Despite the many hurdles brought by COVID and the business shutdowns of 2020, a study reveals that Montana’s high tech businesses not only survived but thrived, growing seven times faster than other industry sectors.

A study done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana and released in May, found that Montana’s tech sector continued a multi-year trend of growth and generated more than $2.9 billion in revenues in 2020, up from $2.5 billion in 2019, according to the most recent issue of Montana Business Quarterly – High Tech Soars Despite Pandemic, by Christina Quick Henderson.

Montana tech firms employ about 15,772 workers and pay an average salary of $73,100, 59% higher than the average earnings per Montana worker. Companies said that they plan to hire for 1,500 new jobs in 2021.

The companies plan to increase wages by 5 percent, somewhat faster than the 4.2 percent wage growth rate of all Montana employers. Survey respondents anticipated making at least $164 million in capital expenditures in Montana in 2021, a significant increase from anticipated 2020 capital expenditures ($133 million).

“Firms reported that access to capital was their largest impediment to faster growth. For the first year in four years, slightly more high-tech leaders (12%) said that it was harder to obtain capital in 2020 compared to the previous year (9%). Other frequently mentioned impediments to growth were the need for new customers, visibility or marketing, and hiring skilled technology workers”

“Despite pandemic-induced headwinds, deals kept flowing in 2020. Missoula-based biotech company Inimmune secured a $22 million series A investment from Two Bear Capital in Whitefish. Major acquisitions of Ascent Vision Technologies in Bozeman and Helix Business Solutions in Dillon also fueled economic growth across the state.”

As with most other industries high tech businesses’ biggest problem is finding talented and experienced workers, which is compounded in some places by the cost of living and lack of affordable housing.

While Bozeman is especially noted for having housing problems, it’s a problem statewide. Sometimes, more so than the cost, it’s simply a matter of availability. There are no houses.

The survey asked what job titles tech firms hire most often. “The most frequent response was software developer/computer programmer, followed by sales representative and engineer. When asked what skills they are looking for in new hires, employers most often said coding and software development, followed by sales or marketing, communication skills, general experience and problem solving.”

Some of Montana’s leading tech companies like Zoot Enterprises or Spika Design and Manufacturing are collaborating with colleges to develop new courses that prepare “the next generation.”

The FBI conducted more background checks for firearms purchases in March — a month in which several prominent mass shootings reignited America’s conversation about gun control — than they have in any month so far this year.

About 4.7 million Americans initiated gun background checks last month — a 36% increase from February, according to the FBI. More than 2 million of those checks were for new gun purchases, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, the firearms industry trade group that compares FBI background check numbers with actual sales data to determine its sales figures.

The new guns purchased in March make it the second highest month on record for firearms sales, according to NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva, who said the threat of looming gun control legislation was the catalyst for last months sales surge.

NSSF data shows last month’s sales were surpassed only by the estimated 2.3 million guns sold in March 2020.

“It is clear that firearm sales in March were driven by gun control calls from politicians to ban entire classes of firearms and enact onerous gun laws,” Oliva told CNN Business.

This year, an ongoing surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans has also led to an increase in first-time firearms purchases among this demographic group.

“The face of today’s gun owner no longer fits in the neat little box that some would like to put gun ownership into,” Oliva said. “The fact is gun ownership in America looks more like the country than it ever has.”

The House of Representatives passed the pair of gun control bills on March 11. Five days later eight people were killed in Atlanta, including six Asian women, in a series of shootings at spas. A week after that, 10 people, including a local police officer, were shot dead in a Boulder, Colorado grocery store. Biden urged the Senate to pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of both shootings.

There have been at least 20 mass shootings in the three weeks since the Atlanta attack.

Firearm sales fell slightly in February after a January surge, which had been fueled in part by the Capitol Hill insurrection. January and March are the only two months in which FBI gun background checks surpassed 4 million since records were first kept in 1998.

