Growing up, Billings was never the Magic City to me.
A convenient 15 minutes from my hometown of Laurel, Billings was a good place to go shopping, grab a bite to eat or watch sports and other events at the Metra.
But magic? No, that must be somewhere else, I thought.
So I went looking for the magic. There were summer jobs in Arizona, then Florida. (I know, July in the South. I didn’t say it was a wise search.) After college, I found work at a small daily newspaper in Washington state, and I stayed in the Pacific Northwest for the next dozen years.
I covered developments large and small, including two types of regattas: cardboard and pumpkin. (Seriously, people hollow out giant pumpkins and put outboard motors on them. Others build seaworthy vessels entirely out of cardboard. It’s crazy.)
Here’s a little of what I learned:
Business is the foundation of most any community. It’s the story of how entrepreneurs and workers come together to create, change and, yes, sometimes destroy their neighborhoods and environment.
Billings wouldn’t be where we are today, the hub of the Yellowstone Valley, if the laborers at Northern Pacific hadn’t laid the rail lines along present-day Montana Avenue during the frontier days of the 1880s. And we wouldn’t have survived and thrived if not for hardscrabble farmers, blue-collar industrial workers, and later a bustling retail sector.
After six years covering business in Longview, Wash., I’m excited to be back in Billings covering the same thing. And while I may occasionally be prone to pontificate, this column isn’t about my musings; it’s about communities in Eastern Montana and Wyoming. It’s about business happenings that catch eyes or make tongues wag.
So contact me if you see something new or developing around town. Maybe it’s something exciting that should be showcased, or something odd that should be looked into.
It’s not magic, and neither is this city. But it is full of the stories of who we are and what we’re aspiring to be.
Out and about
Next to Lucky’s Market, a new sushi restaurant is scheduled to open soon. No word yet on when, but it’s another good development for the West Park Promenade on Grand Avenue.
Mudslide victims aid
Customers at Walgreen’s drug stores can donate through the end of this week to help victims of a mudslide in Northern Washington, the Illinois-based company announced.
Walgreen’s is donating $25,000 to the American Red Cross Oso Mudslide Relief Fund, and Montana customers can donate $1, $5 or $10 at Montana locations.
Walgreen’s has stores at 1602 Main St., 1330 Grand Ave. and 3333 Grand Ave. in Billings.
Jobless rate falls
Yellowstone County’s economy is continuing to hum along.
In February, the county’s unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent, down from 4.4 percent the previous month and 4.7 percent in February 2013, the state’s Department of Labor and Industry reported recently.
Statewide, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 5.1 percent in February. The state added 3,090 jobs over the months, one of the largest gains since records started being kept, the agency reported.
Emails that appear to come from the Montana Secretary of State’s Office may not be, the agency is warning.
The scammer uses the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and sends recipients a link that attempts to take personal information from computers, the agency said.
Recipients should delete the email and avoid clicking on links.
AARP Montana is hosting a Billings forum to help investors spot and avoid investment fraud.
The Billings forum will be 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Elks Club at 934 Lewis Ave. A soup dinner will be served.
The seminar will include experts from state agencies and private financial firms.