Lance Fred…

KLJ Engineering is welcoming Lance Fred to its Billings office where he will be working as an associate project manager in the telecommunications department.

Fred has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman and has held a Cisco Certified Network Associate certification.

Chris Barlage…

KLJ Engineering has welcomed Chris Barlage to its Billings office. Barlage, who has experience designing fiber optic and copper plants, will be working as a designer in our electrical department.

Barlage has worked in telecommunications for 18 years.

He earned an associate degree in web development and microcomputer support from South Central College in North Mankato, Minnesota.

The National Association of Home Builders and Montana Building Industry Association endorsed former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for Montana’s first Congressional District. The Montana Building Industry Association is made up of 1,500 construction companies and allied tradesmen from across Montana.

“Quality and affordable housing is becoming an endangered species in Montana, but the answer cannot be for the government to simply spend more taxpayers’ money and build government housing,” said Ryan Zinke. “A better solution is for the government to keep compliance and regulatory costs low, do their part to streamline permitting, fix the broken supply chain, encourage education in the skilled trades, and help ensure the goal of homeownership is achievable for qualifying Montanans. Whether one rents or owns, we rely on the skilled tradesmen and small businesses in the homebuilder industry to put a roof over our head. I’m honored to have their support.”   

“The Montana Building Industry Association is happy to stand behind the NAHB and their endorsement of Ryan Zinke for election to Congress,” said Cory Shaw, Executive Director of the Montana Building Industry Association. “Ryan has continually supported our mission and we are confident that he will continue to push housing affordability as a primary focus in his initiatives. We are proud to support Ryan as he seeks to drive development and our economy and we look forward to celebrating his success.”

According to a presentation to the Montana State Legislature in October 2021 by the Pew Charitable Trust, Montana’s population “increased by 10% between 2010 and 2020, while the number of housing units in the state grew by only 7%, in part causing a shortage of homes and an increase in home prices.” Additional factors for radical increases in home prices are short term rentals, availability of materials, and inflation.

A January 2022 report by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) details housing prices rose 21.3% in Missoula, 13.1% in Billings, 12.3 % in Great Falls, and the highest spike was in “Gallatin County, where the median home price soared 30% to nearly $700,000.”

“During his time in Congress and as Interior Secretary, Ryan made housing and homeownership a top national priority and understands that working to address America’s housing affordability challenge and expanding housing opportunities for all Americans is essential to the economic and social well-being of our nation,” said NAHB Chairman Jerry Konter.

Governor Greg Gianforte has invited Minnesota small business owners to bring their businesses and good-paying jobs to Montana as they face massive tax hikes in Minnesota.

“As a business leader and entrepreneur, I understand it’s critical for the success of your business to have tax and regulatory stability and certainty, which allows you to thrive, create jobs, and increase opportunities. Anything less than certainty and stability is bad for business, the governor wrote in an open letter to Minnesota small business owners.

“I write to offer you greater tax and regulatory certainty as well as a business-friendly climate in Montana,” the governor continued.

State leaders in Minnesota failed to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund after borrowing funds from the federal government during the pandemic. The fund, which is $1.3 billion in debt, will now be filled with revenue from a 30% tax hike on first quarter payroll tax bills for Minnesota businesses.

Writing to fellow entrepreneurs and business owners in Minnesota, Gov. Gianforte outlined what makes Montana the best place to do business, including a stable, predictable climate for business, a recently overhauled pro-business, pro-jobs tax code, and a 2021 tax cut that provides $120 million in permanent tax relief for Montanans.

“These are just a few reasons why Montana was recently ranked the best state to start a small business,” the governor wrote.

The governor also emphasized Montana’s excellent quality of life, rich outdoor heritage, and Montanan’s work ethic which set the Treasure State apart.

Reflecting on his success building a business in Montana and creating 500 high-wage Montana jobs, the governor wrote, “We only succeeded because of Montanans’ strong work ethic. I’m confident you can find success here too.”

Gov. Gianforte concluded, “If you value freedom and free enterprise and are looking for a location to do business that has a stable, predictable, business-friendly climate, look no further than Montana.”

[The following goes to show either there’s nothing new under the sun, or it underscores how ineffectual governments are at changing things that don’t work. At least 30 years ago, the famous economist, Lester Thurow, a Montana native, wrote to say that government give-a-ways, subsidies or special tax breaks does nothing to improve a state or community’s economic well-being. That’s before they started totaling into the billions. -editor]

By Michael Farren 

From Governing

Kansas lawmakers recently approved offering $1.3 billion to a mystery corporation for the company to build a new industrial facility in the state. They may think they’ve taken a step toward a brighter economic future, but in reality, they’ve only started another battle — and maybe even opened another front — in the endless economic subsidy wars among states.