The Keystone Pipeline System was supposed to create 11,000 American jobs in 2021, but President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the project. Now the company in charge is suing the U.S. government for $15 billion.

The massive pipeline project’s first three phases run from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The proposed phase IV would have connected the existing pipeline terminals in Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Nebraska, by a shorter route and a larger-diameter pipe.

But on the day of his inauguration, Biden signed an executive order to revoke the permit granted by President Donald Trump to TC Energy Corporation.

TC Energy estimated the 11,000 jobs would have totaled more than $1.6 billion in pay, and supporters touted the pipeline as a big step in American energy independence.

“TC Energy will be seeking to recover more than US $15 billion in damages that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. Government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations,” the company said in its July 2 press release.

In his executive order, Biden said in revoking the permit that “approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest” and would “undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action.”

Beyond costing Americans jobs and energy independence, this move may also cost taxpayers $15 billion.

When a shortage of truck drivers to deliver fuel to the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport resulted in no available carbon-based fuel there were no energy alternatives and airlines had to cancel flights. Planes were forced to land in neighboring cities and states to fill up with jet fuel.

A similar story has been reported in Billings by gas stations which have run out of gasoline because there are no truck drivers available to deliver fuel. With no alternatives to gasoline the gas stations have referred drivers to other gas stations.

Placing greater pressure on the availability of jet fuels is fire suppression efforts in the state for which aircraft has a priority for the fuel. Airlines are responsible for acquiring their own fuel and supplies come from petroleum production in Great Falls, Billings, Utah, and Wyoming. 

Also, placing pressure on gasoline for vehicles is a booming tourism business which is seeing a 40 percent increase over 2019 visitations.

There were no alternatives to fossil fuels last weekend when airlines at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport had to cancel flights due to a shortage of jet fuel.

Multiple flights out of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport were delayed, rescheduled, and canceled due to a fuel shortage. 

Over the weekend, planes were forced to land in neighboring cities and states to fill up their fuel tanks. 

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport Director Brian Sprenger said there is a combination of events that have resulted in the scarce fuel supply. 

“Some of it is the lack of available trucking drivers to haul fuel across the state, limited fuel supply from the projections that were earlier expected and then now we are battling fire suppression season where we have aircrafts that have priority for fuel as well,” Sprenger said. 

Montana’s fuel supply comes from Great Falls, Billings, Utah, and Wyoming and each airline is responsible for their own fuel. 

Sprenger said this summer’s travel is 40% over 2019 numbers for both inbound and outbound passengers. 

For community members flying this summer, it is important to show up early and check your airline website for updates and flight statuses. 

Means Cleans LLC, 1965 Lakehills Dr #1, 304-430-9920, William Means, Service

Dan Wobig, 305 S 12th St W, 591-3617, Dan Wobig, service

Elite Garage Door Service and Repair, 3029 Stillwater Dr, 855-9390, Wes Wagner, service

Trident Construction, 423 Kuhlman Dr, 698-7821, Jeremy Austin, general contractors 

D Kerner Driver Services, 1706 Canary, 894-0743, Doug Kerner, service

Broadwater Lawn Care, 426 1/2 Broadwater Ave, 208-7008, David Carpenter,  service

Garney Companies Inc, 1700 Swift St, Kansas city, MO, 303-791-3600, Joel Heimbuck, general contractors 

La Taqueria, 923 12th Ave, Laurel, 702-0662, Miquel Hernandez, restaurants

Radius Contracting LLC, 3057 W Copper Ridge Loop, 855-0094, Thomas Hester, general contractors 

Huckleberry Hog, 423 Kuhlman Dr, 971-207-7373, Tina Larsen, restaurants

Holden Excavating LLC, 41 Centennial Rd, Columbus, 321-3040, Carson Holden, service

PCL Construction Inc, 1711 W Greentree Dr #201, Tempe, AZ, 602-799-3586, Scott Tweten, general contractors 

Creative Light Wellness, 4152 Iron Horse Trail, 876-3761, Shannon Johnson, service

