Montana manufacturing continues to be one-fifth of the state’s total economic base, according to a new report released by the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University.

The 2023 Montana Manufacturing Report provides a wide variety of data about manufacturing, shows the results of surveys given to manufacturers and displays how MMEC’s services provided help the industry. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana conducts the annual economic analysis and develops the report. This report marks the 27th year of collaboration between MMEC and BBER.

The report covers the year 2022. According to the report:

* Manufacturing makes up 21% of Montana’s economic base.

* Careers in manufacturing pay about $57,180 in earnings, which is above the state average.

* Over 4,400 manufacturing firms are in operation in Montana, including sole proprietors

* Manufacturing employs more than 22,500 employees

*Manufacturing accounted for 5.5% of total state earnings at $1.95 billion.

* Manufacturing made up 6.6% of the gross state product at $3.3 billion.

* Employs 4.4% of Montana’s nonfarm workforce, with about 22,700 employees.

* Produced 6.6% of Montana’s inflation adjusted output with a value of $3.3 billion;

* Montana manufacturing employment and output growth was a little under double the national average in 2022.

“This year’s report confirms that manufacturing is a robust sector within the Montana economy,” said MMEC Director Paddy Fleming. “We continue to see strong increases in employment and earnings for Montana workers. Moreover, manufacturers are optimistic about starting new businesses here, with the total number of manufacturing firms growing to more than 4,400. In particular, there is large growth among companies that produce food and beverages, transportation equipment and advanced technologies such as photonics.”

The report states, “Montana’s manufacturers face different challenges than the nation as a whole because the composition of manufacturing production is different and is primarily concentrated in non-durable production – the Bureau of Economic Analysis defines nondurable goods as goods that have an average life of less than three years. The two largest manufacturing sectors in Montana, petroleum and coal, and wood product manufacturing, are not among the seven largest sectors nationally, demonstrating how the Montana manufacturing sector differs substantially from the experience of the country.”

In the aftermath of the 2020 COVID-19 recession, Montana manufacturing employment, particularly durable manufacturing, bounced back relatively quickly from the deep economic drop in the second quarter of 2020. Last year, we predicted that durable manufacturing would be higher than pre-COVID levels within a year or so. Employment in this sector returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

Montana manufacturers are active in global markets as well. The three largest export sectors for Montana in 2022 were: chemicals, machinery and transportation equipment. Food, beverages and tobacco fell out of second place during the pandemic. By far the largest export market is Canada, accounting for almost 30% of Montana’s manufactured exports. In 2022, the remaining large export markets were: China (2), South Korea (3), Mexico (4), and  Belgium (5).

Manufacturing in Montana remains predominantly driven by small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Montana houses 1,415 manufacturing firms with employees, and a significant 68% of Montana manufacturers employ less than ten individuals. There are no manufacturers with 300 or more workers in the state.

In 2022, about 48% of manufacturers saw increased sales and production, though profits declined, with 33% of durable and 42% of nondurable manufacturers reporting lower profits than a year ago.

A year ago, 55% of nondurable manufacturers increased their capital expenditures. In contrast, in 2022, this proportion decreased to 42%. Durable manufacturing, on the other hand, saw no significant decrease in capital investment.

Two-thirds of firms had a stable workforce size compared to 2021. Less than half, particularly 49% of nondurable firms, reported worker shortages in 2022.

A growing number of Montana-based manufacturers are adopting a more optimistic outlook despite facing challenging economic conditions. Specifically, 32% expect improvements in their supply chains in 2023, which is a notable increase from the 8% who ssexpressed the same sentiment last year.

By Diana Setterberg, MSU News Service

Microbes and bacteria and biofilms – oh my! Though most of us go about our daily business without thinking much of the invisible lifeforms that exist all around us, Montana State University assistant professor Chelsea Heveran is looking for ways to use them to meet sustainability challenges in the building industry.

The journal Matter recently published a paper by Heveran, who teaches in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering. She is the lead author of “Make engineered living materials carry their weight,” which she calls a “perspective piece” exploring the concept of incorporating engineered living materials, or ELMs, into building materials to significantly reduce carbon emissions and environmental costs during manufacture of things like concrete and cement.

