Enplanements at Logan International Field in Billings increased YTD as of June, 11.81 percent, and deplanements 16.29 percent.

For the first six months of 2023, a total of 198,165 passengers flew out of Logan Field, compared to 177,231 for the first six months in 2022. Of the seven carriers United Airlines transported the lion’s share with over 58,000 passengers. Other carriers are Allegiant, American, Cape Air, Delta, Frontier and Horizon.

Air freight has declined in 2023 by about 20 percent.

Mail by air also declined. Mail on dropped by .84 percent and mail off declined 29.29 percent.

Newly Licensed Businesses June 2023

Stillwater Machine LLC, 2931 Stillwater Dr, 59102, 579-3387, Jake Johnston, service

G Bell LLC, 14 E Almadin Ln, 59105, 208-4693, Gard Bell, service

Avis Budget Car Rental LLC, 1801 Terminal Circle, 59105, 973-496-4700, Jeannine Pallumbo, service

BD Equipment Services Inc, 4712 Rimrock Rd, 59106, 201-7711, Bill Beede, service

CORE Volleyball Academy, 3465 AJ Way – Unit 111, 59106, 201-9585, Ran Dee Ochinero, service

Cobblestone Landscaping LLC, 1480 Uniontown Rd, Genesse ID 83832, Jake Osborne, service

Totally Whipped, 2144 Eagle Rock Dr, 59101, 647-5971, Kenneth Weher, restaurants

LKeller Photography, 3360 Hidalgo Dr, 59101, 698-9233, Laurena Keller, service

Flow Riders LLC, 3819 Drury Ln, 59105, 901-3270, Jami DeHaven, service

Candy King Group Corp., 11100 Valley Blvd #220, El Monte CA 91731, Jian Liu, restaurants

The Frybread House LLC, 1503 Rosebud Ln, 59101, 672-9388, Leonard Cochran, restaurants

Custers Retreat, 1043 Custer Ave, 59102, 625-0002, Matt McAlvain, real estate rental

360 Pressure Washing, 139 Terry Ave, 59101, 413-1125, Christina McCulley, service

Ross Construction, 6 Walnut Grove Dr, 59102, 894-3797, Arron Ross, general contractor

Bluecore Power LLC, 2001 Sixth Ave – Ste 1776, Seattle WA 98121, 206-201-0300, Sandra Blackburn, electrical contractors

Piece O’Cake, 2160 Skyview Dr, 927-4515, Kristina Morton, retail sales

Rubies and The Fig Trees, 933 Edgehill Vista Rd, 59101, 679-3642, Sarah Hosa, retail sales

CWI, LLC dba Camping World, 976 Rosebud Ln, 59101, 270-781-2718, Donita Kirby, retail sales

Tam3 Consulting LLC, 2626 Cook Ave, 59102, Thorton McGill, service

PG Marketing LLC, 3217 E MacDonald Dr, 59102, 697-1391, Perrin Grubbs

Inspire Medical Systems Inc, 5500 Wayzata Blvd – Ste 1600, Golden Valley MN 55416, 612-670-8772, Marc Ertl, retail sales

3 Kings Excavation & Asphalt LLP, 745 Henesta Dr, 59101, 696-8393, Justin & Jessica Bickham/John Hankinson, service

Uncle Josh’s Smoke Shack, 5179 Midland Rd, 59101, 763-244-0321, Joshua Nestrud/Heather Ackerman, restaurants

Big Sky Costume Jewelry, 5305 Sundance Mountain Circle, 59106, 432-294-4142, Liliana Harris, service

HP Communications Inc, 13341 Temescal Canyon Rd, Corona CA 92883, 951-572-1200, Marisa Eventes, service

Zeren Electric LLC, 2050 Hwy 91 North, Dillon MT 59725, 498-4509, Ryan Zeren, electrical contractors

Casablanca International Consultations, 816 Rock Moss Dr, 59101, 591-5615, Bailey Brown, service

Tellworks Communications LLC, 415 N 16th St, 59101, 550-3204, Shanon Ruff, service

JI Hot Dogs Pizza and More, 2719 1st Ave N, 59101, 425-3091, JoJo Tobias, restaurants

