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Special Tourism Section

Here for Business. Here for Billings.

Get to Know Board Member Heather McDowell

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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IMPORTANT WORK TO BE DONE



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table of contents

FEATURES

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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION Important Work To Be Done

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HERE FOR BUSINESS. HERE FOR BILLINGS.

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BUSiNESS SPOTLiGHT Growing a Legacy: Gainan’s Floral

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NEXT UP WiTH NEXTGEN

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GET TO KNOW THE BOARD: Heather McDowell

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EIDE BAILLY Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Your Business

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4 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IMPORTANT WORK TO BE DONE Photo courtesy of Visit Billings

HERE FOR BUSINESS. HERE FOR BILLINGS.

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

GROWING A LEGACY: GAINAN'S FLORAL


TOP INVESTORS BIG SKY LEVEL

DEPARTMENTS

GRANITE PEAK LEVEL DiA Events NorthWestern Energy US Bank

BEARTOOTH LEVEL Albertsons Big Sky Economic Development By All Means CentiMark Computers Unlimited Crowley Fleck PLLP Denny Menholt Chevrolet Diamond B Companies Dovetail Designs & Millwork Inc. EBMS Entre Technology Services ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co. Holiday Station Stores Kampgrounds of America Kinetic Marketing And Creative Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. MSU Billings Foundation Northern Hotel Opportunity Bank of Montana PayneWest Insurance Phillips 66 Rocky Mountain Bank Sanctuary LLC Sibanye - Stillwater Spectrum Reach The Western Sugar Cooperative Vertex Consulting Group Walmart Walmart, Heights Western Security Bank, Downtown Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-Op, Inc.

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Creative Designer: Brandy Dangerfield Project Support: Marya Pennington Advertising Sales Contact: Kelly McCandless (406) 869-3732 Kelly@billingschamber.com Photo Contributors: Billings Chamber, Visit Billings, Visit Southeast Montana, Adobe Stock BillingsChamber.com PO Box 31177 Billings MT 59107-1177 406-245-4111 800-711-2630 Fax 406-245-7333

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

Editor/Project Management: Kelly McCandless

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PRESiDENT’S LETTER Do Your Part; Make a Difference

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CATALYST Finding Value in Your Membership

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CHAMPiON 2021 Vision—Legislative Session Planning

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MONTANA’S TRAiLHEAD Encouraging An Open And Safe Billings

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STAFF PROFiLE Megan Hoffman

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TRiPS ON A TANKFUL Be Safe Out Here In Southeast Montana

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CONVENER Conveners For Billings In A World With Few Events

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PRiORiTY SPOTLiGHT Keep The Cheer Here

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DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 5


FROM THE PRESiDENT/CEO

DO YOUR PART; MAKE A DIFFERENCE BY JOHN BREWER PRESIDENT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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here is a lot of instability and uncertainty around us. Positive cases of COVID are setting daily records in the U.S.; and in Yellowstone County we are experiencing numbers that most of us thought would not be seen. The economy is struggling; some businesses are fighting for their existence. As of this writing there has not been a declared winner for the U.S. Presidency. Nor is there a clear understanding of how the other candidate will respond, and if that response will drag out confirmation through the courts. Social injustice awareness is playing out in streets across the country. Simply “loving thy neighbor” is debated through our social media feeds depending on if you wear a face mask, which political party you align with, and if you believe systemic racism is an issue to be eradicated.

and stronger society. There is no doubt that these issues­—so many of which feel as though they are out of our control—will eventually be resolved. As residents of Billings, what is in our control? More than we may think. We can do better. People of color, different nationalities and sexual orientation need to feel they can bring their authentic selves to work in order to provide their best to their employer. What can you do to include our marginalized populations that you have the privilege to work next to, learn from and get to know at a deeper level?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

—MARGARET MEAD

I have to believe that we are going through a transitional, painful period in our history that will eventually create a more informed, compassionate

Debate your positions passionately but respectfully. The ‘right wing’ and the ‘left wing’ belong to the same bird! To soar the body needs both wings working together. Get a flu shot to lessen the impacts to our medical facilities and our incredible healthcare workers. Wear a mask when you're in public. Wash your hands frequently. Watch your distance. And, please, stay home if you’re sick. These steps reduce the spread of COVID­—and our healthcare workers need us all to work hard to reduce the strain on our caregivers and facilities.

Together, we can make a difference in our corner of the world.

6 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


CATALYST

FINDING VALUE IN YOUR MEMBERSHIP BY JENNIFER REISER, CCE, IOM CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

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embership organizations strive to provide meaningful value for your investment. The Billings Chamber is committed to building relationships with our members through ongoing interactions. Our hope is that we add to your lives and capture your attention enough to demonstrate the role we play in supporting your business and growing our community.

We know our members join for a number of different reasons including access to information, advocacy, education, networking, and marketing. However all of our members have one thing in common—the desire to see the return value that justifies your membership investment. With dozens of benefits, we believe your membership is packed with value; however, the list can seem overwhelming when you’re already tasked with running a business, engaging employees and visioning for the future. Consider what is important to you, and what motivates you. Review the Engagement Checklist, mark your interests, and then determine the best route to take. Select one, two or three things you’d like to try. After a while, take some time to reflect on those you selected and review the results. Your business needs and personal interests will change over time and you can return to the engagement check list to review your benefits at any time. For new members, the new member packet is your “welcome kit”—take the time to review its contents, make notes, and develop a plan. We encourage new and existing members to attend Chamber Journey—a member orientation that is offered monthly. Whether you’ve been a member for two weeks or twenty years, this is a great place to start (or restart) your engagement with our organization. Communication is key. If you aren’t getting what you need or we aren’t meeting your expectations, please say something. Reach out to any one of our team members, and let’s work together to make sure you get the best experience from your membership. We won’t stop working for business or for Billings. Your investment in the Chamber is what allows us to do all the important work we’re delivering. During this time of uncertainty, we’ve been a reliable, trusted source for information, delivering you access to leaders and decision makers, convening industries to ask questions and secure guidance to opening and operating safely.

If you have any questions about your membership, your benefits or the work we are doing on your behalf, connect with us at (406) 245-4111.