The multi-disciplinary team has been awarded a $3 million Future Research Manufacturing Research grant from the National Science Foundation

“We want to use the functionalities of living cells to help make building materials more sustainable,” Heveran said. The article states that manufacturing the materials used in structures accounts for more than 25% of global carbon emissions, and that one way to reduce the impact is to replace some of their traditional components with materials made by, or including, microbes. Already, one Colorado company is manufacturing light-duty cinder blocks with a mineral formed from photosynthetic algae through a method requiring far less carbon than traditional processes, Heveran said.

So far, though, engineers have not figured out how to keep cells alive for the long term in structures capable of bearing heavy loads. Heveran’s paper suggests that engineers could learn much by studying how living bone functions.

“Bones, which both maintain living cells for decades and support structural loads, often provide mechanical function for an entire lifetime without undergoing mechanical failure. Such a long service life is almost unheard of in engineered devices such as vehicles and machines,” Heveran said. “Bone is able to maintain excellent material properties for much longer than most engineering materials because of the coordinated repair and replacement activities performed by resident bone cells.”

Could engineers design ELMs to function similarly?

“We could get closer to meeting the sustainability potential of engineered living building materials if we can surmount the twin challenges of keeping cells alive longer and generating materials to be stronger,” Heveran said. “Right now, the stiffest engineered living materials that we have can only be used for relatively low-load applications.”

Heveran says that cells used in bone-inspired engineered living materials do not need to be bone cells – common soil microbes that are associated with biomineral production in nature, such as calcite and vaterite, could perform the desirable functions in engineered living materials. Instead, bone can serve as an inspiration for how vascular-like networks can help keep cells alive in rigid materials for a long time so that they can perform desirable functions, like sensing and repairing cracks.

By Evelyn Pyburn

A plea for more fellowship in politics is nothing new. I have heard people calling for less “partisanship” for years and have understood part of it – or at least what I hope they mean – but there is another aspect I don’t think is wanted by some people. It is that, which seems more threatening, today, than it has for some decades.

Understanding and tolerating the views of fellow citizens is absolutely essential in a country in which freedom is promised to every individual citizen. So that — I not only “get,” but I would agree with it. But, when they seek “unity,” that could be far more difficult.

Asking for a compromise on a tax rate is doable, or the speed limit, or the boundaries of a precinct, but how do you compromise when the opposition is calling for your annihilation? Exactly how do the Jews of Israel compromise with Hamas demanding their total destruction? Does that mean agreeing to the killing of only half their population? Is that the kind of compromise expected of Israel? Just to get along?

It’s like being asked to compromise with someone who plans to shoot you. What kind of a compromise would you strike? About what kind of gun he should use?

That impossible compromise of two diametrically opposed positions is why there were early predictions that the fundamental principle of the US Constitution — declaring that all men are to be equal in a country that practiced slavery — would eventually lead to a civil war. The prognosticators understood that ideas are powerful and even a few words on a piece of paper hold great significance. Also, they understood that there was no way to compromise about how much of a slave’s life should be free. They are either free or they are not.  Our founders knew all this, and yet they wrote the Constitution as they did. Freedom for the individual was a principle they believed important enough to the future of civilization that they were willing to fight for it.

Just think about the injustice of compromising fundamental issues. When someone is simply defending themselves or their property and are asked to compromise with the aggressor, such an agreement is most assuredly to the benefit of the aggressor at a cost to the defender. The defender against aggression will always lose unless he stands strong.

It is a contradiction to justice and a violation of a citizen’s rights. It’s a fundamental over which compromise is not possible, and it is the conflict that usually lies at the basis of most political conflicts today.

The specifics of all our disagreements vary greatly, from how we get our medical care to what kind of stove we can use in our kitchens. Whether we must ride a bus or drive an electric vehicle. The pending conflicts at issue could fill a book, and basic to all of them is the threat of the use of FORCE.

Why ever should the issue of whether the planet is getting warmer be a political one? It is only political because of the threat of the use of FORCE. For the most part, those who disagree are not resisting the conclusion of those who believe it, they are resisting the use of FORCE, which is really the primary goal of the whole debate. Those claiming to believe the planet is warming want to FORCE their ideas and solutions on others.

