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Helena-area business news

by Stella Morgan

The Montana Department of Commerce has hired TJ Altekruse as the Indian Country economic development program manager. Altekruse will be responsible for promoting economic development and prosperity within Montana’s Indian Country communities. With a background in economic development, community engagement, and a deep commitment to serving Montana’s tribal communities, Altekruse is well-equipped for the role.

Scott Osterman, the department director, expressed his confidence in Altekruse, stating that his expertise and dedication align perfectly with the department’s mission. Montana is home to diverse and vibrant tribal nations, and Altekruse’s collaboration with them aims to create opportunities, strengthen partnerships, and uphold the vitality of the people.

As the Indian Country economic development program manager, Altekruse will develop and implement economic development strategies, facilitate collaboration, oversee resource allocation and funding, and analyze and report data. The goal is to drive economic growth, job creation, and improved infrastructure within tribal communities.

In addition to this news, the Montana Department of Agriculture has announced the opening of the FY2024 funding cycle for the Growth Through Agriculture Program. This program aims to support Montanans interested in innovating or expanding agricultural businesses through state grants and loans. The funds provided help businesses and agricultural operations add value, scale up, and access new markets.

The Growth Through Agriculture program was established by the Legislature to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agriculture industry. The Agriculture Development Council oversees the grant and loan awards, with at least $1 in matching funds required for every $1 in assistance received. Pre-applications for funding will open on October 2 and are due by October 23. Selected proposals will be invited to submit a full application in January, with grant award decisions made in February.

Applicants may seek grants up to $50,000 and loans up to $100,000 for eligible project activities, such as equipment purchases, construction costs, advertising and promotion, and consultant services. Those in need of application assistance can contact their local Food and Agricultural Development Center.

In other news, the Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown recently broke ground on a $15.6 million cancer center. The project, made possible by $9 million in grants from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, aims to bring comprehensive cancer care services to central Montana. The 17,830-square-foot cancer center will offer medical and radiation oncology services to nine rural counties, benefiting nearly 50,000 residents.

The establishment of the cancer center will alleviate the burden for patients and families who currently have to travel long distances for diagnoses, radiation treatments, and other services. Central Montana Medical Center plans to hire a full-time oncologist in partnership with Billings Clinic Cancer Center, a part-time radiation oncologist, and acquire a linear accelerator machine.

To fund this project, CMMC aims to raise $4 million through fundraising efforts and secure debt financing for the rest. More than $12.2 million has already been raised, including a lead gift from the Helmsley Charitable Trust in 2021.

These developments in Montana highlight the state’s commitment to economic development, agricultural innovation, and healthcare improvements. The initiatives aim to uplift tribal communities, support agricultural businesses, and provide better access to essential cancer care services for residents in central Montana.

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