FUNDING OUR SCHOOLS
BILLINGS MUSTANGS: MORE THAN A PAST TIME
GET TO KNOW BOARD MEMBER
IS S U E 2 5 | M A R C H 2 0 2 0 - M AY 2 0 2 0
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table of contents
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CELEBRATE EXCELLENCE: 2020 Business Excellence Awards FUNDING OUR SCHOOLS How SD2 is funded NEXT UP WITH NEXGEN: Why I NexGen
2020 CENSUS: How the 2020 Census impacts Montana OPPORTUNITY ZONE REGULATIONS Eide Bailly offers guidance 2020 CHAMBER BREAKFAST: Kick Flips and Philanthrophy Tricks
Thank you PayneWest Insurance for their significant support of LiNK Magazine.
4 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
march - may 2020
GET TO KNOW THE BOARD Kolten Knatterud
PRESIDENT’S LETTER Elections Matter Program Wins Award
HORIZONS Community Statistics and Key Economic Indicators
GROW Individualizing Your Membership
BUSINESS ADVOCACY Taking Positions: How the Chamber Makes Policy and Position Decisions
MONTANA’S TRAILHEAD Billings: A Desirable Community with a Story Worth Telling
TRIPS ON A TANKFUL World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Celebrates 70 Years
CONNECT Spring is Event Season at the Chamber
BUSINESS GROWTH More Than a Past Time: The Billings Mustangs Connect the Community
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 5
FROM THE PRESiDENT/CEO
BIG SKY LEVEL
ELECTIONS MATTER PROGRAM WINS AWARD
ast month in Portland, Oregon the Billings Chamber of Commerce was recognized for our Elections Matter campaign. The “Outstanding Chamber Programs” award was presented to the Billings Chamber during the Annual Western Association of Chamber Executives Conference. W.A.C.E. recognizes deserving programs in various core competency areas. Programs nominated for this award met or exceeded the chamber’s goals and must have been able to be replicated by other chambers. The Billings Chamber developed our candidate endorsement process just over two years ago. As it has evolved to its current structure of supporting business-friendly candidates for public office, we should all be proud that it is program now being viewed by other chambers as best-practice.
A CHAMBER IS A: Convener of leaders and influencers—without a dedicated, hardworking Local Issues Advisory Board and Board of Directors, the successful Elections Matters program would not be a national model; Champion for community—we champion local issues that will make Billings a better place to do business and to live. This program allowed us to seek business friendly candidates who will vote for a better Billings;
GRANITE PEAK LEVEL
Billings Chamber of Commerce President, John Brewer accepts the “Outstanding Chamber Programs” award at the Annual Western Association of Chamber Executives Conference.
As a friend of mine who runs the Medford, OR Chamber is fond of saying:
If you want to change the policy, you have to change the people. It’s that simple. Thank you to Daniel Brooks (Business Advocacy Director at the Billings Chamber) and our dedicated volunteer leadership who are not afraid to work tirelessly on behalf of your business.
Catalyst for business growth—we support candidates who will act upon issues that will improve the business climate and help your business to excel. Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
2015 Chamber of the Year
DiA Events Holiday Station Stores NorthWestern Energy The Ashley Delp Team US Bank
BEARTOOTH LEVEL Albertsons All Around Roofing and Exteriors Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Floberg Real Estate Big Sky Economic Development By All Means Brewing Centimark Computers Unlimited Crowley Fleck PLLP Denny Menholt Chevrolet Diamond B Companies Dovetail Designs & Millwork Inc. EBMS Entre Technology Services ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co. Gainan’s Flowers & Garden Center Kampgrounds of America Kinetic Marketing & Creative MSUB Foundation Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. Northern Hotel Opportunity Bank of Montana PayneWest Insurance Phillips 66 Rocky Mountain Bank - King 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
Published by: The Billings Gazette Project Management: Dave Worstell Project Editor: Kelly McCandless Creative Designer: Brandy Dangerfield Advertising Sales: Contact Kelly McCandless at 406-869-3732 Kelly@billingschamber.com Photo Contributors: Billings Gazette Photographers, Billings Chamber, Visit Billings, Adobe Stock BillingsChamber.com PO Box 31177 Billings MT 59107-1177 406-245-4111 800-711-2630 Fax 406-245-7333
6 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
KEY ECONOMIC INDICATORS
80.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 70.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 60.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 50.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 40.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 30.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 20.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 10.0%___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 0.0%____________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2019
2017 United States
*Full 2019 reports, 2020 data coming soon.
Change in county population 2010-2018
Unemployment Rate Comparison
Median Household Income
Unemployment Rate as of January 2020.
Airport Deboardings: City Comparison Average Home Price
Number of Employer Establishments
400,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 300,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 200,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________
School District #2 Enrollment (2019-2020 School Year):
Sources: Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Billings Association of RealtorsÂ®, City of Billings, School District #2, U.S. Census Bureau and the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research..
100,000_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 0_________________________________________________________________________________________________ *2019
*Full 2019 reports, 2020 data coming soon.
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 7
INDIVIDUALIZING YOUR MEMBERSHIP BY JENNIFER REISER, IOM, CCE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
t first glance the list of fortyeight Chamber member benefits can seem daunting. Even if you have identified what you want to accomplish, the how can be a bit confusing. Looking at the benefits in terms of what they provide for you, rather than how you will actually use them, may help in the process. Benefits can be grouped into four categories:
▶ Advertising & Marketing ▶ Membership Services ▶ Events & Networking ▶ Community Influence The Billings Chamber understands that our members each have unique qualities and works to understand each member’s style and motivation, how each builds their business and how we can contribute to your success. Each membership journey must be customized and individualized. The Billings Chamber team wants to learn about each of our members and work to connect you to the benefits that make your membership experience more enjoyable and increase its effectiveness. Transforming your benefits into results requires active and deliberate planning and practice.
THINGS TO CONSIDER ARE: How often do you want our team to communicate with you? What is the best way for you to receive information? Do you have team members that are charged with attending programs and events? What is the best method for building relationships? 8 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
It is best for you to create a future based on your unique motivations and needs, and work with the Chamber team to identify those benefits that best match your plan.
IDEAS FOR UTILIZING YOUR BENEFITS We encourage you to use these benefits in ways that will be most meaningful and beneficial to you. Here are a few examples:
Advertising & Marketing • Online membership directory • Business celebrations • Social media posts
Membership Services • Referrals • Jobs posting • e-communications
Events & Networking • Weekly, monthly and quarterly ways to engage with content and other business professionals
Community Influence • Legislative and community advocacy • Committee participation Personalized experience is important. We want to support our members in discovering and appreciating what they do best, and then allow you to engage in projects, benefits and tasks that help you in your quest for success. Different types of members want different things—and your benefits should reflect this.
In order to engage with your benefits appropriately, we encourage you to:
• map out your member journey • review the steps • and work with our team and volunteers for clear reminders along the way. Please contact Jennifer Reiser at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rene’ Beyl at email@example.com to discuss your goals and the best ways to use your benefits to get the most out of your membership.
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Dr. Nathan Stanley and his traveling team
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* Including all taxes and fees Fares are subject to availability and other conditions. Fares may change without notice, and are not guaranteed until ticketed.
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 9
TAKING POSITIONS: HOW THE CHAMBER MAKES POLICY AND POSITION DECISIONS BY DANIEL J. BROOKS DIRECTOR; BUSINESS ADVOCACY
he Billings business community has engaged in numerous discussions of impactful issues in the last few months. Public safety, education, elections, economic development, and most recently, a welcoming diversity ordinance (WDO). Some issues are relatively agreeable—I haven’t heard anyone make the case for less public safety and our businesses largely agree that we need additional tools for economic development. Other issues are more divisive—elections and a WDO quickly come to mind.
