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Here's a look at some business news around the Missoula area:

State dollars are available to develop affordable rental homes for the first time thanks to a new program, the Montana Department of Commerce announced Monday. According to a press release, Commerce’s Montana Housing is accepting applications for the Multifamily Coal Trust Homes Program. The new program makes available $15 million of Coal Tax Trust Fund dollars to develop affordable rental homes by providing developers with low-interest loans.

“This program is a new tool that will expand the capacity for housing developers to provide more needed, quality affordable homes for families and individuals in Montana,” Montana Department of Commerce director Tara Rice said in a statement.

According to the release, the program is a result of House Bill 16 that was passed during the 2019 legislative session and is considered the first time that state funds have been made available to support the development or rehabilitation of affordable rental homes in Montana.

It is estimated the loans will initially support the development of 240 new or rehabilitated affordable rental homes in Montana. As these loans pay off, the money returned will be used to fund future development of additional homes.

Multifamily Coal Trust loans can be used for projects such as new construction, acquisition or rehabilitation of existing multifamily rental homes, acquisition of land for multifamily rental homes and land trusts for rental and mobile or manufactured homes. Eligible applicants for the program include nonprofit, for-profit or government entities.

Applications will be accepted on a continual basis and reviewed by the Montana Board of Housing at its regularly scheduled meetings. The next Board meeting is Feb. 10, 2020. Applications submitted at least six weeks before the meeting are eligible to be included on the agenda.

For more program information and how to apply visit housing.mt.gov/Multifamily-Development/Multifamily-Coal-Trust-Home.

The Lake County Community Development Corporation and the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition are offering a series of seven workshops that will help farmers produce high-value products and manage their farming business to maximize profits.

With opportunities in value added, direct marketing, and new crops and technologies, there has never been a better time to start a farm business in Montana. This winter, Community Food & Agriculture Coalition and the Lake County Community Development Center are partnering to offer the Planning for On-Farm Success  weekly workshop series.

These workshops help farmers learn how to develop and manage a profitable business that turns a passion into a career. Each workshop includes expert presenters as well as local networking and Q&A with experienced  producers, ag service providers and local lenders. All of these experts will be available to help farmers work on their plans on an individual basis. The seven workshops are:

Jan 15: Farm Strategic Planning

Jan 22: Researching Your Market

Jan 29: Farm Marketing & Promotion

Feb 5: Managing Your Financials

Feb 12: Financial Decision-Making

Feb 19: Financing Your Farm

Feb 26: Managing Farm Risks

Workshops will be offered on Wednesdays from 5:30-8:30 pm at the Lake County Community Development Center office at 407 Main St. SW in Ronan. The cost for the full series is $100. Register before Jan. 8 to save 25% on the series. Full registration includes a copy of the Planning For On-Farm Success  workbook. Individual workshops are $20 each.

Fore more info and registration visit online at https://lccdc.ecenterdirect.com/events or contact Taylor Lyon at 406-676-5912 or email taylor.lyon@lakecountycdc.org.

The national retailer Pier 1 Imports has announced it is closing 70 stores nationwide. The company has a location on North Reserve Street in Missoula, but the company has not confirmed which locations will be losing.

The Montana World Affairs Council announced the appointment of Chris Hyslop as its new executive director. Hyslop comes to the Council with 25 years of experience in global affairs in the United States and around the world. 

“I’m excited to be a part of this dynamic organization, whose mission is fostering awareness of global issues in Montana’s classrooms and communities," Hyslop said. "It is what I have been doing for decades.”  

The Montana World Affairs Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering global awareness and understanding in Montana’s classrooms and communities.

Hyslop began his professional career as a high school teacher. He then served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet state in Central Asia, from 1995-1997. Following his service, he worked with humanitarian organizations and the United Nations around the world in Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Sudan, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Chechnya, the Balkans, China, Liberia and Eritrea. He received his bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and education. He attended the Harvard Kennedy School, where he received a master’s degree in public administration. Hyslop lives in Missoula with his wife, Karie, who work at the University of Montana’s Physics Department, and their two daughters, Ella, 12, and Coco, 10.

A local chef has created a gift box with 12 bonbons finished with colorful Montana fly-fishing patterns.

Jason Willenbrock of Posh Chocolate in Missoula wanted to blend his two greatest passions, fly fishing and craft chocolate, and has now created the Montana Fly Box.

The Montana Fly Box (which retails at $24.99) is available at Posh Chocolat in the Florence Building, Missoula Wine Merchants and Worden’s.

"Each handcrafted bonbon gleams with Posh Chocolat's award-winning, signature dark chocolate and is infused with a flavor most connected with the Treasure State, huckleberry," he said.

The United States Department of State announced this week that a team of Montanans are the winners of the inaugural Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund and were selected as one of 25 winning projects charged with increasing the U.S. government’s investment in international exchanges. They'll do that by supporting public service projects using the skills and knowledge of U.S. citizen alumni who traveled abroad on U.S. government-funded exchange programs.

Attorney and Montana State Rep. Ellie Hill, an alumni of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, and Dr. Cynthia and Dr. David Thomas, Great Falls, Fulbright scholars and retired mathematics professors, have traveled abroad on U.S. government-funded exchange programs and joined forces in their commitment to opening doors for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Joining the delegation will be University of Montana chemistry graduate Tyler Smith.

The Montana alumni team will partner with college students and faculty members at the University of Pretoria in South Africa to develop and implement a pilot program in a nearby township that will connect the girls with college-age mentors and local professionals while teaching them math skills.

The Montana team is raising money from a Go Fund Me campaign to assist in purchasing educational supplies for the program and provide the girls and their mentors with a graduation award ceremony.

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