Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights May 15, 2023 +

    After 50 years in business Bob and Cheri Hooper have sold their Kalispell Garden Center to Phil Aitken and his wife Sam. The up to 47 employees plan to stay on and continue the cold growing processes that Hoopers has developed over the years.

    Two Brothers Care, operated by Nick and Esmerelda Aliu will open in the old Perkins location in Evergreen this summer. Two Brothers is named after the couples two sons, Robert and Leonardo. The family originally came from Illinois.

    The new Infusion and Oncology Center at Bitterroot Health in Hamilton opened recently. Intermountain Health of Utah specialists will be communicating during their appointments via tele-health.

    Over 30 people have become ill after eating at Dave’s Sushi in Bozeman in April. An ongoing investigation has found the probable cause to be morel mushrooms from China. Once the department of Health completes their investigation Dave’s plans to reopen.

    Stio is a mountain lifestyle brand that’s known for its large line of versatile, technical outdoor apparel. Stio offers a line of products for all four seasons, with some 250 styles accommodating various outdoor activities. The Jackson Hole-headquartered outdoor apparel company opened in 2011. Plans are to open this fall in the Osborne building in downtown Bozeman.

    Alyssa Amato and her mother Lynne Turville will open a new food truck in Sidney. Sunrise Berry Bowls will serve acai bowls which are an organic gluten free, dairy free, vegan, plant based dish. They plan to be open in mid May

    The Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees has approved a modified four-day week calendar for the coming year. Adjustments to the school’s schedule can be made if it becomes necessary and that the lower grade levels will not have as long a day as the high school. Members of the board debated the effects of the calendar on transportation and sports as well as the merits and flexibility of the optional Fridays, which supporters of the calendar have said is a great opportunity for teachers to instruct in-need students in a way that is more individualized and tailored to their needs.

    The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is holding a public meeting on May 25 at Dawson Community College.  The goal of these meetings is to bring people together from across the state to gain their input regarding the restoration of the Southern Montana passenger rail route (the former North Coast Limited/North Coast Hiawatha) and the health benefits of train transportation.

    A dispute that began last year between a Navajo Nation-owned coal company that operates the Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana and BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroad companies in the United States, has spread from a federal courthouse in Billings to Washington D.C. Navajo Transitional Energy Company filed a breach of contract lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Billings against Texas-based BNSF. The company alleged that BNSF’s preferential treatment of other mines caused NTEC to lose more than $150 million in revenue and incur more than $15 million in demurrage penalties in 2022.

    The US Bureau of Reclamation announces lifting the closure of Reclamation lands on and adjacent to Joe’s Island on the south side of the Yellowstone River in Dawson County, 15 miles north of Glendive, Montana. The temporary closure was in place to ensure public safety during the construction of the Lower Yellowstone Fish Passage Project. Construction of the fish passage project was recently completed, and the land closure is no longer needed.

    Of the three metro areas in Montana, Great Falls has the lowest housing costs. According to the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a modest two-bedroom rental in the metro area will cost an estimated $9,696 in 2022, including utilities. For context, the statewide average cost of a comparable apartment is estimated at $10,972.  Just as rents in the area are lower than the statewide average, so too, are home values. According to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the typical home in the metro area is worth $184,400, compared to the median home value of $244,900 across the state.

    With the world facing helium shortages, news that Montana has helium resources that mining companies are exploring is good news for the economies of some of the state’s most remote areas. Two Helium drilling companies are drilling wells in the areas of Toole, Hill and Liberty counties. The activity is an extension of helium drilling that is occurring just across the Canadian border. Helium is the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, and while it can be found everywhere, it is rare that it is found in geological formations that are capable of capturing and holding it in pockets large enough to make recovery feasible. The lighter-than-air element that gives balloons their buoyancy also powers vital medical diagnostic machines, enables the operation of superconducting magnets, and is vital to the military.

    Brinkman Real Estate, a Colorado-based multifamily investment company has acquired The Highline Apartments in Columbia Falls. The purchase marks their third acquisition in Montana and the largest to date with 180 Class A units across six buildings. The company also owns properties in Billings and Missoula. Brinkman Real, in partnership with CBRE’s Institutional Debt and Restructured Finance team comprised of Brady O’Donnell, Jeff Halsey, Jill Haug, and Alex Scott led the financing execution for this asset.

    American Prairie has purchased property on the eastern border of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Phillips County. The 4,960-acre property comprises 3,075 deeded acres and 1,885 leased acres located south of Dodson. Approximately 1,847 of the deeded acres are under a Conservation Easement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To be called the Wild Horse unit, the purchase brings American Prairie’s total deeded and leased property to more than 460,000 acres. 

    The fastest growing city in Montana is the Missoula metro area. Its population grew by 11.3% from 2010 to 2020 to 121,630 residents. During that same time, the population of Montana grew by 9.2%. The Missoula metro area has a median annual household income of $57,347, slightly above Montana’s median of $57,153.

    The fastest shrinking county in Montana is Fergus County. The county’s population declined by 4.2% from 2010 to 2020. The population of Montana overall increased by 9.2% during that same time period, and the U.S. population increased by 6.7%. Fergus County’s population declined by 486 people during the decade, from 11,590 in 2010 to 11,104 in 2020. This is due in part to negative net migration as 88 more people moved away from the county than in.

  • Montana n Highlights May 1, 2023 +

    Montana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped again, with the rate ticking down to 2.3%, from 2.4% in February, which is the fourth lowest in the nation, according to statistics released by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. The state’s labor force hit a record of more than 559,000 Montanans, with a growth of 33,000 workers from its pandemic-era low.

    At the turn of spring, a wall of snow still lined the roads around West Yellowstone. Hundreds of bison from the park’s central herd were about to migrate toward their calving grounds at the Horse Butte. Usually they follow river corridors, but advocates fear that an unusually robust snowpack could funnel the bison onto  highway 191. Plows poked holes in snow berms, outside of guardrails. Then the volunteers arrived with pickaxes and shovels. They cut deep channels in the snow — pathways that they hoped would draw the massive animals toward grass along waterways.

    A plan to build about 11 miles of wildlife exclusion fencing along Interstate 90 might hurt more than help, according to a group of government grizzly biologists. Fencing that stretch of road could sever the ability for grizzly bears to move between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and other recovery areas. The potential for grizzlies to travel and interbreed between ecosystems is a frequently stated requirement before the bears can be delisted.

    The Helena City Commission intends to increase a number of fees for city services. A public hearing for all fee increases will be held during the commission’s May 8 meeting at 6 p.m.

    The Chocolate Moose, located at 25 S. Willson Ave. has supplied Bozeman with house-made chocolates, taffies, sodas and other sweets for over a decade. The owners of the Chocolate Moose listed the store for sale earlier this year.

    Dave’s Sushi in downtown Bozeman closed last month after several customers who dined at the restaurant fell ill. The restaurant published a statement on social media saying it had closed voluntarily while the health department conducts an investigation.