Reporters in Kansas and Japan have unearthed indications that a Panasonic electric vehicle battery plant is the prize in this fight. Missouri would make sense as Kansas’ most likely competitor, given that the two states spent decades (and more than $330 million) poaching companies from each other across State Line Road in Kansas City. If true, this would suggest that Kansas was violating the spirit of its tenuous 2019 border truce with Missouri.

However, reports suggest that Panasonic is actually deciding between a rehabilitated site at an old ammunition plant near De Soto, Kan., and an industrial park outside of Tulsa, Okla. That the sites are 200 miles apart suggests that subsidies might affect Panasonic’s decision, although I’d warrant that the 45 percent cheaper cost of electricity in Tulsa has a larger influence.

If Kansas is competing with Oklahoma rather than Missouri, then one border battle has just been exchanged for another. Do Kansas leaders really want to pick a fight with yet another neighbor? For their part, Oklahoma’s policymakers are now confronted with their own no-win choice between rushing to offer their own subsidies (as reports suggest) or taking the high road and risking the appearance of doing nothing in the face of economic aggression.

That may sound a bit melodramatic, but the truth is even more sensational. States and cities spend an estimated $100 billion every year on an arms race that research shows does little to improve their economic outlook. In fact, corporate handouts actually slow down national economic growth.

This conclusion isn’t controversial; few challenge the idea that bribing companies to choose one jurisdiction over another is a bad use of limited taxpayer dollars. Academic research shows that while subsidies can swing site-specific decisions within a metropolitan area, the handouts don’t sway most corporate location decisions between regions. In other words, in the few situations where subsidies may have a substantial influence on a company’s location decision, they don’t actually increase regional economic growth compared to what would have otherwise occurred without the subsidy — as the Kansas City region has infamously shown.

But the practice continues because politicians are stuck in what economists call a “prisoner’s dilemma.” Just recently, for example, Michigan policymakers, motivated by Tennessee and Kentucky’s combined $1.3 billion in subsidies for a set of Ford EV and battery plants, approved $1.8 billion to subsidize a set of General Motors and Ultium EV and battery plants.

Because there isn’t an easy way for policymakers to commit to mutually beneficial cooperation — yet — the default choice is to continue an economically ruinous competition. Kansas and Missouri took the first step with their temporary truce, agreeing to limit the degree to which each could poach businesses from the other. However, that carriage is scheduled to turn back into a pumpkin in 2025. It may not even last that long if Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly — whose executive order is the most precarious part of the agreement — doesn’t win re-election.

What if, instead, Oklahoma — and any other state seeking to free up billions to expand social services and reduce taxes — were invited to join the truce? In fact, leaders in some states are working on something even better: an interstate compact. It’s a constitutionally based contractual agreement to end the current ruinous form of interstate competition, which wastes taxpayer dollars and starves important social programs of funding. States would still be free to compete over who has the best policies for economic growth, but would forswear the use of subsidies.

Eighteen states so far have proposed interstate compact legislation to permanently end the economic arms race, but it would be especially poetic if Kansas and Missouri were the first states to pass it. They have an extensive history of such compacts together, meaning they’re well suited to serve as national role models in taking the next step toward mutual subsidy disarmament. A rivalry over who can cooperate the most would be the best kind of competition.

Michael Farren is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Billings Clinic has announced that it is pursuing Level I Trauma Center designation, which will elevate lifesaving care in the region, create better patient outcomes and ensure 24/7 trauma care is available.

The Billings Clinic Foundation has launched a $30 million campaign to help fund the project. It has already secured $13 million in pledges from three supporters including a gift of $7 million from the Philip N. Fortin Foundation, a $1 million gift from Tim and Carmen Sheehy and an anonymous $5 million gift.

There currently are no Level I Trauma Centers in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho or South Dakota. The closest centers are Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake City. Trauma patients have a 25 percent greater survival rate if treated at a Level I Trauma Center, according to Billings Clinic – a significant factor given that Montana is ranked as having the second worst survival ranking in the nation for trauma.

 “This is a transformational effort that will increase the level of lifesaving trauma care for patients and families across Montana and Wyoming,” said Billings Clinic CEO Scott Ellner, DO, FACS. “Level I is the gold standard for trauma care and aligns with Billings Clinic’s commitment to innovation in quality care, safety, education, and health care research. We already provide outstanding trauma services, and this will lead to even better outcomes for trauma patients. It will help rural facilities treat more patients locally, and, most importantly, it will keep people closer to home to receive this excellent standard care when they need it.”