So how do we decide on the positions we take? If you’re picturing me shaking a Magic 8-Ball and randomly crafting our policy positions, you’d be terribly mistaken. I only use that decision-making method for drafting my Fantasy Football team each fall. Our mission at the Chamber is to develop a strong business climate and vibrant economy by serving the community in a leadership role thereby enhancing the quality of life. With that in mind, we utilize the business expertise within our membership to guide our judgement on what is best for Billings business. However, with hundreds of members representing vastly different perspectives, we needed to adopt a process that ensures members’ voices are taken into account and a board of directors representative of the business community steers our ship.
THE FOLLOWING STEPS GUIDE OUR POLICY-MAKING AT THE CHAMBER. 1. Membership Input We want to hear from you, our members, as leaders in the business community. This generally comes in the form of an online survey but we also hear from you in other ways. Feedback during Collaborate, Cahoots, Business After Hours, along with other meetings and events, is taken into account. We also receive lots of correspondence through calls and emails of members weighing in.
2. Advisory Boards Two standing Advisory Boards, Local Government and State & Federal, discuss the issues while keeping in mind feedback from members, and the perspectives they bring from their business industries. Energy, healthcare, small business, finance, architects, engineers, and others are represented. Advisory Boards make a recommendation to support, oppose, or remain neutral on an issue to the Board of Directors.
10 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
3. Board of Directors Ultimately, the Board of Directors has the final say on our positions. Considering membership input, an Advisory Board recommendation, and their own business perspectives, our Board of Directors shapes the policies our staff then enact and implement. Whether it’s recruiting additional air service to Billings, lobbying for additional infrastructure, or providing leadership and growth opportunities to businesses, it’s because the business community believes these policies will develop a strong business climate and vibrant economy.
Additionally, we look to other business communities around the country. We work with other chambers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Western Association of Chamber Executives (WACE), Montana Association of Chamber Executives (MACE), and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). How are they addressing workforce issues, tax policy, and equality? Are there lessons learned and best practices we can adopt that have been beneficial to businesses in other areas of the United States? We take that information and use it to help shape what we do for the business community. Sometimes we integrate ideas from other chambers, and sometimes other chambers call to discuss ours. We’ve recently been recognized by the ACCE and WACE for our Elections Matter initiative, which provided a template for other chambers interested in getting involved in elections and prompted a chamber in Florida to reach out and ask how they can learn from Billings, MT! Everything we do comes back to our mission of creating a strong business climate and vibrant economy. While there may be disagreement on how we get there, we want you to know that your input is integral to a rigorous process. So the next time you see that email coming from the Chamber, asking you to give us a couple minutes of your time, please make sure to fill out the survey and give us your honest feedback. We want to make sure that we’re advocating for YOU!
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Thank You to the sponsors of the
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MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 11
BILLINGS: A DESIRABLE COMMUNITY WITH A
WORTH TELLING BY STEFAN CATTARIN MEETING & CONVENTION SALES MANAGER, VISIT BILLINGS
Not everyone will see the beauty, charm and authenticity that Billings offers at first glance, but once you visit, touch and taste the personality of Billings, it won’t be long before you see it! Above photo: Stefan Cattarin hosting a small group of meeting planners on horseback with Bittercreek Outfitters. Photo at right: Stefan selling Billings to meeting planners.
12 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
Get to know
A conference planner experiences Billings by rappeling down the Rims.
f you have a buoyant perspective when it comes to where you live, work and play in Billings, then you share the same sentiment as the majority of us who call Montana’s Trailhead ‘home.’ Granted this is not a unanimous perspective of Billings and quite possibly not an original sentiment of your own prior to immersing yourself or your family here! Eleven years ago, I was preparing to take my fiancé (Billings born and raised) to be my wife. Prior to doing so, I jokingly suggested that she read and sign the ‘fine print’ clause in our wedding contract that if she married me, she would never be moving back to Montana. 18 months later, we were moving to Montana! The destination that once held a perception in my mind of horse pulled wagons and no WiFi or indoor plumbing, quickly became a vivacious setting to call home. The irony of that story is that I now represent Billings to a national audience and dedicate my time to helping others see the same vivaciousness of Billings that captured my attention. Not everyone will see the beauty, charm and authenticity that Billings offers at first glance, but once you visit, touch and taste the personality of Billings, it won’t be long before you see it! This is the experience I’ve learned from working directly with convention planners and recruiting meetings and conventions to Billings. A truly remarkable destination that is unfamiliar at first, but as we continue to tell our story, we become as viable and desirable as any other city in the market. Not only is Billings a great place to live, work and play, it is a great place to visit. Convention attendees account for 20% of all visitation in Yellowstone County. With the marketing abilities of today,
Stefan presenting Billings Common Misconceptions to meeting planners.
we can tell our story to a broad audience and leverage our vibrant cultures and historic perspectives to draw conferences to our city. Billings is an emerging meeting destination among small cities across the nation. As interest grows in our destination it remains vital that our community actively supports visitor growth, including convention space conversations. The current inventory of hotel properties with meeting space has proven successful for many years, yet we are still limited to the convention opportunities that could be recruited to Billings, specifically due to space capacity. Montana does not have a full service hotel property capable of facilitating a group of 1,000 or more people. The convention industry represents thousands upon thousands of convention opportunities of this capacity as well as larger and smaller ones. Billings is actively recruiting the small meetings market, maximizing the existing conference hotel properties, MetraPark facility and various stand-alone event venues. As buoyant supporters of Billings, your active voice for continued development of largescale meeting space will strengthen existing efforts, open up new opportunities and grow the economic impact which the meeting and convention tourism market brings to this great place we all call ‘home’. One of the many ways I recruit meetings and conventions to Billings is by working with local and state organizations to help bring their regional and national events to Billings. If you’d like to learn more about this, or have an audience that should hear more about this message, please reach out to me at Stefan@VisitBillings.com.
TBID BOARD CHAIRMAN, JOE STUDINER He’s one of the community’s greatest supporters and, this fiscal year, Joe Studiner is the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District’s leader. Joe Studiner of Erck Hotels Corporation is the 2019-2020 Chairman of the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Board of Directors. In his role with Erck Hotels, Joe helped open the Hampton Inn on Southgate Drive in 2000. As the company realized success in Billings, Studiner helped open the Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn and Suites on Ember Lane. Joe takes pride in the community he calls home. He and his wife, Sam, moved to Billings in the 1970’s with Deluxe Check Printers Incorporated and raised their family. Joe immediately got involved as one of the first youth hockey coaches in town and has been a supporter of American Legion Baseball and the Billings Mustangs for decades. As the chairman of the TBID Board, Joe is a strong advocate for the lodging community, the tourism industry, and is proud that Erck Hotels Corporation is such an important part of the destination. It’s a family affair with Joe, too. His daughter, Stacy Lind, is the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Joe lives by Erck Hotel founder Ruby Erck’s words: “If you have happy employees, you’ll have happy guests.” To Joe, customer service is key and it is witnessed in all he does.
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
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 13
TRiPS on a TANKFUL
MILES CITY BUCKING HORSE SALE CELEBRATES 70 YEARS
BY BRENDA MAAS DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
ut here in Southeast Montana cowboying is seriously big business. And few events are bigger and more serious fun than the annual Miles City Bucking Horse Sale (MCBHS). Celebrating its 70th anniversary on May 14-17, 2020, the sale remains rooted in rodeo tradition while celebrating Western lifestyles. Known locally as “The Buckin’ Horse,” the sale emerged from rather uncertain beginnings. One rendition tells of the owner of the livestock center buying some steers from the Ekalaka, Mont., area with about 30 bucking horses thrown in the mix. The owner didn’t know what to do with the horses, so he hosted a sale. In another telling, local ranchers were tired of an excess of wild range horses, so they decided to “buck them out” and invited riders, along with rodeo stock buyers, to an early-season sale. Likely there’s a smidge of truth in each story. And, like any great Montana tradition, the tales continue to build.
