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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Evelyn Pyburn

I just read a reference to “the power of the boycott” – suggesting that people are just discovering it.

It’s kind of amusing that this should be a surprise to anyone. The power of a boycott is nothing more than consumers making choices. It is the very foundation of a free market system that we should all know and understand. Any one in business who doesn’t know that the ultimate decision-maker is the consumer is not long to remain in business.

A boycott is just a lot of consumers rejecting a political product or idea being foisted upon us in some way by a business in cahoots with the government.

It’s for sure that most politicians know who the ultimate decision maker is. It’s why we see ourselves and our freedoms being attacked from so many different directions. Many – a great many – politicians are trying to eliminate our freedom to choose in the realm of politics, knowing we might not choose them as leaders.

Boycotts are being taken up in something of an unprecedented way to make a point, because many other avenues for citizens (consumers) to make a choice are being blocked. Boycotts remain one of few alternatives for people to make themselves heard due to a public /private “unholy” alliance between government and big companies.

Of course the choices of consumers are being constrained in other ways under the Biden administration as they try to coerce what consumer products we are able to buy, as government attempts to gain increasing power over each one of us. But while they may be able to make it difficult if not impossible to purchase some products, it becomes difficult to force us to buy others – as the weak market for electric cars demonstrates.

That is the power of the market. No matter what they do, eventually the market will prevail. No matter to what extremes the government may be willing to go, in the end it will fail because really, there is nothing more powerful than markets – than each person choosing what they will support and what they will not.

So while some people may be surprised by the effectiveness of boycotts, they shouldn’t be – they are at play every day and always will be.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Save us from those who want to protect us.

The 12-year-old girl from Red Lodge who is passing a petition to allow people to become lawyers in Montana without going to law school or without sanctions of the Supreme Court, is so spot-on in so many ways. Why shouldn’t the legal profession be as accountable to the consuming public as a retail store or a hot dog stand???

The only problem with this young person’s petition is that it involves only lawyers. Why shouldn’t every profession be accountable to the people they serve more so than all-knowing overlords – who, as we have come to see, are not as all-knowing?

In fact, if never before, surely the past few years has demonstrated for all of us, how the overlords are not necessarily the benevolent caretakers and unbiased evaluators, as they would like to pretend. Almost every regulatory body has demonstrated that they can most easily be corrupted to gain political power and unearned wealth – whether they be attorneys, doctors, researchers, real estate agents, educators, engineers, or financiers.

In the end, we as consumers must always use our own good judgement about who we depend upon for expertise. Just because there is a piece of paper that gives someone sanction from some august body is no guarantee as to their expertise, honesty and true professionalism. Education can be a factor to consider but it should be the citizen’s right to do the considering. The transaction between a citizen and an attorney should be no different than in deciding what lawn mower to buy or what grocery store to patronize. In the end it should be a combination of attributes that commends the professional – not least of which is reputation, just as it would in any other FREE MARKET TRANSACTION.

Why shouldn’t a prospective client make the judgement call as to who they want to represent them legally? After all a citizen retains the right to represent themselves if they so choose; why shouldn’t they be FREE to choose who they want to advise them? The truth is this is as much as a protection racket as any other scheme.

And the fact of the matter is, in establishing a regulatory body to make such decisions, even should they start out as a fair and ethical group, just the existence of such a position becomes a shrieking invitation to corruption, which means it is just a matter of time before they are the corrupted, unjust and destructive bodies, as most have become.

We have surely come to recognize that even in the medical profession and with the overlords sanctioning medical treatments and medicines, our lives can be at risk if we are to make decisions based exclusively on official approvals coming from government. Big Brother is not necessarily our friend, and every citizen is responsible for their own decisions, every bit as much as if there were no licensing and permitting regimes. So why establish the pretense that there is some all-knowing, all-caring, honest and knowledgeable decision-makers who can relieve us of the responsibility of having to make such decisions ourselves? All that the existence of such “expertise” does is dupe a lot of trusting citizens, who have otherwise been brainwashed into trusting to “officials.” Not having such governmental advisors would make more clear to all citizens that they are still the final decision makers.