As a Level I Trauma Center, Billings Clinic will provide the care and resources to treat every type of injury, no matter how serious, at any time. It means a community-focused, integrated system of care will be available to all in need. The Trauma network will link health care facilities across the region to ensure that every step in a trauma patient’s care journey is connected.

The effort to reach Level I status is expected to take two or three years. It will be built incrementally as they get funding, according to Jim Duncan, Director of the Billings Clinic Foundation.

Level I designation requires having 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons and specialists in orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, pediatric and critical care.

Trauma research is an essential component of a Level I Trauma Center, and internal research scientists are working with the Billings Clinic trauma team to complete and publish trauma research.

Billings Clinic was designated as a Level II Trauma Center in 1992. Many of the aspects of that level of care will serve as a foundation for developing a Trauma I Center.

Demand to treat trauma patients has grown 55 percent, since 2010, and in Billings it has increased 10-13 percent.

Level I Trauma is a designation from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) that is given to comprehensive care facilities with a large patient capacity and the ability to treat trauma patients with greater degrees of injury severity while providing the highest level of trauma care to critically ill or injured patients.

In order to meet the needs of residents and visitors to the region, Billings Clinic Foundation’s capital campaign will provide funding to expand operating rooms, build a new state-of-the-art transfer center to reduce transport delays, build a dedicated Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and expand the Emergency Department.

* Montana has the second worst survival ranking in the nation for trauma.

* Billings Clinic has taken the lead on treating trauma patients across a multi-state region, experiencing a 55% increase since 2010.

* Seriously injured patients have a 25% greater survival rate if treated at a Level I Trauma Center.

Construction has started just above the Lockwood Interchange off Coburn Road in Lockwood for Montana’s first Camping World. Dirt and dust are flying on an 11.4 acre parcel that parallels Interstate 90 in preparation of building a new location for Camping World, touted to be “America’s largest retailer of RVs and related products and services.”

K2 Construction of Billings is in the process of preparing the property for the construction of a 32,280 square foot -building which will accommodate the sales, rentals and servicing of recreational vehicles. Stores also typically sell all the accessories, products and tools that support RVers.

The new store will join 185 Camping World locations in 40 states across the country and it will be the first in Montana. The website indicates that it will be completed by the end of 2022.

Camping World Holdings, Inc., is headquartered in Lincolnshire, IL. The company, headed by CEO, Marcus Lemonis, has been in business since 1966.

Also under the Camping World Holdings umbrella is the Good Sam organization the nation’s largest RV club, providing members with roadside service and trip planning and programs that “uniquely enables us to connect with our customers as stewards of the RV enthusiast community and the RV lifestyle.”


Sisters Of Charity Of Leavenworth/ Saunders Construction Inc., Com Addition $1,200,000

Cari Baxter/ Sprague Construction, 525 Liberty St, Com Fence/Roof/Siding $25,778 

Mueller Properties LLC / Wegner Homes, 4119 2nd Ave S, Com Fence/Roof/Siding,  $81,000

Billings Nissan LLC / T.W. Clark Construction LLC, 2230 Grant Rd, Com Footing/Foundation,  $220,000

Albertsons Companies/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc. 5317 Grand Ave, Com New Store/Strip Center, $7,500,000

Dan Dunstan, Parkland USA/ Bateman-Hall Inc, 4903 Southgate Dr,  , Com Remodel $300,000, Demolition Permit

Lain Properties, LLC/ Askin Construction LLC, Billings Landfill, 1106 Main St, Commercial. $14,400


Upfront Development/ Aaron Higginbotham, 917 Ortega St, Res New Single Family, $218,924

Bob Pentecost/ Bob Pentecost Const, 7071 Copper Bend Blvd, Res New Single Family, $550,000

Bob Pentecost/ Bob Pentecost Const, 7101 Copper Bend Blvd, Res New Single Family, $465,000

Bob Pentecost/ Bob Pentecost Const, 7095 Copper Bend Blvd, Res New Single Family, $445,000

Bob Pentecost/ Bob Pentecost Const, 7009 Bronze Blvd, Res New Single Family, $630,000

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 1787 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $132,309

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 1781 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $148,003

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 6113 Johanns Meadow Ln, Res New Single Family, $268,377

By Evelyn Pyburn

It’s working far beyond their greatest expectations.