So how does a society bring about change? There’s a magic little word – it’s called persuasion. Rather than FORCE, you persuade. Rather than addressing the opposition with a club, you address their mind. One is the tool of the caveman the other of civilized society.

Rather than coerce manufacturers to build electric vehicles and then FORCE citizens to buy them, you build the car and build a market – a FREE market – in which the product is refined and its benefit can be demonstrated and consumers are persuaded that it is a better product. The process happens a thousand times a day and it works – if indeed the product is valid. If it is not valid, then what is the point?

Ahh, but there is a point, power over others — brute FORCE. Although the desirability of it is inexplicable.

As a political issue – as an issue that pertains most often to governments – we should not be surprised that this conflict exists. After all, government is FORCE. Government by definition is the legalized use of force. Advocates for a civilized society concluded long ago that the only legitimate use of force is in self-defense or in the defense of others. The men who wrote the US Constitution believed that that principle is one upon which government should also function and they wrote laws meant to deliver that end in our relationships, one with the other, and most especially with how government interacts with citizens.

We should also not be surprised that there are people who do not agree – people who covet power and are more than willing to use it against fellow human beings, even if it is only about what light bulb they should use.

So, if you are among those who just want us all to get along, you should first understand that it is the threat of the use of FORCE that is dividing us, not the many nuances of debates. I might have an opinion about what kind of stove you should use in your kitchen, but we really have no conflict until I attempt to FORCE you to use a specific stove.

If harmonizing while holding hands and singing kumbaya is the goal, then decide what you really think about using FORCE against your neighbor. If one is truly sincere in striving for greater harmony among people, drop any advocacy that relies upon the government pointing a gun at innocent citizens and demanding their obedience. Getting along will not only be achievable, it can be guaranteed. And, who knows what amazing things might truly be achieved.

Jersey Mike’s Subs, known for its fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs opened at 1640 Grand Ave., in Billings on December 27.  

Franchise owner John Vagner  held a grand opening and fundraiser in the new year from January 3 to Sunday, January 7, to support the Boys & Girls Club of Yellowstone County. Customers who receive a special fundraising coupon distributed through a grassroots effort prior to the opening can make a minimum $3 contribution to Boys & Girls Club of Yellowstone County in exchange for a regular sub. Customers must have a coupon to be eligible.

Guests can place orders in-store or for pickup through the website or through the Jersey Mike’s app. Additionally, delivery is available in most areas through the Jersey Mike’s app or through third-party delivery partners. Curbside pickup is available for orders placed in Jersey Mike’s app. 

Jersey Mike’s premium meats and cheeses are sliced on the spot and piled high on in-store baked bread. Jersey Mike’s fans crave their subs made Mike’s Way® with the freshest vegetables – onions, lettuce and tomatoes – topped off with an exquisite zing of “the juice,” red wine vinegar and an olive oil blend. Authentic cheesesteaks are grilled fresh. 

Jersey Mike’s is looking for individuals interested in career opportunities to join their team. Candidates are invited to apply at

The restaurant’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Jersey Mike’s Subs, with more than 2,500 locations nationwide, serves authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs on in-store freshly baked bread — the same recipe it started with in 1956

Jann Parker of Billings Livestock Commission Horse Sales has been selected as the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 recipient of the Award for Agriculture Excellence.

Parker is a champion for agriculture and Billings — billing it as the first-choice destination in the nation for purchasing a horse, whether for roping, riding, ranching or recreating. She is the epitome of the award which is presented by Stockman Bank. The award recognizes an individual, business or organization that has made outstanding contributions to the Billings agricultural community with a nod to their demonstrated excellence in their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and participation in civic, service and community organizations.

The recipient is nominated by their peers and selected by the Billings Chamber Ag Committee and Board of Directors. “Jann and her late husband, Bill Parker, started BLS Horse Sale in 1998 and to date have held over 280 sales with over 180,000 horses sold to customers in the U.S. and in Canada,” shares her nominator. “Billings is the longest standing monthly horse sale in the nation and Jann is a big proponent of the western and cowboy lifestyle, and Billings in general with a far-reaching name and reputation.”

