Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights August 15, 2023 +

    Whitefish Westside Market, most recently a gas station and market in the west side of Whitefish, has undergone a major renovation of purpose and owner ship. The new owners, Bill and Sharon Kahle along with partner Joe Hess have added hundreds of new items and services.

    Officials at Glacier National Park are proposing fee rate changes to most front country campgrounds in 2024. Front country campgrounds are accessible by car or RV. According to a release from park officials, the proposed rates for campsites would increase between $3 and $10, depending on the type of site. Some group sites could potentially increase up to $30. Public comments on the proposed fee increases will be accepted through Sept. 8.

    The Kalispell City Council has considered a new downtown banner policy. Under the proposed policy, banners flying over the Parkline Trail and downtown streets should advertise events sponsored by the city or the associated business improvement districts and “highlight activities, general messaging or seasonal displays occurring in or around the city of Kalispell.

    Bitterroot National Forest has approved the Gold Butterfly Project. The Gold Butterfly Project is a vegetation management and fuels reduction project in the Sapphire Mountains east of Corvallis. The Gold Butterfly Project is designed to, improve forest resilience to insects, and diseases;  improve water quality and bull trout habitat; manage timber to provide forest products, jobs, and income to local communities. 

    Soma-Dis Deli, in Glascow, celebrates 25 years of business this year. Hope Jones-Farr, who was one of the original owners, alongside her husband Kevin Farr, sold the Deli in 2022 to Kyle Bilger. The deli opened on June 8, 1998.

    The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority has opened its 30 day public hearing for its $231,128 fiscal year 2023-24 preliminary budget. This budget is 48% below last year’s adopted FY23 budget.

    As reported by the Daily Montanan  the residential electricc customers of Montana-Dakota Utilities will be paying nearly $100 a year more in electric rates. The Montana Public Service Commission  voted 3-2 to approve the rate increases. Commissioners Pinocci and O’Donnell in voted opposition.

    The Montana Department of Transportation has closed the Interstate 15 Wolf Creek Interchange (Exit 226) southbound on-ramp from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., weather and other factors permitting. To access I-15 southbound from Wolf Creek, take Recreation Road south to Exit 219. Construction began this spring to refurbish 7 miles of I-15 through Wolf Creek.

     A century ago thousands of Ukranians migrated to North Dakota, as they are doing now. Arriving this month to work in the oilfields were 16 Ukranians who are part of a trade group’s pilot effort through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian program to recruit refugees and migrants during a workforce shortage. Twelve more Ukrainians are scheduled to arrive by Aug. 15 as part of the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Bakken Global Recruitment of Oilfield Workers program. Some workers want to bring their families to North Dakota while others hope to return to Ukraine. Workforce issues in North Dakota have become “very acute” in the last 10 months. There are roughly 2,500 jobs available in an oil field producing about 1.1 million barrels per day.

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Montana announced that Akilah Maya Deernose, J.D. will lead the organization as its next Executive Director. 

    The Rocky Boy Health Center (RBHC) broke  ground on their new Youth Wellness Center on August 3. The project has been named the My Pimtisiwinkamik Youth Center, or My for short. The preliminary program for the My includes a 25,000sf to 30,000sf building with offices, exam rooms, multi-purpose classrooms, commercial kitchen and cafeteria, gymnasium sized for two basketball courts without bleachers, fitness instruction room, open gathering/ flex space, and much more.

    The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Board of Directors announced it has selected Fred Bahnson to lead the organization.  NCAT was created in the 1970s in response to concerns about a possible energy crisis and an effort to build more sustainable energy sources. With staff in 12 states, NCAT is headquartered in Butte. Bahnson is the founding director of two environmental non-profits. In 2005 he co-founded and directed a congregation-supported agriculture project in North Carolina, and in 2012 he founded the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

    DiamondRock Hospitality Company has purchased Chico Hot Springs Resort in the Paradise Valley for $33 million. Chico, a historic landmark and popular get-away for Montanans, is a 117-room resort on a 748 acres ranch at the base of Emigrant Peak, near the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. DiamondRock is a Maryland-based hospitality company that owns 35 hotels and resorts in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Chico Hot Springs Resort was founded in 1900 run by William and Percie Knowles as the Chico Warm Springs Hotel.

    Governor Greg Gianforte appointed Sarah Swanson to head the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). Swanson has served as the Director of Strategic Engagement for DLI. Swanson served as an owner and General Manager for Farm Equipment Sales, Inc., a four-store John Deere dealer organization headquartered in northeast Montana.

    Williston State College in North Dakota has announced plans to build a state-of-the-art healthcare training facility. Health care professionals will be needed with the news that Sanford Health is planning to bring a clinic and hospital to Williston. It was noted that there is a workforce shortage in the healthcare industry throughout northwest North Dakota and northeast Montana.

    The North Dakota Industrial Commission approved $6.3 million in Outdoor Heritage Fund and Renewable Energy Program matching grants. Both programs are funded solely by oil and gas production tax revenue. The Outdoor Heritage Fund was established in 2013 to provide grants for projects that enhance outdoor conservation practices in the state. The Renewable Energy Program was established in 2007 to promote research and utilization of North Dakota’s renewable energy resources, including advanced biofuels.

  • Montana Highlights August 1, 2023 +

    The Milwaukee Bridge west of Terry has been ordered closed immediately by the Montana Department of Transportation as the deteriorating deck conditions have been deemed a significant hazard for public safety. The sudden closure has left a lot of questions both for people who use the bridge to reach the other side of the Yellowstone River. The Prairie County commissioners declared the main concern is finding a way to get the bridge reopened. Several people who operate agriculture land on the other side of the river, reminded the Commissioners that the use of the bridge will increase greatly when harvest and cattle roundup arrive.

    Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is advising anglers that portions of the Beaverhead River, Bitterroot River and the entire Jefferson River are closed to fishing daily from 2 p.m. to midnight. The hoot-owl restrictions are issued for: Jefferson River – from the Missouri River to the confluence of the Big Hole River and Beaverhead River, Beaverhead River –from the confluence of the Big Hole River to Anderson Lane. Bitterroot River – from Veterans Bridge at Hamilton to the confluence of the East and West Forks Bitterroot River

    The Break Room, a beer and wine bar on West College Street near 11th Avenue, in Bozeman, opened recently. The menu features 10 draft beers, four draft wines, an old-school soda fountain, and bar comfort food including pasties, nachos and beer brats. The lounge was opened by Seth Cooper and Cassie Colombo, who owns Colombo’s Pizza.

    The Richland County Sports Complex has a new home in Sidney. It was relocated from the cattle barn at the Richland County Fairgrounds to the Cenex-Western Choice. The official opening date is August 7. The sports complex is used for baseball and softball practices year round.

    A group of business organizations in Kalispell are raising funds to pay for private security guards to patrol the downtown area of the City in an effort to deter vagrancy, plus customer and employee safety. The guards would protect business interests and connect people in the midst of mental health or addiction issues with social service providers. A notice being circulated describes the business groups are exploring ways to redirect funds that might be given to panhandlers to fund the community patrol efforts and additional homeless outreach.

    Paddle Board Outfitters in Somers has grown from a modest start renting out paddle boards to a into a full-service paddle board, kayak, wave runner, and boat rental business. N Owner, Chris Hogan, began the company seven years ago.

    Yellowstone National Park hosted 847,864 recreation visits in June 2023. This is a 61% increase from June 2022, the month of the historic flood (525,363 recreational visits), and an 8% increase from June 2019 (781,853 recreation visits). Thus far in 2023, the park has hosted 1,493,510 recreation visits, up 19% from 2022 (1,258,834 recreation visits), and up 10% from 2019 (1,358,629 recreation visits).

    406 Cakes and Cravings, of Polson, opened recently and is owned by Aurora Doll.

    The Big Hole River is experiencing a large algal bloom. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has taken water quality samples and expects to have results back by the end of August. A visual assessment of algae growth reports moderate to high growth from Melrose to Glen.

    Butte Central Catholic Schools has introduced Denise Chrest as its new high school principal. A Butte native, Chrest has been the superintendent and K-12 principal in Moore for the last 13 years. Chrest replaces J.P. Williams, who was principal of the high school from 2018-2022. 

    New federal oil and gas leasing rules proposed by BLM would have a negative effect on Montana’s marginal oil plays. The long-anticipated rules changes announced recently include a cleanup bond of $150,000 per well, up from $10,000 per well. Conservationists and the petroleum lobby say the higher bonding amount would hamper leasing in low-probability areas, which is make up most of Montana oil opportunities.

    Montana native Jared Swarthout, is the current owner of Ping-A-T Lures, a company originally started in the late 1960s by his late grandfather, Gerry Swarthout, in Pinckney, Michigan, a city west of Detroit. Grandfather Gerry received a patent for the unique, self-righting lures in 1971 after perfecting its design. The lure is designed to flip upside down the faster an angler reels a line in order to better prevent snags under the water. The company is now located in Fallon

    The Gallatin Association of Realtors recently named Cindi Siggs as its new Chief Executive Officer following a nationwide search. Siggs previously worked with the Realtors of South Central Kansas (RSCK) and the Kansas Auctioneers Association.

    The Museums Association of Montana (MAM) announced the retirement of Executive Director Deb Mitchell after 16 years of service. Coinciding with her retirement, Mitchell has accepted a new position as the Executive Director of WorldMontana. Mitchell also retired from the Montana Historical Society eafter 23 years of service.

    Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte wants the federal government to declare natural disaster areas in 11 counties due to drought. With unusually low snowpack and hot, dry conditions in northwest Montana. The 11 counties are Flathead, Lincoln, Glacier, Toole, Sanders, Lake, Pondera, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sheridan counties.

    In North Dakota, Vertipads Inc. is constructing the ground infrastructure needed for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to drop off and deliver packages beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The company is designing two vertiports to service drones used for package deliveries. Vertipads will utilize Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide UAS network, to fly BVLOS. Vantis provides the ground infrastructure for UAS, such as radar, air traffic control, and operations centers.

    The North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) is bringing its annual meeting back to Watford City September 19-21.

  • Montana Highlights July 15, 2023 +

    Five years ago, Flathead Valley United began planning  to develope an indoor training facility. The land purchase was finalized in 2021 and the soccer club is moving forward with development. The planned 16,800-square-foot indoor sporting facility will be located in Evergreen, where it will be located next to Evergreen Middle School. The indoor facility space will be maximized to allow for a 7v7 or 9v9 field, with a mezzanine seating area.

    Owner Kyle Pemberton formed the idea of Man of the Woods after making house calls to cut clients’ hair. The mobile barbershop, Man of the Woods, is the first in the state of Montana. This year, they cut hair in temperatures as low as 30 below zero. Man of the Woods operates seven days a week in Big Sky and around Bozeman

    “The Amenity Trap: How high-amenity communities can avoid being loved to death,” focuses on four broad categories in which tourism destinations increasingly struggle: housing, infrastructure and public services, fiscal policy, and natural disasters. The report was produced by Headwaters Economics of Bozeman. The report examines how increasing levels of outdoor-recreation tourism can become stressors in those areas, and how some communities have addressed the challenges .

    Wade Fellin  is owner of the Big Hole Lodge in Wise River Montana and fishing guide. For years, trout in the Big Hole and other area rivers have seen population declines, with some sections reporting less than 1,000 trout per mile. The declines prompted Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to issue emergency angling restrictions on the Big Hole, Ruby, and Beaverhead Rivers this June. FWP has acknowledged that low stream flows and high-water temperatures are stressing fish to the point of population decline. Fellin and other Montana anglers and outfitting businesses created the Save Wild Trout Campaign this June. The campaign aims to raise at least $500,000 in its first year to hire a team of private and independent scientists to study the fish declines.