And more than that — over and over again in the history of our country we have seen that brilliance can emerge from anywhere – it does not always come from the hallowed halls of academia – and in fact sometimes it emerges because it was not blunted by the staid philosophies of “experts”. In those cases, quite frequently a brilliant new idea has been forestalled by regulating boards, either because their members weren’t as brilliant, or they were protecting their friends and political alliances. In all cases – lives hung in the balance. It is in allowing people to protect their lives that they must have the freedom to choose in the market place – most especially when it comes to choosing what “professionals” they want to rely upon.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Like so many Montanans who left the state to seek opportunity, Blain Bogar has returned. He returned to Billings last February to open a branch of the company he started in Las Vegas, Big Sky Wealth Management. It’s a move he has always contemplated.

Bogar started Big Sky Wealth Management as a firm with LPL Financial in Las Vegas, Nevada, where for the past 14 years he has been building customized investment strategies for clients.

Bogar went to Las Vegas to start the business, as he came to understand, after launching his career in Billings — that there would be greater opportunities in a more populated area. But even as he moved, “I never really left Billings,” said Bogar, “I will always be a Montanan.”

In opening his office at 2475 Village Lane in Billings, Bogar created a partnership with Julie Finnicum. It was an unexpected reunion for the two professionals, who actually began their careers just a few years apart with Piper Jaffray in Billings. Although they casually knew each other— that they should end up in a business partnership is something of a surprise. But through the recommendation of a mutual friend they reconnected and discovered that they hold similar philosophies about life and business which creates the perfect basis for a sound company.

They have a mutual creed, which is so important to them that it is clearly posted in their office. Called “Attitude,” written by Charles Swindoll; it states, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”

Bogar said that he knew he needed to join forces with someone he could count on when he is not in Billings, since he is continuing his business and relationships with his clients in Las Vegas.

Big Sky Wealth Management is a member of LPL Financial, a San Diego based company that offers advice and guidance to independent advisors and firms and through which clients make transactions. LPL is the largest broker dealer in the country. 

Bogar has been a member of LPL for 14 years during which time they have doubled in size. They offer no products, just service and support and mentorship for their members. “They allow us to put the client first in making transactions that are best for our client. We can do more than most, for our client,” said Bogar. In not having any products to sell or other agendas, Bogar said, “I am on the same side as the client.”

The time is right to open a Billings office, said Bogar, pointing out how much the city has grown in the interim. He is excited about being able to bring his family, his wife, Nataliya and daughter, Melaniya, to Billings and to be able to be more available for clients with whom he began business 18 years ago.

Both Bogar and Finnicum come from agriculture backgrounds – something they don’t think is serendipitous in shaping their lives. Few life styles instill the kind of work ethic and integrity that comes from the hard work and reality checks involved in working on a farm or ranch.

Julie (Hughes) Finnicum is one of five children in a long-standing Montana ranching family at Grass Range.

As a mother of three children, it was a real challenge for her to get her degree from MSU-Billings in business administration. She commuted from Grass Range every day.

She began working as an intern with Piper Jaffray in 1999, becoming licensed in 2000. Finnicum is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP©). She continued at Piper Jaffray until it was purchased by UBS.  She moved on to another firm, gaining more experience. She said she discovered that the business is very challenging. At times it was “learning by fire.” Some firms are very competitive and impose many frustrating restraints on serving clients, which left her looking for alternatives. It’s why she jumped at the opportunity to join Bogar. “I believe in treating people the way you want people to treat you,” she said. That’s her mission with Big Sky Wealth Management.

Bogar was born in Billings, where his father had an accounting firm on First Avenue North. “I got my business acumen from my Dad,” said Bogar. Bogar’s Dad, who died a couple years ago, was a tough taskmaster. He not only taught his kids about sound economics but he gave them the opportunity to learn practical, hands-on, life experiences, living and working on a ranch near Wolf Point. The farm remains in the Bogar family.

