Montana Highlights

  • 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 www.underthebigskyfest.com

    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 www.columbiafallschamber.org.

    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. 

    PrintingForLess.com – 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.

  • Montana Highlights 12-15-21 +

    In Bozeman, Vance Thompson Vision plans to build a new eye care and surgical center. The 38,000 square-foot three-story surgical centers will be located on East Valley Center Drive just north of Costco. Currently, Vance Thompson Vision Bozeman partners with another surgical center to perform cataract, cornea, and glaucoma procedures..

    Year over year Williston and Williams County North Dakota unemployment rate dropped from 10 percent in 2020 to 4.5 percent in October 2021. For the state the rate dropped rom 3.7 percent to 2.3 percent.

    Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital plans to build an affordable workforce housing development for their employees to help mitigate the cost of housing in Bozeman which is unaffordable for many. Bozeman Health has partnered with ERES Capital to build the housing project in Belgrade next to the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport. Bozeman Health said they have been investing a large amount of money into the project and patients will not see any financial impacts on their health bills. Construction for the new housing units are set to begin this spring and the project is will be completed by 2023. Bozeman Health is hiring for 500 open job positions, for which they have raised the minimum wage to $17 a hour.

    The Butte Rescue Mission recently secured a $700,000 grant from the state to transform the old warehouse next to the mission at 610 East Platinum St. into a fully operational kitchen and dining space to provide occupants with more indoor eating options. The warehouse may provide room for extra cots as well.

    The Williston, North Dakota is building a new $20 million Career and Technical Education project. The CTE building will be able to accommodate over 400 students in numerous programs to get them career ready upon graduating from Williston High School.

  • Montana Highlights 11-15-21 +

    On November 5, 2021 a Montana woman became the first National Guard Soldier to graduate from the U.S. Army Sniper Course. The woman, a Montana native who has not been publicly identified, began the U.S. Army Sniper Course in September of this year 2021. This seven-week course trains individuals assigned to sniper positions in the skills necessary to deliver long-range precision fire and the collection of battlefield information.

    Whitefish City Council denied a proposed hotel project by Rimrock company on U.S. 93 South. At the same meeting the Commission approved a 40- suite boutique hotel planned for 38 Central downtown. The Central Ave project will be developed by Averill Hospitality. The developer plans to donate $500,000 to the Whitefish Housing Authority for workforce housing.

    The Idaho State Liquor Division last month announced new rules involving rare but highly sought after bourbons, whiskeys and other small-batch liquor offerings. Instances of hoarding, illegal reselling and bad behavior by customers have caused the state agency that sells alcohol in Idaho to change how it distributes rare spirits. The new rules mean the agency will allocate rare products across its retail outlets in a sporadic manner.

    Great Falls city commissioners have voted to accept a $20,472,200 bid from Swank Enterprises, Inc. of Valier to build a new public recreation and aquatics center at Lion’s Park. With an anticipated completion date of sometime in 2023, the new aquatics center is set to include both a lap pool and a leisure pool with a slide.An indoor gym complete with an overhead running track, a multi-purpose room for gatherings and parties, men’s and women’s locker rooms, plus a child care center.

    Credova Financial, a buy now, pay later company, from Nevada is a company that offers the ability for consumers to make a purchase and pay it off later, has moved its headquarters to Bozeman. Credova’s financing system is available across several online retailers, such as Hinterland Outfitters or Guns.com, as well as some brick-and-mortar stores. The program is not available at any Montana stores. Credova’s headquarters will be in the 68,000-square-foot Aspen Crossing building at 515 W. Aspen St.

    A7 Cycles, from Whitefish, is named for Alpine Trail No. 7, a rugged 50-mile route across the ridgeline of the Swan Mountains. The new bike repair shop embodies the backcountry character of its founder’s, Travis Coleman, favorite trail. Travis, and his partner Lynn Foster work on bikes in a garage near Whitefish. A7 CYCLES offers the standard suite of bike tune-ups and maintenance for both private individuals and outfitter bike fleets.

    Company officials told investors in its third-quarter earnings call that Continental’s $3.2 billion entry into the Permian Basin does not reflect a lack of horsepower in the Bakken. According to Continental’s President and Chief Operating Officer Jack Stark the Bakken continues to consistently deliver some of the company’s best wells. Those kinds of results are why Continental has chosen to build a dominant position in the Bakken, and expects to remain active there for years to come.