Emeraldsky Creative, 501 S 44th St W #2310, 272-6205, Johnna Jablonski, retail sales

Guitron Construction LLC, 301 2nd Ave N, Greybull WY, 307-250-1876, Michel Omar/Lopez Guitron, general contractors 

Dragoon, 3920 Decathlon Pkwy, 855-5718, Aiden Hansen, roofing contractors

Susan Diekemper, 510 7th St W, 670-7331, Susan Diekemper, service

Mooer Power Digital Assets, 3238 Turnberry Circle, 939-1735, Brandon Mooer, Misc

Revtech LLC, 3125 Laredo Place, 519-9225, Alex Mares, general contractors 

Elements Massage, 3420 Central Ave, 245-5100, Corina Zackowski, solo practitioner

Duggins Creation Innovations, 2307 lake Elmo Dr, 940-5497, Trenton Duggins, general contractors 

Jagged Edge Yoga, 304 N 29th St, 690-8181, Dodi Hurd, service

BCC Enterprise LLC, 1509 Columbine Dr, 307-751-2883, Chelsea Wiley, service

Montana Dress Co LLC, 2814 2nd Ave N, 969-3777, Barbara Wells, retail sales

Nava Transportation, 143 Broadwater Ave, Sammy Nava, service station

Mt Beach Bum Designs, 304 N 29th St, 690-8181, Dodi Hurd, retail sales

OEM Tech LLC, 1346 Avenue E, 591-8182, Kee Sung Hamblin, service

4DLOCS Shades, 616 1/2 N 24th St, 561-0374, Darius Yellowtail, retail sales

Tracy Construction LLC, 2706 Buffalo Horn Dr, Laurel, 696-9349, general contractors

Dragon Egg Games Billings LLC, 2499 Gabel Rd #4, 702-1241, Fred Mooreier, retail sales

High Noon Vapor LLC, 3202 Henesta Dr Ste K, 839-2191, Daniel Michaelis, retail sales

BW Caring Corporation, 926 Main St Ste 18, Daron Brooker, service

Big Sky Detailing and Cleaning Services, 19 S 28th St, 969-1499, Noah Price, service

Topz Sandwich Co., 320 Main St, 969-1045, Tucker Veltkemp, restaurants

Steady Grinding Coffee House, 2376 Main St, 839-4895, KC Johnson, restaurants

Handcrafted Pride, 3900 Olympic Blvd N104, 200-1258, Emily Sullivan, retail sales

J&J Arborist, 116 Hugh Lillard Ln, Heron MT, 208-610-9014, Joshua Ray, service

Dust Bunny Cleaning, 1212 2nd St W, 200-1386, Keiland Hildebrandt, service

Mammoth Survey Co Inc, 3045 Tamico Dr, 208-4228, Zachary Hassler, service

Out of the Attic, 939 Wicks Ln, 208-5108, Kristie Boelter, retail sales

Custom Contractors Inc, 6830 Pinto Dr, Shepherd, 698-8767, Kevin Wold, general contractors

Austin Construction, 529 Eggebrecht Ln, 591-9806, Austin Specht, general contractors 

Evans Construction and Remodel, 1636 Augsburg Dr, 647-3810, James Evans, general contractors 

The Chariot Group Inc, 3120 Denali St Ste 1, Anchorage AK,  907-222-5300, Denise Thomas, service

Cannoli Bliss, 300 S 24th St W, 307-752-3581, Marissa Logan/Bliss Cannoli, restaurants

Jodie Bierbach, 2120 22nd St W, 697-1594, Jodie Bierbach, solo practitioner

Diamond Willow Creations, 1420 Avenue B, 561-4251, Raven Volkomener, retail sales

Mongrel Makeovers, 234 Alderson Ave, 598-6148, Tonya Oberg, service 

Monkey Rose Boutique LLC, 2120 Constellation Trl, 217-8163, Michaela Leinwand, retail sales