PHOTOS BY MARY PETERS, MILES CITY BUCKING HORSE SALE. 14 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
NOT JUST A REGULAR RODEO STOCK SALE Today, the Bucking Horse Sale has evolved into a four-day event that starts with an earlymorning Cowboy Church or Range Riders Museum Breakfast and ends when the bands quit playing at the Main Street establishments. Between that, there’s bull riding, wild horse races, ranch bronc rides, rodeo grand entries and pari-mutuel horse races. And there’s music – lots of music. Miles City is truly more than a “One Light Town” and country fans are sure to hear that cover song along with other favorites like “He Ain’t A Cowboy” from Casey Donahew during the 2020 kickoff concert. It sets the tone for the entire weekend with dancing, authentic country music and a boots-and-denim dress code. Even those who can’t two-step are sure to find their rhythm on Thursday evening. Although some have dubbed the event as a “Cowboy Mardi Gras,” John Morford, President of the MCBHS Board of Governors, noted that there’s plenty of fun to be had for all ages.
BOARD MEMBER: CHIP WATTS Chip Watts knows tourism insideand-out. As 18-year co-owner of 7th Ranch RV Camp near Garryowen, Chip focuses on providing visitors with an honest, first-hand experience on what to do and where to go in Southeast Montana. Prior to opening the RV camp, Chip and his wife, Sandy, provided personal tours of historic locations across the region – they still provide custom and large group tours upon request.
Morford pointed to the trade show, which sells “everything cowboy,” Saturday’s parade, art in the park and the nightly street dances as places that families will find fun. At the fairgrounds, kids and adults alike will be enthralled with racing horses, bucking horses, bucking bulls and – the all-time favorite – mutton bustin’. This event caters to the pint-sized crowd as kids ages six and under put on a helmet and hang on as they try to ride a sheep across the arena.
CLOWNIN’ AROUND Throughout the weekend, professional rodeo clown Whistle-Nut and Ole, his trusty…er, uh, steer, mingle with the crowds. Last year, that mingling took Whistle-Nut, riding Ole, into the Bison Bar– proving another Bucking Horse Sale mantra: expect the unexpected. The majority of events happen along Main Street, which is blocked off much of the weekend, or at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds but the entire town is festive and celebratory. Morford noted that the MCBHS attracts approximately 10,000 attendees to Miles City over four days – so much so,
that Miles City and Bucking Horse Sale have become synonymous across the globe. That’s where the “World Famous” part comes in. While MCBHS organizers certainly don’t advertise internationally, the Bucking Horse Sale has created its own legacy of sorts. Morford noted they regularly see attendees from UK, Belgium, Germany, France and even Russia. “This event has such a unique history, it built its own reputation,” Morford said. Despite all the fun, there is serious business happening, too. The sale is a chance for professional rodeo consignors to see a proven bucking horse and for quality horse owners to meet consignors. Sunday’s events, which include The World’s Biggest One-Day Match Bronc Ride, bring the world’s top 30 cowboys to compete for $30,000 in prize money. At the end of the weekend, and truly every day of the year, one statement about Miles City rings clear: out here, we are big on the cowboy life. The traditions are rooted in our soil and in our everyday lives. The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale celebrates exactly that.
Chip has also been part of Visit Southeast Montana since it was re-organized from the “old” Custer Country. Over the years Chip has held multiple executive positions and currently serves as pastchair. He also leads the grants and nominating committees with his institutional knowledge. During the off-season, Chip and Sandy like to explore in their own RV, visiting with their children and four grandchildren and expanding their knowledge by reading. “We like to camp ourselves,” he said, “finding quiet private places on our own.
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.
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 15
Celebrating BY KELLY MCCANDLESS DIRECTOR; COMMUNICATIONS & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
s an employee of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, I feel pretty lucky to witness greatness fairly often. Our organization proudly represents more than 1,200 businesses employing nearly 50,000 people, meaning our team sees grit, innovation and outstanding displays of tenacity on the daily. It’s inspiring to watch, and it’s inspiring to support, the people who make Billings such a unique and captivating town. And it never gets old. Really. I am certain that any member of our staff would agree; we show up and are honored to work on behalf of fantastic businesses each and every day. And while we do not take the “regular” days for granted, we also sincerely enjoy this time of year when the Business Excellence Awards are given. It allows us to bring all of you along for the ride we enjoy all the time. Five categories, dozens of nominations, an arduous evaluation and voting process, all lead us to this moment: announcing the 2020 Business Excellence Award winners. These award winners are a few of Billings’ best, and we’re proud to celebrate them with each of you. Read on to learn a bit about each of our winners, then join us in honoring them during the Billings Chamber Breakfast presented by KULR8 on April 8, 2020 at the First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
2020 EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR: A&E
In the words of CEO Dusty Eaton, one of A&E’s core values guiding the firm is “We are a firm built on a rich history. We value where we came from and the people and projects that got us here.” But that doesn’t mean they’re looking backward. On the contrary. “Over the past few years, we’ve focused on transforming the practice from an architecture firm to a multi-disciplinary design practice.” They expanded their team to incorporate a broad collection of design skills providing a holistic design experience flexible to each project’s unique requirements, fusing architecture, interior design, branding, graphic design, creative writing, and construction management into one, comprehensive design practice.
A&E is all about people. Whether it’s clients or employees, the firm is driven to provide a positive experience for those they interact with. The firm’s integrity is the foundation for all business endeavors and professional relationships. Eaton continues, “With this approach, we seek to create impactful experiences in the work we do, regardless of the medium. A giant neon sign hangs in our new downtown Billings office, illuminating the powerful statement, “create impact” – which is exactly what we’re inspired to do.” The firm’s employees nominated A&E for the Employer of the Year award, noting that treating staff well is a top priority. “As a result, the firm has very little turnover, and those who join the team typically stay for the duration of their careers,” the nominators shared. A&E offers exceptional traditional benefits, but it’s the non-traditional
16 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
2020 BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR: ADAM KIMMET, CELLULAR PLUS It’s safe to say that Adam Kimmet has touched most of the lives of Billings’ residents through one of the most important business tools you have: your cell phone. Kimmet started Cellular Plus 22 years ago with a small store on South 24th Street West employing three people. Today, he owns and operates 63 retail stores in more the 50 communities across Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming with 425 employees. 75 of those employees make their living right here in Billings, Lockwood, and Laurel stores, and it’s those employees who inspire Kimmet. “I am inspired by the passion and commitment our team has,” Kimmet said. “Surrounding myself with driven, successful people who collaborate energizes me every day to continue to improve.” benefits that set them apart. Flexible scheduling, company retreats, professional development, volunteering and charitable giving combine to create a culture employees are eager to be part of. “A&E is all about people,” the nominators shared. “Whether it’s clients or employees, the firm is driven to provide a positive experience for those they interact with. The firm’s integrity is the foundation for all business endeavors and professional relationships.” But what does an award like this mean to A&E? “This is an incredible honor for our team,” Eaton stated. “To be recognized by the Billings Chamber and our peers as Employer of the Year is not only extraordinarily meaningful, but also genuinely validating.” Eaton and his team are proud of their incredible growth balanced with their decision to hold fast to their core values. Despite nearly quadrupling in size, they are proud to offer the same “small business” approach to their clients and employees. “Maintaining our reputation for quality and integrity is equally important as our goals for innovation and excellence,” Eaton explains. Above all, the people make A&E what it is today, and Eaton celebrates his team of “brilliant thinkers, innovators, and above all, genuinely good people who believe in challenging what’s possible.”
