With ultra-high-speed, 100 percent fiber-optic networks now ready for service, thousands of Billings residences and businesses have the opportunity to access fiber speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 50 Gig – service that is 500 times faster – the fastest home internet available.

The new service is a “bold expansion throughout major cities in Montana” by Ziply Fiber, a fiber-optic network provider, headquartered in Kirkland, Washington, which is rapidly expanding throughout the northwestern US.

People in the Billings area have probably seen crews installing the system throughout the community, and now some 19,000 homes and businesses in Billings, and nearly 10,000 addresses in Great Falls, can connect for better service at less price, according to Ryan Luckin, vice president of marketing.

“We are talking about a technology that is super reliable and more inexpensive,” said Luckin. The higher speeds will enable a lot of uses, but especially so for the increasing number of people who work at home. “You will be able to get reliable connection and down load very quickly.”

Most of Ziply Fiber’s executive team, which consists of former executives from AT&T, CenturyLink, and Wave Broadband, either grew up in the Northwest or have spent the better part of 30 years living here, according to Ryan Luckin, vice president of marketing.

That local ownership and market familiarity is an important part of the company mindset and culture, according to Luckin.

The company was founded by Harold Zeitz . The company also has major offices in Everett, Washington; Beaverton, Oregon; and Hayden, Idaho. “Expansion in Montana has been a long time coming and I’m so thankful that the day is finally here,” said Zeitz, “I can’t tell you the number of people and business owners who have reached out to us asking when we’re coming and telling us stories of the limited options they have and what fast, reliable fiber will mean to them. Today we help fulfill that wish.”

Billings and Great Falls are just the first two cities of at least five in the state with brand new, state-of-the-art fiber infrastructure being built by Ziply Fiber, which previously had only offered service in the communities of Libby and Troy. The plan is to be available throughout Montana except for very rural areas, said Luckin. “If you can’t see your neighbor the prospect of being able to provide service isn’t very good,” he explained, since having infrastructure such as telephone poles is usually necessary.

This means that as of today, both Billings and Great Falls now have the fastest household internet speeds in the nation. Customers at every speed tier can be confident they’re on the best and fastest network available, giving them great speed and reliable service for everything they want to do online today and into the future.

All Ziply Fiber plans offer symmetrical download/upload speeds and the company’s entry-level Fiber 100 plan exceeds the minimum residential broadband speed required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with no contracts or data caps.

Throughout the region, “since we started four years ago, we have brought fiber to more than a hundred markets,” said Luckin, “and not just to large metra areas but to rural  areas, too, who have never had high speed broad band and fiber.”

Residents and business owners can check for fiber availability at Ziplyfiber.com and sign up to be alerted when service is available at their location. Residential customers can switch to fiber internet for as little as $20 per month and receive a $50 bill credit for themselves and any new customer they refer.

The Many Benefits of Fiber Internet

Fiber internet, unlike other options like cable or satellite, provides the bandwidth and capacity to keep entire families streaming without interruption. Fiber provides symmetrical upload and download speeds and lower latency to easily power video conferencing and online gaming without lag and delivers the reliability to empower residents and businesses for decades.

1st time in Newspaper History

By Staff at Yellowstone County News

Yellowstone County News achieved the top spot in recognition last weekend at the Montana Newspaper Association’s Annual Meeting in Kalispell. It was recognized as the #1 Newspaper in Montana (Division 3 with circulations of 2,000 or above). Based in Huntley, the Yellowstone County News has been publishing 47 years, since 1977. It is published by Jonathan and Tana McNiven.

In Division 3, Yellowstone County News placed in 17 categories and took home the 1st place spot in nine of those categories. Amassing those 17 categories included nine staff members and contributors from David Crisp, Evelyn Pyburn, Krayton Kerns, Michael Marino, Tana McNiven, Chase Doak, Connor Waddingham, Elisa Schlosser and Jonathan McNiven.

Evelyn Pyburn has won the Best Editorial for the third year in a row. This year’s three submissions included “How To Get The Truth, A Bow to Those Who Make it All Happen, No One Has Right to Coerce”.  Michael Marino won the Best Investigative Journalism category with his story entitled, “Nightmare off Yellowstone Trail, More Details Emerge,” while YCN Sports Broadcaster Connor Waddingham won the top spot with the video he captured while broadcasting the last shot of the game, as “Shepherd Boys Won” right at the buzzer, in Big Timber. Jonathan McNiven won the Best Portrait Photo as he captured all but a couple legislators of the Yellowstone County Delegation in Helena, as they sat together in the House Chambers.  Tana McNiven won 1st place in her first-ever full-page ad, which she put together for Tree Mechanics LLC in Billings, entitled “We Are a Full-Service Tree Company,”

Other ads and graphics produced and published in YCN that won 1st place included Dig It Days Entry 2023 @ MontanaFair, Blue Body and Paint’s black and white ad entitled, “Honey,… Stop Hunting with the Car,” and YCN’s Marketing campaign called “Where is YCN Today,” in which readers take pictures with their paper and send them to YCN with a caption.