Parker has continued the legacy of being a premier horse sale, instilling confidence in consignors to get top dollar for their horses and providing the right horses to a variety of customers, the majority of whom attend the sales from outside Yellowstone County, which serves as an economic driver for the local economy.

Her continued industry success can be attributed to fostering relationships, coupled with her keen marketing skills and staying on the cutting edge of technology. This motivated and outgoing ag industry advocate gives back through mentorship, supporting area youth rodeos, 4-H programs, and partnerships with those looking to get started in the horse business.

Parker will be honored during the 2024 Billings Chamber Ag Celebration Banquet on January 26, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the MetraPark Pavilion. Tickets for this event can be purchased at

Epoch Times reports that increasingly – as public schools continue to lose enrollment to homeschools —homeschooling is coming under attack by government.

A recent case of alleged child abuse has prompted the State of Michigan to call for more regulation of homeschools. A Democrat legislator in Michigan said that not being regulated by government, “abusive parents are taking advantage of that to avoid being found out.  . . Michigan cannot allow this loophole to continue.”

Given government schools’ loss of enrollment, it was only a matter of time before coercive policies were to be proposed.

Homeschooling parents claim a single case of abuse shouldn’t diminish parents’ freedom to educate their children in the way they deem most appropriate. Jen Garrison Stuber, Advocacy Chair for the Washington Homeschool Organization was quoted, “”The allegations in this matter are heinous and egregious.” She said that homeschooling parents are increasingly under attack by authorities, often aligned with the public education system, who often use a broad brush in an attempt to smear an entire group.

“No one would argue that abuse isn’t terrible, but we should acknowledge that abused kids also go to public school and, sometimes, even at public schools teachers don’t notice,” said Stuber. “This discussion shouldn’t be about homeschooling—but about child abuse.”

The Michigan case of abuse involved  two families who the state allowed to take on the care of 30 foster children, who they were homeschooling. The state’s decision to allow the families so many foster children is what should be questioned, claim the homeschool advocates.

Homeschooling increased across the nation 11.1 percent in 2020 and government school enrollment fell 3 percent between 2019 and 2020.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as schools re-opened post-pandemic, public school enrollment did not rebound but remained flat in the 2021-2022 school year. The trend has continued causing some schools to cut staff.

A 2023 study by Thomas S. Dee of Stanford showed that the switch to homeschooling accounted for 26 percent of the 1.2 million decline in student enrollment at public schools nationwide for the 2021-2022 school year.

Florida saw an increase of 37,000 students in the 2021–22 school year, larger than the previous 10 years of growth combined. Data from the Texas Education Agency showed 29,765 students withdrew from public or private schools in the 2021–22 school year and switched to homeschooling.

Epoch Times stated, “Parents’ perceptions of public schools changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to school closures, health officials forcing children to wear masks, and parents discovering agenda-driven curricula not aligned with their values have all been reasons cited for the downturn.”

Stuber stated, “If the public schools want to retain students, they should focus less on smearing homeschooling parents and focus more on reforms that would make their schools more attractive options to parents.”

Nelson’s Ace Hardware of Whitefish is celebrating 75 years in business. The family broke ground for a new location in July 2018 and opened the doors in March 2019 on US Highway 93. Ace Handyman is a new service that began operating in October.

The Lucia de Brito Franco Art Gallery has opened in Columbia Falls. The Gallery is located at 638 Nucleus Avenue, Suite 103. It contains the works of de Brito Franco but also that of local artists. De Brito Franco has displayed work in Portugal, the Azores and Switzerland.

Café Zydeco is for sale as its owner looks to move on from his 25-year career at the restaurant. Listed for sale last spring the cafe’s owners hope to sell the property and the business for close to $3 million. Café Zydeco’s menu features a variety of Cajun-style items.

NorthWestern Energy customers will see rate increases in January. Montana’s Public Service Commission voted unanimously to allow NorthWestern the opportunity to recover $2.9 million under terms approved by commissioners last fall. At issue is the $208 million base cost used to determine whether customers have paid too much, or too little for power over the previous year.