He works harder than anyone in the organization and leads by example by always growing himself personally and professionally. - NOMINATOR, LEIF WELHAVEN According to his nominator, Leif Welhaven, Kimmet is key to creating teams that excel. “I can only imagine how many hundreds, if not thousands, of people he has empowered over the years to be successful in both his business and beyond. I am one of hundreds of examples,” Welhaven wrote. Kimmet boasts qualities that truly make an exceptional businessperson: honesty, integrity, commitment, passion, innovation, communication,
MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY | 17
and many others. “He works harder than anyone in the organization and leads by example by always growing himself personally & professionally,” Welhaven continued. Kimmet himself calls out his drive as the quality that’s led him to be successful. He remembers when he first began working in the cell phone business at just 23 years old. During a management meeting of the company he was working for, he stepped up to lead the group he was in, despite being surrounded by others with more experience. “I realized that I was willing to take risks and jump into the leadership role and that not everyone else was,” he said. As a leader, he prides himself on not giving up and bringing his steadfast drive to work daily. “Most of my failures happened by not following through,” Kimmet explains. “This has made me more driven and allowed me to realize that if you want to get something, just don’t give up.”
2020 SUPERVISOR/MANAGER OF THE YEAR: MICHELLE WILLIAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE HISTORIC BILLINGS DEPOT When asked about being a leader, Michelle Williams is quick to bring her outstanding team into the conversation, noting that leading is about the people she works with, and not her role, that bring excellence. “I have complete trust, respect and confidence in this Depot team,” Williams said. “I’m proud to work alongside every one of them and am grateful for the struggle, laughter and leftovers we share every day.” Williams’ nominator, Miyan Hungerford, specifies her out-of-the-box approach to management and her commitment to mentorship as the qualities that set Williams apart – a sentiment Williams herself celebrates. “I’m not afraid to play with the intangibles: Fear, excitement, chaos, joy, laughter, insecurity… I think to truly lead and influence growth you have to be willing to climb in bed with all of these emotions in order to get to a place that creates change.” And create change she has. Under her leadership, the Billings Depot has created fresh programming and events attracting new clients and donors to the historic local icon. Hungerford shared her appreciation for Williams’ forward-thinking mindset and innovative leadership. “She really has transformed the Depot, and has brought so much life to this amazing place! She is so motivated and futuristic that I can see her transforming Billings.” Williams’ leadership stretches beyond the Billings Depot into youth mentorship. She teaches competitive gymnastics and recently got involved with Newman Elementary School, opportunities where she recognizes her opportunity to be a positive influence. She sees these roles
18 MARCH 2020 - MAY 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY
She really has transformed the Depot, and has brought so much life to this amazing place! She is so motivated and futuristic that I can see her - MIYAN HUNGERFORD transforming Billings. as another important way to learn about team goals, encouragement, communication, celebrating successes, and fear. “I decided to be more deliberate with my voice and positively inspire young girls beyond just cartwheels and handstands,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity for me to work with young girls and give them the confidence and inspiration to achieve something great, count me in.” As a problem solver and a connector, Williams thrives when leading a team. “As a leader, you go first,” Williams explained. “You do the heavy lifting for the team, take the risk, get dirty and make sure your team is safe and protected. To do this, I believe you have to pay attention to the details. Do your research, prepare for the worst, and have backup options in case things don’t go as you planned.”
2020 CUSTOMER SERVICE EXCELLENCE: BRIAN HAFNER, UNIVERSAL LENDING HOME LOANS
2020 NEXTGEN EXCEPTIONAL EMERGING LEADER: DAVID MITCHELL, COLDWELL BANKER COMMERCIAL David Mitchell is the second NextGEN member to earn the recognition of Exceptional Emerging Leader, and it is extremely well-deserved. Though he’s quick to deflect to the NextGEN membership as a whole, noting the collective passion for growth he sees in the group.
Brian Hafner is a rising star in Billings, and his commitment to customer service excellence is a major contributor to his success. When buying his first home six years ago, the process felt stressful and Hafner recalls thinking it didn’t have to be like that. Thus, his approach was born. “My clients are excited about a home, not a mortgage,” he said. “My goal is to make the home buying process as simple as possible.”
While Mitchell possesses many qualities that make him a fantastic leaders, a consistent theme could be found in every nomination he received: his commitment to knowledge. Whether he is learning for himself or sharing his knowledge with others, he constantly researches and explores to better himself and his skills. “David is courageous in his pursuit of knowledge and his willingness to be vulnerable in requesting mentorship as he moves forward to meet his goals,” explained one nominator.
Hafner thrives on the relationships he builds, both in his business and through his community involvement. “Most of my clients end up being my friends by the end of the home buying process,” he explained, noting his determination to steer every client in the right direction – even if that means encouraging them to wait on buying a home. Hafner’s commitment to customer service excellence extends beyond his business. He puts countless hours into volunteering for other organizations, and his reputation as a leader who shows up and contributes to accomplishing goals was noted by several of his nominators.
I try to lead by taking action. If I’m going to do anything, I’m going to jump in feet first and give it my all. “Brian takes charge when needed, delegating and sharing his enthusiasm with everyone he meets,” shared one nominator. Another noted, “Brian has many great ideas and knows the key people to help make them happen.” This ability to connect is part of what inspires Hafner to continue pursuing his goals. He serves as a co-chair for the Billings NextGEN Leadership Team, and expresses his excitement about the young professionals in this community. “I’m so excited for the future of our city because I have a front row seat to see them in action. It makes me want to be better every day.” His nominators described Hafner as reliable, enthusiastic, committed, passionate, and determined. “Continually he is in front of people, helping them, leading them, and creating opportunities for people to learn.” Hafner describes himself as someone who isn’t likely to sit on the sidelines (unless he’s watching a Griz game!). “I try to lead by taking action. If I’m going to do anything, I’m going to jump in feet first and give it my all.” This sentiment was also recognized by his nominators, who said, “Brian is a great example of leading through service, and showing others how this type of leadership brings success.” For Hafner, his drive to see the Billings community succeed is rooted in his upbringing and his hope for the future. “I want Billings to thrive because I want my daughter and her generation to thrive in Billings.”
Mitchell sees this skill as part of his role as a leader. “My intention as a leader is more than impacting others, but to share knowledge, experience, and resources with those around me,” he said. “I may not be able to make an impact every time, but I can always share a contact, a thought, or feedback.” Other nominators shared Mitchell’s gift for connecting people and leading them to greatness, while another noted, “David has a unique way of making everyone he comes in contact with feel like they are the most important person in the room.” These sentiments were shared by many who nominated him, and expressed appreciation for his determination, reliability, and unmatched work ethic. “David is a rising star, an asset to the community as a whole, and an exceptional leader,” another nominator shared. “He engages with multiple generations, multiple business sectors, and multiple individuals and offers the same outgoing, knowledgeable, respectful and curious outlook to all.” Mitchell credits his work with mentors in helping to mold the professional he is today. “The common characteristic I’ve learned from my mentors is resiliency. Successful leaders fail. They fail a lot. But what they do after they fail is inspiring. They get back up. Again. And again. Those are the people I want to be like.” Furthering his position as a NextGEN Exceptional Emerging Leader, Mitchell shared one of the key lessons he has learned to date: “I once believed that success and achievements were out of my reach, or not meant for me, due to my upbringing and education. The more I read, the more success and failures I experienced, and the more mentors I sought after, the more I realized how wrong I was. Success is not given. Success is a habit. And everyone has a right to own that habit.”