    The eroding banks of Penninger Park along the Yellowstone River remain a point of concern for the City of Glendive 10 years after requesting federal assistance. A research group from Montana State University plans to study the rate of erosion this month.  At this time, the MSU team intends to begin its data collection via drone flight during  May and have a complete map and report by the end of July.

    Ace Hardware prepares for its grand opening sometime in mid-May as anticipation runs deep in Sidney and Richland County, Ace Hardware stores are typically 13,000 to 14,000 square feet. Sidney Ace Hardware is 27,000 square feet, making it owner Skip King’s second largest store next to his largest Billings at 34,000 square feet. King has eight Ace Hardware stores in Montana.

    The N.D. Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division released its February 2023 production report recently. Production jumped back well-above 1.1 million barrels a day. This is an increase of 9% over January. The state also emerged victorious after the first round of legal proceedings to enforce the sales of federally owned lands believed to hold valuable deposits for potential oil

    Alexa Carter and Colleen Wolak  decided to embark on a new business venture in the Flathead Valley. Using Carter’s fervor for food and Wolak’s marketing experience, the women started Boards and Pours Montana. The catering company elevates dinner parties, events, and weddings with customized charcuterie boards, grazing tables, dessert boards, mimosa bars and cocktail tastings.

    The Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) is considering the request of NorthWestern Energy (NWE) to raise rates for electric and gas service. There was a recent settlement between NWE and opponents which has been submitted to the PSC. If the settlement terms are accepted as requested, or PSC accepts terms originally requested by NWE, residents and small businesses shall get the biggest increase. People are free to contact their commissioner about the issue at

    Maverik gas stations and convenience stores have announced the acquisition of Kum & Go from the Krause Group. There are two Kum & Go gas stations/convenience stores in Williston. In addition there is one Kum & Go in Tioga and one in Watford City. Kum & Go, a family-owned chain established in 1959 in Hampton, Iowa. Maverik, based in Salt Lake City under parent company FJ Management, reportedly operates in nearly 400 locations in 12 states. Kum & Go, based in Des Moines, is a fourth-generation chain of convenience stores and gas stations. Operated by Krause Group, Kum & Go reportedly operates in more than 400 locations.

    A Washington-based hospitality company, LOGE Camps, purchased the Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park in December for $13.5 million. It also has purchased the Mountain Valley Inn in Missoula, which it plans to renovate and reopen this fall. The 58 room, Mountain Valley Inn has been closed for a number of years and was listed for sale at $3.6 million. Besides renovating the rooms the company plans to open a cafe, conference center and outdoor gathering area. LOGE has locations in Bend, Oregon; Alta Crystal, Westport and Leavenworth, Washington; Mt. Shasta, California, South Fork, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico

    Modernization of the gantry crane on top of Hungry Horse Dam is almost complete and reclamation will begin final testing. The 70-year-old crane reached the intended service life and BCI Construction conducted the demolition in November 2022. Installation began in late March 2023 using Bonneville Power Administration capital funding. The gantry crane is used to conduct maintenance on the dam. The installation of the new crane allows Reclamation to continue to provide electrical power generation for future years.

    The board of directors of ONEOK, Inc. declared a quarterly dividend of 95.5 cents per share, unchanged from the previous quarter, resulting in an annualized dividend of $3.82 per share.

    Demand remained strong in Gallatin County’s residential real estate market during March, with sellers receiving nearly their full list price and homes spending just over two weeks on the market. Median sales prices in the single-family market fell 3.1% in March, compared to last year, from $795,000 to $770,000. Closed sales dropped 21.3%, from 94 to 74. The median number of days homes spent on the market increased from 3 to 16. The average percent of list price received by sellers decreased 3.3%, from 101.8% to 98.5%. The median price per square foot sold decreased 10.8%, from $371 to $331. Pending sales increased from 84 to 97. The number of new listings decreased from 128 to 118. End-of-month inventory rose from 125 to 213..

  • Montana Highlights April 15 2023 +

    The new executive director of Explore Whitefish is Julie Mullins. Explore Whitefish is also known as the Whitefish Convetion and visistors Bureau.  Julie Mullins arrived in Whitefish ten years ago. She and her husband were attracted by the allure of skiing and business opportunities for her husband. Mullins has 20 years experience working in the convention and tourism industry.

    Foothills flooding is possible due to rapid snowmelt, according to a statement from the National Weather Service for the Livingston area. Flooding is not imminent, but people should move equipment and livestock out of low lying areas and away from waterways, the NWS advised. Between 5,000 feet and 7,000 feet, snowpack is currently 150 to 200 percent above normal, with 8 to 15 inches of water contained within this snow.

    Aurore Bakery will open at its new Bozeman location, 141 West Baxter Lane, by the middle of this month. Aurore Adam is excited to expand her business, which has been doing individual orders, events and catering, out of her house, since last March 2022. The eatery will offer an array of French sandwiches, breads, cakes, pastries, and coffee. The bakery equipment is imported from France, along with the flour, butter and coffee she uses.

    The Bureau of Land Management plans to replace the aging boat ramp at The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84. The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84 east of Norris will close on April 12 as work begins on the boat ramp, BLM said in a press release. The existing ramp will be replaced with a single-slab, multi-lane boat ramp, according to the current plan. Crews will make asphalt and chip repairs on the parking lot during the closure. The site is expected to reopen the first week of June.

    The Grand Williston Hotel and Conference Center has reopened after a more than $ million renovation funded by the ownership group Real Capital Solutions. The remodled hotel has 149 guest rooms and a 7,000 square foot ballroom. The hotel offers 11,197 total square feet of meeting space. In addition to the ballroom, the Grand Williston has break-out meeting rooms that can be combined into one large space or separated into various configurations.

    Samantha Jones and Tabatha Venezio have opeded their new business Simply Organized Montana serving the Flathead Valley. For Simply Organized Montana having an organized space is more than just about the aesthetic. It’s about maintaining sanity and finding peace. From pantries and closets to playrooms and garages, Jones and Venezio will organize any space.

    The Montana Distillers Guild is holding its fourth annual Distiller’s Festival on April 22 in Whitefish at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. Attendees will  be provided the opportunity to  taste and learn about Montana-made spirits.The festival is Saturday, April 22 from 2:30-6 p.m. at Grouse Mountain Lodge. Providing the opportunity to taste and learn more about Montana-made spirits, The festival will showcase 12 distilleries from around Montana. Tickets are available online via the Montana Distiller’s Guild website at

    Streamflow forecasts range from about 120% of normal to 180% of normal due to the exceptional snowpack in southern Beaverhead, Madison and Gallatin counties, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also to the West of the Continental Divide, streamflow forecasts are highest in the southern Mission Mountain region and the Upper Clark Fork River basin, at about 110% of normal to 130% of normal. Snowpack in the Bears Paw Mountains is about 250% of normal.

    The MT Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the St. Mary Diversion Dam Replacement Project’s Draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The St. Mary Diversion Dam is part of Reclamation’s Milk River Project near Babb, Montana. The public comment period will run from March 29 to May 5, 2023.  There will be a public meeting on the Draft EA to be held on April 19, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at the Glacier Peaks Hotel Conference Room in Browning, Montana.