Decks Gone Wild LLC, 3050 Helen Dr, 59101, 670-4862, Tory Nick, general contractor

LNS Rentals, 388 Sahara Dr, 59105, 916-8380, Tamari Rutledge, real estate rentals

The Daily Crunch Bookkeeping Services, 2451 Bonito LP, 59105, 775-455-6783, Jill Detwiler, service

Nevada Countertops Supply LLC, 3251 E Warm Springs RD – Ste 400, Las Vegas NV 89120, service

JPW Brick Slayer, 24 S 8th St W, 59101, 690-9362, Jeremy Pretty Weasel, service

Cerus Enterprises LLC, 3755 West Accipter Dr, Coeur D’Alene ID 83815, 208-503-5333, Joshua Fledderman, general contractor

DHB, 526 Burlington Ave, 59101, 901-0801, David Hill, general contractor

Shimmering Heights, 501 S 44th St W #1106, 59106, 925-3661, Caleb Mills, service

Deanna Young LMT, 2116 Broadwater Ave, 59102, 598-1804, Deanna Young, service

Your Home Away from Home II (2), 1228 Maurine St, 59105, 534-3511, Jessica Robinson, service

Blue Heron Construction, 2311 Kings Dr, 59101, 927-3650, Simon Harris, general contractor

Lukas Rentals, 1026 Nutter Blvd, 59105, 655-4445, Lukas Martinson, real estate rental

Grey Finn LLC, 2311 Spruce St, 59101, 600-1117, Daniel Faaborg, real estate rental

Skyline Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation, 1807 24th St W, 59102, 801-601-1450, Rachel Winder, service

Petco #1299, 2618 King Ave W, 59102, 210-201-9387, n/a retail sales

MK Mechanical LLC, 8732 Suzanna Dr, 59101, 208-3234, Matthew Kottke, services

The Shear Shack LLC, 1350 Panners Pl Apt J, 59105, 307-899-4750, Danielle Uchtman, service

AJC Properties, 1521 Lewis Ave, 59102, 694-5951, Asa Campbell, real estate rental

Dick Zier Brokerage Inc, 2139 Broadwater Ave – Ste F, 59102, 698-3153, Alex Zier, service

Elevate Solar, 425 S 2nd ST, Livingston 59047, 704-305-5919, Ben Caylor, service

Alikat Kleaning, 3912 Victory Circle #136, 59102, 598-1988, Alison James, service

Bad Canyon Excavation and Construction, 2205 58th St W, 59106, 647-1000, general contractor

Anyway Energy LLC, 3221 110K Ave SW, , Dickenson ND 58601, 701-495-1161, Darcy Schmidt, service

EC MT Customs, 4340 Phillip St, 59101, 860-6746, Elizabeth Chaffin, retail sales

Rise Above Cleaning LLC, 620 W Main St #3, Laurel 59044, 927-2193, Melissa Emery, service

Continental Cleaning Company LLC, 825 Ahoy Ave, 59105, 671-6902, Vicki Eubank/Mark Engeron, service

City Blue Productions LLP, 2049 Interlachen Dr, 59105, 670-2329, Pam Goodridge, service

Goodgulf Consulting, 3075 Winchester Trail, 59106, 672-5099, James Leaphart, service

Jones Covey Group, 9595 Lucas Ranch Rd, Rancho Cucamonga CA 91730, 888-972-7581, Ellen Collins, general contractor

Leonardson Inc, 3006 17th St W, 59102, 606-9357, Scott Leonardson, general contractor

Nathan Clouse Construction, 404 South Moorehead, Miles City 59301, 853-3522, Nathan Clouse, general contractor

Branded Construction, 516 9th St W, 59102, 697-0378, Kumba Gould, service

804 Clark LLC, 804 Clark, 59101, 208-6407, Rachel Moorehead, real estate rental

TCA Group Inc, 2223 Montana Ave, 59101, 442-8594, Amy Strainer, general contractor

Nations Roof Mountain LLC, 10621 W Executive Dr, Boise ID 83713, 208-322-2474, Kent Tolley, general contractor

