favor of HB 303 because of the positive impact to every business in Montana, but especially agriculture….We use a lot of equipment related to our business: tractors, combines, trucks….and we can’t do business without these.”

Tammy Johnson, executive director of Montana Mining Association: “This bill is about our valued associate members: our small businesses who sell everything from pipe, to PPE, to medical equipment….[HB 303] is very valuable for all of those members who support our producers in Montana, and we urge a due pass on this legislation.”

Bridger Mahlum, government relations director for the Montana Chamber of Commerce: “The Montana Chamber has been a strong advocate for the past two decades of lowering or eliminating the business equipment tax….This is a bread-and-butter issue for the many hundreds of members that the Montana Chamber represents, and we would strongly urge you to pass this bill.”

Nicole Rolff, senior director of governmental affairs for Montana Farm Bureau Federation: “We are pleased to be able to support HB 303 this morning….Farming and ranching is a capital intensive business. They often say we’re asset rich and cash poor, because there are a lot of tools that a farmer and rancher needs to run the business….We believe that this bill will encourage investment in two ways: one, reducing the tax burden on farmers and ranchers will allow a farmer to choose to add an additional piece of equipment to their lineup, or it may allow a rancher with a few more extra dollars in his pocket to go and reinvest that in a local community. It’s a win-win.”

Jan Rouse, government affairs specialist for NorthWestern Energy: “We see this bill as providing increased strength to our families, financially, and the economic benefits of businesses. Overall, as a part of this larger package, we see this bill as an optimistic and energetic view of our vision for the state of Montana going forward.”

Elaine Taylor, president and executive director of Montana Beverage Association: “[We’re] supporting HB 303 today and its benefits for businesses in Montana. On a personal note, I’d also like to support 303 for my family ranch on my side, as well as the family ranch on my husband’s side.”

Jason Todhunter, headwaters regional representative of Montana Logging Association: “It’s an exemption, not a threshold, that means everyone gets a little bit of tax relief. It’s going to be a really big deal for the small operators, but everybody will see something out of this, so we urge your support.”

Steve Wade, on behalf of the Montana Contractors Association: “Montana Contractors has memberships of all sizes, and HB 303 is an extremely beneficial piece to assisting those smaller companies that comprise our membership in one, being able to invest in their businesses, but also being able to invest in their employees.”

Jule Walker, field services specialist for the Montana School Boards Association: “Montana School Boards Association supports HB 303 for the targeted tax relief to small businesses. We appreciate that school districts will be reimbursed for that lost revenue. We respectfully request your support for HB 303.”

Gary Wiens, CEO of the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association: “HB 303 would…help close the gap between Montana and its neighboring states in its efforts to attract important businesses to our state. The Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association supports these bills on behalf of the membership, which provide power in every county in Montana, and encourages you to pass them for the great State of Montana.”

Ronda Wiggers, representing Montana Coin Machine Operators, Montana Water Well Drillers Association, Helena Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business: “When I sent these bills out ten days ago to the business associations that I represent, they unanimously asked me to come before you and support lowering their taxes….This money in the pockets of our small businesses being able to spend it on the things they need to keep their businesses going is very important for our local economies. The associations I represent would ask for a due pass.”

Governor Greg Gianforte signed on Wednesday the bill that he said had to pass in order for him to lift the mask mandate. It passed  both houses of the state legislature, and as of press time, an announcement was expected from the Governor  word about lifting the mask mandate.

SB-65 eliminates liability for businesses regarding contracting COVID-19, about which the Governor wanted assurances before lifting the mask mandate. Besides passage of HB-65, he also wants to make sure that vaccinations are being widely distributed in the state.

The bill passed final reading in the House on a 64-36 vote. It passed the Senate 32-18.

SB 65 was introduced by State Senator Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls.

Prior to the start of the Legislative session, Montana NFIB reported in their survey of business owners, 96.8 percent said protection from frivolous lawsuits due to COVID-19 should be a top legislative priority.

Besides addressing the potential liability of a wide range of owners or supervisors the bill addresses the issue of requiring vaccinations, stating, “If a federal or state statute, regulation, order, or public health guidance related to covid-19 recommends or requires a vaccine, an individual is not required to receive a vaccine and a person is not required to ensure employees or agents are vaccinated to meet the standard of care.”

A business or organization, health care provider or manufacturer cannot be held liable for causing death or injury of an individual unless it is through an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence, willful and wonton misconduct or intentional harm.

Concerns that the legislation could wind up boomeranging into forcing compliance with health orders or mandates, which are not currently enforceable, is allayed with specific wording that says a person “may assert as an affirmative defense” that they took reasonable measures consistent with a federal or state statue”, etc., but “This section may not be construed to impose liability on a person for failing to comply” with such laws or regulations.

At third reading, the draft showed that language had been struck out pertaining to “safe harbor” for situations in which the premises owner was in “compliance with regulations, executive order, or public health guidance,” indicating that that clause aimed at enforcing compliance had been rejected by legislators.

The bill further makes clear, “A government order, regulation, or PUBLIC HEALTH guidance related to covid-19 may not create and may not be construed to create a new cause of action against any person….”

