Billings Airport will be receiving more grant funding and anticipates new business expansion.

Kevin Ploehn, Director of Aviation & Transit announced that the Alpine Aviation is interested in building a 20,000 square foot hangar and office space to complement the operations that currently exist at the Airport’s Business Park, during the September meeting of the Billings Aviation and Transit Commission.

Alpine is based in Provo, Utah and operates over 100 cargo routes in the U.S. —with hub operations in Billings, Denver, Sioux Falls and Salt Lake. Alpine primarily hauls freight for UPS and mail for the Postal Service, and operates around 400 flights per month out of Billings, and business continues to grow for them, said Ploehn.

Ploehn said this could be the first of a number of Alpine buildings and he wants to set the stage for any future development by getting the water, sewer, electrical, and road infrastructure planned out now.

Ploehn also reported that Northwestern Energy is interested in a 40-year lease of about 15 acers of airport land at the east end of the airport along the highway next to the existing substation property.

Billings Airport will also be receiving an additional grant from the construction of the Terminal Building. The grant consists of $4,026,476 of Discretionary AIP (Airport Improvement Program) funding, $261,849 of Entitlement AIP funding, and $476,480 of CARES Act local matching funds for a total grant of $4,764,805.

The Airport had received an earlier grant for the Terminal Construction of $2,352,628.

The Airport has applied for a grant with the State Department of Environmental Quality for $25,500 to offset the cost of installing three dual headed electrical vehicle chargers. This grant is part of the Volkswagen Settlement that the State of Montana received for offsetting combustion engine pollution with green sustainable energy. The project would allow six electric vehicles to be charged at the same time.

In earlier reports, Ploehn said that the recovery of Billings Airport and other airports in Montana is better than most other airports in the country. They have gone from doing about only 7 percent of their passenger numbers in the spring to about 50 percent now … while the average for the rest of the nation is about 30 percent. The reason was attributed to traffic to the national parks which drew a lot of people this summer. 

Ploehn noted that in April the Billings Airport only had 2,334 enplanements, which was down 93%. That improved to 7,535 enplanements in May (down 81%) and 13,675 enplanements in June (down 70%). In August enplanements was 24,612, almost exactly 50 percent of last August.

He noted that it appeared that July and possibly August would be closer to being down 50%. Ploehn thinks it may be possible for the year to end at about 70 or 80 percent of last year’s total numbers and that will become the “new normal.”

Year-to-date figures at the end of August was near 160,000 compared to 315,000 YTD last year.

A new program called Montana Working Capital program has been put into place by state officials, which builds off the Montana Loan Deferment program by allowing Montana businesses to take out a new loan to support economic recovery. 

Taking advantage of the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal government to deal with COVID-19 impacts on the state’s economy the Montana Loan Deferment program, launched in June, defers payments on existing loans for six to twelve months. Over $36 million has been awarded to over 1,000 Montana businesses to defer $115 million in payments by businesses. For every dollar awarded, Montana businesses receive $3 in direct benefit.

“Bankers in Montana are doing everything they can to assist businesses impacted by the economic crisis, and both the loan deferment and the new working capital program give them vital new tools in their toolboxes to help businesses regain profitability. We have worked closely with the Board of Investments for months in crafting programs that are truly beneficial for business owners and are easily implemented by banks,” said Cary Hegreberg, President/CEO, Montana Bankers Association

The Montana Working Capital program will allow Montana businesses to take out a new loan to be used for payroll, employee benefits, lease or rent, inventory, utilities, and insurance. Utilizing the unused portion of the $125 million allocated to the Montana Loan Deferment program, new borrowers can work through an approved lender to take out a loan with 35 percent of it granted through Coronavirus Relief Funds. The borrower would be responsible for making payments on the remaining 65 percent of the loan. The maximum loan size is $500,000 with a grant of $175,000. The borrower would then be responsible for making payments on the remaining $325,000.

To be eligible, borrowers must have experienced a 15 percent reduction in gross revenue attributed to the direct or indirect impacts of COVID-19. The rates and terms will be determined by the lender and borrower. Like the Montana Loan Deferment program, the new Montana Working Capital program will be run by the Board of Investments, in partnership with Montana banks and credit unions.

An additional $4.2 million have been awarded through the Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant (MMPIG) program to aid small and medium-sized meat processors in responding to the COVID-19 crisis through the adaptation and advancement of meat processing infrastructure and capacity in Montana.

The grant program previously awarded $7.5 million to 62 different processors across the state in early August, making the total awards for meat processing nearly $12 million from a federal grant of $1.25 billion to Montana to deal with COVID-virus issues.