    In an effort to help manufacturers meet their workforce needs the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University has launched a new apprenticeship program. The Certified Manufacturing Associate Apprenticeship is a one-year program that combines on-the-job training with online technical classes on topics like safety, math and measurements, manufacturing processes, and quality control. Participating employees earn $15 per hour during their first three months on the job, then $20 per hour for the rest of the year while they complete the 25 online class sessions.

    The Big Sky Country Multiple Listing Service (BSCMLS) board of directors recently appointed Mike Lake as the Chief Executive Officer. Lake previously served as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Director for the BSCMLS. 

    The USDA Forest Service announced two Montana businesses and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will receive funding to put toward building up the wood products economy and have sustainable forest management. The Whitefish business Wooden Haus Supply/Stolze Timber Systems and Marks-Miller Post and Pole, Inc. in Clancy will get $1 million and nearly $510,000 in wood products assistance funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

  • Montana Highlights April 1, 2023 +

    Coyote which has recently opened in Columbia Falls, features local art, jewelry, vintage and new clothing,  Owner Cody Bauer is a Kalispell native and a Glacier High School graduate from 2009. He spent 12 years in Texas working in the art world. Coyote is located at 510 Nucleus Ave.

    Ali Coleman and Marti Moran, owners of Psycle, have planned on opening a spin studio since 2013. Psycle offers 10 classes per week and plans to expand to meet the needs of the community of Lakeside.

    The Bureau of Land Management has proposed that the Pryor Mountain wild horse herd would be reduced by about 55 animals next year in the first of several planned “gathers”. These details, along with insight to the herd’s health and genetics were released for public comment recently. Comments on the proposal are being taken through April 14.

    Florida-based company Oakwells, opened The Retreat Kitchen & Bar in February at the Helena Regional Airport. Michael Reilly started Oakwells in 2004 after the larger airport operator he worked for at the time began divesting itself of its North American operations. The airport has a full service liquor license that Oakwells successfully applied through the state to use.

    The restaurant, La Esquina, which can be found in the Cannery District off of East Oak Street in Bozeman officially opened recently. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday. The goal of La Esquina’s food is to not be complicated, and to continue the recipes honed in Mexico.

    The owners of Pho Sai Gon in Bozeman plan to open their new restaurant in late March.. Ryan and Julie Truong are from Saigon, Vietnam, where they learned to make their very popular Pho Sai Gon.

    Many Sidney area beet producers already had their seed ordered for the year and the announcement of the plant’s closure leaves producers looking for something new to plant. Beet ground is similar to corn ground so that would be an option, Another viable option would be to switch to silage. Soybean, dry beans, canola, dry peas, safflower, and camelina are other options for the region.

    Near Coram, Montana on the Flathead National Forest independent contractors have gathered for a logging operation under contract with Weyerhaeuser. Hundreds of harvested lodgepole pine released a clean, sweet smell with a touch of mint, into the air as they lay in piles on the landing floor. The trees that loggers are  harvesting are the trees that grew from the ashes of the Half Moon fire of 1929. . The life cycle of a lodgepole is around 100 years. After that point, the wood becomes lower quality with higher mortality rates.

    Ponderosa Pottery, owned by Nicky Shepard and family is designed to give people the space to have fun, grow, and even heal. Ponderosa Pottery in downtown Kalispell is a fully family-owned and operated business as Shepard runs the studio with the help of her husband, Carleton Gritts, and two children, Natalie and Spencer. The studio opened in mid-January and has hosted several workshops and open studio access for more experienced potters.

    Co-owners Caleb and Jim Scott, have opened the S Ranch Meats company in Hardin. The group purchased a plant that had been shut down since 1998. S Ranch does not aim to compete with the major packing facilities, but rather to service people interested in quality meat and a healthy, understood product. A plant like S Ranch might process 25 head a week compared with 10,000 head a week at a larger facility.

    The Sidney Herald has hired Greg Hitchcock of Gloversville New York as the next editor of the 110 year old newspaper.

    Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, introduced House Bill 849, which would let businesses lease a liquor license rather than purchase one outright. Sprunger calls it the floating liquor license lease bill. The legislation would let businesses pay a fee to rent a liquor license from the county without going through the steps to purchase it. The bill would apply to cities and towns that have grown by more than 5% between 2016 and 2021, No more than six county all-beverages licenses may be utilized. They will be awarded through a bid system. The license can not be sold or transferred.

    The Flathead Valley-based outdoor company Right On Trek is giving adventurers the opportunity to find their perfect trail, collaborate with friends, rent gear, and choose customized backcountry meals. Right On Trek’s meals, which are freeze dried, provide vegetarian, vegan, keto, gluten free and dairy free options so that backpackers can spend less time worrying about their shopping list. No hiker is left behind when it comes to the meal planning process. Right On Trek’s first in industry artificial intelligence meal planner ensures this. The AI tool, which can be found on their website, gives hikers an easy way to create customizable meal kits that they can look forward to after a long day on the trail.

    Eddies Corner, the restaurant/bar/convenience store begun by Eddie McConnell in the late 1940s, has been owned by the Bauman family since 1951. After 72 years, the business has a new owner. Lucky Singh, a Utah-based businessman who took over last recently.

    Median home prices in Gallatin County decreased 21.1%  from February 2022 to February 2023. A year ago the median price was from $868,000  and last month it was $684,682. Also a year ago, homes were on the market for only about 5 days, now it’s about 22 days.

    “Visit Southeast Montana” has announced that its free, redesigned 2023 travel guide is now available for order and download. The travel guide features Visit Southeast Montana’s “Out Here” marketing campaign, which describes the the 13 counties and two reservations that make up the Visit Southeast Montana tourism region.

    The Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $43,599,090 contract to NW Construction out of Bozeman, to conduct a dam modification to Fresno Dam. Project construction is scheduled to begin in April 2023. Built in 1939 on the Milk River in north-central Montana, the 84-year-old homogenous embankment earth dam has experienced 710 feet of settlement since construction. Reclamation evaluated the risk associated with differential settlement driven cracking and internal erosion and determined that a modification was required. To mitigate the risk, Reclamation will add a sand and gravel filter and toe drain system, with an embankment fill overlay and a vertical sand filter trench. 

  • Montana Highlights 3-01-23 +

    Glacier National Park will reopen the Avalanche Campground this year. Avalanche, Two Medicine and Many Glacier campgrounds will become advance reservation only through All campsites at Avalanche and Two Medicine will become available on March 1.

    Bozeman’s pay-what-you-can restaurant, the Fork and Spoon is looking for help combating the rise of food prices. The Human Resources Development Council, which runs the restaurant, announced this week a fundraiser to try to match a $10,000 gift given to Fork and Spoon from an anonymous donor. The 10-week drive to raise $1,000 a week began on Valentine’s Day.