“He wanted us to grow up the way he grew up,” said Bogar, who filed his first 1040 form at the age of 12. “I appreciate that now. Growing up on the farm was so wonderful in ways I didn’t realize. When you can see the fruits of your labor, there is satisfaction in that, which never goes away,” said Bogar.

Bogar went to Dawson College for two years, then attended MSU-Billings at the same time Finnicum was on campus where they both earned similar awards for “outstanding achievement” upon graduation in 2000 and 2001. He later earned his MBA from the University of Montana in Missoula. Bogar went to work with Piper Jaffray just one year before it was purchased by UBS. He remained with UBS until he decided it was time to start his own business in Las Vegas after the financial crisis in 2009.

Among the insights Bogar has gained in his business career, is that the most important things is to listen.  “No two clients are the same in what they hope to do and what their goals are. We listen to our client and offer solutions … We want the client involved.”

Bogar underscored the importance of a financial adviser in saying that “It’s harder to preserve, manage and pass on wealth than it can be to earn it.”

Evelyn Pyburn

Montana led the nation in its rate of economic growth during the first quarter of this year – a little reported fact, according to Dr. Pat Barkey, of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), during its mid-year economic update at the beginning of August.

Despite that report, based upon lower tax revenue collections so far this year, the state’s economy appears to be flat. Dr. Barkey noted, however, that tax revenues have been on something of a “crazy roller coaster”—  in part because of federal revenues flowing into the state.

“We are seeing fragile local growth,” reported Dr. Barkey, “Cities are doing well but eastern Montana is not.”

Yellowstone County has had a good year, according to Dr. Barkey. He reminded that over the past few years in reporting on Yellowstone County’s economy he would ask, “Where did the growth go?” But 2023 shows a return of the county’s economic performance in almost all sectors, coming in at the top of all counties except for Gallatin County.

Nationally, “There has been a remarkable decline in inflation, but not in prices,” according to Dr. Barkey. But he posed the question about inflation, “Has it really come down?”

High prices, which were brought on by past inflation, will probably not decline, even if inflation declines.

Forecasters at the beginning of the year were off a bit about Montana’s economy, noted Dr. Barkey, who was among those forecasting a rather dismal economic performance of minus one percent. Instead it looks like the state will increase in economic growth one to two percent.

Dr. Barkey went on to note that the labor shortage has improved a little bit, but not much. The labor shortage shouldn’t be so surprising, he said. It’s a matter of demographics. For example the 16-24 year old age group, which is usually part of the workforce, comprised 74 percent of workers in 1995, but now their numbers are down to 63 percent. Older age groups are comprising a larger percentage of the workforce.

Also squeezing the available workers is a trend among retirement age workers to retire earlier than anticipated – -being called the Great Retirement Boom — it began as part of the economic impacts of COVID. This past year four percent more people retired than the four percent originally projected.

The labor shortage is, however, something that researchers saw coming as early as 2014, said Todd O’Hair, Montana Chamber of Commerce CEO, who also presented at the annual event. O’Hair pointed out that Montana Chamber leadership recognized the demographics that were unfolding and the need for worker development over a decade ago. They launched programs aimed at helping to mitigate it.

For decades, Montana has been one of the leaders among states when it comes to entrepreneurship, said O’Hair, “No one knew why, because for generations the economy was crappy, but regardless of why the Chamber asked ‘How do we keep the pipeline open?’” Across the state, through Chamber efforts, there are currently 120 teachers teaching entrepreneurial thinking, said O’Hair.

Over the past months, Montana has quietly added 17,000 new jobs, a 31.5% growth, of which 4300 were jobs in the food business.

Asked about the impact in tax revenues “because of the tremendous amount of taxes” generated by sales of marijuana, Dr. Barkey explained that the revenues compared to the whole are not that great. Taxes on marijuana sales generated about $100 million but personal income taxes in Montana generate $2.4 billion. In lists of state revenues marijuana taxes are included in the category of Other Taxes. “They don’t move the needle much,” said Dr. Barkey.