Owner and Publisher Jonathan McNiven stated, “Thank you to all those staff members and contributors who work so hard to help put out a great, informative and local product every week. We could not do it without their attention to detail, hard work and dedication. This honor of winning goes to our whole entire staff that includes our delivery drivers, proofreaders, production specialist, legal staff, reporters, as well as our readers, contributors and advertisers. It definitely takes a team effort and we did it together so thank you!”

The Yellowstone County News is among 80 newspapers that belong to the Montana Newspaper Association. The Yellowstone County News has produced the most statewide display ads for the last nine years consecutively to the Montana Newspaper Association.   

Jonathan and Tana McNiven are the fourth owners and publishers of the Yellowstone County News since its beginnings in 1977. Jonathan and Tana will mark 10 years in October 2024 in owning the hyper-local newspaper covering Yellowstone County.

Early summer brings work and a traditional decline in unemployment insurance (UI). In May, about 70,000 Ninth District workers received weekly UI benefits. That’s about half of January’s levels, but UI levels historically decline with warmer weather. Current levels are 17 percent higher than last year but still a 5 percent gap from 2019 levels. The gap would be much wider—closer to 20 percent—without last year’s change in Minnesota law allowing hourly school workers to claim unemployment benefits in the summer. For other recent trends, see the Minneapolis Fed’s Regional Economic Indicators.

Stockman Bank has once again been awarded on the Forbes list of America’s Best-In-State Banks 2024. This prestigious award is presented by Forbes and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider. The awards list was announced on June 18, 2024.

Financial institutions are the cornerstone of the financial world and play a central role in stabilizing global systems. America’s Best-In-State Banks 2024 ranking lists the institutions that stood out for fulfilling the unique financial needs and expectations of their local communities thereby being most valued by residents of each state.

This is the second award Stockman has received from Forbes in 2024. The Bank was recognized by Forbes as one the World’s Best Banks in April. “We are proud to once again be recognized on Forbes list of Best-In-State Banks. This award is particularly special to us since the recognition is coming directly from Montana consumers who participated in the independent survey,” stated Bill Coffee, CEO of Stockman Bank.  “The award is a testament to the dedication and expertise of our staff, who are committed to putting the needs of their customers and communities first.  I am proud of their outstanding service to our bank, our customers and our state.”

The ranking is based on two sources:

1. An Independent Survey: Approximately 26,000 U.S. residents were surveyed online. Participants were asked to name all banks where they have a checking/savings account and rate it in six different subdimensions: Trust, Terms & Conditions, Branch Services, Digital Services, Customer Services, and Financial Advice.

2. Publicly Available Reviews: For each bank, in each state, a sentiment analysis approach of publicly available online text reviews and ratings was applied.

In each state, the banks with the highest combined score from the analysis of survey results and publicly available reviews were awarded. The survey score was rated 80% and publicly available reviews 20%.

Statista publishes hundreds of worldwide industry rankings and company listings with high-profile media partners. This research and analysis service is based on the success of statista.com, the leading data and business intelligence portal that provides statistics, relevant business data, and various market and consumer studies and surveys.

Since the Montana State Legislature created a taxpayer funded program in the hopes of attracting Hollywood –style business to Montana, the Montana Department of Commerce recently announced $2.6 million in grants to 67 film creations statewide.

The program is called the Big Sky Film Grant program and this year there were 150 projects requesting $9 million in funding.

The Montana Department of Commerce announced that 67 film creations will share more than $2.6 million in subsidies to film on-location productions across the state.

Grants were made available from Feature Film and TV; Feature Film and TV – Resident Only; Short-Form Content; and Short-Form Content – Resident Only categories.

A sampling of some of the recipients include:

—  7030 Entertainment, LLC  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Cold Storage.”

— Attack Team Entertainment Inc.  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Where the Wild Horses Live.”

—  Eat Different, LLC will revive $100,000 for the production of “Inhuman.”

—  FMLY Films, Inc.  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Lunatic.”

—  Hold The Map Productions, LLC  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Breaking the Silence.”

—  Justin Olson, ETC FILM, LLC  – –  $150,000 for the production of “Earth to Charlie.”

—  Last Chance Pictures, LLC  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Good Kids.”

—  Michael Polish, There There, LLC  – –  $100,000 for the production of “There, There.”

—  MMM MT, LLC  – –  $50,000 for the production of “Swimming Hole.”

—  Nathan Norby, LLC  – –  $50,000 for the production of “The Price of Paradise.”

—  Paradise Valley Pictures  – –  $100,000 for the production of “The Gift of the Game.”

— Stillwater Historical Society, Museum of the Beartooths will receive $50,000 for the production of “Moccasins, Mining and Montana’s 34th County.”

