Handful of huckleberries

High-tech huckleberries to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines for co-hosting the next Montana High Tech Jobs Summit in Missoula next week. Starting Oct. 8 and continuing through Oct. 9, the University of Montana will welcome an impressive lineup of speakers, including the president of Microsoft, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission and chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration is free for students and active-duty military, $10 for veterans and $20 for all others, and can be completed online at www.montanatechsummit.com. The following day, Oct. 10, Daines will give welcoming remarks at a Boost Your Business seminar at the Wilma in downtown Missoula, the public is invited to attend a free workshop hosted by Facebook, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the University of Montana School of Business Administration and the Montana High Tech Business Alliance to learn how to engage customers on social media. Local small business owners can register for that event at https://boostmissoula.splashthat.com.

Chokecherry cushions to the news that Montana drivers have the second-highest odds in the nation of crashing into a deer. National insurance company State Farm crunched its claims data and calculated that the odds of getting into a vehicle collision involving a deer are highest in West Virginia, at 1 in every 43 collisions. That marked a slight improvement from last year, when the odds were 1 in every 41 crashes. In Montana, however, the chances increased by nearly 2 percent, to 1 in 57. The average damage claim increased as well, from less than $4,000 last year to $4,179 at last count. The news this week was especially timely given that October through December are peak months for vehicle collisions with deer – so watch those roads carefully.

Caring huckleberries to the Montana Caregiver Act, which went into effect Oct. 1. Amid all the worry about health care costs and divisiveness over health legislation, it’s heartening to remember that Montana’s legislators overwhelmingly approved House Bill 163 to allow hospital patients to designate a personal caregiver and require hospitals to provide discharge plans and instructions to those caregivers. Sponsored by Forsyth Republican Rep. Geraldine Custer and introduced by Missoula Democratic Rep. Kimberly Dudik, among others, the bill was backed by a number of groups including AARP Montana which recognize the important role of regular folks in helping to provide health care for their loved ones.

Chokecherry honey to the hit suffered by Montana’s honeybees this summer, and consequently to the state’s honey businesses. Not surprisingly, the dry weather, wildfires and smoke took a toll on the pollinators and severely shortened the honey-producing season. Wüstner Brothers Honey, which owns about 300 hives in the Missoula area, reported a decrease of 50 percent in their honey yields – the “roughest year we’ve seen in two generations of beekeeping,” Sam Wüstner told the Missoulian. It’s a sad state of affairs for Montana’s honey industry, which is the third-largest in the nation, grossing $21.5 million last year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hardbound huckleberries to our local book writers, sellers and festival directors for making Missoula a hot spot for lovers of the written word. Montana Book Festival director Karla Theilen did an excellent job of organizing an engaging, diverse program that included some 150 authors and five days’ worth of events for this year’s festival, which wrapped up last Sunday, and which also honored renowned author and “The Last Best Place” anthology co-editor William Kittredge, age 84, with a lifetime achievement award. Local bibliophiles were also treated this week to a special event featuring Stephen King and his son Owen, co-authors of the new novel “Sleeping Beauties,” thanks to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore owner Garth Whitson. All in all, the week served to highlight the wealth of top-notch talent that can be found in Missoula any time of year.

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