Dr. Barkey was also asked his opinion on the potential impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence), which has generated much discussion in all of media as a potential threat to society. Dr. Barkey said, “It will be part of the solution.”

Pacific Steel & Recycling is looking to the future. In so doing, the company has announced plans to add a $2 million to $3 million repository to support its operation in Lockwood, one that will serve for decades to come.

Pacific Steel & Recycling, headquartered in Great Falls, with 46 locations in nine northwestern states, provides steel services, including recycling steel and other metals. One of its recycling plants is in Lockwood, where cars, trucks and white goods (appliances) that have come to the end of the road, are shredded and processed as scrap metal to be reused in a variety of American products.

During the process, about 25 percent of the material, otherwise known as auto shredder residue (ASR), (i.e., foam, plastics, glass, tires) goes to waste.  This material will likely, someday, have great value, as new technologies and market innovations emerge, but as it is most of the un-recyclable material from the Lockwood facility goes to the Billings landfill.  Not only is it taking up valuable space at the landfill, it is no longer retrievable by Pacific Steel should it become valuable— as it most certainly will, according to Marshall Knick, Vice President of Recycling Operations at Pacific Steel, and soon to be the company’s new CEO.

Pacific Steel’s solution is to build their own landfill of sorts, called a repository, in which to store the materials. Not only will it relieve pressure on the city’s landfill but it will allow Pacific Steel & Recycling to maintain future control of it.

Who knows,” said Knick, “one day we may dig it all up,” referencing the potential of future technologies that will make retrieving some of the materials cost effective, or the emergence of new uses for materials that will create new markets.

Picking up a package of the scrap material — which is chopped into wedges or chunks about four or five inches in size —  Knick said that they know there is still some trace steel left in that material, they just haven’t developed a process yet to be able to remove it.

As an example of how times change, Knick points out that at one time they did not know how to separate copper from its wire harness in automobiles. Now they do and they are able to retrieve a very valuable commodity.

The company is in the process of getting the permits and approvals needed from the state to develop a repository at the corner of the Shepherd Acton Road and Highway 87. They purchased 320 acres three years ago and have been working under oversight of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), designers and engineers to develop the site that will not only serve the needs of Pacific Steel & Recycling for perhaps as much as a century to come, but will do so in an environmentally sound way. They have had meetings will local property owners so the neighborhood and community know what’s going on.

The Montana DEQ is a few weeks away from completing its draft environmental assessment (EA) study, said Knick at a community open house at the Shepherd Fire Station last week.

DEQ is currently in the process of completing the draft EA document outlining the proposed project which will be the subject of a public comment period, which will be announced and publicized shortly after completion[BC1] of the study. During the public hearing period, DEQ will be seeking public comment before making its final decision on licensing the facility.

It is hoped that the site will be fully operational by the middle of next July.

Knick underscored that the repository would not be possible without the development of the Billings Bypass.

About 90 acres of the property at Shepherd Acton Road and Highway 87 will be divided into five-acre “cells,” each of which, as they are used, will be secured from storm water drainage with synthetic liners. However, one of the reasons for choosing that site, explained Pacific Steel technicians, is that there is very little ground water. They also noted that what water there is, is so high in minerals that it is unfit for consumption for both, humans and livestock. For example, sulfate content of 250 ppm is the recommended EPA limit for human consumption and the ground water at this location has 6000 ppm.

The site will be fenced off and no one, other than workers, will be allowed access. Any deposited materials will be covered by dirt at the end of each day. How quickly a single cell can serve as a repository depends on the rate of recycling, which can vary, but it is expected that it will take about five years to fill one cell. On average the Lockwood plant recycles 8000 tons of steel a month, which generates about 2,000 tons of ASR per month. Only about five to ten truckloads of material is expected on a daily basis.  Consequently, the repository’s footprint will be relatively small (i.e., less than 25 acres over 25 years —- or approximately one acre per year).   