Absarokee Development LLC, 1110 Poly Dr, 59102, Glenn Plenty Hawk,  restaurants

The Cleaning Edge, 120 S 35th St, 59101, 839-6892, Tiphani Stambaugh, service

A’s and B’s preschool, LLC, 1536 Mullowney Ln Ste 201, 59101, 855-6833, n/a, schools

Elan Medspa LLC, 1537 41st W, 59102, 855-4002, Kaciey Tisdale, services

Big Sky Marine Sales LLC, 2561 Monad Rd, 59102, 633-0456, Jaymi Rooyen, retail sales

MAKK LLC, 1030 Yale Ave, 59102, 869-4180, Kevin Kraft, 869-4180, real estate rental

   MC Concrete Lifting, 2252 Ave C, 59102, 970-4098, Caleb Borgstrom, general contractor

Balance & Bloom LLC (Healing), 1721 Wicks Ln, 59105, 598-7748, Amber Emmons, service

Balance & Bloom LLC (Retail), 1721 Wicks Ln. 59105, 598-7748, Amber Emmons, retail sales

Princeton Street Charmer Airbnb, 661 Tumbleweed Dr, 59105, 694-7475, Cheryl and Brian Emmons, real estate rental

Zomi Inc, 515 Leopard St, 59106, 850-3855, Gideon Holmes, service

Beacon Air Group, 2390 Overlook Dr, 59105, 800-700-5107, Joel Simmons, service

Blue Elk Advisors LLC, 434 Calle Gomez, San Clemente CA 92672, 949-838-4807, James Chalmers, service

Chaikhana, 300 S 24th St W #D03, 59102, 304-8987, Sadi Chaikhana, restaurants

By Joe Mahon Director, Regional Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Strong commodity prices continued to benefit agricultural producers in the opening months of 2023, but inflation has taken a bite, especially looking forward. “Cash flows are positive, but due to higher inputs, interest rates and family living, there is some concern,” said a Minnesota banker in a comment from a recent Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis survey.

According to lenders responding to the Minneapolis Fed’s first-quarter agricultural credit conditions survey, conducted in April, farm incomes and spending increased over the opening three months of 2023. Growing incomes also led to increased loan repayment rates, while loan demand decreased, and renewals and extensions also edged lower on balance. Farmland values increased on average from a year earlier across the district, and cash rents climbed as well. But the outlook for the growing season is less bullish, as respondents on balance expect declines in farm incomes and a mixed picture for spending.

Expectations heading into the growing season are somewhat cautious. Across the district, 48 percent of lenders predicted that farm income will decrease in the second quarter from the same period in 2022, compared with 17 percent forecasting increases. The outlook for capital spending is also down on balance, with 38 percent expecting declines, while a third of respondents expect farm household spending to increase. Expectations call for an uptick in borrowing in the upcoming quarter—37 percent think loan demand will increase, compared with 21 percent who think it will fall. The outlook for loan repayment is positive on balance, though two-thirds expect no change in repayment rates. Survey respondents overwhelmingly indicated they expect no change in renewals and extensions to decrease on balance. Nearly all anticipate no change in required collateral, though 10 percent expect collateral requirements to increase.

An additional question on the first-quarter survey asked lenders about their biggest concerns for agriculture this year. By a large margin, commodity price volatility is the most common concern, selected by 52 percent of respondents. Rising interest rates, at 27 percent, is next, followed by input cost and/or availability.

Half of district bankers surveyed indicated that farm incomes increased in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the first quarter of 2022. By contrast, only 15 percent of respondents reported decreased incomes from a year ago. Similarly, 53 percent of lenders reported seeing an increase in household spending. Capital spending by farming operations was flatter, as 44 percent of respondents reported no change. A slightly higher share of those remaining indicated increases than those who reported decreases. Some lenders noted that due to higher interest rates, many equipment purchases were being paid for in cash rather than through loans.

“Renewal season is progressing and we are seeing decent earned net worth gains for the most part,” commented a South Dakota banker. While 69 percent of lenders reported no change in the number of loan renewals or extensions, 22 percent said renewal activity decreased. The rate of repayment on agricultural loans increased, according to 40 percent of respondents. Most of the remainder reported that repayment rates were unchanged.