B-Euphoric Coaching LLC, 30 24th St W #201, 794-8385, Bri Burt, service

NO H2O LLC, 919 Lake Elmo Dr, 661-0518, Anna & Mark Yepez, service

Pettus Plumbing and Piping, 12647 Hwy 72 W, Rogerville AL, 256-389-9191, Tony Robertson/Grover Johnson, general contractors 

Ridgeway Esthetics, 2001 Rosebud Dr Ste D, 208-8411, Sara Ridgeway, service

Laurie Neubauer, 142 Avenue B, 661-2965, Laurie Neubauer, service

El Concrete Company, 327 Old Divide Rd, Roundup, 428-8040, Cary Olson, general contractors 

Michael Crowley, 1702 Dickie Rd Trl 5, 861-2810, Michael Crowley, general contractors 

Brothers Billiards, 1442 Main St, 855-0464, Todd Krum, retail sales

Parlour 406, 2701 1st Ave N Ste 200, 534-0647, Sonja Roy, service

Bauer’s Handyman Service, 5 Piccolo Ln, 702-6206, Phillip Bauer, general contractors

Heidi Betz, 127 S 12th St W, 591-0562, Heidi Betz, service

OPA Grill,907 Copper Valley Cir, 794-9771, Nicole Grovijahn & Brandon Raw, Restaurants

All State Sign Group, Inc., 5907 2nd Ave N, Great Falls, 899-1042, Raean Bilbey, service

Second Nature Consulting LLC, 1432 Teton Ave, 850-0461, Neil Kiner, architect

P Thomas Smith Counseling, 320 Nesting Pl, 647-3490, Thomas Smith, service

The Rice Shack, 21 S 26th St, 206-351-3664, Jeremy Eide, restaurants

Big Sky Lumber Import LLC, 3295 Granger Ave E, 861-6189, Vahid Haguerdiev, office only

TDS MetroCom LLC, 2621 Hoffman Ave #3, 608-516-1702, Doug Haselwander, service

Treasure State Air duct Cleaning LLC, 2925 Chapman Ln, 696-3656, William Jaksha, service

Holdem LLC, 3319 Rimrock Rd, 850-4331, Joshua Tolentino, service

Foldem LLC, 3319 Rimrock Rd, 850-4331, Joshua Tolentino, real estate rental

Jo Smith, 2215 Broadwater Ave, 672-3913, Jo Lynne Smith, solo practitioner

Old School Welding, 3032 Saddleback Trl, 690-9068, Joseph & Joseph Jr Malchuski, service

JR Fuller Construction LLC, 204 Foundation Ave, Laurel, 876-0262, Justin Fuller, general contractors 

Circle W Construction, 3950 Belmont Rd, 696-7487, Jeff Wickham, general contractors 

Kostelecky’s Painting Service, 573 Acorn Pl, 661-4272, Brandon Kostelecky, service

S&J Electric Inc, 2780 Fairgrounds Rd, 208-226-2450, Kyann Philips, electrical contractors

Michael Day, 1500 Poly Dr Ste 130, 969-1145, Michael Day, service

A Village Home Care, 100 N 27th St Ste 600-C, 413-8519, Maggie Houston, service

LI’s Foot massage and Foot Soak, 1915 Broadwater Ave, 200-7130, Li Yao, service

Breton Avenir Construction Services Inc, 14724 Pleasant Valley Rd, Chillicothe OH, 614-530-4723, Jeff Butler, general contractors 

Pro Communications LLC, 4513 RD 3 NE, Moses Lake WA, Paul Volkmar, service

The Bow Shop, 10 Miners Place Apt 2, 853-0150, Jarrett Gunther/Ridge Karr, service

Evedone Bookkeeping, 253 Windsor Cir S, 281-3068, Evelyn Amponsah, misc

Bailey & Sons Construction, 1232 Avenue D, 580-414-0083, Kenneth bailey, general contractors 

Backbone Builders, 2156 Pueblo Dr, 413-0724, Kellen Backbone, general contractors 