When full, a cell will be closed by placing five feet of native soil over the top and the land reclaimed to return to its natural state.

A benefit to the Shepherd community will be the installation on the site of a 30,000 gallon water cistern, or what is commonly called a “dry hydrant,” to assist in fire protection. The dry hydrant will serve the entire community, explained Shepherd Fire Chief Phil Ehlers. Having a dry hydrant at that location improves the community’s ISO rating which goes into calculating the cost of fire insurance for property owners, as well as providing a resource for fighting fires, including wildland fires.

The repository will be open and operational from hours of either 8 am to 5 pm or 7 am to 4 pm.

The repository will create one or two full time positions.

Pacific Steel and Recycling is an employee owned company that employs 900 people. The company has a long history and rich tradition in the Northwest. It was founded  as a “one-man operation” in Spokane, Washington. Joe Thiebes emigrated from Germany in the 1880s and followed his family’s business tradition of trading hides and furs. In the early 1920s, he sent his son – also Joe Thiebes – to start Pacific Hide & Fur Depot in Great Falls. “During World War I, the company expanded beyond furs and hides into collecting ferrous and nonferrous scrap,” a move that eventually led the company to “branch out in the 1950s into sales of new steel products. The business continued into the third generation, with another son – again named Joe – joining forces with his father as the company steadily opened additional locations.

Pacific Steel and Recycling has locations in Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, and Montana.

“Come early!”

Not to miss a single moment of what is going to be the biggest and most exciting air show in Montana history, spectators should arrive at least an hour early, advises Mathew McDonnel, co-chair of the team of organizers who are making the Yellowstone International Airshow happen on August 12 – 13 in Billings.

With some 15,000 spectators expected for each day of the event, the process of getting everyone parked and through security will take a while, so not to miss a single minute of the show spectators are being urged to give themselves plenty of time. Getting there early will be well worth the effort because of the many static displays that will be available for spectators to tour. Gates will open at 9 a.m. 

And, “you don’t want to miss the National Anthem,” at 11 am, said McDonnell, explaining that it will be a “Super Bowl National Anthem.”

Few people could be more excited about the Airshow than McDonnell, but what he is most enthusiastic about is the magnificent effort of people in Billings who are making it happen, including the sponsors, volunteers and organizing committee. “They said it couldn’t be done,” enthused McDonnell, “and we did it.”

McDonnell and his fellow co-chair, Jake Penwell, have been working to put the airshow together for more than two years. It all started over breakfast at PAYS café, where the two old friends reminisced about their youth growing up in Billings and what they loved and appreciated about their hometown.  One of those things was the airshow in 2001. As they reminisced they talked about wanting to be able to “give back” to the community, then suddenly they declared “why not!?” Why not try to bring the airshow back?

Intermountain Health (St. Vincent Healthcare) is the over-all sponsor, but there are numerous others who have stepped forward to make it happen, including Famous Daves, Panera Bread, Williams Plumbing, Red Door, Applebees, UBS, Rocky Mountain College, The Granary, Edwards Jet Center, Taylor Electric, Inc., Buffalo Block at the Rex, Land Design, Mission Development Center, Special Olympics, Fuller Family Medicine, Ritchie Manning Kautz Attorneys, Adaptive Performance Center, GPS Electric Service, Vision Net, Land Design, and Dahlquist Flooring Contractors.

According to McDonnell, there have been some unexpected changes and uncertainties over the past few weeks regarding what air planes and pilots will be available. There has been a heightened call to active duty for much of the military, which has forced some changes; but, despite that, said McDonnell, some of the issues have been resolved and some are turning out for the best for the show.

Through special consideration by the Pentagon some air craft, like the B-1B Lancer, a super sonic bomber, will still be coming to the Billings Airshow.