Given improved income for farmers, loan demand fell. Nearly half of bankers in the survey reported a lower loan demand in the first quarter relative to the same period a year earlier, compared with 13 percent who noted increased loan demand. The amount of required collateral saw no change at 92 percent of agricultural banks. Interest rates on farm loans continued to increase, following a year-long trend. Average fixed and variable rates on operating, machinery, and real estate loans each increased in the first quarter by at least 25 basis points or more from the end of 2022.

The growth in land values seen over the past several years continued but tapered off, and cash rents also grew. Ninth District nonirrigated cropland values increased by more than 11 percent on average from the first quarter of 2022, though compared with the most recent quarter they actually fell slightly. Irrigated cropland values also rose, by 10 percent from a year ago, while ranchland and pastureland values edged up 3 percent. The district average cash rent for nonirrigated land rose by almost 8 percent from a year ago. Rents for irrigated land increased 10 percent, while ranchland rents increased 7 percent. Changes in land values and rents were generally consistent across district states.

From National Manufacturers Association

Two-thirds of the U.S. is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer—and that share is only going to grow “[u]nless reliability and resilience are appropriately prioritized,” the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned the Senate at a recent hearing, according to CBS Austin.

In most of the country, “there is the potential of running low on resources including electricity,” CBS reports. “The causes include an overwhelmed electric grid, the slowing use of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to balance the use of the grid and new regulations like a lengthy permitting process that makes developing new energy take too long.”

The NERC recently released its 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment, in which it details how, in the current push toward greater use of renewables, “the pace of change is overtaking the reliability needs of the [transmission grid] system,” NERC President and CEO James Robb told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The hearing comes as more and more Americans are expected to rely on electricity, even being rewarded by switching to electric cars,” according to CBS. “‘When electricity is unreliable, the potential consequences are catastrophic, including loss of human life,’ said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the committee chairperson.”

Why is Yellowstone County not participating in the plan to develop passenger rail service through southern Montana? The question was posed to Yellowstone County Commissioners by Keith Lavacheck during a recent discussion meeting.

A group has organized and several counties have joined an effort to “resurrect the Hiawatha Passenger Line”. The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is urging a federal study of the feasibility of re-establishing the defunct Amtrak line that once carried passengers between Chicago and Seattle via Billings, Butte and Missoula. It was abandoned in 1979.

Lavachek asked the commissioners to be “forward looking,” and at least support the study to explore the feasibility and cost-benefit possibilities. “I think it is a good deal,” he said, “Shouldn’t we learn more about it“? The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is hopeful that federal funding for a study will come from Congress’ infrastructure funding bill passed over a year ago. Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester worked to include language in the infrastructure bill that set aside $15 million for a nationwide study.

Actually, re-establishing passenger rail service is not just a focus in Montana. Federal government websites states that “over the next 15 years, Amtrak’s vision for expansion will connect up to 160 communities throughout the United States by building new or improved rail corridors in over 25 states.”

Besides nostalgia for a by-gone era, there is hope that a southern rail passenger service would be a boon to the economy by encouraging greater tourism. It is also pointed out that in Montana’s far-flung open spaces there is a need for public transportation services that a passenger rail service would meet.

Although asked several times over the years, Yellowstone County has refused to join other Montana counties in support of the vision. Commissioner John Ostlund told Lavachek that their refusal has to do with being fiscally responsible with tax dollars. When they first considered the idea 13 years ago, said Ostlund, the estimated cost was a billion dollars. Since then, he suspects the cost would be at least $2 billion. “Passenger rail service doesn’t make money,” said Ostlund.

Lavachek said that signing on as a supporter of investigating the possibilities wouldn’t mean Yellowstone County would be committed beyond the feasibility study. Ostlund seemed to think it might.

Ostlund also pointed out that there would be other negative impacts of adding a passenger line such as slowing down freight lines.

Commissioner Mark Morse said, “We have finite resources and a lot of places to spend it.”

Lavachek suggested in an email sent to Yellowstone County Commissioners and the Billings Mayor that “We should not assume that this is going to cost $2, 3 or 10 billions until we see the study.”