Adaptive Performance Center (APC) at 1420 Broadwater in Billings was opened two years ago as a gym aimed at melding physical exercise with mental health, a magic elixir that its founders discovered works for military veterans. APC is available to help disabled veterans in overcoming their injuries, and for other veterans seeking a haven in dealing with the stress of everyday life, and for active military keeping in shape and wanting to enjoy the company of like-minded people.

APC started as a new idea with no guidelines or guarantees or members. It’s been a challenge in finding how to best operate the facility, determine policies and resolve problems as they have manifested themselves. Today the non-profit organization has almost 500 members and “we see magic happen every single day,” says co-founder Karen Pearson.

So successful has APC been that “it makes us feel we can’t open more gyms fast enough,” said Pearson and co-founder Mitch Crouse. Opening a second location is exactly their plan. Before the year is out they hope to have an APC gym in Helena. Everything is in place, except for closing on the property. They expect to be able to open within nine months after that.

Helena has the second highest population of veterans in Montana after Billings. Both communities’ population is 10 to 13 percent veterans. In Billings that’s about 13,000 people.

APC is the vision of Karen Pearson, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Certified Personal Trainer, and Mitch Crouse, a Certified Personal Trainer. In each of their experiences in providing physical training for people, who have had traumatic situations to deal with, they realized that physical exercise was hugely beneficial in that process. As Crouse frequently reiterates, “Move your body, heal your mind.”

Crouse learned that reality first-hand in struggling to recover from a severe injury he suffered in a car accident. Pearson recognized the connection in dealing with patients who were veterans trying to integrate back into families and adapt to regular life after serving in the military. She saw them struggle with PTSD and knew those, who believing there was no hope, committed suicide. Recognizing how greatis their challenge, she became dedicated to somehow find a way to help them – having a gym became the goal.

The effectiveness of APC is exceeding anything the duo ever imagined. “Every week we have people who achieve some physical or mental or personal goal,” says Pearson.

The gym is almost a “front” for helping the veterans get the support and connection with other veterans and military people that they need, explains Pearson. And, often it just happens, as they regularly attend to work out. The gym becomes a safe and comfortable place for them, where they find others who understand.

Pearson and Crouse relate about one day, not long after opening, that a Vietnam veteran came in and signed up, and then sat down in the general lobby area, which is furnished with inviting easy chairs and couches and coffee tables. A little later, a younger veteran of Desert Storm came in and joined him. And, shortly thereafter, there arrived a young woman currently serving in the National Guard, and she, too, sat down and joined in the conversation. The three of them talked for almost an hour as though they had always known each other. “They didn’t have to know each other,” said Pearson, “They all understood what they were talking.about”

Pearson and Crouse see things like that unfold all the time.

They enjoy their members and have discovered them to be “some of the most honest people….They are funny, knowledgeable, very smart and as strong as oxen, both physically and mentally, which is amazing considering the things they have to deal with or have seen,” enthused Pearson.

There are moments that Pearson’s experience as a mental health counselor is crucial. Every once in a while a client has a meltdown, and it is important to know how to handle such situations. Part of developing APC is in the experiences that occur and developing the protocols necessary, so that all the staff knows what to do. Besides Crouse and Pearson, APC employs two other supporters – Richard Shepard, manager; and Andrea Wright, Board President.

As they move into opening additional centers, it will be the experiences and practices that they learn at APC in Billings and the training and protocols they develop that they will introduce as standards of practice for all their centers.

They are being asked to locate centers in other areas of the state, but they hope their next expansion will be to locations outside Montana. People in Colorado Springs have an interest in opening an APC and so does another group in Hampton Roads, VA. Representatives from both locations have been to Billings to tour the APC facility.

Crouse said that in choosing the communities in which they will locate they will look at the capacity of the community to support a gym and the passion and commitment they see in the people involved.

Anyone who has their D2-14 discharge papers can join ACP. It doesn’t matter where or when or how they served, they simply have to have served. The cost is $19.95 a month, but no one is turned away because of inability to pay. In fact, APC has numerous individuals, businesses and organizations, who have will pay the dues of anyone who can’t afford to do so – people like The Breakfast Flakes and others who simply walk in the door, hand them a cash gift card and say “please use this to help pay somebody’s membership.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield has a standing community match offer. Other companies too match any donation their employees make.

Between 35 and 40 percent of their members depend on such contributions, and they are very appreciative. One veteran who had to depend on a “scholarship”, got himself on his feet and started a business and is now contributing to support the dues for others.

They also get other generous gifts which have allowed them to expand and add more equipment to the gym.

