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Michael FitzGerald, co-founder and CEO of Submittable, left, and co-founder John Brownell, right, stand in the company's office in Missoula in 2015.

Three Missoula companies are on track to be awarded a combined $345,000 in state grants to create 46 new, relatively high-paying jobs.

The three companies — Submittable, ALPS and Reflex Protect — are all headquartered in Missoula and are receiving Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund job-creation grants from the Montana Department of Commerce.

“We’re grateful for the efforts of Missoula County, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Department of Commerce to facilitate grant awards for these diverse Missoula companies,” said Grant Kier, executive director of Missoula Economic Partnership, an organization that works to help companies apply for the funds. “By working collaboratively, we’re supporting the creation of sustainable, quality jobs for Montanans.”

Submittable is a submissions management software company located in the Florence Building downtown. The company will get $259,000 to create 35 new jobs over the next year. Michael FitzGerald, a company co-founder and the CEO, said the money would assist with salaries and other employment-related expenses.

“We’re thrilled to be a recipient of the Big Sky Trust Fund grant,” he said. “And we’re grateful to be living in a state that has quickly responded to a changing economy. When we were first introduced to the BSTF program, grant funds were restricted to expenses that weren’t relevant to high tech businesses. Now that grant funds can be applied towards the wages that support our employees, we’re able to access this program to create job opportunities in our community.”

It was by far the largest single award given out to a single company this round.

The BSTF funds will go to Missoula County through the Montana Department of Commerce Office of Tourism and Business Development. The program is funded by the state’s coal severance tax, and awards grant funds to assist basic sector businesses with out-of-state customers that want to create new jobs that pay well.

Businesses must pay at least $19.65 per hour to be eligible for the maximum BSTF Job Creation grant award, which is up to $7,500 per full-time job created. The money isn't given to the companies until the jobs are created, and companies often over-estimate how many jobs they'll actually be able to create in order to be eligible for compensation in case they do meet the goal.

ALPS, an insurance company also located in the Florence Building, has been awarded $45,000 to support the creation of six new jobs.

“It’s a privilege and a blessing to be based in Montana,” said David Bell, president and CEO of ALPS. “Servicing our business from all around the country from our Missoula headquarters is great for our business, great for our policyholders and great for our local economy.

"On behalf of the entire staff at ALPS, we appreciate this grant award and we look forward to putting it to work employing more Montanans and creating more opportunities for successful careers in our great state,” Bell added

Reflex Protect, a company that manufactures non-lethal self-defense spray and provides violence response training, has been awarded up to $37,500 to support the creation of five new jobs over the next year.

“(The grant will) allow Reflex Protect to grow its sales, marketing, and training teams in order to provide better customer service and sales attention that will drive revenue and product exposure sooner rather than later,” said Joe Anderson, Reflex Protect’s CEO.

According to Montana Department of Commerce spokesperson Daniel Iverson, roughly 340 businesses have used the BTSF grant program to create over 2,500 jobs since 2013. Missoula accounted for roughly 40 percent of the proposed new jobs to be created by the economic development grant awards this round, as a total of $827,300 was given out statewide to create 114 new jobs.

“As Montana businesses work toward long-term, sustainable growth, the economic development programs at the Department of Commerce help them to reach new heights while building an ever-stronger economy,” said Jenny Pelej, division administrator for the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development.

Additional funds will be available next quarter, and the deadline to apply is April 3. More information can be found at bstf.mt.gov or wtg.mt.gov.

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