By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – The Montana Department of Commerce recently approved a handful of grants aimed at boosting jobs and economic growth in the state. One could help Big Sky establish two Targeted Economic Development Districts to provide a catalyst for major infrastructure development in the area.

In a March 5 letter signed by Gov. Steve Bullock, the Commerce Department approved a $26,250 Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund request to help cover approximately $95,000 in anticipated TEDD costs, according to Ryan Hamilton.

“It’s awesome since it leverages the resort tax money the [Big Sky Chamber of Commerce] already has,” said Hamilton, a member of the chamber’s subgroup known as the Big Sky TEDD Committee. “We’ll continue to move this project forward working with both county commissions and the Big Sky community to create the districts.”

The trust fund money was awarded based on a contingency that the chamber would match the funds. Last September the Big Sky Resort Area Tax Board of Directors reallocated $45,000 from a power line burial project to help fund the TEDD projects.

Along with $25,000 in private funding, the TEDD committee now has the necessary capital to move forward with a planning grant to present to both Gallatin and Madison County commissioners, who would need to approve TEDDs in both counties since Big Sky straddles the border.

“We put together requests for proposal to solicit [bids for] this study on tax implications inside and outside the districts,” Hamilton said. “Basically the commissioners want to understand how this thing may work and affect all the other moving parts in the county.”

The grant was one of seven awarded by the Commerce Department, totaling just over $1 million. Montana businesses were eligible to receive Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grants for job creation and long-term economic growth planning projects, according to a March 11 press release from the governor’s office.

“These grants are a great example of smart and strategic partnerships between the state of Montana and private business to responsibly grow Montana’s economy,” said Gov. Bullock in the press release.

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Six other businesses received Big Sky Trust Fund approval, totaling approximately $1 million.

Job Creation

· Missoula County received $547,500 to assist LGT Sustainable Energy Systems, Inc., which specializes in sustainable energy systems that capture, generate, and store renewable energy from wind and water. Grant funds will be used for equipment purchases, supporting the creation of 73 new Montana jobs.

· The City of Hamilton received $240,000 to assist Applied Training Resources, Inc. providing mission-critical procedure, work guidance, and knowledge management solutions to high-risk industries. Grant funds will be used for the purchase of a new building, and the resulting business activities will support the creation of 32 new Montana jobs.

· Big Sky Economic Development Corporation received $170,000 to assist All American Pharmaceutical & Natural Foods Corporation in Billings. Grant funds will be used for equipment purchases, and the resulting business activities will support the creation of 34 new Montana jobs.

Planning

· Prospera Business Network received $26,250 to assist Oracle Film Group in Bozeman. Oracle Film Group is a boutique entertainment group specializing in the production of motion picture, commercial, and interactive entertainment. Grant funds will be used for a feasibility study evaluating the possibility of opening an animation feature film studio in southwest Montana.
· Bear Paw Development received $26,250 to assist Port of Wild Horse, the Port of Entry in Havre. Grant funds will go toward a study that would quantify the added economic activity and benefit that Montana and Alberta, Canada would receive should the federal governments of the U.S. and Canada alter the designation of the port as an international port of entry.
· Prospera Business Network received $4,750 to assist Montana Maltings in Manhattan. Montana Maltings is a micro malthouse that makes specialty and legacy malts for the brewing, distilling, and food industries. Grants funds will be used for an evaluation to determine the manufacturing facility requirements of a proposed malting facility in Manhattan.