Page 1

ASPIRATIONAL CITY leadership exchange

CONNECT WITH GROUP NETWORKING

GET TO KNOW CHAMBER BOARD CHAIR

RON YATES

I S S U E 2 | J U N E - A U G U S T 2 0 14

COMMERCE & CRIME CHAMBER TAKES ON SAFETY

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 1


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JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 3


table of contents

features

6.14 CONTENTS p.28

COMMERCE & CRIME

MEMBERSHIP SPOTLIGHT

Chamber Takes On Safety

The relaxation specialists at McCall Leisure help you unwind. Find out how and why the Chamber is an integral tool.

p.16

ASPIRATIONAL CITY LEADERSHIP EXCHANGE

p.20

Responsible growth and change are necessary for any city. What is Sioux Falls doing that Billings should learn from?

FOLLOW THE DOLLAR

p.30

Tourists contribute $250 million to the local economy. How do you impact their experience?

4 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


departments

6.14 EVERY ISSUE

PRESIDENTS LETTER

If time is money, flying saves both.

p.6

Responsible growth is key for communities.

Grow

p.7

Membership Benefit Spotlight: Learn about your opportunity to be part of the U.S. Chamber.

HORIZONS

p.8

Now there’s a fast, reliable way to get to and

Some of the latest statistics and economic data impacting businesses in Billings.

ADVOCATE

from Billings for business or pleasure. Hop on an easy, affordable flight and be there 3 times faster. Book online today.

p.9

Relationships are key to legislative advocacy.

Havre

MONTANA’S TRAILHEAD How the Visit Billings team makes visitors eager to come back.

Get to Know ron yates The Chamber’s 2014-2015 Board Chair.

p. 26

p.10

GET TO KNOW CAITLIN HELMER

p.13

p.14

Billings is Montana’s Trailhead to a treasure trove of experiences in southeast Montana. Explore Makoshika State Park in this issue.

LiNKED

p. 27

Wolf Point Sidney

Glendive

Visitor Services Specialist Caitlin Helmer shares about the chamber, words to live by, and more.

TRIPS ON A TANKFUL

Glasgow

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Billings

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Top Investors

FROM THE PRESiDENT/CEO

Big Sky level

AFFECTING POSITIVE GROWTH My kids are healthy, busy kids: school, athletics, life. I’m proud of the young adults they are becoming. I am also taken aback when I look at them and see the growth in their size and abilities. These changes happened over years; although it feels as if it were overnight. Growth is exciting and challenging. A healthy community, just like our kids, will grow and evolve. Billings is a different community from just a few years ago. It has been impacted by a vibrant healthcare industry, regional natural resource extraction, broad-based economic growth, population increases and aging, and so much more. Growth isn’t an option. How we choose to handle it is. In this issue of LiNK, you will read about the Chamber’s first “Aspirational City Leadership Exchange” with Sioux Falls, SD and lessons learned from our 25 Billings attendees. We will also share

with you one of the Chamber’s top concerns as the city grows: public safety.

Granite Peak level CenturyLink Holiday Station Stores U.S. Bank

Crowne Plaza MSU Billings

Beartooth level

Just like you, I want my family to enjoy our community (trails, entertainment districts, culture and history, its vibrancy) while feeling the security of a safe place.

Airgas Intermountain Bay, LTD Big Sky Economic Development BNSF Century 21 Hometown Brokers

Happy Trails.

Charter Business Computers Unlimited Costco Wholesale Crowley Fleck PLLP ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co. Holiday Inn Grand Montana Keller Williams Premier Brokers Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. Montana Rail Link, Inc. PayneWest Insurance Phillips 66 PPL Montana, LLC Rocky Mountain College Sam’s Club Stockman Bank, Billings Underriner Honda Vertex Consulting Group Western Security Bank, Downtown

Published by: The Billings Gazette Project Management:

Dave Worstell, Allyn Hulteng

Sales:

Lynn Langeliers,

Michelle Maki

Designer:

Nadine Bittner

Editor:

Kelly McCandless

Photo Contributors: Billings Gazette Staff Photographers, Billings Chamber, Visit Billings, ThinkStock/Jupiter Images Photography www.billingschamber.com PO Box 31177 Billings MT 59107-1177 406-245-4111 • 800-711-2630

Fax 406-245-7333

6 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


GROW

MEMBERSHIP BENEFIT SPOTLIGHT: U.S. CHAMBER PARTNERSHIP BY JENNIFER REISER, Director of Operations

The Billings Chamber continuously looks for ways to provide our members with additional services and resources. One of the newest benefits for members is a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that welcomes eligible small businesses, through their existing membership with the Billings Chamber, as a new member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at no additional cost to you.

The U.S. Chamber is the world’s largest business federation: 96% of their members are small businesses. Through a membership with the U.S. Chamber, eligible small businesses have access to the many valuable benefits designed specifically for small businesses, including toolkits from Small Business Nation on Women in Business, Education and Workforce, Cybersecurity, and Employer Management along with news and advocacy updates, and other products, services and publications. More specifically, by taking advantage of this free membership, your business will benefit from: • Access to thousands of pages of small business

how-to toolkits through Small Business Nation •P  roduct and service discounts to affinity partners such as FedEx and Sam’s Club – Save up to 26% on select FedEx shipping –R  eceive a $10 Gift Card with your new or renewed Sam’s Club® Membership • Th  e U.S. Chamber’s e-newsletter, FreeEnterprise Weekly, and monthly e-publication, Free Enterprise •L  egislative alerts for small businesses notifying you of pressing policy initiatives based on issues you select •A  ccess to exclusive networking and policy events and conference calls

The Federation Partnership is a small business benefit program. To qualify, businesses must have under $10 million in annual revenue, and may not be an educational, religious, government, or non-profit organization. This program is optional. Even if you meet the criteria, you still have the choice to participate. If you are an eligible small business and have not yet received your login information and would like to participate, or you have questions on how to make these benefits work for you, please contact Keri Wilson, Membership Relations Manager, keri@billingschamber.com or 406-245-4111

Chamber Statistics As of May 6, 2014, the Billings Chamber represents 1,179 members with approximately 46,422 employees. Since the beginning of our fiscal year on July 1, 2013 through May 6, 2014: Number of Calls/Inquiries:...........8,216 (average of 822/month) Visitors to the Visitor Information Center:....................... 4,500+