Restaurateurs Shadd and Amanda Cullinan have finalized the purchase of Sidney’s Rodiron Grill at 520 N. Central Ave., completing the sale on Dec. 14. Soon thereafter the crowds formed a line waiting in anticipation of trying restaurant’s menu. Renamed Saloon 27, owner Shadd Cullinan, expects to supply great service with quality food.

Williston Basin International Airport has recorded an almost 32% increase in boardings during last month compared to a year ago. According to statistics provided by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, the airport saw 8,461 enplanes in November 2023, up 2,041 passengers from the 6,420 enplanements recorded in November 2022. 8,030 passengers deplaned up from the 6,011 number of passengers who deplaned in November 2022.

After years of new arrivals swelling Montana’s population and straining its housing supply, new data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the volume of net migration into the state has declined. As of July 1, 2023, the agency estimates Montana had 1,132,800 residents. That’s about 9,900 more than a year prior, or a 0.9% increase. Data published by the Census Bureau estimates that, as of July 2023, Montana had about 527,800 housing units — one potential home for every 2.1 residents. Since the 2020 census, however, the agency’s figures indicate Montana’s housing supply has grown by a comparatively slim 13,000 units, adding only one home for every 3.7 residents of population growth.

The Teton Airport Commission has signed a five-year lease with Scapegoat Aviation L.L.C. of Choteau to operate a fixed-base operation at the Choteau airport. Scapegoat Aviation’s owners are Ben and Chrissy Hodgskiss and Bill and Heather Hodgskiss. Scapegoat Aviation approached the Airport Commission last fall with a proposal to lease property at the airport for the operation of an aviation-based business that will provide initially jet fuel and aviation fuel sales, hangar and ramp rental.

A ballot initiative to change how elections are won in Montana to a majority vote system is a step closer to appearing on the ballot. Legislators took a 9-1 vote to support the proposed change in a special State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Interim Committee meeting. Proponents now need to gather enough signatures for the issue to go to the voters this November. Some committee members expressed concern about what they see as lack of clarity in some of the definitions– including to which elections this Constitutional amendment would apply.

The Heart Butte School Board is set to terminate 31 staff members at an upcoming meeting next week likely in order to cut district costs. The board will also decide whether to accept five resignations. Terminations include 11 teacher’s assistants, two mental health professionals, a substitute art teacher, the sub-administrative secretary, a truancy officer and 15 custodial, maintenance and kitchen staff members. Resignations include two teachers, the athletic director, a truancy officer and Augare.

Starting Feb. 5, the U.S. Postal Service will be delivering the Great Falls Tribune as part of an effort to improve delivery consistency and optimize resources amid ongoing labor challenges, fluctuating fuel prices, competition for workers from door-to-door delivery services and increasing digital demand. The Great Falls Tribune will continue its coverage of local news, high school sports and other issues of interest to Cascade County readers from our journalists based in Great Falls and state partners.

According to a press release from the Williston Fire Department, they received an initial report of an explosion at a site with multiple injuries and dispatched at 6:11 p.m. The site was located southeast of 13 Mile Corner at the intersection of 131st Avenue NW and 62nd Street NW. The fire department responded to the scene. There, it was determined there were five workers present, with three sustaining injuries. The three injured parties sustained burns and were transferred by fixed-wing air medical services to Swedish Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.

Hoping to preserve dwindling native bull trout populations, state wildlife officials are looking to remove lake trout from Swan Lake. Bull trout, which are native to the valley, have struggled since the introduction of invasive species like lake trout, rainbow trout and mysis shrimp in the region. The decision to develop a plan to remove lake trout came after state biologists observed a historically low number of bull trout redds, or spawning nests, in the Swan’s watershed system in 2023. The first step, which residents can comment on until Jan. 23, requires seeking the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s permission to initiate a public MEPA process where the removal of lake trout from Swan Lake will be evaluated.

