Small nonfarm businesses in 18 Montana counties and neighboring counties in Idaho and Wyoming are now eligible to apply for low interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, announced Director Tanya N. Garfield of SBA’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West. These loans offset economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by drought in the following primary counties that began July 6, 2021. 

Primary Montana counties:  Carbon, Gallatin, Madison, Park, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Treasure and Yellowstone;

Neighboring Montana counties:  Beaverhead, Big Horn, Broadwater, Golden Valley, Jefferson, Meagher, Musselshell, Rosebud, Silver Bow and Wheatland;

Neighboring Idaho county:  Fremont;

Neighboring Wyoming counties:  Big Horn, Park and Teton.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” Garfield said.

Small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

“Eligibility for these loans is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. These loans have an interest rate of 2.88 percent for businesses and 2 percent for private nonprofit organizations, a maximum term of 30 years and are available to small businesses and most private nonprofits without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship,” Garfield said.

By law, SBA makes Economic Injury Disaster Loans available when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. The Secretary declared this disaster on July 12, 2021.

Applicants may apply online, download applications at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for economic injury is March 14, 2022.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has invited the public to comment on a proposal to improve two intersections on Laurel Road; the two intersections are located at Moore Lane and Parkway Lane.

Proposed work includes updated lighting and signal equipment for vehicles and pedestrians. In addition, new signage will also be installed at the intersections. The purpose of the project is to update the signal equipment to allow for safe and efficient signal operations.

The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022.

An important part of properly planning for future projects is partnering with the community. The Montana Department of Transportation welcomes the public to provide ideas and comments on the proposed project. Comments may be submitted online at http:// www.mdt. mt.gov/ mdt/ comment_form. shtml or in writing to Montana Department of Transportation, Billings office at PO Box 20437, Billings, MT  59104-0437. Note that comments are for project UPN 9568000.

The public is encouraged to contact Project Design Engineer LeRoy Wosoba at (406) 444-1280 or Billings Preconstruction Engineer Mike Taylor at (406) 657-0233 for additional information.

Grow America Builders, LLC, a national, full-service, cannabis design-build construction firm based in Highwood, IL, has announced the start of construction on a new cultivation facility and dispensary for Holy Grail Botanicals (Holy Grail) in Billings.

David Fettner, managing partner of GAB said that they have “a top notch team to construct the optimal building for cultivation of premium cannabis.”  They are working with consultant, GoVan Seeds.

Construction has already commenced and is expected to be completed by mid-October.

The Holy Grail facility, (no location address provided) will offer “plenty of canopy space for tier one growing as well as space to expand into tier two by the end of the year. There is also back office space for processing, a secure vault and a highly advanced security system. The facility will also house a retail dispensary where consumers will be able to order delivery, or walk in.”

Grow America Builders is one of the only national construction companies solely focused on the cannabis industry and specializes in cultivation centers, processing laboratories and retail dispensaries. It is owned by partners David Fetner and Mike Kaulentis.

Christian S. Kendall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Denbury Inc., will be the guest speaker at the annual Montana Petroleum Industry’s Appeciation Day Luncheon on Sept. 1, in Billings at the Doubletree Hotel, 3rd Floor, 11:30 am.

Kendall also serves as a member of Denbury’s Board of Directors. He joined Denbury as Chief Operating Officer in September 2015 and was named President in October 2016. He was appointed to his current role as a Director and CEO, July 1, 2017. Prior to joining Denbury, Chris was with Noble Energy for 14 years prior to that, holding a wide range of domestic leadership positions, primarily in the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and the Gulf of Mexico.

The luncheon is part of Montana Petroleum Association’s annual conference, which will be held in Billings Aug. 30 – Sept. 1.

Features of the conference include discussions about “Montana’s Tax Picture, Government Revenue vs. Tax Equity,” with Brendan Beatty, Director, MT Department of Revenue; Bob Story, Executive Director, Montana Taxpayers’ Association; and Kurt Alme, Montana State Budget Director.

Also a panel discussion on “Methane Monitoring and Control” and on “Regulatory Update will be held.

For more information email: mpa@montanapetroleum.org

New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s New American Driving Survey (2020) showed the average number of all daily car trips at the start of the pandemic dropped by 45% as COVID-19 and associated restrictions led to a drastic drop in road travel.  Daily trips rebounded in May and June but remained 20-25% below their 2019 levels during the remainder of 2020. 

