Lance Fred…

KLJ Engineering is welcoming Lance Fred to its Billings office where he will be working as an associate project manager in the telecommunications department.

Fred has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman and has held a Cisco Certified Network Associate certification.

Chris Barlage…

KLJ Engineering has welcomed Chris Barlage to its Billings office. Barlage, who has experience designing fiber optic and copper plants, will be working as a designer in our electrical department.

Barlage has worked in telecommunications for 18 years.

He earned an associate degree in web development and microcomputer support from South Central College in North Mankato, Minnesota.

[The following goes to show either there’s nothing new under the sun, or it underscores how ineffectual governments are at changing things that don’t work. At least 30 years ago, the famous economist, Lester Thurow, a Montana native, wrote to say that government give-a-ways, subsidies or special tax breaks does nothing to improve a state or community’s economic well-being. That’s before they started totaling into the billions. -editor]

By Michael Farren 

From Governing

Kansas lawmakers recently approved offering $1.3 billion to a mystery corporation for the company to build a new industrial facility in the state. They may think they’ve taken a step toward a brighter economic future, but in reality, they’ve only started another battle — and maybe even opened another front — in the endless economic subsidy wars among states.

Reporters in Kansas and Japan have unearthed indications that a Panasonic electric vehicle battery plant is the prize in this fight. Missouri would make sense as Kansas’ most likely competitor, given that the two states spent decades (and more than $330 million) poaching companies from each other across State Line Road in Kansas City. If true, this would suggest that Kansas was violating the spirit of its tenuous 2019 border truce with Missouri.

However, reports suggest that Panasonic is actually deciding between a rehabilitated site at an old ammunition plant near De Soto, Kan., and an industrial park outside of Tulsa, Okla. That the sites are 200 miles apart suggests that subsidies might affect Panasonic’s decision, although I’d warrant that the 45 percent cheaper cost of electricity in Tulsa has a larger influence.

If Kansas is competing with Oklahoma rather than Missouri, then one border battle has just been exchanged for another. Do Kansas leaders really want to pick a fight with yet another neighbor? For their part, Oklahoma’s policymakers are now confronted with their own no-win choice between rushing to offer their own subsidies (as reports suggest) or taking the high road and risking the appearance of doing nothing in the face of economic aggression.

That may sound a bit melodramatic, but the truth is even more sensational. States and cities spend an estimated $100 billion every year on an arms race that research shows does little to improve their economic outlook. In fact, corporate handouts actually slow down national economic growth.

This conclusion isn’t controversial; few challenge the idea that bribing companies to choose one jurisdiction over another is a bad use of limited taxpayer dollars. Academic research shows that while subsidies can swing site-specific decisions within a metropolitan area, the handouts don’t sway most corporate location decisions between regions. In other words, in the few situations where subsidies may have a substantial influence on a company’s location decision, they don’t actually increase regional economic growth compared to what would have otherwise occurred without the subsidy — as the Kansas City region has infamously shown.

But the practice continues because politicians are stuck in what economists call a “prisoner’s dilemma.” Just recently, for example, Michigan policymakers, motivated by Tennessee and Kentucky’s combined $1.3 billion in subsidies for a set of Ford EV and battery plants, approved $1.8 billion to subsidize a set of General Motors and Ultium EV and battery plants.

Because there isn’t an easy way for policymakers to commit to mutually beneficial cooperation — yet — the default choice is to continue an economically ruinous competition. Kansas and Missouri took the first step with their temporary truce, agreeing to limit the degree to which each could poach businesses from the other. However, that carriage is scheduled to turn back into a pumpkin in 2025. It may not even last that long if Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly — whose executive order is the most precarious part of the agreement — doesn’t win re-election.

What if, instead, Oklahoma — and any other state seeking to free up billions to expand social services and reduce taxes — were invited to join the truce? In fact, leaders in some states are working on something even better: an interstate compact. It’s a constitutionally based contractual agreement to end the current ruinous form of interstate competition, which wastes taxpayer dollars and starves important social programs of funding. States would still be free to compete over who has the best policies for economic growth, but would forswear the use of subsidies.

Eighteen states so far have proposed interstate compact legislation to permanently end the economic arms race, but it would be especially poetic if Kansas and Missouri were the first states to pass it. They have an extensive history of such compacts together, meaning they’re well suited to serve as national role models in taking the next step toward mutual subsidy disarmament. A rivalry over who can cooperate the most would be the best kind of competition.

