Underriner Motors has partnered with United Way of Yellowstone County to raffle off a 24- month lease for a 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL. The winner will be drawn on May 13 at 4 pm. Proceeds generated from raffle ticket sales will go directly to United Way of Yellowstone County’s Community Fund to help improve the health, education and financial stability of every person in Yellowstone County.

“Our raffle partnership is just one example of the enormous impact Underriner Motors generosity has made in Billings. Through the years, the Underriner’s have made a positive difference in so many people’s lives,” said Kim Lewis, President and CEO of United Way of Yellowstone County. 

Raffle tickets are for sale for $25 per ticket or three for $60 and can be purchased at: www.uwyellowstone.org/60bdayblowout, United Way office, Underriner Motors, and select Billings Federal Credit Union locations. There will also be several opportunities to purchase tickets in person leading up to the May 13 drawing, follow the UWYC Facebook page for up-to-date information.

“There’s nothing that feels better than to help people who are truly in need, and to make a major impact on their life, and United Way of Yellowstone County has changed thousands of lives.  We are happy to help them celebrate 60 years of impressive community impact,” said Blake Underriner, Managing Partner of Underriner Motors.

The Drive United car raffle is part of a massive Birthday Blowout celebration planned by United Way.  Other activities include: 60-Minutes volunteer opportunities, a diaper drive in partnership with Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, collecting 60 pints of blood and an online auction.

Yellowstone Bank  ranked as the top in the country among 2020’s best-performing community banks with less than $3 billion in assets, by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The number one ranking is a 32 spot jump over their 2019 ranking.

S&P Global Market Intelligence reported, “Founded over a century ago, the bank has established itself as an active commercial, agricultural, and real estate lender in Montana with eight brick-and-mortar branches and one facility operating across six different cities. Yellowstone Bank was highly profitable during 2020, yielding a return on average tangible common equity, or ROATCE, of 21.4% while also growing operating revenues to 36.2% year over year.”

This Yellowstone Bank and other community banks accomplished during a most difficult year, underscored S & P Global. “Despite going through a challenging year filled with economic uncertainty, we have seen community banks and credit unions play a significant role in their regional markets, providing support and essential services needed in their local communities. I’m thrilled to see these community banks and credit unions thrive in a challenging time and proud to recognize these top performing local financial institutions in our annual rankings,” said Jimmy Pittenger, Senior Director of Financial Institutions at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Among larger banks, United National Corp. earned the top spot among the best-performing community banks with assets between $3 billion and $10 billion. This Sioux Falls, S.D.-based bank outperformed the industry median in four of the six ranking metrics analyzed and achieved the highest net interest margin among the top 50 banks in the group at 18.84%.

This year’s top performing credit union designation was awarded to Philadelphia’s Police and Fire Credit Union. The 82-year-old credit union outperformed the industry median in all five ranking metrics. In addition, the credit union saw an 11.6% increase in member growth year over year while its delinquency ratio fell to 0.18%, down 13 basis points from year-ago levels.

The proposed tax increases in the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan could lead to 1 million fewer jobs in the first two years, according to a study conducted by Rice University economists for the National Association of Manufacturers. Economists calculated the effects of increasing the corporate tax rate to 28%, increasing the top marginal tax rate, repealing the 20% pass-through deduction, and eliminating certain expensing provisions would cause large negative effects for the economy. The worst of these would include:

* 1 million jobs lost in the first two years;

* By 2023, GDP would be down by $117 billion, by $190 billion in 2026 and by $119 billion in 2031; and

* Ordinary capital, or investments in equipment and structures, would be $80 billion less in 2023 and $83 billion and $66 billion less in 2026 and 2031, respectively.

The study also notes the following:

* Investments in intangibles, or “firm-specific capital,” are highly mobile and more sensitive to marginal tax rate changes. Such investments would fall 2.7% by year two and would be down a total of 3.8% by year five.

* The average annual reduction in employment would be equivalent to a loss of 600,000 jobs each year over 10 years.

* Real wages would fall by 0.6% in the long run, and total labor compensation, including wages and benefits, would decline by 0.6% initially before falling by 0.3% after 10 years. In the long run, total compensation would also decline by 0.6%.

S&P Global Market Intelligence has released its annual rankings of 2020’s top-performing community banks. Stockman Bank was once again ranked in America’s top 50 performing community banks with assets between $3 billion and $10 billion, moving up from last year’s rankings.

 “We are again honored to be recognized nationally for exemplary financial performance, sound practices and focused management,” stated Bill Coffee, Stockman Bank CEO. “During 2020, clearly a challenging year in many ways, our team adapted on a moment’s notice, finding new ways to serve our customers and communities without compromising excellence. I am proud of their flexibility and dedication. We have the best team in our 68-year history.”

