Montana Academy of Salons, 300 S 24th St W #B01, 59102, 771-8772, Linda McPherson, schools

Landie Drywall & Painting, 23255 Wahupa, Frenchtown 59834, 544-0143, David Lande, service

Billings Lady Outlaws, 3054 Hunters ridge Loop, 59102, 690-9648, Lacey Sullivan, service

The Truesdell Corporation, 1310 W 23rd St, Tempe, AZ 85282, Erica Bryant, general contractors

Stacie Jones’ Cleaning Services, 2211 3rd Ave N, 59101, 307-388-8740, Stacie Jones, service

The Shady Lady’s – Cosmetic Tattooing, 111 Main St – Ste 5, 59105, 561-1681, Jordynn Cossitt, service

Born Again Beauty & Ink by Megan Price LLC, 745 Henesta Dr, 59102, 998-8886, Megan Price, service

Rhino Electric, 3126 Morning Glory Circle, 59102, 540-3775, Ryan Teini, electrical contractors

Rotech (Overland) 2110 Overland Ave, 59102, 245-9792, Suzy Martinez, retail sales

Lifebridge Counseling LLC, 1330 Colton Blvd, 59102, 698-3389, Cathy Bevier, service

Aguilar Cleaning Enterprise Services, 8951 Jerry Lee ln, 59106, 714-920-7189, Jesse Aguilar, service

Affiliated Mortgage Zachery Blair, 822 Avenue C, 59102, 602-525-1120, Zachery Blair, service

Palouse residential Properties LLC, 611 N 31st St, 59102, 281-900-7102,  Russell Perkins, real estate properties

Taichi Tuina Healing, 511 N 30th St, 59101, 916-1332, Jing Chong, service

Mystic River Dirtworks LLC, 6444 Neibauer Rd, 59106, 690-6698, James Kamminga, service

Purely Obsessed Permanent Jewelry LLC, 1503 13th St W, 59102, 962-5518, Michelle Carnahan, retail sales

Brandish Construction LLC, 304 Grand, 59101, 855-0476, Howard Lewis, general contractors

Steel City Drones LLC, 282 Foxcroft Rd, Pittsburgh PA 15220, 412-980-1941, David King, retail sales

 Wizard Office Services 221 Prospectors Ln, 59105, Dillon Heath, service

Monaco’s Photography, 928 Broadwater Ave – Ste 201, 59101, 200-2724, Sarah Monaco, service

Freeform, 3319 Rimrock Rd, 59102, 850-4331, Joshua Tolentino, misc

Northwest Fugitive Recovery, 43 W Meadow Dr, 59102, 200-4697, Timothy Westervelt, service

Camping World RV Sales of Billings, 976 Rosebud Ln, 59102, 847-229-6465, n/a, service

Nomadic properties LLC, 5116 Yellowstone Falls Ln, 59106, 360-8894, Jace Palmer, real estate rentals,

Hayes Design & Build, 3385 Granger S #64, 59102, 946-2466, Joshua Hayes, general contractor

Bearded Bulldog Pub Grub, 2503 Montana Ave, 59101, Jen Marble, restaurants

Steamworld, 3619 2nd Ave S, 59101, 561-5566, Britani Bishop, service

Homegoods Inc – #1105, 2618 King Ave W- Ste 1, 59102, 774-308-0056, Kristin Adams, retail sales

JT Homes, 6010 Farmstead Ave #30, 59102, 951-316-3808, Jessica Tapp, real estate rentals

Good Day Assisted Living, 1847 Forest Park Dr, 59102, 561-4244, Dan & Steph Flesch

Rogers Concrete, 55 Clark Dr, Columbus 59019, 321-1855, Raylee Rogers, service

MEL Construction, 5030 Chevelle Rd, 59106, 701-230-9453, Mark Littleghost, general contractor

Beartooth Cross Stitch, 3227 Parkhill Dr, 59102, 413-8716, Alisa Clarke, service

Gluck Building Company, 26901 Agoura Dr – Ste 100, Calabasas CA 91301, 818-880-8220, Thomas Gluck, general contractors