ENGAGEMENT CHECK LIST Pick a few to get started, and contact Rene@BillingsChamber.com for guidance! NETWORKING: E ngage here to meet other members and boosts awareness of your business. Connections Groups—limited to one person per industry/weekly meetings ollaborate—supportive group that helps with referrals/weekly open to all C members Business After Hours—hosted by chamber businesses/monthly Annual events: Ag Banquet-Jan. Chamber Breakfast-Mar. Ag Tour-Jun. Chamber Open Golf Tournament-Jun. Annual Meeting-Sep. Trails Committee—supporting outdoor activity in our community?/quarterly Event Volunteer for Billings Chamber and Visit Billings Agriculture Committee—Be informed & educated on the #1 industry/monthly Business Celebrations—ribbon cuttings, member open houses/no meeting BillingsWorks­—join their workforce council and receive BW communications Local or Federal and State Advisory Board—aid in shaping issues and policies MARKETING: Uplift your business and increase visibility, tell your story. Chamber Mailing Database—send out information about your business ember Information Center—look up other members, update data, enter jobs M or deals Chamber Jobs Board & Hot Deals Ribbon Cuttings—includes Facebook slideshow and commemorative plaque Advertising Package—radio, television, newspaper and social media offers Sponsorship Opportunities—promotion with events that are important to you Small Business Saturday/Shop Small Promotions—November Leadership Growth—develop yourself and your staff extGEN—young professionals group, no limit to participation based on N employer L eadership Billings—eight-month course, to learn about our business climate and community perspectives. omen’s Leadership Network—ENCORE unique programming, focus on W personal and professional growth and explore current issues facing female leaders, monthly sessions usiness Development Network—timely business topics to assist small B businesses, developing relationships to benefit business and explore opportunities for growth, monthly sessions

UPCOMING EVENTS:

DECEMBER 17th, 4pm JANUARY 28th, 8am FEBRUARY 25th, 8am MARCH 25th, 8am

EDUCATION: Learn through the Chamber to enhance your skills. Webinar Series

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 7


CHAMPiON

2021 VISION—LEGISLATIVE SESSION PLANNING BY DANIEL J. BROOKS, DIRECTOR; BUSINESS ADVOCACY S INING DETERM PRIORITIE

PRIORITIE ENGAGES

CHAMBER POLICIES

business climate and vibrant economy by serving the community in a Our mission at the Billings Chamber of Commerce is to develop a strong judgement we utilize the business expertise within our membership to guide our leadership role thereby enhancing the quality of life. With that in mind, a representing vastly different perspectives, we’ve necessarily adopted members thousand a on what is best for Billings businesses. However, with over of directors representative of the business community steers our ship. process that ensures members’ voices are taken into account and a board

The Billings Chamber offers many ways to stay connected with our business community.

Stay Informed

Visit our website billingschamber.com, see what’s going on, and sign up for our newsletter.

Connect

We invite you to attend our in-person and virtual events, network with fellow members, and hear about the great things your chamber community is doing.

Contact your Officials

We encourage you to contact your officials and make your voice heard. Let them know when they’re doing good, as well as when you’d like to see something different. You can easily reach your representatives at: billingschamber.com/actioncenter.

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e are less than a month away from closing the book on this terrible, terrible … terrible 2020, a year many of us will be happy to leave behind. Murder hornets were an actual thing. Megafires scorched the earth. The tragic death of George Floyd tore open a deep national wound far from healed. And a global pandemic steadily killing our fellow Americans rages on uncontained because politics and party trumped country. While we’re eager to close the book on 2020, we encourage you to open another—our latest Public Policy Guide. I give you my personal guarantee that compared to the metaphorical 2020 book, it will be so normal you’re likely to be bored. Which is exciting, right?! It’s been said there are only two things you can control: your actions and your preparation. Despite all that is out of our control, this is part of our effort to be prepared for the next two years, including the upcoming legislative session. We start with a membership survey, asking businesses to weigh in on a host of issues, including what is most important to them. That information is taken into account as two advisory boards compile a draft document that will go to the Chamber’s board of directors, 19 business leaders from our community, for ultimate approval. I encourage everyone to read the whole Public Policy Guide at Billingschamber.com/public-policy, when they get a chance. For now, I’ve put together a few highlights:

REDUCE THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS IN MONTANA Whether it’s decreasing tax rates on businesses or revising the law to make it easier for businesses to operate, we want to eliminate unnecessary burdens and reduce their cost of doing business. As an example, last

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2021 Public Policy Guide session we supported bills revising the taxation for certain oil production to lower the tax rates and hopefully allow for more effective extraction. We also supported a bill requiring timely licensure if your job requires a state-issued license, reducing the time to get people the required credentials they need to work, whether they work for a business or want to start their own.

SUPPORT SAFE HARBOR PROTECTIONS FOR BUSINESS REGARDING COVID EXPOSURE I covered this in depth in the last LiNK issue—you should check it out. Here’s the short version: according to the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, Huntonak.com, nationwide COVID complaints have exceeded 5,600 with 22 listed in Montana. We want to make sure that businesses following guidelines and making good faith attempts to protect workers and customers are protected from unnecessary lawsuits.

INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY RESOURCES SUCH AS POLICE AND FIRE PERSONNEL Taxpayers recently passed a mill levy that helped to balance the city’s budget which otherwise would have needed funds from reserves and cuts to services such as city parks. We now face the next step of passing another levy to add police officers that can help to address our increasing violent crime. The Billings Heights needs an additional fire station to adequately service that area of Billings. We want to make sure our public safety personnel are adequately staffed and have the resources they need to address the challenges we face. We look forward to working for our businesses in this difficult time and are happy to chat if you’ve got additional feedback or questions. Thank you for your membership, which helps us conduct this work. Together we’ll make progress and improve things for our business community. Shoot an email to Jack@BillingsChamber.com if you haven’t received your copy of our Public Policy Guide.

8 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


Do Your Part Keep Our School Doors Open Keep Our Community Open

https://www.visitbillings.com/do-your-part DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 9


MONTANA’S TRAILHEAD

ENCOURAGING AN

en afe OpS and

BILLINGS

ALEX TYSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VISIT BILLINGS

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he pandemic is a crisis negatively impacting many aspects of the overall economy. Two of the hardest hit are undoubtedly the hospitality and tourism industries. However, first and foremost, our communities are facing a health crisis. And, as Visit Billings continues to support visitors to Yellowstone County for leisure, personal and professional business purposes, we have a responsibility to keep an economic churn going while still promoting safe practices. Communicating safety messaging to visitors or potential visitors is a crucial role Visit Billings staff and partners are currently playing. Billings is the epicenter of commerce for our region. From healthcare, retail, and agriculture to our financial institutions, education, and energy— people travel to Billings for all sorts of reasons. They need to be able to access Billings’ businesses, and conversely, Billings’ business owners need to keep their doors open. It is an important, reciprocal role for the community to play. Continuing to accommodate visitors and travelers is important on many levels. However, making sure people understand how to responsibly travel to Billings and which guidelines and directives are in effect to protect public health is the goal of dedicated CARES Act Grant funds dispersed to Visit Billings by the State of Montana.

10 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


Photo courtesy of Visit Billings

MONTANA AWARE The Montana Aware campaign, which originated from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism and Business Development (MOTBD) offers Montana’s tourism marketing organizations like Visit Southeast Montana and Visit Billings toolkits to help promote a variety of responsible and respectful travel behaviors during the global pandemic. These toolkits are shared with communities across the region using CARES Act funding managed by tourism organizations in Montana. The Montana Aware program encourages Montana’s tourism partners and local businesses to use print and digital campaigns, radio, television, billboards, as well as flyers, posters, social media messages, customer emails and business websites to help inform patrons about safety guidelines for travel. With several waves of messaging, the overall goal is to remind visitors to take their health and safety, and that of the community, into consideration when visiting. The first wave of messaging in late summer encouraged visitors to put safety first and adventure second. The second, and current wave, focuses on exploring the community responsibly, and a third and final wave of messaging is due in the coming weeks and will offer a similar strategy.