The first round of “meat processing infrastructure” funding received an incredible amount of interest, said Gov. Steve Bullock, in announcing the addition awards.

Funding for the MMPIG program is derived from the state’s allocation of federal relief dollars made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, with a maximum award of $150,000. The 40 businesses awarded had already submitted applications to the MMPIG program. As with all coronavirus relief programs, funds must be utilized before December 31, 2020. Due to this confined timeframe, the application process for meat processing will not be reopened.

The Montana Department of Agriculture and Department of Livestock oversees the grant process and rules and regulations is available on their website.

FEMA announced $5.71 million in additional funding for COVID-19 response efforts in Montana. The assistance was made available under the major disaster declaration issued March 31 by President Trump.

The funding is being provided to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for purchases of Personal Protective Equipment for medical care providers and other supplies, which were distributed statewide through June 13, 2020.

FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides funding for emergency actions undertaken by communities to protect public safety, providing at least a 75 percent funding share for eligible costs. Remaining costs are the responsibility of the state and local applicants for assistance.

To date, FEMA has provided more than $5.82 million in Public Assistance funding for the COVID-19 response in Montana. These reimbursements can play a critical role as state, local and tribal officials work tirelessly to assist their communities during this response. Additional support has come in the form of mission assignments, where FEMA directs another federal agency to perform work to address needs identified by the state.

Benefits Include Low Down payment, Fixed Rate, Long-term Repayment

If your small to moderate-size business is leasing any commercial property such as office space, manufacturing or warehousing, you are probably making someone else richer with every rent check you write.  Every lease payment brings your landlord a little closer to retirement.  Why not build your own nest egg instead?  The opportunity to own business real estate has never been greater than right now.  For a minimum of 10 percent down, your business can be eligible for fixed rate financing toward the purchase of commercial real estate; and right now, these rates are at historic all-time lows.  For many small businesses, a monthly mortgage payment can be equal to or less than a rent payment.  SBA’s 504 Program can help you get there.

One of the biggest impediments to growing a small business is the lack of equity when buying a building and/or equipment.  Accelerating equity growth is the primary financial goal of most small businesses.  It is a fact that operating costs such as property lease payments often slow this growth.  Under the SBA 504 loan program, small business owners can purchase, construct or renovate commercial real estate and/or purchase capital equipment and machinery for use by their businesses with the benefit of a small down payment.  The program is primarily used for real estate acquisition, but may be used for large equipment as well, and does include some refinance options too.

Often the financing is a “50/40/10” split.  The “eligible project” includes the costs to acquire, improve or construct the asset plus most related “soft” costs.  A commercial bank loans 50% of the eligible project as a conventional loan in first lien position.  A Certified Development Company (CDC – certified by SBA to implement the 504 program) lends up to 40% of the project costs with an SBA loan in second lien position.  The final 10% is provided by the business owner.  In businesses that are a start-up operation or a special use property, the injection percentage may be up to 20%.

Most Montana businesses will qualify; for profit businesses with a net worth less than $7.5 million, and a net income after taxes of no more than $2.5 million for the last two years (while meeting the general eligibility rules under all SBA loan programs) may participate.

504 loans are generally capped at $5 million and can have a term of 10, 20 or 25 years.  The rate is typically below market and is always fixed for the full amortized life of the loan on the SBA portion.  Prepayment penalties apply during the first 10 years of the loan.  Borrowers benefit from this program because of the small upfront investment of 10 percent and the longer amortization of 25 years.  This keeps operating costs predictable and more management.  One of the program’s goals is to create economic incentives that stimulate development and growth of the economic base in Montana.  The borrower is expected to generate at least one job for every $65,000 funded.

What are the steps to obtaining a SBA 504 loan? First borrowers should contact a commercial loan officer at their current lender.  Most Montana lenders participate in the 504 loan program.  The loan officer will contact one of the four Certified Development Companies serving Montana.  Together, the bank and the CDC will assist the borrower in applying for the program, reviewing the application, and securing the appropriate commitments from the SBA and the bank.  The CDC’s goal is to make the application and commitment process as easy as possible and to insure both the lender and borrower receive a timely commitment on the 504 project.

Small businesses that have participated in the 504 program have seen property values appreciate.  With forecasts of continued market growth and expansion, the 504 program can help new borrowers achieve similar growth in the equity of their business investments.  For more information on SBA’s Programs and Services, go to or call 406.441.1081.