“Commerce’s Film Office promotes Montana as a business destination for film production companies to expand production in our state, increase job opportunities, promote small business growth and to promote tourism,” said Paul Green, Director of the Montana Department of Commerce. “These 67 film projects are expected to spend an estimated $35 million in Montana and will bring in productions that will help boost the economies of many rural Montana communities, including Plentywood, Cohagen, Lame Deer, Poplar, Dillon, Clyde Park, Choteau, Pryor, Roberts, Virginia City and Pray.”

The richest in Montana…

Based upon the average net worth of its citizens, the richest city in Montana – not surprisingly —  is Bozeman followed by Whitefish. Belgrade comes in as the third richest – undoubtedly as spillover from Bozeman. Then its Columbia Falls, followed by Billings, Helena, Missoula, Laurel, Livingston, and Kalispell.

The most recent release of NFIB’s monthly Small Business Economic Trends report didn’t vary much from previous dismal ones, but it did reveal a more troubling finding that prompted the Montana state director for the association that publishes it to call on the state’s Congressional delegation to act faster on two issues that would help reverse small businesses’ slide. 

“The small business sector is responsible for the production of over 40% of GDP and employment, a crucial portion of the economy,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for NFIB. “But for 29 consecutive months, small business owners have expressed historically low optimism and their views about future business conditions are at the worst levels seen in 50 years.” 

Ronda Wiggers, NFIB’s Montana state director, said it’s time for Congress to act. “I’m very proud of our State Legislature for not exacerbating a very serious problem but instead initiating helpful measures to ease the problems of small businesses. I wish Congress would do the same. It needs to act now on two issues that would greatly help with a national recovery along the Main Streets of the nation. I commend Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Ryan Zinke for their leadership on one of the issues and ask Sen. Jon Tester and Congressmen Matt Rosendale to join them in not letting the Small Business Deduction expire. Then, I’d like all four to unify in freeing Main Street, mom-and-pop companies from the vise grip of the Corporate Transparency Act.” 

In a guest editorial in The Washington Times, which preceded NFIB’s Fly-In week of small business lobbying activities, NFIB President Brad Close described the consequences of both issues. 

“The first and most important thing Congress should do is cut small businesses’ taxes permanently,” wrote Close. “The small-business deduction — the small-business centerpiece of the 2017 tax cuts — expires next year. If lawmakers allow that to happen, Main Street will face an unprecedented tax hike. At least half of the nation’s small businesses are uncertain about their future. They’re holding back when they want to be ramping up. With disaster already beginning to unfold, Congress should act immediately. 

“… The second thing Congress should do is end a particularly burdensome mandate — the ‘beneficial ownership’ reporting requirement. Created in 2021 and enforced since January, it’s 100% targeted at the smallest of small businesses, wrapping them in red tape while giving big business a pass. 

“Under this mandate, more than 32 million small businesses must regularly send private personal information about their owners to a federal database. If they don’t, they face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Would any member of Congress like to tell a small-business owner that they deserve to go to prison over this?” 

Windshield Hero, 300 S 24th St W, (701) 390-6086, Chalifoux, Barry – Windshield Hero, Service, Billings

Archie Cochrane Motors Inc, 1313 12th St W, (406) 656-1100, Cichosz (Manager), Scott – Archie Cochrane Motors Inc, Auto Business, Billings

Initial Bee, 1280 Pumori Circle, (406) 850-8756, Blankenship, Laura – Initial Bee, Service, Billings 

Solid Ground Solutions LLC, 915 2nd Ave, (406) 633-3052, Gray, Levi – Solid Ground Solutions LLC, Service, Laurel  Mt

Global Mountain Solutions USA, 1239 Jackpine Ave Ste 110, (778) 897-2078, Santos (Manager), Poliana – Global Mountain Solutions USA,  General Contractors, Redmond, Or,

Pour To Ridge, 205 4th St Sw, (406) 647-4694, Spainhower, Josh – Pour To Ridge,  General Contractors, Park City   Mt, 59063

Specialty Distribution Group LLC, 7015 Trade Center Ave, (386) 304-2222, Specialty Distribution Group LLC,  – Specialty Distribution Group LLC, Distributors, Billings

Behavioral Health Solutions LLC,      1415 Yellowstone River Rd, (833) 719-0886, Kovacs, Kristina – Behavioral Health Solutions LLC, Service, Billings

City Of Billings Streets/Traffic, 4848 Midland Rd, (406) 657-8264, Ness, Steve – City Of Billings Streets/Traffic, Electrical Contractors, Billings 

Lace Property LLC, 3118 Forsythia Blvd, (925) 214-2569, Pierce, Lacey D – Lace Property LLC, Service, Billings

Keep’n It Neat, 224 S 36th St, (406) 598-8291, Stephanie, Abrahams – Keep’n It Neat, Service, Billings

Green Energy Champions, 1734 Avenue D, (406) 200-2972, Doran, Patrick N – Green Energy Champions, Service, Billings 

