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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the 2023 Great American Cleanup Bright n’ Beautiful Great America Cleanup Day in Billings Slated for Earth Day, Saturday April 22 Billings, Bright n’ Beautiful, a Yellowstone County nonprofit which seeks a clean, green, and more beautiful community, has named Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, “Great American Cleanup Day” in Billings.

Volunteers across town are invited to come out Earth Day morning to tackle litter in their neighborhoods and public spaces. In 2023, Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates, like Bright n’ Beautiful, celebrate the 25th year of the Great American Cleanup.

Every year, the Keep America Beautiful network of 700 affiliates mobilizes thousands of volunteers to spring clean the nation. “Great American Cleanup is a beloved annual tradition in Billings and communities all across Yellowstone County,” said Joanie Tooley, Executive Director of Bright n’ Beautiful. “It’s fun to get out there together and clear away a winter’s worth of litter to make our home brighter and even more beautiful.”

 “All who are able should participate this year on Earth Day, April 22,” said Billings Mayor Bill Cole. “There’s something exhilarating about working alongside neighbors and having a personal hand in refreshing our neighborhoods just in time for the glories of our Montana spring.” Those interested in litter pick-up activities during Great American Cleanup are encouraged to contact Bright n’ Beautiful at, or 406-248-6617, to sign up for a cleanup spot, arrange to borrow safety vests and litter pickers, and receive free supplies.

All cleanup efforts will be included in the Yellowstone County 2023 Great American Cleanup report. Home Base on Billings Cleanup Day, 4/22, will be the Billings Community Center, 360 N. 23rd St. Doors open at 8:30 AM for check-in and supplies.

Walk-ins welcome while supplies last. Cleanup Billings from 9 am to 1 pm. Billings Public Works has provided large roll-off dumpsters:

 • Downtown: Parking Lot opposite Billings Community Center, 360 N. 23rd St.

• Heights: Parking lot of Castle Rock Park, W. Wicks Lane and Nutter Blvd.

• West End: Parking lot of Stewart Park, 26th Street W & Central Ave.

Additional Yellowstone County Great American Cleanup events this season include:

• Shepherd Lions Annual Highway Clean-Up, 4/22 8 am, meeting at Shepherd Community Center

• Laurel Community Cleanup, 4/29-4/30, from Grace Bible Church, 917 Washington Ave.

• Worden/Ballantine Cleanup Day, Saturday, 5/6, 9 am, meeting on Worden Main Street.

Bright n’ Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, strives to inspire and educate the people of Yellowstone County to take action to honor the Montana home we are privileged to share. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful and its 700 affiliates nationwide work to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities.

By Dan Brooks, Billings Chamber of Commerce

Tomorrow is Legislative Day 71, giving lawmakers 19 more days before legislative business must conclude. And despite having over two weeks left to work, I’d wager they wrap up in April, going Sine Die (concluding the legislative session) without using any days in May. Just a hunch…

Considering the recent holiday, I felt it appropriate to highlight a different rise from the dead. No, I don’t mean to detail our favorite Maiar’s return to the mortal realm of Middle Earth, given new life by Eru Ilúvatar. I want to look at legislative blast motions, the process by which either body, house or senate, can vote to bring a bill to the full floor, giving it renewed life.

 During floor sessions, members of the house or senate can make the motion to take a bill that’s been tabled in committee and place it on the floor agenda for a scheduled 2nd reading, allowing a vote by the whole body, and bypassing the previous decision of the committee. Successful blast motions breathe life back into a bill that had been effectively dead, although many of the bills that receive a second chance will still end up dead in the end.

Billings Strategic Partners and supporters of the One Big Sky District project should remember the importance, and disappointment in, the potential of blast motions. After it was tabled in (S) Tax, SB 340, the 406 Impact Districts bill, failed a blast motion by a couple votes on the Senate Floor, the final nail in the coffin for the bill in 2019.

 As you can see from the information below, each legislative session is different. Legislators have varying appetites for making blast motions, and the bodies differ on whether they want to entertain them, somewhat undermining previous committee decisions.  While the 2017 and 2019 sessions each have over 40 blast motion attempts, the success of the efforts remained limited.

We’ll see how many more blast motions are made this session as legislators make last ditch efforts to save their bills. With lawmakers starting to see the light at the end of the legislative tunnel, it’s unlikely they will want to bring many more bills to the floor.