Montana CDCs and Contact Numbers:

Big Sky Finance         406.869.8403     406.443.3261

High Plains Financial         406.771.9027

Dakota Business Lending 406.760.1002

Capital Matrix                208.383.3473

In the past year, Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) has embraced planned and unplanned changes. From the ground breaking of a new clinic, to opening new state-of-the-art clinics, to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, MTVAHCS has responded with adaptability and innovation. The organization was recently recognized by Forbes in naming the VA as one of Montana’s top ten best employers.

Between 2009 to March 2019, four different Executive Directors led MTVAHCS. In June 2019, Dr. Judy Hayman became the MTVAHCS’s Executive Director and established a core leadership team committed to identifying and cultivating leaders at each level of the organization. Focusing on the provision of safe, high qualityVeteran centric care, transparency in communications, ensuring high reliability, and identifying continuous process improvement opportunities defines the culture under Dr. Hayman’s leadership.

“We have 1,400 staff who serve over 47,000 Veterans at 17 sites across Montana. When the pandemic began this spring, our staff immediately began planning and taking charge to respond. As guidance changed, our staff took the lead to ensure that Veterans were receiving the safest care possible. It is through constant communication and employee engagement that we have been able to overcome many of the challenges related to COVID-19” said Dr. Hayman. In May, MTVAHCS was selected as the lead site within its VA region to increase face-to-face visits for Veterans in the first phase of expanded care during the pandemic. “We have been able to continue serving Veterans during COVID-19 and were selected to lead our region in expanding face-to-face care because of the hard work and dedication of our staff.”  

 In June, a new partnership was announced between MTVAHCS and Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare to serve rural Veterans and create integrated care between the VA and private healthcare systems. At the beginning of July, MTVAHCS broke ground on a new Veteran clinic in Missoula. At the end of July, MTVAHCS welcomed Veterans into their new state-of-the-art outpatient clinic in Great Falls. MTVAHCS has eight new clinics scheduled to open, across the state, by the end of next year.

MTVAHCS’s overall trust scores—which derive from Veteran rankings of their health care experiences—are at a historic high. MTVAHCS provides healthcare to Veterans across Montana through a series of community-based clinics, the Miles City Community Living Center (Montana VA’s only nursing home), an acute care medical center, a nationally acclaimed sleep center, and robust telehealth services.  One third of Montana VA employees are Veterans.

Bethany Blankley, The Center Square

The overwhelming majority of reported coronavirus-related deaths – 94 percent – involved patients who had at least one other underlying health condition, such as a respiratory illness, diabetes, heart disease or another, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says.

“COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned” for 6 percent of the coronavirus deaths reported to the CDC, according to its most recently published weekly index. Its index for the provisional coronavirus death counts are based on death certificate data received and coded by the National Center for Health Statistics as of Aug. 26, 2020.

Of the 94 percent who died with COVID-19 and other ailments, there were, on avareage, “2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

Several factors could have led to the deaths in the majority of those being reported as COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., which now total more than 180,000. Someone might have died in a car accident, or had a heart attack or a stroke, and also tested positive for the coronavirus, and the cause of death was marked “with COVID-19” not “by COVID-19,” but the death was included in the overall count.

In April, Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell, a board certified emergency room physician in New Braunfels, warned about the way death certificates were being handled. For someone who is riding a bike who has a heart attack, the death certificate would state cardiac arrest, not riding a bike, she explained while participating in a Texas Public Policy Foundation panel about the way the coronavirus cases were being recorded in the state. There are procedures to follow when writing death certificates, she said.

Some of the deaths included “comorbidity” factors, meaning “more than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time,” or “chronic or long-term conditions,” or “coexisting or co-occurring conditions.” They are also referred to as “multimorbidity” or “multiple chronic conditions.”

These conditions include influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, vascular and unspecified dementia, cardiac arrest, heart failure, renal failure, intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events, and other medical conditions.

Dr. Angelo Codevilla, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, argues in The Covid Coup that the problem with coronavirus reporting extends beyond how deaths are categorized, but the hysteria caused by faulty models, which led to some shutdowns at the beginning of the pandemic.

He notes that the U.S. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) simulated a model to predict the spread of the virus. The data it published was used as the basis for which national and state lockdowns were issued.

“Its model also predicted COVID deaths for un-locked-down Sweden,” he notes. “On May 3 it wrote that, as of May 14, Sweden would suffer up to 2,800 daily deaths. The actual number was below 40.

“Whether magnifying this falsehood was reckless or willful, it amounted to shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater,” he said. “What justifies listening to, and paying, people who do that kind of science?”