Ostlund pointed out the Amtrak route has never made a profit and is hugely subsidized by federal dollars, and Montana’s Northern route is among the worst. Montana’s Amtrak route, called the Empire Builder, passes through Havre and the Flathead between Seattle and Chicago.

Initial research in a feasibility study reports that restoration of the route across Montana and six other states would generate more than $270 million in economic benefits and carry an estimated 420,000 passengers each year.

Nationally, Amtrak carried 22.9 million passengers in 2022, concentrated primarily in Eastern states. Montana’s portion of the route carried 433,000 passengers in 2022.

During COVID, even though Montana’s Amtrak was provided $1 billion in additional federal subsidy, Amtrak rail service through the Hi-line was dropped to three days a week.

Despite much reporting on proposals regarding the resurrection of passenger rail service throughout the country, there is scant mention of how much rail service is subsidize in the US. Prior to COVID, information from the Department of Transportation states that Amtrak received appropriations of about $1.5 billion in 2017 and $1.9 billion in 2018 to subsidize “intercity passenger rail services,” which of course does not include the cost in Montana. Amtrak’s capital spending in 2017 was $1.6 billion and its operating expenses totaled $4.2 billion.

Another report analyzed in 2018 a savings to the federal government of $20 billion should it eliminate funding for Amtrak.

Ostlund’s concerns about shifting the cost to local governments may not be unfounded. The same report about savings, noted that Amtrak subsidies were first authorized in the 1970s, as a temporary measure. Subsidies “were intended to help Amtrak become self-supporting.” It went on to suggest that “…states or localities that highly value the subsidized rail or air services should provide the subsidies.”

The Montana Department of Transportation website reports that in 2008 Amtrak estimated the capital and up-front costs “…to exceed $1 billion, annual operating cost would exceed $74 million, resulting in a $31 million annual operating loss.”

Manufacturing & International Trade Day recognizes titans of industry – manufacturers and exporters. This biennial event invites organizations to showcase their business and products at the Trade Show. Solution oriented seminars, tailored to specific manufacturing and trade issues, take place during the day.  Held during the legislative session, lawmakers are invited to an evening reception with vendors and seminar attendees.

The event is March 16, 12 pm to 7 pm, in Helena at the Delta Hotel by Marriott Helena Colonial, 2301 Colonial Dr.

Samuel Stebbins, 24/7 Wall St, The Center Square

The United States has long been considered among the most innovative countries in the world – and America’s status as a global hub of innovation is partially attributable to public funding of research and development. The federal government spent nearly $138 billion on R&D in 2020 alone.

The private sector is also an engine of innovation, from companies on the Fortune 500 to small startups. Amazon, for example, spent over $62 billion on R&D in fiscal 2022.

Several key indicators can reveal how much of the innovation that takes place in the U.S. is concentrated in a certain place. According to personal finance website, WalletHub, which created a weighted index of 22 measures indicative of innovative capacity, Montana ranks as the 16th least innovative state in the country.

Montana’s ranking on the innovation index is reflected, in part, by employment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields as a share of total employment. According to May 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs account for 5.7% of all employment in the state, the 21st lowest share among states.

All innovation rankings in this story are from Wallet Hub’s report Most & Least Innovative States.

Approximately nine out of 10 metro markets registered home price gains in the fourth quarter of 2022 despite mortgage rates eclipsing 7%, according to the National Association of Realtors’ latest quarterly report. Eighteen percent of the 186 tracked metro areas registered double-digit price increases over the same time period, down from 46% in the third quarter of 2022.

Compared to a year ago, the national median single-family existing-home price rose 4.0% to $378,700. Year-over-year price appreciation decelerated when compared to the previous quarter’s 8.6%.

“A slowdown in home prices is underway and welcomed, particularly as the typical home price has risen 42% in the past three years,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said, noting these costs increases have far surpassed wage increases and consumer price inflation of 15% and 14%, respectively, since 2019. “Far fewer metro markets experienced double-digit price gains in the latest quarter.”

Among the major U.S. regions, the South saw the largest share of single-family existing-home sales (45%) in the third quarter, with year-over-year price appreciation of 4.9%. Prices grew 5.3% in the Northeast, 4.0% in the Midwest, and 2.6% in the West.