2023 Legislative Session (thru Apr 7)

Successful blast motions: 4 out of 24

We’ll see how many more blast motions are made this session as legislators make last ditch efforts to save their bills. With lawmakers starting to see the light at the end of the legislative tunnel, it’s unlikely they will want to bring many more bills to the floor.

2023 Legislative Session (thru Apr 7)

Successful blast motions: 4 out of 24

HB 432 – Generally revise abortion laws (Fail)

HB 448 – Revise laws related to right to work (Fail)

HB 515 – Revise property tax payment procedures (Passed)

HB 784 – Revise laws related to school elections (Fail)

HB 837 – Require curriculum transparency in K-12 education (Fail)

HB 953 – Create election security & integrity complaint/enforcement process (Fail)

HJ 5 – Resolution for congressional term limits (Fail)

HJ 13 – Resolution for Article V Convention for a balanced budget amendment (Fail)

SB 15 – Provide for all ages homeowner and renter tax credit (Fail)

SB 110 – Provide property tax assistance to elderly homeowners (Fail)

SB 120 – Establish the Chief Earl Old Person memorial highway (Passed)

SB 141 – Create indigenous people’s day (Fail)

SB 161 – Revise board of investment laws (Failed on both attempts)

SB 194 – Income tax credit for landlords who rent for below market rate (Fail)

SB 233 – Enhance legislative understanding of state-tribal relations (Failed x2)

SB 276 – Revise laws related to prevailing wage (Fail)

SB 361 – Prohibit discrimination by any person/entity because of firearms (Passed)

SB 390 – Provide freedom in school choice (Fail)

SB 437 – Generally revise abortion laws (Fail)

SB 449 – Provide limitations on collections of taxes (Fail)

SB 464 – Revise laws related to eyewitness lineups (Passed)

SB 517 – Establish graduated fee on short term rentals (Fail)

Senate Bill 14 Sen. Greg Hertz (R) SD 6

Revise MEDIA Act film credit cap

Senate Bill 14 raises the cap for the MEDIA Act tax credits from $12 million to $20 million, with 25% of the credits going to a company domiciled in the state. The MEDIA Act was passed in 2019 and then increased in 2021. Incentivizing film production in Montana leads to numerous other benefits, providing manufacturing and trades jobs, increasing tourism, growing local businesses and economies, and diversifying Montana’s mix of industries. This bill passed the senate 30 – 20 and will be heard in (H) Taxation on April 13th. Billings Chamber: Supports

Billings Chamber: Supports House Bill 819  Rep. Paul Green (R) HD 41

Create Montana community reinvest act

The Montana Community Reinvestment Plan Act creates an affordable housing program that distributes funds to communities, proportionate to a counties’ gross domestic product, to fund housing cost buydowns for eligible home buyers—those making between 60% – 140% of average median income. The bill has over 50 cosponsors and passed the house with nearly 3/4 in support. Passing HB 819 would provide one element of a multi-element housing affordability strategy, including reducing barriers and regulations to housing development. This bill will be heard in (S) Business and Labor, April 12. Billings Chamber: Supports

House Bill 652 Rep. Steven Galloway (R) HD 24

Revise UI law related to benefit duration

With almost 60 co-sponsors, this bill revises the duration of unemployment benefits from 28 to 20 weeks. Currently, Montana has one of the longest unemployment benefit durations in the U.S. Our businesses face continual workforce shortage challenges, reflected in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Shortage Index designating Montana as one of the most severely impacted. A reasonable reduction in the length of unemployment benefits is likely to result in more unemployed people returning to the workforce and helping our businesses. Tabled in committee on April 6, 10-0.

Billings Chamber: Supports

Senate Bill 269 Sen. Greg Hertz (R) SD 6

Consumer protections in litigation financing

This bill provides thoughtful reforms to protect consumers from potential predatory practices in third party litigation financing (TPLF) and increases transparency. TPLF is a relatively new and unregulated practice where hedge funds and other wealthy entities invest in the outcome of court cases. This bill shines a light on TPLF by requiring TPLFs to register, limiting interest rates charged to plaintiffs, requiring disclosure to all parties of TPLF involvement, and capping TPLF’s share of winnings from plaintiffs. Missed deadline. Billings Chamber: Supports


From National Association of Manufacturers

While unemployment is reaching historically low numbers in the US, the labor market may be softening, according to jobs numbers reported by The Washington Examiner.

