In this video, Executive Director of BLDC Joe Willaeur discusses the target industries that are perfect for Montana Connections Business Development Park. Watch or read the transcription below to learn more.
What is your name and job title?
I’m Joe Willaeur and I’m the Executive Director of the Butte Local Development Corporation (BLDC). We are Butte’s lead economic development organization, so at the highest level we strive to make sure that our businesses in town are strong and thriving. We recruit new businesses to Butte and that takes on a lot of different forms. One of our most critical pieces for infrastructure to exist is Montana Connections Business Development Park. It’s a huge asset for Butte and has led to a tremendous amount of investment in our community.
How long have you been in the Butte community?
I’ve been working in economic development for just over 7 years. I’ve had a variety of roles starting with food and egg, helping value-added egg producers grow their businesses. Then I took over at one of our partner organizations – Headwaters RC&D – that serves Butte and the region. And then I have been in my current role with the BLDC for about 2.5 years.
Talk to us about MCBDP.
The Business Connections Park is really just an incredible asset for Butte. We are very fortunate with our geography that we have the Interstate 15 – Interstate 90 interchange as well as two class 1 railroads that serve the park. With our location in the state, it’s really the premiere place to be doing any sort of manufacturing and distribution. It is very much Montana’s premiere industrial park. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity out there with the programs that we have to put towards it and [the park] really has just been a shining star for Butte. There are so many families in our community that are making a fantastic living thanks to the companies that are out there and it’s really been growing. I know from our perspective if you don’t go out there for about a month, it’s kinda overwhelming, like “oh gosh, I haven’t been gone that long, but wow there’s a lot of projects happening. I didn’t know that that place was up and running and I didn’t know that they’d moved along so far.”
What are some industries already present at MCBDP?
The Connections Park has a variety of industries and it’s really exciting. We have distribution companies like a Fedex or an Old Dominion that are utilizing the fact that it is located at the freeway interchange and provides such easy access to everywhere in Montana. Additionally, we have some really high tech companies. We have Montana Precision Products that’s making jet engine parts for the GE Leap jet engine. Far and away one of my favorite site visits to go on; you get to watch them pour molten metal into a die. They’re a tube and duct assembly company that does welding as well as die casting. They’re bursting at the seams growing as fast as possible which is really exciting for Butte.
The anchor that really kind of started it all was REC Silicon. They are manufacturing silicon for computer microchips. They employ a ton of people with high paying jobs and have really anchored all the work that we’ve been able to do out at the park. They’ve really been a strong partner with us and support our community in a tremendous amount of ways.
Along with that, we’ve seen new investments. Montana Craft Malt is one of the more exciting projects we’ve seen come in. Local investor Ron Ueland started that project a couple years ago and we’re seeing through to completion right now. Montana Craft Malt manufactures malt for microbreweries.
* At the time of this interview, the Montana Craft Malt project had not been completed quite yet. The company had its grand opening on January 17, 2020
Right now, Montana grows a ton of malt. It’s hard to find a beer anywhere that doesn’t have a piece of Montana grain in it. Most of that malt is currently being produced at Malteurop and if you’re to think about it like ice cream, then Malteurop would be making the vanilla. Montana Craft Malt is making things that make the ice cream good or [in this case] the beer good. They’re making the niche malts that would be like throwing Reese’s peanut butter cups or chocolate chips into an ice cream. Montana microbreweries are such a growing trend that they’ll be able to serve all of the Montana microbreweries, our neighboring states, and potentially out of country.
What types of businesses are perfect for MCBDP?
The Connections Park really has a lot to offer businesses. We have the railroads, we have the road access in our geography, so being able to distribute from there is a no brainer. We’ve seen a lot of interest from distribution companies being able to get things, not only to the state, but throughout the northwest. You’re only a 5 hour drive to Spokane, you’re a 5 hour drive to Salt Lake City, Boise. It’s a little further to Seattle and Denver, but it’s ideally situated for being able to get your product to market, additionally manufacturing.
What would you say to companies considering Butte and MCBDP as a prospective business site?
Butte’s always had a strong work ethic – with our legacy – people in Butte know how to get to work and get the job done and that transitions really well to manufacturing companies. We’ve seen a lot of interest with that and they’re always working to recruit more. Butte is definitely a manufacturing hub in Montana. We’re excited to see that grow thanks to what we can offer at the Connections Park.
What’s the quality of life in Butte like?
We see a lot of investment in Butte and throughout Montana in companies that really focus on bringing quality of life for their employees. That’s where we’ve seen a lot of success and especially here in Butte. Our cost of living is so affordable that when you combine that with what we have for outdoor recreation, which is the hottest thing going for recruitment, it’s really unmatched. I mean, from where we sit at our office in Uptown, I see people leave on their mountain bikes every day. There’s people who go cross country skiing at lunch, there’s hiking trails, there’s world class fishing within a half hours drive, and tons of good skiing. So having companies that are really focused on their employees is where we see a lot of interest and that takes on a lot of form. We have manufacturing companies, we have tech companies, we have service industry. Our most recent investment in town was a contact center. Butte is definitely on the map for site selectors throughout the nation and we’re seeing a lot of interest with that.
When we talk to people who are looking to bring their business to Butte, it’s a very easy sales pitch. Number one, we have a community that is so passionate about what it has to offer. You’d be hard pressed to find a town anywhere in the country that has more pride than Butte does and that really shows when we’re recruiting new businesses to our community. We’re able to say yes, you’re going to be welcomed here, we want your business, Butte is open for business! We have a very friendly tax climate and we have a lot of incentive programs that can help businesses easily join us. We really have a lot to offer and when you can combine that with affordable housing, there’s opportunity for your money to really go further than it does in other places. Butte’s a little under the radar, but certainly getting noticed. It’s an exciting time to see those investments come to town and overall are really great for Butte.