Next Steps for TEDD
Now that the TEDD in Lockwood has been created for the purpose of developing an industrial park, Big Sky Economic Development Authority (BSEDA) is pursuing the next step in the process. That step is to develop an infrastructure master plan that will help in designing the Billings Bypass, according to Steve Arveschoug, BSEDA Director. “We need to make sure that our infrastructure development timelines dovetail with the design work of the Montana Department of Transportation, so that access points on and off the bypass can be met.”
While an infrastructure plan needs to be started as soon as possible in order to keep pace with the development of the Bypass, funding for it through the TEDD (targeted economic development district) is not likely to be accumulated for at least another year. To advance the process sooner, Arveschoug will ask Yellowstone County Commissioners, who administer the TEDD, to approve a proposal to allow BSEDA to lend the TEDD funds from its Opportunity Fund, with the condition that the TEDD will reimburse BSEDA when the funds are available.
BSEDA has spearheaded the development of the industrial park, as important to the future economic growth of the community. The Billings Bypass, a proposed highway across the Yellowstone River connecting the Heights with Lockwood at the intersection of I-90 and Johnson Lane, is in the process of being designed by the Montana Department of Transportation. The proposed industrial park, located in the northwest corner of that intersection, will access the Bypass.
Finance Companies Merge
As part of their goal to expand the finance department, EDC is proceeding with plans to merge their Certified Development Company (CDC), with the Montana Community Finance Corporation, another CDC based in Helena. BSEDA approved the business plan for the expansion, last week, then the EDC Board approved the merger plan. The application will now be submitted for approval to the Small Business Development Administration (SBA), which will make the final decision.
With offices in both Billings and Helena, the merged entity will function under the name of Big Sky Finance.
The first 18 months after its formation, beginning in April, will be a period of focused marketing, as was outlined by BSEDA Director of Marketing, Melanie Schwarz. She projected that the marketing plan to help give Big Sky Financial a statewide presence would cost about $47,000 at the most.
Brandon Berger, who oversees the Finance Department for EDC, will head Big Sky Finance with a probable staff of five, including two staffers in Helena.
There will be no tax dollars used for the program, nor for the transition, said Berger. His department has functioned under the auspices of EDC, a private non-profit corporation, affiliated with EDA and administered by the same staff. Approved by SBA as a CDC, the financial division provides long-term, fixed rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings, under the SBA 504 loan program.
Update on GE Withdrawal
Each year Big Sky Economic Development (EDA) has been making a $50,000 payment to GE as part of their commitment to entice the business to the community. Now that the company is pulling out of Billings, EDA will not be making two remaining incentive payments of $50,000 each, according to Arveschoug. “I made an executive decision,” Arveschoug told members of the EDA and EDC executive committees. He said that GE officials understand the decision, though they may bring it up in later settlement issues regarding the building that EDA built under a lease- back agreement.
EDA will need those funds, said Arveschoug, to cover transition costs regarding the building which was built in 2009 when GE was incentivized to locate in Billings. “We have real expenses we have to cover, which are not in the operating costs,” said Arveschoug. GE will continue to make lease payments in keeping with their contract through January 2021, unless another plan is developed which will better serve GE and EDA. Arveschoug said that both EDA and GE will be looking for prospective tenants, which would better serve the local economy, as well as relieve GE of their responsibility.
When GE makes their final lease payment, EDA will have a debt-service balance of less than $3 million, according to Arveschoug.
Besides being promised $1.75 million in incentive payments (paid for by local taxpayers), the city and county also granted a five-year property tax break to GE on the $9.3 million, 40,000-square-foot building.
The building will probably be “dark” by year’s end, said Arveschoug. GE said earlier this year that the 60 remaining workers will be gone by the end of the year. Arveschoug said that EDA did a walk through with GE officials of the building, taking inventory – the company has agreed to leave all the furniture.
In the process of GE divesting themselves of its commercial lending and leasing business, which was managed through their Billings Center of Excellence, Wells Fargo purchased some of that business incorporating 90 of the workers in Billings offices. Other workers remained with Bank of Montreal which purchased part of the assets and opened an office in Billings. At its peak, GE employed 200 employees in Billings.

Market Update

1 DOW 20,821.76
+11.44 (0.05%)    
2 S&P 2,367.34
+3.53 (0.15%)    
3 NASDAQ 5,845.31
+9.80 (0.17%)    
4 MDU 27.13
+0.08 (0.30%)    
5 SWC 17.06
+0.01 (0.06%)    
6 EBMT 20.05
-0.20 (-0.99%)    
7 FIBK 44.20
+0.05 (0.11%)    
8 GBCI 36.95
-0.21 (-0.57%)