With the Montana Lottery Commission’s  approval at their Nov. 21 meeting, sports betting will become lawful in certain locations in Montana. The state legalized sports wagering through House Bill 725, which established that the Montana State Lottery would oversee legalized sports betting. Online gambling remains illegal in Montana, so Montanans will only be able to place bets at designated locations. These locations will need both a gambling operators license and an all-beverage liquor license.


Taco Bell plans to open a new location in Columbia Falls during 2020. Construction is expected to begin in August, 2020. The Columbia Falls’ expansion is intended to spread out the restaurant’s presence in the Flathead Valley. The new location is also geared toward Taco Bell’s current employees in the Valley.


The grand opening celebration for the new retail shops and restaurants at the Mercantile in downtown Missoula was held Nov. 12. The nine businesses participating are: The Camino, a bar and restaurant dedicated to  Mexican cooking; Basal, a restaurant specializing in signature salads, espresso and bone broth; 1889, a traditional steak house with a full bar; Zoo Thai, a restaurant featuring Bangkok-style street food; Create Art Bar is a do-it-yourself crafting bar where customers can create pieces of art and enjoy craft cocktails, wine and beer; Sobba Cycle is a cycling studio that offers a beat-based workout; The Montana Scene is a lifestyle company with Montana-inspired clothing and gifts; Olive and Iron is a men’s and women’s clothing store; Skin Chic is a local, woman-owned business that has been providing Missoula with skin care and makeup 17 years.


Two new dollar stores have opened in the Butte Town Center on Harrison Avenue. Family Dollar opened at 1299 Harrison. Dollar Tree had its opening in the same complex Nov. 2. Butte already has a Dollar Tree at 3937 Harrison Ave., which will remain open. Both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are owned by Dollar Tree Inc


VOORMI, a specialty outdoor wool factory store,  has opened Bozeman. In business since 2010, VOORMI specializes in authentic technical outerwear made from natural fibers. According to the company’s website, a “voormi” is a mythological, “yeti-like being” from the Arctic Circle. The Bozeman shop, at 17 E. Main St., is the company’s first store outside of the flagship shop in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.


The cannery district in Bozeman will have a four-story, 52-unit apartment building with retail and office space on the ground floor leasing by spring 2020. The Cannery Flats broke ground recently. The project will add 140 parking spots to the already existing parking, and leasing for the apartments will begin in the spring of 2020.

Bedrock, an adventure footwear manufacturing company, has decided to relocate their headquarters to Missoula, Montana from San Francisco in 2020. The company was founded by Nick Pence and Dan Opalacz. Bedrock’s HQ in Missoula will host office space for their flagship store, and a workshop for in-house repairs and resoles.  “We wanted a place with better backyard access to rivers and mountains, a more affordable cost of living, and more seasons for testing and developing new footwear,” said Pence. Big Sky Fulfillment, a Missoula distribution company, will handle inventory and distribution for Bedrock.


North Dakota is becoming the largest out-of-line-of-sight system drone test spaces in the world at 70,000 square miles to about 1 billion IoT sensors — no small number for a state with a population under 1 million. The state has a goal to achieve a statewide UAS air traffic control network.


There’s still plenty of jobs in oil country, and many of those jobs pay well. However, the high cost of living is a barrier to recruiting, according to Job Service North Dakota. According to recent data, there are 1,436 jobs. But, said a Job Service representative, “We know that’s not the true number because not all the jobs that are open have been listed in our system. So we can only take our best guess that it could be about double, maybe even triple that many job openings,” In northwest North Dakota, the average wage for open jobs posted with Job Service is $29.28 an hour, compared to the state average of $26.70.


The unemployment rate in Missoula is one of the lowest in the state at 2.7 percent. Business owners complain of potential employees not even showing up for interviews. 


The US Census explains that in Montana, the wages will increase to a starting rate of $17 per hour for census takers and $19.50 for those working in Cascade, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula and Yellowstone Counties. The US Census Bureau aims to hire thousands of Montanans by early next year to ensure every person in the state is counted during the 2020 census.


The speed limit on U.S. 212 in southeast Montana has been reduced to 65 mph due to dangerous travel conditions. Montana Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit on the portion of the highway that passes through Big Horn, Rosebud, Powder River and Carter counties.


The Yellowstone Film Ranch is being built in Paradise Valley. A group of three investors are creating the ranch, a group of 28 buildings under construction near Chico Hot Springs. The film ranch is building permanent sets for westerns, but they can be used for other movie types.


The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is soliciting applications from interested outfitters and guides to provide services on the Belt Creek–White Sulphur Springs and the Judith–Musselshell ranger districts, known collectively as the Jefferson Division. The Forest Service intends to authorize three new special use permits for outfitters and guides providing a variety of services in the area, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing.