Montana Incentives and Workforce Development Guide
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For a list of Montana economic development agencies that can help with the site selection process, visit our Online Site Seekers’ Guide.
Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund Grant Program: This state-funded grant program was passed in the 2005 legislative session creating the “Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund” that provides grant dollars to local or tribal governments that can be used to assist businesses that create new jobs in Montana. This program provides two types of funding:
- Category I: Can provide grant or loan funding to local or tribal governments that can use funds to assist a business with the purchase of land, building or equipment, lease rate reduction for lease of public or privately owned real property for the direct use of the assisted business, relocations costs incurred in connection with moving the assisted business’s physical assets to Montana, or employee training. Business may apply for up to $5,000 for each eligible new job created; or up to $7,500 for each eligible new job created in a high-poverty county. Eligible businesses must meet the definition of a Basic Sector Company, and eligible jobs must meet program requirements for hours worked and pay thresholds.
- Category II: Can provide grant funding to assist with the completion of project development activities such as Preliminary Engineering Reports, Preliminary Architectural Reports, feasibility studies and business plans.
Please see the program website for additional information: www.bstf.mt.gov.
Community Development Block Grant – Economic Development Program: Assists local governments in addressing their greatest economic development needs. The program receives an annual allocation of funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The goal of the program is to provide jobs to qualified low and moderate-income persons. Ineligible communities to apply for this program are Missoula, Great Falls and Billings. Eligible communities may apply for up to $400,000 per program year. The Community Development Block Grant – Economic Development Program provides grant and loan financing for the following types of activities:
- Planning Grants: Local governments may apply for up to $25,000 for a variety of planning and technical assistance activities related to economic or business development including community needs assessments, downtown revitalization studies, feasibility studies, Preliminary Architectural Reports and Preliminary Engineering Reports.
- Customized Employee Training: Applications may include requests for assistance with workforce training for new and/or existing employees. Requests may be for eligible expenses up to $5,000 per employee, or up to $7,500 for the training of people with disabilities. Minimum compensation thresholds must be met for wages and benefits.
- Economic Development Projects: Local governments may apply for up to $25,000 per created or retained job for a business that is either hiring additional employees or is in the position of retaining employees to maintain operations. Depending on whether the business is non-profit or for-profit, it may receive a grant or low interest loan for working capital, equipment purchases, infrastructure improvements, constructions costs or other eligible business expenses. Businesses must submit financials, business plans, hiring plans, and other required documents, and provide a financial match.
For additional information on this program please review the Community Development Block Grant – Economic Development Program (CDBG-ED) section at www.montana.gov.
Montana Wood Products Revolving Loan Fund: The Montana Wood Products Revolving Loan Funds is a state and federally funded program comprised of two pools of funds available for assistance to wood and timber related businesses, the EDA Wood Products Revolving Loan Fund, and the State Wood Products Revolving Loan Fund. Eligible businesses may apply for up to $20,000 per job created or retained. Businesses are required to make a matching financial contribution to their proposals. Funds are available depending on the amount of loan repayments received each year.
Indian Country Economic Development Program: The Indian Country Economic Development Program is a state funded program to provide economic development funding to the eight tribal governments in Montana to address their greatest economic development needs. Tribal governments apply directly to the Montana Department of Commerce for a maximum of $70,000 per program year. Eligible activities may include business development projects, workforce training projects, economic development studies, or other economic development-related projects. Tribes must provide financial match for their proposals and application deadlines do apply. Please see review the Indian Country Economic Development Program (ICED) section at www.montana.gov for additional information.
Board of Research & Commercialization Technology: The Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology was created by the 1999 Montana Legislature to provide a predictable and stable source of funding for research and commercialization projects to be conducted at research and commercialization centers in Montana. The purpose of the program is to encourage economic development through investment in research projects that have a clear path to commercialization. The Board takes the following criteria into account when making funding decisions:
- Has potential to diversify or add value to a traditional basic industry of the state’s economy,
- Shows promise for enhancing technology-based sectors or commercial development of discoveries,
- Employs or takes advantage of existing research and commercialization strengths,
- Has a realistic and achievable project design,
- Employs an innovative technology,
- Is located in the state,
- Has a qualified research team,
- Has scientific merit based on peer review, and
- Includes research opportunities for students.