Number of Attendees booked by Visit Billings:.................28,465

Visits to VisitBillings.com:................................................ 105,768

Direct Spending from Tourism Bookings:...................6.4 million

Visits to BillingsChamber.com:..........................................33,651

Conventions & Meetings Serviced by Visit Billings............ 7,000

Relocation Packets Mailed:.....................................................269 Visitor Information Packets Mailed:....................................5,582 Business Meeting Attendees at Chamber:.......................... 8,142 Chamber Event Attendance:................................................. 7,888

Is your membership listing current? With all of these inquiries, make sure we’re sharing the correct information with potential clients! Check your listing at BillingsChamber.com and let us know if changes are needed. JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 7


Community Statistics

KEY ECONOMIC INDICATORS Hotel Occupancy

80.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 70.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 60.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 50.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 40.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 30.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 20.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 10.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 0.0%____________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2013

2014 Billings

Montana

2012 United States

Unemployment Rate Comparison County Population

City Population

154,200 109,059

Yellowstone

3.2%

Montana

4.8%

United

6.3%

COUNTY STATE

Percent change in county population 2012-2013

1.5%

STATES

Unemployment Rate as of April 2014 Yellowstone County

Median Household Income

$50,000

Montana

United States

Airport Deboardings: City Comparison 500,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 450,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Average Home Price

$249,973

400,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________

*

350,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 300,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ Number of Business Licenses

7,350

250,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 200,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 150,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________

School District #2 Enrollment

16,156

Sources: Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Billings Association of Realtors速, City of Billings, School District #2, U.S. Census Bureau.

100,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 50,000 _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2012 2011 2013 0

Billings

Bozeman

*2013 Billings deboardings were impacted by runway maintenance in July/August

8 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY

Missoula


BUSiNESS ADVOCACY

RELATIONSHIPS ARE KEY TO ADVOCACY BY BRUCE MACINTYRE, Director of Government Affairs and Business Advocacy This all began when I was a sophomore in college and we had a mock Democratic convention. I was asked to be one of the delegates from Montana and our caucus leader, Tom Judge, later became Montana’s Governor.

We nominated Senator Mike Mansfield, begged and pleaded with other delegates to support our candidate and worked hard to keep Mike in the mix. We eventually lost to Adlai Stevenson, who in turn lost to Dwight Eisenhower in the general election. This whetted my appetite for the political world. In 2006 I joined the Chamber team as Director of Government Affairs. For 40+ years I volunteered on city and state committees and spent a number of those years actively involved with the Billings Chamber in the political arena. Now I am immersed in it daily. Business Advocacy is about relationships and research. If I am addressing an education issue in the Montana legislature, the first objective is to delve into the specifics. What does the bill address, who is the sponsor, what is the

fiscal impact and how will it impact Chamber members? Relationships help us understand whom to visit with to understand the issue in depth. Is it a lobbyist, an industry advocate, a legislator who has researched this area thoroughly or a Chamber member that may have a special interest in this area? These carefully established, long-term relationships benefit you when the time comes to voice your opinion on an issue. Finally, if I do not know candidates well, you probably don’t either. To remedy that, I select races and ask the candidates to introduce themselves, explain why they are running, and answer key position questions of importance to our membership. This spring we interviewed the candidates for the U. S. House of Representatives and this fall we will focus on the Montana House and Senate candidates in our region. My goal

is to give you the tools to be better informed when you vote. If you want to receive these candidate interviews, let me know: Bruce@ BillingsChamber.com. We encourage you to use another important tool: publicpolicy. billingschamber.com (pictured above). You’ll find voter resources, archived candidate interviews, policy information and much more.

Follow more of Bruce’s work on local, state and federal Issues. Visit his website:

PublicPolicy.billingsChamber.com STAFF AND BOARD MEMBERS – Photo BY rhea wolpoe

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 9


VISIT BILLINGS

MONTANA’S TRAILHEAD by alex tyson

The Visit Billings team inspires people from all over the country to make Billings a summer stop. 10 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY

• EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VISIT BILLINGS


The Visit Billings team and area tourism partners are ready for high season. The term refers to the period of the year in Billings when occupancy at hotels, motels and attractions is normally the highest. Billings’ visitation has been strong in recent months, pacing with 2012’s reports which was a record year for tourism locally. Strategic marketing efforts and creative investments throughout the year lead up to this, the busiest time of year for travelers at Montana’s Trailhead. From placements in History Channel Magazine, Sunset, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal to advertisements placed inside Chicago’s public bus fleet and video excerpts airing in New York City’s Time Square, the Visit Billings team inspires people from all over the country to make Billings a summer stop. Seasonal direct flights from Chicago and Atlanta along with strong interstate accessibility have the city primed to host hundreds of thousands of visitors in the coming months. Upcoming events like the Northern Classic regional soccer tournament, Heart and Sole Race, AAU Grand Nationals Wrestling meet as well as the 2014 Catholic Daughters of the Americas and Montana Harley Owners Group’s conventions will help fill hotel rooms, attractions, restaurants and retailers. But, once travelers are inspired and invited to visit, it becomes more important than ever that they have a great time while in town. It’s what the Visit Billings teams refers to as “visitor facilitation.” The community is fortunate that travelers make Billings part of their itineraries; it’s a $250 million dollar annual impact on the local economy. And, with 83% of Montana’s visitation made up of repeat visitors, it’s important for guests to leave town looking forward to coming back. Here are some of the 2014 high season highlights to be sure travelers have access to what they need to make their #BillingsMoment and #MontanaMoment positively memorable. A fresh VisitBillings.com is easier to navigate with gorgeous images of Billings, Southeast Montana, Red Lodge and other tourist must-sees to inspire an

itinerary with easy to access stay here, play here, eat here and shop here options. It’s also responsive, which makes it easier to use on mobile devices – a visitor experience must. The Billings Visitor Information Center is in high-season mode with extended summer hours and increased volunteer force guiding the nearly 10,000 visitors coming through the doors annually. Thirty volunteers help facilitate their stay by assisting them with Billings as well as Montana and regional tourism information and insight. The Visitor Center offers complimentary maps, brochures, visitor guides and local artifacts to assist in the visitor experience. The Center is open seven days a week through Memorial Day. The Billings Scenic Drive signs may be familiar to you. They can be spotted all over the city with significantly more in the heart of downtown. The Visitor Center offers guided tear off maps for travelers, but an app is available on iTunes and Android, too (search “Billings Tour”). It’s a great experience for tourists who may want a more intimate experience with historical and cultural amenities like the Moss Mansion, The Depot and Western Heritage Center, but have limited time to explore. Of course, these items just scratch the surface of assisting with a visitor experience. The Historic Walking Brewery Tour, convention services, and a visitor hotline are a few more services Visit Billings offers travelers. However, the most important service might just be your smile and word of welcome. Have a great summer! 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. Visit Billings is managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce. VisitBillings.com

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 11


Visit Billings is proud to announce that VickiLynn Terpstra has joined the team. VickiLynn is the Visit Billings Sales Manager specializing in meeting and convention recruitment and group sales.

