Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights 3-01-23 +

    Glacier National Park will reopen the Avalanche Campground this year. Avalanche, Two Medicine and Many Glacier campgrounds will become advance reservation only through All campsites at Avalanche and Two Medicine will become available on March 1.

    Bozeman’s pay-what-you-can restaurant, the Fork and Spoon is looking for help combating the rise of food prices. The Human Resources Development Council, which runs the restaurant, announced this week a fundraiser to try to match a $10,000 gift given to Fork and Spoon from an anonymous donor. The 10-week drive to raise $1,000 a week began on Valentine’s Day.

    The next round of Glacier National Park vehicle registrations begins on Wednesday, March 1 at Reservations will be available for the “primetime” month of July. Glacier has expanded its reservation system starting July 1 to include Two Medicine and the Many Glacier areas of the park. The park will release the August block on April 1 and then the early September block on May 1. After Sept. 10, reservations aren’t required in any area of the park

    The Columbia Falls City County Planning Board has voted to deny a proposed 180-unit development. The Board cited concerns including traffic, wetlands, the high water table and effects on the wildlife corridor. The proposed subdivision is located east of the Flathead River.

    Terry and Punki Bullis have sold Bullis Mortuary in Hardin to Steeve and Valerie Kirkegard, The name of the business will remain the same.

    The UPS Store, located north of Walmart in Williston, has posted a sign on their door announcing their closure. The closure only applies to the shipping store, which is a franchise ct. The Williston UPS warehouse will still conduct business as usual.

    Glacier National Park announced last week the launch of a permitting system for reserving backcountry campsites. The digital system comes as park officials report a marked increase in applications for backcountry campsites. The new process for the park’s advance wilderness camping permits replaces a manual lottery system that officials said employees could no longer maintain. Backcountry campsites will be released for advance reservations on March 15. The online system only accommodates groups of one to four campers per permit.

    A Black Rifle Coffee Company location has opened in downtown Kalispell. The 4,600 square foot coffee shop offers grab and go items, two different espressos, three drip coffee roasts, and 12 pour over roasts with names like Space Bear, Gunship, and AK-47.

    The Homestake Pub at 1107 Utah Ave., in Butte has opened for business. Owners Jean Beht and Kyle O’Hearn bring over 50 years of experience to the new venture.

    The Glendive Elks Lodge #1324 has announced the closure of Gunners Ridge and its event center this week. The organization has confirmed its intention to sell the business, Gunners Ridge Bar & Grill

    MSU has set a new spring enrollment record with 15,717 students attending classes this term, as well as seeing the highest fall-to-spring student retention in a decade.

    In January, In Gallatin County, compared to January 2022, median sales prices decreased 1.7%, from $812,750 to $799,000. Closed sales fell 26.4%, from 72 to 53. The median number of days homes spent on the market was significantly higher than last year’s extreme low, jumping 1000%, from 5 to 55. The average percent of list price received by sellers fell slightly by 1.7%, from 97.9% to 96.2%. The median price per square foot sold decreased 11%, from $368 to $327. Pending sales decreased slightly by 6%, from 84 to 79. New listings increased 17.1% from 82 to 96. End of month inventory continued to rise, increasing 161.5%, from 91 to 238. The month’s supply of inventory, which is an estimate of the time it would take to sell off the existing inventory, increased 255.3%, from 1.3 to 4.5 months. In general, a balanced market is considered to be between 5 and 6 months, less than is considered a sellers’ market and more is considered a buyers’ market.

    Laurel and Lockwood both ranked near the top of the most affordable placed to live according to a study done by SmartAsset. Laurel ranked in first place of affordability with an affordability index of 36.78 based on such housing costs as closing fees, property tax, insurance, and annual mortgage payment. The average annual mortgage payment in Laurel is $9,532 and the median income is $56,902. Lockwood was ranked fifth most affordable after Miles City, Anaconda, and Glendive. Lockwood had an affordability index of 34.06 based on an average mortgage payment of $10,928 and median income of $62,572. Butte, Havre, Helena Valley, Lewistown and Evergreen were also in the top ten of the most affordable communities in Montana.

  • Montana Highlights February 15, 2023 +

    The Whitefish City Council is considering whether to enact greater restrictions on where marijuana businesses can operate in the downtown core. The discussions are about the possibility of amending the current buffering after several councilors raised concerns that too many marijuana dispensaries have been approved in downtown.

    The Bitterroot National Forest has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Gold Butterfly Project. The project is a proposed vegetation management and fuels reduction project in the Sapphire Mountains east of Corvallis. A large portion of the proposed treatment acres are within an area designated for insect and disease treatment, The area is impacted by mountain pine beetle, Douglas-fir bark beetle, dwarf mistletoe and western spruce budworm. The aproposed treatments include commercial timber harvest, non-commercial thinning, and prescribed burning to improve forest health.

    The Calumet Montana oil refinery in Great Falls has completed the multi-million dollar expansion project begun one  year ago. The refinery is now capable of becoming the largest producer of sustainable aviation fuel in the United States. The $90 million project will allow Calumet to become a major player in the expanding markets for bio-based diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.

    The Biden administration has taken the first step Friday toward ending federal protections for grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the governors of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming provided “substantial” information that grizzlies have recovered from the threat of extinction in the regions surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. There are now more than 2,000 bears in the Lower 48 states and much larger populations in Alaska, where hunting is allowed.

    Brothers Gavin and Joey DeGraw have purchased the Open Range restaurant from Bozeman restaurateur Jay Bentley.The purchase of Open Range has resulted in expanded hours. Open Range is now open seven days a week. Plans are also being made to add lunch hours.

    The owner of two downtown Bozeman bars has put the businesses up for sale. Casey Durham,  owner of the Okay Cool Group, said recently that they are listing El Camino and the Kitty Warren Social Club, for sale. The sale will include the option to concession, or rent, the businesses’ liquor license. Both bars are located at 211 E. Main St., Bozeman.

     Official statistics show that 2022  was a good year for the Dawson Community Airport. The numbers show dramatic increases over 2021. Those numbers are heavily inflated due to a temporary change in flight schedules that affected the airport over several months in 2022. According to the MDT’s information, the Dawson Community Airport saw a monthly average increase in ridership of about 99%. These increases in rider numbers are likely due to the change in flight schedules Cape Air enacted in response to a shortage of pilots.

     Taqueria Mi Lindo Michoacan, which loosely translates as “my pretty Michoacan taco shop,” opened during the summer of 2022 in Willston. Thanks to a $5,000 infusion from City of Williston’s Economic Development in the form of a STAR Fund Mini Match, she was able to restock. Navarro makes it clear Taqueria Mi Lindo Michoacan is a restaurant that sells ingredients for patrons to cook their favorite menu items at home.

    Build Montana, the heavy equipment program and workforce initiative created through a partnership between the Montana Contractors Association and the Montana Equipment Dealers Association, has been honored nationally for the second time. Build Montana program partners were in Chicago recently to receive the Lester J. Heath Award from the Associated Equipment Distributors Foundation during their annual meeting. Build Montana currently has a program in its third year in Billings, and a program in its second year in Kalispell.

    Nearly three months of abundant precipitation across much of Montana nurtured a healthy snowpack coming into the first month of 2023. However weather patterns changed in early January. They produced relatively dry conditions for the month. Southwest Montana received slightly less than normal January precipitation. The report stated that river basins west of the Continental Divide saw a 20% to 30% decrease in snowpack percentages. Rocky Mountain Front basins saw a 30% to 35% decrease since January.

    A Dirty Dough Cookie shop will be opened by the Wilda family in Williston, Park Plaza in April. The latest craze in gourmet cookie shops hails from Lindon, Utah, corporate headquarters of Dirty Dough Cookie.

    The Izaak Walton Inn in Essex will undergo major remodeling since 1995. The new owners, LOGE Camps, are planning the remodel of the over 84 year old Inn. The new owners are taking steps to keep the historic nature of Inn intact.