    The Bookshelf in downtown Kalispell was purchased by Stephanie Pius in June of this year. When Stephanie, a lover of books herself, bought the business on Main Street, she said it never occurred to change the store away from a bookstore. Pius looks forward to making the store her own .

    The Gaul family recently began a “glamping” business.Bridger and Annie Gaul, have opened a luxurious form of camping on property they own on Flathead River near Paradise.

    A long-awaited grant of $30.5 million for a road construction project on U.S. Highway 93 south of Ninepipe Reservoir in the Mission Valley has gained momentum. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will receive the funding as part of a larger pot of $130.5 million disbursed by the Federal Highway Administration. The 3 mile project includes a multi-span bridge over Post Creek with an uphill passing lane, and a multi-use bike and walking path. It will also include infrastructure to reduce wildlife collisions and other safety improvements         .

    The Missoula Urban Transportation District was selected to receive $39.1 million through FTA’s FY 23 Low- or No-Emission Vehicle Program and Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, which recently announced 130 awards totaling nearly $1.7 billion from the Infrastructure Law for transit projects in 46 states and territories

    The Whitefish City Council is considering holding a public hearing in August to ask voters to reallocating a portion of the city’s resort tax toward funding affordable community housing development and programs. Any change to resort tax allocations would require voter approval, with the council having the final say on whether to ask voters to weigh in at the ballot box during this fall’s elections.

    Sun Mountain Lumber, Deer Lodge, has purchased the R-Y Timber mill in Livingston and plan to reopen the facility

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and KLE Construction Inc. have substantially completed the Hardin-South project. The Hardin-South project was a roadway reconstruction project?focused on?improving State Secondary Highway 313 (S 313) by addressing wear and tear and improving the service life of the roadway. Additionally, there is a new structure?over?Williams Coulee, and the Two?Leggins?Canal structure has been updated with new guardrail. 

    After being acquired by the Young Automotive Group, Flanagan Motors Mazda has become Young Mazda of Missoula. Paul Byron is Young Mazda Missoula’s new general manager, Founded in 1925 by Jack Olsen, the Young Automotive Group has 29 locations across northern Utah and southern Idaho. Young Mazda Missoula will be their first Montana dealership. Flanagan Motors Mazda opened 47 years ago.Once the acquisition is completed, current owner Shannon Flanagan will take on a new role as the community service representative manager.

  • Montana Highlights June 15, 2023 +

    The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to implement emergency fishing restrictions on three southwest Montana rivers. The restrictions on the Beaverhead, Big Hole and Ruby rivers come as the agency records declining trout populations. The restrictions generally address closures for spawning season, limiting some fish to catch-and-release, and implementing some gear restriction changes for fish hooks.

    The EPA has released its proposed plan for cleaning up the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. Superfund site. The main thrust is to contain the worst dumps by fully surrounding them with a slurry wall to stop contaminated groundwater from leaching out. The wells at the former wet scrubber sludge pond and the west landfill have the worst contamination. Test wells near them show very high concentrations of fluoride and cyanide. A public meeting will be held on June 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Columbia Falls Town Hall, City Council Chambers, 130 Sixth St. W., Columbia Falls, to describe the proposed plan and solicit comments.

    Three generations of bike and adventure lovers have contributed to Montana E-Bikes and More. Josh Houser, whose parents owned a bike shop, has joined forces with his son Matthew Houser to provide unforgettable trips and a high-end e-bike shop. In addition to rentals, the shop also sells e-bikes and provides full service. The father-son duo will also rent e-bikes during the winter months. Montana E-bikes and More is the only shop to provide this service in the valley.

    Mayor Jordan Hess of Missoula unveiled Missoula’s 2024-2026 Strategic Plan. Equity, housing and engagement all figured prominently in the guide for Missoula’s next three years. The plan looks at city operations through three lenses: climate resilience, equity and housing. Some of the priorities outlined in the plan include program ideas, partnerships and internal operations.

    A modular home manufacturer from San Diego held a ceremonial groundbreaking at Butte’s business park recently to showcase a foundry the size of six football fields that could employ hundreds. Dvele (pronounced deh-VELL) hopes to get infrastructure hook-ups and other prep work done this year and begin construction on the factory next spring. The goal is to begin initial operations by January 2025. The Dvele facility will make modular homes that can be built in months. According to the company they can be built at 30% to 40% less cost than traditional houses.

    Benefis Helena Specialty Center leadership reports that the 60,000-square-foot clinic will be built on 3.25 acres of the site that runs parallel to Prospect Avenue at a total cost estimated to be $50 million. Benefis Health System broke ground on the site March 10, 2022, and is expected to open in spring 2024. 

    Businesses looking for guidance about resources to improve their operations can attend one of the upcoming Assistance for Business Clinics sponsored by the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, local chambers of commerce, economic development groups and Job Service Centers. The Glendive Assistance for Business Clinic will be held Wednesday, June 21 at Dawson Community College.

    The Stockman Bank location in Whitefish opened recently, The new facility on U.S. 93 is equipped with a drive-up, ATM and night depository. The public is invited to attend grand opening celebrations featuring refreshments, prize drawings, and tours of the building. On June 13, at 4 p.m. a grand opening celebration begins with music from local singer Halladay Quist, refreshments, and door prizes,

    Logan Health officials say plans to integrate with Billings Clinic continue, but some employees are questioning the advantages of creating a new health care organization amid a “significant staffing shortage. Members of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, 1199NW are skeptical that integrating is the right move for Logan Health employees and patients.

