l The level of unemployment in the third quarter of 1991 in Montana was 5.9 percent.
l Development of a new wagering system to include an innovative betting terminal and a faster, more powerful central computer was announced by John Shelhamer, president United Tote Company. The new system will be called the Horizon System XP and feature the Hewlett Packard A990 computer, a processor approaching 2 ½ times the power of United Tote’s current top of the line A-Series System. . .the system will accommodate simultaneous multiple inputs and remote racetrack operation.
l AmericanEthanol Corp. and Bechtel-subsidiary AgriEnergy / Partners announced plans to build a $200 million fuel ethanol and co-generation plant near Great Fall’s Malmstrom Air Force base if Montana Power Co. agrees to buy the electricity produced. The plant could be operating by 1994, with a workforce of 130 employees.
l General Mills has purchased Cargill’s 14 Montana grain elevators. General Mills will continue to operate the elevators “as is.” The purchase established General Mills as the largest of three major elevator operators left in the state…including Harvest States Cooperative and Marubeni subsidiary Columbia Grain.
l The Billings Grain terminal closed and then quickly reopened under new management.
l Montana Beef Specialties buys locally-grown beef and butchers it at the former Yellowstone Beef products packing plant between Billings and Laurel. Their products are delivered directly to customers or sold from a deli-style outlet store in Billings.
l The Flathead Valley currently has seven mint distilleries to produce oil from an estimated 5,000 acres of mint fields. Peppermint and spearmint have become important new cash crops in western Montana.
l Minnesota Power Co. and Peabody Coal Co. have agreed to the early termination of a 25-year contract for low-sulfur coal mined by Peabody near Colstrip. The power utility bought out the contract, which was to have expired in 1993.
l Champion International has put its Montana mills and timberlands up for sale. A spokesman says the company’s board of directors decided to sell Champion’s Montana assets and concentrate on the paper business. Champion earlier announced plans to shut down operations at tis Libby sawmill and planer facilities in September.
l Machinery and equipment has been auctioned off at the former Pierce Packing Co. plant in Billings, and a South Korean leather manufacturing company has bought the land and building to use as a first- stage leather plant. A Keum Kang spokesman says the company plans to spend $2 million renovating the plant, which will employ about 100 workers. The plant will cure upwards of 500 cowhides a day which will be shipped to South Korea for dyeing and finishing.
lThe Economic Development Corporation of Yellowstone County has received recognition by the National Association of Development Companies “For Achievement in Productivity as CDC with the Greatest Percent Growth in Region VIII for the Fiscal Year 1990.” Jeffry D. Leuthold is the Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation of Yellowstone County.
l Costco Wholesale announced its opening at 2290 King Avenue West in Billings.
l Montana Naturals Int’l Inc. has announced the resignation of its President and CEO Ronald O. Hauge. Montana Naturals is a Montana corporation engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of nutritional supplements for domestic and international distribution.
l Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana has received approval from the State Commissioner of Insurance to sell Montana Care, the first limited benefit plan for the uninsured in the state. The plan offers a range of basic health benefits to small employers who have not provided health insurance during the preceding 12 months.
l Ray and Don Havig have purchased and reopened the Stockmen Steak House and bar on Montana Avenue.
l Whereas once Billings was experiencing an exodus of people, the tide seems to have turned and people are moving into the area in increasing numbers… and whereas not long ago it was a renters market in Billings, today, it is a landlords market. . . . as many people, living out of motels or doubling up with friends and family will testify. Reasons for increased demand in rentals parallel those of the labor shortage – both reflect growth in Billings. There are the people who came in with the Cenex project, there are the roofers and people who have had job transfers in all types of businesses including medical positions, students, and lots of construction activity. According to Dean Luptak, Broker-Partner of Coldwell Banker Brokers, Billings, the rental market is getting additional pressure because real estate prices have strengthened and many properties that were rentals only because the owners couldn’t sell them, are now being sold.