Lisa Joy Cleaning Service, 86 W Antelope Trail Unit 2, (406) 855-1473, Watterud, Lisa – Lisa Joy Cleaning Service, Service, Billings

Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc, 1560 Coulson Rd, (781) 792-5000, Dowsett, Brett – Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc, Retail Sales, Billings

First North Consulting LLC, 3950 Bitterroot Dr, (406) 860-8741, Morrell, Daniel – First North Consulting LLC, Service, Billings

Bodfe, 27 Monroe St, (406) 794-9736, Akred, Maegan – Bodfe, Retail Sales, Billings

406 Trading Empire LLC, 4453 Loma Vista Dr, (406) 860-1362, Smith, Dakota – 406 Trading Empire LLC, General Contractors, Billings

Brice From Maintenance, 424 S 34th St, (406) 696-9436, Lagreca, Brice – Brice From Maintenance, Service, Billings     

Charter Real Estate Company, 1148 16th St W Ste  16, (406) 698-8203, Charter, Boyd – Charter Real Estate Company, Real Estate Rental, Billings

Transcendence Behavior Health, 201 N Broadway Ste 110c, (813) 279-1082, Tran, Johnny – Transcendence Behavior Health, Service, Billings

Helios Counseling Of Montana Inc, 2680 Overland Ave, Palmer, Russell & Cynthia – Helios Counseling Of Montana Inc, Service, Billings

Big Sky Asphalt Repair, 1526 W Laura Lee Ln, (406) 606-8886, Reno, Chris – Big Sky Asphalt Repair, Service, Laurel 

Vilavong Keutla, 20 Washington St, (206) 909-1455, Keutla, Vilavong – Vilavong Keutla, General Contractors, Billings

Falcon Construction LLC, 2 Cold Springs Ct, (307) 622-8297, Molina, Stephanie – Falcon Construction LLC, General Contractors, Gillette WY

Kob Service Center, 4105 Corbin Dr, (406) 259-0524, Deese, Robert – Kob Service Center, Service, Billings

Triple J Construction, 1225 Lake Elmo Dr 306c, (406) 591-6365, Johnson, Alexander – Triple J Construction, General Contractors, Billings

406 Baker, LLC, 1407 Tillamack St, (406) 672-7711, Baker, Matthew – 406 Baker LLC, General Contractors, Billings

Fritos Handyman Services, 8241 Hofferber Rd, (702) 210-6893, Moran, Oscar – Fritos Handyman Services, Service, Shepherd

Kumgould Services, 445 Lordwith Dr, (406) 679-0378, Gould, Kumba – Kamgould Services,    Service, Billings

Gwc, LLC, 4143 Palisades Park Dr, (406) 697-4257, Mckittrick, Terrance – Gwc, LLC, Roofing Contractors, Billings

I Am Angelic Nicole LLC, 1065 Hemingway Ave, (406) 389-4468, Williams, Angelic – I Am Angelic Nicole LLC, Service, Billings

Golden Ferrule Painting, 819 7th Street West, (406) 200-4905, Peltier, James – Golden Ferrule Painting, Service, Billings

Montana Coin And Collectibles LLC, 1747 Cheryl St, (406) 647-1463, Bradley, Shawn – Montana Coin And Collectibles LLC, Retail Sales,      Billings

Brians Construction, 7508 Central Ave, (304) 240-0422, Summerlin, Brian – Brians Construction, Service, Billings

Aero Brush Duct Cleaning, 4020 Corbin Dr, (406) 970-5355, La Ve, Pierre – Aero Brush Duct Cleaning, Service, Billings

Songdog Construction Services LLC, 1264 Calamity Jane Blvd, (406) 694-5857, Grass, Benjamin – Songdog Construction Services LLC, General Contractors, Billings

Robin’s Rental, 2200 Alamo Dr, Stauffer, Robin – Robin’s Rental, Real Estate Rental, Billings

Sparkling Clean, 752 Yellowstone Ave, (406) 601-2152, Kinn, Robin – My Cleaning, Service, Billings

Bloomwell Counseling LLC, 2048 Overland Ave Ste 102a, (406) 839-6154, Wagner, Chelsie – Bloomwell Counseling LLC, Service, Billings

Robinson & Sons Enterprises LLC, 416 N 11th Ave, (406) 690-7671, Robinson, Alexander – Robinson & Sons Enterprises LLC, General Contractors, Bozeman

Blue Sky Empire Inc, 1302 24th St W Suite 267, (406) 598-3390, Evans, Chris – Blue Sky Empire Inc, General Contractors, Billings

Southside Towing, 414 S 25th St,      (406) 831-8003, Nava Jr/Nava Sr, Victor/Timothy – Southside Towing, Service. Billings

Tomorrow’s Cleaning, 921 Lake Elmo Dr, (406) 671-6557, Lamere, Tomorrow – Tomorrow’s Cleaning, Service, Billings

Yellowstone Valley Hauling & Junk Removal, 939 Dixon St, (406) 861-2430, Blomeyer/Harr, Zach/Travis – Yellowstone Valley Hauling & Junk Removal,  Service, Billings

