Besides developing a business incubator, the joint executive committees of Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Big Sky Economic Development Corporation (EDC) focused on a number of other agenda items in their August meeting, including whether the sister agencies want to donate to Montana State University-Billings fund to build a new science building.
Also discussed was the work of a Future Facilities Taskforce, and the progress of a number of other efforts the county’s primary economic development agency is pursuing, including the prospect of developing Coulson Park.
EDA/EDC Director Steve Arveschoug informed the committees that their organizations have been asked to donate $100,000 to the campaign to raise $2 million to match a pending award from the Montana State Legislature of $10 million, to build the proposed Yellowstone Science and Allied Health Building at Montana State University – Billings. The proposed expansion for instructional and research space is projected to cost $15 million of which the Legislature has offered to provide $10 million if the community raises the balance. The campaign has raised about 66 percent of its needed match.
Arveschoug emphasized the importance of MSU-B pointing out that many of Billings’ business leaders are alumni, and saying about the students, “that is our future business leaders….it is training and employing our workforce… it is important to our future…we need to get behind it.”
Board member, Steve Loveless pointed out that in considering supporting MSU-B, they should also consider doing the same for Rocky Mountain College (RMC), which is also building a science building,
Another board member, David Trost, said, “We would like to support both,” but, he said he views the two colleges differently. RMC is a private college and MSU-B is a public college, and since EDA is also a public agency they should give a higher priority to supporting MSU-B. “MSU-B is revitalization for the community.”
“Both produce quality workforce in the community,” said Arveschoug. “Let’s try to make an impact,” urged Arveschoug, as he encouraged the board members to think creatively about the possible donation… perhaps they could make it on a challenge match basis to encourage other prospective donors, or to consider options for providing a substantial loan to start the building of the project, that could “put them over the top.”
Funds are available from the $5.7 million generated by the sale of the GE Building to Zoot Enterprises. The sale closed on July 12 and is complete except for resolving a few issues such as dealing with the siding/roof system interface and the roof drainage system, and managing tax payments through the end of December 2017, reported Arveschoug.
The revenue will go into the organizations’ Opportunity Fund. “The community expects us to do something positive with the resources,” said Arveschoug, “We want to demonstrate that we are all about investing in our community.”
Arveschoug said, “We should charge the Opportunity Fund Committee to explore the possibilities that could materialize in the future.
Opportunities are likely to emerge as the Industrial Park in Lockwood progresses, noted staff member Alyson Corbin, who said, “We have three companies interested in the industrial park, needing a rail spur.”
Trost noted that the board has already established criteria on how they want to use the Opportunity Fund and he advised that they “stick with that strategy.”
While BSED’s lease agreement has two years remaining, the agency is looking down the road to determine how best to meet its needs in the future for space. The executive committees have appointed a Future Facility Task Force comprised of staff and board members to plan for future needs. One of the prospects discussed earlier in the year was the possibility of acquiring space in the refurbished Battin Building, now called the Stillwater Building.
To lease or own a building will be part of the task force’s consideration. BSED currently leases space at Granite Towers in downtown Billings.
Among its numerous on-going efforts, EDA is also doing a fundraiser to pay for developing a plan for the Coulson Park Redevelopment and Entryways Now project. They need $20,000 to $30,000 in matching funds for grants they hope to obtain. They are first applying for a grant from the oil-spill impact funds that have been made available for projects such as this. They then will apply for another grant from the Big Sky Trust Fund in the fall.