    State officials emphasized to neighbors of Somers Beach State Park that the overnight accommodations proposed for the park will be unobtrusive. Somers Beach was acquired by the state in October 2021 from the Sliter family. The family previously allowed public access on its property and wanted that access enshrined as well as to see the land protected from future development,

    Montana’s redistricting commission has voted 3-2 to finalize new House and Senate maps that will help guide the partisan balance of the state Legislature for the next decade. Chair Maylinn Smith cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the map. The independent commission also includes two Democrats and two Republicans. The House map is largely derived from one offered by Democrats toward the end of a series of compromises last year, when Smith chose it over the GOP proposal.

    The long-term outlook for jobs is positive throughout North Dakota and especially in Region 1, which includes Williams County. Job Service North Dakota’s Labor Market Information Center completed statewide and regional long-term employment projections through 2031. The 2023 results cover more than 700 occupations. Most of the job growth projected for ND over the next decade is in healthcare, construction and extraction, transportation and material moving. – Williston Herald

    A Firehouse Subs has opened on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

    Sidney Sugars Incorporated Inc. announced the closure of the 100-plus year-old sugar beet factory in Sidney. Factory owner, American Crystal Sugar Company claims that there is not enough interest among sugar beet growers to grow an adequate amount of beets to support the factory. Sugar beet growers have stated that the contracts they have been offered over the past few years have not offered prices enough to cover the cost of production, so many have switched to other crops.

    Terracon announces the promotion of Marie Maher, P.G., to the position of Principal. With more than 16 years of geological and exploration experience, Marie currently serves as an Assistant National Manager for Terracon Exploration Services for the Western Operating Group in Great Falls. Her responsibilities include growth of the exploration services and development and implementation of initiatives regarding safety, efficiency, and professionalism.

    In Great Falls, Alluvion Health’s three school-based health centers have received the Certified Autism Center designation.To receive the CAC designation, the chools met requirements by IBCCES, such as dedication to serving autistic individuals, having at least 80 percent of staff trained and certified, and a commitment to engage in specialized autism training on an ongoing basis.

    The Montana Department of Transportation is proposing  to level and resurface about 3.5 miles of Interstate 90, west of Hardin in Bighorn County, beginning approximately 3 miles west of the Toluca Interchange, and extends east, ending approximately half a mile past the interchange. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in summer of 2023.

    Also, the Montana Department of Transportation plans to resurface about 4 miles of Interstate 90 west of Big Timber in Sweet Grass County. The project begins approximately 6 miles east of Springdale, and extends east, ending approximately 4 miles west of Big Timber. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in the summer of 2025.

    The famous M&M Bar in Butte has reopened following its destruction on May, 2021 by fire. The business has been rebuilt next to its original location.

    Recent flooding and ice jams have triggered partial closures at Eight Mile Ford and Burnt Tree Hole fishing access sites on the Madison River south of Ennis. The boat ramp areas at these sites are closed due to unstable ice and hazardous flooding conditions. However, the upper walk-in and parking areas remain open.

  • Montana Highlights February 1, 2023 +

    According to a new University of Montana study the TV series “Yellowstone,” has brought in an estimated 2.1 million visitors and $730 million in spending to Montana in 2021. The show was also responsible for 10,200-plus jobs across a wide spectrum of industries, including tourism-related sectors.

    Missoula’s Denny’s, at 2922 Brooks Street across from Southgate Mall, is “permanently closed,” according to a handwritten sign posted on the door.

    In response to a bounty hunt that turned fatal in Butte, Troy Downing, Montana’s auditor and commissioner of Securities and Insurance, wants lawmakers to rein in rogue bail bond agents and “Wild West” tactics sometimes used to nab fugitives. The bill that would require bail recovery agents to be trained and licensed and notify police of planned apprehensions.

    Matthew Monforton, a former GOP lawmaker is backing changes to Montana’s citizen-led ballot initiative process. Citizen-proposed ballot initiatives must reach a certain threshold of voter signatures before they can appear on the ballot. The 2021 law requires those initiative petitions to first go before a legislative interim committee for review and a vote before they can go out for signature-collecting. The attorney general’s office also gets an opportunity to weigh in, deciding whether they would be bad for business and whether they might be unconstitutional.

    A group of Bozeman residents filed a lawsuit to the city about a fraternity that took over a single-family home in their neighborhood. The city will consider a zone text amendment request that would limit where Greek organizations could set up a house. The Community Development Board had on their recent agenda a zone text amendment that was requested by a group of neighbors in the university neighborhood near Montana State University. Many of the residents live near 411 W. Garfield St., which recently became the home of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.

    The Bozeman Whole Foods Market that has been anticipated for over two years is finally set to open its doors in February. Located off West Main Street near the Gallatin Valley Mall, will open Feb. 1. The Bozeman location will include an outdoor patio with heaters and a local, coffee bar Treeline Coffee Roasters.  The store will employ approximately 130 people.

    The Purple Cow restaurant in Hardin was demolished recently. The owners of the property, the Good 2 Go Company, claimed to be exploring opportunities.

    The multi-billion-dollar gas-to-liquids (GTL) complex slated to be built in Williams County remains on track, according to a Cerilon GTL ND spokesperson. The Canadian company reportedly was provided $9 million in combined loan assistance from the ND Department of Commerce and Williams County.

    San Diego-based Dvele, a California company that makes modular homes plans to build an $80 million, 450,000 square-foot facility at the Montana Connections Business Development Park in Butte. The project could employ up to 150 employees the first year. Officials with the company announced the plans recently. Acco9rding to the officials they chose Butte in large part because of its connecting interstates and its people.

    The Montana Department of Transportation will be taking action in Glendive to help alleviate congestion on West Towne Street around the CTAP industrial yard. According to state officials there will soon be significantly more signage in that area, giving local officials more enforcement power to keep the roads clear.

    Les Kleinman has opened Brooklyn Bagels on Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls in the new Ruis building. Kleinman also owns a Brooklyn Bagels in Missoula and owns several Firehouse Sub franchises across Western Montana and Idaho. The bagels are imported from New York from Ess-a-Bagel, where are they already boiled and par-baked.

    TDS Telecommunications LLC (TDS) will be delivering its all-fiber network to Helena, Butte, Missoula, Lolo, and Great Falls, Montana this year.  In these communities, TDS has commenced final build preparations and will break ground on its fiber network in 2023. TDS will eventually connect more than 100,000 homes and businesses. When construction is completed, TDS will deliver symmetrical internet speeds up to 8Gig, TDS’ all-digital TV service, TDS TV®+, and a variety of phone options for residential and business customers.

    Governor Greg Gianforte directed Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to develop a new wolf management plan for the state.

    The Made in Montana Tradeshow for food and gifts will be held March 10-11,  in Helena.  The Tradeshow is a unique selling opportunity for Made in Montana companies as it incorporates a “Wholesale” day and a public “Retail” day.

    “Given the public and legislature’s engagement in wolf management, it is an appropriate time to revisit the Wolf Plan,” said Gov. Greg Gianforte in a letter to FWP Director Hank Worsech, as he provided direction to form a new Wolf Plan. The state’s current Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was finalized and approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004. Congress delisted wolves in 2011, and since that time, Montana has retained statewide management authority.

    Move Buddha shows people moving to Idaho from other states are starting to lose momentum.  The site tracks data from companies that rent moving trucks.  Arrivals have been running at more than three to one of the departures, but the site now claims the difference is no more than a couple of dozen newcomers for every 100 people leaving.  Per capita, Coeur d’Alene is the most popular destination for incoming moves.  Californians remain the greatest imports. • 1 in 3 moves in are coming from California in 2022, according to move Buddha’s data.  #1 Coeur d’Alene is the city in Idaho seeing the most inflow in 2022, to date. Data shows there are over 223 moves in for every 100 moves out. Other popular cities to move to include #2 Eagle (176 to 100), #3 Twin Falls (136 to 100), #4 Lewiston (132 to 100) and #5 Boise (124 to 100). • One solitary city has seen massive exits in 2022: Rexburg, ID.