Day 2 Day Construction, 8215 Beas Place, (406) 661-9036, Day, Dustin – Day 2 Day Construction, General Contractors, Shepherd

Montana Dog Training LLC Dba Sit Means Sit, 1215 Monad Rd, (406) 282-3647, Shepherd, Darin Charle – Montana Dog Training LLC Dba Sit Means Sit, Service, Billings

Integrative Health Solutions, 1611 Alderson Ave, (406) 694-8323, Pertuit/Adkins, Kira/Skelly – Integrative Health Solutions, Office Only, Billings

Rimrock Used Auto, 2951 King Ave W, (406) 655-8600, Latiff, Shahzad – Rimrock Used Auto, Auto Business, Billings    

Ebar Construction, 2134 Central Ave, (406) 698-0710, Lamb, Robert – Ebar Construction, General Contractors, Billings

Bandit Construction, 2326 Miles Ave, (406) 670-9659, Wickham, Chandler – Bandit Construction, General Contractors, Billings

Coolprint Collective LLC, 2230 Rosebud Dr, (406) 794-5275, Polak, Dustin – Coolprint Collective LLC, Service, Billings

Ace Prep Mt, 6342 HiLLCrest Rd, (406) 850-6481, Eisele, Ashley – Ace Prep Mt, Service, Billings

Zents Snow Removal LLC, 2901 Monad Rd Apt 126, (406) 371-3810, Zent, Bret – Zents Snow Removal, Service, Billings

Lashonda & Waylon Rentals, 34 Jubilee St, (406) 839-0257, Boehmy, Lashonda – Lashonda & Waylon Rentals, Real Estate Rental, Billings

Vintage Finds, 2222 Azalea Ln, (406) 697-7869, Maristuen, Monica – Vintage Finds, Retail Sales, Billings

Elegance Nails & Spa, 2695 King Ave W Suite B/C, (406) 534-1145, Do, Kacey – Elegance Nails & Spa, Service, Billings

Cold Smoke/Boogie’s Bodega, 1802 1st Ave N, (406) 252-0470, McMichael, Owen – Cold Smoke/Boogie’s Bodega, Retail Sales, Billings    

Revitali LLC, 1024 Toole Cir, (406) 598-5943, Harr, Cassandra – Revitali LLC, Service, Billings

Pucker Up Lemon Shaker, 2220 Tree Ln, (406) 670-3058, Lafountain, John – Pucker Up Lemon Shaker, Restaurants, Billings

Mi Casa Es Su Casa, 1403 Avenue C, (575) 618-0739, Dominguez, Consuelo & Oscar – Mi Casa Es Su Casa, Real Estate Rental, Billings

Guiding Light Treatment Solutions, 607 26th St W, (406) 698-8578, Lehman, Megan – Guiding Light Treatment Solutions, Service, Billings

Montana Jezebelles, 3220 Hwy 87 S, (406) 647-8381, Murrill, Pamela – Montana Jezebelles, Retail Sales, Roundup

The Patch Guys LLC, 928 Broadwater Ave, (406) 794-5256, Jeffers, Koby – The Patch Guys LLC, General Contractors, Billings

BWB Ventures LLC (Mobile), 113 E Park Ave, (386) 365-9081, Willems, Laura – BWB Ventures LLC (Mobile), Restaurants, Anaconda

Rimrock Flooring Installation, 512 E 1st St, (406) 690-6778, Anderson, Todd M – Rimrock Flooring Installation, Service, Laurel

Gold Buckle Homes LLC, 610 S 44th St W #6101, (406) 598-4424, Minkoff, Cree/Scott – Gold Buckle Homes, General Contractors, Billings

SDBrady Properties, 311 Lewis Ave, (406) 670-1282, Brady, Sean – SDBrady Properties, Real Estate Rental, Billings

Lais Development Inc, 3307 Grand Ave Ste 103a, (406) 672-6151, Hawkins, Barbara – Lais Development Inc, General Contractors, Billings

Barrett Services, 302 Calhoun Ln, n/a, Barrett, Clint – Barrett Services, General Contractors, Billings

6g Holdings, LLC, 3769 Heritage Dr, n/a, Guardipee, Tim – 6g Holdings, LLC, Real Estate Rental, Billings

My Plant Guy, 2 Stanford Ct, (406) 670-6484, Schmitz, Nathan – My Plant Guy, Retail Sales    Billings

Central Wellness, 1420 S 24th St W, (406) 869-1066, Griffin, Jeanine – Central Wellness, Service, Billings

Hongkong BBQ, 15 Shiloh Rd #10   (406) 281-8017, Sun, Xiaojia – Hongkong BBQ, Restaurants, Billings

Koat Development LLC (Koat Services), 3311 Horton Smith Ln, (406) 581-6495, Leonard, Kyle – Koat Development LLC (Koat Services), General Contractors, Billings

