BILLINGS — A large new construction project just south of I-90 in Billings has been the talk of the town recently. Rumors have swirled that different businesses are coming, like Amazon or Coca-Cola, but it turns out, nothing is official yet.
“Coke is building a new facility further down Frontage Road. So the new concrete tilt-up that they’re doing off of Zoo Drive, that’s the new Coke bottling plant," said Matt Robertson, a supervising broker and partner at NAI Business Properties, which is the brokerage representing the warehouse owners, on Tuesday. "Amazon has been a tenant that we’ve talked to, but we probably have a list of 15 tenants that we’ve talked to in conjunction with this project."
That's about all Robertson will say right now, though he did give a little insight into the thinking behind this warehouse, which is located at 3218 and 3226 South Frontage Road in Billings.
“Billings has always been kind of an industrial hub in the state and even region. Because of that, we haven’t had a lot of availability in industrial space. For the longest time, we’ve averaged anywhere from 2-3% vacancy, which means availability in the market. So this coming online gives us a lot of opportunity to encourage new tenants and new businesses and new manufacturing facilities to Montana,” Robertson said. "So they came to town, TPA Group out of Georgia, they came to town in February of 2021 to start this process."
TPA Group is spearheading the project and aims at making the industrial warehouse space a first of its kind in Montana.
"It’s the first industrial distribution facility in the state of Montana. The size of it is. It’s a 300,000-square-foot spec development," Robertson said. “This is a really fun opportunity for Billings, let alone Montana."
The project has been in the works since 2021 but is now making significant steps towards completion. Robertson said full occupancy can be expected between June and August. But the question on many people’s minds is—why Billings?
“We are a regional center. So think about it, we’re the largest community within about a 450-mile radius. So right now we act and serve as this hub for business," said Steve Arveschoug, the executive director at Big Sky Economic Development, on Tuesday. "Part of what that means and why you see more development here is that it’s a great place for people to do business. To ship products, to be able to send and receive."
That makes Billings the perfect hub for distribution and manufacturing.
“Other people across the country are recognizing our role as a trade center, as a hub for distribution, warehousing, even manufacturing and distribution,” Arveschoug said. "That status has kind of caught the attention of investors across the country. And in order to make that reality happen, we need to build infrastructure."
According to Arveschoug, the Billings airport and rail lines see a lot of traffic.
“Our airport is the #1 freight airport in the state of Montana. So other airports may have more passengers than us, but if you’re bringing materials, equipment, supplies, and packages, our airport is the airport in the state of Montana to ship and receive products and materials for additional distribution and manufacturing,” Arveschoug said. “All of that tells the outside business world that Billings, Montana, is a serious place to do business. They mean business. it’s a great place and it’s an attraction for them to consider being here."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.6% of Billings residents work in production, transportation, and material moving. This new project is hoping to bump that number up.
"For the longest time, we’ve averaged anywhere from 2-3% vacancy. Which means availability in the market. So this coming online gives us a lot of opportunity,” Robertson said.
Opening up the doors for growth
—and hopefully catching the attention of major companies.
“Every one of those additional warehouses that can be built, or infrastructure extended to additional parcels of property, that’ll just do nothing but catalyze more private investment," Arveschoug said. "Huge opportunity. We’re very excited for the investment they’re making in the community, and more investment will follow."