To compile these ranking, S&P Global Market Intelligence calculated scores for each bank based on six metrics, including return, growth and credit quality. S&P Global is the world’s foremost provider of credit ratings, benchmarks and analytics in the global capital and commodity markets.

Dick Anderson Construction announced that Nolan Smith has been promoted to the position of Project Manager within the Billings location. 

Nolan joined DAC Billings in June 2018 and has been our Project Engineer on Northwest Pipe Fittings, Denny Menholt Nissan, Crowley Fleck renovations and will now be our Project Manager for the Laurel Fairfield Inn and Suites project underway this April.  He is noted as a very dedicated and  hard worker and is a great contribution to the Dick Anderson Construction team.

Whether we realize it or not, garbage is an important thing to us.  If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t make so much of it!  And all that garbage is generated by us freely acquiring goods in an incredibly competitive free marketplace, where choice is everywhere and the consumer is king.

Can you imagine living in a place where there was no choice among goods or services?  One brand of car.  One brand of clothing.  One doctor.  One barber.  One sewer service.  One garbage collector.  Stop right there – because in many if not most Montana communities, there is but one brand of garbage collection to choose from, which means no choice at all.  The cost and quality of that service is locked in, and cannot be influenced by consumer choice. 

There is probably no single area of government monopoly creation that is more harmful and less logical than in the Class D garbage collection industry, where state law puts potential competition through a near-impossible certification process at the PSC.  Under the pretention of “consumer protection,” monopolies and near-monopolies are effectively established in almost every Montana community, by slamming the door to market entry and abrogating Montanan’s fundamental right of private enterprise.  It is government protectionism at its worst, inevitably resulting in much higher prices and lower quality service than would exist in an active, open, competitive marketplace.  Every consumer suffers, while a small number of coddled and protected companies reap inordinate profit, by avoiding competition and shedding normal business risk. 

The protected industry, benefitting with its often obscene profit margins, will bring forth a flood of sophisticated-sounding arguments, of course.  For example, they will argue that “uncontrolled competition” destabilizes the market and threatens the quality and reliability of service to the public.  They will warn that “upstart operators” might dump their trash in ditches and on public land, and on and on.  I have heard all these claims and more before the PSC, and I am here to tell you that they are unmitigated nonsense.  I have yet to see one scrap of evidence that proves their arguments.  How can there be?  They are arguing against the role of competition itself.  

How much are Montana trash haulers in monopolized markets over-charging their captive customers?  Because the PSC does not regulate their rates, complete information is not available.  But as an example, it was revealed during one of the PSC’s application dockets that Republic Service’s 2014 Montana Annual Report showed an eye-popping statewide average profit of 41 percent.  This compared with record testimony showing Oregon’s profit margins averaging 8 to 10 percent. 

Monopolistic companies are not, by definition, bad providers.  They are simply creatures of the market conditions under which they operate.  If there is no competition to drive down rates, there is much less incentive to keep rates low.  The function of price signals in the marketplace is removed.  Likewise, if there is no threat of losing market share to another carrier, there is less reason to vigorously pursue a consumer’s business with new offerings, better deals, etc.  Where else can that consumer go?

Rep. Caleb Hinkle’s HB 338 would put an end to these state-sponsored monopolies, but incumbent garbage companies, having a strong vested interest in the status quo, are sure to wage a vigorous, fear-mongering campaign to kill the Hinkle bill and maintain their privileged position. The consumers, as usual, will be underrepresented at the legislative hearings. 

 Who are these consumers?  They include not only every homeowner, but most every landlord, manufacturer, service business, retail business, school district, college, university, local government, and just about every other entity that produced solid waste.  All of them deserve the best possible service at the lowest achievable cost.  They will never see that happen in the absence of industry competition, where monopolies are government-created but not government regulated. 

The stakes could not be higher.  Let’s replace senseless monopoly with consumer choice and economic freedom.  HB 338 is the answer.

Roger Koopman recently retired from the Public Service Commission, having represented PSC District 3 for 8 years.  He has also served two terms in the state House of Representatives from Bozeman

With marijuana legalization and pension reform on Montana’s policy agenda, the Reason Foundation provided some suggestions to the state legislature about how to best utilize the tax revenues the state gets.

 Reason’s policy experts provided testimony on Montana’s proposed recreational marijuana bill, House Bill 670. Their comments to the Taxation Committee suggested that marijuana tax revenues be used to pay down pension debt and noted HB 670 wisely aims to “pay for obligations already on the books, while avoiding adding future obligations via new programmatic spending.”

