PhillCo Economic Growth Council meeting cap
August 28, 2019
The monthly meeting of PhillCo Economic Growth Council was held earlier this month with good attendance of board and community members. President Marko Manoukian introduced Pam Smith-Wolsey the new Executive Director who has been on the job since April 22, 2019. Minutes of the May 30th meeting and financial transactions were approved as presented, noting that historic PhillCo Community Fund loans to Hi-Line Retirement Center and Villa Theater have been repaid in full.
Wolsey noted that she has spent considerable time navigating the MBIDD (Malta Business & Industry Development District) subdivision and communicating with local officials regarding the plat for the former airport property approved in 2004. It was noted that PhillCo has not received any communication from MBIDD lessee, Phillips County Motor Sports regarding recommended changes and road closure from PhillCo to help curb public trespass and safety concerns at the dragstrip expressed in early summer. All were reminded that office space at the MBIDD will be available September 15th and is being advertised locally.
PhillCo has received one completed application for the Store Front Beautification Grant Program and three other businesses have expressed interest. Wolsey is also busy assisting with grant applications to assist the St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Program and a request to PhillCo to sponsor a Job Creation grant via the Montana Office of Tourism & Business Development’s Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund to benefit owner Jim Dumas of Hi-Line Meat Packing scheduled to reopen in late October.
Dumas attended the meeting and thanked Wolsey and Bear Paw Development for their assistance as he worked through the lengthy process of purchasing the facility located east of Malta. Dumas, who has owned and operated Big Sandy Meats for many years is excited to move his operations to Malta and reopen the plant as a custom meat processing facility under the historic and reputable name of Hi-Line Packing. Dumas stated the plant is in decent condition and he is currently working onsite to clean, complete repairs on the building and equipment. His goal is to operate a custom plant initially and work towards federally inspected status within 3 years. The plant has capacity for processing 50-60 animals per week and Dumas hopes to work into that capacity as new meat cutter employees are trained and in place. Dumas has good knowledge of meat facilities across the state and respects the work done in Saco at the Pay-n-Save, noting this region of eastern and central Montana has huge capacity for meat processors. His greatest immediate need is workforce. He stated a trained journeyman meat cutter can make $20 per hour and feels Malta, with is great recreation amenities, available housing and schools will draw people to live and work here. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Dumas for an application. Those attending the meeting applauded Dumas for bringing meat processing back to the community.
Additional meeting agenda items reported that college interns working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development recently met with a small Malta group that shared local success stories that included a resurgence of young people staying or moving back to the community and how they are working to strengthen the local economy. A report derived from that visit will be shared when available.
PhillCo also recently hosted Michael Peters, a Cooperative Development Specialist with Bear Paw Development at a no host luncheon to learn about the cooperative business model. Carly Bishop encouraged a steering committee to investigate options of an Investment Cooperative that could consider multiple options, including day care, the theater or a youth center. No action was taken but persons interested in taking a lead in this effort can contact PhillCo.
Several upcoming events were listed in the What’s New In and Around Phillips County and everyone is invited to the next general meeting on Wednesday, October 16th at 12 noon in the GN Lodge Room.