    CEO, Chris Wright has been chosen the keynote speaker for the annual Williston Basin Petroleum Awards Banquet, set for November 19, 2021 at Williston State College. Those attending the awards banquet will get to hear a lot more about Wright’s vision of the oil and gas industry’s future. He believes the industry not only will, but, in fact, must, continue to play a vital role when it comes to the environment, social, and governance factors. As Wright sees it, there are really three big energy challenges today. They are energy poverty, affordable energy, and climate change.

    Hatlen and Brian Jones, recently started Valley Wide Restaurant Supply in Kalispell. Valley Wide Restaurant Supply sells everything needed in a restaurant. Valley Wide Restaurant Supply is located at 2 Ninth Ave. W., Kalispell.

    KLJ Engineering LLC has received the 2022 Engineering Excellence Award from the Montana Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies for its work on the Kalispell Core and Rail Redevelopment project. This project converted a reclaimed gravel pit (brownfield) into the new Glacier Rail Park, a rail-served industrial park. The second phase of the project is replacement of the old tracks running through the city with a 1.6-mile linear park and trail along with a new north-south street.

    Flathead County Fair Board Chairman Sam Nunnally has been hired as the new manager of the county fairgrounds. Current manager Mark Campbell retired as of November 29. Nunnally comes to the position with in-depth knowledge about the management and operations of the fairgrounds, as he has served on the Fair Board since 2011. The venue has 500 event days and 200,000 visitors annually.

    Williston ND was invited to a Workhorse Aerospace demonstration on November 9, at the former Sloulin Field International Airport hangar, to witness demonstrations of package deliveries by Horsefly a product of Workhorse Aerospace, a division of Workhorse Technologies in Loveland, Ohio. Workhorse is being designed and working towards FAA type certification of HorseFly, a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS). The primary mission for the HorseFly UAS is small package delivery, focusing on the market for 10 lbs. delivered up to 10-miles. The demonstration delivered various packages, dropping them at a nearby location and returning to the launch point.

    Nick Bennett of Manhattan, recently won the 2021 National Auctioneers Association International Auctioneer Championship. Bennett is the CEO of Ascent Auction Services in Manhattan, selling agricultural and construction equipment, real estate and business assets across Montana. He has also served as President of the Western College of Auctioneering since 2013 and is a Board Member for the Montana Auctioneers Association.

    The Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Committee presented a check for $5500 to the Montana Food Bank Network on November 9 in Billings. The luncheon was part of the 102nd MFBF Annual Convention being held November 8-11. The donation came from proceeds raised during the virtual YF&R Hoofin’ it for Hunger race October 9 and from donations by county Farm Bureaus from across the state.

    North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven dropped in on the construction progress for WBI Energy’s North Bakken Expansion pipeline, which has been underway since July. The pipeline will transport up to 250 million cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Bakken. It’s a $260 million project that includes 63 miles of 24-inch pipeline and 30 miles of 12-inch, along with a compressor station and associated infrastructure.

    North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted almost 75,000 airline passenger boardings during the month of September 2021. This is a 90% increase from September 2020 but is still 16% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic airline boarding counts. While enplanements are rising, known challenges exist such as an inability to add additional flights due to staff shortages and the sluggish business and government travel due to persisting COVID-19 concerns.

    The North Dakota Development Fund has approved initial support for Cerilon Inc. to develop a major gas-to-liquids (GTL) complex in North Dakota, with the initial phase estimated at $2.8 billion. Cerilon GTL is building a gas to liquids plant in Trenton. The Development Fund Board approved $3 million in initial developmental capital to Cerilon GTL Inc., a subsidiary of Calgary, Albert-based Cerilon Inc., for the GTL complex, with further financial support anticipated. 

  • Montana Highlights 09-15-21 +

    Makoshika State Park is experiencing increased visitation, according to the Montana State Park Midyear Visitation Report. According to the visitation report, Makoshika had a total of 72,650 visitors by the end of the second quarter of the year, an increase of about 24% over the same period in 2020. This is the first year the park has had a functioning water line for visitors to use.