    Citizens Alliance Bank has completed its acquisition of Granite Mountain Bank and its branches in Butte, Drummond and Philipsburg. Citizens, an independent community bank headquartered in Clara City, Minnesota, says the acquisition was completed June 2. Existing Granite Mountain Bank customers may continue to use their existing debit cards and check stock until Aug.5. Starting Aug. 5, customers will be transitioned onto Citizens Alliance Bank’s core system computer platform.

    A local Glendive hotel that has gone through a series of rebrandings in recent years has rebranded once again. This time with a full renovation as it joins a national corporation. The establishment has joined the Best Western family of hotels and rebranded itself as the SureStay. The building was bought in 2021 by Alex Allgood and Stan Wang, investors based in Texas, who have been continued the renovation. They will continue to own the business as it operates under the Best Western umbrella.

    In Montana, there are 8,549,170 acres of farmland. The county with the most acerage in production is Rosebud. It has 766 farms with 2, 342, 527 acres.

    Dvele modular home manufacturing plant in Butte has opened with projections  to create nearly 500 good-paying Montana jobs. Representing an $80 million investment by Dvele, the new facility will support the production of affordable workforce housing in Montana. Founded in 2018, Dvele has designed, manufactured, and built over 270 modular homes throughout the U.S. and Canada. The homes are built and shipped out for placement in a shorter timeline than traditional housing construction, costing about 30% to 40% less.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it has awarded $400,000 to the state of Montana in Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program funding. The funds will pay for a study of the Whitefish Rail Corridor Crossing Study. It will study three at-grade crossings and one viaduct along a three-mile corridor of BNSF’s Kootenai River Subdivision. Possible upgrades would alleviate blocked crossings that might cause safety concerns and disrupt freight movements to and from BNSF’s Whitefish Yard. The City of Whitefish and BNSF railway are contributing funds totaling a 20 percent non-Federal match.

    Two Montana Supreme Court Justices Mike McGrath and Justice Dirk Sandefur have announced that they will not run for re-election in 2024. McGrath will be concluding his second eight-year term; and Sandefur is in his first.

    Felco Industries in Missoula expanded to a new 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Founded in 1983, Felco Industries manufactures excavator products for utility, infrastructure, and energy sector installation and replacement projects. According to Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the equipment manufacturing industry supports more than 850 jobs in Montana and contributes $79 million to the state’s economy annually.

    Montana-Dakota Utilities, a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group, Inc. received approval from the North Dakota Public Service Commission on an electric service agreement (ESA) to provide power for Applied Digital Corporation’s data center near Ellendale, ND. At full capacity, the data center will require 180 megawatts of electricity, which is the equivalent of about 28% of Montana-Dakota’s generation portfolio. The Applied Digital load will be purchased from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market and will not impact Montana-Dakota customers’ power supply. The project provides an array of benefits to the Ellendale area, the transmission grid, Montana-Dakota customers and MDU stockholders.

  • Montana Highlights June 1, 2023 +

    Billings businessman, Skip King, who owns all the local Ace Hardware stores, has opened another Ace Hardware in Sidney. It will be managed by Reece Gairrett. The store has had a ‘soft opening’ in order to embrace the growing season. Although not quite fully stocked it is fully staff and close to having a grand opening.

    For the third consecutive year, the Montana Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division (FSD) is among only 14 laboratories, worldwide, to earn the Foresight Maximus Award from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. FSD, most commonly referred to as the State Crime Lab, houses Montana’s forensic science laboratories and medical examiner system and is the sole source of forensic services for law enforcement in the state. The Foresight Maximus Award is presented to forensic laboratories operating at 90 percent or better of peak efficiency as evidenced by Foresight business metrics during 2022. 

    Western Montana Mental Health Center, Missoula, has not renewed its contract with Levi Anderson, who has been CEO for the past five years. Anderson’s last day was May 19. Western has contracted with Cascadia Management Group to help with the administrative transition for the next two to three months. The president of that group, Colleen Rudio, is overseeing Western as the interim executive administrator.

    To protect Montanans’ personal, private, and sensitive data and information from intelligence gathering by the Chinese Communist Party, Governor Greg Gianforte has signed a bill that bans TikTok from operating in Montana. He also directed the state’s chief information officer and executive agency directors to prohibit the use of all social media applications tied to foreign adversaries on state equipment and for state business in Montana. The governor signed Senate Bill 419, making Montana the first state in the nation to ban TikTok and prohibit mobile application stores from offering TikTok within the state.

    Reclamation announces lifting the closure of Reclamation lands on and adjacent to Joe’s Island on the south side of the Yellowstone River in Dawson County, 15 miles north of Glendive, Montana. The temporary closure was in place to ensure public safety during the construction of the Lower Yellowstone Fish Passage Project. Construction of the fish passage project was recently completed, and the land closure is no longer needed.

    Of the three metro areas in Montana, Great Falls has the lowest housing costs. According to the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a modest two-bedroom rental in the metro area will cost an estimated $9,696 in 2022, including utilities. The statewide average cost of a comparable apartment is estimated at $10,972. Rent prices often reflect the overall real estate market in a given area, and this pattern appears to hold in Great Falls. Just as rents in the area are lower than the statewide average, so too, are home values.

    With the world facing helium shortages, news that Montana has helium resources that mining companies are exploring is good news for the economies of some of the state’s most remote areas. Two helium drilling companies are drilling wells in the areas of Toole, Hill and Liberty counties. The activity is an extension of helium drilling that is occurring just across the Canadian border. Helium is the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, and while it can be found everywhere, it is rare that it is found in geological formations that are capable of capturing and holding it in pockets large enough to make recovery feasible. The  lighter-than-air element that gives balloons their buoyancy also powers vital medical diagnostic machines, enables the operation of superconducting magnets, and is vital to the military.