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SCHOOLS BY CRAIG VANNICE SCHOOL DISTRICT 2
THE BILLINGS ELEMENTARY GENERAL FUND DEFICIT The largest School District in the State is facing a third year of structural imbalance in the Elementary General Fund due to expenditures exceeding budgeted spending limits as determined by the State of Montana. Original forecasts for the 2019-2020 school year showed a $4.5 Million year-end deficit, up from $2.4M in 2018-2019 and nearly $1.0M in 2017-2018. SCHOOL YEAR FY18 (2017-2018) FY19 (2018-2019) FY20 (2019-2020)
REVENUE $77,800,000 $79,200,000 $80,600,000
EXPENSE $78,800,000 $81,600,000 $85,100,000
DEFICIT $(900,000) $(2,400,000) $(4,500,000)
Over $1M in cost saving measures were put in place by the District early this school year, including freezing new hires and a 10% cut to operating budgets district-wide, and now put the budget on track for a $3.4M deficit for the 19-20 school year:
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19-20 PROJECTED DEFICIT
19-20 ADJUSTED DEFICIT
COST SAVING MEASURES
Additional cost saving measures recommended for next year bring the total expense reduction in the Elementary District to $4.2M. The reductions are significant and impact nearly 40 full-time equivalent positions in School District 2, but also have a significant impact on reducing the deficit for the 20-21 school year. Initial projections for next year show the deficit decreasing to $1.5M: 20-21 PROJECTED DEFICIT COST SAVING MEASURES
20-21 ADJUSTED DEFICIT
This year and next year’s deficits, similar to the last 2 years, will be backfilled by the Multi-District fund. The Multi-District fund was created with the intent of “increasing the flexibility and efficiency of school districts without an increase in local taxes”. 20-3-363(4), MCA and OPI Multi-District Cooperative FAQs August 2017
Prior to the Multi-District fund, budgets were on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis and created unnecessary year-end spending in order to avoid an overall funding decrease in the following year’s budget. The Multi-District fund is meant to address the issue by allowing excess money at the end of the school year to be set aside and ‘saved’ for the needs of the District not addressed by the current funding formula, such as school safety and deferred building maintenance. It incentivizes Districts to be more efficient in the way they operate and strategically plan for the future. The fund reached nearly $5M in 2017 but has since reduced to $2M due in large part to backfilling the deficit in the Elementary General Fund. With the current year deficit on track for $3.5M the Multi-District fund is on track to be depleted in June 2020, creating additional stress on the general fund and other funds to bridge the gap next year and beyond.
SD2 AND THE DECREMENT The Elementary and High School general fund budgets make up nearly 75% of the $170M overall SD2 budget. General fund budget levels are established based on state entitlements, student enrollment counts, and the number of educators and licensed professionals employed by the District. State entitlements include: • BASIC ENTITLEMENT which is the minimum funding each school district will receive from the state if in operation
there are over 5,000 students and 4,200 are funded at the minimum entitlement rate.
STATE INFLATIONARY INCREASE Every biennium legislators approve the inflationary factors to be applied to the funding components of school district’s general funds in upcoming years. The factors are calculated using a nationwide Consumer Price Index metric (CPI-U) which monitors increased costs for the average consumer on household and personal expenses. In the case of Montana School Districts the amount allocated for the current year is based on historical CPI-U from 4-7 years ago. For example the 0.91% inflation given for the 2019-2020 school year used the CPI-U average from 2014-2017, which experienced a sharp drop off due to a falling Energy Index in 2014 (ie. crude oil dropped nearly 50%). During 2010 thru 2015, and leading up to the decision to build Medicine Crow and Ben Steele Middle Schools, state inflationary increases averaged just over 2%. From 2016-2020, fueled by the decline in the Energy Index, the increases instead averaged 1.5%. With an annual K-12 General Fund budget of $120M the 0.5% variance has a major impact on funding for SD2, over 5 years the lower rate resulted in a funding reduction of nearly $3.2M. A smaller K-12 ‘Class B’ District with 230 students and an annual budget of $2.5M would experience a funding shortfall of only $70,000 over the same 5 year span.
• PER-STUDENT ENTITLEMENT which is based on the total number of students in the school district, and subject to a funding reduction commonly referred to as the decrement. Funding provided per student gradually decreases until a base funding rate is reached, once the base rate is reached every student from then on is funded at the minimum entitlement amount afforded by the State.
$2,500,000 $120,000,000 Annual Revenue Annual Revenue After 5 Years @ 2.0% Inflation $2,760,000 $132,500,000
All school districts in the State of Montana are subject to the provisions of the decrement. Due to its size, in Billings the decrement results in 90% of the 17,000 student body being funded at the minimum state entitlement rate. The second largest district in the State with 10,000 students is Great Falls, where the decrement results in 82% of their student body being funded at the minimum rate. Butte has just over 4,000 students and a decrement rate of 57%. The rate continues to drop as student count decreases, for example a District with 1,000 students will have no students funded at the minimum rate, and on average receives $120 more per student per year than the 17,000 students being served in School District 2.
CPI-U is a poor match for the labor-intensive nature of public education. The Employment Cost Index (ECI) for State and Local Government is another inflation index and better represents the labor costs of the Billings School District. Over the last 5 years ECI (labor expense) has outpaced CPI-U (revenue) by 1-2% points, adding additional stress on the District to cover cost increases that outpace revenue growth.
The justification for the decrement calculation is Economies of Scale, which in a school district setting postulates the larger a district becomes the less it costs on average to produce education for students. DECREMENT EXAMPLE: K-6 grades • The 1st student is funded at $5,600 and each following student is decremented -$0.20 up to 1,000 students. Each student over 1,000 is funded at $5,400 each or $200 less than the base rate. In Billings there are nearly 12,000 students in K-6 grades and 11,000 of them are funded at the minimum entitlement rate. 7-12 grades • The 1st student is funded at $7,100 and each following student is decremented -$0.50 up to 800 students. Each student over 800 is funded at $6,700 each or $400 less than the base rate. In Billings
After 5 Years @ 1.5% Inflation Decrease
MAY 2020 ELEMENTARY GENERAL FUND OPERATIONAL LEVY In March SD2 passed a resolution to include a $1.6M Elementary General Fund operational levy on the May 5, 2020 election ballot. The levy would result in an increase of 7.25 mills on the local tax base and $0.82 monthly tax increase, or $9.80 annually on a $100,000 tax assessed home. On a $200,000 tax assessed home the impact would be $1.64 monthly, or $19.60 annually. Passage of the levy would fully mitigate the budget deficit for the 2020-2021 school year but doesn’t put the District in the clear; projections for future years show an increase in revenues, further decreases in cost or a combination of both are necessary in order to avoid future budget deficits beyond 2021. SD2 is committed to forming a strategic plan with all stakeholders within the District to mitigate the budget deficit, while keeping student achievement and student safety at the forefront of the conversation.
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s t n e v E
SPRING IS EVENT SEASON AT THE CHAMBER BY JESSICA HART EVENTS MANAGER
CHAMBER BREAKFAST April 8th
Presented by KULR8 First Interstate Arena Doors Open 6am • Program Begins 7am Genral Admission tickets $40 • Tables on the floor $675
BUSINESS AFTER HOURS April 15th
Cellular Plus • 4005 Montana Sapphire Dr.
CHAMBER AM April 23rd
Presented by Entre Technology Services Hosted by Northern Hotel $25/member • $30/nonmember Breakfast and Networking 7:30am • Program 8-9am
BUSINESS AFTER HOURS May 13th
Location coming soon!
Early June Presented by Northwest Farm Credit Services $55/member • $65/nonmember
BUSINESS AFTER HOURS June 10th
Opportunity Bank • 1005 N. 27th Street
CHAMBER OPEN June 19th
Briarwood $600/member team of 4 • $700/nonmember team of 4 AM or PM Flight
CHAMBER AM June 26th
Presented by Entre Technology Services Hosted by Northern Hotel State of the City and County $25/member • $30/nonmember Breakfast and Networking 7:30am • Program 8-9am Learn more about these events and register at BillingsChamber.com.
e kicked 2020 off with a bang having a packed house for the Ag Appreciation Celebration thanks to Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-Op and our sponsors of the 2020 event. We don’t slowdown from there.