A Great Falls native and Rocky Mountain College graduate, she started with Visit Billings in late April following a successful eight year career with Macerich and Starwood ownership at Rimrock Mall. The meeting and convention segment makes up nearly 25% of Billings’ tourism industry. We look forward to having Vicki-Lynn’s professionalism, experience and enthusiasm on our front line. Contact her with a word of welcome or a lead at Vicki-Lynn@VisitBillings.com.

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Announcing Visit Billings After years of acronym confusion and mission fog, the Billings Chamber of Commerce/ Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Boards and staff are proud to announce Visit Billings. Visit Billings is a brand that encompasses the CVB and TBID as managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce.  Internally, nothing has changed. Budgets remain separate and our mission to support Billings’ lodging facilities by growing visitation (putting heads in hotel beds) remains the same.  We just hope to make it easier for prospective visitors, meeting planners and also local residents to identify us and to better associate our mission to the Visit Billings brand. OVER 360,000

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12 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY

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GET TO KNOW CHAMBER STAFF:

Caitlin

HELMER p h o t o C O U R T E S Y R H E A W O L PO E Position: Visitor Services Specialist

Years on Staff: 2 Years

The TV show you can’t miss:

What is one thing about the Chamber you think most people don’t know?

Black List and Glee; I also can watch Law and Order all day, even though I’ve seen almost all of the episodes.

What it is we actually do. It ranges from promoting Billings as a premier travel destination, educating locals about what there is to see and do in Billings, and assisting and recruiting meetings and conventions to come here.

The dish you’re known for cooking?

Describe your position in 5 words.

My green smoothie; a concoction of kale, spinach, lemon juice and whatever fruit I have on hand. I also love to try new recipes, so I don’t have a staple quite yet.

There’s never a dull moment

One adjective that describes you: Dependable.

Words you live by:

Find something to do that makes you happy and incorporate it into your life.

Favorite Chamber/ Visit Billings event or program?

The Trailhead Tourism Ambassador Program, which educates tourism partners about the main attractions in Billings so they can deliver top notch customer service to tourists. I love having the opportunity to educate and highlight Billings’ attractions and amenities to our locals.

If you could have lunch with one famous person, who would it be and why?

Oprah, because she has met and interviewed some remarkable and influential people and could tell me some amazing stories!

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 13


TRiPS on a TANKFUL

MAKOSHIKA STATE PARK By Nick Mann, Visit Southeast Montana Marketing Manager

SoutheastMontana.com

Summer has finally arrived in Billings, and many of us are finding ourselves pulling out the camping gear that has been collecting dust all winter, making sure it is all accounted for and in working order. MAKOSHIKA STATE PARK – PHOTO COURTESY OF: Visit southeast montana

14 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


f course, we all know that summer comes much later to the mountains than it does here, and it still might be a little bit early to think seriously about going camping. Though the weather in Billings may be a pleasant 65 degrees, it could still be a few weeks before the last of the snow thaws and temperatures rise in the Beartooths. There are options available to those suffering from cabin fever however, even this early in the season. Though the Beartooth Mountains are typically the go-to destination for Billings campers, other places in southeast Montana are not only warm enough for some serious camping in early summer, but are actually ideal spots for weekend outdoor getaways. Eastern Montana can provide unique experiences rarely seen in the mountains. For a month or so after the snow finally melts in early spring, the rolling hills and badlands of Southeast Montana turn bright green as the sudden abundance of water feeds the prairie grasses. In the mountains, sunsets are usually brief and subdued. In the southeast Montana badlands, a sunset can last for hours, painting the sandstone formations in various hues of purple, red and yellow that continue to shift and change until the sun finally sinks below the horizon. One of the best places in the state to experience this incredible sight is just three

hours from Billings at Makoshika State Park outside of Glendive, MT. As Montana’s largest state park, Makoshika can accommodate any level of camper. RV camping or blazing your own trail and picking a camp site far away from civilization. There are even sites for in-betweeners, who like the idea of primitive camping, but also enjoy having bathroom facilities close by. A stop at the Makoshika State Park visitor center will provide you with all the information you need for whatever type of camping you prefer. Glendive is also great for kids, with two amazing dinosaur museums featuring local fossils, many of which were found in Makoshika State Park itself. Red Lodge and the Beartooth Mountains will be ready for camping soon enough, but if you can’t wait any longer, Makoshika will provide you with that spectacular Montana wilderness fix you are craving. 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.

Little Bighorn Battlefield, located less than an hour south of Billings, is the third most visited attraction in Montana behind Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. This draw for visitors, and the lack of lodging near the site, is what prompted Chip and Sandy Watts to open the 7th Ranch RV Camp adjacent to the Battlefield. 7th Ranch is the closest RV Camp to the Battlefield, and every summer they are filled to capacity with RV campers from across the nation and around the world.

7TH RANCH RV CAMP – PHOTO COURTESY OF: Visit southeast montana

According to Chip, Billings plays an important part in providing his customers with the best possible experience. He often works with companies like Freightliner and Pierce RV to provide service for his campers whose RVs are in need of repair. CHIP WATTS – PHOTO

COURTESY OF: Visit After a long day of southeast montana travel, many of Chip’s customers are in search of a good place to eat. Chip and Sandy have printed out specially made itineraries recommending a variety of Billings restaurants and giving them ideas for other things to see and do in the Billings area. People come for the experience of the Battlefield, but when they are in need of a bit of civilization, Billings provides the perfect hub for 7th Ranch RV Camp. Learn more: historicwest.com.

ADS PLACED PROMOTING SOUTHEAST MONTANA TO VISITORS.

7TH RANCH RV CAMP – PHOTO COURTESY OF: Visit southeast montana

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 15


COMMERCE & CRIME

CHAMBER TAKES ON SAFETY b y S H E L L E Y VA N AT TA

Billings is safe. It’s a great community to raise your family, to raise your kids. If I came here and had to start new, I’d do it all over again.

16 | JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY


The Billings Chamber TAKES ON public safety in response to business and community needs As Billings continues to prosper with an increasingly vibrant economy, the Chamber formed a steering committee to proactively gauge and address issues revolving around public safety and its impact on business. “We have heard numerous times that our community is very excited about future growth, prosperity, and opportunities that Billings is undergoing right now,” noted Karen Fagg, chair of the Billings Chamber Board of Directors, and co-chair of the public safety steering committee with Michael Gulledge, publisher of The Billing Gazette and vice president of Lee Enterprises. “However,” Fagg added, “concerns were expressed about the apparent increase in crime, the severity of that crime; and the Chamber was encouraged to assist in any way we possibly can. We recognize that we are not part of law enforcement and that’s not our role, but we certainly want to educate our membership so they can assist law enforcement and all the organizations and businesses that are represented, in a way that makes sense, is efficient, and is useful.”

addressing public safety At an exploratory meeting held in April, steering committee member Darrell Ehrlick, editor of The Billings Gazette, said that reports in the newspaper reflect “both the positive and the not so positive” aspects of Billings’ growth; and, from a reporting standpoint, he said, the question becomes, “What do we want to be and how do we want to become that? How do we shape our future?” Ehrlick emphasized that when the community discusses issues such as crime and public safety, “it can’t just be left at the feet of” law enforcement. “We want to be active participants in creating our future and what the future of Billings looks like. That is the genesis of the conversation and how we can help Billings grow smart, rather than just grow.”

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, another steering committee member, said that while exploring the issues of crime and public safety, it is important to remind everyone that, “This is a great community and a great community in which to bring business. Unfortunately, mine is a negativebased profession. What you hear about from me is the worst of the worse, but don’t forget that there are so many good things going on here, even in the law enforcement community.” However, before the issues can be thoroughly explored, he suggested, they first should be thoroughly understood. According to Chief St. John, a “good reference to talk about as we look toward the future,” is the 2013 Annual Report, which comprises a record of all the activities in the Billings Police Department last year. A full copy of the report can be reviewed on the Billings Police website: http://ci.billings. mt.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/25035

Crime Trends The report reflects an uptick in violent crimes from 418 in 2012, to 494 in 2013. “In 2013, we were up primarily on the robbery side and the aggravated assault side,” said St. John. “What we’re seeing is a more violent population. The interactions between people who are having disagreements usually end up in some sort of an assault and a fight, and what makes it an aggravated situation is that there is a weapon involved or we have some serious injury.” The property crime trends show a surge in numbers from 5,485 in 2012, to 6,206 in 2013. St. John explained, “What we spend most of our time on is misdemeanor theft: somebody steals your bicycle, someone breaks into your car and takes a stereo. $1,500 and under is what is classified as a misdemeanor.” So, what’s driving the increase in property crimes? “It’s drugs. These people need to have liquid cash, so they’re stealing things they can liquidate to get cash to buy drugs. Probably 99% of the business we see on the property crime side is to support a drug habit. You can always trace it back there,

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 17


so all these things are correlated. We have a constant increase in property crimes.”

Billings’ economic upswings bring attendant challenges St. John said his “number one priority is to put cops on the street to answer calls for service.” St. John’s challenge to putting cops on the street is that the Billings Police Department has as many beat cops today as they had four decades ago, according to Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, also a member of the steering committee, in a recent comment to Billings Gazette reporter Zach Benoit: “Nine police officers were on patrol per shift when Hanel began his service to the police department in the mid-1970s, and nine officers are on duty per shift now, he said, handling calls for service [...] ‘that are now potentially much more dangerous’ in a city that’s grown both in square miles and population.”

St. John echoed that: “Keep in mind that we’re talking about 43 square miles for the City of Billings, and a population of about 108,000, according to our Community Development Office;” and, the city, he pointed out, continues to annex more and more land. “The future annexation growth is significant,” he adds. What that means for his department is a greater area to cover, more calls for service, additional people committing more crimes; and, the same number of officers. With a slight shake of his head, a firm voice and unwavering eye contact, he told the steering committee, “We’re stretched really thin.” As a comparison, steering committee member Greg Kruegar, with the Downtown Billings Association, said his son is a police officer in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, with a police department nearly the size of the Billings Police Department: “They have only six square miles to cover, and we have 40.” “Forty-three,” rejoined St. John with a wry smile.

And the Beat Goes On There currently are nine beats that the officers fill, with one officer per beat. St. John emphasized that the city is covered 24/7. Each officer works four, 10-hour days, with overlaps during their busiest times: from 9:00 p.m., to 1:00 a.m., and between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Nine officers, St. John reminded the committee, is “what you have to cover the entire city,” adding that he generally sends two officers to a call. “We can handle four calls at the same time and then we’re out of people. That’s when the Dispatch Center has to prioritize.” The lack of officers takes its toll, St. John said. The response time on the calls for service “correlates to how busy we are, and we are short-handed.” If you want the BPD to handle all the calls, he continued, “Something’s gotta give. The bottom line is, we’re getting bigger; our population grows about 1.5% per year; and, annexation means our square mileage is increasing because city services are excellent, so folks in outlying areas want to be annexed in.” He said the BPD is “getting to the point where I’m asking you what it is you do not want us to do. The cost of doing business is more than the revenue is right now, and we either have to increase the revenue to keep doing what we’re doing, or we’re not going to be able to provide some services that you like; so, when we get to serious discussions, tell me what you don’t want us to do. Do you not want us to go to traffic accidents? Misdemeanor property crimes? You tell me, because those are the hard questions that we’re going to have to answer.”

Improving our way of life, Billings style St. John smiled and said that it isn’t all bad news. “Let me tell you that Billings is safe. It’s a great community to raise your family, to raise your kids. If I came here and Billings Bicycle Police Patrol – PHOTO BY BILLINGS GAZETTE STAFF

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had to start new, I’d do it all over again. “The criminal justice system is over-burdened, it’s overworked, it’s over-loaded, but they’re still doing a great job. What you read in the paper are cases solved. Yes, there’s bad stuff going on, but we’re solving it. There’s a lot more good going on than what we’re telling you. “Your parks are safe; you can let your kids out, for the most part, to do stuff. We don’t have random acts of violence; we don’t have drive-by shootings running amok; we don’t have wide-spread graffiti from one end of the town to the other; and, we have minimal gang activity, and it usually is at the junior high level, with kids just talking smack back and forth.”

Businesses: Be Proactive As a business working to stay ahead of these trends, the committee shared suggestions on how to be proactive when it comes to crime. Greg Kruegar uses Downtown Billings as an example. He attributed the decrease in downtown crime to the bicycle cop program and to the Downtown Crime Watch Program, which comprises 500 businesses, each with a Crime Watch decal in its window, and an organized “phone tree,” where suspicious behavior is quickly spread throughout the downtown business community. “We train our downtown shopkeepers and offices to recognize criminal activity, such as bad checks, counterfeit money, and to be on the look-out for suspicious behavior,” said Kruegar. “It’s a system that works. Without it, our crime numbers would be much higher.” Nicole Mehling-Miles, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn and president of the Yellowstone County Lodging Association boasts an effective communication system that, like the DBA’s Crime Watch Program, vigorously connects YCLA members through alerts about suspicious activities and


communications that cite current criminal lodging scams. Mehling-Miles explains, “The YCLA works hand-in-hand with the Chamber and law enforcement to provide Billings’ travelers with a safe and enjoyable experience.” For instance, she noted, the hospitality industry’s “role in preventing and reacting to child and human trafficking is becoming a bigger and bigger issue; and, if you think it’s not happening in our state, you’re wrong. It’s been reported in all 50 states, so it’s a very big issue.” By being vigilant, alert, and through continual communication, she said, “we can recognize these things going on in our hotels and can make sure we are informing the authorities of such situations; this is a huge piece of what we can do to help law enforcement.” Communication, education and relationships are keys to establishing a vigilant and proactive work environment for your customers, your employees and yourselves. Billings Chamber President and CEO John Brewer summed up the inaugural meeting of the Chamber’s public safety initiative by adding, “A safe Billings is in all of our best interest. We all want our

families to have the security of feeling safe and protected. As the Chamber of Commerce, we also realize that a safe community will attract development, workforce talent and continued general positive growth.”

EDUCATION CORNER BUSINESS RELATED TRAINING & WEBINAR OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED BY FELLOW MEMBERS

STEPS FOR BUSINESS SAFETY Take these steps from the Downtown Billings Association to help ensure your business is taking safety seriously: • Consider installing an alarm and security cameras. Many criminals case a potential mark during business hours and cameras can be a major deterrent. • Encourage employee safety with clear opening and closing procedures and safety measures for leaving the business, especially at night. • Facilitate training and education for your staff to recognize and report suspicious behavior. • Empower your employees by posting the non-emergency number for the Billings Police Department: 657-8200.

6/24 and 6/26: Employee Terminations and Layoff’s Live Webinar through Avitus Group. Every employer needs to understand the basics of properly terminating the employment of employees and layoff’s. Learn more: 406-255-7470. 7/21-22: Develop proficiency with Microsoft Outlook with Entré Technology Services. Levels 1 and 2 offered (select one or take both). Learn more 406-256-5700. 7/23: Crucial Concepts in HR with Jim Nys. Avoid wrongful termination, prevent harassment and more. personnel-plus.net/training to register. 8/19 and 8/21: Workplace Harassment Prevention Training for Supervisors, live webinar through Avitus Group. Harassment reduces employee productivity, quality of work, employee retention and morale. Learn more: 406-255-7470.

Does your business offer webinars, trainings or workshops that may be beneficial for other Chamber members? Let us know:

kelly@billingschamber.com. Billings Policeman – PHOTO BY BILLINGS GAZETTE STAFF

You may be included in the next issue! JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 19


aspiring to be better Don’t let good be good enough.

by JOHN BREWER

My aisle mate on a recent flight from Billings gazed out of the airplane’s window as we departed, muttering wistfully in broken English, “Bye-bye, Montana. Bye-bye.” He was one of a dozen or so German visitors in new western shirts and other apparel, all expressing satisfaction with a bucket-list item checked off as they began the return to reality.

Visitors from around the world enjoy what many take for granted each day as residents. Big sky, big history and big recreation. We are a world-class destination. But Montana’s Trailhead isn’t just the beginning of a path for tourists. We are a destination for businesses, families and people seeking educational and other personal growth opportunities. As Montana’s Trailhead, the state’s largest city, and the economic hub of a four-state region, we should be first-in-class in every regard.

What is an Aspirational City Visit

Why Sioux Falls

Last month a group of 25 Billings business and civic leaders traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the Billings Chamber’s first “Aspirational City Visit and Leadership Exchange.” This visit, sponsored by Eide Bailly, was designed to inspire new ideas. An opportunity for our corporate and civic leaders to take time to think creatively about the future of Billings with a long term horizon. The Billings Chamber’s unique strength is its ability to convene all the right people needed to develop and implement a shared vision for our community. We are using this visit as one tool to facilitate visioning and shape the future of Billings.

In choosing a destination to visit we considered our existing priorities, issues and concerns; but also looked at opportunities to vision the future in ways yet explored. Quality of life and amenity infrastructure development like a convention center, an entertainment district, trails, and sports venues have been part of our strategic vision for years, and continue to be an area of need in our community (especially funding mechanisms).

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FALLS PARK, SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA – PHOTO COURTESY OF: RICH MURPHY

ASPiRATiONAL CiTY ViSiT Billings, MT to Sioux Falls, SD 2014 Leadership Exchange We also selected a destination whose leaders were examining their community’s future and the Chambers role in that vision (similar to our Defining Tomorrow initiative). Selecting a community and a chamber with a similar structure and demographics was important: one with strong agricultural, healthcare, tourism, retail and financial industries. Community leaders felt they needed to visit an area that reflected our demographic makeup, only larger, but not so large that our delegation could not relate.

What we learned We approached this trip with no specific goals in mind, but as an exploration and an opportunity to learn and allow the process to get messy. The messiness is uncomfortable but it encourages healthy dialogue that allows meaningful ideas to emerge. We resolved to allow the process to evolve and then become strategic.

