Despite a remodeling bid that was $1 million over projections, Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) is moving forward in renovating the former Montana Bank Building in downtown Billings, under Sky Point, to become their headquarters and for the new home of Rock 31 Entrepreneur Center.
Budding entrepreneurs of local start-up businesses and members of BSED leadership took turns last week demolishing an interior wall of the bank building with sledge hammers as part of the “ground breaking” ceremony that marks the end of a three-plus year planning process and the beginning of a new era for the community’s economic development agency.
The $3 –plus million project has been enabled to move forward because of some value engineering recommendations from the architectural firm, Cushing Terrell, and the contractor who won the bid, TW Clark Construction, who whittled away about a half million dollars in cost savings. Most of the balance of the over-bid is expected to be funded through fund raising campaign, directed by Becky Rogers, BSED Director of Operations, who has overseen the unfolding of the project since its inception. The goal is to raise $275,000 between now through May 2022. Rogers said they have already raised $48,000 from various local companies.
Rogers expressed gratitude to Cushing Terrell and TW Clark Construction for concessions that both companies made in helping to reduce costs. She also pitched those assembled inside the former Montana Bank Building to help support the project by making contributions.
While EDA developed a budget for what was expected to cost about $3 million, the bid they received from TW Clark Construction was $4,075,000. TW Clark is a Spokane-based company with Billings’ offices at 609 Charles Street.
Besides providing administrative offices for BSED and its numerous programs and affiliated agencies, upon the completion of the project, which is expected in ten months, it will be home base for start-up businesses and a training center for entrepreneurs. The facility will have training rooms and media, as well as space for production efforts and to facilitate networking opportunities. There will also be office space for lease to start-ups.
Kevan Scharfe, Rock 31 Director of Entrepreneurship, spoke to say, “Our main goal is to make it feel like home for entrepreneurs, and to help them find counseling and a mentor,” as well as easy access to all the different programs available through EDA.
Chairman of the EDA Board of Directors, Paul Neutgens, said “It is so exciting to see the resources the community is bringing to Billings.”
BSED Executive Director Steve Arveschoug underscored the purpose of Rock 31, saying that “we have to feed our strength and one of our strengths is home grown businesses with their passion and dreams.”
Arveschoug also thanked Chris and Mike Nelson, from whom BSED purchased the building, for donating a significant portion of the value of the building and their continued support throughout the project.
The project received a $2.1 million federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in 2019 for the purchase of the building and renovation.


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