Look for the “Shop Responsibly” safety components that include “know before you go” messages like: Wear your mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands, and Stay home if you are sick.

classroom. The Do Your Part—Keep Our School Doors Open campaign encourages people who may not see the bigger picture, taking into account how playing a positive role in keeping Yellowstone County COVID-19 cases low can help the community thrive as a whole. The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools and members of its Board of Directors organized this campaign with Rocky Mountain College, MSU Billings, Billings Public Schools, and Billings Catholic Schools. Together with volunteers, local businesses like Jana Graham Photography and Kinetic Marketing, and major partners like OrthoMontana, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, and RiverStone Health, are supporting this campaign focusing on residents and visitors doing their part to keep our school doors open. Coming out of Phase I last spring, the importance of having students in classrooms and not learning remotely was evident. With students in school, there is a direct positive impact on the economy and workforce, community stability in regard to crime, alcohol/drug abuse, and partner family assault, as well as the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students. This campaign focuses on the three W’s to encourage visitors and residents to be proactive in protecting public health. So, from banners and masks at local school activities and events to digital campaigns, billboards and storefront posters, Montana Aware safety messaging strategies offer a multi-layered approach to support businesses and the economy, which will ultimately help keep Billings open and safe for all.

These messages, along with efforts to ensure visitors know that Billings is open for business, are helping main street businesses keep their doors open today and in the future.

KEEP OUR SCHOOL DOORS OPEN

The mission of Visit Billings is to generate room nights for lodging facilities in the city of Billings by effectively marketing our region as a preferred travel destination.

The CARES Act funds have also allowed Visit Billings to help a grassroots committee expand its efforts to help keep area youth in the

Visit Billings is managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce. VisitBillings.com

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 11


STAFF PROFiLE

MeganHOFFMAN

POSITION: MARKETING SPECIALIST, VISIT SOUTHEAST MONTANA TIME ON STAFF: 8 MONTHS

Describe your position in 5 words. Promoting tourism in Southeast Montana. Favorite Chamber/Visit Billings event or program? I’m going through Leadership Billings right now and really enjoying it! What is one thing about the Chamber/Visit Billings you think most people don’t know? How passionate and creative everyone is—it’s been especially apparent over the last several months as everyone adapts to changes and is trying to help the community in any way they can. If you could make one change in Billings today, what would it be? Educating high schoolers and young kids of all the opportunities in the area – when I was that age my friends and I would always complain how little there was to do, which isn’t true at all. One adjective that describes you: Independent. The dish you’re known for cooking? Huckleberry crisp. If you could have lunch with one famous person, who would it be and why? Tell us about your photo:

My favorite thing to do is spend time with my dogs! We make it a priority to get outside for a walk or run every day to enjoy all the beautiful scenery in and around Billings.

Freddie Mercury—I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen music lately, and he was such a talented person, and lived a very interesting life. Words you live by: Respect everyone – especially those with different opinions.

Photo Courtesy Rhea Wolpoe

12 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


BIG SPACE IS IN OUR NATURE.

MAKOSHIKA STATE PARK - ANDY AUSTIN

BE SAFE OUT HERE.

Big adventures always take a little prep. Plan your trip and learn how to travel smart in Southeast Montana at SafeOutHereMT.com.

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 13


t s a e h t u o S

TRiPS on a TANKFUL

BE SAFE OUT HERE IN

MONTANA

BY MEGAN HOFFMAN, MARKETING SPECIALIST, VISIT SOUTHEAST MONTANA

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ut here in Southeast Montana, we are working hard to promote ways that businesses and individuals can take to flatten the curve of COVID-19, with the ultimate goal keeping residents and visitors safe while helping businesses and schools to remain open.

Earlier this year, through a federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act grant, Visit Southeast Montana initiated the new Safe Out Here campaign, which utilizes multilevel communication channels to share safety messaging from the Montana Department of Commerce and Department of Public Health and Human Services. Tourism organizations, like Visit Southeast Montana regional tourism, provide a path between state offices in Helena, residents of small communities and visitors. The Safe Out Here campaign focuses on: wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands, exploring responsibly and being Montana Aware.

Photo by Nathan Satran for Visit Southeast Montana

SPREADING THE WORD Visit Southeast Montana launched SafeOutHereMT.com, which is updated with the most recent pandemic-related travel information. We also offer free face-covering “buffs” or neck gaiters through the site, which are mailed directly to individuals. We have been all-handson-deck with the CARES messaging, saturating our communication channels, including blogs, organic social media and presentations. Plus, we share the message through regional television and radio ads; social media; print ads, posters, stickers; video distribution and more. In addition, we’ve launched a social media contest. Simply post a photo of yourself or your pet wearing the Visit Southeast Montana (free) buff and you could win a $25 gift certificate from a regional business. We are also giving away a $100 gift certificate for a regional lodging facility in December. See Southeast Montana on Facebook (Facebook.com/ SoutheastMontana) and enter today. There’s still time to win!

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

We've had an incredibly positive response to the Out Here We CARE pledge campaign and the economic impact to our local small businesses. - JESSICA MALONE, POWDER RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND AGRICULTURE

PLEDGE To further promote safety messaging, we’ve modified and scaled the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s Work at Home pledge to fit the small communities across Southeast Montana. For example, in Broadus, the Powder River Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture noted that working at home is difficult because of poor Internet access. As a result, Visit Southeast Montana customized Powder River Chamber’s Out Here We CARE sponsorship and incentivizes individuals and businesses promising to wear a mask when in public, in addition to other safety measures. "We've had an incredibly positive response to the Out Here We CARE pledge campaign and the economic impact to our local small businesses,” said Jessica Malone of the Powder River Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. “Most importantly, it's helping to normalize COVID safety, raise awareness and reward healthy habits in our community." We are working with regional chambers and encouraging all communities in Southeast Montana to take the Out Here We CARE pledge. To learn more about the pledge or any of the other COVID safety incentives, contact Brenda Maas, Director of Marketing, at 406-2945270 or Brenda@SoutheastMontana.com. To order a face-covering buff or for the latest COVID-safe travel information, visit SafeOutHereMT.com.

southeastmontana.com The mission of Visit Southeast Montana is to increase tourism to Southeast Montana by increasing awareness of our region, showcasing our cultural heritage, developing memorable experiences and educating our residents about the economic benefits of tourism. Visit Southeast Montana is managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce.

14 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


BE SAFE OUT HERE. Kindly help us slow the spread of COVID-19.

WEAR A MASK

MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCE (AT LEAST 6 FT. APART)

WASH YOUR HANDS & USE HAND SANITIZER

AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE

COVER COUGHS & SNEEZES

PLAN AHEAD

BE RESPECTFUL

PROTECT THE OUTDOORS

EXPLORE LOCALLY

SafeOutHereMT.com

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 15

TERRY BADLANDS – KELLY WICKS

BIG SPACE IS IN OUR NATURE.


DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IMPORTANT WORK TO BE DONE BY CARMELITA DOMINGUEZ, MBA MONTANA ALLERGY & ASTHMA SPECIALISTS

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ontana is made up of a predominantly white population. Yellowstone County is comprised of roughly 90% white and 10% other races, with Native Americans making up the majority of the minority population. These statistics may lead some to ask why the Billings Chamber of Commerce has identified Diversity and Inclusion as one of its strategic initiatives this year. And the bottom line is, there is important work to be done.