    The next round of Glacier National Park vehicle registrations begins on Wednesday, March 1 at Reservations will be available for the “primetime” month of July. Glacier has expanded its reservation system starting July 1 to include Two Medicine and the Many Glacier areas of the park. The park will release the August block on April 1 and then the early September block on May 1. After Sept. 10, reservations aren’t required in any area of the park

    The Columbia Falls City County Planning Board has voted to deny a proposed 180-unit development. The Board cited concerns including traffic, wetlands, the high water table and effects on the wildlife corridor. The proposed subdivision is located east of the Flathead River.

    Terry and Punki Bullis have sold Bullis Mortuary in Hardin to Steeve and Valerie Kirkegard, The name of the business will remain the same.

    The UPS Store, located north of Walmart in Williston, has posted a sign on their door announcing their closure. The closure only applies to the shipping store, which is a franchise ct. The Williston UPS warehouse will still conduct business as usual.

    Glacier National Park announced last week the launch of a permitting system for reserving backcountry campsites. The digital system comes as park officials report a marked increase in applications for backcountry campsites. The new process for the park’s advance wilderness camping permits replaces a manual lottery system that officials said employees could no longer maintain. Backcountry campsites will be released for advance reservations on March 15. The online system only accommodates groups of one to four campers per permit.

    A Black Rifle Coffee Company location has opened in downtown Kalispell. The 4,600 square foot coffee shop offers grab and go items, two different espressos, three drip coffee roasts, and 12 pour over roasts with names like Space Bear, Gunship, and AK-47.

    The Homestake Pub at 1107 Utah Ave., in Butte has opened for business. Owners Jean Beht and Kyle O’Hearn bring over 50 years of experience to the new venture.

    The Glendive Elks Lodge #1324 has announced the closure of Gunners Ridge and its event center this week. The organization has confirmed its intention to sell the business, Gunners Ridge Bar & Grill

    MSU has set a new spring enrollment record with 15,717 students attending classes this term, as well as seeing the highest fall-to-spring student retention in a decade.

    In January, In Gallatin County, compared to January 2022, median sales prices decreased 1.7%, from $812,750 to $799,000. Closed sales fell 26.4%, from 72 to 53. The median number of days homes spent on the market was significantly higher than last year’s extreme low, jumping 1000%, from 5 to 55. The average percent of list price received by sellers fell slightly by 1.7%, from 97.9% to 96.2%. The median price per square foot sold decreased 11%, from $368 to $327. Pending sales decreased slightly by 6%, from 84 to 79. New listings increased 17.1% from 82 to 96. End of month inventory continued to rise, increasing 161.5%, from 91 to 238. The month’s supply of inventory, which is an estimate of the time it would take to sell off the existing inventory, increased 255.3%, from 1.3 to 4.5 months. In general, a balanced market is considered to be between 5 and 6 months, less than is considered a sellers’ market and more is considered a buyers’ market.

    Laurel and Lockwood both ranked near the top of the most affordable placed to live according to a study done by SmartAsset. Laurel ranked in first place of affordability with an affordability index of 36.78 based on such housing costs as closing fees, property tax, insurance, and annual mortgage payment. The average annual mortgage payment in Laurel is $9,532 and the median income is $56,902. Lockwood was ranked fifth most affordable after Miles City, Anaconda, and Glendive. Lockwood had an affordability index of 34.06 based on an average mortgage payment of $10,928 and median income of $62,572. Butte, Havre, Helena Valley, Lewistown and Evergreen were also in the top ten of the most affordable communities in Montana.

  • Montana Highlights February 15, 2023 +

    The Whitefish City Council is considering whether to enact greater restrictions on where marijuana businesses can operate in the downtown core. The discussions are about the possibility of amending the current buffering after several councilors raised concerns that too many marijuana dispensaries have been approved in downtown.

    The Bitterroot National Forest has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Gold Butterfly Project. The project is a proposed vegetation management and fuels reduction project in the Sapphire Mountains east of Corvallis. A large portion of the proposed treatment acres are within an area designated for insect and disease treatment, The area is impacted by mountain pine beetle, Douglas-fir bark beetle, dwarf mistletoe and western spruce budworm. The aproposed treatments include commercial timber harvest, non-commercial thinning, and prescribed burning to improve forest health.

    The Calumet Montana oil refinery in Great Falls has completed the multi-million dollar expansion project begun one  year ago. The refinery is now capable of becoming the largest producer of sustainable aviation fuel in the United States. The $90 million project will allow Calumet to become a major player in the expanding markets for bio-based diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.

    The Biden administration has taken the first step Friday toward ending federal protections for grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the governors of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming provided “substantial” information that grizzlies have recovered from the threat of extinction in the regions surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. There are now more than 2,000 bears in the Lower 48 states and much larger populations in Alaska, where hunting is allowed.

    Brothers Gavin and Joey DeGraw have purchased the Open Range restaurant from Bozeman restaurateur Jay Bentley.The purchase of Open Range has resulted in expanded hours. Open Range is now open seven days a week. Plans are also being made to add lunch hours.

    The owner of two downtown Bozeman bars has put the businesses up for sale. Casey Durham,  owner of the Okay Cool Group, said recently that they are listing El Camino and the Kitty Warren Social Club, for sale. The sale will include the option to concession, or rent, the businesses’ liquor license. Both bars are located at 211 E. Main St., Bozeman.

     Official statistics show that 2022  was a good year for the Dawson Community Airport. The numbers show dramatic increases over 2021. Those numbers are heavily inflated due to a temporary change in flight schedules that affected the airport over several months in 2022. According to the MDT’s information, the Dawson Community Airport saw a monthly average increase in ridership of about 99%. These increases in rider numbers are likely due to the change in flight schedules Cape Air enacted in response to a shortage of pilots.

     Taqueria Mi Lindo Michoacan, which loosely translates as “my pretty Michoacan taco shop,” opened during the summer of 2022 in Willston. Thanks to a $5,000 infusion from City of Williston’s Economic Development in the form of a STAR Fund Mini Match, she was able to restock. Navarro makes it clear Taqueria Mi Lindo Michoacan is a restaurant that sells ingredients for patrons to cook their favorite menu items at home.

    Build Montana, the heavy equipment program and workforce initiative created through a partnership between the Montana Contractors Association and the Montana Equipment Dealers Association, has been honored nationally for the second time. Build Montana program partners were in Chicago recently to receive the Lester J. Heath Award from the Associated Equipment Distributors Foundation during their annual meeting. Build Montana currently has a program in its third year in Billings, and a program in its second year in Kalispell.

    Nearly three months of abundant precipitation across much of Montana nurtured a healthy snowpack coming into the first month of 2023. However weather patterns changed in early January. They produced relatively dry conditions for the month. Southwest Montana received slightly less than normal January precipitation. The report stated that river basins west of the Continental Divide saw a 20% to 30% decrease in snowpack percentages. Rocky Mountain Front basins saw a 30% to 35% decrease since January.

    A Dirty Dough Cookie shop will be opened by the Wilda family in Williston, Park Plaza in April. The latest craze in gourmet cookie shops hails from Lindon, Utah, corporate headquarters of Dirty Dough Cookie.

