• "We are an amazing community and have an amazing economy," said Jeremy Vannatta in addressing attendees of the Montana Economic Outlook Seminar, in talking about Yellowstone County. Vannatta, Director of Business Outreach, Recruitment & Marketing at Big Sky Economic Development was one of numerous speakers talking about the economic prospects for 2015. Vannatta underscored that Yellowstone County leads the state
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  • "Graduation Matters." Does it? When does it matter? Does it only matter for certain students? Does it still matter even when one district stands to lose money to another? Or, does not being part of the "right neighborhood" justify sacrificing the futures for some kids over others? Does it make sense that a community of some 8000 people might have
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  • The sale of Girl Scout Cookies, which begins this month, will move into the era of e-commerce with Digital Cookie 1.0. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas it was called the biggest "Next Big Thing." The sale of the very popular cookies not only supports the activities of Girl Scouts but provides them with an opportunity to learn
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  • Oil prices could dip as low as $27 a barrel by mid-summer predicts Eric Sharpe. The declining prices are already having profound impacts in the US, including the Bakken. It is hitting the service businesses especially hard, many will not survive. The low prices are triggering a consolidation of companies; a weeding out of the weaker companies, while others lay-off
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  • Hillary Stevenson, from Genscape U.S. shale producers may begin producing less as crude prices drop to five-year lows – with some North Dakota Bakken operators already treading water – as rig counts nationwide are poised to decrease by nearly 600 in the next six months, according to Genscape. U.S. oil rigs will fall below 1,100 for the first time in three years,
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  • by Evelyn Pyburn   For 27 years, a company in Forsyth has been manufacturing and marketing its product to the world proving, that "so long as you have UPS, the internet and a good product, it is possible to do business in a small town in Montana." There haven't been many drawbacks to building a business in Forsyth, said Celeste
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  • Billings and Yellowstone County will have to find living space for 70,000 people in the next 20 years. That's how much the largest community in Montana is projected to grow, according to Candi Millar, Director of the City County Planning Department, who is overseeing the development of an update to Yellowstone County's Growth Policy, which is a master plan of
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  • As North Dakota crude prices decline – latest prices are averaging $48 a barrel – there will be new pressure by producers to get better rates on rail shipping, which has varied from $9 to $15 a barrel. "Rail rates should come down especially since the fuel surcharge is off," said Houston analyst Andy Lipow. "The main effect will be from the
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  • Environmental groups are expected to be disappointed with a coming Environmental Protection Agency regulation for coal ash, a waste produced when coal is burned for electricity and which is used in many building materials. The EPA appears poised to label the ash a solid waste, rather than "hazardous," in the new rule. Environmental groups have pushed for the more stringent
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  • Passing state legislation to allow local option tax authority is the Billings Chamber's number one priority. The Chamber supports local option taxing authority as a mechanism for augmenting current revenues for municipalities. A "local option tax" is a local sales tax on goods and services.
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  • While it may be no surprise to locals, Billings is among the ten best beer cities in the US. Billings was ranked in tenth place by Livability, a company that explores what makes small to medium sized cities great places to live. The top beer town is Bend, Oregon. "Billings offers innovative and award-winning breweries, residents who consume beer at
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  • The Magic City Blues will be held a week earlier this year. After 14 years of holding the popular event the first weekend of August, the dates are being moved forward one week to July 31 – August 2 in 2015, according to Tim Goodrich, Magic City Blues owner and founder. Otherwise the venue will remain the same as last summer,
    Read More

Montana State University set an enrollment record this fall, with 12,764 students attending classes, MSU officials announced.

MSU has set enrollment records in three out of the last four years. The 2009 headcount is 395 more students than the previous record, set in 2008.

Significantly, the university has a record number of freshmen enrolled, 2,281. The previous record of 2,225 was set in 2005.

"A big freshman class is a vote of confidence. Both Montana residents and out-of-state students are choosing us," said MSU President Geoff Gamble.

A 20 percent increase in Native American freshmen helped set the record. The number of Native American freshmen rose from 54 students in 2008 to 65 students this fall. Overall, Native American enrollment is at a historic high of 377 students - a 79 percent increase since Gamble took office in 2000. Increasing Native American enrollment has been one of his primary objectives.

"All our students receive a great education here, with hands-on opportunities to do cutting-edge research or explore creative endeavors in the humanities - both preparing them well for their careers after college," Gamble said.

Not only is it MSU's largest entering freshman class, but on average, it is also the brightest.

The average ACT score of this fall's, full-time, entering freshman is 25.14. A common measure of a student's academic accomplishment in high school, the ACT scale is from 0 to 36.

This fall's full-time freshmen have an average ACT score 0.7 higher than the university's previous record holders, the entering class of 2008. Since 1998, the university has never seen a jump in ACT scores greater than 0.3 from class to class.

 

"This is remarkable. MSU is seeing an unprecedented jump in the quality of its entering, full-time freshman," said Allen Yarnell, vice president of student affairs.

Additionally, 58 entering freshmen scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. One freshman had a perfect score. Together, they make up the largest group of top-scoring ACT students ever in an MSU freshman class.

"We have committed staff; we have superb faculty; and we prepare our students for great success. Quality students recognize that," Yarnell said.

Since 2006, MSU has been the only university in the five-state region of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North and South Dakota to meet the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's criteria for the highest research classification. Since 2000, research funding earned by the university has grown 61 percent, from $61 million to $98.4 million in fiscal year 2009.

Last year, MSU's research directly provided $7.76 million in undergraduate and graduate salaries, benefits, scholarships and fellowships. Additionally, two MSU students won Goldwater Scholarships last year, the nation's premier scholarship for undergraduates studying math, natural sciences and engineering. MSU is ranked 11th nationally for Goldwater winners, just behind Yale and MIT.

"On top of all we have to offer academically, MSU students get to live in this beautiful setting that is the Rocky Mountains. That's part of our message and we believe it's being heard," Gamble said. "We are Trout U and the University of the Yellowstone. That's very appealing to students."

In the past six years, MSU has been ranked No. 1 in the country by Fly Rod & Reel magazine for undergrads angling for an education near trout streams; No. 5 in Outside magazine's "40 Best College Towns;" No. 4 ski town by Skiing magazine, and in the top 10 hunting and fishing universities by Outdoor Life magazine. Bozeman was named one of top three cities for an adventurer to start a family in the October 2009 issue of National Geographic Adventure.

MSU also has a good reputation among employers, which translates into opportunities for graduates, Gamble said.

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