According to Coal Zoom, Federal mine regulators have rejected a “citizen’s complaint” concerning state regulation of the Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain Mine near Roundup. The complaint is a request for intervention, filed by Northern Plains Resource Council, Moms Clean Air Force, Montana Environmental Information Center, 350 Montana, Citizens for Clean Energy, Families for a Livable Climate, Montana Health Professionals, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians. The groups asked the OSM to inspect the mine or require DEQ to open the mine to public inspections.

Talks of consolidating Glendive City Court with the Dawson County Justice of the Peace have entered the sphere of the Dawson County Commission, as Mayor Deb Dion was present at its first meeting of 2024 to provide information regarding the effort. According to Dion, consolidating the courts and authorizing Justice of the Peace Stacey Nerison to preside over all respective hearings is one way the City of Glendive and Dawson County could potentially save money and resources. The idea to consolidate courts was first introduced by Dion during the meeting of the City of Glendive’s Ordinance Committee on Dec. 20, where she explained reasons for considering a consolidation of courts stem from a need to free up funds for better animal control in Glendive, at least within the city’s limits.

A low snow year is impacting local businesses and tourism to Yellowstone National Park, with the park temporarily barring some roads to snowmobile travel due to the lack of snow. The park’s winter season kicked off on Dec. 15 with a limited coating of snow on the roads but still enough to allow for snowmobile travel. But on Dec. 27, the park closed roads in the west side of the park to snowmobiling, specifically the popular 30-mile route from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful.

Take 5 Oil Change has opened at 52 N. Main St. in Kalispell. The opening marks the first of eight planned stores within Montana, currently making Last Best Oil Change, LLC the exclusive operator of Take 5 Oil Change garages in the Treasure State. 

With a new $26.7 million grant from the U.S. Air Force, Montana State University will establish a facility with the mission of moving advanced quantum technology applications in cybersecurity, communications technology and national defense from concept and testing to market. The 20-month grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York, will support MSU’s Applied Quantum CORE facility, to be located within the INDUSTRY Bozeman building, which is currently under construction. The grant funding will purchase equipment to test prototype quantum components in the extremely cold environments in which they operate.

Construction of the Great Falls Civic Center is nearly finished, following three years of construction. The original infrastructure was built in the 1930s and a recent $5.7 mil investment will help preserve the civic center for decades to come, say officials.

“Montana’s Growth Returns to Earth in 2023” is the overall focus of the annual Economic Outlook Seminar, presented by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana, will be held in Billings on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Northern Hotel, 8 am to 1 pm. This year marks the 49th session of the event which is held in numerous cities throughout the state.

Montana emerged from the pandemic as one of the clear winners among the 50 states in the strength of its economic recovery, but those hectic days of booming growth are behind us today. Lost in the news of inflation, high housing prices and tight labor markets is the growing evidence that Montana’s underlying growth rate has returned to something much closer to its historical average, announces BBER Director Pat Barkey, who will be the primary presenter at the seminar.

The development was not unexpected. The outsized economic stimulus – three separate spending bills, in fact – that were rolled out in 2020 and 2021 were not repeated. Enhanced and extended unemployment insurance benefits were terminated, generous loans and grants to businesses were not repeated, and even suspended student loan payments were reinstituted. And since Montana was a state whose economy opened to ordinary economic activity after the pandemic lockdowns earlier than most, the surge in business activity from the snap back in people-facing commerce has tapered earlier as well.

Even at a more subdued rate of growth, the breakdown of Montana’s economic performance last year by industry continues to exhibit broad-based strength. The sectors of the economy that experienced the biggest slowdowns in 2023 (Finance and Business Services and Accommodations and Food) had experienced extremely strong growth the previous year. Two sectors (Health Care and Public Administration) had faster growth in 2023 than in 2022.

Among questions that will be addressed is “What would it actually take to power the largest economy in the world within the emissions targets set by our leaders, and what is the most effective way to carry that out?”

An additional question is “What would it mean for Montana? Our colder climate and our large geography have combined to make us one of the most energy-dependent states in the country. We are also a state that mines metals and minerals, and the green energy shopping list for what we could produce is potentially a long one. A dose of reality is what we think the political battles over green energy need, and that’s exactly what the 2024 Economic Outlook Seminars aim to provide.”