    Whole Foods Market announced they are opening its new store location in Bozeman Feb. 1, the first Whole Foods in Montana. The Bozeman location will include an outdoor patio with heaters and a local, coffee bar Treeline Coffee Roasters.

    Great Falls has one of the highest crime rates compared to other communities of  comparable size in the nation. A report says that the chance of becoming a victim to either violent or property crime is 1 in 20. According to the Great Falls Police Department (GFPD), over the last 8 years, some crime has been rising; specifically crimes against persons and aggravated assaults. 

    Two former mayors of Bozeman were recently quoted: “If we woke up tomorrow to 1,000 brand-new housing units, they would be snatched up by the same people who are snatching them up today: 20 percent would go to wealthy people from Bozeman who can afford to move up or invest; fifty percent would go to wealthy newcomers; and the remaining thirty percent would go to out-of-state investors.”

    North Dakota’s commercial service airports finished calendar year 2022 with a statewide total of 1,028,159 airline passenger boardings. This is a growth of 141,350 passengers and a 16% overall increase from calendar year 2021. In 2022, the airports also tallied 1,023,816 passenger deplanements for a grand total of 2,051,975 passengers.

    In North Dakota, Williams County approved a loan of $10 million to Cerilon GTL ND to construct a 24,000 barrel per day Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant with carbon capture and sequestration. The plant will have the lowest carbon footprint of any GTL plant in the world. It will convert natural gas into high value and low emission synthetic energy products, including ultra-low sulfur diesel, naphtha, and lubricant base oils. It creates a platform for the production of other valuable products such as ammonia and fertilizer. Cerilon GTL ND’s parent company is based in Alberta, Canada. The project will bring 1,000 construction jobs and 95 permanent jobs.

    Every year, nearly 2 million school-age children and young adults are injured playing sports. However, sports are getting safer, reports Quote Wizard News. Analysts found that sports-related injuries have declined 31% since 2017. Football is the most dangerous sport for children under 15. Basketball, skateboarding, and football are the most dangerous sports overall. Skateboarding is the only sport where injuries have increased, going up more than 100%.

    Montana Governor Gianforte has named Chris Gallus to be the next commissioner of political practices, replacing Jeff Mangan.

    While still a sellers market the real estate market in Gallatin County is nearing more typical numbers, reports the Gallatin Realtors Association. Compared to December 2021, median sales prices increased 8.5%, from $725,000 to $786,951. Closed sales fell 38.5%, from 117 to 72. The median number of days homes spent on the market jumped 366.7%, from 12 to 56. The average percent of list price received by sellers fell slightly by 1.1%, from 99% to 97.9%. The median price per square foot sold increased 10.3%, from $331 to $365. Pending sales decreased 28.4%, from 74 to 53. New listings dropped 47.5% from 59 to 31. End of month inventory increased 147.1%, from 102 to 252. The month’s supply of inventory, which is an estimate of the time it would take to sell off the existing inventory, jumped 301.4%, from 0.9 to 3.5 months.

    A California company that makes modular homes plans to build an $80 million, 450,000 square-foot facility at the Montana Connections Business Development Park in Butte that could employ up to 150 employees the first year.

  • Montana Highlights 01-15-23 +

    A new lift opened last week on Whitefish Mountain. Until the new lift, Chair 6 was the only way to get from the lodge to Chairs 1 and 2, the major lifts up the resort’s front-side. The Snow Ghost Express, officially known as Chair 4 whisks skiers up Inspiration Ridge. With chairs are wide enough to hold six skiers at a time, the resort estimates that the new lift will be able to serve over 2,000 skiers per hour.

    Tax revenue from wine is forecast to be flat in  Montana the next couple of years, and per capita beer consumption is on the same path, Revenue from taxes on booze is projected to go up slightly, and income from taxes on tobacco products will be down overall. As expected, marijuana is forecasted to make a large contribution to state budget.Tax revenue from cannabis is projected to hit $50.7 million in the 2024 and $57.5 million in 2025.

    The total number of teaching licenses issued in Montana has decreased by 9% in the last five years, according to the Office of Public Instruction. In that time, the amount of new licenses issued decreased by 21% and the number of educators who have maintained their licenses shrunk by about 7%. Emergency authorizations, which allow people who are not currently qualified educators to fill vacant positions, grew by 42% from 2018 and peaked with 173 emergency licenses in 2021.

    The Golden Yolk Griddle, a burrito and sandwich shop in downtown Missoula has announced. it’s starting a late-night breakfast service from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

    J.W. Heist Steakhouse, at 27 E. Main St., opened Jan. 3, and will be open for dinners only. Owners Michael Ochsner and Brett Evje have wanted to open a steakhouse in downtown Bozeman since 2009. The business partners, who also co-own Plonk, have wanted to fill a gap left by their favorite fine-dining restaurant Boodles since it was destroyed in a natural gas explosion in 2009. The pair instead opened Plonk in 2009.

    Former legislator Brad Tschida will take the executive director position at the Montana Public Service Commission starting Jan. 17, 2023. The agency announced  that Tschida, a Republican from Missoula and “lifelong Montana resident,” accepted its offer. The Public Service Commission is made up of five elected commissioners from five districts in Montana, currently all Republicans, who oversee regulated utilities.

    Rick Weaver, the longtime regional publisher at Hagadone Media Montana, will retire at the end of January. In his role, Weaver oversees eight newspapers serving Northwest Montana, including the flagship Daily Inter Lake, as well as the Hungry Horse News, Whitefish Pilot, The Western News, Bigfork Eagle, Lake County Leader, Clark Fork Valley Press and Mineral Independent. In announcing Weaver’s retirement, Hagadone Corporation President Brad Hagadone named Regional Advertising Director Anton Kaufer as the newspaper group’s next regional publisher.

    As of Jan. 22, the Butte Civic Center will be back to hosting numerous sporting events,. The facility is back in business until filming begins on the second season of Taylor Sheridan’s “1923” in June.

    The Clark Fork Face Forest Health and Fuels Reduction, a proposal to conduct logging, forest thinning and prescribed burning on 19,147 acres of public land scattered from Clinton to Drummond has drawn scrutiny from conservation groups who say it overstates wildfire risk at the expense of wildlife protection. The BLM Missoula Field Office began planning the Clark Fork Face Forest Health and Fuels Reduction project about two years ago. Work would occur in phases over the next 10–15 years. The agency says the project is aimed at improving forest conditions to be more fire resilient.

    Permit applications to float central Montana’s Smith River are now being accepted, and will be accepted through Feb. 15. The permit drawing will be held on Feb. 21. Known for its “spectacular scenery, remote location and excellent trout fishing,” the Smith River is one of Montana’s most sought-after outdoor recreation experiences. Because of its popularity, permits are required to float the 59-mile section of the Smith River between Camp Baker near White Sulphur Springs and the Eden Bridge south of Ulm. The permits are issued each year through a lottery. Parties of up to 15 people can float with one permit. Applications must be submitted, or postmarked by Feb 15. Applicants pay a $15 non-refundable permit application fee. Permit lottery results will be available online at

    Montana’s minimum wage has increased 75 cents an hour to $9.95 starting on Jan. 1. It’s the largest inflationary increase since voters passed a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage by $1 an hour to $6.15 in January 2007 and then make inflationary changes each year. An estimated 23,500 Montana workers, or 5% of the workforce, received hourly wages less than $9.95 in 2022 and are likely to receive higher wages due to the 2023 minimum wage increase. 

    The Wax Museum, a new and used record store, to downtown Bozeman. Owner Kels Koch is hoping the new retail space, at 533 E. Mendenhall St., will increase the foot traffic. The store  opened to customers on Jan. 7.

    The North Dakota Department of Commerce announced the creation of the North Dakota Energy and Economic Coordination Office (EECO). The EECO will serve as a unified avenue for industry experts to effectively coordinate with North Dakota energy entities to advance the state’s energy strategy by supporting North Dakota’s full energy portfolio.