After the IHME models also proved faulty for the U.S., the CDC adjusted the death rate to 0.26 percent, down from 5 percent, in May.

The CDC also adjusted how it began reporting coronavirus deaths, combining them in a new “PIC” category with pneumonia and influenza.

“That is how the death figure came to exceed 100,000,” Codevilla argues. “But if the CDC had used the same criterion that it did with the SARS virus, namely ‘severe acute respiratory distress syndrome,’ the figure by the end of June would have been some 16,000.”

Johns Hopkins University, which has been a media source for daily coronavirus updates, says “the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 6 million, and more than 183,000 people have died…”

But Johns Hopkins’ website tracker excludes comorbidity factors. It reports numbers of cases, deaths, death rate data, and positivity ratios. It also excludes recovery rates and distinctions between influenza and pneumonia.

“At different times, these experts told us that the virus posed very little danger, and that it was a mortal threat to us all, that masks were useless, and then essential,” Codevilla argues. “On the basis of their many statements, hundreds of millions of American lives were wrecked, and millions continue to languish under ‘guidelines’ that make no sense …”

MSU Billings  fall 2020 enrollment data showed an increase in retention and graduate student enrollment, specifically in all mental and behavioral health programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. At its official 15th class-day count, 4,000 students were enrolled with 2,500 at University Campus and 1,500 at City College. This is a decrease of 416 students (9.4%) from fall 2019. Given the uncertainty and financial impact of COVID-19, this enrollment decrease was expected to be greater and is anticipated to be better than the nationwide higher education enrollment forecasts.

Moving the fall semester start date up three weeks impacted some students’ ability to enroll, especially for those who rely heavily on summer jobs and could not afford to conclude their jobs early. Dual enrollment numbers were also affected since School District 2 and other partner schools started their fall semester later than MSUB, making it challenging for many high school students to enroll.

Interim Chancellor Rolf Groseth noted that many MSUB students also have increased family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, some having to navigate their children’s remote learning and their own remote jobs, or job loss, creating additional enrollment challenges. Groseth reminded that students can still apply for CARES Act funds that can provide some financial relief.

Notable areas of growth for fall 2020 semester enrollment included:

* Increase in one-year overall freshmen retention by 4%

* City College one-year freshmen retention increased by 13.7%

* Overall graduate student enrollment increased by 6.2%

* New graduate student enrollment increased by 44.2%

* Programs with significant enrollment growth included: Human Services 36.8%, Special Education Advanced Studies 36.4%, Psychology 18.2%, RN to BSN 14.8%, Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, MS 10.1%, and School Counseling, MS 8.5%

Are you a manufacturer who wants to be a part of America’s COVID-19 response? The NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) continues working with the federal government to help manufacturers meet the urgent need for face coverings and other materials. Director of the NAM’s Creators Respond effort Herb Grant recently led a webinar for the Defense Department on how manufacturers can get involved, including by selling to the government itself. Here are a few of his helpful suggestions:  

* Get a DUNS number: A Data Universal Numbering System number is a unique ID that is required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.* Register with SAM: The System for Award Management consolidates the capabilities of existing federal procurement systems—and you can register at

* Check for contracting opportunities: The webinar covered a range of sites that offer contracting opportunities, including, and Dibbs.bsm.

The Center Square

Indiana’s attorney general wants a U.S. appellate court to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to remain open while the federal government studies the environmental impact.

Attorney General Curtis Hill said shutting down the pipeline would create public safety hazards, threaten the environment and deliver an economic blow to grain farmers throughout the Midwest.

Earlier, a lower court ordered the pipeline closed by vacating an easement that allowed continued operation. That U.S. district court cited a lack of an environmental impact study.

“The courts should allow the pipeline to continue transporting oil while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares an environmental impact study,” Hill said in a news release. “The order by the U.S. district court largely ignores the damage that a shutdown would cause to our economy, environment, food supply and personal safety.”

Hill, working with the state of Montana, joined nine other states in filing a brief with the appellate court.

For three years, the pipeline has carried about 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois. Closing it, according to Hill, would force oil shipments to go by rail.

Hill believes shipping by rail would force oil to compete for train space with agriculture, harming Indiana farmers and threatening the food supply during the global pandemic.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline has already been constructed, the oil is flowing and the American economy has come to rely on its benefits as an alternative to rail or truck transport,” Hill’s brief states. “The disruption that will result from vacating the easement is not merely economic. It will affect the food security of all who rely on Midwestern grain producers to ship affordable food through rail transport.”