The Billings Chamber of Commerce recognizes the morality of having an equitable, inclusive, diverse community and workforce. Most people in our community will understand and agree that all people should be treated equally and fairly under the law regardless of their race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, political party, religion or disability. However, there has not be a unified effort within the Chamber to address diversity issues across our community specifically in regards to identifying gaps and building inclusive plans for management. We have not had the tough conversations necessary to grow; nor do we recognize how we can use Diversity and Inclusion as a tool to keep and grow our workforce.

SETTING THE FOUNDATION I had the pleasure of speaking with several members of the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee with the Chamber. I proudly serve with this group of leaders, helping to ask tough questions and encourage respectful yet challenging dialogues. My fellow leaders shared their insights with me for this story. Yolawnda Henry, HR Director for Alternatives, explains why the Chamber established this group and is dedicating time to Diversity and Inclusion. She states, “Given all of the systemic issues surrounding Diversity and Inclusion and Social Injustice happening in the country, the Chamber wants to take a proactive YOLAWNDA HENRY stance to ensure that they are prepared to face opportunities as they present themselves in the local community.” The Billings Chamber also understands that Diversity and Inclusion gives our community a competitive advantage in regards to attracting and retaining talent. According to estimates from BillingsWorks, 30,000 people will retire in the next 10 years. It is vital that our community not only fills those shoes, but also grows its workforce to support the next generation of retirees. We need businesses to focus on innovation, creativity, sustainability and growth. We believe that Diversity and Inclusion is an essential part of this work.

Photo courtesy of Visit Billings

FEELS LIKE HOME Let me give you a little personal insight. In rural American healthcare, it is a challenge to find sub specialists. When every city in America is searching for pediatric neurologists, surgeons, GI specialists and more, it can become a real struggle. You often find doctors from different countries or backgrounds who try to move their families to start their American dream. The pay is good; the job is good; the place is affordable with good schools; and it seems like a decent place to raise a family. But, they end up leaving. Why? Because it doesn’t quite feel like the right match for their family. It doesn’t feel like home. My dad was one of the top neurosurgeon medical students in the Philippines. He was born and raised in Metro Manila, Philippines (population ~ 13 million). He was invited to finish his fellowship at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. He brought his wife and baby with him, and they lived in a small apartment in New Jersey. Once he completed his training, he received an offer to go to Madisonville, KY (population 19,000) for a job as a neurosurgeon, and eventually Evansville, IN (pop 100,000) to join a private practice. Growing up in rural Indiana in the 80s, I remember traveling 5-6 hours to Chicago to get Filipino foods that we ate at home. I remember being teased on the playground for looking different. We were clearly a minority, and I was often very hesitant to talk about our culture as all I wanted to do was fit in. Our family was thousands of miles away, across an ocean, and we lived in a predominantly white community where I was generally assumed to be Chinese. How did we make it work? There were a few Filipino medical families that began to recognize the need to celebrate our culture as well as the need for essential jobs to be filled at the hospitals. They worked with the hospitals and private practices to put them in contact with their networks, and the Filipino population began to grow. What was once just a couple of families in the area, grew to dozens, and with that grew a rising population of other ethnicities. We celebrated holidays together, birthdays, and other momentous occasions. We joined activities at schools, contributed to the economy, cared for hundreds of patients, and gave back to the community that we called home. We found the perfect fit of both work/life balance in order to thrive.

16 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


JOHNNY MCCLUSKY

As Johnny McClusky, Community Development Manager with First Interstate Bank, states, “If we don’t have inclusivity, how many clients are you losing? How many dollars are walking out the door? The more inviting we can be, the better our economy can be because we are attracting that much more business. We then encourage people to start their own business and be the small business owners that are the backbone of our economy.”

The Billings Chamber of Commerce is the perfect platform to launch such an initiative because it focuses on our economy and workforce. They understand that strong diversity and inclusion policies result in a higher bottom line, greater employee retention, and increased innovation and creativity. Utilizing best practices amongst other chambers across the nation, allows us to share effective strategies that can be implemented by our members. This allows new leaders to rise up and find their voices in the workplace as well as solidify their commitment to their occupation and community.

I believe the Chamber can shed light on the discrimination that happens every day in Billings, by sharing stories of those that have been discriminated against and teaching the community how to stand up and say it’s wrong to force your personal beliefs on someone. - KODY CHRISTENSEN-LINTON, RESOURCE OUTREACH COUNSELOR, DOWNTOWN BILLINGS The Billings Chamber of Commerce is committed to starting conversations, identifying key areas and plans for improvement, highlighting and connecting minority groups, and fostering an inclusive environment where Billings can be home to anyone. “I believe the Chamber has the potential to create a ripple,” shared Kody ChristensenLinton, Resource Outreach Counselor with Downtown Billings. “I believe the Chamber can connect with our community which has not seen the discrimination or did not know how KODY to address it. I believe the Chamber can help CHRISTENSEN- educate people on how to approach a situation LINTON as a business and as a human. I believe the Chamber can shed light on the discrimination that happens every day in Billings, by sharing stories of those that have been discriminated against and teaching the community how to stand up and say it’s wrong to force your personal beliefs on someone.”

BILLINGS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION PURPOSE AND MISSION: Our Commitment to a more diverse and inclusive community for a stronger economic future.

The Billings Chamber of Commerce believes in Diversity and Inclusion. We believe that our community and the businesses that serve it will be at their best when the talent of each and every citizen is developed, actively sought and fully utilized in our economy/community. We strongly assert that only when all members of our community have equal access and opportunity to participate in all that our society has to offer will Billings realize its potential. These ideals hold true and need to be practiced within each workplace and in the business community as a whole. With this in mind, we want to clearly state: ▶ W e believe that every individual has a right to live and work in an environment free of inequality, injustice, intolerance, prejudice, or systemic restrictions of their constitutional rights. ▶ W e reject ALL forms of prejudice, discrimination, and systemic restrictions based on age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, family status, veteran status, or any other corporate or individual restriction prohibited by law. ▶ W e firmly believe that diversity and inclusion are not just the right of every individual, but actively championing these paradigms will result in a more prosperous, innovative, and thriving business environment where talent stays and great leaders are regularly produced. Each person shall be judged solely on the content of their character and abilities. ▶ W e believe we have a responsibility as a business and community leader to lead by example to create the diverse and inclusive community that will truly result in every persons’ unfettered ability to achieve the American Dream in peace.

 D&I MISSION

We will continuously work to identify and dismantle conscious and non-conscious systemic bias and discriminatory actions in our workplaces and within our community through education, training, advocacy, mentorship, having difficult conversations, and regularly facilitating diverse and inclusive interactions as a convener within the city’s business community.

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THE BUSINESS CASE FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION What is the competitive advantage for diversity and inclusion? Photo courtesy of Visit Billings

 INNOVATION Businesses with a diverse workforce benefit from different backgrounds, ways of thinking, and life experiences.

 ATTRACT AND RETAIN TALENT People, especially the younger generation, want to find a workplace that will welcome those of different backgrounds, embrace equality, seek new ideas, and grow leadership.