    Brinkman Real Estate, a Colorado-based multifamily investment company with expertise in Intermountain West markets, closed on the acquisition of The Highline Apartments in Columbia Falls. This purchase marks their third acquisition in Montana and the largest to date with 180 Class A units across six buildings. The company also owns properties in Billings and Missoula. Brinkman Real Estate’s capital markets team, in partnership with CBRE’s Institutional Debt and Restructured Finance team comprised of Brady O’Donnell, Jeff Halsey, Jill Haug, and Alex Scott

    The fastest growing city in Montana is the Missoula metro area. Its population grew by 11.3% from 2010 to 2020 to 121,630 residents. During that same time, the population of Montana grew by 9.2%. The Missoula metro area has a median annual household income of $57,347, slightly above Montana’s median of $57,153.

    The fastest shrinking county in Montana is Fergus County. The county’s population declined by 4.2% from 2010 to 2020. The population of Montana overall increased by 9.2% during that same time period, and the U.S. population increased by 6.7%. Fergus County’s population declined by 486 people during the decade, from 11,590 in 2010 to 11,104 in 2020. This is due in part to negative net migration as 88 more people moved away from the county than moved to it during that decade.

    Quinn Pacini, vice president and general manager at KBZK in Bozeman, and KXLF in Butte, has been named vice president of broadcast operations for Scripps Sports. Jon Saunders, a vice president of Local Media operations, will serve as interim general manager at both stations while The E.W. Scripps Company searches for Pacini’s replacement.

    Montana Highlights  June 1, 2023

    Downtown Bigfork has a new space, The Nook, where artists and wellness practitioners can interact and mingle. The Nook offers Aiology Works, an acoustic and vibral studio and Bluebird and Honeybee, a mercantile offering local artisan gifts and goods. The mercantile stocks products including wellness apothecary and kitchen items. The Nook offers over 40 local artisans. Not only does the brick-and-mortar space allow them to local goods, it also provides the opportunity for art and wellness workshops.

    Cenate, a Norwegian battery company, is considering Butte and two other sites for a manufacturing plant. Tax incentives will be a factor in its decision. Two of Butte’s largest employers and two economic development organizations are backing the Norwegian company’s request for millions of dollars in tax abatements. Officials with the Butte Local Development Corp., St. James Healthcare, the Montana Carpenters Union and Northwestern Energy spoke in favor of the abatements. The company is developing silicon-based materials for higher-density batteries with faster and longer-lasting charges.

    Dave’s Sushi in Bozeman reopened recently after a month long closure following a severe food poisoning outbreak that sickened dozens and has been linked to two deaths.

    Backers of a multibillion-dollar proposal to build a giant reservoir for energy storage in rural south-central South Dakota are no longer pursuing the project. The two entities involved, MidAmerican Energy and Missouri River Energy Services, said the decision not to pursue the project was made following their evaluation process.

  • Montana Highlights May 15, 2023 +

    After 50 years in business Bob and Cheri Hooper have sold their Kalispell Garden Center to Phil Aitken and his wife Sam. The up to 47 employees plan to stay on and continue the cold growing processes that Hoopers has developed over the years.

    Two Brothers Care, operated by Nick and Esmerelda Aliu will open in the old Perkins location in Evergreen this summer. Two Brothers is named after the couples two sons, Robert and Leonardo. The family originally came from Illinois.

    The new Infusion and Oncology Center at Bitterroot Health in Hamilton opened recently. Intermountain Health of Utah specialists will be communicating during their appointments via tele-health.

    Over 30 people have become ill after eating at Dave’s Sushi in Bozeman in April. An ongoing investigation has found the probable cause to be morel mushrooms from China. Once the department of Health completes their investigation Dave’s plans to reopen.

    Stio is a mountain lifestyle brand that’s known for its large line of versatile, technical outdoor apparel. Stio offers a line of products for all four seasons, with some 250 styles accommodating various outdoor activities. The Jackson Hole-headquartered outdoor apparel company opened in 2011. Plans are to open this fall in the Osborne building in downtown Bozeman.

    Alyssa Amato and her mother Lynne Turville will open a new food truck in Sidney. Sunrise Berry Bowls will serve acai bowls which are an organic gluten free, dairy free, vegan, plant based dish. They plan to be open in mid May

    The Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees has approved a modified four-day week calendar for the coming year. Adjustments to the school’s schedule can be made if it becomes necessary and that the lower grade levels will not have as long a day as the high school. Members of the board debated the effects of the calendar on transportation and sports as well as the merits and flexibility of the optional Fridays, which supporters of the calendar have said is a great opportunity for teachers to instruct in-need students in a way that is more individualized and tailored to their needs.

    The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is holding a public meeting on May 25 at Dawson Community College.  The goal of these meetings is to bring people together from across the state to gain their input regarding the restoration of the Southern Montana passenger rail route (the former North Coast Limited/North Coast Hiawatha) and the health benefits of train transportation.

    A dispute that began last year between a Navajo Nation-owned coal company that operates the Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana and BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroad companies in the United States, has spread from a federal courthouse in Billings to Washington D.C. Navajo Transitional Energy Company filed a breach of contract lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Billings against Texas-based BNSF. The company alleged that BNSF’s preferential treatment of other mines caused NTEC to lose more than $150 million in revenue and incur more than $15 million in demurrage penalties in 2022.

    The US Bureau of Reclamation announces lifting the closure of Reclamation lands on and adjacent to Joe’s Island on the south side of the Yellowstone River in Dawson County, 15 miles north of Glendive, Montana. The temporary closure was in place to ensure public safety during the construction of the Lower Yellowstone Fish Passage Project. Construction of the fish passage project was recently completed, and the land closure is no longer needed.