l A new décor, new colors and new furniture will change the look of the Radisson Northern Hotel this fall. . . just in time for a 50th year anniversary celebration in 1992.
l One of the coldest ten-day periods for this time of the year has caused natural gas consumption to increase dramatically according to MontanaDakota utilities Co. Record low temperatures and high winds caused the typical MDU Montana residential customer’s heating needs to jump over 100 percent.
l Pointing out that unemployment in Yellowstone County is “extremely low” at 4.5 percent Wendy Keating, manager of the Billings Job Service, confirmed recent reports that employers are having a tough time filling job vacancies and went on to state that she suspects that it’s just the beginning of what will become a “severe labor shortage.” Part of the problem is that education is not graduating high school students with the skills to meet the needs of the labor market. Only a minimum of applicants have the kind of basic skills employers say they are seeking – basic math, reading, ability to communicate, good work habits, ability to reason and solve problems, ability to handle responsibility, and basic understanding of economic concepts.
l Early snows have left Red Lodge Mountain with a two foot base and the prospects of being able to open the ski hills by November 27, reports Tim Prather, manager.
l A ballot initiative to impose term limitations on Montana politicians has been filed with the Secretary of State. This initiative would amend the state constitution to limit all state elected officials (Governor, Secretary of State, etc.) to two consecutive terms in office. It limits state legislators to a maximum of eight consecutive years in the state Senate or six consecutive years in the House of Representatives.
l Sun Financial Group has been formed as a new business by independent insurance agents Leo B. Lapito, Dale Hoffman, Mark Thomas and Richard H. Smith.
l Martin A. White has been named Vice President of Corporate Development of MDU Resources Group, Inc.
l A newly formed organization, The Yellowstone River Parks Association, has made a request of the Montana Trade Port Authority Commissioners for $15,000 to fund a project for the long range development of the Yellowstone River course way through the Billings area.
l After a decade or more of expanding its unique and broad business liability ruling concerning “Bad Faith” lawsuits the Montana Supreme Court retreated somewhat in 1990. . ., Last year, in Story v. City of Bozeman, the Montana Supreme Court rejected it previously liberal use of the tort of bad faith. . . “Punitive damages will be appropriate only if contracting parties have a unique an special relationship and gives rise to expectations beyond those normally found in arms-length transactions.”
l Charles Schwab Corporation has opened a Billings office to service its 2,600 account holders in Montana, announced Schwab representative, Jim Orser.
l Billings clinic has announced details of a major building expansion program, which includes a proposed Ambulatory Surgery Center. Within the next 2.5 years, Billings Clinic will complete a 74,000 square foot addition to the main Clinic building in downtown Billings.
l Anti-trust enforcement by the federal government is the answer to guaranteeing decent retail beef prices in the supermarket, claims Bud Daniels, president of Montana Farmers Union. “Beef prices have stayed steady over the past several months, while the wholesale prices for cattle have dropped by anywhere from $75 to $150 per head since spring…the wholesale- to retail difference is being sponged away somewhere along the line.”
l Dave Fuson has opened a hair salon called Shortcuts at 2207 Grand Avenue.
l For the twelve month period ending Sept. 29, 1991, 380 business loans were approved for a total of $63.4 million by the Montana US Small Business Administration.
l The Montana Tourism Advisory Council will spend $467,000 in a nationwide “Ski Montana” campaign.
l The president of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association said there is a need for common sense in the development of energy to provide for the needs of the country in the decade of the 1990’s. Billings oilman W. W. Ballard discussed the nation’s energy needs that the eight -state petroleum association’s annual meeting . . . . Ballard, president of Balcron Oil Co. in Billings said, “There is a need for staying power by the petroleum industry and common sense by decision- makers to provide for a viable petroleum industry which will, in turn, enable a strong economy in the US for years to come”
l Big Sky Beeper Co. recently announced that one of the towers, which serves their VHF regional car phone system, has been relocated from Silesia to the top of Red Lodge Ski Mountain, according to manager Julia Thomason.