Michael Farren is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

By Denis Pitman, Yellowstone County Commissioner

The question on many people’s minds, and an important topic for our community.  I would like to offer some answers, clarify what is going on, and hopefully put much of this into context. 

Within the past five years we have seen significant deterioration of the property and buildings at MetraPark.  Things were becoming dangerous, and the possibility of people getting hurt were increasing. 

We began by doing an assessment of the property and cost of saving barns and the grandstands.  It was determined that cost of just maintenance and stopping the hazards from getting worse were more of a liability than just removing them. That would lead to conversations about what should or could the entire 189 acres look like with this new foot print?  What did people want to use the property for within the next several generations? 

At the same time, the general manager would indicate that he was going to be retiring.

Then we were hit with a global pandemic that would change everything. While it has been claimed that things were done without transparency, that is not accurate, and in fact things have been delayed and extended to make sure that people were aware of what was being discussed throughout the process. With that, the Board of County Commissioners, the MetraPark Advisory board began a process of examining every aspect of how the property runs, and what the vision for the future might look like. 

We have been going out to the community, we have been sharing everything with the public.  We have been bringing the policies and procedures current and consistent with Montana law, and we have been exploring many different options and ideas.  One aspect of that conversation was what type of management did we want going forward?  It has been managed by a governing board, and recently by the Board of County Commissioners. 

MetraPark is an enterprise department of Yellowstone County, and so it has a separate mission than departments like Road and Bridge.  They have the potential to generate funds, and excel at providing services beyond just what is generated in taxes and fees.  What we are doing right now is simply exploring what all the options are, and who can best provide that professional and productive path forward. 

Everyone agrees that things must change, and as we move forward. Accountability and productivity as well as return on investment must be part of that discussion as well as legacy groups and their contributions to our community. 

All of the members of the board agreed that we must move forward in asking these questions, seeking answers, and keeping the best interests of the property owners, ie, the tax payers as a priority. 

That is the commitment we have made, and now, openly and transparently, we are asking a lot of questions, and seeking as much advice as possible.  From there, we will make decisions about the future of the entire campus, and then put before the voters a cost of construction if they want to invest in additional development of the property.  It is an exciting time for Yellowstone County, and the future of MetraPark.   Ask questions, listen to what we are learning, point out concerns, tell us what you like and don’t like, and stay active in the process. Together we will make this project a premier facility that will serve everyone for generations to come.

Denis Pitman

Yellowstone County Commissioner


Rent Is Due LLC/Jas Contracting, 1140 1st Ave N, Com Fence/Roof/ Siding, $5,000

G & J Diesel Performance LLC/ Raisin Contracting Inc, 1739 Main St,  Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $52,000

City Of Billings/Warren Transport Inc., 2216 38th St W, Com New Other $1,651,258

Landon’s Legacy Foundation/Bauer Construction, 2216 38th St W, Com New Other, $750,000

JNL Holdings LLC/Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 1450 S 32nd St W, Com New Other $2,850,000

W Rimrock Owner LP/Andre’s Construction, 316 S 24th St, Com Remodel $160,000

West Grand Plaza LLC/Jones Construction, Inc, 3039 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $190,000

Lads Hospitality Associates Ll/ Lads Hospitality Associates LLC, 956 S 25th St W, Com Remodel , $456,625

Shamrock Foods/Yellowstone Basin Construction, Com Remodel – Change In Use,

1323 Main St, $900,000

Jack Gray/ Golden Sands General Contractors, 1313 Grand Ave, Com New Other, $150,000

1400 S 24th LLC/T.W. Clark Construction LLC,1390 S 24th St W, Com New Restaurant/Casino/ Bar, $1,900,000

4M Properties/ JRB Construction, 50 27th St W, Com Remodel, $79,800


Ironwood Land LLC/Colters Construction LLC, 6056 Canyonwoods Dr, Res New Single Family, $405,500

Lorenz Construction/Lorenz Construction, 3504 Crater Lake Ave, Res New Single Family, $256,294

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 1801 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $217,352

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 6126 Norma Jean Ln, Res New Single Family, $409,521

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 6047 Elysian Rd, Res New Single Family, $155,277

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 6041 Elysian Rd, Res New Two Family, $224,432

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 6041 Elysian Rd, Res New Two Family, $258,618

