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Following setback, One Big Sky backers regroup to push bill at Montana Legislature

Posted at 11:06 PM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:49:59-04

BILLINGS- After suffering a recent blow from the Billings City Council, backers of the proposed One Big Sky District say a bill aimed at helping the project will soon be introduced in the Montana Legislature.

State Sen. Roger Webb, a Billings Republican and bill sponsor, spoke with several groups on a conference call to draft the bill on Thursday afternoon.

Webb says five cities have the need and resources: Billings, Big Sky, Bozeman, Missoula and Polson.

“It’s not tailored to anything,” Webb said. “It’s whatever these communities think they need. The big trigger is you have to have $300 million of private capital venture to even start the thing. The only intent of this bill is statewide. Nothing else.”

The conference call came three days after the Billings City Council voted to renew its contract with One Big Sky developer Landmark Construction. That vote effectively ended the city’s relationship with the private company willing to make the largest investment in the project.

Planning for state bill continues.

It calls for private companies to invest $300 million. The state would contribute $75 million and local government another $75 million that would be repaid.

“We’ve been so focused on our One Big Sky District planning process,” Big Sky Economic Development Executive Director Steve Arveschoug said. “And getting that plan done and all the analysis. Which is kind of a case study that supports the economic development tool concept. Giving us a chance to pivot was important work that we did (Thursday).”

Areveschoug added that the current statewide plan was written 20 years ago.

The call included representatives from Big Sky Economic Development, the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Billings Alliance, Tourism Business Improvement District and the city of Billings.

Webb said the draft may be ready by Monday and possibly be introduced two weeks from today.