Omaha has Warren Buffet and his blue-chip investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway.You may have heard about a little company named Microsoft that calls Redmond, Wash., home.
What are the Billings equivalents of these tremendously successful companies?
Aside from Billings-based Kampgrounds of America, nobody from the Magic City has yet hit it big to the same extent as the Oracle of Omaha or Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose childhood nickname was Trey. Of course I’m old enough to remember the 1990s, when Microsoft so dominated the technology world that many referred to Gates’s creation as “The Borg” because of its uncanny resemblance to the sinister hive-like alien culture from Star Trek.
But if you’re looking for feel-good success stories from right here in Billings, a good place to start is High Plains Architects. Randy and Janna Hafer head up the Billings architectural firm known for its sustainable building designs, downtown redevelopment and a commitment to historic preservation. The Hafers were honored recently by the Small Business Administration as Montana Small Business Person of the Year. They will be honored during Small Business Week events in Billings in June. They are also in the running to be named national Small Business Person of the Year.
Randy Hafer jokes that since he and his wife are frequently joined at the hip when it comes to running the business, it made sense to attach both of their names to the award.
Hafer was aware that High Plains had been nominated for the award, but at first he wasn’t sure the firm fit the criteria.
“The first part of the application that was sent to us was about how big we are and how much we’ve grown. But I wasn’t sure we qualified because we’re pretty small,” he said.
But when it came to describing innovative or creative approaches to doing business, High Plains stood out.
Over the years High Plains has been involved in dozens of projects that save energy and resources, improve underutilized areas and revive historic buildings.
During the same week that High Plains received recognition from the SBA, the firm hosted a reception recognizing three platinum-level sustainable building projects that it had completed.
High Plains designed the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus in Lander, Wyo. It received a platinum certification in 2012.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating is the highest awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, whose rating system for high-performance green buildings has become the national standard.
The Boys and Girls Club of Carbon County also received LEED Platinum status for the renovation, which was completed in 2013.
The Tracy Lofts project at 2600 Montana Ave. in downtown Billings also received a LEED Platinum certification under the 2008 LEED guidelines for homes.
High Plains isn’t the only local firm to be recognized for excellence.
Ted Lovec, owner of American Title & Escrow, was honored as Montana Small Business Owner of the Year for firms that have 11 to 50 employees.
And Sanderson Stewart, a Billings-based engineering, planning and community development company, has been named the Northwest’s top regional finalist for the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business of the Year award.
Sanderson Stewart is now one of seven U.S. companies competing for the top prize to be announced in Washington, D.C.
In February, the U.S. Chamber named Sanderson Stewart one of its top small business winners, which put the Billings company in the running for regional finalist.
“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself,” said Rick Leuthold, chairman and director of business development, reflecting on the firm’s growth. “We’ve always kept our focus and kept working hard, and we’ve made a commitment to leave the world a better place.”
So stay tuned. One of these Magic City businesses, or maybe some other local business, will soon shine in the national spotlight.