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What does Home Science Tools have in common with Billings Flying Service? What does Heights Eyecare have in common with Montana Peterbilt?

All are among the 21 businesses in Yellowstone County that have received tax abatements to encourage the expansion and growth of their businesses. In doing so they have invested a total of $480 million in capital improvements and new construction, and created 25 new jobs between 2017 and 2018, which have total payrolls of $153 million.

The list includes the tax abatements granted to CHS Refinery in Laurel and Phillips 66 Refinery, which tend to distort what the economic development tool does for Yellowstone County, explained Patrick Klugman, Senior Project Manager for Big Sky Economic Development, who oversees the program. Leaving those two companies out of the totals gives a more realistic picture of the impact of the program.

All of the other 19 companies experienced payroll increases in 2018, said Klugman. They had a payroll total of $106,228,797.

Tax savings in 2018 for the 19 companies was $373,905. Including the refineries, tax savings was $5,265,000.

Last week, Klugman highlighted Home Science Tools in making a report about the tax abatement programs to Yellowstone County Commissioners. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The company sells, through an on-line website, science educational tools all over the world. Frank Schaner, President, said, “The property tax abatement program has contributed in part to our success by reducing the risk of establishing a permanent place of business operation and freeing up funds for future growth.” He said that since 2006 the company’s annual payroll has increased $870,000 or 2.4 times.

Also, highlighted was Billings Flying Service. Since 2018 the company has added 18 new full time jobs. It had a $2.5 million payroll increase from 2017-18, and currently employs 84 full-time and part –time employees.

Say co-owners, Al, Gary and Bridger Blain, “There is a reason ‘Billings’ is painted on the side of our helicopters. Billings is our home. The tax abatement process helped ensure that our operations center would stay here, and the tax savings helped our company attract top talent to make Billings their home as well. We are forever grateful for the community / businesses partnership championed by so many in Yellowstone County.”

The programs were established by the State of Montana in 1988.

The five-year tax incentive is for businesses that are remodeling, expanding, and rebuilding on projects exceeding $500,000.  The county adopted the program in 2002 and the City of Billings adopted it in 2005. Under the five-year program taxes levied on the value of the improvement may be reduced by 100% for the first five years of the project. In the fifth year, the property would return to its full taxable value.

The 10-year incentive was adopted in October of 1994 by Yellowstone County and by the City of Billings in 2005. The 10-year incentive is available to new and expanding industry that derives at least 50 percent of their revenue from out –of-state. The taxable value of the real property can be reduced by 50 percent in the first five years. In years 6-10, the tax obligation gradually increases and the savings decreases until 100 percent of the tax is being paid.