Big things are happening in Bonner.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday that Missoula County has been awarded $416,000 in economic development grants to help a company called Project Spokane LLC to create 65 new jobs at the old Bonner mill site.
The funds come from the Big Sky Trust Fund program and will be used for wage reimbursement, purchase of equipment, machinery, furniture and software. The company is a data center that provides blockchain security services for the bitcoin network.
The Missoula Economic Partnership also received $27,000 in Big Sky Trust planning funds to assist a company called Green Diamond Tire with the completion of a business plan and feasibility study to determine whether it makes sense to relocate to the Missoula area.
The company, which formed in Iceland, says it makes “the planet’s most environmentally responsible tire” and has a proprietary method to embed diamond-hard silicium carbide granules into tire tread to give them more traction in the winter. As the tread wears, new granules embed farther in the surface, which keeps the tires safer for longer according to the company.
Additionally, the MEP got $12,150 to assist a Missoula firm called Modern Entrepreneur with the completion of a virtual curriculum program plan to help the business understand market demand, positioning and sales cycles for selling to various markets.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes received $27,000 in planning funds for the completion of a technical feasibility study for the planning and engineering associated with a proposal to create a multi-use path along Highway 93 called The People’s Way.
A clothing company called Vim & Vigr in Missoula received $15,000 in workforce training grant funds to train people for a minimum of three new jobs. The company manufactures fashionable compression socks.
"As Montana’s strong economy continues to grow, Main Street businesses in communities across the state are adding jobs and seeking a skilled workforce to fill them,” Bullock said. “These funds will help businesses plan for responsible growth and train employees for success.”
Last month, Missoula Economic Partnership CEO James Grunke told the Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board of commissioners that data center companies like Project Spokane are attracted to Montana because of cheap power and cold weather, which reduces their cooling costs for their huge server banks.
The BSTF funds are paid for by Montana’s coal severance tax, and the money is only awarded after a company proves it created a job that pays at least 170 percent of the state minimum wage. To get the top award of $7,500 for each job created, each job has to pay the Missoula County median wage, which is $18.50 per hour.