R & K Handyman Services, 3649 Rosebud Dr, (406) 208-6729, Reed, Rob – R & K Handyman Services, Service, Billings

Bomba Y Plena, 3015 Chapman Ln, (406) 696-4865, Brown, Ricco – Bomba Y Plena, Restaurants, Billings

Copper Creek Table Company LLC, 608 Avenue F, (406) 876-5046, Paluch/Robison, Joseph/Lara – Copper Creek Table Company LLC, Retail Sales, Billings

Tip Top Tidy 406, 3139 Gregory Dr, (406) 690-9423, Kirchhevel, Jennifer – Tip Top Tidy 406, Service, Billings

Olvera Construction LLC, 1547 Windrow Dr Apt 10, (406) 600-5434, Matamoros (Manager), Jennifer – Olvera Construction LLC, General Contractors, Bozeman

Sheldon Construction, 4945 King Ave W, (406) 690-3920, Sheldon, Matthew – Sheldon Construction, General Contractors, Billings

JBD Trades LLC, 209 Golf Course Rd, (406) 672-9294, Dempster, Jay – JBD Trades LLC, General Contractors, Laurel

Tag Marketing And Consulting, Inc., 214 Pueblo Dr, (406) 671-5729, Joseph, Gradney – Tag Marketing And Consulting, Inc., Service, Billings

JJM Performance, LLC., 1420 Minnesota Ave, Mcgraw, Janelle – JJM Performance, s., Retail Sales, Billings

Flickering Light Counseling, 1721 Clubhouse Way, (406) 647-4247, Ingram-Hegenbart, Richard – Flickering Light Counseling, Service, Billings

Integrated Construction Service, 13900 State Ave, (913) 702-2436, Brown, Tom – Integrated Construction Service, General Contractors     Bonner Springs, KS                                         

By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

Fentanyl has been a problem in Montana for years, and 2024 appears to be no different.

Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) task forces seized 163,184 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana during the first quarter of this year. That is compared to 65,142 during the same period last year, an increase of 150 percent.

Because of this, Attorney General Austin Knudsen said Montana is “on pace to far surpass last year’s record-shattering number of fentanyl seizures.”

An estimated 398,000 fentanyl dosage units were seized last year in Montana. That was up from 188,823 in 2022 and 60,557 dosage units in 2021.

“While I’m glad anti-drug task forces are successfully taking fentanyl off the street, it means more of this poison is making its way across the southern border and into Montana where it’s killing men, women, and children,” said Attorney General Austin Knudsen in a news release.

RMHIDTA includes the Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau as well as the Montana Highway Patrol, which Knudsen credits for making more traffic stops leading to drug arrests. Regardless, Knudsen said this week that the federal government needs to be more involved.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to fight this battle in Montana and urge President Biden to secure the border.”

Earlier this year, Knudsen testified before a House committee seeking to impeach Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over border issues and drug problems. Knudsen has also called on President Joe Biden to consider drug cartels terrorist organizations and label fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.

“Mexican drug cartels are pushing it across the border, flooding it into our state at an unprecedented rate,

and killing  Montanans,”  said Knudsen in 2022.

Knudsen recommends Montanans talk to their loved ones about the dangers of fentanyl. He also advises citizens to “never take a drug that is not prescribed to you.”

Montana’s State Crime Lab has reported 22 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. There were 80 in all of 2023. 

Lake County commissioners sent a letter to President Biden recently to make compensation for “depredations” by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, pertaining to the low water level in Flathead Lake last summer. The letter references the Blackfeet Treaty, signed in 1855 by the leaders of the Flathead and Kootenai, and refers specifically to Article 8, which states in part “that the navigation of all lakes and streams shall be forever free to citizens of the United States.”

Hot beeswax and watercolor artist Leisa Lewis has moved into a new studio in downtown Hamilton called “Leisa Lewis, connecting with feel good art.” The studio is open by appointment.

The Northwest Montana Association of Realtors has named Brenda Miller the 2024 Realtor of the Year. Awards also included Realtor Rookie of the Year Sarah Meehan.

The new Kyiyo Bakery and Mercantile has opened in Kiowa Junction. The business has been opened by owner Will Hammerquist, who has also run the Polebridge Mercantile with his wife Katerina for nearly 10 years. He didn’t have plans to expand the business, but when the opportunity arose to build something at the Kiowa Junction, he decided to go for it. Kiowa Junction is the area where Montana 49 meets U.S. 89 west of Browning. The land was on the market for several years before Hammerquist purchased it. There was a year of demo work, tearing down the dilapidated buildings that used to be a pit stop at the junction. Currently, Hammerquist and his team are building cabin rentals across from the mercantile.

A major power transmission project linking Montana to energy markets in the Midwest picked up a commitment recently from Colstrip Power Plant shareholder Portland General Electric. The $3.2 billion North Plains Connector would bridge the Eastern and Western energy grids by running 415 miles of high voltage, direct current line between Colstrip substation and Center, North Dakota. North Plains is being developed by Texas-based Grid United.