MRM Unified Campus LLLP, 2822 Minnesota Ave, 59101, 259-3800, service

Glacier Vapor, 2346 Grand Ave, 59102, 545-9413, Marshall Corriz, retail sales

Albertsons #3367, 5317 Grand Ave, 59106, 371-2755, Albertson’s LLC, retail sales

Shilhanek Designs, 3112 Rosemont Way, 59101, 561-5457, Tarin Shilhanek, service

Caliber Collision Centers, 4130 Kari Ln, 59106, 998-2190, Lori Eaton, auto business

Elevation Transport Services, 2147 Phoebe Dr, 59105, 839-1733, Craig Smith, service

Black Hills Federal Credit Union, 1595 Grand Ave – Ste 235B, 59102, 831-1204, Tyson Taylor, banks/loan agencies

Dust Officers, 4059 Orrel Rd-#2, 59101, 661-0144, Scott Crenshaw, service

Apollo Detail, 332 Bonnie Ln, #2, 59101, 515-441-9367, Nathan Lucero, services         

By Chris Cargill, The Center Square

Raising the minimum wage is one of the many policy ideas peppered with tradeoffs, but one of the few that have such a direct impact on businesses and employees alike. Lawmakers in Idaho and Montana have introduced legislation intended to raise the minimum wage. The legislation in Idaho has been introduced by Rep. Steve Berch.

House Bill 48 would repeal a prohibition on local governments setting their own minimum wage. Meantime in Montana, House Bill 201 introduced by Rep. Kelly Kortum would hike the minimum wage to $11.39 per hour plus tips. The minimum wage in Montana currently sits at $9.95 per hour, while Idaho’s minimum wage is the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

Currently, there are only 54 cities or counties around the nation that have their own minimum wages which vary from their state minimum wage. The patchwork of different wages makes it difficult in some states for small business owners to properly plan for and track employee hours, especially if employees work at multiple locations. The broader issue, however, is the financial impact on small businesses and the workers themselves. It is true that some workers will see paychecks rise as a result of minimum wage increases, but many more end up seeing wages fall as hours are reduced. We know this from experience, and projections.

A great Congressional Budget Office tool gives users the opportunity to see the impact of raising the minimum wage. It shows some positive impacts, including a decrease in the number of people living in poverty. But it also shows negative aspects – specifically, the change in employment and the overall change in real family income. Under a scenario where the minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour, both see dramatic declines.

Research from the Harvard Business Review had similar findings. It concluded “for every $1 increase in the minimum wage, we found that the total number of workers scheduled to work each week increased by 27.7%, while the average number of hours each worker worked per week decrease by 20.8%. For an average store in California, these changes translated into four extra workers per week and five fewer hours per worker per week — which meant that the total wage compensation of an average minimum wage worker in a California store actually fell by 13.6%.

This decrease in the average number of hours worked not only reduced total wages, but also impacted eligibility for benefits.” The University of Washington conducted a review of Seattle’s increase of the minimum wage to $15, phased in over several years. Researchers wrote “those earning less than $19 an hour saw wages rise by 3.4% once the city’s minimum wage was $13, while experiencing a 7.0% decrease in hours worked.” In other words, the hike was costing jobs.

In fact, the research showed there would be 5,000 more jobs in Seattle if the hike had not been adopted. While some businesses might be able to afford the hit of a minimum wage hike, others will not. Restaurants, retail and hospitality, for example, run on very low profit margins. The impact there is likely to be much more severe. In the end, some workers will benefit from a hike in the minimum wage, but others will see fewer hours and lower earnings. It’s a tradeoff – not necessarily the rosy picture some activists and lawmakers project. Chris Cargill is the President & CEO of Mountain States Policy Center.

While Montana’s economy has been doing quite well over the past couple ofyears, economists are projecting changing winds in 2023.

During the recent Economic Outlook Seminar, Bureau of Business and Economic Research Economist Pat Barkey said that while Montana’s economy grew by over two percent in 2022 it is likely to plummet to zero in 2023 and perhaps even dip into negative territory of  -1.1 percent. 