According to the research in April 2020: 

* Trips by all modes of transportation plunged by 40% 

* The average number of daily trips for all modes of transportation fell from 3.7 trips per day (2019) to 2.2 trips.

Other key findings: 

* Daily Car trips:  Fell from 3.2 pre-pandemic to 1.8 in April 2020, before rebounding slightly to 2.6 trips for the rest of 2020.

* Travel by Urban Areas: Daily trips dropped 42% (compared to 25% for those living in Suburban areas), before leveling off to a 20%-30% reduction. 

* Travel by transit, taxi, or rideshare: The proportion of people who reported making any trips by transit, taxi, or rideshare plummeted from 5.5% pre-pandemic to 1.7% in April of 2020, before leveling off at approximately 2.4% for the remainder of the year.

* Commuter Travel: Work-related travel by all transportation modes dropped by 40% in April 2020, likely reflecting a mix of layoffs, job losses, and telecommuting. Commuting trips made by workers on days when they worked decreased by approximately 22%. For the remainder of the year, commuting trips were approximately 26% below pre-pandemic levels. 

Car Fatalities Rise despite less travel in 2020

Despite fewer cars on the road and more people staying home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently estimated that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020 — an increase of about 7.2% over 2019 and the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.

The most recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Traffic Safety Culture Index found that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous. Yet, many drivers admitted to engaging in at least one of these behaviors in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Commercial and New Residential

RPR Properties LLC/T.W. Construction, 704 N 30th St, Com Addition, $367,000

Billings 401 LLC/Bradford Roof Management Inc, 401 N 31st St, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $9,350

Lutheran Retirement Home Inc/Bradford Roof Management Inc, 3940 Rimrock Rd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $6,140

Wal-Mart Real Estate Business, 2525 King Ave W, Com Remodel, $200,000

Amerco Real Estate Company, 1515 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $12,000

McCall Development Inc/Olympus Technical Services, 6200 S Frontage Rd, Demolition Permit Commercial, $36,800

LAS Properties LLC, 1325 5th St W,  Com Footing/Foundation,  $77,400

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 1625 Annafeld Pkwy E, Com Footing/Foundation, $125,692

Van Binsbergen, Greg & Carla/Jones Construction, Inc, 1411 38th St W, Com New Store/Strip Center, $440,000

Double Duece Ventures LLC/Double Duece Ventures LLC, 71 25th St W,  Com Remodel, $15,000

Harkless, Steven R, 206 N 18th St, Com Remodel, $15,000

Yellowstone Art Center Foundation/Hardy Construction Co., 401 N 27th St, Com Remodel, $45,000

Josh Benson/Cucancic Construction Inc.  3189 King Ave W, Com Remodel – Change In Use, 120,000

Unicor Partners, 2695 King Ave W, Com Remodel – Change In Use,$28,900

School District No 2/Empire Roofing Inc, 1201 Kootenai Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $117,390

IRET Properties/Drytech Co LLC, 1585 Governors Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $26,500

IRET Properties/Drytech Co LLC, 1545 Governors Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $26,500

IRET Properties/Drytech Co LLC, 1515 Governors Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding,$26,500

Montana Power Building LLC/Lennick Bros. Roofing & Sheetmetal, 2123 1st Ave N, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $8,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Com New 3+ (Multi Family), $960,000

NA/McCall Development, 1624 St George Blvd, Com New Other, $40,000

NA/McCall Development, 1624 St George Blvd, Com New Other, $50,000

Rocky Vista University/Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 4130 Monad Rd, Com New Other, $9,000,000

Las Properties LLC/Dick Anderson Construction, 1325 5th St W, Com New Restaurant/Casino/Bar, $200,000

Rimrock II, LLC/Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 3045 King Ave W, Com Remodel, $20,000

Residential

Robert Lively/MJH Construction, 6321 Ridge Stone Dr S, Res New Single Family, $300,000

Robert Lively/MJH Construction, 6311 Ridge Stone Dr S, Res New Single Family,  $300,000

Mike Glennon/Schaefer Construction, 1424 Las Palmas Ave, Res New Single Family,   $220,600

Copper Ridge West Inc/Bob Pentecost Construction, 7003 Copper View Way, Res New Single Family, $420,000

Copper Ridge West Inc/Bob Pentecost Construction, 7015 Copper View Way, Res New Single Family, $460,000

