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New Technology Venture
You probably won’t see a street sign identifying one of Billings’ newest business concerns, Altitude Technologies LLC.
Currently employing four people, Altitude Technologies’ staff is a “virtual team,” says founder Kirk Porter. “Over the years, I have never understood why a technology company would have an office when it can be hosted through the sky,” says Porter. No matter how large his company grows it will probably never have a “bricks and mortar” kind of location. Such technology should be a big boon for all industries since they can rely on talent across the country.
Porter should know about that of which he speaks as a technology consultant. Helping other small businesses to best utilize the technology available to them is the mission of Altitude Technologies. “We go in and help the small and medium business market and run their technology, at a reasonable price,” explained Porter. While large companies have such expertise in house, most small businesses cannot afford it. “We help them make good solid investments,” said Porter.
Cargill announced today that it has reached an agreement with Westfeeds to buy Cargill’s Billings feed mill and property. Officials from both companies anticipate that the sale will close by mid-February 2010.
According to Westfeeds officials, the addition of the Billings feed mill facility will complement the company’s existing presence in Billings as well as regionally.
“We are pleased by the opportunities that Cargill’s Billings feed operations present for our customers,” said Scott Black, president and chief executive officer of Westfeeds. “This agreement further underscores our dedication to serving the animal nutrition needs of our customers as we strive towards our vision of being the premier provider of animal nutrition in the Northern Plains.”
Cargill acquired the facility from Farr Better Feeds in 1991. The plant, which was built in 1968, has six full-time employees and a production capacity of 50,000 tons. Cargill Animal Nutrition produces a variety of bulk cattle feeds at the facility for the region’s beef and dairy producers. With this agreement, Cargill will continue to produce bagged feeds, pet food, and its proprietary ROC® mineral product, among other offerings, throughout the region at other Cargill facilities.
“Under this arrangement, we are placing a valued feed manufacturing asset in the hands of a local organization that shares our commitment to this market and its livestock customers,” said Karl Thoene, general manager for Cargill Animal Nutrition’s Pacific Northwest region. “Through an exclusive, bulk-feed toll manufacturing agreement with Westfeeds and by shifting our bagged feed manufacturing focus to other Cargill regional facilities, we streamline our operations and better utilize our regional capabilities to improve our customer offerings. This agreement combines Westfeeds’ manufacturing expertise with Cargill’s nutritional expertise, thereby bringing additional value to customers throughout Montana and northern Wyoming.”
Proving that a local business can successfully compete with the chain box stores, one of Billings’ rising entrepreneurs is expanding in the midst of a recession. Kings Ace Hardware is planning a third store at the corner of Zimmerman and Grand Avenue.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) Foundation and Whole Energy Fuels Corporation, headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, are poised to commercialize a novel and groundbreaking cellulosic biofuel technology developed at the EERC at the University of North Dakota. Whole Energy is receiving global, exclusive licensing rights to EERC Foundation’s technology, which converts biomass and other recycled material into liquid biofuels.
Utilizing cellulosic materials to produce biofuels has several advantages. Cellulosic materials such as wood, grasses, or the nonedible parts of crops, including wheat straw, soybean hulls, and corn cobs, are vast and diverse feedstocks compared to first-generation feedstocks like corn starch or sugarcane. In addition, cellulosic fuels promise to become the lowest-cost biofuel while at the same time provide large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum-derived fuels.
American Steel is seizing upon this moment in time to invest in the future. The Billings fabricator of structural steel sees the current economy as a time to take advantage of reduced costs, low interests rates and market position to prepare for the resurgence when it comes.
“We will probably never see interest rates this low again,” said Paul Neutgens, co-owner of American Steel which is in the process of building a new facility in Lockwood.
“We are very fortunate to be in the position we are in,” said Neutgens, “We are lucky to be located in Billings.” William Kronmiller is Neutgens’ partner in American Steel which began business in 1998.
The company hopes to occupy their new 26,000 square foot facility at 1655 Coulson by March 1. They will move from their current location at 4110 Neibauer Rd. which they lease.
Jones Construction is the general contractor.
The new plant will have two large fabrication bays and a painting bay. With more space, Neutgens said that his company will be able to attain larger projects and produce at a higher level. Floor heat will allow production to continue even when temperatures plunge to 20 degrees below zero.
“Our paint facility is pretty close to being one of the largest in a four or five state region,” said Neutgens. The increased space will allow the company to acquire “bigger, faster, state-of-the-art machines,” which will help in production efficiencies. The facility’s design allows for future expansion as the company grows.
“We are preparing ourselves for the future,” said Neutgens, “You can always be afraid of what is directly in front of you, but you have to look past that. It takes years to develop a plant like this and we are looking five to ten years down the road. I think it is a wonderful opportunity if you are in position to do it, some people are and some people aren’t. It is a brave jump I guess, but we have good return customers and very good employees who we depend upon to find the work and to do it. We have the best team in the western US on board with us.”
Part of American Steel’s finance package in building of the new facility includes a Small Business Administration 504 loan for $1.468 million loan on a 20 year note for the purpose of acquiring the land in Lockwood. The loan has been approved by the Big Sky Economic Development Corporation.
Neutgens said that Lockwood was chosen as a sight because it meets their transportation needs so well, and a number of their employees live in Lockwood. Also, Neutgens said he believes Lockwood is the next boon area of the community.
The company employs 22 people now, and hopes to expand that by six to ten over the next year.
Most of American Steel’s production is exported out of state – almost anywhere west of the Mississippi River. The company sells Ceco Prefabricated Metal Building Packages, as well as commercial and industrial structural steel components, and miscellaneous steel products such as stairs, guardrails, frames, decks and joists.
How r u? The way we communicate is rapidly evolving, as evidenced by the fact that the number of text messages sent on cell phones has more than doubled from 48 billion in 2007 to 110 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010.
The Statistical Abstract, aka “Uncle Sam’s Almanac,” perennially the federal government’s best-selling reference book, has been published since 1878 — before automobiles, airplanes and motion pictures had even been invented. Contained in the 129th edition are more than 1,400 tables of social, political and economic facts which collectively describe the state of our nation and the world. Included are 53 new tables, covering topics such as worldwide space launch events this decade, the use of complementary and alternative medicine, the type of work flexibility provided to employees, employment status of veterans and road fatalities by country.
Don’t read all about it …
—The number of daily newspapers declined from 1,480 in 2000 to 1,408 in 2008. Likewise, the average number of daily newspapers sold dropped from 55.8 million copies in 2000 to 48.6 million in 2008. (Table 1098)
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103