    The Women’s Business Center at Prospera Network and the Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership Lab received $240,000 and $125,000 respectively from Wells Fargo Bank. MoFi, a nonprofit lender, received a grant of $2.1 million earlier in the year. Wells Fargo has gifted almost $5 million in grant money to nonprofits in Montana over the past three years. The money given to the Women’s Business Center is will be used for the creation of a mentoring program. The Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership Lab funds will help address issues women face when starting a business. MoFi’s grant money has been put toward lending for businesses affected by the pandemic.

    Ceres Bakery, owned by Hannah Bjornson and her husband Rick Grimm expanded in June by creating an indoor seating area. Ceres opened 15 years ago at 318 Main St, Kalispell. They plan to expand the menu to match the square feet expansion.

    Last Call Modern Mexican, at 19 S. Willson Avenue, Bozeman, opened in July with an Baja- Style menu. Luis Valdovinos, the chef and owner has moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The grand opening is planned for September. The recipes reflect food he grew up eating and dishes he makes for himself at home.

    The Kalispell City Council recently approved two development projects. The first was a recommendation to build a boutique hotel at the Third Street West and Main Street. The second was a conditional-use permit to build above the historic grain silos located at 505 W. Center St. These are two steps toward the current council’s goal of revitalizing downtown Kalispell.

    The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority held an in-person conference in Lewistown recently  where discussions were held about what needs to be done to rebuild and maintain a passenger rail route through the southern tier of Montana.

    The Bureau of Land Management has announced it will begin a process that will allow cancelled lease sales to be posted late this year. The framework outlined by the Bureau of Land Management includes a 30-day scoping period that will take into account comments received, ending on Oct. 1. After that, BLM will do an environmental review of the parcels for potential leasing and provide another opportunity for public comment. Following the environmental review, available parcels will be identified, along with applicable stipulations, for yet more public comment. The release states that the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office anticipates publishing a Notice of Competitive Lease Sale later this year. The slow-walk outlined by the BLM is intended to comply with a Louisiana District Court order that said the Biden administration could not simply cancel quarterly lease sales

    .

    A Japanese delegation is touring oilfield sites in Dickinson and visiting Medora today as part of a discussion of future investment opportunities in the state’s carbon capture and utilization goals. The delegation is interested in the continued growth and potential for carbon capture, storage and utilization in North Dakota, as well as enhanced oil recovery, use of carbon in agriculture, and the state’s hydrogen hub. Included in the discussions were several Japanese companies focused on energy.

    The U.S. Forest Service is poised to begin a massive forestry project that aims to improve habitat and reduce fuels for communities in the Swan Valley. The Mid-Swan Landscape Restoration and Wildland Urban Interface Project would cover more than 174,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest around Condon and Swan Lake. The project could last up to 15 years. The Project area is home to grizzly bears, bull trout and Canada lynx, all of which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

    Madisen and Kyle Duty, owners of Huck’s Place at 217 Central Ave in Whitefish. Huck’s is billed as a ginger brew and juice bar. The Duty’s make their own beverages using plant-based ingredients such as ginger, turmeric and kale. Ginger brew is a combination of ginger, lemon, vanilla, cane sugar and water.

     Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle & Guest Ranch is the 2021 recipient of the Montana Leopold Conservation Award.  Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management. Sand County Foundation and American Farmland Trust present the award in Montana with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Rangeland Resources Committee. Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle & Guest Ranch, located near Townsend, is owned by the Flynn family. The late Kelly Flynn, who served in the Montana Legislature from 2010 to 2018, passed away earlier this year. The ranch is operated by his wife Jill Flynn and the families of their daughters, Shannon and Siobhan. The family receives $10,000 and a crystal award. Last year’s award recipient was C Lazy J Livestock, owned by Craig and Conni French of Malta in Phillips County. Bill and Dana Milton of Roundup in Musselshell County were the first recipients in 2019.

    The Montana Department of Transportation announced a proposal to gravel overlay about 11.5 miles of Secondary Highway 381, southwest of Roundup in Musselshell County. Proposed work includes applying a new gravel overlay and updating signage. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022.

