Montana Commerce Director Pam Haxby-Cote


The Gazette receives hundreds of press releases daily. Montana state government alone churns out dozens. Most of these email blasts don’t merit significant attention, but an announcement that the Montana Commerce Department awarded up to $790,000 to create 134 jobs got our attention.

Supporting Montana small businesses to add jobs that pay well is economic development at its best. That is the aim of the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grants announced Wednesday.

The grants for this quarter were awarded to these projects:

  • ClassPass Inc., expects to add 40 jobs and be reimbursed up to $300,000 for expanding its fitness network in Missoula.
  • Montana Fabrication Works LLC, expects up to $150,000 in reimbursement for creating 30 jobs in Stevensville.
  • Pardue Grain Inc. will be reimbursed up to $60,000 for machinery and equipment purchased for a facility to process pulse crops on the Blackfeet Reservation. The project is expected to create eight jobs.
  • Ascent Vision Technology LLC, of Belgrade will be reimbursed up to $40,000 for an expansion expected to create eight jobs.
  • Sustainable Resource Concepts LLC, expects to create 10 jobs and be reimbursed up to $50,000. The company is owned by the Little Shell Tribe, which plans to purchase a quarry near Gardiner and start producing travertine.
  • Pioneer Log Company, of Victor, estimates it will create 10 jobs and be reimbursed up to $50,000 for its custom log and timber homes and commercial structures business.
  • Profitable Ideas Inc. in Bozeman expects to create eight jobs and receive up to $40,000 in state reimbursement for growing its professional services to Fortune 500 executives.
  • FreeAgent Network LLC, a start-up software company in Bozeman, expects to create 10 jobs and be reimbursed up to $50,000.
  • XY Planning Network LLC, financial advisers based in Bozeman, estimates that it will create 10 jobs and be reimbursed up to $50,000 by the state program.

Perusing the awards list, we note there’s considerable diversity in the types of businesses getting grants in western Montana.

In past award cycles, Big Sky Economic Development Trust job creation or planning grants have been awarded to southeastern Montana businesses — 10 in 2017, according to Pam Haxby-Cote, director of the Commerce Department. Businesses in Billings have received grants through Big Sky Economic Development, such as an award to Avitas for creating 80 jobs. A Miles City business received a grant through Custer County.

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Haxby-Cote said money is available to award at least $600,000 in job creation grants each quarter.

The grants are competitive. “What we’re looking for are good paying jobs, jobs with benefits, jobs in areas where they’re needed, jobs in rural areas,” Haxby-Cote told The Gazette. Job creation grants can support expansion of existing businesses or start up for new businesses.

“The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund is one of the best programs in our toolbox for supporting long-term, sustainable business growth by encouraging job creation and retention,” Haxby-Cote said.

Montana’s economy thrives on growing existing businesses and recruiting new ones. As local entrepreneurs forge their business plans, the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund may be able to help. These grants are made from earnings on a subfund in the state coal tax trust.

The application deadline for the next quarter’s grants is Oct. 3. More information is available at bstf.mt.gov.

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