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

The Missoula Farmers Market Winter Market opens on Saturday, Nov. 9 and continues every Saturday throuth April 18 at the Missoula Senior Center. This year the Winter Market is now authorized to accept Double SNAP Dollar benefits, which means participants in the program known in the past as "food stamps" can get twice the purchasing power at the market.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced this week that six Montana businesses will share more than $600,000 in economic development grant awards. These grants will support the creation of up to 114 jobs at growing businesses across Montana, and three of the businesses are in the Missoula area.
 
Missoula County will receive a grant on behalf of Newfields Mining and Energy Services, LLC, which estimates it will create six jobs and will be reimbursed up to $45,000. Grant funds will be used to purchase equipment, furniture, software and for wage reimbursement. Newfields Mining and Energy Services is an environmental, engineering and construction management consulting firm.
 
Missoula County will also receive a grant on behalf of The Insight Studio, LLC, which estimates it will create seven jobs in the first year and will be reimbursed up to $52,500. Grant funds will be used to purchase equipment, furniture and for wage reimbursement. The Insight Studio, LLC offers HubSpot software consulting and training to companies looking to grow through HubSpot marketing and Sales.
 
Additionally, the county will get a grant on behalf of Botanie Natural Soap, Inc. which estimates it will create six jobs and will be reimbursed up to $37,800. Grant funds will be used to purchase equipment, furniture, software, lease rate reduction and for wage reimbursement. Botanie Soap, which is located in Bonner, manufactures bar and liquid soap in short-run quantities for private label use. Botanie Natural Soap, Inc. also will receive up to $14,292 of worker training grant funds to train the new jobs.
 
The next application deadline is Dec. 18, 2019, and will include Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund Job Creation, Planning and Primary Sector Workforce Training Grants. Learn more at MARKETMT.COM.
 
The reimbursement grants will be awarded through two programs at the Montana Department of Commerce: The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund and the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant. The competitive reimbursement grant programs work in concert to create and train for good-paying jobs.

“Montana’s economy is thriving and in order to make sure it remains that way, we must invest in local businesses and the people who fuel our vibrant communities,” said Gov. Bullock, a Democrat, in a statement. “These grants are critical to making those investments and enhancing partnerships with private business as they realize growth and opportunity.”

Open enrollment for 2020 Obamacare health insurance plans started on Nov. 1, with cheaper prices across the board, according to state auditor Matt Rosendale.

In a press release, his office said every single health insurance plan sold in Montana’s individual market will cost less in 2020 than it did in 2019 due to the Montana Reinsurance Program, with annual premiums being about $1,000 cheaper on average. Prices will drop by as much as $4,500 per year on some plans.

“Premiums will be lower on every single plan that 51,000 Montanans in the individual market depend on,” Rosendale said.

Open enrollment for individuals who buy their health insurance through the federal HealthCare.gov website and for small businesses with small group plans will run from Nov. 1, 2019, to Dec. 15, 2019.

Rosendale encourages Montanans to visit MontanaHealthAnswers.com to compare the plans offered by the insurance companies — Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Montana Health CO-OP, and PacificSource — and look at the specific prices and benefits offered. Consumers can choose to renew their existing plan, change plans, or sign up for a new plan on the federal HealthCare.gov website.

“It’s important for folks to shop around and consider all their available options,” Rosendale said. “Prices will vary depending on your age, income level, where you live, which company you choose to buy a plan through, and the benefits that plan offers. The Montana Health Answers website provides cost and benefit comparison charts for all regions of the state.”

Blue Cross customers without federal subsidies will save over $1,100 on average next year, unsubsidized Montana Health CO-OP members will save a little over $800 on average, and unsubsidized PacificSource customers will see average savings of over $1,000. Savings on the most popular plans offered by each company also average $800-$1100 in 2020 compared to 2019.

On average, Montanans who currently pay the most for their health insurance will save the most next year. Savings on cheaper plans for younger consumers may be a few hundred dollars, while an older person with more expensive insurance may see savings up to a few thousand dollars.

For a specific example, a 55-year-old living in Flathead County, Lake County, or Missoula County (Rating Area 3) will save over $2,200 next year on Blue Cross’s most popular insurance plan, Rosendale said.

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