For more information on this program, please visit the Montana Board of Research & Commercialization Technology section at montana.gov.
Microbusiness Development Corporations: The Montana Department of Commerce works with seven Microbusiness Development Corporations around the state that can provide loan financing to microbusinesses. Loans can be made for up to $100,000 to qualified Montana microbusinesses. A qualified microbusiness has 10 or fewer employees, and gross annual revenue of less than $1,000,000. Microbusiness Development Corporations can provide capital to businesses, in addition to training and technical assistance. To see the map of Microbusiness Development Corporations in your area and further information on this program, see review the MicroBusiness Finance Program section at montana.gov.
Certified Regional Development Corporations: Provide revolving loan funds to businesses in their regions. There are 11 Certified Regional Development Corporations in Montana that provide financing, technical assistance, training, application assistance, and other services to the communities in their counties. The Montana Department of Commerce provides financial support to these corporations to facilitate economic development across Montana. Revolving loan funds are designed to assist new and/or expanding businesses create jobs. Please visit the Certified Regional Development Corporations Program section at montana.gov to find CRDC program information for your area.
Intermediary Relending Program: The US Department of Agriculture, Rural Development offers the Intermediary Relending Program. This program provides intermediaries to borrow up to $2 million under its first financing and up to $1 million at a time thereafter. Total aggregate debt is capped at $15 million. The maximum loan amount in years past was $750,000. Eligible projects include acquisition, construction, purchase or development of land, equipment, working capital, and feasibility studies. Here is the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) information at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web site. For a list of Montana IRP lenders see this website.
Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program: The Montana Department of Environmental Quality offers the Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program. This program provides a financing option to Montana homeowners, small businesses, non-profits, and government entities to install alternative energy systems. The program has traditionally been funded by air quality penalties collected by the Department of Environmental Quality. Energy from these renewable systems is intended for use by the owner, although net-metering is allowed for systems that generate electricity. Energy conservation measures installed in conjunction with an alternative energy project may be funded through the program, limited to 20% of the loan amount. Learn more about the Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program at montana.gov.
Montana Board of Investment Programs – In-State Loan Programs: The objective of the Board’s In-State Loan Programs is to diversify, strengthen and stabilize the Montana economy. The Board has designed a series of loan programs that can be tailored to meet the individual needs of borrowers. The Board is only able to participate in loans to businesses and individuals through commercial financial institutions and is willing to work with businesses to assist in developing a loan package to best meet business needs. In-State Loan Programs include the Business Loan Participation Program, the Link Deposit Business Loan Program, the Value-Added Business Loan Program, the Infrastructure Loan Program, and the Intermediary Relending Loan Program. All are funded from the Permanent Coal Tax Trust. For general requirements for these programs, or to view/download application forms, visit the In-State Loan Program section at montana.gov.
Trade Show Assistant Program: The Montana Department of Commerce Trade Show Assistance Program assists companies in exploring new domestic and international wholesale markets. Funds are available to Montana businesses attending any given trade show for the first time. Eligible applicants will be reimbursed for 50% of qualifying expenses that include:
- Booth/space rental or US Commercial Services Gold Key fee
- Booth equipment, furniture and carpeting rental
- Booth utility costs
- Promotional materials (product flyer specific to show, booth signage, etc.)
- Shipping, storage, drayage (cost of moving freight at exhibition site) and show labor.
For additional information check out the annual Made In Montana Tradeshow.
Small Business Innovation Research Program: The Montana Department of Commerce houses the Small Business Innovation Research Program. This program helps Montana companies compete for more than $2.5 billion dollars in federal grants that have been earmarked to fund Research and Development. The program offers free counseling assistance to any individual or small business that wants to explore SBIR grant opportunities. To win a SBIR grant, a business owner must be an organized for profit located in the US, have at least 51% owned and controlled by citizens of the US, at least 51% owned and controlled by another for-profit that is at least 51% owned and controlled by citizens of the US, and has 500 or less employees. For additional information, review the Small Business Innovation Research Program information at montana.gov.
Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Fund Program: The purpose of Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program is to foster job creation and economic development in the state by providing matching funds to eligible businesses meeting the criteria set forth in the guidelines. It is designed to grant funds to Montana companies that have been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Program or Small Business Technology Transfer Program, Phase I award and that, if the opportunity to do so is available, intend to apply for a Federal SBIR/STTR Phase II award. The Federal SBIR/STTR Program provides for funding competitions in two phases that are relevant to the Montana Program:
- Phase I – to conduct feasibility research
- Phase II – to expand and develop Phase I results and develop commercially viable innovations
For information on the guidelines for this program, view the Guidelines.pdf at montana.gov.
Local development organizations and local governments may assist with tax credits, abatements, and exemptions. Types of these incentives include the following:
New or Expanding Industry Wage Credit: A new or expanding manufacturing corporation in Montana may receive a corporation license tax credit of 1% of wages paid to new employees for the first three years of operation and expenses.
Property Tax Abatements: Property tax abatement is available to certain new or expanding businesses. The governing body of the affected county or the incorporated city or town must approve by resolution the abatement. The tax benefit received is a percentage multiplier applied to the increase in taxable value of the qualifying improvements or modernized processes. The tax benefit applies to the number of mills levied and assessed for high school district and elementary school district purposes and to the number of mills levied and assessed by the local governing body approving the benefit. New/expanding industries will be taxed at 50% of taxable value for the first five years after a construction permit is issued. The tax rate is raised incrementally over the next five years to 100%.
Alternative Fuels Property Tax Exemption: Provides an exemption from property assessment for qualifying non-fossil fuel energy generating systems installed. The maximum exemption amount per year is $100,000 for a commercial property. The value of the qualifying non-fossil fuel energy generating system must be included in the assessed value of the property prior to its exemption. The exemption lasts for a period not to exceed 10 years from the year of installation.
Alternative Energy Investment Tax Credit: Commercial and net metering alternative energy investments of $5,000 or more are eligible for up to 35% tax credit against individual or corporate tax on income generated by the investment. The credit may only be taken against net income produced by the eligible equipment or by certain associated business activities. Associated facilities, manufacturing plants producing alternative energy equipment and new or expanded businesses using the energy generated by the alternative energy investment may use the tax credit. The credit must be taken the year the equipment is placed in service; however, any portion of the tax credit that exceeds the amount of tax to be paid may be carried over and applied against state tax liability for the following seven years. A project of 5 MWs or larger on a reservation may carry the credit over for 15 years, if it has an employment agreement with the tribal government.
New Market Tax Credits: Can help communities attract capital to good projects on favorable terms. The program provides an incentive to debt and equity investors in the form of a 39% federal income tax credit for investing capital into qualified projects in eligible low-income areas. Eligible investment types include most real estate projects and operating businesses (with some exceptions). Total project size of at least $3 million, project in a designated low-income census tract with either a poverty rate of 20% or greater or Gross Median Income of 80% of less of the state average, strong economic development and/or community impact, such as helping to create or retain jobs; acting as the catalyst for larger development, infusing sources of new investment capital into an under-served, low-income area; and creating new access to community services such as education, healthcare, child & elder care and retail services.
Primary Sector Workforce Training Program: The Montana Department of Commerce manages a state funded workforce training program. Eligible businesses must meet the definition of a Primary Sector Business. The financial match for the business is one dollar of private funds for every three dollars of Primary Sector Workforce Training funds applied for. Businesses may apply for up to $5,000 per new job created for documented training expenses. Businesses must meet minimums for number of hours worked, and thresholds for employee compensation. Businesses can apply directly to the Montana Department of Commerce for this program. The application needs to include financial information, business plan, and a detailed hiring and training plan. For more information on this program, please see the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant program section at montana.gov.
Incumbent Workforce Training Grant Program: The Montana Department of Labor’s Incumbent Workforce Training Grant Program is available to businesses with no more than 50 employees in the State and no more than 20 at any one location. Training is available to employees that have passed the company’s probationary period with up to $2000 available for full-time employees and $1000 for part-time employees. Businesses must be able to contribute matching funds. Training grant dollars may be used for approved training, travel or instructional materials. Visit the Incumbent Workforce Training Grant Program section at montana.gov.