BBER economists and industry experts will highlight the latest economic trends for local economies, the state of Montana, and the U.S.

BBER will hold its first seminar in Helena on Jan. 23; in Great Falls on Jan. 24, in Missoula, Jan. 26, in Butte on Feb. 1, Kalispell on Feb. 6, Lewistown, March 12, and in Havre on March 13.

An outspoken adversary of COVID vaccines, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Florida, recently announced, “The Weaponization of Finance: Get ready for a rough ride.” It follows the cancelling of all of his business’ bank accounts in July by Chase Bank, as well as the cancellation of all the accounts held by Mercola’s key staff members.

The story is not new to Montanans, who have heard the story of gun and ammunition manufacturers relocating to Montana because of the discrimination they experienced from financial institutions in other states.

Mercola predicts “the time has arrived when, if you have a view that goes against the official narrative, you’re cut off from basic financial services.” His experience he believes is “just the start” of what is in store for any business or organization that stands in opposition to approved political narratives. He pointed out that his Mercola Market bank accounts were cancelled as well the “personal accounts of my CEO and CFO …and the accounts of their spouses and children.” This occurred despite the fact that a new Florida law specifically prohibits financial institutions from denying or canceling services based on political or religious beliefs.

Chase Bank responded to Mercola’s charged saying they cancelled the accounts because there was “unexpected activity” on one account and the action was typical of procedures followed in anti-money laundering purposes.

No money laundering charges have ever been brought, said Mercola, who added that in a real money laundering case, they seize your accounts outright. “They don’t instruct you to take your business elsewhere.”

Later, Chase Bank replied to an inquiry by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, that the accounts were closed because Mercola’s business had “been the subject of regulatory scrutiny by the Federal government … for engaging in illegal activity relating to the marketing and sale of consumer products.”

Mercola said that the last contact he has had with the Food and Drug Administration was in 2021 warning him not to recommend vitamins, etc. “to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19.” “We responded to the FDA’s letter and no further action was ever taken, because we had not, in fact, violated the law,” said Mercola. He went on to state, “…something else prompted Chase Bank to close our accounts, and the most likely reason appears to be the bank’s relationships to the technocratic control network that is trying to usher in a one world totalitarian government.”

Mercola’s concerns about financial weaponization are shared with the attorneys general from 19 states which earlier this year, accused JPMorgan Chase of “closing accounts and discriminating against customers due to their political or religious beliefs,” according to Business Insider. They reported, “the bank had canceled major organizations’ checking accounts and had asked screening questions focused on religion and politics before reinstating them.”

The accounts for the National Committee for Religious Freedom were cancelled and then informed they would reopen the account “if it provided a list of its donors, a list of the political candidates it intended to support, and details of the criteria used to determine its support and endorsements.”

Newsweek also had a report in April from Nebraska’s state treasurer, John Murante, who said he is disturbed by JPMorgan Chase’s “disturbing track record of debanking clients for biased or arbitrary reasons,” including fossil fuel companies and firearm manufacturers. Murante said Chase also conditions its services on whether company employees agree with customers’ political or religious activities.” He specifically identified that Chase cancelled accounts of  “… former ambassador Sam Brownback, the Arkansas Family Council, Defense of Liberty, and retired general Michael Flynn, Jr — for holding mainstream American views.”

The has also commented on concerns on what it called “redlining,” “… against legal industries, for political and ideological reasons and blaming it on vague risks to the banks’ reputations.” As an example, The Hill stated, “Six of the largest U.S. banks already have committed not to fund new exploration and production projects in the Arctic….Debanking fossil fuel firms could lead to a disastrous energy shortage in the United States.”

Former U.S. Attorney Frank Keating writing for The Hill explained why banks were rejecting politically incorrect industries. “Officials at both the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) threatened banks with regulatory pressure if they did not bend to their will. . . Gun and ammunition dealers, payday lenders and other businesses operating legally suddenly found banks terminating their accounts with little explanation aside from ‘regulatory pressure.’”