 EMPOWER AND ENGAGE EMPLOYEES People who are part of a diverse workplace engage more not only in work, but in the organization itself. They are empowered because the business made a commitment to its workforce about being open to diverse perspectives.

 INCREASED SALES AND REVENUE An empowered workforce that thrives on innovation and commitment to employees yields higher sales and revenue.

he world is demanding the business community T to value all views of stakeholders. -H EATHER MCDOWELL, VP OF LEGAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, SIBANYE STILLWATER

BUSINESSES ARE READY We also know companies are actively looking for Diversity and Inclusive tools to help their business, workforce and revenue goals. State demographic data shows that while women in Montana are slightly more educated than men, there are only about 57.8% of them in the labor market compared to 67.5% of men, and women only earn 68.35% of what men earn. SibanyeStillwater Mines, an industrial employer of over 1,800 employees, is looking for diversity and inclusion strategic work. They have established a “Women in Mining Initiative” to encourage participation and leadership in their organization. “The world is demanding the business community to value all views of stakeholders,” explains Heather McDowell, VP of Legal, Environmental and Government Affairs for Sibanye Stillwater, in regards to the timing of this initiative. “We understand that Sibanye-Stillwater Mines needs to meet the needs of not only shareholders but the stakeholders as well. It makes sense to work with the Chamber because they have access to the networks, tools, and best practices that will guide us in the right direction.” “It is rewarding to work with the Chamber who I feel can make a real impact on the Business Community,” McDowell concluded. The Diversity and Inclusion team is made up of dynamic voices. When members were asked why committee members chose to get involved, Christensen-Linton explains, “I chose to get involved because I saw where Billings needed to improve—from a personal level. I want to

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All this year, and especially during the holidays, we celebrate you.

W

E CELEBRATE WHAT YOU CELEBRATE. The joy of the holidays is in honoring the variety of traditions that make this time so meaningful. This year’s events have been unique and the experience has us more grateful than ever for the opportunity to recognize our cherished relationships with all of our clients, colleagues and communities. From all of us at PayneWest, may this season be filled with love and light, gratitude and hope for a blessed new year. We want to be your partner in insurance—for business and personal insurance, employee benefit and surety needs. Call us at (406) 238-1900.

PayneWest.com/Small-Business

3289 Gabel Rd, Billings

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 19


bring light to the subject of equity in Billings. Not many people in this town can say that they have had to fight for their rights. Not many people in this town can say they have had to sit through opinionated and degrading hearings and testimony as the LGBTQ+ community. I chose to join this committee to be a voice for those in my community who have been silenced for too long.” “It was a simple choice to get involved,” Henry continued. “Our community needs leaders that do the actual work and this work is integral to moving our community forward.” We believe this initiative will help build relationships, grow our workforce, establish new, fresh leaders with diverse insight, and unify Billings in a way that we all prosper, communicate, and thrive in our home community.

In upcoming issues and other Chamber communications we’ll bring a variety of topics and tough conversations. We’ll cover stories on:

 PRIVILEGE  NATIVE VOICE/RELATIONSHIPS  GENDER Learn more about the committee and more at BillingsChamber.com/Equality-Of-Opportunity Photo courtesy of Visit Billings

Safety works, even from home. Many of us are working in new ways, in new places. And that means workplace risks of a new variety – things like kitchen table “desks,” toy trucks as tripping hazards, even eye strain from poor lighting. Montana State Fund has simple and inexpensive tips for setting up your safe workspace, wherever it happens to be. Get them at safemt.com.

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BE SAFE IN SOUTHEAST MONTANA.

LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT - ANDY AUSTIN

BIG SPACES. BIG PLACES.

We go big but travel smart out here by: • Staying home when sick. • Following local protocols and guidelines. • Staying up-to-date and flexible when planning.

DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 21


B usiness. B illings.

HERE FOR

HERE FOR

BY MARYA PENNINGTON, PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER

THE BILLINGS CHAMBER YOUR CATALYST FOR GROWTH

Every community needs a catalyst—leaders who rally people to support each other and make the world a better place. At the end of the day, we’re all capable of coming together and being a part of something big, something important, something meaningful. And the Billings Chamber of Commerce is proud to play a role that sparks significant and sustainable changes and inspires possibilities in our community. We have three primary roles we take very seriously. As a Convener, we strive to make connections among dynamic people who can and will make things happen for a better Billings. As a Champion for businesses, we are always fighting to build a strong and thriving economic community. And most importantly, we are the Catalyst for change, a relevant spark in Billings that ignites growth for all business in our area. John Brewer, Billings Chamber President and CEO puts it well, “These three words succinctly describe what we do collectively as a staff, board, and volunteers. I believe they are galvanizing words that build a cohesive team, in the larger sense, and it places our members and dedicated volunteers in the role of the hero as we champion our community to greater heights.” Let’s break these roles down a little further to better understand how the Billings Chamber is working for you, your business and our entire community.

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

So how do we accomplish this? Well, we put on some pretty stellar events, facilitate the best leadership development programs in the city, and convene leaders from both sides of the aisle for civil discourse and trusted information that gets us all at the same table. Right now, our events look different, but we haven’t stopped bringing you all together. From the Tele-Town Halls connecting you with leaders from DC to Helena and many places in between, to a webinar series offering targeted skillbuilding opportunities and connections with professionals who can help—we’re here, building those bridges. And let’s not miss the leadership development networks: Leadership Billings, Leadership Billings Alumni Network, ENCORE: Women’s Leadership Network, Billings NextGEN, and the list goes on. The best and the brightest professionals of our city coming together to get informed, get connected and grow in their careers and community. We bring people together with other community leaders to build relationships, seize opportunities, identify challenges and promote positive outcomes.

CONVENER CONNECTING DYNAMIC PEOPLE WHO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. What is truly remarkable, is that the Chamber thrives on collaboration and creating space for connection. When people gather in official policy meetings or network in informal settings to discuss the issues that really impact them, good things happen. That’s why the Chamber works so hard to bring people together, because we are advocates for community action driven by understanding.

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We bring together voices from diverse industries and backgrounds (young professionals, female leaders, diverse cultural heritages, senior industry leaders, etc.). And then we listen. But most importantly we act. Starting a movement, supporting contentious health code mandates, legislation or candidates, is the spark that’s often needed for catalytic change. - JOHN BREWER


CHAMPION FIGHTING TO BUILD A STRONG, THRIVING COMMUNITY. The Chamber team works diligently with its members to identify the most challenging issues facing the Billings region—and then takes action. Wherever we find obstacles to progress and a shortage of solutions, we take the lead. We get to heart of the issues, overcoming roadblocks and bringing about real change by connecting local leaders and influencers in business and government. We are working toward a post-pandemic community where businesses thrive; its resident-workforce is healthy, happy and successful; and a place where families and individuals want to relocate. We are advocating for policies that will benefit our businesses, our community and our quality of life. We are pushing for smart planning, and forming strategic partnerships to tackle our most-challenging issues, from business support and public safety, to public policy advocacy and being a community that is open and safe for all. We work every day to promote a supportive environment for businesses to thrive, because Billings’ role as a center of commerce is worth fighting for. Our priorities focus on addressing issues that grow our economy and workforce and create greater quality of life for all. Many across the country may be looking to relocate to communities that are healthy, safe, accepting and less crowded destinations. Being under the Big Sky can be a motivating factor, but it’s not enough. These priorities require immediacy, investment and allocation of significant Chamber resources. Today, our advocacy is targeted toward keeping your doors open and our community and economy healthy. We’ve worked with the City Council to expand ordinances to allow outdoor dining, communicated with the County Health Officer to adjust restrictions which would have been detrimental to many small business, advocated for dollars to fund restriction enforcement through the Governor’s office in order to limit the businesses ignoring the restrictions and support the businesses working hard to follow them and keep Billings and their employees safe.

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

witnessed kindness, strength, solidarity and an uprising of amazing community pride. And Brewer agrees, “Our chamber is only successful when we can truly speak as the voice of our members. As businesses, as a community, and even on a worldwide front, these strange and difficult times require stable leadership and strong voices. The Billings business community consists of incredible leaders and strong, bold voices that are needed now more than ever.”

STAY WITH US Your Billings Chamber has been there with you every step of the way. During this time of uncertainty, we’ve been a reliable, trusted source for information, delivering you access to leaders and decision makers, convening industries to ask questions and secure guidance to opening and operating safely. We’ve hosted a strong webinar series connecting you with thought leaders and experts to help guide you as you pivot your business again and again. We’ve been a champion for business, advocating for you on federal and state legislation. And, we serve as the catalyst for action, sharing tons of information on how to support all of you, our businesses, doing what we can to stop fear from getting in the way of commerce. And we’ll continue to be here with you for every step as we move forward, safely and responsibly. The connections to assistance we’ve provided in recent months have never been more critical to you, our members, and the community as we face this unprecedented challenge. Your support allows us to do the important work we’ve been focused on. We won’t stop working for business or for Billings. We have a long history of doing just that. We ask that you also stay with us. Your investment in the Billings Chamber is what allows us to do all the important work we’re delivering.

Photo by Andy Austin for Visit Southeast Montana

CATALYST OUR VOICE IS THE VOICE OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY. We know these times have been hard. More than hard. We’re all being challenged emotionally, mentally, financially… We’ve faced differing opinions, fear, and more obstacles than any of us planned for. We’ve also

YOUR CHAMBER IS HARD AT WORK FOR YOU No one business or organization can solve the problems we face. But working together, we can. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in the Billings Chamber of Commerce. We push for sensible policies that foster growth. We provide resources to develop and attract the best and brightest workforce and move our community forward. And our members, who believe in the quality of our community, our workforce and our surrounding environment, are our most valuable assets.

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P riorities

2020 AND BEYOND

COVID-19: IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF BUSINESS

The Chamber exists to support local businesses, and how we do that is evolving rapidly.

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY "Open and Safe” is only a start to recovery. To become nationally competitive for talent and entrepreneurship, Billings must be “Open for All.” The path forward requires our community to intentionally identify diversity and inclusion as a priority.

A SAFER BILLINGS Public safety in a community (real and perceived) is an important determining factor of resident quality of life and relocation. It directly impacts consumer motivation and there are many contributing factors and potential solutions to crime and safety.

POLICY AND PEOPLE MATTER The people we elect to set policy will go on to act on business, community and societal issues. Selecting business-friendly candidates to serve as elected leaders is the first step to developing business-friendly policies.

EVEN FROM A DISTANCE...

We wish you health, growth, and prosperity in the New Year!

For essential travel needs, our suites are designed with you in mind. All suites feature fully equipped kitchens.

• For your safety: knowledgeable staff, trained in environmental cleaning procedures and social distancing in effect. • Medical staff discounts.

We are grateful for our clients and associates in the Billings community for being part of our journey and the winding road of 2020. 2840 GRANT RD | BILLINGS

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NEXT UP WITH

NEXTGEN IS SPONSORED BY

BY BRIAN HAFNER, UNIVERSAL LENDING CO-CHAIR, NEXTGEN LEADERSHIP TEAM

T

he holiday season is upon us. Does it feel different to you than in years past? I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends and family, just maybe at a safe distance. To say the least, 2020 has been a difficult year of unexpected challenges and extreme obstacles. But it’s also been a year where we are finding out what we are each really made of. I’m hopeful we will all look back on 2020 and be proud of not only what we have endured and overcome, but also of the innovative ways we changed things up in order to progress.

We have forever changed what it means to “network”. Instead of cramming into conference rooms, we are now logging onto our computers. Instead of driving across town and trying to find a parking spot, we are walking to the next room and pulling up a chair. But we are still networking and building relationships. NextGEN gives us opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have. We continue to lead the way for young professionals

in our community to grow, connect, and learn. The leadership team is consistently working on new ways to interact with one another without being in the same room. We’ve set up virtual meetings with leaders throughout the community. We’ve organized fun events like Facebook contests, online cooking classes, zoom lunches, and volunteer opportunities. We are in unusual times, but there are so many ways to be involved and make a difference, we just have had to be a bit more creative in our efforts! Every one of us finds value through different sources. But the only way to perceive true value is to personally put in your own effort and time. “You get out of it what you put into it” is a familiar saying for a reason. It can be annoying when your mom says it, but, honestly, it still rings true. So join us at our next online meeting. Invite some friends and let’s meet up virtually. Gather in small groups and talk things out. Have a little fun with it while continuing to build those bonds that encouraged us all to join NextGEN in the first place. 2020 has been an interesting year, but WE ARE NEXTGEN. We will not only make the most of what we’ve been given, we will make it better than before.

Making the Homeownership Dream a Reality.

406.237.0104 3127 Central Ave. • Ste. 4 Billings, MT 59102 Company NMLS# 3274 NMLS ID# 250504 Branch NMLS# 140408

DeDe Stoner Branch Manager/Loan Officer guildmortgage.com/dedestoner

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BUSiNESS SPOTLiGHT

GROWING A LEGACY: GAINAN’S FLORAL BY MARYA PENNINGTON, PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER PHOTOS PROVIDED COURTESY OF GAINAN'S

T

here is an old proverb that says, “Take time to smell the roses.” The idea is to remind us to relax and take time out of our busy schedule in order to enjoy or appreciate the beauty that life offers. Good advice for times like these. And flowers always seem to communicate for us when we’re not quite sure what to say. “Congratulations!” “I love you.” “Great job!” “I’m sorry for your loss.” Flowers will never go out of style, and according to our recent survey, neither has Gainan’s Floral, one of the most beloved and successful businesses in Billings.

Gainan's Flowers first location at 2nd A ve N and N 30th St.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Jim Gainan

Their story began in 1951 when Betty and Grant Gainan opened their first flower shop downtown, upgrading and moving several times, expanding to the west end store on 24th St. W, and the Heights Garden Center on Bench Blvd. They launched their website in 1996, increasing product offerings and accessibility. Since then, the Downtown and West End locations have merged into a convenient new mid-town location, with Gainan’s Midtown Flowers opening in 2018. “It’s the same Gainan’s you’ve grown to love and more, with an exciting new look!” Jim Gainan reassured.