    The Izaak Walton Inn in Essex will undergo major remodeling since 1995. The new owners, LOGE Camps, are planning the remodel of the over 84 year old Inn. The new owners are taking steps to keep the historic nature of Inn intact.

    State officials emphasized to neighbors of Somers Beach State Park that the overnight accommodations proposed for the park will be unobtrusive. Somers Beach was acquired by the state in October 2021 from the Sliter family. The family previously allowed public access on its property and wanted that access enshrined as well as to see the land protected from future development,

    Montana’s redistricting commission has voted 3-2 to finalize new House and Senate maps that will help guide the partisan balance of the state Legislature for the next decade. Chair Maylinn Smith cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the map. The independent commission also includes two Democrats and two Republicans. The House map is largely derived from one offered by Democrats toward the end of a series of compromises last year, when Smith chose it over the GOP proposal.

    The long-term outlook for jobs is positive throughout North Dakota and especially in Region 1, which includes Williams County. Job Service North Dakota’s Labor Market Information Center completed statewide and regional long-term employment projections through 2031. The 2023 results cover more than 700 occupations. Most of the job growth projected for ND over the next decade is in healthcare, construction and extraction, transportation and material moving. – Williston Herald

    A Firehouse Subs has opened on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

    Sidney Sugars Incorporated Inc. announced the closure of the 100-plus year-old sugar beet factory in Sidney. Factory owner, American Crystal Sugar Company claims that there is not enough interest among sugar beet growers to grow an adequate amount of beets to support the factory. Sugar beet growers have stated that the contracts they have been offered over the past few years have not offered prices enough to cover the cost of production, so many have switched to other crops.

    Terracon announces the promotion of Marie Maher, P.G., to the position of Principal. With more than 16 years of geological and exploration experience, Marie currently serves as an Assistant National Manager for Terracon Exploration Services for the Western Operating Group in Great Falls. Her responsibilities include growth of the exploration services and development and implementation of initiatives regarding safety, efficiency, and professionalism.

    In Great Falls, Alluvion Health’s three school-based health centers have received the Certified Autism Center designation.To receive the CAC designation, the chools met requirements by IBCCES, such as dedication to serving autistic individuals, having at least 80 percent of staff trained and certified, and a commitment to engage in specialized autism training on an ongoing basis.

    The Montana Department of Transportation is proposing  to level and resurface about 3.5 miles of Interstate 90, west of Hardin in Bighorn County, beginning approximately 3 miles west of the Toluca Interchange, and extends east, ending approximately half a mile past the interchange. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in summer of 2023.

    Also, the Montana Department of Transportation plans to resurface about 4 miles of Interstate 90 west of Big Timber in Sweet Grass County. The project begins approximately 6 miles east of Springdale, and extends east, ending approximately 4 miles west of Big Timber. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in the summer of 2025.

    The famous M&M Bar in Butte has reopened following its destruction on May, 2021 by fire. The business has been rebuilt next to its original location.

    Recent flooding and ice jams have triggered partial closures at Eight Mile Ford and Burnt Tree Hole fishing access sites on the Madison River south of Ennis. The boat ramp areas at these sites are closed due to unstable ice and hazardous flooding conditions. However, the upper walk-in and parking areas remain open.

  • Montana Highlights February 1, 2023 +

    According to a new University of Montana study the TV series “Yellowstone,” has brought in an estimated 2.1 million visitors and $730 million in spending to Montana in 2021. The show was also responsible for 10,200-plus jobs across a wide spectrum of industries, including tourism-related sectors.

    Missoula’s Denny’s, at 2922 Brooks Street across from Southgate Mall, is “permanently closed,” according to a handwritten sign posted on the door.

    In response to a bounty hunt that turned fatal in Butte, Troy Downing, Montana’s auditor and commissioner of Securities and Insurance, wants lawmakers to rein in rogue bail bond agents and “Wild West” tactics sometimes used to nab fugitives. The bill that would require bail recovery agents to be trained and licensed and notify police of planned apprehensions.

    Matthew Monforton, a former GOP lawmaker is backing changes to Montana’s citizen-led ballot initiative process. Citizen-proposed ballot initiatives must reach a certain threshold of voter signatures before they can appear on the ballot. The 2021 law requires those initiative petitions to first go before a legislative interim committee for review and a vote before they can go out for signature-collecting. The attorney general’s office also gets an opportunity to weigh in, deciding whether they would be bad for business and whether they might be unconstitutional.

    A group of Bozeman residents filed a lawsuit to the city about a fraternity that took over a single-family home in their neighborhood. The city will consider a zone text amendment request that would limit where Greek organizations could set up a house. The Community Development Board had on their recent agenda a zone text amendment that was requested by a group of neighbors in the university neighborhood near Montana State University. Many of the residents live near 411 W. Garfield St., which recently became the home of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.

    The Bozeman Whole Foods Market that has been anticipated for over two years is finally set to open its doors in February. Located off West Main Street near the Gallatin Valley Mall, will open Feb. 1. The Bozeman location will include an outdoor patio with heaters and a local, coffee bar Treeline Coffee Roasters.  The store will employ approximately 130 people.

    The Purple Cow restaurant in Hardin was demolished recently. The owners of the property, the Good 2 Go Company, claimed to be exploring opportunities.

    The multi-billion-dollar gas-to-liquids (GTL) complex slated to be built in Williams County remains on track, according to a Cerilon GTL ND spokesperson. The Canadian company reportedly was provided $9 million in combined loan assistance from the ND Department of Commerce and Williams County.

    San Diego-based Dvele, a California company that makes modular homes plans to build an $80 million, 450,000 square-foot facility at the Montana Connections Business Development Park in Butte. The project could employ up to 150 employees the first year. Officials with the company announced the plans recently. Acco9rding to the officials they chose Butte in large part because of its connecting interstates and its people.

    The Montana Department of Transportation will be taking action in Glendive to help alleviate congestion on West Towne Street around the CTAP industrial yard. According to state officials there will soon be significantly more signage in that area, giving local officials more enforcement power to keep the roads clear.

    Les Kleinman has opened Brooklyn Bagels on Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls in the new Ruis building. Kleinman also owns a Brooklyn Bagels in Missoula and owns several Firehouse Sub franchises across Western Montana and Idaho. The bagels are imported from New York from Ess-a-Bagel, where are they already boiled and par-baked.

    TDS Telecommunications LLC (TDS) will be delivering its all-fiber network to Helena, Butte, Missoula, Lolo, and Great Falls, Montana this year.  In these communities, TDS has commenced final build preparations and will break ground on its fiber network in 2023. TDS will eventually connect more than 100,000 homes and businesses. When construction is completed, TDS will deliver symmetrical internet speeds up to 8Gig, TDS’ all-digital TV service, TDS TV®+, and a variety of phone options for residential and business customers.

    Governor Greg Gianforte directed Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to develop a new wolf management plan for the state.