U.S. Bank has been at the corner of Main Street and Black Avenue in downtown Bozeman for 27 years. A renovation project uncovered the historic, Fred Willson-designed building underneath the façade. Work is continuing on the fourth and fifth floors of the building, but the U.S. Bank branch is open on the ground floor.

Glendive Chief of Police Jeremy Swisher has been charged with three felony offenses alleged by the Montana Attorney General’s office. The police chief is on track for a jury trial by December. Assistant Montana AG Michael Gee filed with the 7th Judicial District Court last week. According to court documents, the State of Montana alleges Swisher committed unlawful possession, shipping or transportation of game animal on or between Jan. 30, 2023 and July 20, 2023, a felony.

At a presentation before the North Dakota Public Service Commission, representatives for a gas conversion plant spoke about the impacts and benefits of the proposed facility to be located southwest of Williston.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew H. Wrigley and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with 21 other states have filed a petition for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging the Biden EPA’s unconstitutional overreach aimed at killing North Dakota’s coal fired energy production. The recent Federal rule would require certain air toxin emission levels from coal-fired plants to be reduced drastically, with no corresponding health benefits and with great costs to the States and their industries.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes recently received an Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The $7.7 million grant will fund a 3,000-square-foot plant in Ronan designed to process up to 25 animals a week. The three-acre building site, located along Mink Lane, was part of a 31-acre parcel of tribal land annexed by the city of Ronan last summer. CSKT Management predicts the facility will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Whitefish-based Averill Hospitality is planning to develop a hotel on property in Sandpoint, Idaho. Once plans are approved work on a new hotel where the Edgewater Resort now sits could begin by this fall. The hotel is on Lake Pend Oreille. The project would be a $70 million, 150-room full-service resort.

The Scheels Aim High Big Sky Aquatic and Recreation Center is planning to open for business on June 29. It is located at 900 29th Street South in Lions Park just off of 10th Ave South in Great Falls. The rec center features a full-court gymnasium, eight-lane pool, sauna, cardio and weight machines, elevated walking track, a splash pad, group fitness, and a large water slide.

Residents of the Swan Valley are investigating how to form their own central government in Condon, which would be the first new town in Montana since the 1990’s. Members of the Swan Valley Community Council met last week with a local government expert from MSU and the Missoula County commissioners for more information on making the idea a reality. Condon sits at the edge of Missoula County and is unincorporated. Some residents are interested in incorporating so they can refocus their taxes toward local issues. The process of creating a town has rarely been used since the turn of the last century, with Colstrip as the last town to incorporate in 1994.

The new Dollar General location in Victor is open. The business is located at 2438 Railroad Ave., just off U.S. Highway 93. The Victor location will be one of around 5,400 to carry fresh produce along with health and beauty products, housewares, stationery and seasonal products. Dollar General operates four other locations in Montana including Columbia Falls, Eureka, Libby and Thompson Falls.

The Montana Department of Commerce recently announced that 67 film creations will share more than $2.6 million in grant funding to film on-location productions across the state. Film Office promotes Montana as a business destination for film production companies to expand production in our state.

Missoula is the 15th best-run city in America, according to personal-finance website WalletHub. The rankings compared the operating efficiency of the 148 largest U.S. cities. WalletHub used 36 metrics regarding education, the economy and the environment for the assessment. Nampa, Idaho, secured first place in the study, while San Francisco scored the worst. Billings, Montana, made the list at 16th place. Data from the website showed Missoula ranks 59th in the country for quality of city services, but 15th in its total budget per capita.

ND Malting and Hops, Inc. began production near Williston on Thursday, May 23, 2024. The new plant is locally owned by two farmers , David Anfinson and Paul Weyrauch. The grains processed in the facility will be used for the 2 row malting process and then shipped to meet the demand for micro brewing facilities.“

Kiplinger Personal Finance named Great Falls as one of the 25 Cheapest Places to Live: U.S. Cities Edition. Great Falls ranked 16th in the survey.

A huge controversy is broiling near Gallatin Gateway regarding a proposed gravel mine. On a farm that has been in the Black family for generations, a 130-acre gravel mine is being proposed to build roads and highways for the burgeoning development in the Gallatin Valley. Third generation owner of the farm, Bayard Black says that the multi –million deal with Belgrade-based TMC Inc., is essential for the continued operation of the farm. Neighbors, many of whom are transplants to the valley, who have built “dream” homes with views of Spanish Peaks and the Bridger Mountains, and who are the reason for the need for the roads and highways, are trying to halt permitting for the gravel pit through the courts.

New water restrictions in Idaho are having  a “profound effect” on local farmers. They are leading to “decreased crop yields, financial strain, and the potential long-term consequences for our farming community and the entire state.”