Each month Business After Hours is a great way to connect with other Chamber members. This two hour event provides a space for you to stop in, grab a light bite, a few drinks, and great conversations. Business After Hours is hosted the second Wednesday of EVERY month by a different member business. Locations can be found at BillingsChamber.com (and the next few are listed in the calendar on this page!). Our largest event of the year, the Chamber Breakfast, will be held Wednesday April 8th presented by KULR8 at MetraPark. Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder, philanthropist, and entrepreneur will be hitting the stage to share his story of growing up through skateboarding and his evolution into the businessman he is today. His message is sure to inspire and drive inspiring takeaways for people, businesses, and Billings residents to take home with them. Along with Tony’s message, we have an incredible program highlighting our Business Excellence winners which provides us space to celebrate many people making an impact our community. Tickets are available at the MetraPark box office or by visiting BillingsChamber.com. Chamber AM, our newest event, provides an opportunity for members to get together before work to connect with the Chamber on our strategic priorities. Don’t miss these quarterly meetings presented by Entre Technology Services and hosted by the Northern Hotel! The next two will be held on April 23rd and June 26th. Each Chamber AM has a different focus area, so stay tuned for the upcoming topics. Interested in Montana’s number one industry? Join us in early June for the annual Ag Tour. Each spring, we hit the road and take a deeper look into Agriculture. This full day event is put together by the Chamber Ag Committee and invites everyone to experience the farm and ranch work day. Thank you to our ag program sponsors for making this event possible: Northwest Farm Credit Services, Stockman Bank, Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-Op and Opportunity Bank. Details are coming soon. Are you over winter? We are already planning one of the best Billings golf days for you to enjoy. The Chamber Open is always a hit with teams selling out! We have two options for you to play on June 19th, a morning flight starting at 7:30am and an afternoon flight starting at 1:30pm. Grab a team and come enjoy a round of golf… hopefully in the sun. To register, head over to BillingsChamber.com. Have event questions? Would you like to sponsor? Reach out to me, Jessica Hart, at Jessica@BillingsChamber.com.
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BY MARYA PENNINGTON PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER
MORE THAN A
THE BILLINGS MUSTANGS CONNECT THE COMMUNITY Photos Courtesy Paul Ruhter/Billings Mustangs
BILLINGS MUSTANGS MAY BE FACING THEIR LAST SUMMER They say baseball is America’s pastime, with scenes of bright-eyed youth gathering for a glimpse of their heroes of the game, hot dogs and bags of peanuts, and the sun reflecting off faces eager to watch the greatest game ever played. The same can be said for most Billings natives, who grew up attending Billings Mustangs games at Cobb Field (now Dehler Park), since 1948. The possibility of 72 years of Billings’ only professional athletic team vanishing is disheartening to many. Baseball is at a crossroads. Major League Baseball (MLB) has proposed dropping 42 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams, including three Montana teams from the Pioneer League - the Billings Mustangs, the Missoula Paddleheads and the Great Falls Voyagers – in order to cut costs. MiLB pays an 8% tax on all profits to MLB, and those teams paying the least are on the chopping block. The principle criteria for the cuts are simply the financial stability of the franchise and whether they can consistently turn a profit. But this move would eliminate a significant economic resource for the Billings community, as well as alter its quality of life.
ECONOMIC IMPACT According to Mustangs owner, Dave Heller, the Billings Mustangs bring in just over $1M to the Billings economy. They partner with local businesses for many of their operating needs, from printing businesses to wholesalers, hotels and restaurants. Visiting teams and their fans, along with visiting Mustangs fans, all spend money playing, staying and eating in Billings
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MUSTANGS WHO MADE THE MAJORS
The list of Mustangs who went on to play either a few games or had a lengthy Major League Baseball career is quite long, so below we’ve limited this list to those who may be household names from the modern era. The list includes the season that they played in Billings and in parentheses is their current Major League team, or in the case of them playing for more than one MLB team, their most notable team.
when they visit. And this doesn’t include the impact of losing the 150 jobs that are provided by the Mustangs if the Pioneer League is dissolved. Gary Roller, General Manager of the team, began with the Mustangs as an intern and has spent his entire career working with them. “At the end of the day, there is a real human cost to contraction” says Heller. The impact goes far beyond dollars, which is significant.
It’s about the people of this community. It’s about watching kids’ faces light up when they get an autograph from a player, or when Homer, our mascot, crashes their birthday party. We are not in the baseball or entertainment business. We are in the memory making business. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT In addition to the economic impact of the Mustangs, there is a community impact as well. The Billings Mustangs donate over $50K each year, from tickets and non-profit donations to providing books for students in Title I schools in
partnership with the United Way of Yellowstone County. In fact, Brenda Ludwig with United Way shared that since 2011 they have partnered with the Billings Mustangs to distribute 12,781 books to children all over Billings, Shepherd, Laurel and Lockwood – books the Mustangs purchased. “Gary speaks to the kids about the importance of reading throughout the summer for 20 minutes per day to avoid falling behind in reading ability,” Ludwig reflected. “He made a great impact on the students every time he spoke.” The team also spends time in the community with various programs, such as reading to kids in the Reading Rocks program and exercising with residents at Canyon Creek Memory Care. The Billings Mustangs are not just an economic resource, but they are “deeply woven into the very fabric of the community. We are part of Billings’ DNA,” says Heller. When asked why he is so passionate about Billings Mustangs baseball, Heller replies “it’s about the people of this community. It’s about watching kids’ faces light up when they get an autograph from a player, or when Homer, our mascot, crashes their birthday party. We are not in the baseball or entertainment business. We are in the memory making business.”
PLAYER IMPACT The Mustangs have played a huge part in the development of players for MLB. The Billings Mustangs have been affiliated with the
Nick Senzel ’16 (Cincinnati Reds) Tanner Rainey ’15 (Washington Nationals) Tyler Mahle ’14 (Cincinnati Reds) Alex Blandino ’14 (Cincinnati Reds) Shed Long ’14 (Seattle Mariners) Aristides Aquino ’14 (Cincinnati Reds) Phillip Ervin ’13 (Cincinnati Reds) Jesse Winker ’12 (Cincinnati Reds) Amir Garrett ’12 (Cincinnati Reds) Robert Stephenson ’12 (Cincinnati Reds) Tony Cingrani ’11 (Cincinnati Reds) Tucker Barnhart ’10 (Cincinnati Reds) Billy Hamilton ’10 (Cincinnati Reds) Josh Smith ’10 (Cincinnati Reds) Didi Gregorius ’09 (New York Yankees) Miguel Rojas ’08 (Miami Marlins) Todd Frazier ’07 (Cincinnati Reds) Chris Heisey ’06 (Cincinnati Reds) Drew Stubbs ’06 (Cincinnati Reds) Justin Turner ’06 (Los Angeles Dodgers) Jay Bruce ’05 (Cincinnati Reds) Adam Rosales ’05 (Oakland A’s) Sam LeCure ’05 (Cincinnati Reds) Travis Wood ’05 (Chicago Cubs) Paul Janish ’04 (Cincinnati Reds) Joey Votto ’03 (Cincinnati Reds) Chris Dickerson ’03 (Cincinnati Reds) Edwin Encarnacion ’01 (Toronto Blue Jays) Ben Broussard ’99 (Cleveland Indians) Todd Coffey ’98 (Cincinnati Reds) BJ Ryan ’98 (Baltimore Orioles) Adam Dunn ’98 (Cincinnati Reds) Austin Kearns ’98 (Cincinnati Reds) Scott Williamson ’97 (Cincinnati Reds) DeWayne Wise ’97 (Chicago White Sox) Ray King ’95 (Milwaukee Brewers) Jason LaRue ’95 (Cincinnati Reds) Aaron Boone ’94 (Cincinnati Reds) Reggie Sanders ’88 (Cincinnati Reds) Jack Armstrong ’87 (Cincinnati Reds) Rob Dibble ’83 (Cincinnati Reds) Lenny Harris ’83 (Cincinnati Reds) Jeff Montgomery ’83 (Kansas City Royals) Joe Oliver ’83 (Cincinnati Reds) Kurt Stillwell ’83 (Kansas City Royals) Tom Browning ’82 (Cincinnati Reds) Kal Daniels ’82 (Cincinnati Reds) Paul O’Neill ’81 (New York Yankees) Danny Tartabull ’80 (Kansas City Royals)
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allow the MLB to be exempt from federal anti-trust laws, laws designed to protect consumers from predatory business practices and ensure that fair competition exists within an open-market economy. The Pioneer League teams are all independently owned, “mom and pop” franchises, not owned by MLB or large corporations, which is rare. The decision whether to dissolve the Pioneer League will be made at the end of the 2020 season. And if turning a profit is what the MLB is looking for, then communities need to step up and get to a game. “We need to wake up the community” says Heller. Cincinnati Reds since 1974, and in that time there have been a sizeable number of Mustangs that have gone on to play for a MLB team. Two of the most notable players are Hall of Famers George Brett, who played in Billings in 1971 when the Mustangs were affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, and Trevor Hoffman who went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1989. The Mustangs have played a significant role in
providing experience and training for their players to afford them the opportunity to move on to the next level at a MLB baseball affiliate.