Near the end of the Trump administration, The Hill said, “…the government should adopt a proposed new regulation to stop it…. In more general terms, banks are incapable of making qualitative judgments based on notions of morality. A situation in which banks refuse service based on possibly ephemeral perceptions of morality and societal good is a divergence from the open and generally capitalist system to which we have strived since our nation’s founding.”

The Hill in 2021 reported on Trump’s Fair Access Rule, put forward by The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) which “finalized a controversial rule banning large banks from rejecting businesses based on their industry,” which was praised by Republicans who had criticized banks that dropped clients in the firearm industry or that pledged to stop funding Arctic drilling projects. Those banks included Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.

Democrats argued that the Dodd-Frank fair access principles are meant to protect people of color and low income communities who’ve faced decades of banking discrimination — “not powerful corporations with ample financial sector options.”

Banks also objected. “The rule lacks both logic and legal basis, it ignores basic facts about how banking works, and it will undermine the safety and soundness of the banks to which it applies,” said Greg Baer, president and CEO of the Bank Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group for big U.S. banks. 

Even free market advocates disagreed with the regulation. John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Reason (magazine) that “the rule’s broad wording would do more than merely prevent large banks from discriminating against unpopular businesses. It would also force small banks into relationships with businesses they are not equipped to handle.”

Berlau argued that preventing banks from discriminating against certain industries “violates their right to free association and would hurt niche banks that specialize in specific industries, like farming, industrial lending, or financial technology, forcing them to lend to businesses with which they are less familiar.”

Reason Magazine later reported, “The Biden administration has rolled back a Trump-era regulation meant to protect politically disfavored businesses, like gun manufacturers and cryptocurrency exchanges, from being categorically denied banking services.”


Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran/ Sprague Construction Roofing Division, 10th St W, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $23,387

Rocky Mountain College/ Air Controls Billings Inc., 1511 Poly Dr, Com Remodel, $700,000

Triangle H Land & Livestock/  NCI. 1385 Hardrock Ln, Com Remodel, $30,000

Heather Kavran/ Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 27 Shiloh Rd, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $70,000

Western Sky Billings LLC/ Taylor Electric Inc, 925 S 48th St W, Electrical Permit Commercial, $200,837

KCWD Limited Partnership/ Lennick Bros. Roofing & Sheetmetal, 123 N 18th St, Com Fence/Roof/Siding $15,000

Pat Emerson Living Trust/ Finishing Touch Exteriors Inc, 6 Almadin Ln, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $162,080

MLZ LLP/ Jorden Construction, 182 S 32nd St W, Com Remodel, $6,000

John Bonner/ All Around Construction Of Gf, 1313 Central Ave, Com Remodel, $120,000

Rajon Properties, LLC/ C’s Construction of Billings, 205 N 23rd St, Com Remodel, $42,270

Todd Denowh/ Tailwind Management LLC, 320 N 17th St, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $281,518

Lana M Craig Trust/ J & T Roofing Llp, 920 Central Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $36,000

236 N 9th St Trust/ Neumann Construction, 50 24th St W, Com New Restaurant/Casino/Bar, $800,000

Jones, Edward E & Doris L Trust/ Burnett Enterprises Llc, 1032 N 29th St, Com Remodel, $174,550

Black Hills Federal Credit Union/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 4002 Montana Sapphire Dr, Com Remodel, $660,000

Darcey Frewin/ Carter Construction, 300 S 24th St W, Com Remodel, $50,000


Schott/ Mueller Contracting, 3035 Donegal Ct, Res New Single Family, $325,460

N/A/ Infinity Home LLC, 503 Montecito Ave, Res New Single Family, $244,996

John Haman/ HD Building Inc, 1410 Anchor Ave, Res New Single Family, $234,889

Trails West Homes LLC/ Trails West Homes LLC, 5733 Bear Track Trl, Res New Single Family, $227,838

Dirk Arnold Construction/ Dirk Arnold Construction, 1312 Emma Ave, Res New Single Family, $340,000

McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 1930 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Single Family, $344,569

Kenneth Harbaugh/ King’s Mountain Builders Inc, 3239 McMasters Rd, Res New Single Family, $550,000

Mike Christensen/Michael Christensen Homes, 4723 Talking Tree Dr, Res New Two Family, $396,632