The Small Business Administration (SBA) has implemented new rules that support the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic and equity priorities. Called the Growth Final Rule SBA Administrator Isabella Casilla Guzman said that the regulatory and policy reforms will increase access to private equity and debt capital for:

 • Underserved small businesses and startups,

• Undercapitalized critical technologies,

• Diverse and emerging fund managers, and

• Innovation investment. Starting Private market fund managers can apply for SBIC licenses designed for investing in American small businesses and startups with equity-oriented or long-duration strategies.

The two new SBIC licenses – the “Accrual SBIC” and the “Reinvestor (Fund-of# Funds) SBIC” – expand the SBIC program network of private market financing partners and the SBA’s reach to historically underserved small businesses and startups.

Critically, the regulatory and policy reforms are designed to reduce the financial burden for new program applicants and provide a more streamlined application experience.

Since 1958, the SBA has licensed and regulated private market investment funds as “SBICs.” SBICs invest equity or lend private capital, plus funds borrowed with an SBA guarantee, to make equity and/or debt investments in small businesses and startups. Today, the SBIC program is comprised of more than 308 discrete private funds across mezzanine, private credit, buyout, growth, venture, and multi-strategy, which collectively have more than $40 billion in public and private assets under management (AUM). Last year, SBICs invested $8 billion in more than 1,500 companies that created and sustained over 103,000 U.S. jobs. ?

From Northern Ag Network

The Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association slammed President Biden’s use of the Antiquities Act to put sweeping federal designations on over a million additional acres of land in Arizona, amounting to yet another presidential land grab. This designation is the latest in a long series of recent actions from the Biden administration that has disenfranchised communities across the West.

“Rural communities have long been an afterthought to D.C. politicians and this decision once again shows that President Biden cares more about talking points than truly listening to the needs of rural communities and ranching families,” said PLC President Mark Roeber, a Colorado rancher. “While this designation may appear to be a ‘win’ on paper, the new monument comes with no outreach to the public lands ranchers who have stewarded the lands for generations. Decisions like these set land management in the West back by 50 years or more all so President Biden could score a few cheap political points.”

“This kind of use of the Antiquities Act is one of the most appallingly political moves to lock up millions of acres of land across the country. Today’s latest designation follows a concerning trend of Washington politicians trampling local communities, land managers, farmers, and ranchers with the stroke of a pen,” said NCBA President Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer. “NCBA is strongly opposed to the continued abuse of the Antiquities Act, and we urge President Biden to listen to the local communities that will be hurt by this designation.”

NCBA says this designation adds insult to injury for communities that are unheard and intentionally removed from land management conversations. Additionally, the Biden administration failed to communicate with the affected landowners prior to the designation and their so-called public opinion meeting and poll failed to gather perspective from the people most impacted by this decision.

The Antiquities Act gives the President of the United States broad power to establish national monuments from existing federal lands. The act requires no review, economic impact analysis, or public input required. In effect, the act allows any President to radically reshape rural economies, eliminate jobs, and harm industries operating on public lands all through the stroke of a pen.

The livestock groups say that these designations are especially harmful to rural communities that rely on federal lands for their livelihood, such as public lands ranchers.

Public lands ranching has existed since the early days of exploration in the West and is governed today by the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. Nearly 40 percent of cattle spend their time on public lands and public lands ranchers protect water sources, safeguard open space, promote forage growth, limit invasive species, and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

There are 29 states in which President Biden has a lower approval rating than in Montana, according to The Center Square. In Montana, Biden has an approval rating of 38 percent while 59 percent disapprove, based on a survey of registered voters who participated in the November 2022 midterm election.

In the 2020 presidential election Trump took 56.9 percent of the vote and Biden 40.5 percent in Montana. Montana’s population is the seventh smallest in the country at 1,077,978.

Scot Chisholm developed what was to become Classy, a peer-to-peer crowd funding software platform. In 2020, Classy merged with GoFundMe, and Chisholm stepped down from his role as CEO to become a strategic advisor for the company. Since Chisholm has gained most of his CEO start-up experience through trial and error, he plans to pass on his knowledge  to other budding entrepreneurs.