McCall Homes/McCall Development, 6047 Elysian Rd, Res New Two Family, $260,768

Upfront Development/Aaron Higginbotham, 2203 Lindero Blvd, Res New Single Family, $252,888

Diverse Construction/Diverse Construction Llc, 2051 Gleneagles Blvd, Res New Single Family, $263,284

Ferguson, Kristy R/Capp, Jerry Construction, 2264 Greenbriar Rd, Res New Single Family, $268,732

Feusner, Leroy & Lynnette/Image Builders, 2504 Aspen Creek Trl, Res New Single Family, $560,000

Wagenhals Land And Livestock L/ Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 1105 Daybreak Dr, Res New Single Family, $211,452

McCalls Homes/McCalls Development, 6035 Elysian Rd, Res New Single Family, $260,968

McCalls Homes/ McCalls Development, 6140 Johanns Meadow Ln, Res New Single Family, $283,222

McCalls Homes/  McCalls Development, 1890 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $283,222

TK Elevator Corporation, 788 Circle 75 Parkway SE Ste 500, Atlanta GA 30339, G678-424-3691, Gust Lagerquist, repair & installation

Purcell Tire and Service Center, 2604 Belknap Ave, 59101, 573-438-2131, Gretta Hochstatter, retail sales

Blended 7 Contracting LLC, 3727 Bitterroot Dr, 59105, 860-8448, Chris Sargent, general contractor

Dutton Rental, 319 Tam O’Shanter Rd, 59105, 670-4196, Dellas and Kerrie Dutton, real estate rental

Simply Modern LLC, 3959 Fairmeadow Dr, 59102, 540-525-7002, Bradley Krupa, general contractor

Wilson Maintenance & Remodeling, 3540 Terry Ave, 59102, 698-5772, mike Wilson, general contractor

Lockwood Auto, 3941 Bobolink St, 59101, 699-1665, James Mocko, auto business

 J and R Tippy Cow, 279 E Airport Rd, 534-3599, Henry Criddle, restaurants, 59105

Dynamic Opportunities United, 1276 Topanga Ave, 59105, 850-8496, Kellen Kessler, service

Henry’s Kitchen, 304 N 19th, 59101, 601-1139, Mario Duggan, Pres., restaurants

All Phase Contracting, 742 Dunham Ave, 59102, 698-5546, Jay Guaraglia, general contractor

Mini Motorz, 5109 Jellison rd #C4, 59101, 321-1785, David Eves, service

Beloved Venture LLC, 1141 W Calle Concordia, Tucson AZ 85704, 520-519-9130, John Taylen, real estate rental

Big Sky Buckshot LLC, 1130 Princeton Ave, 59102, 860-2593, Juanita & Paul Rathburn,

real estate rental

Brownstein Consulting LLC, 1644 Hidden Cove Ln, 59101, 850-9915, Todd Brownstein, service

Phoenix Self Defense, 928 Broadwater Ave, 59102, 200-5328, Richard Shepard, service

Hillbilly Mall LLC, 14 1/2 S 27th St, 59101, 633-1707, Crystal Owens, retail sales

Angies Barbershop, 1911 King Ave Ste 12, 59102, 702-1753, Angie Hergenrider, barber

Siegel Flooring, 3302 1/2 3rd Ave N, 59101, 970-4568, service

Adaptive Performance Center, 1420 Broadwater Ave, 59102, 281-3848, Karen Pearson/Mitch Crouse, service

Maid In Montana Services, 1195 Siesta Ave, 59105, 850-1623, Azelyn Gorman, service

Montana Tablescapes, 1555 Province Lane, 59102, 855-1070, Michaela Martinson, service

Grizzly Glass LLC, 2270 Grant Rd, 59102, 384-7077, Catherine Bergman, service

Restorative Connections Counseling, 926 Main St Ste 8F, 59105, 213-3313, Brittany Garcia, service

Panda Cleaning Services LLC, 2050 Tanner Ln, 59102, 698-8250, Yingchun/Jefferey Jones, services

Al’s cleaning Services, 7933 Burlington Ave, 59106, 561-4146, Alisha Nishikawa, service

Desert Ridge Construction, 4416 March Madness Way #2, 59106, 690-2792, Tanner Marak-Heafner, general contractor

