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The SBA Montana District Office, Helena, is actively seeking nominations for the 2010 Small Business Week Awards to be announced in May 2010. Nominations are being accepted for outstanding small business owners and advocates in a variety of categories ranging from the Montana Small Business Person of the Year to the Financial Services Advocate of the Year. This year the Montana District Office has introduced a new category, the Community/Rural Lender of the Year. This award will recognize lenders that have exhibited an ongoing commitment to supporting the growth and expansion of small businesses. For a complete list of award categories and nomination guidelines log onto http://www.sba.gov/localresources/district/mt/news/index.html.
Any individual or organization such as professional and trade associations, business organizations, chambers of commerce, banks or employees of a small business, can submit nominations. Nominations will be evaluated on the basis of staying power, growth in number of employees, financial growth, innovation of product or service, response to adversity, small business advocacy, and community involvement.
All nominations must be mailed or delivered to the Montana SBA District Office, 10 W. 15th. St., Suite 1100, Helena, MT 59626, no later than November 13, 2009. For additional information on the Small Business Week Awards program, or to request nomination forms, please contact SBA’s Crystal Baker at 406.441.1089.
The Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Economic Development Corporation (EDC) are launching a new look and marketing approach, as well as adding a new focus to their development efforts.
The opportunity for renewable energy development is great for Billings, said EDA/EDC Director Steve Arveschough. “Our goal is two-fold,” he told members at a joint meeting of their executive committees last week. “Billings is a good hub for that sort of thing, as a headquarters for the companies, themselves, and as a location for the support businesses for warehouses and supplies.” Both kinds of businesses will be targeted as prospects for recruitment efforts.
The two development agencies which serve Yellowstone County have contracted with a wind energy expert, Rhyno Stinchfield, President of Stinchfield & Assoc., and CEO of Montana Wind, said Arveschough, to direct them in how to credibly approach this market and prepare promotional materials. The contract is a limited one, in which Stinchfield is compensated only for the hours he works with them.
Linda Beck, who heads the recruitment effort for EDA/EDC, reported that they receive leads from the World Economic Development Association, which Stinchfield will help vet, to make sure that they are credible companies
Interest is already strong among wind energy companies. They recognize that Montana is a prime state for wind energy development, said Arveschoug. One company, with whom the agency has already had contact, is looking at developing 13 wind energy sites “across the country, and was looking at Montana.”
They know that without transmission lines being built none of it will happen, but “they know Montana is a great place for wind development.” explained Arveschoug. It is hoped that transmission lines will be developed over the next three to four years; but in the meantime these companies are identifying sites and talking to land owners, said Arveschoug.
Arveschoug said that he consulted with Rick Reid of MDU and Debbie Singer of Northwestern Energy, both of whom have been very involved as members of boards for EDA and EDC, “on the whole concept of wind energy development and the potential for new business prospects.” He said he did not, until last week, “involve them in our discussion with Rhyno. We did have a larger-group meeting last week that was very helpful to me in better defining our process and proposed outcomes, with Rick and Debbie’s input. We do want to continue this work because I think there are some real opportunities, long-term, for us to attract small businesses that are working in the renewable energy sector. However, this effort does need to include the direct input of our current energy partners and I will make an extra effort to reach out to those partners.”
Executive committee members agreed that the opportunity holds promise, but advised, “Don’t lose sight of development opportunities in Montana’s traditional natural resources.”
“Creating Montana Business Opportunities” is how Big Sky EDA/EDC will brand itself in the future. Executive Committee members weighed on the new logo which will emphasize that it’s “Big Sky” EDA and not “BSEDA.” Whether to go with a blue or orange color scheme was also discussed. The proposal will be presented to the boards at their next regular meeting.
Brandon Berger, who oversees the loan program for EDC, explained how they plan to adjust the board membership to comply with the representation requirements of the US Small Business Administration. Ad hoc representatives for the EDA board, including Chamber of Commerce President John Brewer, City Councilwoman Jani McCall will be asked to be full board members, as well as naming others to represent the Realtors Association and the colleges. A slate of candidates will be recommended for approval to the full board, he said.
It was further reported that Big Sky EDA’s closing on the final loans for the GE Building is still pending, awaiting the resolution of a signage-requirement of the State Department of Justice. There is the possibility that GE will be interested in a second phase to their Billings facility, but not for another couple years, said Arveschoug.
The EDA/EDC Board will accept the Master Plan for the East Billings tax increment finance district at their regular board meeting.
EDC’s annual meeting will be held on Oct. 14, 11:30 a.m., at the Crowne Plaza, with Terry Holzer, Manager of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, as guest speaker.
The joint meeting of the executive committees closed the meeting for the last agenda item, which Arveschoug said had to do with a personnel issue.
Rocky Mountain Bank has announced the election of Wally Anderson as chairman of its Board of Directors.
"Wally brings years of professional background as a CPA and business acumen to add value to our bank," said Danny Skarda, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Bank. "He's well respected by his peers and the business community."