Reason Foundation is an extension of Reason Magazine, published since 1968 advocating “free minds and free markets” covering politics, culture, and ideas through news, analysis, commentary, and reviews from a libertarian perspective.

 Reason’s experts have helped a number of states establish and improve medical and recreational marijuana markets, putting together best practices and recommendations to help lawmakers create safe and fair marijuana regulations. Likewise, their pension analysts have developed gold standards outlining how states can update public pension systems to something more sustainable for employees and taxpayers.  

Reason Foundation’s solvency analysis of the Montana Public Employee Retirement System finds that under typical economic conditions over the next few decades the pension system’s $2.1 billion in debt could grow to $4 billion—doubling the amount Montana expects to spend on the pension plan over the next 30 years. The study also shows how overly-optimistic investment return assumptions are driving the debt, adding $1.3 billion in unfunded liabilities to MPERS since 2001.

Similarly, Reason’s recent analysis of the Montana Teacher Retirement System details why the pension plan serving the state’s educators has nearly $2 billion in debt and only 68 cents of every dollar needed to pay for its promised retirement benefits.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) announced the recipients of its 2021 Trail Grants Program, awarding $145,000 to fill critical trail gaps, with an emphasis on regional and community development goals. Two Montana area groups received trail grants to help build on the vision for the cross-country Great American Rail-Trail.

Yellowstone Historic Center is receiving a $10,000 Doppelt Fund grant for the conversion of a 9-mile abandonment along the Yellowstone Shortline Trail into a multiuse path from the Montana–Idaho border.

Headwaters Trail System is receiving a $10,000 Doppelt Fund matching grant to support the development of the 0.8 mile remaining to complete a 12-mile network in Gallatin County to connect the Headwaters Trail.

The cross-country Great American Rail-Trail is a project developing 3,700-mile trail that connects across 12 states between Washington, D.C., and Washington State. This year’s Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund grants are made in honor of the legacy of the late rail-trail philanthropist, Jeffrey L. Doppelt, who passed away from COVID-19 in January 2021. A member of RTC for more than 25 years, Jeff invested over $800,000 in the nation’s rail-trails, benefiting more than 40 projects nationwide.

“The RTC Trail Grants Program offers support to projects that are often not funded otherwise and are left out of traditional funding streams. These grants often fill critical gaps—both in trail development and funding—delivering returns on investment that bring lasting benefit to communities,” said Ryan Chao, president of RTC. “As we mourn our good friend Jeff Doppelt, we see his legacy and vision live on with the progress we are making on the Great American and on completing trail projects large and small that have significant impact on the nation.”

Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State, will speak on the “The Value of American Energy to the World” on the final day of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference – Thursday, May 13, 2021.

The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference will be held May 11-13 at the Bismarck Event Center, in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Other featured presenters will be Harold Hamm, Executive Chairman, Continental Resources, the largest producer of the Bakken, and Bill Berry, CEO of Continental, and Shelly Lambertz – Chief Culture Officer at Continental.

The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is the largest conference and trade show in the nation focused on the Bakken, Three Forks and Williston Basin. It brings together leading experts on breakthrough technologies, energy markets, potential untapped formations, the regulatory environment, and more.

Over the last 28 years, the WBPC has become a “who’s who” of industry experts and leadership in the Bakken, providing some of the best networking opportunities with key decision-makers in an intimate and exciting setting.

For more information go to www.wbpcnd. com/events/ Williston-basin- petroleum- conerence.com

NILE Board of Directors announced that Chad Reisig will be the ninth NILE General Manager. NILE began its search for a new general manager in November following current General Manager, Jennifer Boka‘s announcement to depart from the organization next November. Following an intense search, Reisig was selected to fulfill the role. Beginning on July 15, he will join the team to work jointly with Jennifer until November 1, at which time he will take over the position. Reisig is currently an Area Sales Manager for Genex.  He and his wife Kelli reside in Billings, and operate a livestock operations in Hardin. 

Reisig’s background in management, agricultural insurance, the cattle industry, and his lifetime passion for performance horses makes him an exceptionally qualified individual to lead the NILE Organization, said NILE President-Elect, Rick Hamilton.

The NILE Organization anticipates an event filled 2021, providing continued opportunities to promote and embrace Agriculture.

Upcoming NILE events include:

* NILE Century Dinner: April 26

* PBR Billings Invitational: May 14-16

* NILE Rope N Stroke: July 30-August 1

* 54th Annual NILE Stock Show & Rodeo: October 15-23.