    Of the three metro areas in Montana, Great Falls has the lowest housing costs. According to the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a modest two-bedroom rental in the metro area will cost an estimated $9,696 in 2022, including utilities. For context, the statewide average cost of a comparable apartment is estimated at $10,972.  Just as rents in the area are lower than the statewide average, so too, are home values. According to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the typical home in the metro area is worth $184,400, compared to the median home value of $244,900 across the state.

    With the world facing helium shortages, news that Montana has helium resources that mining companies are exploring is good news for the economies of some of the state’s most remote areas. Two Helium drilling companies are drilling wells in the areas of Toole, Hill and Liberty counties. The activity is an extension of helium drilling that is occurring just across the Canadian border. Helium is the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, and while it can be found everywhere, it is rare that it is found in geological formations that are capable of capturing and holding it in pockets large enough to make recovery feasible. The lighter-than-air element that gives balloons their buoyancy also powers vital medical diagnostic machines, enables the operation of superconducting magnets, and is vital to the military.

    Brinkman Real Estate, a Colorado-based multifamily investment company has acquired The Highline Apartments in Columbia Falls. The purchase marks their third acquisition in Montana and the largest to date with 180 Class A units across six buildings. The company also owns properties in Billings and Missoula. Brinkman Real, in partnership with CBRE’s Institutional Debt and Restructured Finance team comprised of Brady O’Donnell, Jeff Halsey, Jill Haug, and Alex Scott led the financing execution for this asset.

    American Prairie has purchased property on the eastern border of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Phillips County. The 4,960-acre property comprises 3,075 deeded acres and 1,885 leased acres located south of Dodson. Approximately 1,847 of the deeded acres are under a Conservation Easement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To be called the Wild Horse unit, the purchase brings American Prairie’s total deeded and leased property to more than 460,000 acres. 

    The fastest growing city in Montana is the Missoula metro area. Its population grew by 11.3% from 2010 to 2020 to 121,630 residents. During that same time, the population of Montana grew by 9.2%. The Missoula metro area has a median annual household income of $57,347, slightly above Montana’s median of $57,153.

    The fastest shrinking county in Montana is Fergus County. The county’s population declined by 4.2% from 2010 to 2020. The population of Montana overall increased by 9.2% during that same time period, and the U.S. population increased by 6.7%. Fergus County’s population declined by 486 people during the decade, from 11,590 in 2010 to 11,104 in 2020. This is due in part to negative net migration as 88 more people moved away from the county than in.

  • Montana n Highlights May 1, 2023 +

    Montana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped again, with the rate ticking down to 2.3%, from 2.4% in February, which is the fourth lowest in the nation, according to statistics released by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. The state’s labor force hit a record of more than 559,000 Montanans, with a growth of 33,000 workers from its pandemic-era low.

    At the turn of spring, a wall of snow still lined the roads around West Yellowstone. Hundreds of bison from the park’s central herd were about to migrate toward their calving grounds at the Horse Butte. Usually they follow river corridors, but advocates fear that an unusually robust snowpack could funnel the bison onto  highway 191. Plows poked holes in snow berms, outside of guardrails. Then the volunteers arrived with pickaxes and shovels. They cut deep channels in the snow — pathways that they hoped would draw the massive animals toward grass along waterways.

    A plan to build about 11 miles of wildlife exclusion fencing along Interstate 90 might hurt more than help, according to a group of government grizzly biologists. Fencing that stretch of road could sever the ability for grizzly bears to move between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and other recovery areas. The potential for grizzlies to travel and interbreed between ecosystems is a frequently stated requirement before the bears can be delisted.

    The Helena City Commission intends to increase a number of fees for city services. A public hearing for all fee increases will be held during the commission’s May 8 meeting at 6 p.m.

    The Chocolate Moose, located at 25 S. Willson Ave. has supplied Bozeman with house-made chocolates, taffies, sodas and other sweets for over a decade. The owners of the Chocolate Moose listed the store for sale earlier this year.

    Dave’s Sushi in downtown Bozeman closed last month after several customers who dined at the restaurant fell ill. The restaurant published a statement on social media saying it had closed voluntarily while the health department conducts an investigation.

    The eroding banks of Penninger Park along the Yellowstone River remain a point of concern for the City of Glendive 10 years after requesting federal assistance. A research group from Montana State University plans to study the rate of erosion this month.  At this time, the MSU team intends to begin its data collection via drone flight during  May and have a complete map and report by the end of July.

    Ace Hardware prepares for its grand opening sometime in mid-May as anticipation runs deep in Sidney and Richland County, Ace Hardware stores are typically 13,000 to 14,000 square feet. Sidney Ace Hardware is 27,000 square feet, making it owner Skip King’s second largest store next to his largest Billings at 34,000 square feet. King has eight Ace Hardware stores in Montana.

    The N.D. Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division released its February 2023 production report recently. Production jumped back well-above 1.1 million barrels a day. This is an increase of 9% over January. The state also emerged victorious after the first round of legal proceedings to enforce the sales of federally owned lands believed to hold valuable deposits for potential oil

    Alexa Carter and Colleen Wolak  decided to embark on a new business venture in the Flathead Valley. Using Carter’s fervor for food and Wolak’s marketing experience, the women started Boards and Pours Montana. The catering company elevates dinner parties, events, and weddings with customized charcuterie boards, grazing tables, dessert boards, mimosa bars and cocktail tastings.

    The Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) is considering the request of NorthWestern Energy (NWE) to raise rates for electric and gas service. There was a recent settlement between NWE and opponents which has been submitted to the PSC. If the settlement terms are accepted as requested, or PSC accepts terms originally requested by NWE, residents and small businesses shall get the biggest increase. People are free to contact their commissioner about the issue at

    Maverik gas stations and convenience stores have announced the acquisition of Kum & Go from the Krause Group. There are two Kum & Go gas stations/convenience stores in Williston. In addition there is one Kum & Go in Tioga and one in Watford City. Kum & Go, a family-owned chain established in 1959 in Hampton, Iowa. Maverik, based in Salt Lake City under parent company FJ Management, reportedly operates in nearly 400 locations in 12 states. Kum & Go, based in Des Moines, is a fourth-generation chain of convenience stores and gas stations. Operated by Krause Group, Kum & Go reportedly operates in more than 400 locations.

