Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund Works in Rural Montana

An article about an important state program, the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) job creation program, ran in the July 23 online edition of the Acantha. The BSTF grant program is administered by the Montana Department of Commerce.

The article contends that not enough of these grants go to rural Montana. At the Department of Commerce, we agree. We’re striving to support more businesses in rural Montana. But we also want businesses to know that this is a program with a proven record in rural Montana.

The article concluded that only 16 percent of BSTF job creation grant dollars have gone to rural places. That number is correct if looking at county-level data. But by that measure, places like Lincoln and Wolf Creek are considered urban because they are in the same county as one of the state’s urban areas. In reality, 45 percent of the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund job creation grant dollars awarded since 2005 have gone to rural Montana communities. Fifty-seven percent of the program’s planning dollars have been awarded to rural communities.

This program can and does work in rural places. But we know we need to do more. We want businesses to know that if you’re on the cusp of creating new jobs but just need a leg up to make it happen, the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund is now accepting applications.

Since 2005, this grant program has supported more than 300 businesses to create or retain 2,000 jobs. These are businesses like Cowtown Ag Supply in Miles City, Humic Growth Solutions in Shelby, and Spika Welding in Lewistown.

This is a grant program meant to assist businesses of all shapes and sizes that make and sell products in and outside of Montana, and that have a significant positive economic impact on their communities. I’d like to encourage growing businesses in rural Montana to take a close look at the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund and get their applications submitted before Sept. 18. Learn more about the business tool at bstf.mt.gov or give us a call at 406-841-2870.

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Tara Rice is the director of the Montana Department of Commerce and is originally from rural Choteau.