What did Billings participants learn from Sioux Falls:

1. “ The Magic Sauce:” Better Together Adopt a culture of “yes” and remember there is power in numbers. Public private partnership coupled with master planning is the “magic sauce” of Sioux Falls. Community leadership groups should have a stake in projects and take part in a community visioning process to determine priorities. Billings has made great strides with voters supporting the ballpark, library and schools but there is work to be done. We

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 21


must move forward and leave the cave people behind (people against virtually everything). Sioux Falls leaders referred time and again to a community that works together to accomplish big visions: “We not I” “Better Together;” “Attitude is everything.” We need to communicate to our community the importance of working together, share our new level of motivation and maintain our competitive edge in Montana.

2. U  napologetic Leadership Elected, civic and business leaders have a tendency to be too polite. We need to do what is best for our community, unapologetically, with one voice. We could invite Sioux Falls leaders to Billings to share their passion, and get local leaders together with this group to tell the story and ignite their passion. There could be incredible power in our elected officials. Billings’ residents must look at changes to the city charter relative to our form of government and the possibility of a strong mayor. This elected position would be accountable to the voters directly and has the power of his office to effect change. An 11-person city council body is more difficult to hold accountable than a chief elected official.

The Next Generation Ciara Sian Hagadone

The Sioux Falls Young Professionals group has 928 members. This was achieved through creating an influential steering committee, planning, organization and embracing the concept that “the sky’s the limit.” As a member of the Billings Chamber’s Next Gen group, I’m excited to share what we have learned from the Sioux Falls Young Professionals team in terms of an organizational structure, successful events and best practices around membership.

We can do better… Steve Wahrlich

3. G  ood Is Not Good Enough Don’t let good be good enough. Jim Collins in Good To Great writes that “good is the enemy of great.” Let’s not settle for mediocre facilities, inadequate river connectivity, limiting sports venues, aging infrastructure, and schools.

4. T wo Pennies to Rub Together Great ideas take resources. We must advocate for a sales tax and gain support across the state from urban and rural areas; east and west. Sioux Falls “second penny” tax is a game changer used for infrastructure, safety and quality of life amenities that lure economic growth opportunities. A “Community Appeals” process that coordinates community investment for worthwhile projects can focus efforts on community priorities and assist giving-organizations with their decision making process.

5. Tomorrow’s Leaders Young professionals in our community must be involved in the future of their communities while developing their professional skills. Young professionals are first choosing where to live then looking for work. To encourage young professionals to stay in or return to Billings, that generation must be involved in decisions impacting growth and quality of life issues.

Wells Fargo

Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn

Sioux Falls has multiple public event facilities for hosting meetings and conferences of 100 to 12,000 attendees. Coupled with public/ private state of the art sports facilities for basketball, volleyball, ice hockey, tennis, football, baseball and softball, Sioux Falls is a major player within our competitive set. Billings must be creative when competing, and to compete we need facilities.

Better Together Karen Fagg

This tour exceeded my expectations with so many “ah-ha” moments. There was a pervading mindset from business and civic leaders that “attitude is everything” and we can accomplish more together than we can individually. One business leader welcomed our group by stating “what’s good for the state is good for my city; and what’s good for my city is good for my business.”

H-B Property MT, LLC

Are we poised to compete? Lisa Harmon

I had the opportunity to see how Billings measures up to a like community on the Aspirational City Visit to Sioux Falls. And while we boast many assets and amenities in our city, we struggle with funding sources that incentivize and catalyze growth. It is imperative that we vision together as a community, wisely use resources, and look Downtown Billings for mechanisms and strategies that will protect our future growth and vibrancy. FALLS PARK, SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA – PHOTO COURTESY OF: RICH MURPHY

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BILLINGS CHAMBER ANNUAL MEETING THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH This years’ speaker for the chamber Annual Meeting presented by CenturyLink, is Seth Mattison. Seth Mattison is an internationally renowned expert on workforce trends and generational dynamics. As founder and CEO of Futuresight Labs and Strategic Partner at BridgeWorks, LLC, Seth advises many of the world’s leading brands and corporations (like Microsoft, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, GE Energy, Prudential Real Estate, Disney, and others) on the key shifts happening around talent management, change and innovation, leadership, and the future of work.

Seth Mattison

His ideas have been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The Huffington Post, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He was recently named one of 8 speakers chosen for the “Editors’ Picks For Favorite Speakers for 2013” by MeetingsNet and has been called one of the most dynamic young speakers on the circuit today.

Get your ticket to see Seth during the luncheon soon @ BillingsChamber.com

IN ADDITION TO A TOP-KNOTCH SPEAKER, THE

BUSINESS EXPO

will return to the Chamber in conjunction with the Annual Meeting. It’s back and it’s gonna be big big! This time, the entire event will take place in one room. 70+ vendor booths plus a 600 seat lunch. Oh yeah, it’s going to be great! Reserve your booth space today by calling the Chamber at 245-4111 or at BillingsChamber.com Event sponsorships also available.

YOUR TECHNOLOGY SHOULD WORK FOR YOU. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. T ECH N O LO GY CO NSU LT I N G

Expect More from Your Business Advisor Streamlining your operations and equipping you with technology solutions to make better, faster business decisions is key in accelerating your growth. Eide Bailly’s experienced technology consulting team can help revitalize your current business applications by consulting and implementing cloud-based solutions that will deliver results. Eide Bailly is one of the top 25 CPA firms in the nation, and we have nearly 100 technology consultants ready to help move your business forward. Experience the Eide Bailly Difference. To learn more, visit our website.

w w w. e i d e b a i l l y. c o m / t e c h n o l o g y

Photo courtesy Billings Chamber

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 23


book nook

Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg

Reviewed by Jennifer Reiser

I appreciated most the chapter entitled “The Myth of Doing It All” which discusses the need for women to set boundaries and abandon the myth of “having it all.” The chapter makes the case for combining professional achievement with personal fulfillment through supportive relationships both at home and work.

RUN YOUR BUSINESS VICTORIOUSLY. As a business owner, you don’t have time for slow DSL from CenturyLink. Which is why Charter Business gives you Internet that’s over 2 times faster than CenturyLink Core Connect 1*. Plus, your business can also get reliable phone with unlimited long distance and over 25 business calling features that keep you connected inside the office or out on the road. Even reliable TV with all the top channels in HD. It takes powerful tools like these to power your Everyday Victories. So switch to Charter Business today.