    A Washington-based hospitality company, LOGE Camps, purchased the Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park in December for $13.5 million. It also has purchased the Mountain Valley Inn in Missoula, which it plans to renovate and reopen this fall. The 58 room, Mountain Valley Inn has been closed for a number of years and was listed for sale at $3.6 million. Besides renovating the rooms the company plans to open a cafe, conference center and outdoor gathering area. LOGE has locations in Bend, Oregon; Alta Crystal, Westport and Leavenworth, Washington; Mt. Shasta, California, South Fork, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico

    Modernization of the gantry crane on top of Hungry Horse Dam is almost complete and reclamation will begin final testing. The 70-year-old crane reached the intended service life and BCI Construction conducted the demolition in November 2022. Installation began in late March 2023 using Bonneville Power Administration capital funding. The gantry crane is used to conduct maintenance on the dam. The installation of the new crane allows Reclamation to continue to provide electrical power generation for future years.

    The board of directors of ONEOK, Inc. declared a quarterly dividend of 95.5 cents per share, unchanged from the previous quarter, resulting in an annualized dividend of $3.82 per share.

    Demand remained strong in Gallatin County’s residential real estate market during March, with sellers receiving nearly their full list price and homes spending just over two weeks on the market. Median sales prices in the single-family market fell 3.1% in March, compared to last year, from $795,000 to $770,000. Closed sales dropped 21.3%, from 94 to 74. The median number of days homes spent on the market increased from 3 to 16. The average percent of list price received by sellers decreased 3.3%, from 101.8% to 98.5%. The median price per square foot sold decreased 10.8%, from $371 to $331. Pending sales increased from 84 to 97. The number of new listings decreased from 128 to 118. End-of-month inventory rose from 125 to 213..

  • Montana Highlights April 15 2023 +

    The new executive director of Explore Whitefish is Julie Mullins. Explore Whitefish is also known as the Whitefish Convetion and visistors Bureau.  Julie Mullins arrived in Whitefish ten years ago. She and her husband were attracted by the allure of skiing and business opportunities for her husband. Mullins has 20 years experience working in the convention and tourism industry.

    Foothills flooding is possible due to rapid snowmelt, according to a statement from the National Weather Service for the Livingston area. Flooding is not imminent, but people should move equipment and livestock out of low lying areas and away from waterways, the NWS advised. Between 5,000 feet and 7,000 feet, snowpack is currently 150 to 200 percent above normal, with 8 to 15 inches of water contained within this snow.

    Aurore Bakery will open at its new Bozeman location, 141 West Baxter Lane, by the middle of this month. Aurore Adam is excited to expand her business, which has been doing individual orders, events and catering, out of her house, since last March 2022. The eatery will offer an array of French sandwiches, breads, cakes, pastries, and coffee. The bakery equipment is imported from France, along with the flour, butter and coffee she uses.

    The Bureau of Land Management plans to replace the aging boat ramp at The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84. The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84 east of Norris will close on April 12 as work begins on the boat ramp, BLM said in a press release. The existing ramp will be replaced with a single-slab, multi-lane boat ramp, according to the current plan. Crews will make asphalt and chip repairs on the parking lot during the closure. The site is expected to reopen the first week of June.

    The Grand Williston Hotel and Conference Center has reopened after a more than $ million renovation funded by the ownership group Real Capital Solutions. The remodled hotel has 149 guest rooms and a 7,000 square foot ballroom. The hotel offers 11,197 total square feet of meeting space. In addition to the ballroom, the Grand Williston has break-out meeting rooms that can be combined into one large space or separated into various configurations.

    Samantha Jones and Tabatha Venezio have opeded their new business Simply Organized Montana serving the Flathead Valley. For Simply Organized Montana having an organized space is more than just about the aesthetic. It’s about maintaining sanity and finding peace. From pantries and closets to playrooms and garages, Jones and Venezio will organize any space.

    The Montana Distillers Guild is holding its fourth annual Distiller’s Festival on April 22 in Whitefish at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. Attendees will  be provided the opportunity to  taste and learn about Montana-made spirits.The festival is Saturday, April 22 from 2:30-6 p.m. at Grouse Mountain Lodge. Providing the opportunity to taste and learn more about Montana-made spirits, The festival will showcase 12 distilleries from around Montana. Tickets are available online via the Montana Distiller’s Guild website at

    Streamflow forecasts range from about 120% of normal to 180% of normal due to the exceptional snowpack in southern Beaverhead, Madison and Gallatin counties, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also to the West of the Continental Divide, streamflow forecasts are highest in the southern Mission Mountain region and the Upper Clark Fork River basin, at about 110% of normal to 130% of normal. Snowpack in the Bears Paw Mountains is about 250% of normal.

    The MT Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the St. Mary Diversion Dam Replacement Project’s Draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The St. Mary Diversion Dam is part of Reclamation’s Milk River Project near Babb, Montana. The public comment period will run from March 29 to May 5, 2023.  There will be a public meeting on the Draft EA to be held on April 19, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at the Glacier Peaks Hotel Conference Room in Browning, Montana.

    In an effort to help manufacturers meet their workforce needs the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University has launched a new apprenticeship program. The Certified Manufacturing Associate Apprenticeship is a one-year program that combines on-the-job training with online technical classes on topics like safety, math and measurements, manufacturing processes, and quality control. Participating employees earn $15 per hour during their first three months on the job, then $20 per hour for the rest of the year while they complete the 25 online class sessions.

