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Big Sky Economic Development gets $2 million grant to renovate downtown Billings building

Montana National Bank building will house the group's Rock 31 program
Posted at 2:29 PM, Dec 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 00:38:01-05

BILLINGS — The Big Sky Economic Development will receive a $2 million federal grant to redevelop the historic Montana National Bank building at 201 N. Broadway and turn it into an entrepreneurial center for Big Sky EDA's Rock 31 program.

“It’s an exciting time. Billings was selected to receive a very important grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration to partner with the community on supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in our community,” said Big Sky EDA Executive Director Steve Arveschoug.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to a release from the commerce department, the grant "will be matched with $2 million in local funds and is expected to help create 95 jobs and generate $6.6 million in private investment."

Big Sky Economic Development, Zoot Properties and other private partners are helping finance the project, according to a release from Big Sky EDA.

The renovation will turn the former bank building into a space for entrepreneur services, business training and the new home for Big Sky EDA.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to engage in a new and creative way with Big Sky Economic Development through our Rock 31 initiative," Arveschough said standing outside the new location. "This ground floor right where we’re standing now, will be a wide open door for those seeking assistance to launch a business, connect with mentors, connect with each other."

Rock 31 provides local entrepreneurs with mentorship and resources to start or expand a new company.

“The hope is that we develop some innovative companies here in Billings and grow our tax base. And we have companies that we are really proud that they started here in Billings and we assisted in that growth,” said Kevin Scharfe, Rock 31 program manager.

An entrepreneur himself, Scharfe knows the struggle of trying to start a business alone. A young company may have an important video meeting with someone from New York, and Rock 31 would provide a space for entrepreneurs to give an aura of credibility.

"For them in their small little office, they don’t get the chance to demonstrate that they are a legitimate business," Scharfe said. "For them, having a meeting space that is open, allows for a lot of collaboration, and provides some of that credibility that they need."

Scharfe added that the best way to spur innovation is to "get like-minded people together and provide that time and space for them."

Design and architecture planning still need to be done for the new space. Arveschoug estimated construction wouldn't start until 2021.