“Even with a projected reduction in home sales this year, prices are expected to remain stable in the vast majority of the markets due to extremely limited supply,” Yun added. “Moreover, there are signs that buyers are returning as mortgage rates decline, even with inventory levels near historic lows.”

The top 10 metro areas with the largest year-over-year price increases all recorded gains of at least 14.5%, with seven of those markets in Florida and the Carolinas.

Half of the top 10 most expensive markets in the U.S. were in California.

Roughly one in 10 markets (11%; 20 of 186) experienced home price declines in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“A few markets may see double-digit price drops, especially some of the more expensive parts of the country which have also seen weaker employment and higher instances of residents moving to other areas,” Yun added.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, housing affordability was exacerbated by elevated home prices and mortgage rates which roughly doubled from the beginning of the year. The monthly mortgage payment on a typical existing single-family home with a 20% down payment was $1,969. This represents a 7% increase from the third quarter of last year ($1,838) but a major surge of 58% – or $720 – from one year ago. Families typically spent 26.2% of their income on mortgage payments, up from 25% in the prior quarter and 17.5% one year ago.

Once again, first-time buyers looking to purchase a typical home during the fourth quarter of 2022 encountered challenges related to housing’s growing unaffordability. For a typical starter home valued at $321,900 with a 10% down payment loan, the monthly mortgage payment rose to $1,931, about 7% more than the previous quarter ($1,806) and an increase of almost $700, or 57%, from one year ago ($1,233). First-time buyers typically spent 39.5% of their family income on mortgage payments, up from 37.8% in the previous quarter. A mortgage is considered unaffordable if the monthly payment (principal and interest) amounts to more than 25% of the family’s income.

A family needed a qualifying income of at least $100,000 to afford a 10% down payment mortgage in 71 markets, up from 59 in the prior quarter. Yet, a family needed a qualifying income of less than $50,000 to afford a home in 16 markets, down from 17 in the previous quarter.

As Mother’s Day approaches so does the 42nd Montana Women’s Run.

For 42 years, tens of thousands of participants have filled the streets of downtown Billings the Saturday before Mothers Day, wearing the uniquely designed Montana Womenâ Run t-shirt.  This year downtown Billings will once again be a sea of women in jewel toned purple shirts. 

This years artwork features a Bitterroot flower and a butterfly in flight. Billings graphic designer, Jim Heins, states that the butterfly in flight symbolizes the nature of the Womesn Run with the butterfly representing springtime, transformation, life and hope.

The Bitterroot flower has of course been a constant for the Women’s Run as Montana’s state flower, representing the beauty of the state.

Registration is now open for the 42nd annual run, which will be held on May 13 starting at 8 am in downtown Billings. Proceeds from the event benefit charitable organizations in Billings that contribute to women’s health and wellness. 

 The Montana Women’s Run began in 1982 with 200 registrants and celebrated last year with over 4,600 women participating virtually around the world. Today, the race is recognized as the largest running event for women in the state of Montana, and one of the largest all-women’s races in the country. To date, the Montana Women’s Run has donated more than $1,637,500 to local organizations that promote women’s and children’s health and fitness.

The major sponsors of the 2022 Montana Women’s Run are Billings Clinic, ExxonMobil, First Interstate Bank, Graphic Imprints, The Planet 106.7 and KTVQ.

To keep up with news and other related Women’s Run events, visit the Montana Women’s Run Facebook page or the Montana Women’s Run website. To register for any of the events, visit www.womensrun.org.   

Sixteen attorneys general – including Montana’s —are urging members of Congress to modify, clarify, and rescind an emergency-use authorization authority still being used by federal agencies to mandate coronavirus-related policies.

The letter sent to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Committee on Energy & Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers, both Republicans, relates to curtailing the authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration.

The AGs have requested that Congress override existing emergency-use authorization policies still in effect and to conduct rigorous oversight to establish what mistakes were made related to current and past implementation of the federal authority. They also asked Congress to “consider revising the liability protections provided by a prior Congress, and confirm what President [Joe] Biden has admitted and what the American people in their sound judgment know: any valid grounds for claiming a state of medical emergency due to COVID have ended; normalcy and the rule of law must be restored.”