Masters Massage, 1124 16th St W Ste 6, 534-8760, Tracy Masters, solo practitioner

Educational Furnishings of Arizona LLC, 6913 W Buckeye Rd Ste 200, Phoenix AZ, 602-484-7331, Claudia Sillman, retail sales

Ashely Zubick, 4130 Buchanan Ave, 647-3689, Ashely Zubick, solo practitioner

Top Notch Independent Contractors, 580 Chinook Pl, 696-7703, Devin Miller, general contractors 

Blount Construction and Development Inc, 5646 Hesper Rd, 698-6170, Chris Blount, service 

Griffin Construction, 80 Stringari Ln, Belfry,  698-9550, William Griffin, general contractors 

Extravaganza Cleaning LLC, 4042 Chamberlain Dr, 561-9221, Tina Kester, service

Errol G Seiffert, 2823 6th Ave N 315, 647-4813, Errol Seiffert, service

Campfire Blend Coffee Co, 4152 Iron Horse Trl, 876-3761, Shannon Johnson, retail sales

Yellowstone Park hosted 938,845 recreation visits in June 2021, making it the park’s most-visited June on record. This is a 64% increase from June 2020 (573,205 recreational visits) and a 20% increase from June 2019 (781,853 recreation visits). So far in 2021, Yellowstone Park has hosted 1,587,998 recreation visits, up 17% from 2019. This year is compared to 2019 instead of 2020 because of COVID-19.  This list shows the year-to-date recreation visits thru June over the last few years: 2021 – 1,587,998; 2020 – 719,054; 2019 – 1,358,629; 2018 – 1,381,708; 2017 – 1,354,137; 2016 – 1,432,071

Kalispell City Council is considering a proposal to develop a city parking lot into a five-story hotel. The lot is located at Third St W and Main St. In addition to this proposal the developer could build a three story parking garage at First Avenue and First St W.

Demand for jet fuel by commercial airlines and firefighting aircraft in Montana and the Pacific Northwest led to departure problems and daylong flight delays recently at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. In recent days flights in and out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport were disrupted by jet fuel shortages blamed on the lack of tanker truck drivers.

Jewel Basin Center in Bigfork welcomed hundreds of pickleball players for the 2021 Crown of the Continent Tournament. The USA Pickleball sanctioned event was exclusively for the 50-plus age players. The event drew 243 players from two countries and more than a dozen states.

Justin and Debbie Blagg are the new owners of the Townsend/Canyon Ferry Lake KOA Journey to the KOA Family of Campgrounds. The campground is located at 81 Silos Road in Townsend. It has pull-through sites for recreational vehicles, seven cabins and four tent sites.

Two fly-fishing businesses in Craig have said the hoot-owl restrictions placed on 35 miles of the Missouri River between Holter Dam and Cascade will not impact their business too severely. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has implemented the restrictions in which fishing is not allowed from 2 p.m. to midnight. These restrictions will remain in place until streamflow and water temperature conditions improve.

Whitefish Outfitters has opened a new store on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. The store offers equipment rentals, equipment sales and tours of the greater Whitefish area. Guides at Whitefish Outfitters give tours inside Glacier National Park or to lesser-known destinations outside the park.

Stephen M. Keim, Lt. Col. (Ret.) has been sworn in , as the Montana Selective Service State Director by the Agency’s Region III Director, Steven Kett, Col. (Ret). He was nominated by Governor Greg Gianforte and appointed by Acting Selective Service Director Craig Brown. Currently, Keim is a member of the Montana State University Police Department where he is the Safety and Security Manager for the Museum of the Rockies. Keim is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel from the MTARNG, having 36 years of service.

Rebecca and Kirk Treece are the new owners of Minuteman Press franchise at 2100 South Avenue West in Missoula. They bought the independent printing business Advertiser Montana Printing and are now operating as a Minuteman Press franchise. Minuteman Press in Missoula is located at 2100 South Avenue West.