Cerilon Gas-to-Liquids facility in Williams County, ND, is being developed to turn natural gas into specialty products. With a cost of $3.2 billion, phase one of the facility will turn 240 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day into products like diesel. Located near Trenton, the project is still undergoing permitting, but construction is expected to start in 2026, with the first phase operational by 2029.

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – Since January 2020, employers across the United States have filled the job hole created by the pandemic, plus another 5 million jobs. That ability to hire suggests there is an expanding labor pool. The growing foreign-born1 population is a contributing factor. In 2010, North Dakota had the smallest foreign-born population in the region. By 2023, this population had grown by 176 percent, helping the state leapfrog Montana and South Dakota. Michigan saw the smallest growth rate among Ninth District states, at 16 percent. 

To the Editor,

In the press recently there appeared criticism of HB 527, the Defend the Guard bill. One article was by Senator Wendy McKamey titled, “It’s Time We End the War on Law Enforcement and the National Guard”. There was also a critical article by Roger Hagan titled, “Show Ponies Must Own Their Votes”. As principal sponsor of HB 527, let me help you to understand my enthusiastic sponsorship of HB 527.

For your information, the bill’s intent is to forbid the Governor from releasing the Montana Guard into combat overseas absent a US Congressional declaration of war.

You should read the two articles above. You will notice the intentional lack of Constitutional references to make their case. The reason is that there aren’t any. In fact, HB 527 is defended by the Constitution itself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 (The Congress shall have the power) To declare war. Article II, Section 2, Clause 1; The President shall be the commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15; (The Congress shall have the power) to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

Reread Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15. Congress, not the President, calls forth the Militia to do three things only; execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. Sending the National Guard into combat overseas in places like Iraq or Afghanistan without a declaration of war is flatly unconstitutional. Title 10 of the U.S. Code 12406 reinforces my contention.

We are led to believe by Senator McKamey, Roger Hagan, and Adjutant General Hronek that we should give up the lives of our citizen-soldiers in conflicts not authorized by the Constitution for $197 million dollars. They want us to trade the lives of our National Guard for money. It is as simple as that.

This is not an academic exercise. Before introducing HB 527 I asked a legislative staffer to find out how many members of Montana’s National Guard had been injured in the Global War on Terror. He reported that 36 members of our Montana Guard had been killed in that conflict.

The Montana National Guard deserves a thorough debate by the U.S. Congress and an affirmative vote before being sent overseas. Do we want the Montana National Guard fighting in Yemen, the Ukraine, or Gaza? Make the case in the U.S. Congress. Our citizen-soldiers deserve that.

Do we want the Montana National Guard to help secure both borders, provide relief during natural disasters and/or deal with the threat of domestic insurrection? It will be hard to do if they are deployed to Syria.

HB 527 was and is rock solid constitutionally, legally, and morally. I hope you value the lives of Montana National Guard members as beyond price. I do.

                             Representative Lee Deming HD 55

Lies Defeat incumbent  – Republican Legislators

Politics is increasingly a “contact sport!”  However, this primary election has gone from twisting facts and statements to outright lies about candidates.  We have become used to the Soros funded Democrat political PAC Tactics they have perfected, but during this Montana primary a well-funded left-leaning Republican faction attacked conservative incumbent legislators (opponents were endorsed by Republican governor Greg Gianforte) and carried out by the “Republican” Llew Jones led “Solutions Caucus” (the “Democrat wing” of the Republican legislature).

An example was incumbent Rep. James Bergstrom (HD 78—Hobson) who was attacked by a last minute mailer accusing him of “defunding the Montana National Guard” by his vote for HB 527 which resulted in his defeat by a handful of votes.  Jim Bergstrom has been a conscientious hard working legislator who earnestly represented his voters while generally voting with the conservative Republican House majority. 

Here are the facts:  HB 527 (had an unusually high 26 co-sponsors) “An Act requiring official U.S. Congressional declaration or action to release the Montana National Guard  to active combat duty….”   In other words it instructed the Governor to maintain control over the State National Guard until Congress voted to give the President permission to call up the Guard for combat beyond the state of Montana (This follows the U.S. Constitution).

The bill was defeated 60 to 40 with the Llew Jones led RINOs (plus 2), with the support of Governor Gianforte, joining all the Democrats but one in defeating HB 527.  The facts about this last minute “leftist political hit piece” against Bergstrom and a number of  other incumbent Republican bill supporters— did not “defund the Guard,” did not interfere with fighting fires, did not block Guardsmen’s salaries, and did not “…put our nation and state at risk…” as charged by this left wing PAC mailer. It simply stated that Montana soldiers could not be sent to die at the whim of a President!

These types of lies spread against a legislator resulting in his defeat are not fair to unsuspecting voters who support our soldiers and veterans as does Representative Bergstrom—a good and decent man.

                                                  Sen. Ed Butcher

Sen. Ed Butcher (Ret) is a Central Montana rancher/businessman and former college political history professor who previously served for 10 years in the Montana legislature and has been currently appointed to represent Legislative HD 29.