    The Carroll Companies announced the addition of Will Peete to their Land Acquisitions Team. Peete is a JD/MBA with over 15 years of local, national, & international experience in real property, natural resources, community building, land management, and energy sectors. He grew up in North Carolina, but spent most of his career in the Rocky Mountains.  He studied at Montana State University, North Carolina State University, and Wake Forest University. Peete has over 10 years of experience with real estate due diligence, property acquisition, and management. Founded and headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, more than 30 years ago, The Carroll Companies has since grown strategically and diversified into a real estate conglomerate specializing in land development, construction, ownership, hospitality, management and publication with a total estimated valuation of over $3 billion.

    California officials have agreed to pay $800,000 in prevailing-party attorneys’ fees to a popular Christian megachurch in Los Angeles after state and federal courts in California issued permanent injunctions barring government officials there from ever again imposing discriminatory restrictions on houses of worship.

    This is the first year Gallatin Ice is setting up for a year-round ice rink. The first seasonal ice rink in Bozeman was founded over 40 years ago and due to the Bozeman ice community and youth programs expanding Gallatin Ice needed to campaign for a year-long ice rink, which had previously only be operational for six months a year. Gallatin Ice started a campaign where the non-profit was able to achieve half of their necessary funds to build a year-round rink. The Bozeman ice rink offers recreational hockey, live hockey, ice skating, figure skating, curling and clinics, and more.

  • Montana Highlights 09-01-21 +

    The Idaho Conservation League and the Endangered Species Coalition have asked federal officials to do a status review that could lead to relisting wolves under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho. Both states’ management of wolves has been under federal oversight for five years after wolves were delisted a decade ago. The groups claim that oversight needs to be reinstated because the previous five-year monitoring period has been demonstrated to be inadequate. The groups said the changes in wolf hunting laws pose such a serious threat to wolf populations that they trigger a status review requirement as outlined in a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Dorio’s, an Italian restaurant, has opened on California Avenue in Libby. They are currently serving lunch with plans to begin dinner service soon. Phone is 406-200-3193

    Montana’s state parks have recorded more than 1.57 million visitors thru June 2021. This is an  11% increase over the same period last year and a 44% increase over the same period in 2019, according to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Twenty-seven of the 45 state parks that were open from the start of January through the end of June reported increases in visitation over the same period in 2020. More than half of all visitations occurred in Region 1, headquartered in Kalispell, and Region 4, headquartered in Great Falls.

    U.S. Minerals, Inc., admitted recently to violating the Clean Air Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. Minerals has agreed to settle a related civil case regarding violations brought by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). U.S. Minerals pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment, a misdemeanor, under the Clean Air Act. Under the terms of a plea agreement in the criminal case, the government and U.S. Minerals will recommend to the Court that the company be placed on probation for five years and pay a $393,200 fine.

     According to data from the 2020 Census, Montana is changing demographically. Overall the state’s population grew about 10% with 38 counties showing some growth over the past decade. Gallatin County added the most new residents with 29,447 or 33%. Rosebud County lost the most residents with 904 fewer residents than in the 2010 Census. Percentage wise, Liberty County showed the steepest drop in population with a loss of 16% over 10 years. The percentage of white people dropped one percent to 91% of the state’s population. American Indian/Alaskan Native is the largest minority at 9%. The number of Hispanic residents grew by one percent moving up from 3% to 4%.

    Sweet Retreat Creamery has opened in Columbia Falls at 734 Ninth St. W. Sweet Retreat is open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

    Starbucks coffee shop has opened at the Glacier Basecamp Lodge in Columbia Falls. The new Starbucks will be in the front of the lodge close to the intersection of U.S. 2 and Montana 206. The lodge is a 7-acre property with lodging options there include kitchenettes, family suites and recreational vehicle sites.

    At the end of 2020, the average home sale was $352,234 in the Helena market. There were 1,050 homes sold in 2020 with the average days on market being 10. In July of 2019, there were 204 homes for sale in the Helena market – in July of 2021, there were 67 homes for sale.