Anderson has more than 40 years experience as a Certified Public Accountant, including serving as audit partner with Broeker Hendrickson & Company, McGladrey Hendrickson & Pullen, Charles Bailly & Company and Eide Bailly LLP. While at Eide Bailly, he was the partner in charge of its Billings office. Anderson now manages Baker Transfer and Storage, a client of Rocky Mountain Bank.
Blacks Wholesale Distributing of Spokane, Washington has opened a 21,000-square-foot Billings warehouse at 457 Daniels Street.
Blacks is a 74-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesale distributor with six locations in the northwest. The distributor is headquartered in Spokane with Montana locations in Bozeman, Kalispell and Billings.
Blacks Wholesale distributes equipment such as boilers, controls, fireplaces and air conditioners to HVAC contractors.
Dan Redinger, the manager of the Bozeman location, will also manage the new Billings location, with Duane Anderson as the salesman serving the Billings warehouse.
Plans call for the new location to become a ‘hub” for Blacks in Montana. The new location will allow Blacks to better serve the Billings market and eventually expand into eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.
Blacks began as a service station supply business selling hydraulic lifts and oil burners. It has evolved into a full service HVAC distributor, whose company motto is “the service company that sells HVAC.”
The move into Billings was precipitated by the sale of ABCO Supply, a local HVAC wholesaler. Blacks had a good working relationship with ABCO Supply but when ABCO sold Blacks took the opportunity to enter the Billings market directly.
The phone for the new location is 252-7005.
Stabilized oil prices will do much to resume activity in Montana’s oil fields, and not just for production of existing wells, but to augment exploration for new – especially in formations below the Bakken.
Recent reports from North Dakota say that discoveries in the Three Forks/Sanish hold the promise of doubling the production that has been projected for the Bakken, a resource that has been compared to that of Saudia Arabia. Big news for North Dakota, and perhaps for Montana, since the formation extends into the northeastern part of the state.
A tone of optimism and anxiousness to get back to drilling permeated comments overheard at the recent annual meeting of the Montana Petroleum Association in Billings. Low oil prices, in the future, did not appear to be an expectation.
Tom Richmond, administrator of the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, said that he believes that there will be at least a hundred wells drilled in Montana, once the price “stabilizes.” “The price is still high, just unstable,” he commented. There are opportunities for “in-fill” wells in established fields, he said, in the Red River formation, in Sheridan and Roosevelt Counties. Some exploration is also possible in Glacier County.
A decline in the price of oil over the past year prompted a curtailment of oil production in Montana to about half of its previous level. Exploration activity plummeted to zero, while much activity continued in North Dakota.
One reason that drilling continues in North Dakota, even when prices are down, explained Richmond, is that investors have limited leases, common for exploration wells. The leases impose time restraints, no matter the price of oil. In Montana, there is little similar activity. Montana wells are established wells under leases with no time restraints, so when prices drop, companies can reduce production levels, with no concern about expiring leases.
Headlines topped the news within the past month about prospects in North Dakota, with the success of new wells which have been extended two miles below the Bakken formation to another called the Three Forks/Sanish. With production of dozens of new wells matching and exceeding that of Bakken wells, national reports are heralding that the finds “continue to fuel a hunch among oilmen and geologists that another vast crude-bearing formation may be buried in the state’s vast oil patch.”
The Bakken formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana. Estimated to have 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, the U.S. Geological Survey has called it the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.
The projections could be double that with The Three Forks-Sanish, adding another 50 years of projected production for the oil industry in North Dakota, said Jim Halvorson, a geologist with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas. The Three Forks-Sanish is a formation made up of sand and porous rock directly below the Bakken shale. But geologists don’t know whether the Three Forks-Sanish is a separate oil-producing formation or if it catches oil that flows from the Bakken shale above. That is important to determine, according to Halvorson. If it isn’t connected then it means an additional resource that has not been calculated into future prospects.
With the data of only slightly more than 100 wells, it’s too soon, say experts, to start to draw any hasty conclusions. The data from another 200 or so wells is needed for scientists to begin to get a more definite idea of the significance of the Sanish. Some speculate that the amount of oil present in the Sanish may vary considerably, from none to quantities that are commercially productive.
Even less is known about the prospects in the Three Forks/Sanish in Montana. “We may have similar structures but they haven’t been found yet,” said Halvorson.
The Three Forks gets its name from outcrops of the formation near Three Forks, Montana – actually at the Lewis and Clark Caverns. The formation could very well extend from there to Chicago. The Three Forks is punctuated by pockets of a very porous material forming a formation called The Sanish, which is where oil is being found.
The formations and the fact that there is oil in the Sanish is not a new discovery, but the improved technology now being employed in oil production is making the finds commercially viable.
Located as they are beneath operating wells in the Bakken, poses some economic advantages and efficiencies which are expected to be a bonus to developers.