Barkey said that whether there will be a recession is uncertain. He noted, “A recession was supposed to be here last year.” A recession is still more likely than not – at the very least, the state’s economy will slow significantly, he said. Whatever the next year brings, “it will be a lot different than a year ago.”

In fact, Barkey explained that “There’s something called the Fed recession in our future. It’s been engineered, it’s there, it’s something the Fed is trying to do, or might do.”

While some aspects of inflation have slowed, there remains the likelihood of higher interest rates and diminished investments.

The impact of a recession could be lessened for Montana should the in-migration from other states continue, bringing with them more spending and wealth to the state. It was reiterated several times that the new comers to Montana are good for the state because they are bringing new wealth and spend money.

Barkey said he calls the likely downturn the “rich-cession” because it has had a bigger impact on higher income people than lower income. That is due in large part because of the huge demand for labor.

While not all the numbers are in, overall 2022 appears to have been a very good year for Montana, continuing the economic surge the state experienced in 2021. Statewide average growth was over 5.3 percent in 2021 – the highest it had been since 2006.

According to BBER, 2021 growth was well above average in Flathead, Gallatin and Missoula Counties, driven by the reopening of the economy after the pandemic. The one exception in the state was counties in the eastern portion of the state that are dependent upon the oil and gas industry, which has struggled given that political winds directed investment away from it.

Most of Montana’s economic activity and growth happens in its seven population centers – only 10 percent of state growth occurred outside the seven largest counties.

Perhaps, much to some people’s surprise, Barkey said that mining is Montana’s and Yellowstone County’s most prominent industry.

Barkey expressed some dissatisfaction for the decisions of the Federal Reserve because they were slow in raising interest rates – “they were asleep,” he said. Raising interest rates sooner would have slowed consumer spending sooner, which is what is driving the US economy and needs to be “moderated”.

”We are starting to run out of fuel for consumer spending,” he said, noting that consumers are running out of savings and starting to rack up charges on their credit cards.

“The economy is healing but not healed.”

Inflation is starting to ease a bit – lumber prices have come back down, commodity prices have “settled down”, big ticket consumer purchases are expected to decline in price 4 percent —“all prices are softening.” “Supply chain congestion is better than a year ago.”

While housing prices increased 52 percent statewide since 2020, creating affordability issues for many people, they have weakened somewhat but home sales have slowed.  As interest rates increase home sales will continue to be slow.

Nevertheless, the construction industry has continued to be strong and may become stronger as material prices decline.

A real concern is energy prices, which have come down somewhat but are “still 42 percent higher since the pandemic.” Barkey was critical of President Biden’s policies which have discouraged investors to invest in oil and gas, which has kept the industry down and gas prices high. That industry’s struggles has been very detrimental to Montana, and to Yellowstone County other eastern Montana counties.

Since the economic impacts of COVID mandates,Montana’s health care industry has had significant struggles dealing with labor shortages and rising costs. It is expected to ease in 2023, however.

Lower consumer prices will ease pressure on the labor market. “We need less demand for workers; those pressures are pushing up costs,” said Barkey, but he also pointed out that the labor shortage was materializing before the pandemic. “The workers are there – they are working – the problem is we need more of them.”

There has been a seven percent increase in wages – but that is not more than the rate of inflation.

“Wages ae not so fat and happy as you think.”

The strength of Montana’s economy over the past couple years is evidenced in income tax collections in the state. They still show double digit growth, but “beware of any forecasting,” warned Barkey, “No one knows where you are until we go through April” – and can see tax returns.

“Last year’s 2 percent growth is amazing.” but Barkey’s forecast for 2023 will see a “slamming on the brakes” for the state.

Montana’s economy may not be as dependent upon performance as it is dependent upon the “fragile” world economy.

Barkey provided predictions from HIS Markit:

—While 2023 may see a recession it will also see the beginning of a recovery from recession which will gain momentum in 2024.

—economic weakness is expected in several segments with residential investment leading the way.

—the price of US farm output, currently more than double its pandemic low, which remain elevated through 2022 will ease as crops come in in 2023.

—slowing growth will cause oil prices to ease to $84.