There will be two F-16s to be flown by the Viper Team. They are among rare jets that fly straight up, called the “motorcycle of the air.” The F-35 Fifth generation fighter, “which is not easy to get”, will be here, and a B-1 will “kick off” off the show.

And of course the Blue Angles will perform both days of the event at 3 pm.

In addition to the military, there will be eight other performances including some pyrotechnics – and some surprise performances.

“It’s going to be a top level show,” said McDonnell.

On Tuesday, prior to the event, a large Montana ranch will be hosting the Blue Angels team for a “branding style day.”  

The skies over Billings will get very interesting after that as flying machines arrive and practice begins.

On Thursday and Friday, Aug. 10 and 11, the air show will be in full practice, which for the most part is closed to the public although special guests – veterans and law enforcement and other first responders – who will be very busy during the show –  will be invited to the practice sessions.

Just as interesting and worth seeing is the gigantic – 3 section “tent” – that will accommodate the VIP chalets and seating. Used in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the shelter is built like Legos, explained McDonnell, and because of the size of the airshow they acquired the use of the shelter. “It’s amazing,” said McDonnell. The crew that will set it up arrived in Billings on July 25 – and they will need every day before the airshow to set it up.

In addition to the VIP / Chalet seats, the tent will accommodate military and veteran guests who are being invited to attend the air show practice on Friday, called Military Day.

And, “airport security is everything,” said McDonnell.  The Blue Angeles have some very strict protocols which must be followed – one of which is there will be no air flights at the airport during the airshow from 11 am to 4 pm.

Highway 3 will be closed. Reader boards will be placed in advance to notify travelers about the highway closure. Every one entering the show will be searched and there will be restrictions about what can be brought into the grounds.

Also there will be no secondary viewing areas allowed – another naval requirement. People can watch from North Park but not from the Rims.

Most of the Billings’ area emergency services – especially law enforcement and emergency medical services – will be on call.

The gates open at 9 am on Saturday and Sunday, August 12 and 13. The air show starts at 11 am and the Blue Angels performance begins at 3 pm. Gates close at 4:30 pm

VIP tickets are sold out but general admission tickets are available. Details about what spectators will be allowed to take into the event will be announced later.

By Evelyn Pyburn

As jobs go begging in Montana people are often asking why. Where are the workers?

While it’s true that more workers are working now than ever before in Montana, it’s also true that there are businesses going out of business because they can’t get the workers they need. The Federal Reserve Bank recently asked the question, “Who’s not working?” If one takes measure of the people around them, their answer isn’t so surprising. Fully, 30 percent of working age Americans (25-54) who are not working are not in the formal labor force because they are caregivers. (I very much hesitate to say they are not working because being a caregiver – especially if doing so for both children and aging parents is very hard work indeed.)

For people in this age group, full-time caregiving is more common than not working due to school, poor health, unemployment, or military service.

In the big picture this should be a beautiful thing – to have parents actually raising their children, and families engaged in caring for their elderly or disabled rather than being institutionalized, is one of the greatest strengths our society could have.

About a third of caregivers are focused on children under age 6. The balance are either taking care of elderly relatives and some are caring for both the elderly and children. They are called the “Sandwich Generation” with most in the 40 year- age group and thieir numbers are growing.

The Seniorly Research Center (see front page article in this issue) reports a record 53 million Americans provide an estimated $600 billion annually in unpaid family caregiving. The number is up from 43.5 million in 2015. And, they add, “it is taking an enormous toll on their financial, physical, and mental health,” of the caregivers.

As I think about the people I know and what they are doing, these findings are not surprising and I suspect that is true for most of us. Over the past ten years, or so, I have known lots of people who have dedicated themselves, caring for elderly relatives—and as someone who has also done so in the past, I know it is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Watching friends who continue to do so, I am convinced that as a society we do not give caregivers the respect and gratitude they deserve.

Part of the reason I know they are not given the consideration they should have is because of all the laws and regulations  that are thrown in their way to make the jobs of government regulators easy while imposing incredibly ridiculous burdens on caregivers, who they really should be trying to help.