Why settle for the phone company another day?

Call Patty Mastin at 406-422-1088. ©2014 Charter Communications. *Speed comparison based on Charter Business Internet Essentials30 v. 12 Mbps Century Link Core Connect 1 Internet available in Charter markets as of 3/24/2014 (download only). apply. Call for details. JUNE 2014 |Restrictions LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY

24 |

Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is both a call to action and a blueprint for individual growth containing practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship and building a satisfying career. With chapters on the Leadership Ambition Gap and Seeking and Speaking the Truth, Sandberg shares personal stories and real-world examples of how we can take down external barriers and address internal fears preventing more women from getting to the top.

Lean In encourages everyone to find success through talking, listening, learning from and instructing each other, and contains compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential This book is just the beginning of the conversation. The Lean In community at facebook.com/ leaninorg and LeanIn.org are places where women and men of all ages and experience are welcome to share practical education and personal experiences. This is a must-read for working women striving to be the best that they can be and for the men that want to play a role in their success.


CONNECT

Off the Wall(flower) Are you the type of person that gets terrified in a group networking situation? Do you clam up, get sweaty and stumble over your words? Or do you find that everyone wants to talk to you when you walk in the room? You are cool, calm and collected: Mr. Joe Cool. Regardless how you feel about networking, it is a must for anyone in business. It doesn’t matter what type of business you are in, networking is a vital tool. Being Mr. Joe Cool doesn’t just happen. It takes practice. Here are a few tips to help get you from wall flower to busy bee.

4. Jump in Right Away!

1. Bring a buddy.

5. Listen.

If you are uncomfortable facing the daunting task alone, bring a co-worker or friend with you.

2. Energize! Instead of walking in tired, take a moment to recharge beforehand. We are all strapped for time, but taking just a few moments in the car to relax can make a huge difference. No cell phone, no radio - close your eyes for a few moments and unwind. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more aware you are.

3. Be Prepared. Know your audience, who you will be speaking with and what your goals are. Knowing what you want to talk about and who you want to meet makes execution easier.

The longer you remain on the outside looking in, the harder it will be to strike up that first conversation. The best way to jump in is to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. The conversation will naturally follow.

Everyone likes to talk about themselves! Ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Have some go-to questions in your back pocket, just in case.

6. Invest. Take time building relationships. Instead of trying to make an instant sale or get that lunch meeting, take your time to get to know your new contact and have them get to know you, too. Focus more on building trust and less on making an immediate sale.

7. Get THEIR Business card. That way, you can do the follow up and the power to connect is in your hands.

Your educational partner for a lifetime! MSU Billings has been an integral part of Billings and Eastern Montana since 1927. As Billings continues to grow, we stand ready to educate and develop the next generation of leaders.

800.565.MSUB • msubillings.edu

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 25


GET TO KNOW THE BOARD:

Ron

YATES, JR. photo COURTESY R H E A W O L PO E

Business: Tax Partner, Eide Bailly LLP, Billings, MT

Board Position: Incoming Chair, FY 2015

Years as a Chamber Member: 11 years

Words you live by:

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

What is the number one thing in Billings you’d take a visiting friend to see/do?

Visiting family and friends always love the view of Billings, the Yellowstone valley, and the Beartooth/Pryor/Crazy Mountains from the Rims. I’d take them up Zimmerman Trail to Swords Rimrock Park to enjoy the 360 degree view. From there, we will jump on our bikes and ride the great bike trails all the way to the Yellowstone River.

The snack always found in your desk: Sunflower seeds, preferably Black Pepper or Dill Pickle flavored!

If you had a super power, what would it be?

Who wouldn’t want the ability to fly like Superman? How handy would that be in life today! Doesn’t Superman also have superhuman strength, speed, hearing & intelligence, as well as X-Ray vision? Okay – I’d actually like to sign up to be the next Superman!

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Favorite book and why: I’m a big fan of Steven King and have read nearly all his books, most recently 11/22/63 based upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, I’m currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a national bestseller focusing on how certain people become successful and how their success is impacted by the influence of the people in their lives and their external environment.

As a board member, you have the inside scoop. What would you share about the Chamber that other members may not know? A strong Chamber of Commerce labors on behalf of you – our members – as well as the greater good of all businesses, individuals, and the entire community. Call me up if you ever question the value you receive from your Chamber. I guarantee you that I can easily identify how the Billings Chamber’s vision of “Advocate. Connect. Grow” directly benefits you, your family and/or your business.

One adjective that describes you: Motivated. I stay busy inside and outside of business hours. I strive to be a good husband, father, and employer while also being involved in professional, community, and religious organizations that I perceive to make a difference.

You get to make one change for the Billings community today – what would you do? Add community service to everyone’s priority list! Find something that you are passionate about outside of the office or home that serves to benefit you and others in the community!


LiNKED

Did we see you out and about at Chamber events? Look for yourself and your friends here! If we missed you, snap a picture at the mext meeting or event you attend and send it to kelly@billingschamber.com!

Butch Bratsky and Kris Carpenter Pose during the Aspirational City Visit to Sioux Falls.

Chamber President and CEO John Brewer takes over for Livin’ Large Larry on NewsRadio 95.5.

Tony Rubleski presents his MIND CAPTURE Seminar to chamber members in May.

Jeff Walters contemplates all he’s learned during the Leadership Exchange and Aspirational City Visit in May.

ConnectforLunch at Bull Mountain Grille with Patty Connelley of Prudential Floberg Realty, Pamela Jones of Zimmerman Trail Consulting, Scottie Ramsey Yellowstone Bank, Keri Wilson with the Chamber. Networking at Business After Hours in April at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Visit Billings hosts international tour operators on a Familiarization Tour in May at Bittercreek Outfitters. Jeff Walters and Ciara Hagadone pose during the Aspirational City Visit to Sioux Falls.

Teams enjoy the Trailhead Spirits stop at the Trailhead Classic golf tournament at the Briarwood. Karen Fagg exchanges ideas with Sioux Falls’ Mayor during the Aspirational City Visit in Sioux Falls last month.

Kristi Drake and Chad Nelson at Business After Hours.

Youth Leadership Billings snaps a selfie with Megan Kongaika at Billings Clinic in May.

JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 27


MEMBERSHiP SPOTLiGHT:

UNWINDING WITH MCCALL LEISURE By JENNIFER REISER

The four relaxation specialists at McCall Leisure have been sending people on vacation in their own back yards for over 30 years. Current owner, Michael McGullam, purchased the family owned business in 2007 and takes their tagline, “it’s how you unwind,” seriously. The business, focused entirely on leisure experiences, “outfits your backyard to make your own, personal vacation,” according to relaxation specialist Kristene Bogle. McCall Leisure uses outdoor fireplaces and backyard grills, pools, spas and more to create a place for you to unwind. From pool and spa service and maintenance to offering Sundance Spas and HomeCrest Furniture, the relaxation specialists in their tiedyed t-shirts work hard to help you relax. The crew at McCall Leisure is passionate about family and has a strong focus on customer service and their community. According to McGullam, their business is relationship driven. “When you become a customer of McCall Leisure, we don’t thank you for your business, we welcome you to our family.” In addition, McGullam believes that if you don’t “incorporate giving into your business model, you are missing a whole piece.” For the past several years, McCall Leisure partnered with Catholic and Lutheran Social Services as well as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids of Montana to spotlight adoption during the Spring Home Improvement Show. The Chamber’s commitment to customer service and community attracted McCall Leisure to become members. Bogle also shares that networking and marketing are key components that come with Chamber membership. “Meeting with other business owners through the Chamber gives us a place to bounce ideas and know what’s going on in the market. We are a destination business and the Chamber helps remind people that we’re here.” Celebrating the great history and legacy of the McCall name while focusing more on their mission of leisure and service after the sale, be on the lookout for a grand re-opening and rebranding coming soon.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF: jennifer reiseR and mccall leisure

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Michael McGullam purchased the family owned business in 2007 and takes their tagline, “it’s how you unwind,” seriously.


The following Chamber member businesses recently celebrated grand openings, anniversaries, rebranding, relocation, and ground breakings. Congratulations to each of them!

Western Security Bank at 24th and Grand celebrated their remodel on February 19th.

360 Office celebrated the grand opening of their new location on February 13th. Rimrock GMC Cadillac celebrated the grand opening of their new location on March 13th.

Furniture Land USA celebrated the grand opening of their new location on March 28th. Anytime Fitness celebrated the grand opening of their new location at 24th and Broadwater on April 11th.

Ranch House Meats celebrated the grand opening of their business on April 18th.

EXIT Realty Yellowstone celebrated the grand opening of their business on May 8th. Does your business have a momentous change in the future? Schedule a ribbon cutting celebration! This complimentary member benefit is available to all members – simply contact us to schedule yours by calling 406-245-4111.

Trailblazers – PHOTO COURTESY OF: BILLINGS CHAMBER


FOLLOW THE DOLLAR:

TOURISM WORKS BY ALEX TYSON

DINING AT THE NORTHERN’S TEN RESTAURANT– PHOTO COURTESY OF: Visit Billings

As a major contributor to the local economy, it is vital for tourism industry partners and the general business community to work together to deliver high quality, unique visitor experiences to our guests. I recently read an article by a New Zealand tourism leader that stated his local industry would only be as strong as the worst visitor experience. The remark offers perspective that can be applied to any destination, and though it’s Customer Service 101, it can’t be forgotten for even a moment. If a business’ frontline and management fail to create a positive moment, the customer review, particularly of social media, can make or break a brand. Billings is a brand. We, as residents, are ambassadors of the brand. And while Billings is Montana’s Trailhead to historic and adventurous experiences, educational opportunities, business prospects, medical needs, retirement dreams, and a strong quality of life, it can quickly become a visitor’s vacation horror story, if they don’t look in the rearview mirror heading out of town, feeling the love. Why is it important for our visitors to feel the love? For many reasons. Our Visit Billings team knows people are here to make great memories. They are taking the time to come and experience everything we inspire and invite them to enjoy. They are choosing to invest in our community. Take Sally Smith. She arrived at Logan Airport at 1:20 p.m. yesterday to meet with clients on business. She took the hotel shuttle downtown

and tipped the driver $10. After checking into her hotel, she walked to Bin 119 and ordered a late lunch. Her waiter was so informative, kind and helpful that she tipped him way more than 20%. And, after work, the waiter visited Rimrock Mall to buy a new pair of jeans he had been eyeing. Meantime, Sally takes in some of the other downtown offerings Mr. Bin 119 suggested, grabbing a decaf at Rock Creek Coffee roasters along the way to the Western Heritage Center. That evening she meets her clients for a great dinner at TEN ahead of telling her group that the Bin 119 waiter suggested Trailhead Spirits for a nightcap. While Sally is only in town for a short time, she can’t wait to bring her significant other with her next time to truly take in what Billings has to offer. The informed, helpful waiter made a major economic difference. No matter what kind of tourist arrives, visitors invest in destinations. From retail and gasoline to lodging and food, assisting with an authentic visitor experience is priceless and it means we may have the chance to host them again. Visitors don’t always tell us they’re visiting, but engaging all customers can lead to learning more about them. And, getting the guest experience right affects your bottom line and Billings’ bottom line.

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The Visit Billings Trailhead Tourism Ambassador (TTA) program is offered complimentary to front-line staff to better equip them to deliver topnotch customer service to guests of Billings by learning more about area attractions. We’re all ambassadors of the place we call home. If you’d like more information on the Visit Billings TTA program, please contact Caitlin Helmer at 869-3725. 2013 MONTANA NONRESIDENT VISITOR DAILY EXPENDITURES % 2% 5% 4% 2

 Gasoline, Diesel

8%

 Retail Sales  Restaurant, Bar

10%

32%

 Hotel, B&B, etc.  Groceries, Snacks  Outfitter, Guide  Licenses, Entrance Fees

17%

 Auto Rental 20%

 Misc.

Gasoline, Diesel......................................$51.64 Retail Salees..........................................$31.55 Restaurant, Bar......................................$27.73 Hotel, B&B, etc.......................................$15.57 Groceries, Snacks...................................$13.70 Outfitter, Guide.......................................$16.55 Licenses, Entrance Fees..........................$13.75 Auto Rental............................................$17.63 Misc.......................................................$17.63 SOURCE: Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research


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1-888-316-7899 or (406) 657-1370 JUNE 2014 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 31


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