—consumer spending will grow modestly through 2024, constrained by a rebound in personal savings rate from the unsustainable lows below 3 percent. Fixed income will decline to 4.1 percent in 2023 with weakness concentrated in construction, both residential and nonresidential.

—labor markets will remain tight but the trend in payroll gains is slowing.

—the fed will raise its policy rate by March to the range of 4.75 percent to five percent and allow its balance sheet to decline by about one-third through 2024.

—inflation will decline in three steps. Already underway are declines in the prices of energy and agricultural commodities that are allowing headline inflation to fall quickly below core inflation. In a second step there will be easing in supply-chain tensions, or decline in the pries of certain core goods; such as vehicles, fist used and then new. In step thee, a recession eventually tempers inflation pressures emanating from labor markets.

—a risk exists that a resilient economy remains strong for longer than previously anticipated, requiring a more aggressive and persistent monetary tightening (higher interest rates) to contain inflation which would precipitate a later and more severe recession.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel billions of dollars in federal student loans. The action is in response to a petition from six Republican-led states that sought a pause on the proposed student debt relief while the court rules on their request for a longer-term injunction.

The lawsuit by the six Republican-led states—Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina—is before the appeals court after a lower court judge rejected the suit a day prior.

The states argue that the debt relief program bypassed Congress and poses a threat to the states’ future tax revenues, as well as money earned by state entities that invest in or service the student loans. But U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis determined that while the six states had raised “important and significant challenges to the debt relief plan,” their lawsuit lacked the necessary legal standing to pursue the case.

Biden’s student debt relief program, announced in August, seeks to cancel up to $10,000 to borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year (or $250,000 as a couple per year), or $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients who meet similar income standards.

Applications opened on Oct. 14. Nearly 22 million borrowers had applied for the debt relief program since —  about half of the more than 40 million Americans that the Department of Education expects are eligible for some amount of debt relief.

Last week, Yellowstone County Commissioners gave a green light to Mike Mayott, a member of the MetraPark Advisory Board and chairman of its Finance Committee to proceed with updating a study on the economic impact that MetraPark has on the Billings community.

The study will be done with the assistance of Patrick Klugman of Big Sky Economic Development Authority (BSEDA) and it will be funded by NorthWestern Energy.

By Casey Harper, The Center Square

Nearly three out of four Americans are becoming more concerned about rising prices, according to a new poll.

BMO Financial Group released survey data on the economy and inflation that showed that 74% of Americans say they are becoming increasingly worried about rising costs due to inflation.

“More than 70% feel their financial momentum is threatened by higher grocery bills (78%) and the rising cost of gas (76%),” the group said. “In order to prepare for a potential recession, 76% of Americans said they are making lifestyle changes such as delaying large purchases on a house or car, paying down debt, and cutting back on holiday spending.”

The poll, conducted with Ipsos, also found that “significantly fewer U.S. consumers feel confident about their financial situation compared to last quarter.”

That concern varies by age group.

“Older Americans report feeling more concerned than younger generations,” BMO said. “Between ages 55-64, 82% said their concerns about inflation have increased over the last three months, compared to 62% of those between ages 18-24 and 70% of those aged 25-34.”

The survey comes as the latest federal inflation data shows prices have continued to rise on a range of goods and service. The overall inflation rate has dipped in the past several weeks, but that is in part due to a decrease from record-high gas prices in June. After dipping for a couple of months, gas prices are now on the rise again.

Americans are also concerned about the impact of a recession.

“Nearly 8 in 10 Americans (76%) said they plan to adjust their lifestyles in response to recession concerns,” the survey said, with 34% “delaying major purchases, like buying a new home or car,” as well as 28% cutting down holiday spending, and 24% putting more money in savings.

“Americans who report being ‘more’ financially secure decreased to 39% from 50% a year ago and 47% last quarter,” BMO said. “Americans who said they feel ‘less’ financially secure, rose to 27% from 16% in the same quarter a year ago. The number of Americans who said they are making financial progress decreased to 54% from 62% a year ago. More than 40% of Americans under age 35 do not have enough savings to cover an emergency.”