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We will get through this difficult time. We just have to stay positive and focused on how we can do our part to make the world a better place. - MIKE GAINAN

CUSTOMERS ARE FAMILY Customers have always been a top priority for Gainan’s, viewing it as a partnership with the community. “It’s a service mentality. It is truly a privilege to share in people’s lives, helping them celebrate those most impactful moments,” said Mick Gainan. Customers are always wowed by their first visit to the stores, and the Gainans work really hard to make each visit positive and personal, focusing on excellent customer service and heartfelt interest in each person or circumstance. Mick shares, “We have lifelong customers who tell us their holiday traditions wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the Christmas Open House or our Poinsettia Show. We know their names, and ask them how they’ve been. We’re family.”

COVID EFFECTS Like most small local businesses, Gainan’s hasn’t escaped the effects of the pandemic. They have followed the guidelines from the beginning, with physical distancing and mask use, and for the most part have seen

customers comply. Taking care of their staff has been a priority too. They received a Payroll Protection Program loan last spring to support their staff while their stores were closed during the lockdown. And while flower sales and deliveries have gone up during the last 6 months, their retail stores have suffered. “The retail gig has been hard to play. People want to see and touch the products before they buy,” Mick Gainan said, “but for the most part, we have had steady walk-ins and loyal customers who we’re grateful for.”

GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY Gainan's offers a few unique fundraising programs. Helping Hands, designed to benefit local schools, churches and non-profit organizations, let’s customers choose to have Gainan’s Flowers and Garden Center make a donation to one of the participating organizations. To date, Gainan’s has donated over $30,000 to the community through this program. And each year in August, the ‘Roses for Kids’ Fundraiser offers specially priced rose bouquets. Each bouquet purchased makes a donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County. Over $30,000 has been donated for this program as well.

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Gainan's Flowers first location 2nd A ve N and N 30th St.

THE BOTTOM LINE At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. Gainan’s is an integral part of the Billings community, celebrating life events and having a huge impact on the quality of life for residents. When asked what he loves most about Gainan’s Floral, Mick answered, “I love getting up in the morning and going to work. My family, our staff and the personal connections with our customers is just awesome. I love what I do.” And Mick is quick to offer a bit of wisdom to this extended family, “We will get through this difficult time. We just have to stay positive and focused on how we can do our part to make the world a better place. Take care of yourself, get outside, do something for others, and we’ll get through it together.” Take time to the smell the roses indeed.

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Gainan's Flowers first advertisement.


CONVENER

s t n e v E

CONVENERS FOR BILLINGS IN A WORLD WITH FEW BY ALYSSA VOELTZ, MEMBER EXPERIENCE MANAGER

T

he way we convene has been transformed by COVID-19, but connection is still our focus. We continue exploring new avenues to create valuable connections, networking opportunities, and relevant education. We know when people gather in official policy meetings or network in informal settings to discuss the issues that really impact them, good things happen. That’s why we bring members together with community leaders to build relationships, seize opportunities, identify challenges and promote positive outcomes.

VIRTUAL EVENTS BRING BACK A SENSE OF CONNECTEDNESS

to announce its first ever Ag Appreciation Celebration Week sponsored by Yellowstone Valley Electric. Agriculture is the region’s number one industry. In lieu of meeting in person, the week offers insight on the agriculture industry and celebrates the community that works tirelessly to provide us with fabulous food and clothing. It’s about education, admiration and gratitude for the area’s farmers, ranchers, consumers as well as agri-business and agri-business research representatives. The week kicks off on Sunday, January 24th and runs through Saturday, January 30th. You don’t want to miss the chance to be a part of this incredible week whether you are a resident or part of the business community. From a Cooking Series and social media contests to education and member spotlights, there are opportunities for everyone. Follow our posts for a deep dive into the industry that effects our lives daily. Visit our landing page to learn how you can be involved. Find more details on all of these events at BillingsChamber.com. Thank you to our title sponsor

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the Chamber is committed to creating space to connect. Chances are, you are attending multiple Zoom meetings a week and may be feeling “Zoomed out.” We completely understand, and that’s why the Billings Chamber has invested in a unique virtual platform. Remo provides the opportunity to bring back Business After Hours while still providing meaningful interactions between members and community leaders. The Chamber works hard to be a resource to help guide and support business growth. We are excited to announce our new webinar series, utilizing Remo, which focuses on timely and applicable education to support you, our members. The series is sponsored by Wells Fargo and will kick off January 2021. The topics covered will benefit your business, create collaboration among peers, and grow you professionally. Watch for communication regarding how to sign up!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THESE FEMALE BUSINESS LEADERS FOR COMPLETING THE 2020 WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP NETWORK! Aaron Redland

Kayleen Masters

Alex Tyson

Kelly Smith

Ali Mitchell

Kristi Drake

Allyn Hulteng

Kym Black

Chamber A.M. is a great way for members to connect with the Chambers’ strategic priorities focused on addressing issues that grow our economy, workforce, and create greater quality of life. In October we focused on People and Policy Matter featuring our endorsed candidates, Public Policy Guide, and received an update from the U.S. Chamber. If you missed it, don’t worry! They are recorded and available to you on the Chamber’s blog! These quarterly webinars are presented by Entre Technology Services. Stay tuned for more information regarding upcoming Virtual Chamber AM events.

Amanda Green

Lainey Reynolds-Keene

Amy Schulte

Liana Susott

Angela Stiller

Melanie Schwarz

Brittani Hunter

Patrice Elliott

Chaley Harney

Patti Webster

Haley Vannatta

Robyn Sargent

Hannah Olson

Sandy Wong

Jade Jagers

Shelli Mann

Jennifer Capser

Sylvia Noble

AG APPRECIATION CELEBRATION WEEK

Jody Cottrell

Toby O'Rourke

Karen Grosz

Valeria Jeffries

Katy Easton

Yolawnda Henry

In a world of limitation, the Chamber continues to be innovative and creative to build community, connection, and bring relevant education.

VIRTUAL CHAMBER AM

Awareness and appreciation: that’s why the Chamber is proud

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GET TO KNOW THE BOARD:

HeatherMCDOWELL

VP LEGAL, ENVIRONMENTAL, AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS • US REGION AT SIBANYE-STILLWATER BOARD MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE AND DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION COMMITTEES Photo Courtesy Rhea Wolpoe

Words you live by? “Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.” It’s attributed to Gerry Sikorski, a not-wellknown congressman from Minnesota. It’s such a simple objective that requires only a mindset.

Your first job? I grew up on a ranch in Bridger and was moving sprinkler pipe and cows in my earliest memories. Off the ranch, I cleaned stalls for the local vet clinic.

The snack always found in your desk/office? Coffee counts as a snack, right??

Why did you initially choose to get involved with the Chamber? My introduction to the Chamber was a think-tank discussion about local and regional childcare resources with the Chamber and Federal Reserve representatives. After having twins six months into my current job, I am passionate about getting childcare resources in our region and the country right. I was so pleased to see an entity like the Chamber study this issue and have been equally pleased to tackle complex issues like diversity and inclusion as part of the Chamber Board.