Just one little example: when my mother needed to go into assisted living and I tried to change her address at the post office, I was told I needed to bring my mother to the post office to do so. Taking my mother anywhere at that point in time was a half-day, major undertaking. While there are undoubtedly bad actors who must be guarded against — sorting that out should be the responsibility of people hired to do that. Their course of action should not be to push it onto the shoulders of someone who is already burdened with the phenomenal challenge of caregiving – most often without compensation.

I know one lady who told me her frustrations in trying to help an elderly, close family friend get medical care and assistance through various programs. For months she had had to deal with every kind of roadblock imaginable, usually by well-meaning people, sitting casually at desks, sipping their morning coffee, quoting by rote the rules – rules that imposed more work on everyone, and often creating serious delays. Delays that take a toll on the patient, as well as the caregiver. My friend explained how she eliminated most of her problems. She had a very professional-looking badge made, with her name on it and the title “Caregiver” embossed under it. It worked like magic. So what does that tell you?

Of course many of the most important caregivers in our society are the people who staff the medical facilities and other agencies that serve aging America, and they should be every bit as recognized and appreciated. In fact, quite often it was through them that I resolved problems that their superiors seemed quite indifferent about. Often on the QT, they would whisper what I should do to resolve a problem. Apparently, for the staff to be truly helpful was not allowed.

But the point is, those who think they are doing a good job in regulating this industry, aren’t.

And, unless and until you have been there and done that, most people do not realize the grave disservice, we as a society and community are imposing on people who deserve so much better. If, as these studies indicate, there is going to be more and more people in need of a better system, then let’s make it happen for the benefit of us all.

And by the way – the next time you see a caregiver, give  them a hug and say thank you.

By Evelyn Pyburn

The news recently held a report that fossil fuels are not good for human life.

One has to wonder, how simple-minded one must be, not to realize the absurdity of that statement. Look around you – wherever you are at – point to something that isn’t dependent upon fossil fuels, in one way or another, to be in existence. 

One might be concerned about the impact of carbon dioxide on the climate but it is beyond absurd not to know that other than water and oxygen – nothing has benefited human life more than the discovery and broad use of fossil fuels.

The reason so many people have a skewed negative perception about fossil fuels is that in discussions about them there is ZERO consideration given to any positive data. There is no balancing of the pros and cons about the use of fossil fuels. All we hear is the possible negatives – that aren’t really even substantiated. Almost all are theoretical. There is no interjection of positive benefits as a counter point — positives that are provable, without doubt, and which so exceed any nebulous negatives that it is astounding.

Nothing has been such a miracle to the human race as fossil fuels. Without them, chances are great that you and I would not be here, and for those humans who may have survived the whims of the planet, their lives would be grueling beyond belief, and stupefyingly boring!

To think that fossil fuels are not good for human life is almost as absurd as believing that “nature is our friend.” You can love nature. Enjoy it as much and in as many ways as you like. Manipulate it to your benefit. Marvel at its grandeur and beauty. But the moment you forget how treacherous it can be, is the moment it will snuff you out.

The abundant and cheap fuel that comes of oil, gas and coal is without doubt the reason that human life exists in the numbers it does today – or even exists at all. More than once in the history of human beings the species came near to extinction – in large part because of the climate – because it was too cold – too cold to keep from freezing, too cold to get adequate food, too cold to advance the well-being of the species.

Here’s a graph that in terms of life expectancy for human beings throughout the world, shows the mind-boggling increase in life expectancy that happened almost from the very instant we started using fossil fuels. Average life expectancy barely exceeded 30 years for most of human existence.  It was less than 200 years ago, that fossil fuels came into use by human beings, and during that time it’s been an almost perpendicular climb to an average life expectancy of over 70 years old. How can one look at that and declare that fossil fuels have been bad news for human beings?