Bedroc Blasters, 310 Moore Lane, 59101, 927-9018, Rocci Lamantia, retail sales

Johnny’s Garage, 2018 Main St, 59105, 208-9178, Johnny Hisaw, auto business  

Out of the Wilderness, 2402 Brook Hollow Dr, 59105, 926-0076, Jeffrey Ferguson, service

Assist Consulting, 7742 Pinto Dr, Shepherd 59079, 671-9510, Sheila Dockter, service

Ecoclean, 911 Blonco Circle, 59101, 698-3677, Micah Richardson, service

Creative Corner Greetings, 5437 Frontier Dr #1, 59101, 855-5681, Kristi Love-Tsukada, retail sales

Sievertsen Contracting, 4244 Bruce Ave, 59101, 661-7883, Mathew Sievertsen, general contractor

Kolbey Andersen Siding, 23 Walnut Dr, 59102, 876-3674, Kolbey Andersen, general contractor

DLB Construction, 3809 King Ave E, 59101, 591-0734, David Barnard, general contractor

Macleod Booking & Consulting Services, 2811 Lyndale Ln, 59102, 200-2216, Katrina Macleod, service

Advantage Media Group, 1118 23rd St W, 59102, 647-4496, Mikel Wolf, service

Time to Eat!, 2139 Alderson Ave Apt #4, 59102, 698-1278, Lucas Hoover, restaurants

CEC Facilities Group LLC, 5505 Abby Rd, 817-734-0040, Brad Smith, general contractor

Simplified Solutions LLC, 41 Adams St, 59101, 690-8014, Katherine Purcel, service

Mirror Mountain Creations, 3548 Kingswood Dr, 59101, 731-613-5245, Amy Mills, retail sales

Uselman Enterprises LLC, 2621 Holman Ave, 59102, 690-1502, Ben Uselman, service

A’s Auto Detailing, 1140 1st Ave N, 59101, 661-3581, Conner Albright, service

ABC Filipino Food, 4703 Rebecca Pl, 59101, 561-8858, Alma Cabillan, retail sales

A Albrecht Construction, 3642 S 56th St W, 59106, 860-2378, Alen Albrecht, general contractor

Jackz of All Trades, 922 Yellowstone River Rd #H8,59105, 697-8660, Kyle Singer, general contractor

Loopdeloo, 7742 Pinto Dr, Shepherd 59079, 671-9510, Sheila Dockter, retail sales

Heights Petlantis, 2204 Bench Blvd, 59105, 702-2580, Kendra Wold/Andrea Norwood, service

Wilson’s Iron Barn Gym, 1105 1st Ave N, 59101, 794-1131, Ron Wilson, service

Relaxful Retreat Massage Studio, 2619 St John’s Ste F, 59102, 794-6429, Russell Tolman, solo practitioner

J&S Handyman Service, 4611 Lux Ave, 59101, 618-367-2253, Jamie & Steven Rasberry, service

JB’s Concepts, 2315 Hoover Ave, 59102, 672-4158, Justin Birkle, general contractor

Carrie Lynn MHP, LLC, 10 Jackie Ln, 59102, 245-2201, Ben Smith, mobile homes courts   

By Michael Vondra

What are your financial resolutions for 2022?

      As you know, 2021 was full of challenges. We were still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic when supply chains shut down and inflation heated up. So, if you’re like many people, you might not be sorry to see the year come to a close. But now it’s time to look ahead to a brighter 2022. And on a personal level, you may want to set some New Year’s resolutions. You might resolve to improve your health and diet, and possibly learn some new skills, but why not make some financial resolutions, too?

      Here are a few ideas to consider:

      • Prepare for the unexpected. If you haven’t already created an emergency fund, now may be a good time to start. Ideally, you’d like to have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in this fund, with the money kept in a low-risk, liquid account. (If you’re retired, you may want your emergency fund to contain up to a year’s worth of living expenses.) Once you’ve got this fund established, you may be able to avoid dipping into long-term investments to pay for short-term needs, such as costly home or auto repairs or large medical bills.

      • Boost your retirement savings. The pandemic caused many us to reevaluate our ability to eventually enjoy the retirement lifestyles we’ve envisioned. In fact, 33% of those planning to retire soon said they started to contribute even more to their retirement savings during the pandemic, according to a study from Age Wave and Edward Jones. This year, if you can afford it, increase your contributions to your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan.