    Montana state employees donated over 2,500 pounds of food to the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) in Gov. Gianforte’s second annual interagency food drive competition. The Department of Public Health and Human Services won  this year’s agency food drive competition.”

    The OZ Bozeman will be opening in Bozeman at 2952 Technology Blvd. The OZ is a new, fully furnished private office and co-working location. It is an option for team expansions, start-ups, health and medical practices, conferences, events, etc. The facility is a modern three –story building with a number of different kinds of office space available. The organization offers a variety of memberships that enables a client to choose what best fits their personal/team needs.

    The agriculture industry in North Dakota contributes $30.8 billion to the state’s economy, with $18.8 billion from direct output and $12 billion from secondary output, according to a study at North Dakota State University. Direct effects represent the first round of payments, services, labor, and materials or sales, while secondary effects represent economic activity created through purchased goods and services by businesses and households.

    Fez, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd trained and owned by Lexie Coniglione from Glasgow, was named runner-up/western region in the 2023 Farm Dog of the Year Contest. The contest celebrates farm dogs that work alongside farmers and ranchers as they sustainably produce nutritious food for families and their pets across America. Rounding up livestock and chasing off predators are among the many tasks performed by farm dogs.

    Montana Farm Bureau has captured the prestigious Pinnacle Award, the highest honor a state Farm Bureau can be awarded for program and membership achievement. MFBF President Cyndi Johnson received the award during the American Farm Bureau Federation 104th Annual Convention.

    As of December 19, median sales of single family house prices in Gallatin County were up 4.6% compared to last November, from $735,000 to $768,713. The number of closed sales fell 50.4%, from 141 to 70. The median number of days homes spent on the market increased 358.3%, from 12 days to 55 days. The average percent of list price received decreased 1.4%, from 98.8% to 97.4%. The median price per square foot of homes sold during November increased 6.6% compared to last November, from $333 to $355. Pending sales fell 37.9%, from 95 to 59. The number of new listings decreased 19.5%, from 82 to 66. The end-of-month inventory jumped 132.4% from 139 to 323.

    The Western Dakota Energy Association released a report recently that shows the impact of oil and gas taxes on state finances in North Dakota. Some of the highlights include: oil extraction and production tax revenues are over $26 billion for fiscal years 2008-2022; in the past 5 fiscal years, oil extraction and production taxes are approximately 51% of all taxes collected by the state; since 2008, oil and gas tax revenue has provided over $1.4 billion for water projects, $1.8 billion for education, and $5.9 billion in funding for communities and infrastructure across the state. Oil and gas taxes also deposited $6.9 billion into the Legacy Fund.

    Amazon is currently building a facility in Missoula, the first Amazon facility in Montana. A 72,000 sq. ft. delivery center at 9121 Cartage Road which is the “last mile” step of the shipping process, takes orders from throughout the US and sendit to customers. It will bring in more than 100 new jobs to Montana.

    After 48 years of business, Bert & Ernies restaurant in Helena turned off its lights on Dec. 1. Owned by Toby DeWolf, Bert and Ernie’s was a business anchor for downtown Helena. The building is being converted into a meat store.  The DeWolf family were butchers in Helena from 1889 to 1989. Four Montana ranch families organized as Old Salt Co-op are working toward purchasing the 12,000-square-foot building, with the plan to develop a retail meat market, café and restaurant called Butcher’s Table. The co-op includes the Sieben Livestock Company outside Cascade, the Mannix Family Ranch near Helmville, the J Bar L Ranches in Centennial Valley and Melville, and the LF Ranch near Augusta. The co-op also plans to build a USDA-inspected slaughter facility on a prospective site between East Helena and Montana City by May.

    Fit Republic closed its’ Great Falls location on December 31. The organization says existing memberships will be transferred to the local Planet Fitness gym.

    Christy Sports, a winter & outdoor specialty retail and rental operator, announced the acquisition of Grizzly Outfitters, a specialty outdoor retail and rental operator, at Big Sky.The shop offers rental and demo equipment along with a full retail shop. This new store is the second location for Christy Sports in Montana, according to Gary Montes de Oca, Chief Development and Strategy Officer at Christy Sports. Ken Lancey and Andrew Schreiner are former owners of Grizzly Outfitters.

    The Bureau of Land Management announced plans to lease nearly 21,000 acres of national public land in Montana and North Dakota to oil and gas companies. The announcements come as the Interior Department falls further behind in its obligation to write rules implementing the new leasing system created by the Inflation Reduction Act. The Biden administration’s Fall 2022 regulatory agenda, belatedly released this week by the Office of Management and Budget, revealed that rules updating the oil and gas leasing system are only at the Proposed Rule Stage. If the department doesn’t publish a draft rule within the next few weeks, any final rule will likely be published so late that it’s at risk of getting thrown out in 2025 under the Congressional Review Act.

    For December 2022 the average price of a house sold in Billings was $365,000. There were 145 properties sold (closed) and sellers received 97.9 percent of asking price. Multiple List listed 142 properties and the average number of days on the market was 27.

  • Montana Highlights 11-01-22 +

    The midwest-based Live Hydration Spa has been opened in Kalispell by Katie and John Pipek. Hydration Spa  gives people an option for hydration outside of a hospital setting. Kalispell is the only Montana location. The Spa can tailor bags for each individual patient depending on their goals, symptoms or possible disorders. Live Hydration Spa is located at 135 W Idaho St, Suite B in Kalispell.

    The Missoula River Lodge property, prime habitat for local wildlife of all types, is tucked alongside an oxbow and just upstream of the confluence of Sixmile Creek and the Clark Fork. Wildlife biologists and bear managers claim the  vicinity of the Sixmile-Clark Fork confluence as one of the most vital wildlife zones in Missoula County. A recent study by the Missoula Bear Smart Working Group found that unsecured garbage is by far the leading cause of human-bear conflicts. Bear managers and biologists have described an epidemic of bears raiding garbage.  An enclosure built in June at the fishing lodge is a marquee example of the long-lasting structures of which the group hopes to build more.

    Two Helena-based groups will receive a portion of the $1.4 million the Otto Bremer Trust is giving to Montana organizations. Shodair Children’s Hospital will get $250,000 to help build a new hospital to provide pediatric and adolescent mental and behavioral health services. Helena-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Montana will get $40,000 for general operations to create and support one-to-one youth mentoring relationships. Bremer is a private charitable trust based in St. Paul, Minnesota, created in 1944 by Otto Bremer.

    A plan to develop a long-term facility, the Williston Energy Center, for youth in the City of Williston was presented at Sloulin Field recently by Power Play Project, Inc. The group sees this as being a draw for people in the Dakotas, Montana, and Canada. The plan highlights a remodel and addition to the hangar to build a long-term facility to include a multi-purpose.  Plans to allow for general ice activities are included as well as area hockey games. The group’s fundraising target is $25-30 million to cover all the amenities that are designed into the projected facility.

    It was early September and Roxann McGuire was walking through the crop rows at Willow Mountain Winery. She strategically sampled grapes off the vines. She was looking for the combination of acid and sweetness that tells her the grape is ready to be harvested. McGuire has trained her palate to be able to taste these flavors. She uses that expertise in a location that isn’t known for its wine prowess — Montana. The grapes that Roxann and Brian McGuire grow here are cold-hardy interspecies hybrids. Nearly all well-known wines  like malbec, merlot, chardonnay, and others.  V. vinifera is a European grape species that consistently produces great wine but is not amenable to cold environments. But in the last half-century, researchers have been experimenting with breeding V. vinifera with grapes that are indigenous to the US. These interspecies hybrids are more cold-hardy  and are more amply disease-resistant. They taste differently from wines with which people are commonly familiar.

    According to DNRC, 1,954 fires burned 122,503 acres this season in Montana. Forty-three percent of those fires were human-caused. 