It also states that a person is not required to ensure that others comply with mandates or orders to wear masks. Nor — even if it is mandated by one public entity or another — are they required to conduct temperature checks before allowing a person to enter a premises if the individual refuses to allow a check.

The bill is not retroactive, meaning it doesn’t shield businesses from lawsuits regarding situations that occurred earlier in the pandemic.

By Evelyn Pyburn

With Metra Park officials seeking public input as to what the community would like to see emerge in the recently opened-up spaces at the facility, one of the dozens of citizens interviewed by the master planners has put forth a new idea which seems to have caught the imagination of many.

Well-known Billings businessman, Charlie Yegen, who is a descendent of one of the community’s pioneer families and who has long served as a leader for the Yellowstone County Museum, has suggested that a cultural center would be a perfect addition to Metra Park, as well as the community in general. He was joined by a number of others on Monday to present the concept to County Commissioners.

A cultural center would accommodate a wide range of exhibits and programs that would “promote, preserve, and disseminate the historic and modern cultures of the greater Yellowstone River Valley.” The facility Yegen envisions would be a destination showcase that would serve Billings very much like the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, Wyoming. Yegen sees a cultural center as a feature that would amplify the many visitor attractions in the region, including the museum in Cody, Little Big Horn Battlefield, Pompey’s Pillar, Pictograph Caves, Beartooth Pass and more. Being located at Metra Park, it would complement all its activities, “whether it be the rodeo or the midway.” And, it would be there to do that every day of the year, while serving as an attraction unto itself.

Yegen said that the light bulb came on for him in talking to Metra Park planners about potential attractions. In drawing on his long-standing efforts to relocate and expand the Yellowstone County Museum, the two visions merged. A cultural center would of course be more than a museum – and in fact it could consolidate and interweave a number of cultural aspects of the community.

It would support a vibrant economy with increased tourism and add to our quality of life and educational opportunities.

Ideas were quickly offered by others as they caught onto the idea and began brainstorming. It would be about “Cowboys and Indians,” exclaimed Dr. Joseph McGeschik, an MSU-Billings instructor and tribal liaison, who was among those present. “Cowboys and Indians are what people want to see when they come here.”

It could include an Indian Art Center, explain our agriculture, our history and heritage.

It would be located at a convergence of many city features, bike trails, Boot Hill, Yellowstone Kelly’s memorial, sacred Indian grounds, Swords Park and Alkali Creek where dinosaur fossils have been found – and note— dinosaurs are becoming an ever greater ‘big deal’! It could meld with the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, horticulture gardens, and more.

The center would address the need for a regional repository – a facility to which people can donate collections and valuable artifacts that all too often go to other parts of the country. “There is an amazing amount of artifacts and papers out there stored in spare bedrooms,” said Yegen, “All those fabulous collections, and a lot of folks have all that stuff and wonder what to do with it.”

“The potential is amazing,” said Yegen, and “there isn’t a sector in the community that shouldn’t benefit.” Yegen wants feedback from others. If there is enough support, the next step would be to form a group of interested individuals to develop the concept. “We need an organization to come up with the goals and objectives and theory of operation,” he said.


Chase Bank/NA, 2414 Central Ave, Com New Office/Bank, $1,000,000

Travis Peterson/Morton Buildings Inc, 3970 Pierce Pkwy, Com New Restaurant/Casino/Bar,  $2,500,000

Stapleton Property Investment/Yellowstone Basin Construction, 104 N 28th St, Com Remodel, $500,000

Capital Holdings Llc/Legacy Telecommunications, 970 S 29th St W, Com Remodel, $20,000

Montana Power Building Llc/Steve Monson Custom Builder, 113 N 28th St, Com Remodel, $40,000

Lutheran Retirement Home Inc/Jones Construction, Inc, 3940 Rimrock Rd, Com Remodel, $28,900

Boston, Troy E & Cathie/T.B. Construction, 1028 Broadwater Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $10,000   R

Shiloh Silver Screen Partners/Hardy Construction Co , 1001 Shiloh Crossing Blvd, Com Remodel, $100,000

G Rock Building Llc/Scott Peterson Construction, 2244 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $15,000


McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6125 Norma Jean Ln, Res New Accessory Structure, 44,928

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6027 Norma Jean Ln, Res New Accessory Structure              $35,904

Arneson, John D Z& Leah M, New Garage, 2904 38th St W, Res New Accessory Structure, $44,160

Estates Of Briarwood Llc/Cougar Construction,  2330 Glengarry Ln, Res New Single Family, $337,806

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6125 Norma Jean Ln, Res New Single Family, 374,480

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6027 Norma Jean Ln, Res New Single Family, $333,346

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 1638 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Accessory Structure, $33,792

Ron S Hill Living Trust/Diverse Construction Llc, 2113 Gleneagles Blvd, Res New Single Family, $278,216

Tim / Lorenda Frasca/Green Jeans Llc, 803 Siesta Ave, Res New Single Family, $266,280

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6103 Farmstead Ave, Res New Single Family,  $221,434

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 6115 Farmstead Ave, Res New Single Family, $132,132

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 1638 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Single Family, $277,341