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.

Is there a corner in your neighborhood that needs sprucing up? A space along your street that could be more attractive and welcoming to the public? Do you have an idea about what is needed but just need some help in funding it? Then “Space 2 Place” is an opportunity for you or your organization.

Aimed at being simple and practical, Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) is once more making available grants of up to $5,000 to help fund small, incremental improvements in communities in Yellowstone County. It is intended to make public spaces more beautiful, more engaging, more interesting and more enjoyable.

Anyone can qualify for a Space -2 –Place grant, individually or in concert with a civic organization. The project can be as simple as placing a flower bed, or a bench, to developing a city park or streetscape.

The purpose is to create a place that is welcoming and engaging, where people want to be, want to linger, and to congregate. Applications must be submitted to BSEDA, 222 N. 32nd, Ste. 200, Billings, MT 59101, by 4 pm on March 5, 2020. Applications may also be emailed to thom@bigskyeda.org. Winners will be notified by April 2, and announced publically at Big Sky Economic Development Better Off in Billings, on April 16, Pub Station.

All completed projects must be visible and useable by the public. The total project cost should not exceed $10,000.  Projects must be completed by September 30, 2020. Recipients are expected to provide volunteer labor to bring their projects to fruition.