    Al’s Sporting Goods, a Utah-based retailer with three locations, has acquired all five Bob Ward & Sons locations in Montana. Bob Ward is a sporting goods retailer headquartered in Missoula with other stores in Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Hamilton. No changes in operation are currently planned.

    Tonix Pharmaceuticals’ plan to build a new biomanufacturing center just north of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds in Hamilton is hoped to bring more high-tech bioscience jobs to the Bitterroot Valley. The building is expected to be complete in about three years. “This will be the third of our buildings — we have a facility near Frederick, Maryland, a process development facility south of Boston,” said Tonix CEO Dr. Seth Lederman. “This will be the later stage one where products are vetted. Here we can supply the world.”

    North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 84,925 airline passenger boardings during the month of September, 2022. This is a 13% increase from the 74,943 boardings that the state experienced last year in September, 2021. It is also only 5% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic passenger counts of 89,925.

    Michelle Becker and Taylor Dietz of Montana Steakburgers currently have one Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers’ location in Montana and are set to open four new Freddy’s across the state. The stores will open in Flathead, Missoula, Cascade, and Lewis & Clark counties. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is a fast-casual franchise concept with more than 440 locations across 36 states nationwide. Founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 2002, the brand offers a combination of cooked-to-order steakburgers, all-beef hot dogs, shoestring fries and other savory items.

  • Montana  Highlights 10-15-22 +

    The quarterly gas report released recently that Europe faces “unprecedented risks” to its natural gas supplies this winter after Russia cut off most pipeline shipments. European Union countries would need to reduce use by 13% over the winter in case of a complete Russian cutoff. Much of that cutback would have to come from consumer behavior such as turning down thermostats by 1 degree and adjusting boiler temperatures

    Last week Gov. Greg Gianforte laid out his plan to push for tax relief targeting Montana businesses. Gianforte signed a new law, last year that increased the business equipment tax exemption from $100,000 to $300,000. It was estimated by the Montana Department of Revenue that the measure would impact some 4,000 businesses in the state.

    Texas Roadhouse is planning to build in Bozeman. Site plans for the restaurant are out for public comment until Oct. 14. According to development documents, the restaurant company plans to build an 8,000 square foot location in the Bozeman Gateway development.

    Natural gas prices for the upcoming winter heating season are expected to be higher than what MDU customers paid last winter. Montana-Dakota customers typically use 70 dekatherms of natural gas over the heating season. The expected increase in natural gas costs is about $150 over the five months for an average residential customer, or $30 per month.

    The third largest railroad union recently rejected its deal with freight railroads Monday. This action renewed the possibility of a strike. Both sides will return to the bargaining table soon. Four other railroad unions have approved their agreements with the freight railroads that include BNSF, Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

    In answer to the nation’s ongoing shortage of commercial truck drivers, this was made worse by the pandemic. In 2021 alone, trucking companies faced a deficit of 80,000 drivers according to the trade organization American Trucking Associations. Estimates are the industry shortage could top 160,000 drivers by 2030. The University of Montana’s Missoula College heavy equipment operation and commercial driver’s license program is trying to meet this challenge.

    A small-business advocacy group, named Job Creators Network Foundation, has filed a new lawsuit seeking to block the Biden administration’s efforts to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. This is the latest legal challenge to the program.

    Cavanaugh’s County Celtic will close on October 14, 2022 at 131 W. Park St. The store is Butte’s premier Irish store.

    Serina Kringen has purchased the Yellowstone Building in Sidney. She plans to bring back the original brick walls and wood floors, returning the building to its historic décor. Kringen graduated from Sidney High School and attended college at UND and then moved back home. The first business will be the opening of a coffee shop, “Yellowstone Perc”, which will feature sandwiches, breakfast items soups and salads.  She has hired M&S Builders, Sidney, Tony Hanson and Jory Bright, to help in remodeling. Phase 2 will be a party area.

  • Montana Highlights 04-01-22 +

    Plowing of Glacier National Park’s roads has begun. Crews started on the east side of the pass on March 25 and the west side clearing of Going-to-the-Sun Road should begin during the first week in April. Backcountry reservations opened last week for the 2022 season.

    The founders of Alchemy Lounge on Kalispell’s First Avenue, owned by the Costa family, has opened the newly remodeled lounge. Alchemy Lounge is located at 139 1st Avenue West in Kalspell.

    West End Farms, a development that would be a mix of high- and low-density housing with various components such as community gardens is asking the neighborhoods around Hellegate Elementary School for their response to the 240 housing unit development.

    Montana gained roughly 3,500 construction jobs during the pandemic from February of 2020 to January of 2022. That’s an 11.4% increase, the highest percent increase of any state in the country, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost half the states in the U.S. lost construction jobs during that same time period.

    The Higgins Avenue Corridor Plan began last year with efforts aimed at understanding the priorities of residents and business owners for this part of downtown Missoula. With this input  in mind, the project team has developed several alternatives and is seeking comments. The community will have multiple opportunities to view the Higgins Avenue Corridor Plan and provide feedback.

    Desert Mountain Broadcasting purchased five radio stations in Bozeman, formerly owned by Reier Broadcasting Co. recently. Desert Mountain Broadcasting is building brand-new studios for the five stations as they come back on the air.

    Backcountry, an online retailer of outdoor gear and apparel, plans to move into the Gallatin Laundry Company building in Bozeman, at the corner of East Babcock Street and South Bozeman during the summer of 2022. The Utah-based online retailer has three retail storefronts. Two are in Utah in Park City and West Valley City, and the other in Boulder, Colorado.

    Clean up of the Ponderosa building property has remained on hold since the February 13 fire in downtown Glendive. The Glendive City Council recently heard concerns from several business owners about the effects and threat the Ponderosa building has on their businesses. Following the  fire that destroyed the property, two freestanding walls of the Ponderosa building  remain and half of the block is fenced off, preventing traffic in the area.

    According to oil industry analysts they do not think high oil prices will cause a surge in drilling  wells in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken. Rig counts are up a small number in both states. Higher oil prices have been prompting some companies to restart marginal wells that had been uneconomical at past prices, Most of these wells are in Montana. Lack of workers and supply chain logistics remain challenges in both Montana and North Dakota,

    Older workers, workers with disabilities, veterans and workers who have been involved in the justice system all offer labor opportunities for businesses willing to get creative with their recruitment. Retirees are the largest population of potential workers who aren’t involved in the labor force, according to statistics from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry indicating 60% of those not in the labor force list retirement as their primary reason for non-participation.

    Pursuit Glacier Park Collection has announced their purchase of the Glacier Raft Co. in West Glacier. Glacier Raft Compnay has been in business for 46 years. The sale includes 50 acres, equipment, 14 log cabins, a main lodge, retail store and wedding venue. Pursuit owns the Glacier Park Lodge, the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park plus other lodging and recreational businesses in the area. Glacier Raft Co. runs raft trips down the Middle Fork.

    Crumbl Cookie had their grand opening on the 1st of April in Helena. The address is 2030 Cromwell Dixon Lane #J. 

    Montana’s latest oil sale ran from Feb. 22 to March 1. Roosevelt County had the highest prices per acre — ranging from $110 to $285 an acre. Western Shale put in the winning $285 per acre bid, for 360 acres. Irish oil, meanwhile, took the other three tracts totaling 779 acres for a total of $210,225.

    Schlumberger, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes have all announced they have begun to draw down activities in Russia and will make no new investments.

    Butler Machinery Company president announced  the purchase of existing buildings in both Watertown, South Dakota, and Sidney, Montana—a brand new territory for Butler. The Sidney facility, formerly B&B Rentals near the intersection of MT-16 and MT-23, will open as a Butler Ag Equipment store and will be Butler’s first store in Montana and 20th store location overall. Butler Ag Equipment is a division of Butler Machinery Company, focusing only on agriculture equipment lines. The new Sidney location will be Butler’s fifth store branded as Butler Ag Equipment and will offer the full line of AGCO equipment brands, select CLAAS equipment and other smaller ag-focused lines, as well as ag technology, parts and service.

