• Oil producer Hess Corp has turned to a manufacturing process developed by automaker Toyota Motor Corp to cut costs and boost production as crude oil prices lag, according to a Reuters report. Deploying a process called Lean manufacturing, and used by only a handful of other oil producers, the move has shaved roughly $400,000 off the cost of each North
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  • A company called Enell, Inc. has quietly been doing business in Havre, Montana, serving an international market for the past 22 years. Like so many successful companies, ENELL serves a niche market – one ignored by the big companies catering to the mainstream. ENELL makes sports bras for well-endowed women. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the company’s evolution has paralleled the entrance of
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  • Caterpillar Oil & Gas announced that Caterpillar has made an equity investment in Billings-based company, GTUIT, a manufacturer of mobile gas treatment systems. The companies plan to collaborate to deliver equipment to reduce flaring and emissions from flaring gas in the process of oil production. Brian Cebull, President and CEO of GTUIT stated, “As a result of the Caterpillar investment,
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  • Billings business owner Rich Naylor has been named Small Business Person of the Year in the small business category by the US Small Business Administration in Montana. He owns My Handyman Service & Construction, Inc., Billings. Two other Billings businesspeople are in the list of award winners announced by the SBA. They include Haley Vannatta, owner of Yellowstone Valley Women’s
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  • Electric generation companies, such as Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative (YVEC) are “under attack,” according to Anita Decker, CEO of the Northwest Public power Association, of which YVEC is a member. At risk is the YVEC mission of providing customers with “the lowest cost, highest value investment,” said Decker, who spoke before the annual meeting of the YVEC on last week
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  • In the coming year local employers say they expect to hire 1000 new employees. That reflects a $42 million increase in wages for Yellowstone County. Will they be able to find the workers? Unlike many areas of the country, Billings and Yellowstone County face a labor shortage, a problem which if not addressed could negatively impact local business growth and
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  • If you want to reduce employee turnover in your business, fire mangers who are jerks. That’s the advice of Dick Finnegan, who was keynote speaker at the BillingsWorks Workforce Council luncheon. Finnegan is a nationally-recognized consultant on workforce retention and author of “Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad,” and of a forth coming book, “The Power of Stay Interviews
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  • It looks like the vision for a new restaurant in downtown for the Howard Shen and Tina Wu is becoming a reality. They plan to open Wild Ginger Steak House by late June on the ground floor of the new Empire Parking Garage on Montana Avenue between North 28th and North 27th Streets. The husband and wife entrepreneurial team are
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  • Building a convention center in Billings would cost in the neighborhood of $60 million, and require almost $700,000 annual subsidy. But, such a facility could turn Billings’ prospects around from possibly losing 25 percent of its convention business by 2020, to more than tripling it. A convention center would increase the economic impact of conventions held in Billings by about
    Read More
  • The goal for Jefferson Bus Lines is to open a new bus station in downtown Billings by July, according to company President Steve Woelfel. Woelfel announced last week that the Minneapolis-based company has purchased the former Underriner building at Fourth Avenue North and 18th Street North, to serve as their future headquarters in Billings. The new location allows the company
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  • The Guadalajara Family Mexican Restaurant at 927 S. 32nd Street West is moving to the former location of Beef O’Brady’s, 1223 Grand Avenue, Billings. They plan to have the new location completely remodeled and ready to open by about March 20. The restaurant, one of four Guadalajara Restaurants in Billings, is owned by Juan Nuno Sr. and his family members,
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  • The name “Blain” in Yellowstone County is almost synonymous with flying. The late Gerhart Blain was a pioneer in the local aviation business. His sons, Al and Gary, have carried on the family tradition with their business, Billings Flying Service, for which they recently announced big expansion plans. They anticipate more than doubling the size of their business over the
    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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