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 1931 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Single Family, $477,720

Reichenbach Properties, LLC/Kay Homebuilders LLC, 2032 Gayle Dr, Res New Single Family, $325,000

Taylor, Zachary J/Trent Buscher Construction, 3150 Falcon Cir, Res New Single Family,   $250,000

NA/Trent Buscher Construction, 3152 Falcon Circle, Res New Single Family, $271,884

Morel, Elizabeth, 216 Parkhill Dr, Res New Accessory Structure, $30,000

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Accessory Structure, $60,000

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 6135 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Single Family, $0

Infinity Home/Infinity Home LLC, 1820 W Thunder Mountain Rd,  Res New Single Family, $297,952

Infinity Home/Infinity Home LLC, 1816 W Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family,     $297,952

Buscher Construction/Buscher Construction Ltd, 3109 Falcon Circle, Res New Single Family, $307,906

CDH, LLC/CDH, LLC, 4665 Audubon Way, Res New Single Family, $452,558

Jason & Megan Ahlin/Capra Group, Inc., 2925 Glynn Abbey Way, Res New Single Family, $790,582

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 1854 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $196,386

High Sierra II Inc/Infinity Home LLC, 2430 Bonito Loop, Res New Single Family, $264,184

Trails West Homes LLC/Trails West Homes LLC, 913 Grouse Berry St, Res New Single Family,   $227,838

Trails West Homes LLC/Trails West Homes LLC, 921 Grouse Berry St, Res New Single Family,  $227,838

HG Design/HG Designs, 1924 W Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $450,000

Trails West Homes LLC/Trails West Homes LLC, 925 Grouse Berry St, Res New Single Family, $279,885

Trails West Homes LLC/Trails West Homes LLC, 917 Grouse Berry St, Res New Single Family, $279,888

NA/Bob Pentecost Construction, 492 Winged Foot Dr, Res New Single Family, $450,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

McCall/McCall Development, 6123 Mollie Rose Ln, Res New Townhome, $40,000

Formation Inc/Formation Inc, 4709 Sky Vista Ct, Res New Single Family, $208,092

Habitat For Humanity Mid Yell, 1217 N Ping Cir, Res New Single Family, $220,000

Despite the many hurdles brought by COVID and the business shutdowns of 2020, a study reveals that Montana’s high tech businesses not only survived but thrived, growing seven times faster than other industry sectors.

A study done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana and released in May, found that Montana’s tech sector continued a multi-year trend of growth and generated more than $2.9 billion in revenues in 2020, up from $2.5 billion in 2019, according to the most recent issue of Montana Business Quarterly – High Tech Soars Despite Pandemic, by Christina Quick Henderson.

Montana tech firms employ about 15,772 workers and pay an average salary of $73,100, 59% higher than the average earnings per Montana worker. Companies said that they plan to hire for 1,500 new jobs in 2021.

The companies plan to increase wages by 5 percent, somewhat faster than the 4.2 percent wage growth rate of all Montana employers. Survey respondents anticipated making at least $164 million in capital expenditures in Montana in 2021, a significant increase from anticipated 2020 capital expenditures ($133 million).

“Firms reported that access to capital was their largest impediment to faster growth. For the first year in four years, slightly more high-tech leaders (12%) said that it was harder to obtain capital in 2020 compared to the previous year (9%). Other frequently mentioned impediments to growth were the need for new customers, visibility or marketing, and hiring skilled technology workers”

“Despite pandemic-induced headwinds, deals kept flowing in 2020. Missoula-based biotech company Inimmune secured a $22 million series A investment from Two Bear Capital in Whitefish. Major acquisitions of Ascent Vision Technologies in Bozeman and Helix Business Solutions in Dillon also fueled economic growth across the state.”

As with most other industries high tech businesses’ biggest problem is finding talented and experienced workers, which is compounded in some places by the cost of living and lack of affordable housing.

While Bozeman is especially noted for having housing problems, it’s a problem statewide. Sometimes, more so than the cost, it’s simply a matter of availability. There are no houses.

The survey asked what job titles tech firms hire most often. “The most frequent response was software developer/computer programmer, followed by sales representative and engineer. When asked what skills they are looking for in new hires, employers most often said coding and software development, followed by sales or marketing, communication skills, general experience and problem solving.”