An increase of West Nile virus activity was reported in the state. A positive infection has been reported in a Hill County horse. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported the confirmed case, along with three confirmed human cases, in Dawson, Rosebud and Yellowstone counties, along with another case confirmed in a horse in Pondera County. All cases were hospitalized for their illnesses.

Belgrade’s Bootstrap Ranch, the sole facility in Montana that rehabs severely brain-injured adults, was forced to close last week. In May, the nonprofit’s board of directors decided that the Belgrade ranch would close by Aug. 15.The ranch had three hard-to-place clients who were finally placed by the facility.

According to Lee Enterprise newspapers NorthWestern Energy customers have come out strongly against the utility’s energy supply plan during the first three stops of a listening session tour with state utility regulators. Customers testifying in Helena and Great Falls and Billings told Montana’s Public Service Commission, that the state’s largest monopoly utility needed to pivot away from power plants burning coal and natural gas..

Two months after a railroad bridge collapse sent some carloads of oil products plunging into Montana’s Yellowstone River, the cleanup workers are gone. The railroad responsible, Montana Rail Link, in conjunction with federal and state officials has halted most cleanup work and stopped actively looking for contaminated sites. More than half of the 48,000 gallons (180,000 liters) of molten petroleum asphalt that spilled has been recovered. Downstream intakes for drinking water and irrigation reported no impacts.

The federal government will be taking over the security at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on October 8. With heavy foot traffic, the airport has decided it’s time to restart its use of the Transportation Security Administration for airport security. Surpassing two million passengers in 2022, Bozeman Yellowstone has seen growth in traffic. The current staffing shortages have caused frustration with long lines and delays during security.

In 2004, the Forest Service petitioned for the OTO’s Dude Ranch listing on the National Register of Historic Places and, over the past few decades, the agency has poured money into making sure the buildings stay standing. Now dudes have come back to the OTO for the first time in over half a century. For the past two years, the Arizona-based True Ranch Collection has hosted a “pop-up” tourist ranch, with the proceeds going to the Forest Service. But the future of the OTO hangs in the balance as the pop-up ranch’s permit expired this year. Now, the Forest Service must decide what’s next for the iconic 3,263-acre property.

Ben and Madison Miller arrived in Sidney on January 2021, as Ben took a job as associate pastor of the Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church. Two and a half years later, Madison Miller was offered a job as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Boys and Girls Club of the MonDak. She started work on July 28. Originally from Tum Water, Washington, with a population of 30,000 Miller said it was a transition for them both. Miller is working with the former CEO who is staying on as a staff member in research and development.

By Ronda Wiggers, Montana State Director for National Federation of Independent Business

Montana Main Street businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs have endured a lot the last three years. More than 90% of Montana’s businesses are considered ‘small,’ employing less than 50 people. These small businesses have faced uncertainty, supply problems, and struggled to find enough employees. And now they may face a 20% increase in their federal tax bill.

Every Montanan shops at small businesses, so we’re all affected by this turn of events. Before the pandemic, we benefitted from two years of unprecedented economic opportunity and optimism, and the credit goes to the 2017 creation of the Small Business Deduction (Section 199A), which allows small businesses organized as pass-through entities (sole proprietorships, S-corporations, partnerships, or LLCs) to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income on their 1040 IRS form.

That gave small businesses the relief they needed to thrive. Small employers responded with investment, innovation, growth, and wage hikes, lifting up our state in incredible ways. It’s impossible to overstate how important the Small Business Deduction was. The Small Business Deduction made it easier for Main Street to compete with Wall Street corporations. Without it, big businesses would have an insurmountable advantage over small businesses.

Tens of thousands of Montana small businesses have benefitted from this common-sense policy. There’s a good chance you know someone who got a bonus because of the Small Business Deduction, or someone who got hired because a small business was able to expand. And while the pandemic and government shutdowns stifled a lot of this progress, the Small Business Deduction helped a lot of Main Street job-creators survive the past three years.

Now, the Small Business Deduction is about to expire, putting tremendous pressure on Main Street. That’s bad enough on its own, but it’s made even worse by the fact that Wall Street’s tax cuts are still permanent. Only in Washington does it make sense to put big business ahead of small business.

Thankfully, one leader wants to right this wrong. Sen. Steve Daines introduced a bill that would make the Small Business Deduction permanent. It’s called the “Main Street Tax Certainty Act,” and small businesses are grateful for his leadership. It deserves to pass as soon as possible.

The sooner this bill is signed into law, the stronger small businesses will be. But if this bill goes nowhere, Main Street will go downhill, very soon and very fast.  Instead, we need to make things easier for small businesses – because when Main Street wins, Montana wins.

Wood’s Power-Grip, Co., Inc. in Laurel has been named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Legacy Business. Dignitaries from SBA, which is celebrating its 70th Anniversary, presented the award to the Wood family at their plant on August 23, 2023.

As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, SBA named one Legacy Business, which got its start with SBA, in each of its 68 districts. Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc., “who has made their mark nationally and on the international stage”, was selected from the Montana district, explained Brent Donnelly, Montana SBA District Director, who presented the award.

Started in 1947, by Howard Wood in his small automotive, electric and small engine repair shop, Wood’s Auto Electric, in Wolf Point, Wood’s Powr-Grip today is a 3rd generation family-owned business and world-wide leader that designs, manufactures and distributes to the world, a full line of hand-held vacuum cups, below-the-hook vacuum lifters and vacuum mounting cups that make materials handling and equipment mounting easier. Woods Powr Grip tools are sold in over 50 countries throughout the world.

The SBA’s Legacy Businesses recognize past or current small businesses that benefitted from SBA resources in their early stages. Wood’s Powr-Grip Co., Inc. was able to utilize SBA’s PPP program to maintain employment during the pandemic and has also utilized the State Trade Expansion Program for export grants.

Additionally, Faye Wood was instrumental in serving as a long-time mentor in SBA’s Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training (WNET) Program, which paired aspiring female business owners with experienced women in business in a year-long mentor-protégé education program.

Bryan Wood has also served on the board of directors for Big Sky Economic Development Authority who is the host agency for SBA’s Small Business Development Center, Veteran’s Business Outreach Center and Big Sky Finance, a 504 Certified Development Company.

Today, the SBA is building upon its success by providing billions of dollars in support to small businesses which has helped millions of small business owners build meaningful lifelong connections and help power their local economies

The now industry famous vacuum cup tool is based on the tool that Wood invented in the early 1960s, following his frustrations in trying to hold small engine valves during the lapping process. He designed and built the first Wood’s Powr-Grip Valve Grinder which  became the base of Wood’s Powr-Grip tools that lift, hold and position a variety of smooth, nonporous materials such as glass, plastics, engine valves, sheet metal, solid surfacing, laminates, stone slabs and appliances. The original tool consisted of a small, spring-action vacuum pump mounted in a wooden handle, opposite a rubber suction cup which attached to the flat surface of an engine valve.

The company website states, “At first he (Wood) simply built these tools for himself and friends, but soon the general public was demanding the unique little tool. As the popularity of the Powr-Grip Valve Grinder grew, a glazier friend suggested Howard develop a vacuum cup for handling glass. Howard experimented and developed vacuum cups in a variety of sizes.”

“It wasn’t long before the glass industry took note of the invention. These cups possessed a unique red-line vacuum indicator on the pump that warned the user if vacuum loss occurred and a check ball that restored lost vacuum without breaking the cup’s grip. Neither of these features—the trademarks of today’s Powr-Grip vacuum cups—were available anywhere else in the world at that time.”

“Howard began manufacturing vacuum cups for glass handling in 1963, incorporated the business in 1964, and obtained a patent for his design in March of 1966. The cups were first introduced to the American market by traveling salesmen. As popularity grew, the vacuum cups appeared in national and international glass handling equipment catalogs.

“In the late 60’s, Howard developed and patented a battery-powered, sealed foam vacuum lifter for use with overhead cranes and hoists. Capable of handling loads up to 600 lbs., this design was the first of many below-the-hook vacuum lifters.

“Howard died in Wolf Point on January 28, 1983 at the age of 73. The company moved from Wolf Point to a larger facility in Laurel, Montana in 1990 and maintained Howard’s founding principle of ‘doing the right thing’ for customers, employees, and everyone who comes into contact with WPG products.”