Businesses ranging from a small seed supplier to a large construction company from areas across the state including Fairfield, Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, Anaconda and Chinook are the winners of the 2009 Montana Family Business Awards, now in their 16th year.
The businesses, which range in size from fewer than 10 employees to more than 50, will receive their awards at the 2009 Montana State University College of Business State Farm Insurance Family Business Day on Friday, Sept. 25, at the Holiday Inn in Bozeman.
The 2009 top family businesses in Montana are: Treasure State Seed of Fairfield in the very small business category (fewer than 10 employees); Columbo’s Pizza of Bozeman in the small business category (10 to 30 employees); Axmen of Missoula in the medium business category (30 to 50 employees); Diamond Construction of Helena, in the large business category (more than 50 employees); Jamieson Motors, Inc. of Chinook in the old business category (operating at least 50 years) and Giddy Up Tack & Feed of Anaconda in the new business category (operating 10 years or less).
“It is wonderful to be able to recognize exemplary family businesses that have all shown a commitment to customer service, family values and diversification to satisfy the needs of their markets, often in challenging situations,” said Nancy Dodd, director of the Montana State University College of Business State Farm Insurance Family Business Program and an MSU professor of management.
For more information call (406) 994-7026.
The ExxonMobil Refinery in Billings is celebrating their 60th Anniversary this month. Sixty years ago, on August 26, 1949, the new facility was dedicated.
Built by what was then the Carter Oil Company, the decision to build the 20,000 barrel-a-day refinery, was an expression of faith in the business future of the northwest.
Billings was selected as a prime location because the community met three criteria – it was near a water source (the Yellowstone River), it was close to rail transportation, and it had the right atmospheric movement.
Built on 340 acres, from the ground up, the refinery replaced a Yale Oil refinery that had opened in Billings in 1929.
The Carter Refinery was incorporated as Humble Oil in 1959. In the summer of 1960, Humble began to market ENCO gasoline through Carter outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Billings.
ENCO was derived from the last two words — ENergy and COmpany — in the theme Humble Oil & Refining Company had been using in its advertising: America’s Leading ENergy COmpany.
The company changed its name to Exxon Company, U.S.A. in 1973 and became ExxonMobil when the merger with Mobil Oil occurred in 1999.
Today, employing 260 people and 100 – 150 contractors, the company processes approximately 60,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Over the past 10-15 years the company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on capital improvements, including low Sulfur Diesel, Low Sulfur Mogas, and Ultra low Sulfur Diesel. Over the past three years, there have also been several emissions reduction projects.
Who are the uninsured? That group of people who have stood as one of the primary reasons for the clamor for health care reform. They are not all the same and “one size does not fit all,” says Dr. Duane “Pete” Pettersen, who is also a independent health insurance agent.
To focus more directly on the problems of the uninsured would be better than overhauling the entire health care system, said Pettersen.
The uninsured make up about 15 percent of the US population (perhaps as high as 17 percent in Montana), explained Pettersen in speaking to the recent “Forum on Healthcare/Health Insurance Reform from a Free market Perspective,” sponsored by the Montana Policy Institute (MPI). The percentage has remained constant for more than 25 years.
From a report done by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in which US Census Bureau data was analyzed, it was determined that of the 46 million people considered uninsured:
—34 percent of the uninsured are eligible for a government program but have not signed up for it or enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.
—32 percent are high-income earners and chose not to purchase insurance, although they could likely afford the premium.
—14 percent are temporarily uninsured. And most were uninsured for less that 60 to 90 days and were primarily age 18-26, which is the college graduate rate. Others were in between jobs. Seldom were people in this group uninsured for more than six months.
— 20 percent or 9.2 million people were long-term uninsured.
Pettersen pointed out that the state of Montana is currently paying a bureaucracy $2.75 million a year to enroll 30,000 children in CHIPS. – “80 percent of whom will be dropping current private insurance in order to enroll.” The program would see a significant savings if regular, trained insurance agents were used to enroll people into the program.
People who chose not to insure should be incentivized to make a better choice, said Pettersen – “Just the opposite of what we are doing under HR 3200.”
Young people who are temporarily uninsured could be approached in several ways including being able to remain insured on their parents’ policy until age 26, offering limited affordable temporary policies, suggested Pettersen.
The long-term insured need specific assistance, he said.
“In solving the uninsured issues and the challenges oto the total health care system, we need to look further at allowing insurance policies that are affordable,” said Pettersen. “Why is it that Montana politicians have added 41 benefit mandates that are requied to be covered by all insurance policies? (Idaho has 14 such mandates) Why is Montana the only state in the nation with a complete “unisex rating system,” limiting companies and products that are provided in Montana vs. across the state line in Idaho? Why are Montana citizens all required to purchase a Lexus automobile with all the options rather than a choice of a basic For or Chevy” questioned Pettersen.
According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance the impacts of mandated benefits currently increase the cost of basic health coverage from a little less than 20 percent to more than 50 percent, depending on the state and how many mandates are required. Montana ranks 14th in the number of state mandated benefits.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103