    The Made in Montana Tradeshow for food and gifts will be held March 10-11,  in Helena.  The Tradeshow is a unique selling opportunity for Made in Montana companies as it incorporates a “Wholesale” day and a public “Retail” day.

    “Given the public and legislature’s engagement in wolf management, it is an appropriate time to revisit the Wolf Plan,” said Gov. Greg Gianforte in a letter to FWP Director Hank Worsech, as he provided direction to form a new Wolf Plan. The state’s current Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was finalized and approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004. Congress delisted wolves in 2011, and since that time, Montana has retained statewide management authority.

    Move Buddha shows people moving to Idaho from other states are starting to lose momentum.  The site tracks data from companies that rent moving trucks.  Arrivals have been running at more than three to one of the departures, but the site now claims the difference is no more than a couple of dozen newcomers for every 100 people leaving.  Per capita, Coeur d’Alene is the most popular destination for incoming moves.  Californians remain the greatest imports. • 1 in 3 moves in are coming from California in 2022, according to move Buddha’s data.  #1 Coeur d’Alene is the city in Idaho seeing the most inflow in 2022, to date. Data shows there are over 223 moves in for every 100 moves out. Other popular cities to move to include #2 Eagle (176 to 100), #3 Twin Falls (136 to 100), #4 Lewiston (132 to 100) and #5 Boise (124 to 100). • One solitary city has seen massive exits in 2022: Rexburg, ID.

    Whole Foods Market announced they are opening its new store location in Bozeman Feb. 1, the first Whole Foods in Montana. The Bozeman location will include an outdoor patio with heaters and a local, coffee bar Treeline Coffee Roasters.

    Great Falls has one of the highest crime rates compared to other communities of  comparable size in the nation. A report says that the chance of becoming a victim to either violent or property crime is 1 in 20. According to the Great Falls Police Department (GFPD), over the last 8 years, some crime has been rising; specifically crimes against persons and aggravated assaults. 

    Two former mayors of Bozeman were recently quoted: “If we woke up tomorrow to 1,000 brand-new housing units, they would be snatched up by the same people who are snatching them up today: 20 percent would go to wealthy people from Bozeman who can afford to move up or invest; fifty percent would go to wealthy newcomers; and the remaining thirty percent would go to out-of-state investors.”

    North Dakota’s commercial service airports finished calendar year 2022 with a statewide total of 1,028,159 airline passenger boardings. This is a growth of 141,350 passengers and a 16% overall increase from calendar year 2021. In 2022, the airports also tallied 1,023,816 passenger deplanements for a grand total of 2,051,975 passengers.

    In North Dakota, Williams County approved a loan of $10 million to Cerilon GTL ND to construct a 24,000 barrel per day Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant with carbon capture and sequestration. The plant will have the lowest carbon footprint of any GTL plant in the world. It will convert natural gas into high value and low emission synthetic energy products, including ultra-low sulfur diesel, naphtha, and lubricant base oils. It creates a platform for the production of other valuable products such as ammonia and fertilizer. Cerilon GTL ND’s parent company is based in Alberta, Canada. The project will bring 1,000 construction jobs and 95 permanent jobs.

    Every year, nearly 2 million school-age children and young adults are injured playing sports. However, sports are getting safer, reports Quote Wizard News. Analysts found that sports-related injuries have declined 31% since 2017. Football is the most dangerous sport for children under 15. Basketball, skateboarding, and football are the most dangerous sports overall. Skateboarding is the only sport where injuries have increased, going up more than 100%.

    Montana Governor Gianforte has named Chris Gallus to be the next commissioner of political practices, replacing Jeff Mangan.

    While still a sellers market the real estate market in Gallatin County is nearing more typical numbers, reports the Gallatin Realtors Association. Compared to December 2021, median sales prices increased 8.5%, from $725,000 to $786,951. Closed sales fell 38.5%, from 117 to 72. The median number of days homes spent on the market jumped 366.7%, from 12 to 56. The average percent of list price received by sellers fell slightly by 1.1%, from 99% to 97.9%. The median price per square foot sold increased 10.3%, from $331 to $365. Pending sales decreased 28.4%, from 74 to 53. New listings dropped 47.5% from 59 to 31. End of month inventory increased 147.1%, from 102 to 252. The month’s supply of inventory, which is an estimate of the time it would take to sell off the existing inventory, jumped 301.4%, from 0.9 to 3.5 months.

    A California company that makes modular homes plans to build an $80 million, 450,000 square-foot facility at the Montana Connections Business Development Park in Butte that could employ up to 150 employees the first year.

  • Montana Highlights 01-15-23 +

    A new lift opened last week on Whitefish Mountain. Until the new lift, Chair 6 was the only way to get from the lodge to Chairs 1 and 2, the major lifts up the resort’s front-side. The Snow Ghost Express, officially known as Chair 4 whisks skiers up Inspiration Ridge. With chairs are wide enough to hold six skiers at a time, the resort estimates that the new lift will be able to serve over 2,000 skiers per hour.

    Tax revenue from wine is forecast to be flat in  Montana the next couple of years, and per capita beer consumption is on the same path, Revenue from taxes on booze is projected to go up slightly, and income from taxes on tobacco products will be down overall. As expected, marijuana is forecasted to make a large contribution to state budget.Tax revenue from cannabis is projected to hit $50.7 million in the 2024 and $57.5 million in 2025.

    The total number of teaching licenses issued in Montana has decreased by 9% in the last five years, according to the Office of Public Instruction. In that time, the amount of new licenses issued decreased by 21% and the number of educators who have maintained their licenses shrunk by about 7%. Emergency authorizations, which allow people who are not currently qualified educators to fill vacant positions, grew by 42% from 2018 and peaked with 173 emergency licenses in 2021.

    The Golden Yolk Griddle, a burrito and sandwich shop in downtown Missoula has announced. it’s starting a late-night breakfast service from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

    J.W. Heist Steakhouse, at 27 E. Main St., opened Jan. 3, and will be open for dinners only. Owners Michael Ochsner and Brett Evje have wanted to open a steakhouse in downtown Bozeman since 2009. The business partners, who also co-own Plonk, have wanted to fill a gap left by their favorite fine-dining restaurant Boodles since it was destroyed in a natural gas explosion in 2009. The pair instead opened Plonk in 2009.

    Former legislator Brad Tschida will take the executive director position at the Montana Public Service Commission starting Jan. 17, 2023. The agency announced  that Tschida, a Republican from Missoula and “lifelong Montana resident,” accepted its offer. The Public Service Commission is made up of five elected commissioners from five districts in Montana, currently all Republicans, who oversee regulated utilities.

    Rick Weaver, the longtime regional publisher at Hagadone Media Montana, will retire at the end of January. In his role, Weaver oversees eight newspapers serving Northwest Montana, including the flagship Daily Inter Lake, as well as the Hungry Horse News, Whitefish Pilot, The Western News, Bigfork Eagle, Lake County Leader, Clark Fork Valley Press and Mineral Independent. In announcing Weaver’s retirement, Hagadone Corporation President Brad Hagadone named Regional Advertising Director Anton Kaufer as the newspaper group’s next regional publisher.