      • Reduce your debt load. The less debt you carry, the more money you’ll have available to support your lifestyle today and save and invest for tomorrow. So, this year, resolve to cut down on your existing debts and avoid taking on new ones whenever possible. You can motivate yourself by measuring your progress – at the beginning of 2022, record your total debts and then compare this figure to your debt load at the start of 2023. If the numbers have dropped, you’ll know you were making the right moves.

      • Don’t overreact to the headlines. A lot can happen during a year. Consider inflation – it shot up in 2021, but it may well subside in 2022. If you changed your investment strategy last year to accommodate the rise in inflation, would you then have to modify it again when prices fall? And inflation is just one event. What about changes in interest rates? How about new legislation coming out of Washington? And don’t forget extreme weather events, such as wildfires and floods. Any or all of these occurrences can affect the financial markets in the short term, but it just doesn’t make sense for you to keep changing the way you invest in response to the news of the day. Instead, stick with a strategy that’s appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. You may need to adjust this strategy over time, in response to changes in your own life, but don’t let your decisions be dictated by external events. 

      These aren’t the only financial resolutions you can make – but following them may help you develop positive habits that can help you face the future with confidence.

Michael A Vondra

Certified Financial Planner Practitioner

Edward Jones


Pepsi Cola Billings Mt/Jones Construction, Inc, 344 Howard Ave, Com Addition, $125,000

Vance Thompson Vision/Builder Construction Inc., 1747 Poly Dr, Com Addition Plan, $26,500

RPR Properties LLC/T.W. Clark Construction LLC, 704 N 30th St, Com Addition, $496,428

Hanser Capital Holdings LLC, 4410 Altay Dr, Com Footing/Foundation, $3,045,417

Matt Brosovich/Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 1417 38th St W, Com New Restaurant/Casino/Bar, $2,400,000

Aviation Properties LLC/EEC Inc, 3475 A J Way, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $1,823,961

Proffutt Limited Partnership/Jones Construction, Inc, 5221 Midland Rd, Com Remodel, $97,000

Yeley Holdings LLC, 4011 Montana Sapphire Dr, Com Remodel, $100,000

Jeremiah Doucette/Owens Construction Inc, 1225 Mullowney Ln, Com Remodel, $25,500

Ajajo LLC/Barta Custom Builders LLC, 2139 Broadwater Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $13,500   

Voegele Ventures LLC/Empire Roofing Inc, 2344 Grand Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $85,244   

Knutson, Jess Anne/Big Phish Construction, 346 Bench Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $19,152   

Knutson, Jess Anne/Big Phish Construction, 340 Bench Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $17,771  

Knutson, Jess Anne/Big Phish Construction, 334 Bench Blvd, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $16,150  

Zarbock Property Management LLC/T.W. Clark Construction LLC, 501 Grand Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $1,500  

Rocky Vista University LLC/Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 4130 Monad Rd, Com New Office/Bank, $19,778,605

Austyn Spencer Enterprises, LLC/Bryant Contracting LLC, 4470 King Ave E, Com New Other, $464,395

Miller Land Co/Smooth Rock Drywall, 3000 7th Ave N, Com Remodel, $8,000

Bo Selvig/Beartooth Holding & Construction, 1686 Shiloh Rd, Com Remodel, $63,240

Prairie Tower Inc/Jares Fence Company, Inc., 725 N 25th St, Com Remodel, $3,000


Sunwest Trust Inc/Custodian ,2032 Beverly Hill Blvd, Res New Accessory Structure, $23,040

Wagenhals Enterprise Inc/Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 1106 Daylight Ln, Res New Single Family, $272,828

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 805 Cherry Hills Rd, Res New Single Family, $189,110

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2128 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $189,110

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2128 Morocco Dr, Res New Single Family,  $186,610

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2111 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family,  $186,610

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2123 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $186,610

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2119 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family,  $193,802

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2127 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $199,037

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2132 Morocco Dr, Res New Single Family, $193,802

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2131 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $239,614

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 809 Cherry Hills Rd, Res New Single Family, $221,047

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2207 Lindero Blvd, Res New Single Family, $239,614

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 2115 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $239,614

Infinity Homes/Infinity Home LLC, 2007 W Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $289,944

CDH, LLC/CDH, LLC, 5431 Dovetail Ave, Res New Single Family, $485,166

Na/McCall Development, 6102 Johanns Meadow Ln, Res New Single Family, $303,522

Magnus Land Development LLC/6325 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC/6325 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome,. $0

Trent Buscher/Trent Buscher Construction, 3157 Falcon Cir, Res New Single Family, $211,609