    Fort Harrison VA Medical Center in Helena has received a five-star patient experience rating from Becker’s Healthcare Hospital. The Becker’s Healthcare survey compiles a list of the best hospitals around the country. Fort Harrison VA has many services for former and current military men and women, such as primary care, specialty services and mental health.

    Hamilton based Cultured Travel LLC is a boutique travel agency founded on the belief that travel can change the world through connection. The company owner is Valerie Edman. The company specializes in arranging luxury experiential travel.

    U.S. shale oil and gas producers Oasis Petroleum Inc.  and Whiting Petroleum Corp  have merged. The combined value of the two companies would be around $6.07 billion, according to Reuters, based on Oasis valued at $2.80 billion and Whiting at $3.27 billion. Both companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 after the energy industry reeled under an unprecedented crash in oil prices due to the COVID-19 market mandates, with Whiting the first publicly traded shale producer to file for bankruptcy when it did so in April of that year.

    North Dakota’s biggest oil driller said it will commit $250 million to help fund a proposed pipeline that would gather carbon dioxide produced by ethanol plants across the Midwest and pump it thousands of feet underground for permanent storage. Continental Resources, headed by Harold Hamm, discussed the investment into Summit Carbon Solutions’ $4.5 billion pipeline at an ethanol plant in eastern North Dakota. The plant is one of 31 ethanol facilities across Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas, where emissions would be captured and piped to western North Dakota and buried deep underground.  The project is one of at least two major CO2 pipelines planned for the Midwest. Navigator CO2 Ventures is planning a 1,200 mile pipeline through Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois. The Trump administration in 2018 gave North Dakota the power to regulate underground wells used for long-term storage of waste carbon dioxide.  The state has since invested heavily in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market with low inventory and strong demand continues to fuel higher prices. The median sales price for condos and townhomes saw the most significant increase at 85.3%. In year-over-year numbers, median sale prices are up 47.9% for all property types. New single-family listings were down 26.3% in February 2022 compared to last year, falling from 118 to 87. Pending sales decreased 10.4%, from 96 to 86, and closed sales decreased 6.1%, from 82 to 77. The average number of days homes spent on the market was down 11.9%, from 42 to 37. Median sales prices jumped 48.7%, from $602,500 to $896,000, and sellers received 99.5% of their list price, a slight increase from 99.1% last February. The inventory of homes for sale fell 36.8%, from 144 to 91. The months supply of inventory decreased 30%,

  • Montana Highlights 3-1-22 +

    Nathan Garber started LeoN Holding Company in Kalispell a year ago as a full-service mini storage business. The company now plans to expand into Oklahoma. The company contributes to local non-profits such as the Boys and Girls Club of Glacier County and th Habitat for Humanity. Garber also plans on adding a new office and hiring additional staff in the Flathead Valley.

    Marathon Petroleum will not be adding production growth capital to its 2022 budget in any of its plays. That’s regardless of whether commodity prices continue to rise. Marathon plams to emphaze return of capital to shareholders during 2022.

    As of April 1, First Interstate will be eliminating non-sufficient funds charges and reducing overdraft fees, to offer flexibility intended to create a little extra breathing room for clients. First Interstate will make many changes including the elimination of non-sufficient fund charges and a reduction in overdraft fees from $30 to $10.

    A 17-page comment letter has been submitted by North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and the Division of Air Quality. The letter claims the EPA’s methane emissions proposal exceeds the limits of its authority under both the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. With production of over 500 million barrels of oil per year and over 900 million cubic feet of natural gas, North Dakota has a vested interest in the rules proposed by EPA to further regulate methane emissions. The proposed rules are not needed as North Dakota already successfully regulates GHG emissions from the oil and natural gas sector through the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality and the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

    North Dakota Rig counts have reached 34 during February . That’s a two-year high since the pandemic began, which follows the national trend. The exceptionally tight labor pool has affected North Dakota’s potential rig count. The oil and gas sector is working on more gas infrastructure, to improve areas where takeaway capacity has been a challenge and to add to overall capacity out of the Bakken. Lack of adequate gas infrastructure can set a  low ceiling on the Bakken’s potential oil production.

    British Columbia-based Teck Resources Ltd. has added a third water treatment plant that cleaned the waters of Fording River in Canada of coal mining pollution. The clean water drains into Montana’s Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.

    Dale Greenwalt has been collecting ancient insects from the Flathead’s Middle Fork as a resident research associate with the Smithsonian Institution. His most famous find is a rare fossilized mosquito found engorged with ancient blood, likely from a bird of the Middle Eocene. Dale and a research partner have published this year the findings of several new midge species and one delicate mosquito larvae. Scientists praise the region for its unique ability to help record natural history through some of the rarest, most delicate of olden insects: tiny winged flies in their respective pupal and larval stages.

    Carolina and Jake Balliew are opening the Lakeside Distillery in Townsend soon. The distillery will be located at 201 Broadway Street. Everything produced at the distillery is made with Montana products. In the summer he will harvest his grain himself in the Choteau area.

    In Gallatin County, there were 20.2% fewer new listings in January 2022 than the same month last year, falling from 104 to 83. Pending sales decreased 12.5%, from 104 to 91. Closed sales decreased 6.5%, from 77 to 72. The average number of days homes spent on the market increased 32.1%, from 28 to 37. Median sales prices jumped 45.1%, from $560,000 to $812,750, and sellers received 97.8% of their list price, down slightly from 99.7% last January. The inventory of homes for sale dropped 34.6% from 136 to 89. The months supply of inventory decreased 22.2%, from 0.9 to 0.7.

    As part of his charge to improve customer service and modernize technology in state government, Governor Greg Gianforte announced the launch of a new mobile app from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). FWP’s new app will allow Montanans to access their hunting and fishing licenses with their phone, reducing the need to secure and carry around paperwork while they fish and hunt. The new app, MyFWP, provides Montana sportsmen and women a simple, easy way to store and display licenses, permits, and digital carcass tags, known as E-Tags, which can be used in the field without cellular service. In addition to storing and displaying licenses and permits in a digital wallet, the MyFWP app gives hunters the option to digitally validate an E-Tag instead of a traditional paper carcass tag. This can be done even if the hunter is out of cell service. 

    U.S. manufacturers continue to post strong growth, although at a more moderate level compared to the record activity that defined 2021. February’s most critical industrial reports instead suggest continued signs of relief in supply chain pressures and labor shortages, among other developments

    Following his announcement of a $6 million investment in rapid workforce training, Governor Greg Gianforte joined Carroll College President John Cech to announce a portion of the funds will be used for the rapid training of nurses and clinical social workers at Carroll College. As a partner of Accelerate Montana, Carroll College received a $440,000 grant to provide scholarships for the College’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Social Work programs. The scholarships, 32 in all, will offset up to $12,500 of tuition and fee costs per student in these programs, which prepare students to enter high-wage, high-demand jobs in Montana’s health care sector. 

  • Montana Highlights 02-15-2022 +

    Paleontologists have unearthed a new dinosaur species in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, near Jordan. It has named ‘Captain Hook’ because of a unique hooked claw at the end of its arms. Dubbed Trirarchuncus prairiensis, the new dinosaur was covered with sleek feathers and had two short arms with a long claw at each end that it used to dig or break apart wood in search of insects. It had long legs, with feet that look similar to that of an ostrich and a very long, point snout. The fossilized claws are also more hooked that others found in the past and are from different growth stages, providing experts with a look at how the hook-handed dinosaur changed as it aged.

    Whitefish businessman Michael Goguen donated $350,000 in the form of $10,000 checks to the remaining households living in what’s known as “The Annex” portion of the FairBridge Inn in Kalispell. More than 100 guests living in the extended-stay portion of the hotel were given notice by FairBridge on Jan. 12 that they would need to find alternative accommodations by Feb. 12.