    Aug. 16, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced new fishing closures along the Big Hole River in the areas between Dickie Bridge and North Fork. These closures, related to the low volume of waterflow, will remain in effect until Oct. 31, or until FWP says otherwise

    The Montana Community Foundation (MCF) announced the addition of two key staff members located in Billings and Havre. Heather Ohs and Jim Bennett join MCF as Philanthropy Officers. They will work with donors and professional advisors to achieve their charitable goals through estate giving and planned giving. Ohs lives in Billings and has more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Bennett lives in Havre and has extensive knowledge of relationship management, fund development, and donor stewardship. Jim was most recently the Relationship Manager at Northwest Farm Credit Services.

    Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOA) and Peak Wellness Center (PWC) have officially joined forces through a merger. The combined organization served more than 15,000 individuals across Wyoming, Montana and Western South Dakota last year.  On September 8, from 12- 1:30 pm Volunteers of America will host a luncheon to celebrate the merger. The Honorable Mark Gordon, Governor of Wyoming, will deliver the keynote address and other speakers will include Jeff Holsinger, CEO of Volunteers of America Northern Rockies and Mike King, National CEO of Volunteers of America Inc.  

    On average, single family homes in Gallatin County sold in less than a month during July. Last month also marked the fifth consecutive month in which sellers received more than 100% of their list price in both the single family and condo/townhome markets. The number of new listings decreased 6.4% in July compared to last year, from 219 to 205. Pending sales decreased 27.2%, from 243 to 177. The number of closed sales decreased 37.7%, from 231 to 144. The average days on market decreased 46.8%, from 47 to 25. The median sales price increased 42.1%, from $489,000 to $695,000. Sellers received 100.9% of their list price, up from 99.2% last July. The inventory of available homes decreased 28.6%, from 318 to 227, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 30.4%, from 2.3 to 1.6.  

    Montana Public Radio has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust to expand news coverage across western and central Montana over the next two years. MTPR will soon add news reporters in Butte and Great Falls.

    The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced the appointment of Ryan Lankford to serve on the FSA state committee in Montana which oversees the delivery of FSA federal farm programs to the state’s agricultural producers. Members of the FSA state committee are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and are responsible for the oversight of farm programs and county committee operations. Lankford, of Chinook, produces conventional and certified organic small grain, pulse and seed crops. 

    Northern Ag Network reports: The Rosebud County Cattlewomen have established an account for cash donations to be given to ranchers affected by the Richard Spring, Rough Draw and Slough Grass fires. In one of the worst fire years on record for Montana, over 2,000 fires have burned more than half a million acres and continue to burn. The Richard Spring fire in Rosebud County has burned 170,000 acres as of this writing).

    American Prairie, an organization that is acquiring and collaboratively-managing prairie lands in Montana to establish an ecosystem for wildlife, has increased its enrollment of thousands of acres in the in the Block Management hunter access program managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The organization claims that the move boosts property open to hunters.20 people have drawn a bison permits for a bison hunt and 18 drew permits or elk on the Blue Ridge property. Landowners enrolling in the Block Management program receive limited liability protection, livestock loss reimbursement, and compensation (up to $25,000) to offset potential public hunting impacts.

     Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC), a health information exchange (HIE), is partnering with Health Catalyst Inc. (HCAT), a provider of data and analytics technology and services to healthcare organizations, to provide clinicians throughout Montana access to Health Catalyst’s technology and services to advance data-informed healthcare improvement throughout the state. Before the go-live launch of BSCC in 2020, Montana was just one of two states in the U.S. without a state-designated HIE, a system for improving patient health through sophisticated information technology. BSCC feeds data from healthcare providers across the state into a centralized digital network which serves as a real-time information portal for participating providers, patients and payors in Montana. Healthcare organizations of all types throughout Montana can participate in the network.

  • Montana Highlights August 15, 2021 +

    The Department of Transportation wants to move the rest area near Bozeman to Three Forks to a site near Wheat Montana. Residents of the area, however, are objecting to the plan based upon fears that rest areas become magnets for crime, which will impact the residential community. MDT said the purpose of the rest area, which will be double the size of the current rest area, is to offer a safe place for travelers to stop during harsh weather and road closures. Construction would start at the end of this summer.

    Officials at the Sidney-Richland Airport are in the beginning stages of expanding their terminal, including giving more space for TSA agents during screening and baggage claim. The airport is considered a primary airport with over 10,000 enplanements a year, which qualifies it for $1 million in federal funding.  Since the pandemic the airport has been at about 78 percent of capacity.

