Growing home in Ekalaka

Eastern Montana’s Carter County is bucking longtime trends toward population declines in rural plains communities, adding 255 residents according to the 2020 census. How? Oil money, dinosaurs and family.

Exploring Montana’s economic future

Montana, as the saying goes, is one big small town with really long streets. The Long Streets Project aims to cover it like that, focusing on the economic trends and issues that shape the opportunity Montanans have — or don’t have — to make a decent living.

Funding for Long Streets is provided by The Greater Montana Foundation — encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.

Stimulus infrastructure funds headed to water and sewer projects

The awards, totalling nearly $127 million, were formally announced Thursday by Gov. Greg Gianforte. They follow an allocation process that was outlined by the Montana Legislature this spring in which project applications were submitted by local government entities, ranked by staff at the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and reviewed by an advisory committee…

The town that turned its stimulus money down

Montana towns and cities have been allocated a total of $86.4 million in local COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan Act. The mayor of Ismay, the 17-person town that once renamed itself Joe, says his community doesn’t need it.

Census releases detailed 2020 counts — with an asterisk

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed statistics Thursday on the 2020 populations and racial compositions of Montana counties, cities, towns and neighborhoods, providing a once-in-a-decade look at demographic change across the state, and also handing the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission the block-by-block data it will use to define the state’s two U.S. House Districts.

Reporter’s notebook: Oil town

A group of young professionals in Sidney, Montana put on a conference aiming to show off their town to peers across the state. The weather had other plans.

Bitcoin fracking turns waste gas to digital gold in Bakken oil field

Natural gas produced as a byproduct of Bakken oil production is often flared as a waste product, frustrating regulators, environmentalists, and conservation-minded energy producers. MTFP’s Long Streets Project turns up an alternative in operation near Sidney: Using it to mine cryptocurrency.

Stimulus money could fuel massive Montana broadband effort

Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman said Wednesday he’d like to see lawmakers put at least $350 million from Montana’s share of the new federal coronavirus relief package into a major initiative boosting broadband connectivity across the state.

Promoting rural broadband with tax breaks

Senate Bill 51 aims to address a troublesome gap in Montana’s infrastructure: places where residents still don’t have access to reliable broadband internet.

Shared State

Pledging to bring Montana more “good-paying jobs” is a time-honored cliche for politicians on the campaign trail. But what can elected officials really do to expand economic opportunity for Montanans? And what concerns are Montanans weighing as they decide whether they can build the life they want here?

Next stop: uncertainty

Passenger rail advocates say Amtrak’s plan to reduce the Empire Builder to three days a week will cost the state more than $38 million.

Homegrown

If Montanans want to keep Montana-grown food — and the associated dollars — in-state, the local supply chain will have the be expanded. That includes storage and distribution infrastructure, but the bottleneck is mostly at the food processor level.

Feds release data on Paycheck Protection loan recipients

Data released this week by the U.S. Small Business Administration provides the first detailed accounting of the businesses aided by the Paycheck Protection Program, indicating that Montana’s loan recipients span nearly the full width of the state’s economic landscape.

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