JOIN THE EFFORT So what happens now? Heller worked with Montana legislators to submit a resolution outlining the importance of MiLB for local economies and asking Congress to no longer
So consider doing your part. Make the Billings Mustangs a group outing this summer. Purchase season tickets for your business and give them out as an incentive or customer appreciation gift, or entertain a group of clients at a game. Heller says “you can watch baseball on cable sure, but one thing that brings people all together in this community is cheering for the Mustangs. That is a special thing.”
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
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DeDe Stoner Branch Manager/Loan Officer guildmortgage.com/dedestoner
NEXT UP WITH
NEXTGEN IS SPONSORED BY
WHY I NEXTGEN BY DAVID MITCHELL CO-CHAIR, NEXTGEN AND PRINCIPAL, COLDWELL BANKER COMMERCIAL CBS
here are certain spans in a lifetime where an individual is faced with a choice. A choice to take an opportunity and maximize its potential or misuse the occasion. As young professionals living in Billings, our young professional chance is now. Several moving parts make right now (2020) and right here (Billings, MT) an opportune time to capitalize. Let me explain.
20 to 40-year-old young professionals have all the advantage right now. We are tech-friendly, tech-savvy, and tech-happy. We still connect with the aging population. Better yet, our younger professional demographic is more diverse while being unified. We want it all, in a good way. We want opportunities, experiences, connections, and purpose. The younger crowd hasn’t developed that yet in their professional career and some more seasoned professionals have different priorities. But for us, young professionals between 20 and 40 years old, we are looked to for leadership, advice, and support. Don’t undercut this chance to take the helm and lead. Billings has ripened for young professionals to catapult their career and impact. As the older demographic worker vacates the workforce and governmental positions over the next few years, the up and coming crowd, NextGEN aged professionals, are getting involved and steering the direction of our future. Changes are evident. Our generation thrives on change. Changing the landscape of our community, changing the way we do business, changing the way we work, live and play. And changing the definition of “success”. Success to us as young professionals is evolving and becoming more personalized. Success is a continual progress, whether financially, professionally, as a society, as a family, as a neighborhood, etc. Our generation, NextGENers, is shaping our future and our success. Most importantly, we have purpose and we act on our purpose. Our age group has momentum, drive, passion, and the resources to accomplish greatness. If we lack knowledge, we learn from the best. If we need experience, we seek it. If our network is frail, we strengthen it. We don’t wane from hard work, aggressive goals, or growth. While our younger and older counterparts are comfortable, we go after the inconvenient and uncomfortable to gain expertise, education, and confidence.
NextGEN visits the Big J Show to promote the group. Right to left: David Mitchell, Jason Harris, Marya Pennington and Brian Hafner.
So why do we NextGEN? We NextGEN to make an impact, leave a legacy, and further our future. Within this organization we are an army of active, engaged, involved, committed, and dedicated young professionals seeking success. That success is defined differently for each NextGEN member, but the premise of that success is similar. We succeed as a community when we provide opportunities to all for growth and development. I NextGEN because I’m inspired by people who devote time to personal improvement. I NextGEN because I’m motivated by people who vocalize their desires for change and progress. I NextGEN so I can be heard and make an impact in the community. I NextGEN so the younger generation has a source for advice and guidance and I NextGEN so the older generation feels confident the future is in good hands. Our hands. NextGEN hands. That’s why I NextGEN.
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GET TO KNOW THE BOARD:
BUSINESS: TERRITORIAL-LANDWORKS, INC. POWERED BY IMEG YEARS AS A CHAMBER MEMBER: 7 Photo Courtesy Rhea Wolpoe
Words you live by: Why did you initially choose to get involved with the Chamber? Networking opportunities and the ability to affect policy and the direction of our community.
A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean. – The Lorax.
You get to make one change for the Billings community today – what would you do? I would waive my magic wand and develop the river corridor with assets that the community would be proud of and would draw people to our community. This would include trails, boat launches, parks, restaurants, an amphitheater and so much more.
Favorite movie and why. “Just Go With It” – When I watch a movie, TV show, or read a book, I want to be entertained, laugh, and not have to think too hard or get too serious. This movie makes me laugh every time. I also enjoy anything set in Hawaii.
If you had a super power, what would it be? Teleportation – how cool would it be to be able to take a quick weekend trip to anywhere in the world?
One adjective that describes you: Committed.
What was your first job? Roofing during the summers in Bozeman.
The snack always found in your desk/office: A large glass of water with lots and lots and lots of ice. I have a very bad habit of chewing ice any chance I get.
Tell us about your photo in Riverfront Park:
I love the river and the asset it is to our community and I look forward to projects that will allow us to enjoy it more. Also included in my photo is my dog Oakley who is a rock star pheasant hunter. Upland Bird Hunting is one of my favorite hobbies.
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hat W cyaon u do TO HELP ENSURE A COMPLETE COUNT FOR MONTANA?
• Stay up to date with Montana 2020 Census at CENSUS.MT.GOV • Promote discussion about the 2020 Census and emphasize the benefits of participation and reassure your community that their answers are safe, confidential and protected by federal law. • Sign up for the weekly Montana 2020 Census Newsletter. Include content from our newsletter in communication that you have with customers, family, friends, and your community. • Check the CENSUS.MT.GOV “resources section” for flyers, videos, social media images, and other promotional material you can distribute or request printed material from the state. • Share content from @ MontanaCensus2020 Facebook page on your social media channels. • Join our Bi-weekly Census Webinar to hear the latest updates from the state complete count committee. • RESPOND TO THE CENSUS IN MARCH!
HOW THE 2020 CENSUS IMPACTS MONTANA
he 2020 Census is critical for Montana because it determines the state’s share of federal funding over the next decade, provides accurate data for future planning, shapes local voting districts and determines whether Montana will get another representative in Congress. Responding to the 2020 Census is quick, easy, safe, and important. It takes just 10 minutes to answer nine simple questions that will affect your community for the next 10 years.
FUNDING For every Montana resident counted, the Census estimates the state will receive nearly $20,000 per person in federal funding over the next decade. In all, Montana receives more than $2 billion each year as a result of Census data. These are dollars for medical assistance, educational programs, need-based support, infrastructure, highway planning and over 300 other programs. Spending just a few minutes to complete your Census form will help ensure Montana gets its fair share of federal funding.
APPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING Census data is used to define legislative districts, establish school districts and guide decision making in many other functional areas of government. As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Decennial Census is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Montana is one of the states
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on the cusp of gaining a new congressperson so getting a complete count is more important than ever.
DATA Census data is used to inform community decisions. Think of it like a snapshot of who we are as a community every decade. Data about changes in each area are crucial to many planning decisions, such as where to provide services for seniors, where to build new roads and schools and where to locate job training centers. Census data is also used by organizations to obtain grant funding for key programs helping Montanans.
CENSUS SAFETY AND CONFIDENTIALITY Your responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers are confidential and cannot be shared with government, law enforcement agencies, or landlords. The Census Bureau can only use your answers to produce statistics, they cannot be used against you in any way.