l Studies have revealed that all economic development programs in combination throughout a given region, and at every level, manage to provide assistance to less than five percent of businesses, said Hal Fossum, at the recent “Made in Montana” Governor’s Conference in Billings. Fossum, Research Director for the Northwest Area Policy Center, said “we have been reaching businesses single file.” He recommended stimulating local manufacturing through “flexible networking.,”
l Pryor Creek golf Course has commenced the construction of an additional nine holes to add to the facility’s existing 18, with plans of having them open for play by July of next year.
l Mountain Meadow Pet Products, Lewistown, was named Manufacturer of the Year by the Association of Montana Manufacturers. The company, which manufactures cat litter, was started in 1984 by Gary and Linda Turco.
l Wrote Milt Wester, publisher of the Laurel Outlook:Property taxes are going up in Laurel despite the fact that voters rejected a mill levy increase…but “be careful who you blame.” “Your taxes are going to increase because a business has removed taxable value from Laurel’s school district. Burlington Northern, for purely business reasons, has removed approximately $2,000,000 worth of taxable property from Laurel. That property has, in fact, been sent out of state.”
l The Montana Science and Technology Alliance of which Eastern Montana College is an academic partner, is looking for business people who want to borrow money for research and development projects in the state. The Alliance has been authorize to loan up to $5.1 million from the Coal Tax Trust Fund over three years to accelerate development of technology in Montana.
l David E. Hollatz, has been named director of the Clean Coal Technology Information Center at Eastern Montana College. Established by the 1991 Legislature, the Clean Fuels Information Center is intended to provide a central source for information on innovative technologies for utilization of Montana clean coal, including coal –derived fuels.
l The Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) has been awarded two grants to expand its farm improvement club in programs in Montana. The project conducts on -farm research, demonstration and education in sustainable agriculture.
l On the eleven- hundred block of North 27th a physicians’ office building will be built this fall on a joint venture agreement between Steve Corning of the Corning Company and St. Vincent Hospital and Health Center.
l A proposal to develop a world-class swim facility in Billings was announced at a fund-raising breakfast last week at which Olympic swimmer and two-time gold medal winner Steve Lundquist, was a guest speaker. Called Swim Center USA, the facility would meet a number of needs for the community.
l Visitation to Big Horn Canyon National Recreation area showed a 6.45 percent decline from the time a year ago. . . in 1990, 290,974 people had visited the recreation area by August 1, dropping to 272,207 for 1991.
l Lumber prices are rising as the impact of the “spotted owl withdrawals” it’s the market. Increase of between 10 percent and 50 percent are being experienced according to the Montana Building Industry Association.
l The retail salesperson occupation is projected to again be the most common occupation in 1995, followed by truck drivers, cashiers, waiters/waitresses, bookkeeping, clerks and secretaries, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. The registered nurse occupation is the fastest growing.
l The successful fulfillment this fall of a contract for 500 acres of Kabocha /Squash means that Montana will be sending the produce to Japanese markets, promising an alternative crop for the state. Barber Seed Service, Inc. of Denton, contracted with Yellowstone Valley farmers to raise the crop.
l The area of Rehberg and Grand Avenue is fairly hopping with construction activity – activity that will continue for some time to come as two developers pursue separate housing projects and the Aspen Meadows retirement/nursing home enters its first phase of construction this fall.
l The bottom line of the making of the movie “Far and Away” in Billings was an expenditure of some $6 million in the community during the summer.
l Tony Smith Photography, 134 Grand Avenue in Billings, is the first professional photography studio to incorporate still video imaging in their business. Still video imaging enables clients to see their pictures as soon as the film is processed.
l A newly formed group called the I-90 Corridor Group announced a legislative agenda that calls for support to provide for effective communication and coordination between existing public and private economic development organizations along the I-90 interstate corridor to provide for economic development for the state.
l Montana ranks fourth in the nation in state and local workers per 10,000 population, with 439.5 workers per 10,000 people.
l Montana Dakota Utilities announced the opening of its natural gas refueling station. The company wants to market natural gas as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).