    The Big Sky Country Multiple Listing Service (BSCMLS) board of directors recently appointed Mike Lake as the Chief Executive Officer. Lake previously served as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Director for the BSCMLS. 

    The USDA Forest Service announced two Montana businesses and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will receive funding to put toward building up the wood products economy and have sustainable forest management. The Whitefish business Wooden Haus Supply/Stolze Timber Systems and Marks-Miller Post and Pole, Inc. in Clancy will get $1 million and nearly $510,000 in wood products assistance funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

  • Montana Highlights April 1, 2023 +

    Coyote which has recently opened in Columbia Falls, features local art, jewelry, vintage and new clothing,  Owner Cody Bauer is a Kalispell native and a Glacier High School graduate from 2009. He spent 12 years in Texas working in the art world. Coyote is located at 510 Nucleus Ave.

    Ali Coleman and Marti Moran, owners of Psycle, have planned on opening a spin studio since 2013. Psycle offers 10 classes per week and plans to expand to meet the needs of the community of Lakeside.

    The Bureau of Land Management has proposed that the Pryor Mountain wild horse herd would be reduced by about 55 animals next year in the first of several planned “gathers”. These details, along with insight to the herd’s health and genetics were released for public comment recently. Comments on the proposal are being taken through April 14.

    Florida-based company Oakwells, opened The Retreat Kitchen & Bar in February at the Helena Regional Airport. Michael Reilly started Oakwells in 2004 after the larger airport operator he worked for at the time began divesting itself of its North American operations. The airport has a full service liquor license that Oakwells successfully applied through the state to use.

    The restaurant, La Esquina, which can be found in the Cannery District off of East Oak Street in Bozeman officially opened recently. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday. The goal of La Esquina’s food is to not be complicated, and to continue the recipes honed in Mexico.

    The owners of Pho Sai Gon in Bozeman plan to open their new restaurant in late March.. Ryan and Julie Truong are from Saigon, Vietnam, where they learned to make their very popular Pho Sai Gon.

    Many Sidney area beet producers already had their seed ordered for the year and the announcement of the plant’s closure leaves producers looking for something new to plant. Beet ground is similar to corn ground so that would be an option, Another viable option would be to switch to silage. Soybean, dry beans, canola, dry peas, safflower, and camelina are other options for the region.

    Near Coram, Montana on the Flathead National Forest independent contractors have gathered for a logging operation under contract with Weyerhaeuser. Hundreds of harvested lodgepole pine released a clean, sweet smell with a touch of mint, into the air as they lay in piles on the landing floor. The trees that loggers are  harvesting are the trees that grew from the ashes of the Half Moon fire of 1929. . The life cycle of a lodgepole is around 100 years. After that point, the wood becomes lower quality with higher mortality rates.

    Ponderosa Pottery, owned by Nicky Shepard and family is designed to give people the space to have fun, grow, and even heal. Ponderosa Pottery in downtown Kalispell is a fully family-owned and operated business as Shepard runs the studio with the help of her husband, Carleton Gritts, and two children, Natalie and Spencer. The studio opened in mid-January and has hosted several workshops and open studio access for more experienced potters.

    Co-owners Caleb and Jim Scott, have opened the S Ranch Meats company in Hardin. The group purchased a plant that had been shut down since 1998. S Ranch does not aim to compete with the major packing facilities, but rather to service people interested in quality meat and a healthy, understood product. A plant like S Ranch might process 25 head a week compared with 10,000 head a week at a larger facility.

    The Sidney Herald has hired Greg Hitchcock of Gloversville New York as the next editor of the 110 year old newspaper.

    Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, introduced House Bill 849, which would let businesses lease a liquor license rather than purchase one outright. Sprunger calls it the floating liquor license lease bill. The legislation would let businesses pay a fee to rent a liquor license from the county without going through the steps to purchase it. The bill would apply to cities and towns that have grown by more than 5% between 2016 and 2021, No more than six county all-beverages licenses may be utilized. They will be awarded through a bid system. The license can not be sold or transferred.

    The Flathead Valley-based outdoor company Right On Trek is giving adventurers the opportunity to find their perfect trail, collaborate with friends, rent gear, and choose customized backcountry meals. Right On Trek’s meals, which are freeze dried, provide vegetarian, vegan, keto, gluten free and dairy free options so that backpackers can spend less time worrying about their shopping list. No hiker is left behind when it comes to the meal planning process. Right On Trek’s first in industry artificial intelligence meal planner ensures this. The AI tool, which can be found on their website, gives hikers an easy way to create customizable meal kits that they can look forward to after a long day on the trail.

    Eddies Corner, the restaurant/bar/convenience store begun by Eddie McConnell in the late 1940s, has been owned by the Bauman family since 1951. After 72 years, the business has a new owner. Lucky Singh, a Utah-based businessman who took over last recently.

    Median home prices in Gallatin County decreased 21.1%  from February 2022 to February 2023. A year ago the median price was from $868,000  and last month it was $684,682. Also a year ago, homes were on the market for only about 5 days, now it’s about 22 days.

    “Visit Southeast Montana” has announced that its free, redesigned 2023 travel guide is now available for order and download. The travel guide features Visit Southeast Montana’s “Out Here” marketing campaign, which describes the the 13 counties and two reservations that make up the Visit Southeast Montana tourism region.

    The Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $43,599,090 contract to NW Construction out of Bozeman, to conduct a dam modification to Fresno Dam. Project construction is scheduled to begin in April 2023. Built in 1939 on the Milk River in north-central Montana, the 84-year-old homogenous embankment earth dam has experienced 710 feet of settlement since construction. Reclamation evaluated the risk associated with differential settlement driven cracking and internal erosion and determined that a modification was required. To mitigate the risk, Reclamation will add a sand and gravel filter and toe drain system, with an embankment fill overlay and a vertical sand filter trench. 

  • Montana Highlights 3-01-23 +

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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