The U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in March, short of expectations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In manufacturing, employment edged down by 1,000, reported the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM stated, “A weaker jobs report indicates that the Fed’s rate hikes are beginning to work and could cause the central bank to lean toward a more dovish monetary stance.”

Average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees in manufacturing rose to $25.91 in March from $25.78 in February, with 4.7% growth in the past year.

March’s numbers follow several months of strong job gains. Jobs have so far proved resilient to inflation, but this latest report “raises fears that a recession is right around the corner.”

Adding to indications of a softer labor market is last week’s number of new applications for unemployment benefits.

At 228,000, the figure was much higher than recently reported numbers.

First Interstate Bank received an SBA award for producing the highest dollar amount of SBA 7a loans in the 2022 SBA fiscal year, at a total of $10,442,300. We are proud to receive this award as a testament to our commitment to communities and small businesses.

As a community bank, our focus is and always will be on the people, the businesses, and the natural environment of our communities. Throughout the last few years, First Interstate has been dedicated to being a top 100 SBA lender. We have built a strong team of experts in the SBA lending environment to help better serve our clients and their business needs.

“Our teams throughout Montana are there to help businesses with their next chapter,” said Jeffrey McGough, SBA Lending Specialist for First Interstate. “We believe that to be strong corporate citizens, it is our responsibility to ensure our communities thrive, and we are incredibly honored to receive this award.”

By Casey Harper, The Center Square

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal and science technology office, has made race and gender speech codes for its scientists a top priority.

The guidance, for example, tells federal employees not to use the words “blacklist” or “whitelist” because of the racial connotations and also cautions against “using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.”

The NIST is a little-known government agency tasked with helping the U.S., among other things, stay technologically ahead of rivals like China. Congress appropriated about $1.65 billion for the group for 2023.

Lawmakers recently hammered the Pentagon for investing heavily in critical race theory and gender ideology. The National Institutes of Health has done so as well, along with other agencies.  

The NIST is one of many federal agencies putting its attention and taxpayer funds into these efforts as it struggles to keep pace with its key mission. The NIST sparked controversy for its “Inclusive Language Guidance,” which tells scientists which words or phrases they can or cannot use in reports.

From the document:

– Consider that biased terms, such as blacklist/whitelist, also may introduce comprehension issues.

– Avoid terms such as master/slave that perpetuate negative stereotypes or unequal power relationships.

– Avoid identifying an individual’s gender unless necessary for comprehension, or using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.

– Avoid descriptive terms that are condescending or reductive in favor of language that the groups being described would prefer.

Steven Lipner, chair of the Congressionally authorized Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, sent a letter to NIST in 2020 recommending the whitelist and blacklist changes as well as the changes for master and slave usage.

“Many technology and security standards contain racially insensitive language that is both offensive to many of our colleagues and is also, in many respects, ambiguous – technically and culturally,” the letter said. “Examples of such language include using the terms blacklist and whitelist instead of block-list and allow-list and using the terms master and slave.”

Jennifer Huergo, a spokesperson for NIST, told The Center Square the guidance “was created primarily for the benefit of NIST staff experts who participate in the development of documentary standards as expert collaborators and leaders.”

“Use of inclusive language helps to avoid potential gaps in understanding that could arise from the use of colloquial or idiomatic expressions that are rooted in particular historical events or regional dialects,” she said. 

The NIST’s DEI office also promotes liberal ideas around gender and sexuality. The DEI staff page features the preferred pronouns of its employees as the first priority in the bios.

The issue has regularly been thrust into the forefront because while Americans are largely split on the debate over gender identity and critical race theory, federal agencies have largely embraced it and put millions of taxpayer dollars behind it.

A Pew Research report released last summer found that while most Americans say there is discrimination against transgender people, “60% say a person’s gender is determined by their sex assigned at birth, up from 56% in 2021 and 54% in 2017.”

The NIST speech code also links to the American Psychological Association’s webpage on “biased language,” which goes on at length about the myriad of possible genders, and the need to cater to them.