The Gallatin County Real Estate Market report from the Gallatin Realtors: The number of new listings increased 2.6% in June compared to last year, from 235 to 241. Pending sales were down 27.8%, from 227 to 164. The number of closed sales decreased 3.5% from 170 to 164. The average days on market decreased 57.1%, from 56 to 24. The median sales price increased 53.8%, from $456,325 to $702,000. Sellers received 102.4% of their list price, up from 98.4% last June. The inventory of available homes decreased 42.1%, from 373 to 216, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 48.3%, from 2.9 to 1.5.  

Dümmen Orange presented a check in the amount of $80,000 to Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year, Dümmen Orange teamed up with Yellowstone Forever to sell Yellowstone Petunias at Lowe’s and independent garden centers throughout North America. The special variety of petunias were created by Dümmen Orange to commemorate the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, which was established in 1872. Royalties from the sales of Yellowstone Petunias will support a variety of projects inside Yellowstone’s nearly 3,472 square miles of land.  

Billings Clinic is operating a new helicopter air ambulance service in Bozeman. This is an expansion of the Billings-based fixed wing MedFlight Air Ambulance service and provides an extension of critical lifesaving transportation throughout the region. “Having this service in Bozeman saves critical time for patients who need emergency medical transport to a higher level of care,” said Scott Ellner, DO, Billings Clinic CEO. The helicopter and flight team includes nurses, paramedics and pilots.

The Bureau of Reclamation is conducting an inspection of a fixed wheel gate at Hungry Horse Dam Aug. 2–13. The public may experience potential traffic delays during that time. Hungry Horse Dam is located off Highway 2 in Hungry Horse. “August is typically a busy month for the visitor center and surrounding area,” said Hungry Horse Field Manager Bill Dykes.

In Bozeman, Audrey’s Pizza Oven and Freefall Brewery reopened last week. After three years of renovations, Audrey’s Pizza’s new location is on North Seventh Avenue and West Aspen Street.  Audrey’s Pizza has been a staple in Bozeman since 1960 and Owner Steve Schlegel is thrilled to reopen and with the new Freefall Brewery inside too.  Audrey’s Pizza and Freefall Brewery also have a location in Billings at Rimrock Mall.

According to the National Association of Realtors, foreign buyers purchased $54.4 billion worth of U.S. existing homes from April 2020 through March 2021, a 27% decrease from the previous 12-month period and the fourth consecutive annual decline in foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®. Foreign buyers purchased 107,000 properties, down 31% from the prior year, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a strong global economic contraction and a decline in international tourist and business arrivals. The dollar and sales volumes are the lowest since 2011, when those figures were $66.4 billion and 210,800 properties, respectively. China, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom were the top five countries of origin by U.S. residential sales dollar volume. The annual dollar volume for foreign buyers from China, Canada and Mexico all dropped by at least 50%. The top U.S. destinations for foreign buyers were Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and New York.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport announced that Alaska Airlines will introduce non-stop seasonal service to San Diego and San Francisco, California this winter.. The service will operate daily from December 16, 2021, to April 18, 2022. The new winter service is an expansion of the current existing summer routes at  alaskaair. com with fares starting as low as $89 from Bozeman. 

Dear Senator Tester

At the forefront of our recovery from the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion-plus American jobs Plan. It’s an ambitious proposal meant to create jobs, strengthen infrastructure, and position the U.S. to compete globally – ultimately, putting Americans and our communities back on strong financial footing.

However, there are pieces of the President’s plan that, while well-intentioned, will ultimately prove detrimental to the financial well-being of small businesses and local communities across Montana and the rest of the nation. Specifically, increasing the corporate tax and the Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) rates. Under the tax plan, the Biden Administration has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to a staggering 28% and the GILTI rates from 10.5% to an untenable 21%.

Of course, increasing taxes on America’s largest, multi-national companies is a tried -and-true talking point, but as organizations representing Montana’s bankers, businesses, and contractors, we know that in reality, corporations wouldn’t be the ones paying for these taxes.