Adaptive Performance Center (APC), a phenomenally successful veterans’ support organization that was founded in Billings just over two years ago, has received a $750,000 grant that opens wide the doors for its future and to be able to more completely meet the needs of its veteran members. One of APC’s  expansion goals is to open a similar facility in Helena.

The grant was part of $2.15 million in federal funding for Montana by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program . Also receiving grants were the America Northern Rockies ($750,000), and the Rocky Boy Veterans Center in Box Elder ($650,000).

APC founders Karen Pearson and Mitch Crouse are ecstatic about winning the grant and the promise it holds for them to be able to expand the training and support they provide veterans and to expand those services.

APC is a gym for veterans and enlisted military, where they can meet and talk with like-minded individuals whose association helps to build inner strength and peace while building physical strength. Pearson and Crouse launched APC as a new concept, with no guidelines or guarantees or members. Today the non-profit organization has over 500 members.

So on- target was their concept that from Day One they began signing up members, and gaining sponsors who wanted to make sure no potential member has to be turned away because of any financial concerns. And, almost every day the APC trainers witness incredible success stories as one member or another achieves a goal.

The gym is almost a front for helping veterans get support and connection with other veterans and military people that they need, explains Pearson. And, it just happens naturally, as they regularly attend to work out.  The gym becomes a safe and comfortable place for them, where they find others who understand.

That they actually have an impact that helps troubled veterans who are struggling or who might even be suicidal is exactly the kind of outcome that Pearson and Crouse believed was possible given the opportunity for regular physical exercise. Now they can prove it.

Part of the grant requirements include the collection of data and documentation to prove their theory. Depending on how the first year goes with the grant funding they are eligible for grants in each of the next two years.  Pearson said that one of the purposes of the grant program is to show that there is programming available to impact the suicide rate and to demonstrate how APC can impact the suicide rate and help with mental health.

Pearson and Crouse each bring their own knowledge and unique experiences to APC. In each of their experiences in providing physical training for people, who had traumatic situations to deal with, they realized that physical exercise was hugely beneficial in that process. As Crouse frequently reiterates, “Move your body, heal your mind.”

Crouse learned that reality first hand in struggling to recover from a severe injury he suffered in a car accident. Pearson recognized the connection in dealing with patients who were veterans trying to integrate back into families and adapt to regular life after serving in the military. She saw them struggle with PTSD and knew those, who believing there was no hope, committed suicide.

With the grant funding, the first order of business has been to fill gaps in the support and services that they have identified over the past couple of years. “We can hire people to fill those gaps,” said Pearson.

They have hired four additional trainers in the gym, which means they don’t have to rely on volunteers and always have trainers available.

Two of the people they are hiring are Veteran’s Advocates – a man and a woman who will share a full-time position. The advocates are needed to help direct veterans how to deal with getting their needs met, and where to go, what processes are necessary. To help them fill out forms, etc. – “anything they need that is intimidating and frustrating and prompts them to give up,” said Pearson.

They are also hiring a part time therapist and acupuncturist, and a full time occupational therapist who will split their time between the gyms in Billings and Helena.

Getting a second APC off the ground has been a struggle because there is a shortage of the kind of space they need in Helena. But they have finally found a 9600 square foot building in which they will be able to duplicate the facility in Billings. They will also be hiring the same level of staffing in Helena.  Funding for most of the equipment and fixtures that will be needed has already been acquired from an early sponsor, said Crouse, and it is sitting in escrow waiting for a building. They plan to be open in January.

Montana ranks right at the top of having the highest suicide rate in the nation. Pearson noted that from 2018 to 2020 active duty suicide increased by more than 40 percent, and in 2020 in Alaska it jumped 15 percent.

The founding duo of APC urged that anyone who knows a veteran or active duty military, to urge them to check out their gym and services.

Anyone who has their D2-14 discharge papers can join ACP. It doesn’t matter where or when or how they served, they simply have to have served. The cost is $19.95 a month, but no one is turned away because of inability to pay. In fact, APC has numerous individuals, businesses and organizations, who have will pay the dues of anyone who can’t afford to do so. Between 35 and 40 percent of their members depend on such contributions, and they are very appreciative.

APC gym is located at 1420 Broadwater in Billings

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