Some of Montana’s leading tech companies like Zoot Enterprises or Spika Design and Manufacturing are collaborating with colleges to develop new courses that prepare “the next generation.”

The FBI conducted more background checks for firearms purchases in March — a month in which several prominent mass shootings reignited America’s conversation about gun control — than they have in any month so far this year.

About 4.7 million Americans initiated gun background checks last month — a 36% increase from February, according to the FBI. More than 2 million of those checks were for new gun purchases, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, the firearms industry trade group that compares FBI background check numbers with actual sales data to determine its sales figures.

The new guns purchased in March make it the second highest month on record for firearms sales, according to NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva, who said the threat of looming gun control legislation was the catalyst for last months sales surge.

NSSF data shows last month’s sales were surpassed only by the estimated 2.3 million guns sold in March 2020.

“It is clear that firearm sales in March were driven by gun control calls from politicians to ban entire classes of firearms and enact onerous gun laws,” Oliva told CNN Business.

This year, an ongoing surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans has also led to an increase in first-time firearms purchases among this demographic group.

“The face of today’s gun owner no longer fits in the neat little box that some would like to put gun ownership into,” Oliva said. “The fact is gun ownership in America looks more like the country than it ever has.”

The House of Representatives passed the pair of gun control bills on March 11. Five days later eight people were killed in Atlanta, including six Asian women, in a series of shootings at spas. A week after that, 10 people, including a local police officer, were shot dead in a Boulder, Colorado grocery store. Biden urged the Senate to pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of both shootings.

There have been at least 20 mass shootings in the three weeks since the Atlanta attack.

Firearm sales fell slightly in February after a January surge, which had been fueled in part by the Capitol Hill insurrection. January and March are the only two months in which FBI gun background checks surpassed 4 million since records were first kept in 1998.

The Keystone Pipeline System was supposed to create 11,000 American jobs in 2021, but President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the project. Now the company in charge is suing the U.S. government for $15 billion.

The massive pipeline project’s first three phases run from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The proposed phase IV would have connected the existing pipeline terminals in Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Nebraska, by a shorter route and a larger-diameter pipe.

But on the day of his inauguration, Biden signed an executive order to revoke the permit granted by President Donald Trump to TC Energy Corporation.

TC Energy estimated the 11,000 jobs would have totaled more than $1.6 billion in pay, and supporters touted the pipeline as a big step in American energy independence.

“TC Energy will be seeking to recover more than US $15 billion in damages that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. Government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations,” the company said in its July 2 press release.

In his executive order, Biden said in revoking the permit that “approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest” and would “undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action.”

Beyond costing Americans jobs and energy independence, this move may also cost taxpayers $15 billion.

When a shortage of truck drivers to deliver fuel to the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport resulted in no available carbon-based fuel there were no energy alternatives and airlines had to cancel flights. Planes were forced to land in neighboring cities and states to fill up with jet fuel.

A similar story has been reported in Billings by gas stations which have run out of gasoline because there are no truck drivers available to deliver fuel. With no alternatives to gasoline the gas stations have referred drivers to other gas stations.

Placing greater pressure on the availability of jet fuels is fire suppression efforts in the state for which aircraft has a priority for the fuel. Airlines are responsible for acquiring their own fuel and supplies come from petroleum production in Great Falls, Billings, Utah, and Wyoming. 

Also, placing pressure on gasoline for vehicles is a booming tourism business which is seeing a 40 percent increase over 2019 visitations.

There were no alternatives to fossil fuels last weekend when airlines at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport had to cancel flights due to a shortage of jet fuel.

Multiple flights out of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport were delayed, rescheduled, and canceled due to a fuel shortage. 

Over the weekend, planes were forced to land in neighboring cities and states to fill up their fuel tanks. 

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport Director Brian Sprenger said there is a combination of events that have resulted in the scarce fuel supply. 

“Some of it is the lack of available trucking drivers to haul fuel across the state, limited fuel supply from the projections that were earlier expected and then now we are battling fire suppression season where we have aircrafts that have priority for fuel as well,” Sprenger said. 

Montana’s fuel supply comes from Great Falls, Billings, Utah, and Wyoming and each airline is responsible for their own fuel. 

Sprenger said this summer’s travel is 40% over 2019 numbers for both inbound and outbound passengers. 

For community members flying this summer, it is important to show up early and check your airline website for updates and flight statuses.