    Montana State University is suggesting vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students wear a mask indoors on campus due to the rise in the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. The university emailed all students about a new vaccine incentive program during the fall which would give prizes each week to fully vaccinated students.

    Sun Country Airlines, based in Minnesota, will begin flights between Williston and Las Vegas beginning Sept. 2.

    The Montana Scene is a lifestyle clothing and apparel company in Bigfork, owned by Melissa Bonnet and her husband, Sean. It opened in 2010 known as Bear Food Inc., a giftshop and deli, but was rebranded in 2014 to The Montana Scene a clothing company that shares their love for the great state of Montana. Thanks in-part to the popularity of their designs and a strong web-presence, the Montana Scene has since grown to multiple storefront retail locations in Missoula, Whitefish, Bozeman, Kalispell, including children’s boutique, and a new micro-retail concept store.

    The XWA AIR SHOW is coming Saturday, September 11 from 7 a.m-12 p.m. at the Overland Aviation tarmac in Williston, ND. It is being sponsored by the city. (barbp@ci.williston.nd.us)

    Billings Clinic’s 140,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in Bozeman in the late spring of 2022. The plan for the center includes a multispecialty physician group practice, urgent care and an outpatient surgical center. The facility will employ more than 250 people in Bozeman, including more than 50 providers. Three of those new physicians have already arrived and are seeing patients. By Sept. 1, 10 more physicians will arrive and begin practicing in Bozeman in the specialties of OBGYN, family medicine, internal medicine, urology, radiology and ophthalmology. Because these physicians are ready to start practicing right away and due to the growing need for more health care services, temporary onsite clinic space will be available for patient care beginning on Sept. 1 and continuing in construction of the full facility is complete.

    Many people in Bozeman are being forced to live in RV’s due to the high demand for housing in Bozeman. Others have been forced to turn their homes into rentals. Many Bozeman homeowners are selling their houses and moving to lower priced markets in the state. The Human Resource Development Council in Bozeman said they are currently working with over 35 different campers to help those people in need. The agency said that the number of people without stable housing in Bozeman has doubled over the past year.

    The U.S. trade deficit increased to a record $75.7 billion in June. The Commerce Department reported that the deficit rose 6.7% from a revised May deficit of $71 billion. The June deficit set a record, topping the old mark of $75 billion set in March. The trade deficit represents the gap between what the country exports to the rest of the world and what it purchases from other countries.

    Plastic Design and Manufacturing, or PDM, a plastic manufacturing company Manhattan, is nearly doubling the size of its factory. A custom injection molding company, PDM plans a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its building and expects the addition to be completed by October. The company makes custom injection-molded plastics, ranging from the plastic tops on Werner ladders to dog food bowls and other pet products. The company also has a factory in Juarez, Mexico.

    The Huckleberry Children’s Boutique held a ribbon cutting and grand opening on July 31 in Sidney. Huckleberry will fill the need for clothing and accessories for babies and new mothers in the Sidney area. Huckleberry Children’s Boutique is located at The Shoppes at Pifers General Store building, 141 7th St. SW. 

    Zach and Kate Whipple-Kilmer have opened Limberlost Brewing Co. is open in Thompson Falls. The brewery is full of local historical items and material. The brewery is located at 1017 Main St, Thompson Falls.

    The city of Missoula has agreed to buy a 21-unit apartment building that provides affordable housing for people living with mental illness or disabilities. The apartment building was built in 1998 with public funds. It was put on the market for over $2 million. The City of Missoula will be purchasing the building through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

    The City of Kalispell is breaking records for water usage as the heat and drought continue. Kalispell’s water demand has reached up to 12.4 million gallons in a single 24-hour period; last year’s daily record was 11.51 million gallons.

    Visitation to Montana parks has increased 11.1% over 2020 and 44.1% over 2019, according to data provided by the University of Montana’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research. In 2019, out-of-state guests brought in $3.76 billion in revenue, and even with the travel challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw $3.15 billion of revenue. The Helena City Commissioners voted to amend the conditional use permit (CUP) for Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC, better known as Helena Chemical. The amendment will allow the company to periodically store anhydrous

  • Montana Highlights August 1, 2021 +

    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.