Yellowstone County, the most populous county in Montana, ranges across more than 125,000 square miles of wide-open spaces and expanses of open skies that stretch nearly unobstructed to the horizon and have earned the area its “Big Sky Country” nickname.
What has become abundantly clear to businessmen and women, entrepreneurs and investors in recent years is the area’s vast opportunities for new and existing businesses to start up, expand, succeed and grow.
One of the key players behind the region’s pro-business climate is Big Sky Economic Development, or BSED, a public-private partnership whose mission is to sustain and grow Yellowstone County’s vibrant economy and outstanding quality of life. The organization does this by providing leadership and resources for business creation, expansion, retention, new business recruitment and community development.
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“Entrepreneurship roots runs deep in our community,” says Steve Arveschoug, BSED’s Executive Director. “Our heritage gives us the ability to lean into companies that want to start a business here.”
Besides its economic and community development work for Billings and Yellowstone County, BSED programs and services extend across Montana and into Wyoming and Utah. They provide tools and guidance for startups and small businesses, technical assistance to businesses wanting to sell their goods and services to the government, long-term financing tools for major fixed assets, and they bring together a collaboration of businesses and organizations to work together to respond to workforce needs.
But a major focus of BSED’s work these days lies in attracting private investment through programs such as tax abatement, brownfield assessment prior to building, and new business recruitment. The organization is proud of what the city has to offer businesses.
“We're all about telling the nation and the world that Billings, Montana, is a great place to do business,” Arveschoug says.
It’s a message that’s not just being heard — it’s bringing new private investment and new industry and job growth to the Billings community.
Attracted by community partnerships and the tax abatement program, in March of this year Coca-Cola High Country announced that it will build a new manufacturing and distribution facility that will include 60,000 square feet of warehouse space, a 20,000-square-foot truck bay, and 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space for a total investment of some $50 million and the creation of 50 new jobs. BSED and the city of Billings contributed resources to fund needed infrastructure improvements.
Meanwhile, currently under construction is a 137,000-square-foot modern medical school, part of Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine, scheduled to open in 2023.
“A year from now we’ll welcome 80 eyes-wide-open medical students,” says Arveschoug. “We’ll be training future doctors in our own community. It's exciting!”
Through its Rock31 entrepreneurial business accelerator program, BSED recently held a pitch event for an innovative biomedical startup company. That single night raised a little over $250,000 in funding.
“There are some young minds in Billings that are doing some significant things in science and technology related to health care,” says Arveschoug, noting the city’s strategic position as a regional healthcare destination and its affordability. “People are paying a lot more attention to Montana these days.”
For more information, visit bigskyeconomicdevelopment.org.