Their membership range in age from 17 to 88 years. The teenagers are recruits  who are “delayed entry candidates” for boot camp. The Air Force, the Army and the Marines have engaged APC to do physical training for the recruits while they are waiting to go to boot camp. Crouse says with obvious satisfaction, that they hear back from their trainees that boot camp is easy compared to the training at APC.

Not only have they found great support from the local offices of the military, but also the various service organizations that provide support for veterans have discovered that APC is good place through which to reach out to veterans.

Crouse said that they hope to establish a foundation for the center to cover its basic needs on an on-going basis. The biggest cost in opening a center is in getting it established. Getting a location, purchasing the equipment, etc.

After that the costs become less and remain steady.

During their “spare” time, Pearson and Crouse have been involved in helping in producing a documentary about the suicide rate among veterans. It focuses on showing civilians “how amazing our veterans really are.” It aims to help civilians understand what the veterans have seen and have experienced and how “gut wrenching” their memories are. But more importantly, the film explains what people can do to help. There is so much that people can do, said Pearson, and it can be done locally. The biggest problem is in finding the veterans who don’t know that there is help.

More details about the premier of the documentary will soon be available. Premiers will be held in several Montana communities including Billings.

Nine Republicans and one Democrat made the American Legislative Exchange Council’s list of 2021’s 10 best governors in a new report on economic freedom. 

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte made it into the second tier of Four-star governors who “have competitive policy grades but fall just behind five-star governors.” All but two governors fall in the top 20 for Fiscal Policy rankings, with Governor Mike Parson (MO) being ranked 2nd. Governor Greg Gianforte (MT), who was inaugurated in 2021, put an income tax reduction plan in place in his first legislative session and has already improved from his predecessor’s rank.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – all Republicans – were the top three governors in the country, according to the joint report by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Economist Arthur Laffer & Associates.

The “2021 Laffer-ALEC Report on Economic Freedom: Grading America’s 50 Governors” ranked each governor on their current economic performance and their fiscal and executive policies over their term in office. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, rounded out the top five. The others who made the top ten were Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (6), New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (7), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (8), Georgia Brian Kemp (9) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (10).

Nine Republicans and one Democrat made the American Legislative Exchange Council’s list of 2021’s 10 best governors in a new report on economic freedom. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – all Republicans – were the top three governors in the country, according to the joint report by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Economist Arthur Laffer & Associates.

The “2021 Laffer-ALEC Report on Economic Freedom: Grading America’s 50 Governors” ranked each governor on their current economic performance and their fiscal and executive policies over their term in office. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, rounded out the top five. The others who made the top ten were Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (6), New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (7), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (8), Georgia Brian Kemp (9) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (10).

Some of the notations in the report regarding Gov. Gianforte’s ranking were the following:

—Montana Governor Greg Gianforte proposed reducing the state’s top marginal income tax rate, reducing business equipment taxes, reducing capital gains taxes on employee-owned stock sales and expanding a tax credit for apprenticeship training.

—Montana reformed its personal and corporate income taxes in Governor Greg Gianforte’s first legislative session, reducing personal income tax rates, repealing 16 tax credits and changing the apportionment factor for corporate income taxes. The state’s top personal income tax rate will be reduced from 6.9 percent to 6.5 percent in 2022. Montana also cut business equipment taxes for 4,000 Montana businesses, including 1,500 farming and ranching operations, by raising the exemption threshold from $100,000 to $200,000.

—The states with the largest improvements in unemployment rates were Montana (1st), North Dakota (2nd), Vermont (3rd), Nebraska (4th) and South Dakota (5th). Meanwhile, states like New Mexico (50th), Alaska (49th), California (48th), West Virginia (47th) and Louisiana (46th) are bringing up the rear.

—Several other states enacted reductions to their top personal income tax rates prior to the publication of these rankings in November of 2021. Those states are Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

—Arizona, Florida and Indiana have had school choice programs for years and are continuously expanding options for parents. Vouchers and tax credit scholarship programs have been the traditional vehicles for school choice. This year Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and South Dakota started or expanded such programs.

—Four Governors, rather than end participation, are instead using federal funds to provide back-to-work bonuses for workers. Arizona Governor Ducey is providing a $2,000 back-to-work bonus; Montana Governor Gianforte a $1,200 bonus; Oklahoma Governor Stitt a $1,200 bonus for the first 20,000 laid-off workers who are rehired; and New Hampshire Governor Sununu, for those who work full-time for eight weeks, is providing up to $1,000, while part-time workers could receive up to $500.10