Buscher Development Inc/Buscher Construction Ltd, 4984 Whisper Way, Res New Single Family, $300,000

815 N 31st Street LLC/Steven Houlihan Construction LLC, 813 N 31st St, Res New Single Family, $692,075

Chamberlain Construction /Chamberlain Construction, 1357 Tania Cir, Res New Single Family, $266,584

Marjorie Davis Family Trust, 450 Cherry Hills Rd, Res New Single Family, $600,000

South Pine Design/South Pine Design, 2415 Glengarry Ln, Res New Single Family, $450,000

True North Homes, LLC, 1809 E Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $349,491

Diverse Construction/Diverse Construction LLC, 2048 Gleneagles Blvd, Res New Single Family $180,000

Formation Inc/Formation Inc, 4687 Sky Vista Ct, Res New Single Family, $278,421

Wagenhals Enterprises Inc/Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 5519 Morning Star Ln, Res New Single Family, $280,000

William “Beau” Thompson/Green Jeans LLC, 1308 Emma Ave, Res New Single Family, $370,000

The Flathead Lake real estate market set a record for sales in September. $43 million in lake shore properties were sold last month. The largest sales was a 15,000 plus square foot house that listed for $21 million. The year-to-date total sales on Flathead Lake is $157.4 million, compared to $117.5 million in 2020.

Daniel Pendergraph has voiced the question: What impact might this boom in human activity have on the pristine water quality of backcountry lakes? In a new study published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Pendergraph and others set out to determine if increased human visitation to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area led to an increase in human fecal contamination in backcountry lakes. The teams collected ssamples from 21 lakes and two snow melt streams. Human-associated bacteria were found in very low abundances in all sites tested, which means they were present but not quantifiable. Only one of the sites had a quantifiable presence of the bacteria, but the number was still relatively low.

Dan Graves, Whitefish Mountain Resort CEO plans to retire at the end of the 2021-22 ski season, according to a report from the resort. Graves helped grow and promote the resort during his 15-year tenure. The 2020-2021 season was the resort’s busiest ever, with nearly 460,000 skier visits. Nick Polumbus, the resort’s director of marketing and sales, will take over as CEO upon Graves’ retirement.

The Kalispell City Council has decided to put in place regulations that will restrict marijuana businesses to Kalispell’s industrial zones. Marijuana dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing will be an administrative conditionally permitted use in those zones, as long as they are placed more than 300 feet from schools, parks, churches and residential zones.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has detected a groundwater plume containing toxic chemicals under Butte High School. The plume was first detected in 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency contracted a preliminary investigation of the site over a decade later. The 2021 report found the site posed a potential risk to human health and recommended a thorough site inspection. The chemical concentrations found in 2009 present a fairly low risk to people, as does the potential exposure pathway.

Hachi Sushi Pub is opening this winter inside the Market at Ferguson Farm in Bozeman. The restaurant will focus seasonal seafood from West Coast markets. They will offer different styles of sushi as well as fusion flavors. The restaurant and bar’s concept is heavily inspired by Japanese pubs, called izakaya, which serve drinks and a variety of small dishes and pub fare.

Tina Cusker and her husband, Brett Cusker, are opening La Cuisine, a kitchen store and culinary classroom. La Cuisine offers a variety of kitchen ware and supplies, including many Montana made products. La Cuisine plans to host weekly cooking classes in a newly renovated commercial-grade kitchen. La Cuisine, at 2405 W. Main St., is will be open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Weekly cooking classes are planned to be held Tuesday evenings.

The bank in Fairview has been a part of the Fairfield community since 1941. Over the years the name has changed from Fairview Bank to Montana Bank of Fairview, then to First Security Bank – West and currently Merchants Bank. Merchants Bank acquired the Fairview Branch on Oct. 14, 2011 and the ten year anniversary was celebrated recently.

Oil and gas operators across the nation are preparing to announce carbon reduction goals and ESG plans. ONEOK is the most recent Bakken company to announce an ambitious ESG goal. It will reduce both Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, as compared to 2019 levels. Scope 1 and 2 emissions include direct emissions from company-operated sources and indirect emissions from purchased power. Oasis Petroleum has released the first of what it plans to make an annual sustainability report, which outlines the company’s ESG measures. Liberty Oilfield Services ESG statement turns things around to look at energy through the lens of making human lives better.

