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.

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.

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. 

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.”

The Lockwood Pedestrian Safety District was recently informed that the district has been awarded   a grant for Alternative Transportation from the Montana Department of Transportation for $1,039,000 to complete the sidewalk along Old Hardin Road. Building a side walk the length of Old Hardin Road has been a goal of the district since it was first established in 2014.

Woody Woods, who heads the Lockwood Pedestrian Safety District, said the grant will be used to finish a new section of sidewalk on Old Hardin Road from Woodland Ave. to the new sidewalk that is a part of the Johnson Lane Interchange Project at Ryken Circle. Engineering selection will start later this year with design in the spring of 2024, and hopefully construction later in 2024.

Woods reported that construction of a segment of another segment of Old Hardin Road, from Piccolo to Woodland, which has been in progress this summer, is nearing completion.

A recent report from the National Park Service (NPS) shows that approximately 2.9 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2022 spent an estimated $368 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 5,690 jobs in the local area. Overall, the figures show the total benefit to the local economy including secondary businesses tallied up to $548 million.

Both national parks have probably foregone potential visitors from other countries over the past couple years because many foreign travelers are giving the US a wide berth due to reported violence, long waits for visas and geo politics, according to Forbes. The magazine said that the US has been losing $20 billion a year in tourism dollars.

There was a 68 percent drop in visitors from China, for whom the two national parks have always been a popular destination. That could change somewhat, now, since China recently lifted their restrictions on on group travel to the US. It was estimated that normally 3 million visitors come to the US every year.

FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Montana to supplement recovery efforts in the areas affected by flooding April 10-26, 2023.

Public assistance federal funding is available to the state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by flooding in Blaine, Daniels, Hill, Park, Roosevelt, Sheridan and Valley counties and the Fort Peck Tribes.          

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Jon K. Huss has been named Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments