Big Sky Economic Development EDA/EDC Board of Directors selected the Montana National Bank Building in the heart of downtown Billings as their potential future home, during their monthly board meeting, last week.

The decision follows a two –year process of long-range planning, research and due diligence, and two requests for proposals.

The choice was narrowed by the Future Facility Taskforce  to two proposals– one from Chris Nelson owner of the Montana National Bank Building at 201 North Broadway, under Skypoint; the other from Russell Fagg, owner of the Fratt Building, 215 N. 32nd Street.

Becky Rogers of BSED, who headed the committee, explained that both proposals were evenly matched and both exceeded BSED’s budget for the project. The outcome rested upon the willingness of the property owners to drop their $1.75 million asking price or contribute a portion of the value to BSED’s planned development of a one-stop business and community development hub.

Both property owners made offers, said Rogers. Fagg offered a drop of $75,000 and Nelson offered contributing up to $750,000. The committee recommended accepting Nelson’s offer.

Whether EDA will be able to close the deal remains dependent upon the county agency getting a grant from the Federal Economic Development Agency. They have submitted an application requesting $2 million, but will not know until mid- summer if they will get a grant and how much they will be awarded. If it is less than $1 million, said Rogers, BSED will probably not be able make the purchase and needed renovations.

Both properties had their pluses and minuses, said Rogers. To renovate the Fratt building to meet the needs of BSED’s goals would have brought the total project cost to $4,340,000 for 18,000 square feet plus parking lot. For the Montana National Bank Building the total cost would have been $4,730,000 for 22,000 square feet.

BSED Executive Director Steve Arveschoug said, ““This is an exciting first step in moving our organization to a location designed for entrepreneurs, current business owners and community stakeholders to engage with our talented and experienced economic development team.”

The process, over the past two years, was to engage in a long-range plan for Big Sky Economic Development setting the stage for the next generation of economic development services. 

Several factors make the Montana Bank Building an excellent choice, according to Arveschoug.  “First, the building is in the center of the city, which is important for the continued redevelopment of downtown Billings.  The building is eligible for Federal Grant dollars through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and is located in a federally designated Opportunity Zone.”

Arveschoug emphasized, “Qualifying for the U.S. EDA grant is imperative for this to work, but we are excited to move forward with the grant application and a letter of intent with the owner of the building, Chris Nelson and his team.  Chris has been a long-time partner with BSED helping to promote the vision for economic development in our region.”   

Big Sky Economic Development, will be celebrating its 30th year providing economic development to Yellowstone County later this year.  The organization implements programs designed to enhance the community in three key areas; community development, new business recruitment and business growth services.  Last year BSED announced the expansion of their business growth services with Rock31, a new entrepreneur center.  Part of the new building will house Rock31.  The building will also house a conference/training center allowing BSED to continue to bring quality training and meeting opportunities to businesses at all stages.