Williams County commissioners have rejected a proposal that would have limited the number of TENORM facilities permitted in the county. The idea came up during discussion of requests by WISCO and Secure Energy Services for permission to accept up to 25,000 tons annually of TENORM wastes.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has begun a significant restructuring including the hiring of new upper management that will oversee a responsibilities from statewide site maintenance to recreation management. Hope Stockwell is the manager of the new FWP Parks and Recreation Division. The division includes Montana State Parks and maintenance of sites including state parks, fishing access sites and wildlife management areas plus all of the department’s recreation and access programs including Block Management, trail grants and recreation planning such as work on the Madison River. While sites such as fishing access sites might be funded through license sales, they often see plenty of use for non-fishing recreation.

The Little Shell Tribal Health Clinic, which is located at 425 Smelter Ave. NE in Great Falls, is set to open on Nov. 11. Indian Health Service (IHS), a federal agency that provides medical care to federally recognized tribes, is expected to run the clinic initially, but the tribe plans to assume clinic leadership within three years. The 10,000-square-foot clinic includes 12 exam and behavioral health rooms and features a pharmacy with drive-thru access. 

The latest numbers show Williston Basin Airport was about half of what it was in 2019, but triple the numbers from the same time in 2020. Over the last few months both Delta and United Airlines have returned to a pre-COVID level of service at XWA.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with 46 state Farm Bureaus including the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and 280 organizations representing family-owned agribusinesses, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to leave important tax policies in place as they draft legislation implementing President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. The letter addresses four key tax provisions that make it possible for farmers and ranchers to survive and pass their businesses on to the next generation: estate taxes, stepped-up basis, 199A small business deduction and like-kind exchanges.

“The policies Congress enacts now will determine agricultural producers’ ability to secure affordable land to start or expand their operations,” the letter states. “Regardless of whether a business has already been passed down through multiple generations or is just starting out, the key to their longevity is a continued ability to transition when a family member or business partner dies. For this reason, we firmly believe the current federal estate tax code provisions must be maintained.”

These tools are as crucial as ever as the number of farmers and ranchers 65 and older outnumber those 35 and under by a four-to-one margin. More than 370 million acres are expected to change hands in the next two decades.

“As the economic backbone of nearly every county and rural community across the U.S., the importance of American agriculture and related industries cannot be overlooked,” the letter continues. “Farmers, ranchers, and family-owned agribusiness operators are responsible for producing the safe, affordable, and abundant food, fiber, and fuel supplies Americans enjoy every day. As the stewards of nearly 900 million acres of crop and rangeland, farmers and ranchers play an important role in terms of natural resource and land conservation. For agricultural producers, carrying on the legacy of our predecessors and setting the next generation up for success is critically important.”

The full letter can be found at

The Big Sky Business Journal is a family-owned and operated business based in Billings, Montana. It was started by Dennis and Evelyn Pyburn in 1982, making it the first business publication in the state. It is the only independent business publication (not associated with daily newspapers) in the Montana.

The Big Sky Business Journal is published the 1st and 15th of each month. We feature a wide variety of informational articles, features about businesses and business people, reports about critical issues, data and statistics regarding our economy and trends.

Our tag line – “The Spirit of Commerce is the great bond of union among citizens” – reflects our philosophy about the role that business plays in any community. The benefits derived from, and the desire for commerce among citizens is the primary incentive for peace and civility among all people. The average man’s economic quest is to be free to exchange value for value. Therefore, more so than advocates of business, we are advocates of consumers, understanding that the business community, business owners, and entrepreneurship is served best only when the interests of consumers are held paramount. Such is the basis of free markets, and indeed, of liberty itself.

We greatly enjoy our job of reporting about the productivity, ingenuity, creativity, and wealth generating activities of our neighbors in Montana. These are the dynamic people who make a community tick, they are our readers, our advertisers, our friends, and we are so proud of all that they do.

We are open to submissions from one and all, but most especially are interested in news about businesses, not only in Billings and Yellowstone County, but throughout the state. Even though Montana is a big state, business people do business throughout the state and what’s happening at one location is just as important to business people on the other side of the state as it is to the establishment across the street.

The Big Sky Business Journal depends greatly upon subscriptions in its support, and we urge you to subscribe, to help make our continued publication possible, as well as enable improvements and expansion in what we do.

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Big Sky Business Journal P. O. Box 3262 Billings, MT 59103