The 42-acre Glacier Rail Park in Kalispell opened recently. The parks 1.5 mile Kalispell Trail will replace the railroad tracks that will serve companies that will be the new park’s first tenants. CHS contractors have begun construction of the company’s new fertilizer plant which is in the rail park. Northwest Drywall and Roofing Supply plan to begin construction in early 2019.

Montana’s minimum wage will increase to $8.50 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The current minimum wage currently is $8.30. 8,200 Montana workers, or 1.8 percent of the workforce, received hourly wages less than $8.50 per hour in 2018.

On Oct. 15, Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park will be closed to all traffic for the rest of 2018. Tourists will not be able to drive from the Yellowstone Lake area to Cody, Wyoming. Travelers coming from Cody and through the East Entrance will only be able to drive as far as Yellowstone Lake’s Sedge Bay. On Nov. 5 all roads in the park will close at 8 a.m. except the road between Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, and Cooke City, which stays open all winter.

Over half a million people flew out of Bozeman last year, the numbers coming out to 600,361 in 2017. These numbers show the airport is an important cog in an economic machine that’s driving  growth in the Gallatin Valley. The airport is poised in the right position geographically for growth, a good distance from bigger cities like Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake City.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is slated to open in Bozeman in January. There will be a drive-thru, indoor and outdoor seating and fire pits.

Big Horn County Memorial Hospital, in Hardin, held a groundbreaking on October 3 to celebrate the expansion of the facility. Fisher Construction is the general contractor.

Gallatin Association of Realtors real estate market statistics for August 2018 reveal increases in units sold, average sales prices and a tightening inventory of available homes. Single-family sales increased 14 percent compared to August 2017, going from 157 to 179 units sold, while the average sales price in the single-family market increased 18 percent. Condo/townhouse sales fell 2.4 percent, decreasing slightly from 83 to 81 units sold, and the average sale price in the condo/townhouse market jumped 2.9 percent. The number of new single-family listings fell slightly from 202 in August 2017 to 189 this August, a 6.4 percent decrease. The number of pending sales increased slightly from 144 to 153, a 6.3 percent jump over last year. The number of units sold spiked 14 percent, from 157 last August to 179 this year. The average number of days on market was 54, a 1.8 percent decrease from 55 last year, and the month’s supply of inventory decreased 10.9 percent, from 4.6 to 4.1.

In a recent tax deed auction, the historic Dumas Brothel in Uptown Butte went to the highest bidder. The former bordello at 45 E. Mercury St. was sold to David and Charlee Prince of Forsyth, with a final bid of $29,000. The former owner, Travis Eskelsen, owed over $5,800 in back taxes.

Condé Nast Traveler announced the results of its 31st annual Readers’ Choice Awards with Triple Creek Ranch (Darby, Montana) recognized as the #1 Top Resort in The West and #2 Top Resort in the U.S. Triple Creek Ranch, owned by Craig Barrett, is a year-round, adult-only retreat on over 27,000 acres tucked away in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains. The guest ranch resort offers a wide-variety of Western adventures, along with gourmet food and wine experiences. The Ranch was ranked among the top 10 hotels in the World in the Travel + Leisure 2018 World’s Best Awards and has been named one of the Top Resorts in the West consistently in the annual Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Oasis Midstream Partners has completed a natural gas processing plant, a project that will help reduce natural gas flaring. The Oasis Wild Basin II plant will add 200 million cubic feet per day of natural gas processing capacity, the first major plant completed in recent years in the Bakken. The plant near Watford City will begin processing gas in November. Oasis began operating the first Wild Basin plant in 2016 to process 80 million cubic feet per day.

Jonah Energy in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming has received final approval from the US Bureau of Land Management to proceed with the Normally Pressured Lance Project, which involves the drilling of 3500 gas wells over 140,859 acres in Converse County. It includes 205 miles of new pipelines and roads. The project will generate 950 jobs and produce $17.85 billion in total revenues, with federal royalties totaling $2.2 billion over a ten-year period.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has named Peter S. Seibert—former Executive Director of the Education, Research, and Historical Interpretation Division of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation—as its new Executive Director/CEO. Seibert takes the Center’s reins in late November. Seibert was chosen after a nationwide search. He replaces the retiring Bruce Eldredge who has served as the Center’s Executive Director since January 2008.

As bark beetles continue to devour sickly pine forests, a Montana State University plant physiologist and ecologist wants to better understand how trees are able to defend themselves. Amy Trowbridge, assistant professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in MSU’s College of Agriculture, received a $1 million National Science Foundation grant aimed at investigating the mechanisms of tree death in pinyon pine forests in order to gauge the susceptibility of trees before bark beetle devastation occurs.

At the height of the Bakken boom conversations from the area’s electric cooperative, revealed deep concerns about being able to meet the extraordinary demands for power that they confronted. Since then the Mountrail-Williams Electric Coop GM has expanded its system from producing 30 megawatts to almost 500 megawatts, a 15 fold increase. The achievement was recognized at a christening of their new headquarters building. The coop has built thousands of miles of new lines, dozens of new substations and scores of new workers have been hired.  

The sugar beet crop in northeastern Montana is coming in early and with relatively high sugar content. Beet farmers opened fields in mid-September and sugar content is running at 17 to 18 percent. Spokesman for the Sidney Sugars Inc. beet processing facility, which is grower owned, reports that an early start is beneficial given the large size of the expected crop of about one million tons. Production of 32.25 to 32.5 tons per acre is expected.

The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently received national recognition for its daily podcast, the “Montana Economic Minute,” in the Intelligent Economist’s Top 25 Best Economic Podcasts ranking for 2018. “Montana Economic Minute” is produced each business day by BBER Director Patrick Barkey and airs on radio stations around the state. The podcast focuses on both local and national economic issues, including real estate, taxes, tourism and business.

The Montana Board of Oil & Gas Conservation (BOGC) voted to finalize proposed changes to the state’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) chemical disclosure rules. The board made no changes between the draft and final rules. The BOGC’s vote follows a 30 day comment period that ended on September 24, 2018, and a public hearing on September 17.

The United States Senate has confirmed President Trump’s nomination of attorney Ryan Douglas Nelson of Idaho Falls, Idaho, to serve as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Senators gave their consent on a vote of 51-44.

Montana State University’s College of Nursing and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services together have received a $1.7 million, four-year grant for a comprehensive program to address oral health needs in young children across Montana, primarily in American Indian communities. The grant, for a program called Montana Innovations in Prevention, focuses on oral health in children aged 0 to 6. The program aims to build a culture of prevention and education around oral health and to support work force activities of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Oral Health Program. The grant is from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Out-of-state visitors spent $3.24 billion in Montana last year — about a 2 ½ percent increase over 2016, according to a recent study. The University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research says more than 60 percent of that money was spent in areas around Glacier and Yellowstone National Park. Visitors spent $660 million in Gallatin County north of Yellowstone and $531 million in Flathead County outside Glacier. Visitors spent $50 million or more in 13 of the state’s 56 counties.