    The Kalispell Planning Board is recommending approval of Spring Creek Park, a subdivision proposed between Two Mile Drive and Three Mile Drive. Spring Creek Park would encompass 65 detached single-family dwellings, 113 townhome/rowhouse dwellings, and 464 multi-family dwelling units, along with two commercial lots, park area and open space.

    The Kalispell City Council approved a conditional-use permit request to turn the FairBridge Inn & Suites and Conference Center into 250 studio apartments. Fortify Holdings, LLC, had requested the permit because their purchase of the property. 

    Lone Mountain Land Company has announced it is developing a new luxury “resort and residential community” in Moonlight Basin in partnership with a global luxury resort chain. One&Only Moonlight Basin in Big Sky will be developed by Lone Mountain and Kerzner International Holdings, which owns luxury resorts around the world including in Dubai, Mexico, the Maldives and Australia. The resort will include 73 guest rooms and suites, 19 cabins, a ski lodge and several “amenity buildings,” including a spa and dining areas. There will also be 62 private residences in the resort for sale through the One&Only Private Homes brand. The resort will be connected by gondola to Big Sky Resort. Langlas and Associates is the general contractor.

    Whiting is adding to its non-operated oil and gas assets in the Bakken. The two assets total 14,563 net acres, and include 32 net undrilled locations. Whiting has said that it expects to develop these undeveloped locations soon. The assets should contribute about 4,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day. This is the second Bakken purchase Whiting has made since emerging from bankruptcy declared during the pandemic. In September 2021, the company closed on an estimated $271 million in additional net acres in Mountrail County, adding 61 new drilling locations to the company’s inventory.

    Montana Sen. Steve Daines, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, pressed Biden nominee Laura Daniel-Davis on the failure to restart oil and gas leasing in Montana, despite a federal judge ruling last year that the administration cannot simply suspend oil and gas lease sales while it reviews the program.

    The Atlas Power Data Center has announced it’s working with FX Solutions Inc. to build a $1.9 billion cryptocurrency factory in Williston. Missoula, Montana-based FX Solutions is building the facility for Atlas. This plant will be the second such facility for Atlas Power. Its first is in Butte, Montana.

    The Hilton Garden Inn located on U.S. 93 South in Kalispell has been acquired by the Veridea Group. Working from offices in Bozeman and Marquette, Michigan, Veridea Group is an commercial real estate and hospitality company. The purchase includes the 144-room hotel, the adjacent 700-capacity conference center, a restaurant, bar and casino. Veridea plans to invest approximately $8 million to undertake a comprehensive renovation of the property.

    A congressional bill sponsored by Montana Sen. Steve Daines aims to bolster gateway communities overrun with tourism on federal lands by tapping into federal coffers to address visitation woes. The proposed bill would require a two-prong federal approach to address increased public lands visitation and to combat resulting strains on nearby communities. The bill would require the Interior and Agriculture departments to partner with local stakeholders on fixes using existing federal funding. The proposal secondly would require the agencies to collaborate with state and local partners, and tribes to identify and then address issues like sustainable visitation, housing shortages or troubled infrastructure.

    Staack’s Motorsports, 102 E. Galena St., had been sold to Maverick Motorsports of Missoula. Staack’s has been in Uptown Butte for more than 50 years. Missoula businessman Brent Gyuricza , along with his business partner, Guy Sharp, had discussed expansion before, but when the opportunity arose, the two men felt the Butte business would be a perfect match for them.

    Chick-fil-A will open at the corner of Custer and North Montana avenues in Helena.

    Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport for the 12-month period ending January 31, 2022, it handled 2,020,628 passengers. This is the first time a Montana airport has surpassed 2 million passengers in any 12 consecutive month period. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport has seen an 82% increase in passengers over the past five years.

    MonDak Ag Days is scheduled for March 3-4. The event will be held at the Richland County Event Center and will run from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on March 3 and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. on March 4. MonDak Ag Days highlights everything agriculture in this region. Educational seminars are also scattered throughout the day. Seminars are usually based on some of the hot button agriculture topics of the times.

    Billings Job Service Employer’s Committee (JSEC)  is offering Montana a chance for employers and seekers to shake hands and talk about career opportunities. A Jobs Jamboree will be held on March 16 at MetraPark Pavilion in Billings from 11:30 am to 6 pm with early entrance for Veteran’s, Guard, Reserve and their families starting at 11am.

    Universal Athletic, a sports equipment and apparel company that has served Montana since 1971, has joined a new national brand, Game One. Universal Athletic and seven other companies embody the Game One which is one of the largest sports equipment and apparel suppliers in the country.

    Dr. Ingrid McLellan, President of The Montana Dental Association, has announced that Webb Brown is their new executive director. Brown was most recently CEO of the Montana Regional Multiple Listing Service. In 2018 he retired as CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce after 20 years. Brown is originally from Trout Creek. His office will be in Helena.

    A Bozeman company that has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as Montana’s fastest growing business, Stone Glacier has been purchased by a large national company, Vista Outdoor. Stone Glacier is a retailer of outdoor and camping gear from apparel and back packs to tents and other supplies. Founder and owner of Stone Glacier, Jeff Sposito, who started the business in 2012, said that being part of Vista Outdoor will give his company access to more resources to keep up with its rapid growth. Vista Outdoor owns 39 different outdoor and hunting brands including CamelBak, Bell, Bushnell and Remington, and has headquarters in Minnesota.

    A subsidiary of Bismarck, North Dakota-based MDU Resources Group Inc. has completed an expansion of a $260 million natural gas pipeline in western North Dakota. In addition to adding capacity, the project helps reduce gas flaring in the Bakken region. The subsidiary, WBI Energy Inc. has capacity to transport 250 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas from the Bakken production area in North Dakota, with the potential to be increased up to 625 MMcf/d through additional compression if needed.

    After working for the company for 28 years, Mike Anderson, is now the new owner of Amunrud’s RV Inc in Sidney. The company is the largest parts and services shop in Richland County.

    Benefis Health System plans to donate land for a new nursing education building in Great Falls to be built with a portion of a $101 million investment  from philanthropists Mark and Robyn Jones, founders of Goosehead Insurance, to Montana State University.

    As part of the recent $15.9 million in grants awarded by the Otto Bremer Trust (OBT) nationwide, Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC) was awarded – in collaboration with the Montana Medical Association Foundation – a $100,000 grant to initiate electronic, secure access to real-time health information to improve healthcare for elderly and low-income residents throughout Montana. BSCC feeds patient data from healthcare providers across Montana into a centralized digital network – called a Health Information Exchange (HIE) – which serves as an information portal for some 300 participating providers and payors.

    PFL, a marketing technology software company based in Livingston, announced the establishment of its Founder’s Scholarship, which was created in recognition of PFL’s founder, Andrew Field, who retired earlier this month after leading the company for 25 years. Annually, the Founder’s Scholarship will award one graduating high school student from Park County, Montana $2,500 to support their pursuit of higher education. 

    Butte Heart is a volunteer organization formed to help people from Afghanistan to settle in Butte. Approximately 12 emigrants will be arriving in Butte within the coming months. Butte Heart is backed financially by the Butte America Foundation

    After remaining closed for 2 1/2 years, Sidney’s Bowling Alley is now open under new ownership, Dennis and Robin Trudell, Fairview.

    The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission reported that the state’s eight commercial service airports ended the calendar with a statewide total of 886,809 airline passenger boardings, an increase of 314,716 passengers or a 55 percent increase from 2020. Williston Basin International Airport ended the year with  more than double – 4,892 — the number of passengers in December 2021 than the previous year. In total, XWA reported 46,330 boardings in 2021, 15,000 more than in 2020.

  • Montana Highlights 2-01-22 +

    Under Big Sky Music Festival will return to the Big Mountain Ranch in Whitefish on July 16 and 17. The festival’s capacity will be limited to 20,000 daily.  For further information, visit

    More than 7,000 new businesses registered in the 59901 Zip code for Flathead County in 2021.  This was the largest number in the state. Statewide more than 51,000 new business registered with the secretary of States Office.