What is the number one thing in Billings you’d take a visiting friend to see/do? A run at Zimmerman Park, followed by drinks at Walkers and dinner at the Fieldhouse.

One adjective that describes you: Bold.

If you had a super power, what would it be? A magic elixir that requires everyone to see the “other side.” I think a solid majority of people want to live in a less divisive, more collaborative world. The more we can understand about those who see things differently than we do, the closer we will come to a more collaborative approach. Initiatives like Leadership Montana and my company’s Good Neighbor Agreement with Northern Plains Resource Council are great examples of this type of “gracious space” in action.

Tell us about your photo:

Everyone in my family knows that the right number of horses is “one more!” I grew up riding on our family ranch and rodeoing. A few years ago, I got into show jumping and compete on my two Thoroughbreds—Feel the Moment and Catfish Tuesday—who were racehorses in their former lives. I’m adding a third retired racehorse to the herd soon and can hear my husband rolling his eyes as he reads this!

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Favorite movie and why? Love Actually is my favorite movie. It’s true that one need only visit airport arrival areas to see love everywhere. Plus, who doesn’t want Hugh Grant as head of state??


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YEAR-END TAX PLANNING STRATEGIES FOR YOUR BUSINESS BY EIDE BAILLY’S TRANSACTION SERVICES TEAM

I

n the midst of current economic uncertainty, organizations are seeking ways to contain costs, enhance cash balances, and reduce tax liabilities. A productive way to do this is through year-end tax planning. Now is a great time to consider implementing strategies that defer income and/or accelerate deductions for tax reporting that can save you money. While many think of taxes primarily around March and April annually, year-round, proactive tax planning can help you be better prepared to minimize your overall federal and state tax burden and ensure you take full advantage of available credits and deductions. Tax planning, especially as we approach the end of the calendar, is smart business planning. Following are a few common tax planning strategies that you should consider for your organization even during a time of uncertainty.

UTILIZE DEPRECIATION Depreciation allows organizations to record the economic value loss of an asset over time as a tax-deductible expense. Depreciation reduces taxable income and, consequently, an organization’s overall tax burden. Thanks to the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, organizations can currently depreciate 100% of qualified property in the year acquired up to $1 million annually until 2022; thereafter a phase-down of the bonus depreciation percentage by 20% each year from 2023 through 2026 will occur. Qualifying new or used assets purchased, even on credit, and placed in service by December 31 will yield a tax deduction of 100% of the asset cost! Since depreciation is an accounting method, accelerating deductions into years with higher tax rates may result in permanent savings. If you have property that has not been analyzed to ensure the most advantageous depreciation methods are being utilized, now is the time to take another look.

COST SEGREGATION STUDY A cost segregation study is another way to increase cash flow by utilizing accelerated depreciation methods. Cost segregation studies help to accelerate depreciation deductions associated with real estate, reducing taxes paid currently rather than over future years. A cost segregation study is specifically associated with depreciable real estate. Tax deductions are most often found in instances of real estate renovation, construction, or purchase.

BUSINESS STRUCTURE REVIEW Business entity type can directly impact your tax planning strategies. The taxation of income and distributions, as well as owner legal liability, are some of the main factors that differentiate business structures. It is important to consider the tax consequences associated with each structure type and whether an alternative structure is available and preferable.

SECTION 199A AND THE 20% PASS-THROUGH DEDUCTION Certain entity types including pass-through businesses like sole proprietorships, single-member LLCs, and S corporations, can annually deduct 20% of “qualified business income.” Qualified business income is defined as domestic, net business income excluding wages, guaranteed payments, and investment income subject to certain

thresholds and limitations. Determine if your business qualifies for the 20% 199A deduction before year-end and, if so, any options available to maximize the current year tax deduction.

TIMING OF INCOME AND EXPENSES

Another way to plan and save from a tax perspective is by properly timing income and expenses, as well as accounting method planning. This key tax planning strategy can help you reduce your overall tax liability. For some organizations, it may mean accelerating income and deferring expenses. For others, it may mean deferring income and accelerating expenses in the current year to decrease your tax liability, lessening the tax burden of your organization and increasing cash flow. Important items to consider when it comes to timing income and expenses include: • Bonuses / employee compensation • Fixed asset additions / repairs • Retirement plan contributions / distributions • Realized capital gains / losses • Charitable contributions

UTILIZE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS

Donating to charities and nonprofits can be an incredibly beneficial tax planning strategy. By controlling the timing of your donation, you can use charitable giving to strategically plan deductions and overall taxable income. Types of contributions to consider include: • Cash donations • Stock donations • I RA donations • Private foundations or donor-advised funds • Charitable remainder trusts • Gifts that qualify for the Montana Endowment Tax Credit No matter how you decide to contribute, make sure you’re donating to a qualified charity in order to receive tax-deductible contributions. It’s also important to obtain valuations, as needed, to ensure non-cash donations qualify for a tax deduction.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TAX PLANNING

Proactive tax planning can have lasting beneficial implications on your organization and its bottom line. Identifying and implementing strategies to reduce your current tax liability by reviewing income and expenditures better positions your organization for the future while increasing cash flow currently. It’s also important to understand that new legislation and guidance may impact your annual tax planning strategies. Working with a qualified tax advisor to make sense of your tax plan will help ensure compliance and identify strategies to help attain overall business goals. RON YATES, CPA Eide Bailly Billings Partner-in-Charge 406.896.2423 RYates@EideBailly.com

DEBBIE POTTER, CPA Eide Bailly Billings Partner and Tax Department Head 406.896.2498 DPotter@EideBailly.com

Originally published on EideBailly.com.

32 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


CONFUSED COMPOSED

Year-end can be a confusing time, but the right team can help you stay organized and get ahead of the game. From W-2 reporting to estate planning—and everything in between—we can help as you wrap up 2020 and look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

What inspires you, inspires us. 406.896.2400 | eidebailly.com/yearend DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 33


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PRiORiTY SPOTLiGHT PRiORiTY SPOTLiGHT

KEEP THE

HERE

BY ALYSSA VOELTZ, MEMBER EXPERIENCE MANAGER

L

ocally owned and small businesses are what make Billings such an amazing place to live and visit. They also need our support now more than ever. COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on small businesses throughout the nation. This is why the Billings Chamber created the Keep the Cheer Here campaign.

Participating businesses were a part of a game board which helped consumers know how to find them and how to shop whether in-store, curbside, online, or delivery. They also received a Shop Responsibly Toolkit courtesy of Visit Billings. The toolkit provided them with tools and resources to help keep consumers safe while shopping.

Keep the Cheer Here is a five week shop local campaign running from November 16th – December 21st and focuses on shopping responsibly and shopping Billings. The goal is simple: remind the Billings community to support their friends and neighbors by spending their dollars with businesses in Billings, and to do so in a way that helps to keep the economy and community healthy.

We appreciate our sponsors, Western Security Bank and Visit Billings, for helping make this campaign possible. There is still time to support Billings’ small businesses this holiday season. It takes you to start the movement.

Shop small. Shop local. Eat local. Spend local. Enjoy local.

34 DECEMBER 2020 - FEBRUARY 2021 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


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