“Transgender is used as an adjective to refer to persons whose gender identity, expression, and/or role does not conform to what is culturally associated with their sex assigned at birth,” APA says. “Some transgender people hold a binary gender, such as man or woman, but others have a gender outside of this binary, such as gender-fluid or nonbinary. Individuals whose gender varies from presumptions based on their sex assigned at birth may use terms other than ‘transgender’ to describe their gender, including ‘gender-nonconforming,’ ‘genderqueer,’ ‘gender-nonbinary,’ ‘gender-creative,’ ‘agender,’ or ‘two-spirit,’ to name a few.”

The taxpayer-funded speech guidelines also quote racial theory from a book written by Tukufu Zuberi, a professor of Race Relations and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania steeped in critical race theory. The book is titled “White Logic, White Methods.” Zuberi also penned an article titled, “Critical Race Theory: A Commemoration.”

While the U.S. is a world-leader in developing intellectual property, it lags behind in the ability to manufacture it. For example, the source of electric batteries, seen as the future of the green energy movement, is largely overseas. In fact, China made about three quarters of the world’s lithium ion batteries in 2021, while the U.S. made only 7%.

Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley has closed on a new six-unit property to expand its Transitional Housing program. The new six-plex is being funded through grants from the Gianforte Family Foundation and Fortin Family Foundation, and community donations. Family Promise has also secured a contract for an adjacent duplex and expects to complete that purchase by the end of July. Together, the two properties will enable the nonprofit to triple its transitional housing capacity, from four to 12 units.

According to Lisa Donnot, executive director of the organization, the new properties are ideally located in the Grand Avenue corridor. “The properties are near our current transitional housing on Avenue C, close to schools, services, grocery stores, and the bus line,” she said. 

Family Promise is nearing the end of a capital campaign for its transitional housing program expansion, raising more than $900,000, with $300,000 left to raise by the end of July. 

Donnot says that more than 600 Billings children face homelessness each year and that the problem is growing. “In the last year, we’ve been contacted by twice as many people as in the past. Approximately 60 percent are families in need of housing due to sales of their homes.” Rising home prices in Billings have led to increases in rent, Donnot explains. “Once a house is sold, the tenants are often unable to find housing at an affordable rate.”

Gianforte Family Foundation Executive Director Catherine Koenen adds, “A lack of adequate, affordable housing puts our most vulnerable children and families at even greater risk. We’re pleased to help Family Promise expand its capacity to safely shelter more Billings-area residents and provide the tools they need to succeed in raising their families.”

Family Promise helps homeless families through emergency shelter, food, and essential services, including a diaper bank, furniture, and motor vehicle donations. The organization’s case managers work closely with families to ensure they can live independently and successfully, through hard work, goal setting, budgeting, and sound decision making.

More than 90 percent of families served by Family Promise attain long-term independence from homelessness, Donnot says. “Our case managers assess what barriers the families need to overcome in order to be successful,” Donnot says. “People in crisis likely have other challenges apart from housing, such as credit issues. Our goal is to help them achieve sustainable independence.

Donnot says that Family Promise welcomes both volunteers and donors. “We need about 1,400 volunteers a year to keep our program going, so we are always looking for people to help.” 

By Senator Steve Daines 

Over the past two years, Montanans watched the President’s attack on oil, coal and natural gas bring our nation to the brink of an all-out energy emergency.

Gas prices rose to more than $5 a gallon and many Montanans are worried about how to heat their homes without breaking the bank.

We aren’t the only country grappling with the effects of a leader who is unrealistic about our nation’s domestic energy needs.

Europe’s energy crises over the past year make it clear that energy security is national security. When decision-makers start yielding to the whims of the radical green movement, terrible things happen.

In a meeting with Romania’s Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuc, one of the few European leaders to deliver a balanced energy portfolio to his nation, he told me something I will never forget – that a vision without an action plan is a hallucination.

We need a diverse portfolio of made in America energy that includes renewables like hydropower, wind and solar. We should use them to add capacity, not subtract. But the facts are fossil fuels will remain the most relied upon sources of energy for the next 30 years or more.

Thanks to Europe serving as a canary in a coal mine, the signs of a looming energy crisis could not be clearer – it’s time to protect American energy security and break free from this radical, green hallucination before it’s too late.

By Casey Harper, The Center Square

Gas prices continue to rise in the U.S., hitting the highest level in months.

Now, the concerns and political ramifications for the Biden administration are starting to rise as well.