    As of Jan. 22, the Butte Civic Center will be back to hosting numerous sporting events,. The facility is back in business until filming begins on the second season of Taylor Sheridan’s “1923” in June.

    The Clark Fork Face Forest Health and Fuels Reduction, a proposal to conduct logging, forest thinning and prescribed burning on 19,147 acres of public land scattered from Clinton to Drummond has drawn scrutiny from conservation groups who say it overstates wildfire risk at the expense of wildlife protection. The BLM Missoula Field Office began planning the Clark Fork Face Forest Health and Fuels Reduction project about two years ago. Work would occur in phases over the next 10–15 years. The agency says the project is aimed at improving forest conditions to be more fire resilient.

    Permit applications to float central Montana’s Smith River are now being accepted, and will be accepted through Feb. 15. The permit drawing will be held on Feb. 21. Known for its “spectacular scenery, remote location and excellent trout fishing,” the Smith River is one of Montana’s most sought-after outdoor recreation experiences. Because of its popularity, permits are required to float the 59-mile section of the Smith River between Camp Baker near White Sulphur Springs and the Eden Bridge south of Ulm. The permits are issued each year through a lottery. Parties of up to 15 people can float with one permit. Applications must be submitted, or postmarked by Feb 15. Applicants pay a $15 non-refundable permit application fee. Permit lottery results will be available online at

    Montana’s minimum wage has increased 75 cents an hour to $9.95 starting on Jan. 1. It’s the largest inflationary increase since voters passed a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage by $1 an hour to $6.15 in January 2007 and then make inflationary changes each year. An estimated 23,500 Montana workers, or 5% of the workforce, received hourly wages less than $9.95 in 2022 and are likely to receive higher wages due to the 2023 minimum wage increase. 

    The Wax Museum, a new and used record store, to downtown Bozeman. Owner Kels Koch is hoping the new retail space, at 533 E. Mendenhall St., will increase the foot traffic. The store  opened to customers on Jan. 7.

    The North Dakota Department of Commerce announced the creation of the North Dakota Energy and Economic Coordination Office (EECO). The EECO will serve as a unified avenue for industry experts to effectively coordinate with North Dakota energy entities to advance the state’s energy strategy by supporting North Dakota’s full energy portfolio.

    Montana state employees donated over 2,500 pounds of food to the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) in Gov. Gianforte’s second annual interagency food drive competition. The Department of Public Health and Human Services won  this year’s agency food drive competition.”

    The OZ Bozeman will be opening in Bozeman at 2952 Technology Blvd. The OZ is a new, fully furnished private office and co-working location. It is an option for team expansions, start-ups, health and medical practices, conferences, events, etc. The facility is a modern three –story building with a number of different kinds of office space available. The organization offers a variety of memberships that enables a client to choose what best fits their personal/team needs.

    The agriculture industry in North Dakota contributes $30.8 billion to the state’s economy, with $18.8 billion from direct output and $12 billion from secondary output, according to a study at North Dakota State University. Direct effects represent the first round of payments, services, labor, and materials or sales, while secondary effects represent economic activity created through purchased goods and services by businesses and households.

    Fez, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd trained and owned by Lexie Coniglione from Glasgow, was named runner-up/western region in the 2023 Farm Dog of the Year Contest. The contest celebrates farm dogs that work alongside farmers and ranchers as they sustainably produce nutritious food for families and their pets across America. Rounding up livestock and chasing off predators are among the many tasks performed by farm dogs.

    Montana Farm Bureau has captured the prestigious Pinnacle Award, the highest honor a state Farm Bureau can be awarded for program and membership achievement. MFBF President Cyndi Johnson received the award during the American Farm Bureau Federation 104th Annual Convention.

    As of December 19, median sales of single family house prices in Gallatin County were up 4.6% compared to last November, from $735,000 to $768,713. The number of closed sales fell 50.4%, from 141 to 70. The median number of days homes spent on the market increased 358.3%, from 12 days to 55 days. The average percent of list price received decreased 1.4%, from 98.8% to 97.4%. The median price per square foot of homes sold during November increased 6.6% compared to last November, from $333 to $355. Pending sales fell 37.9%, from 95 to 59. The number of new listings decreased 19.5%, from 82 to 66. The end-of-month inventory jumped 132.4% from 139 to 323.

    The Western Dakota Energy Association released a report recently that shows the impact of oil and gas taxes on state finances in North Dakota. Some of the highlights include: oil extraction and production tax revenues are over $26 billion for fiscal years 2008-2022; in the past 5 fiscal years, oil extraction and production taxes are approximately 51% of all taxes collected by the state; since 2008, oil and gas tax revenue has provided over $1.4 billion for water projects, $1.8 billion for education, and $5.9 billion in funding for communities and infrastructure across the state. Oil and gas taxes also deposited $6.9 billion into the Legacy Fund.

    Amazon is currently building a facility in Missoula, the first Amazon facility in Montana. A 72,000 sq. ft. delivery center at 9121 Cartage Road which is the “last mile” step of the shipping process, takes orders from throughout the US and sendit to customers. It will bring in more than 100 new jobs to Montana.

    After 48 years of business, Bert & Ernies restaurant in Helena turned off its lights on Dec. 1. Owned by Toby DeWolf, Bert and Ernie’s was a business anchor for downtown Helena. The building is being converted into a meat store.  The DeWolf family were butchers in Helena from 1889 to 1989. Four Montana ranch families organized as Old Salt Co-op are working toward purchasing the 12,000-square-foot building, with the plan to develop a retail meat market, café and restaurant called Butcher’s Table. The co-op includes the Sieben Livestock Company outside Cascade, the Mannix Family Ranch near Helmville, the J Bar L Ranches in Centennial Valley and Melville, and the LF Ranch near Augusta. The co-op also plans to build a USDA-inspected slaughter facility on a prospective site between East Helena and Montana City by May.

    Fit Republic closed its’ Great Falls location on December 31. The organization says existing memberships will be transferred to the local Planet Fitness gym.

    Christy Sports, a winter & outdoor specialty retail and rental operator, announced the acquisition of Grizzly Outfitters, a specialty outdoor retail and rental operator, at Big Sky.The shop offers rental and demo equipment along with a full retail shop. This new store is the second location for Christy Sports in Montana, according to Gary Montes de Oca, Chief Development and Strategy Officer at Christy Sports. Ken Lancey and Andrew Schreiner are former owners of Grizzly Outfitters.

    The Bureau of Land Management announced plans to lease nearly 21,000 acres of national public land in Montana and North Dakota to oil and gas companies. The announcements come as the Interior Department falls further behind in its obligation to write rules implementing the new leasing system created by the Inflation Reduction Act. The Biden administration’s Fall 2022 regulatory agenda, belatedly released this week by the Office of Management and Budget, revealed that rules updating the oil and gas leasing system are only at the Proposed Rule Stage. If the department doesn’t publish a draft rule within the next few weeks, any final rule will likely be published so late that it’s at risk of getting thrown out in 2025 under the Congressional Review Act.