WHEN CAN I RESPOND TO THE 2020 CENSUS In mid-March, every household in America will receive a notice by mail to complete the Census online, by phone, or by mail. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin following up in person with households that have yet to self-respond.
No matter what kind of work you do in Montana, safety works. From tending the herd to growing the future, safety is what keeps us going and gets us home. Montana State Fund has been at the job of promoting safety for decades, and we’re proud to say that it’s working, all over the state. Watch stories of real Montana businesses starting every day with safety at safemt.com.
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• 2 roundtrip Allegiant Air tickets, • 4 tickets to an Arizona Diamondbacks regular season game at Chase Field, • 2 nights stay at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort. Additional prizes will be given as well at the drawing, held at the Chamber Breakfast, April 8th, 2020. New this year, tickets may be purchased early by calling the Billings Chamber of Commerce at (406) 245-4111. All proceeds benefit Billings Chamber strategic priorities.
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NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN THE FINAL OPPORTUNITY ZONE REGULATIONS BY THE EIDE BAILLY NATIONAL TAX OFFICE WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM AN OPPORTUNITY ZONE? ELIGIBLE TAXPAYERS INCLUDE: • Individuals • Partnerships • C-Corporations • S-Corporations
• RICs • Trusts • REITs • Estates
The Opportunity Zone tax incentives program was created by Congress (as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017) with bi-partisan support to encourage investments in economically-distressed communities. These “opportunity zones” were designated by each state and certified by the U.S. Treasury Department. Any eligible taxpayer can invest certain realized capital gains in an opportunity zone through a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). Qualified investors can defer or even eliminate taxes on their capital gains. On December 19, 2019, the government released the highly anticipated final regulations covering the Opportunity Zone tax incentives program. Highlights of the program follow in the paragraphs below. Find more information on Opportunity Zones by visiting www.EideBailly.com.
WHERE ARE THE OPPORTUNITY ZONES? The lone designated Opportunity Zone in Billings includes a significant portion of downtown Billings – stretching from Montana Avenue north to Poly Drive – as shown outlined in blue on the map.
•A potential 15% basis step-up against that deferred gain (effectively reducing the deferred gain amount) if the investment was made by the end of 2019 and held for 7 years – for investments made in 2020 and 2021, and held for 5 years, the potential basis step-up reducing the deferred gain amount is 10% • Th e ability to exit an investment in a QOF after 10 years without paying any tax on the investment’s appreciation
FINAL REGULATIONS With these tax incentives, a lot of interest in the program was created, but actual investment was restrained because there were many questions concerning the program’s application. That restraint should start to change with the introduction of the final regulations, because these final regulations represent a commendable effort on the part of the government to answer open questions while also refining the rules in a practical and taxpayer-friendly manner. For an in-depth discussion of the important changes made by the Final Regulations, you can find more details at EideBailly.com/insights/ articles/2019/12/final-opportunity-zone-regulations
WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT? The final regulations provide answers and a refined regulatory regime for the Opportunity Zone tax incentive program. The final regulations are generally effective March 13, 2020, although taxpayers can choose to rely upon these final regulations (or the proposed regulations) for tax years beginning prior to their effective date. Taxpayers with eligible capital gains interested in deferring the gain without using the more restrictive rules of a like-kind exchange should consider the benefits afforded from using the Opportunity Zone tax incentive program. If you are interested in developing in the Billings Qualified Opportunity Zone, join Eide Bailly, Downtown Billings Alliance, and Big Sky Economic Development for the Qualified Opportunity Zone Informational Event on May 6, 2020 7:30-11:30am at the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Billings. Complimentary breakfast from 7:30-8am. Expert speakers on tax, real estate, and the qualified opportunity zone process will be present to speak, answer questions, and help you get started. For more information call Melissa Koch-Wittman (406) 867-4172.
QUESTIONS? The Eide Bailly Opportunity Zone Team consists of professionals with expertise in community development, construction, real estate, finance and tax. They can: • Provide guidance on how to form, operate and exit a QOF • Help verify all the requirements are met for the Opportunity Zone business There are designated Opportunity Zones in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Additional resources, including a map of the zones, can be found at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund website, CDFIFund.gov/Pages/Opportunity-Zones.aspx.
WHAT ARE THE TAX BENEFITS? Provided all the necessary statutory and regulatory requirements are met, the tax benefits of a qualified investment include: • Deferral of original qualified gain until 2026
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• Help you take advantage of the significant tax benefits of investing in economically distressed areas of our community
CONTACT EIDE BAILLY BILLINGS OFFICE RONALD J. 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.
INSPIRED TO EMBRACE OPPORTUNITY
The Qualified Opportunity Zone tax incentives are designed to help people invest in bettering their communities and save taxpayers money on capital gains. Eide Bailly can help you understand if this new incentive is right for you and walk you through the process. Contact us to see where opportunity can lead you.
What inspires you, inspires us. 406.896.2400 | eidebailly.com
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ANNUAL CHAMBER BREAKFAST 2020
Philanthropy KICK FLIPS AND
BY JESSICA HART EVENTS MANAGER
his year’s Chamber Breakfast speaker is more than a skateboard legend. In the early 2000’s Tony traveled to Chicago for a skate demo. He arrived to find the brand new skate park didn’t work. Yes, one could technically skate at the park, but even the most novice tricks were unattainable due to the design, or lack thereof. After leaving Chicago and receiving thousands of emails from across the country about the need for safe and legal places to skate, a skateboard foundation was born. In 2002 Tony and his foundation helped fund 105 skate parks. 2002 was the foundation’s first year and our own Billings, Montana was one of the lucky 105. The Tony Hawk Foundation has made an impact on 588 skate parks in the United States, and supported the Skateistan programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. The Foundation strives to support recreational programs that focus on the creation of skate parks in low income communities. Tony’s foundation works to provide safe and well thought out places for skaters to skate, grow in their skill, and to feel empowered as humans. Favoring projects that have strong community support from skaters, parents, city officials and local leaders, the foundation assists each city in building quality parks that will serve the city and its population for years to come.
Tony H awk WILL HIT THE STAGE AT FIRST INTERSTATE ARENA AT METRAPARK ON APRIL 8TH. FOR TICKETS VISIT BILLINGSCHAMBER.COM.
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A recent study performed by the Pullias Center for Higher Education and the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC finds that skateboarding improves mental health, encourages resilience and, along with skateparks, facilitates a sense of community among skaters. Source: https:// tonyhawkfoundation.org/2020/02/groundbreaking-study-redefinesskateboarding-culture. Next time you are driving down 27th street, check out the people that are working to improve their mental health, building a sense of community, and developing their own strategies to succeed. You’ll find them in our own Tony Hawk Foundation Skatepark at the corner of 1st Avenue South and South 27th Street.
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815 S. 27th St. Billings, MT 59101
Five Stars. Two Years in a Row.
Five Stars. Two Years in a Row.
Quality Matters. St. Vincent Healthcare is proud to be among the 6% ofHealthcare U.S. hospitals for overall quality. St. TOP Vincent is proud to be among the The five-star rating from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is due to TOP 6% of U.S. hospitals for overall quality.
the countless hours of work and unmatched commitment by our doctors, advanced The five-star rating from Centers Medicare Servicesjob (CMS) is due to care professionals, nurses, and for staff. Together,and theyMedicaid do an exceptional in meeting the countless hours of work andofunmatched commitment doctors, advanced the health and wellness needs families across our region. by Weour extend our thanks to for all they nurses, do as well as to ourTogether, communitythey for the you show care them professionals, and staff. doconfidence an exceptional job in in us. meeting
the health wellness our region. We extend our thanks to Qualityand Matters. Andneeds qualityof is families found atacross St. Vincent Healthcare. them for all they do as well as to our community for the confidence you show in us. Quality Matters. And quality is found at St. Vincent Healthcare.
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