“Gas prices are rising,” said economist Stephen Moore. “Joe Biden is doing nothing except push a crazy green agenda that will make prices even higher. “If America went back to Trump’s energy policies, we’d be producing 2 million barrels more a day.”

According to AAA, the average national price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.56, up from $3.49 a week ago and $3.41 a month ago.

Those energy price woes were exacerbated earlier this week when OPEC+ announced a significant cut in oil production, something likely to raise prices for American consumers.

“Saudis to cut oil production by 500,000 barrels per day,” said Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Texas. “This will definitely impact our economy and gas prices. This is why it’s so important to become and remain energy independent.”

Americans are already paying much more for energy than when Biden took office. Gas prices hit record highs last summer, surpassing $5 per gallon nationally. Those prices afterward dipped, in part because Biden relied heavily on the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves. Now, those reserves are at their lowest level since 1984, and Biden will have to use them more sparingly, if at all, to fend off future price increases.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also disrupted global oil markets. The war was expected to end by now, but it has continued with no sign of peace in the immediate future.

Biden’s defenders have pushed back, pointing to oil companies’ profits despite higher prices hurting Americans.

“While you were paying through the nose at the gas pump, Big Oil companies were using the cover of inflation to jack up prices and line their pockets,” said Robert Reich, a Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor. “BP’s CEO recently boasted that in 2022 his company had its ‘lowest production cost in 16 years.’”

Critics have hit the Biden administration’s role in rising energy prices, pointing to Biden’s discouragement of domestic oil and gas drilling and pipeline development. House Republicans recently passed the Lower Energy Costs Act, which would encourage domestic drilling to lower prices, but it is unlikely to get the Democratic support needed to succeed in the Senate.

“The Senate should pass H.R. 1 immediately and President Biden finally needs to put politics aside and unleash the power of American energy,” said Daniel Turner, who leads the energy workers advocacy group Power the Future. “Otherwise we are headed back to $4 dollar a gallon gasoline as the norm, among many other unpleasant factors.”

Some experts project the decision by OPEC+ could raise energy prices by 26 cents. Other experts say the decision by OPEC+ is a sign of the future.

“Given the transition the world is undergoing as it embraces ‘clean and green energy,’ OPEC+ understands all too well that its still highly valued ‘liquid gold’ will at some point begin to lose its shine,” said Quincy Krosby, Chief Global Strategist for LPL Financial. “Until then, as the countries dominating OPEC+ prepare for the future by spending trillions of dollars rebuilding infrastructure and refocusing away from crude oil as their primary source of income, managing the price of crude will be used more directly and aggressively than was anticipated.”

Biden also recently took fire for lowering the nation’s oil reserves to what some consider dangerous levels. House Oversight Republicans said in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm making that very point.

“By gutting vital fuel storage to lower short-term prices, the Biden Administration exposed the U.S. to future market volatility and increased supply dependence on adversarial nations instead of supporting an all-of-the-above energy approach to unleash American energy potential,” the letter said.

By Casey Harper, The Center Square

Newly released small business survey data shows that those businesses cite the labor market as their top concern.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses released a survey of small businesses which found that the labor market is their top concern, with 43% of small businesses saying they have job openings they cannot fill.

“The labor force participation rate remains below pre-COVID levels, which is contributing to the shortage of workers available to fill open positions,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said. “Small business owners are struggling to take advantage of current sales opportunities.”

The concern from small business owners comes as new federal hiring data released Friday showed that hiring has slowed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the data, which showed employers added 236,000 jobs in March, keeping unemployment at about 3.5%.

“The labor force participation rate, at 62.6%, continued to trend up in March,” BLS said. “The employment-population ratio edged up over the month to 60.4%. These measures remain below their pre-pandemic February 2020 levels (63.3& and 61.1%, respectively).”

NFIB, which boasts thousands of members, has also become outspoken on the Biden administration’s policies, pushing back on Biden’s environmental regulations and tax increases in a time when businesses are already struggling to deal with elevated inflation.

The small business group launched an ad campaign to push back on tax increases on small businesses proposed in President Joe Biden’s latest budget.

“Main Street cannot afford these new tax increases,” said NFIB President Brad Close. “As expectations for better business conditions remain low, while high inflation and worker shortages continue to plague Main Street, these proposals would hurt small businesses’ ability to recover, grow, and create jobs. The White House should instead focus on promoting economic growth by providing certainty, such as permanently extending the Small Business Deduction.”