    The Mountain Line in Missoula is seeking 6 to 8 acres  of land in central Missoula to build a new headquarters. The organization has outgrown it’s current Northside location. The current location is on 2.2-acre which houses 90 employees. They house up to 20 buses now but need a location which can handle 35 buses. There is also a lack of bus drivers.

    Gov. Greg Gianforte has presented the Spirit of Montana award to employees at Anaconda Foundry Fabrication Company for their role in fixing the Hebgen Dam malfunction. NorthWestern Energy contacted AFFCO following the Nov. 30, 2021 malfunction of Hebgen dam. The team worked around-the-clock to manufacture a part to fix the dam.

    The State Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee has been investigating nuclear power. The conversation was to study the possibility of using small modular reactors in Montana. Some of the discussion centered on the Colstrip coal-fired power plant. Talen Energy and Puget Sound Energy have shut down units 1 and 2. Units 3 and 4 remain in operation, but four of the power plant’s owners face coal power bans in Washington and Oregon beginning in the coming years. A representatiuve of the Nuclear Energy Institute discussed the transition from a coal to a nuclear plant.

    Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is proposing to sell about nine acres to the city of Helena for a housing project. A land trust administered by Trust Montana for the construction of Helena Area Habitat for Humanity homes will use a portion of the land. Another portion of the land will be designated for the development of low-income apartment units. The remaing portion of the land will be used for more long-term sheltering of YWCA Helena clients.

    Hardin Generating Station, owned by Beowulf Energy, was theatened with closure in 2014 due to econimic conditions. At that time there were 60 emplyees. In 2018, Marathon Digital Holdings, a leading Bitcoin miner, modernized the plant and created over 100 new jobs.

    TC Energy’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL project in June has mooted a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration’s decision to revoke the pipeline’s border crossing permit, a Texas federal court has ruled.

    The Three Rivers Bank will be hosting a grand opeing at the new Whitefish location, 3631 U.S. 93 South, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5.

    Registration for the Columbia Falls Job Fair is open until Feb. 11. The 2022 Columbia Falls Job Fair will take place on Feb. 15 at the Colombia High School. To register, go to

    Big Sandy Organics is building a new 19,000 square foot facility and adding two new production lines. This expansion will allow them to increase their processing from 20,000 lbs/year to 720,000 lbs/year and grow their workforce from four to 16 employees. Big Sandy Organics produces snack foods from ancient grains.

    Northwest Farm Credit Services contributed $50,000 to the facility expansion and improvement project at Montana State University Western Ag Research Center. The 2021 Montana State Legislature approved $1.2 million in funding to build a new office, lab and education facility to replace the current buildings that are outdated, unsafe and undersized. MSU has pledged to raise $300,000 in donations from individuals and industry to support the new facilities.

    Plastic Design & Manufacturing (PDM), an injection molder and tooling company in Manhattan, recently announced the successful transfer of ownership from founder Mike Groff to the company’s existing executive team.  Randy Scheid (President and CFO), James Smith (VP of Operations and Engineering), and Darrell Witham (VP of Sales and Marketing) have acquired the business, with Sam Lazcano – VP of PDM MX Operations rounding out the Executive Team.  Groff will retain a seat on the Board. PDM was founded in 1998 and operates two facilities: the Montana plant with 65 employees and the Juarez, Mexico plant with 94 employees.  Several local services provided support to plan and facilitate the transition, including MMEC, Tom Walker of On the Rise Consulting, and Rocky Mountain Bank.

    In Montana, there are more job postings than there are people unemployed in the state, reports KPAX-8 in Missoula, where the unemployment rate is 1.9 percent.

    In Butte the addition of a $8 million dollar rail system has been four years in the making before finally seeing completion last month. The additions made to the rail system will allow sites in the Montana Connections Business Development Park to bring in and send out goods directly via freight. It will benefit businesses such as the industrial park’s calling card for bringing in new business, such as Montana Craft Malt and Ergon Asphalt.

    In Sidney, Big Sky Cookie Co. has opened, selling fresh baked and custom-decorated cookies. The store specializes in custom-decorated sugar cookies, large gourmet flavored cookies, bags of mini cookies, and minimally decorated sugar cookies. Owner, Lisa Harrel, and husband, Ryan, had an opportunity to take a superintendent job in Sidney, so they moved from Oregon, and Lisa, launched her dream of a business in which she can pursue her passion of cookie decorating.

    FEMA Region 8 welcomed its new Regional Administrator, Nancy Dragani, following her appointment by President Biden. Dragani was sworn in by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. The Regional Administrator will lead and coordinate all activities in support of FEMA’s mission with the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the 29 federally recognized tribes within the region

    Final numbers show that Yellowstone National Park had its busiest year on record, with 4,860,537 visitors. The final number shows a wide gulf between 2021 and the next busiest year. The total count for 2021 is more than 600,000 visits higher than 2016, which had a little more than 4.25 million visits. July was the busiest month ever, with more than 1 million visits recorded. Officials saw an increase in the number of cars coming in multiple times, which is attributed to a 20 percent  decrease in overnight stays in the park. Some campsites and hotel rooms were closed in 2021 because of construction projects and COVID-19. A new shuttle system moved over 10,000 people last summer.

    New real estate listings decreased 6 percent in December in Gallatin County, compared to last year, from 67 to 63. Pending sales increased 1.2 percent, from 82 to 83. The number of closed sales fell 13.4 percent, from 134 to 116. Average days on market decreased 33.9 percent, from 62 to 41. The median sales price increased 2.9 percent, from $704,500 to $725,000. Sellers received 98.9 percent of their list price, down slightly from 99.2 percent last December. The inventory of available homes dropped 29.4 percent, from 143 to 101, while the months’ supply of inventory fell 11.1 percent, from 0.9 to 0.8.

    Santokh Grill has joined the region’s organ procurement organization with more than 25 years of healthcare, organ transplantation, and senior leadership experience, most recently serving as Vice President of Patient Care Services at Virginia Mason Medical Center. Gill holds a Master’s in Health Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Washington. – now known as PFL —  founder and CEO, Andrew Field, is retiring. Field founded the business in Bozeman in 1996. The business grew into a marketing technology software business. The business expanded to offices in Livingston and Indianapolis. Field will step down from his current role on February 4, 2022 and will be succeeded by Nick Runyon, the company’s former President.

    The board of directors of ONEOK, Inc. declared a quarterly dividend of 93.5 cents per share, unchanged from the previous quarter, resulting in an annualized dividend of $3.74 per share. ONEOK, Inc. is a leading midstream service provider and owner of one of the nation’s premier natural gas liquids (NGL) systems.

    According to Butte Local Development Corp. Director Joe Willauer. Headwaters RC&D received about $26,000 in 2020 for a feasibility study to build a meat processing plant in the Jefferson County Industrial Park off Interstate 90 between Whitehall and Cardwell.

    Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOA) held a ribbon cutting in Butte to celebrate the opening of their newest Veteran Services office in Montana.  This office is VOA’s seventh in Montana, joining locations in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Kalispell, along with seven offices in Wyoming and one in western South Dakota. 

    Morton Buildings, Inc., a post-frame manufacturing and construction business, has opened a new construction center serving Bozeman, and the surrounding area. Morton Buildings previously serviced building needs in the Bozeman area from its construction center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The new permanent center is located at 669 Jetway Drive in Belgrade. Sean Cain, president of Morton Buildings, said the Bozeman construction center offers a local centralized location for the sales, support and construction of customer projects.

    Simms Fishing Products, preeminent manufacturer of waders, outerwear, footwear, and technical apparel in fishing, announces the acquisition of longtime Bozeman based specialty retailer, Simms at The River’s Edge Fly Shop. Established in 1983, The River’s Edge has been the headquarters for Montana fly fishing since its inception. With two locations in Bozeman, often described as the trout fishing capital of the United States, The River’s Edge offers a full-service experience – from guided Montana fly fishing trips, to fly tying and casting instruction, to expert product and fishing advice.