Small businesses and their employees who are at the heartbeat of local communities would feel the largest impacts of these tax hikes whether it be via a direct tax or passthrough. In fact, history shows that workers bear between 75% and 100% of a corporate tax hike since it restricts businesses from increasing job growth and wages.

As a fierce advocate for Montana businesses and our economic recovery, it is imperative that you work with your colleagues in Washington to find less harmful solutions than tax hikes that have been proven time and time again to hurt the people they are meant to help. Saddling our businesses with extra tax burdens while attempting an economic recovery does not help get Montana’s workers, families and communities get back to their feet – it only knocks them back down.

Montana needs you to fight for smart policies in Congress – ones that both pull us out of the pandemic and put us on a path to recovery. We hope you will not compromise economic stability and advancement by raising corporate and GILTI taxes.

Cary Hegreberg, President and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association

Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana  Chamber of Commerce

David Smith, Executive Director of the Montana  Contractors Association

Joe Kola has joined Stockman Bank as market president of Stockman’s new bank scheduled for construction next year in Whitefish.  This new bank will be Stockman’s first in the Flathead Valley, and its 37th full-service banking location in Montana. Kola will oversee Stockman’s entrance into the market and supervise all phases of staffing, lending, operations, planning, and development of the Flathead market. 

Kola brings 22 years of banking experience to the position, serving most recently as market president for a multi-state bank in Kalispell. He started his career on the teller line while attending the University of Montana’s School of Business Administration, earning a bachelor’s degree in finance followed by an MBA. After college, he worked as a credit analyst, then as a commercial relationship manager, a commercial group manager, and finally as a market president. He has worked in Missoula, Whitefish, Jackson, Wyoming, and most recently in Kalispell.  Along the way, he attended Pacific Coast Banking School, graduating with honors, and completed Leadership Wyoming (Class of 2015). A Kalispell native, he returned “home” in 2019 from Wyoming.  His wife, Tracy, is also a Kalispell native and their twin boys will attend Glacier High School as freshmen this fall. 

 “We are excited to welcome Joe to the Stockman Bank family,” stated Jeremy Morgret, Chief of Branch Supervision for Stockman Bank. “His experience, and deep-rooted knowledge and understanding the Flathead Valley will be key for us as Stockman enters this new market.”

 “While Stockman already has many customers in the Flathead Valley, we look forward to serving more of our neighbors throughout this beautiful region of our state,” added Bill Coffee, CEO of Stockman Bank. “We will soon have a temporary banking office for Joe and his future team and will begin construction of a new state-of-the-art banking facility in Whitefish next year. We are confident our unique brand of Montana community banking will bring more options and a higher level of customer service to the Flathead Valley.”

The KLJ Solutions Holding Co., parent organization to KLJ Engineering LLC (KLJ), and its Board of Directors has announced Eric Michel, as the organization’s chief executive officer (CEO). Michel fills the gap left by previous CEO Barry Schuchard, who passed away in March of this year. “It’s really an exciting time at KLJ. Eric brings a combination of extensive industry experience and an enthusiasm for growth to this role,” said Dan Bayston, Vice Chair of the KLJ Solutions Holding Co. Board of Directors.  

Michel brings decades of construction, engineering, and leadership experience to the role. In joining the nearly 85-year-old company, he also brings enthusiasm for the firm and the industry, having previously spent time with the company as the Vice President of Energy and Natural Resources. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from North Dakota State University. He will locate out of the company’s Saint Paul, Minn. office.

Janiel Olson recently joined RBC Wealth Management as a Financial Advisor. RBC Wealth Management financial advisors assist individual and corporate clients in selecting appropriate investments including stocks, taxable and tax-exempt bonds, options and mutual funds. They also assist clients with wealth plans, retirement plans and goals-based planning.  Janiel graduated from Montana State University Billings (MSUB) with a Bachelors in Business Management and Masters in Healthcare Administration and was a member of the MSUB basketball team.  Janiel was born and raised in Billings, where she now lives with her husband.