Today Woods Powr-Grip employs 140 people in their 72,500 sq. ft. facility in Laurel.

Two beloved Montana brands are coming together to crack open a cold one in the great outdoors. Billings-based Kampgrounds of America, Inc. and Sidney-based Meadowlark Brewing announce the launch of their handcrafted collaborative microbrew, the Happy Camper IPA, available for purchase now at select retail stores and KOA campgrounds.

“Meadowlark Brewing shares many of the ideals central to our brand,” says Toby O’Rourke, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Whether at home or on the campground, there are connections to be made with good friends and good microbrews. After meeting Travis and realizing our mutual commitment to facilitating connections between people and the outdoors, creating Happy Camper IPA was a natural outcome.”

Happy Camper IPA is a hoppy India Pale Ale with citrusy and earthy notes brewed and canned in Billings. The outdoors inspires the double-sided label design. One side of the can showcases a tent and campfire, and the other an RV parked by the river which reflects the spirit of outdoor adventure and aligns with both brands’ values.

“I’m a Montana native, so KOA is a cultural touchstone for me,” says Travis Peterson, owner of Meadowlark Brewing. “It’s an honor to collaborate with a hometown brand that’s been bringing people together for over 60 years. I’m excited about this collaboration and ready to get Happy Camper IPA in the hands of some happy campers.”

Campers and beer enthusiasts can purchase the Happy Camper IPA at Meadowlark Brewing locations in Sidney and Billings and select KOA campgrounds and retail locations throughout Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, with plans for expansion into other markets. 

By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a plan to build a water diversion pipeline in southwest Montana meant to aid Arctic grayling, a rare species of freshwater fish.

District Judge Donald W. Molloy issued the injunction this week in a lawsuit brought by Wilderness Watch and other environmental groups against the U.S. Fish & Wilderness Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The pipeline is meant to divert cold water to the indigenous fish population that’s dwindled in the Red Rock Lakes Wilderness area.

The Missoula-based Wilderness Watch argued the water diversion pipeline within the wilderness area is a “blatant violation of the Wilderness Act, which prohibits the agency from intentionally modifying Wilderness habitat.”

Molloy wrote in the injunction that “in light of the Wilderness Act’s strict requirements, the mere possibility that the proposed action may aid in Arctic grayling conservation is not enough to create necessity.”

Montana Trout Unlimited, a fish conservation group that supports the project, called the ruling “a blow to the grayling, the spirit of collaborative conservation and Wilderness character.”

“This delay and its proponents stand to have far greater negative impacts to this Wilderness ecosystem by risking the disappearance of one of the most unique and iconic species than the short and modest construction efforts implementing the project in a Wilderness area would entail,” the group said.

The state of labor in Montana is pretty good, unless you are in need of workers. They are hard to find as almost every business in the state is well aware.

Montana’s total Labor Force is 563,898 people employed. The number of people not employed is estimated at 14,196. The state’s unemployment rate remained below 3% in July, marking the 21st consecutive month the rate has been below 3%.

Employment grew in July in Montana by 2,448. Since the beginning of the year the state has added 7,500 new jobs.  Since January 2021, nearly 40,000 jobs have been created and  the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 4% to 2.5%, and the number of unemployed Montanans has fallen by more than 34%.

The Headwaters Technology Hub, a broad regional consortium of private, public, and academic partners led by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Department of Commerce, and the Montana University System submitted a Phase I application on August 15 in pursuit of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs competition, as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

 The Headwaters Technology Hub seeks one of at least 20 Tech Hub designations nationally, and separately a strategy development grant. Funds come from the $500 million FY2023 Congressional appropriation to launch the program. This investment focuses on strengthening our national defense, critical resource management (including water, agriculture, and mining), industrial equipment and construction processes, infrastructure development, and natural disaster mitigation.

“The Montana Chamber serves as the bridge between local innovation and national technological advancement by fostering collaboration and creating opportunities between our businesses, government agencies and research institutions,” said Todd O’Hair, President & CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. “Our deep understanding of the state’s economic landscapes uniquely positions us to champion this initiative to drive growth, job creation, and technological leadership, and to propel the nation towards a more resilient and competitive future, with our region leading the way.”