The graph comes from Alex Epstein’s book, “Fossil Future”, in which Epstein explains the reason we have benefitted so mightily from fossil fuels. The benefit of fossil fuels “are the ultra-cost-effective machine labor, enormous amounts of freed-up mental labor, and materials that radically increase humanity’s productive ability and therefore make our naturally deficient, dangerous, low-opportunity, stagnant planet into an unnaturally nourishing, safe, opportunity-filled, progressing world.”

Oh yes – people point to solar and wind energy as alternatives but they are not alternatives. Those energy sources depend on fossil fuels to be even remotely viable. Those industries have been propped up because of subsidies that are generated by taxpayers using fossil fuels to earn the money from which the taxes are paid. There is also little mention of the fact that most of the materials used in building wind mills and solar units is mined, manufactured and transported almost completely through the use of fossil fuels.  And, what was the source of power that got the equipment and material transported to generating sites? 

The fact is neither “alternative” could even be discussed as possibly viable without fossil fuels – and for all the subsidies and market “favors” they have received, the alternatives still fall egregiously short of meeting even ten percent of anyone’s energy needs. Perhaps some day they, or something else, will, but not today.

If we are to eradicate fossil fuels and if you want to continue the existence of human beings then someone must come up with a rational plan of how to replace fossil fuels – or most of us will die. A plan! That’s all I am waiting for.

But perhaps that is the plan. There have been global warming alarmists who have very clearly and forthrightly stated that to eliminate the number of human beings is exactly what they hope to achieve. I have a couple ideas on how they can get a jump on that without threatening my life; but, one must at least give these people credit for being honest, because the death of millions of people is exactly what the results will be of eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

In fact, the current strategy of governments around the world in reducing the use of fossil fuels, of increasing the costs of using them and prohibiting the acquisition of more, has already resulted in untold deaths.  People freezing to death because of rolling black outs, or because they can’t afford the escalating cost of producing foods or medicines. When they can’t obtain necessities to sustain their lives – that is what most threatens human life.

Fossil fuels are very much so– very good for human life!

It’s almost time for Dig It Days! The fun-filled event of big construction machines will once again top-off Montana Fair on its last two days, Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19.

Sponsors are being lined up in three levels this year, filling more booths and displays than ever before. Any construction or family related business interested in being part of Dig It Days is urged to contact Jonathan McNiven (406 672-5941).

Dig It Days is an opportunity for kids to explore, climb on, “drive”, take pictures and fantasize about every kind of dirt-moving, heavy equipment imaginable. A production of Yellowstone Family and sponsored by equipment dealers, contractors and others involved in the construction industry, the event is aimed at introducing youngsters to the construction industry. It’s also a fundraiser for scholarships.

Dig It Days gives kids of all ages an opportunity to operate back hoes and excavators, under supervision of experienced operators  — and some of those kids are “oldsters” who have always wanted to try their hand at operating one of the big machines. 

Also, a very popular feature is “Sand Mountain,” where kids can play and dig in the sand to their heart’s content. They never want to leave.

The Dig It Days board has set new fundraising goals and added new beneficiaries for the proceeds. Besides the event’s primary focus of providing scholarships that support the future workers and leadership of the construction industry, donations will also be made to a local law enforcement group, a mental health /suicide prevention fund, Veterans Navigation Network, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Club, and KOA Kids Camp.

Dig It Days will give out 750 t-shirts each day, construction hats and stickers, on a first-come bases. And, it’s all free (after paying fair admission).

Part of the events include what has grown to be a popular contest in which operators employed by many of the sponsors compete to see who can pick up and move eggs with a backhoe shovel without breaking any eggs. The winner gets $500. It is important to note that it is primarily the employees of the sponsors who volunteer to monitor and oversee the displays and activities bringing their expertise and experience to make sure all goes smoothly and safely.

Get more information at www.Yellowstonedigitdays.com.

Dig It Days was launched in 2019 by Yellowstone Family, Yellowstone County News’ non-profit foundation, with the goal of providing wholesome, fun, family entertainment and education, while supporting worthwhile programs for youth.