    For December 2022 the average price of a house sold in Billings was $365,000. There were 145 properties sold (closed) and sellers received 97.9 percent of asking price. Multiple List listed 142 properties and the average number of days on the market was 27.

  • Montana Highlights 11-01-22 +

    The midwest-based Live Hydration Spa has been opened in Kalispell by Katie and John Pipek. Hydration Spa  gives people an option for hydration outside of a hospital setting. Kalispell is the only Montana location. The Spa can tailor bags for each individual patient depending on their goals, symptoms or possible disorders. Live Hydration Spa is located at 135 W Idaho St, Suite B in Kalispell.

    The Missoula River Lodge property, prime habitat for local wildlife of all types, is tucked alongside an oxbow and just upstream of the confluence of Sixmile Creek and the Clark Fork. Wildlife biologists and bear managers claim the  vicinity of the Sixmile-Clark Fork confluence as one of the most vital wildlife zones in Missoula County. A recent study by the Missoula Bear Smart Working Group found that unsecured garbage is by far the leading cause of human-bear conflicts. Bear managers and biologists have described an epidemic of bears raiding garbage.  An enclosure built in June at the fishing lodge is a marquee example of the long-lasting structures of which the group hopes to build more.

    Two Helena-based groups will receive a portion of the $1.4 million the Otto Bremer Trust is giving to Montana organizations. Shodair Children’s Hospital will get $250,000 to help build a new hospital to provide pediatric and adolescent mental and behavioral health services. Helena-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Montana will get $40,000 for general operations to create and support one-to-one youth mentoring relationships. Bremer is a private charitable trust based in St. Paul, Minnesota, created in 1944 by Otto Bremer.

    A plan to develop a long-term facility, the Williston Energy Center, for youth in the City of Williston was presented at Sloulin Field recently by Power Play Project, Inc. The group sees this as being a draw for people in the Dakotas, Montana, and Canada. The plan highlights a remodel and addition to the hangar to build a long-term facility to include a multi-purpose.  Plans to allow for general ice activities are included as well as area hockey games. The group’s fundraising target is $25-30 million to cover all the amenities that are designed into the projected facility.

    It was early September and Roxann McGuire was walking through the crop rows at Willow Mountain Winery. She strategically sampled grapes off the vines. She was looking for the combination of acid and sweetness that tells her the grape is ready to be harvested. McGuire has trained her palate to be able to taste these flavors. She uses that expertise in a location that isn’t known for its wine prowess — Montana. The grapes that Roxann and Brian McGuire grow here are cold-hardy interspecies hybrids. Nearly all well-known wines  like malbec, merlot, chardonnay, and others.  V. vinifera is a European grape species that consistently produces great wine but is not amenable to cold environments. But in the last half-century, researchers have been experimenting with breeding V. vinifera with grapes that are indigenous to the US. These interspecies hybrids are more cold-hardy  and are more amply disease-resistant. They taste differently from wines with which people are commonly familiar.

    According to DNRC, 1,954 fires burned 122,503 acres this season in Montana. Forty-three percent of those fires were human-caused. 

    Al’s Sporting Goods, a Utah-based retailer with three locations, has acquired all five Bob Ward & Sons locations in Montana. Bob Ward is a sporting goods retailer headquartered in Missoula with other stores in Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Hamilton. No changes in operation are currently planned.

    Tonix Pharmaceuticals’ plan to build a new biomanufacturing center just north of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds in Hamilton is hoped to bring more high-tech bioscience jobs to the Bitterroot Valley. The building is expected to be complete in about three years. “This will be the third of our buildings — we have a facility near Frederick, Maryland, a process development facility south of Boston,” said Tonix CEO Dr. Seth Lederman. “This will be the later stage one where products are vetted. Here we can supply the world.”

    North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 84,925 airline passenger boardings during the month of September, 2022. This is a 13% increase from the 74,943 boardings that the state experienced last year in September, 2021. It is also only 5% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic passenger counts of 89,925.

    Michelle Becker and Taylor Dietz of Montana Steakburgers currently have one Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers’ location in Montana and are set to open four new Freddy’s across the state. The stores will open in Flathead, Missoula, Cascade, and Lewis & Clark counties. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is a fast-casual franchise concept with more than 440 locations across 36 states nationwide. Founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 2002, the brand offers a combination of cooked-to-order steakburgers, all-beef hot dogs, shoestring fries and other savory items.

  • Montana  Highlights 10-15-22 +

    The quarterly gas report released recently that Europe faces “unprecedented risks” to its natural gas supplies this winter after Russia cut off most pipeline shipments. European Union countries would need to reduce use by 13% over the winter in case of a complete Russian cutoff. Much of that cutback would have to come from consumer behavior such as turning down thermostats by 1 degree and adjusting boiler temperatures

    Last week Gov. Greg Gianforte laid out his plan to push for tax relief targeting Montana businesses. Gianforte signed a new law, last year that increased the business equipment tax exemption from $100,000 to $300,000. It was estimated by the Montana Department of Revenue that the measure would impact some 4,000 businesses in the state.

    Texas Roadhouse is planning to build in Bozeman. Site plans for the restaurant are out for public comment until Oct. 14. According to development documents, the restaurant company plans to build an 8,000 square foot location in the Bozeman Gateway development.

    Natural gas prices for the upcoming winter heating season are expected to be higher than what MDU customers paid last winter. Montana-Dakota customers typically use 70 dekatherms of natural gas over the heating season. The expected increase in natural gas costs is about $150 over the five months for an average residential customer, or $30 per month.

    The third largest railroad union recently rejected its deal with freight railroads Monday. This action renewed the possibility of a strike. Both sides will return to the bargaining table soon. Four other railroad unions have approved their agreements with the freight railroads that include BNSF, Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

    In answer to the nation’s ongoing shortage of commercial truck drivers, this was made worse by the pandemic. In 2021 alone, trucking companies faced a deficit of 80,000 drivers according to the trade organization American Trucking Associations. Estimates are the industry shortage could top 160,000 drivers by 2030. The University of Montana’s Missoula College heavy equipment operation and commercial driver’s license program is trying to meet this challenge.

    A small-business advocacy group, named Job Creators Network Foundation, has filed a new lawsuit seeking to block the Biden administration’s efforts to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. This is the latest legal challenge to the program.

    Cavanaugh’s County Celtic will close on October 14, 2022 at 131 W. Park St. The store is Butte’s premier Irish store.

    Serina Kringen has purchased the Yellowstone Building in Sidney. She plans to bring back the original brick walls and wood floors, returning the building to its historic décor. Kringen graduated from Sidney High School and attended college at UND and then moved back home. The first business will be the opening of a coffee shop, “Yellowstone Perc”, which will feature sandwiches, breakfast items soups and salads.  She has hired M&S Builders, Sidney, Tony Hanson and Jory Bright, to help in remodeling. Phase 2 will be a party area.