Friday Flash 6/12/2020

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Blackfoot River

Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners


Guidance for tourism industry partners regarding COVID-19 is available here. This web post will be updated with new information as it becomes available. We urge the traveling public to stay informed, seek information from reputable sources, and take preventative measures, like washing your hands, to protect against COVID-19.

Tourism Partner Resources

Please visit the Tourism Partner Resource page at for tourism related COVID-19 resources and information. 

Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative:
An Invitation to Businesses to Partner in an Early Warning System for Tourism and Gateway Communities

Building from surveillance testing efforts at long term care facilities, with Tribal Nations and with front-line health care workers, the State is pursuing more frequent and widespread COVID-19 testing in order to support businesses and the tourism sector as they reopen in Montana.  The State, in concert with local public health officials, is actively recruiting partnerships with businesses in tourism destination areas to begin voluntary testing of employees who may have frequent interactions with nonresident travelers through the course of their work. The effort, known as Community Snapshot Testing, aims to develop an early warning system for a COVID-19 outbreak through one of the major risk factors facing the state—travel. This increase in testing will not only augment efforts to identify cases early and support COVID-19 response and mitigation measures, it will build a foundation that will better prepare businesses for possible increased exposure that may occur in the future.  

Governor Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky plan has relied on individuals and businesses to provide leadership in adopting measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks. As a result, Montana enjoys one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the nation, allowing for the state to proceed with reopening and welcoming back visitors who are critical to our economy. Just as the Governor has asked residents to support local businesses by offering them more than their patronage – he is also asking our state’s visitors to do all they can to respect the decisions Montana businesses make to protect themselves, their employees, and the public.


  • Snapshot Testing Toolkit for Businesses 
    • Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative Brochure
    • Facility plan for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting
    • Information about asymptomatic testing 

Request a Testing Event 

Montana Department of Emergency Services
Statewide Emergency Coordination Center

First Event: Red Lodge!

Red Lodge Testing Graphic

Now Accepting Applications

The Montana Business Adaptation Program provides reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and customers safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, employ 50 or less, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since March 1 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are eligible. Eligible expenses include costs related to communication, remote work equipment, cleaning supplies, tools to enhance social distancing and sanitation, travel and hotel costs related to quarantining workers. Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000.

The Montana Business Stabilization Grant program will provide working capital for small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations in order to retain existing businesses, retain current employees or retain business viability for future re-employment. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, employ 50 or less, have sustained a loss of revenue since Feb. 15 due to COVID 19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are not eligible. Total funding available is $75 million, the maximum award amount per business is $10,000. 

The Montana Innovation Grant program is intended to help companies scale up, improve capabilities, or drive expanded distribution of products or services developed in response to COVID-19. Projects should demonstrate significant impact in improving public health, safety, and economic impact. Eligible companies include non-profit and for-profit businesses of less than 150 employees that have created an innovative product or service intended to directly confront the COVID-19 emergency. Applicants must have primary operations based in Montana, be in good standing with the Montana Secretary of State and must not be debarred from receiving federal or state funds. Total funding available is $5 million with a maximum award amount of $25,000. Deadline to apply is July 1, 2020.

The Social Service Nonprofit Grant program provides grants of up to $10,000 per applicant are available for nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency to retain existing programs and services, employees, or organizational viability for provision of future services and operations. Eligible applicants are registered, Montana-based social service nonprofits that were operating prior to February 15, 2020. This includes senior services, housing services, transportation, public safety, energy assistance, economic development, job training, recreational services and tourism-related activities. Current funding available is $10 million. Deadline to apply is Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m.

Apply Here 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of June 8 from Destination Analysts

More Americans feel ready to travel and are exhibiting strong conviction about their upcoming travel plans, although safety remains an integral part of their trip decision-making process.

Key Findings to Know

  • American travelers’ feelings about their health, financial and travel safety continue to improve.
  • More Americans report they are already traveling or ready to travel.
  • 70 percent will take at least one leisure trip in the remainder of 2020.
  • Over three-quarters have a developed sense of where and when their next leisure trip will take place and the majority say there is little chance of cancellation.
  • 40 percent say their next road trip will take place this summer.
  • Safety considerations are still important to travelers’ decision-making, from which destination they choose to visit to the hotels they select.
  • Younger generations are likelier to use a diverse set of social media and digital tools for their trip research, while Baby Boomers are more likely to concentrate their travel research activity on web searches.
  • Four in ten conventions/conference travelers would be happy to attend a convention in the Fall.

American travelers’ feelings about their health and financial safety continue to improve and perceptions of the safety of travel related activities are now better than they were in mid-March. Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This regularly scheduled call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 19 CVBs and specific industry stakeholders. Upcoming meetings are listed below. Please update your calendars. For assistance or information regarding this bi-monthly call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887.
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • July 20, 2020—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY20 Financial Reports Due
  • October 5-6, 2020—TAC Meeting 
  • February 8-9, 2021—TAC Meeting 
  • June 14-15, 2021—TAC Meeting 

Staff Update

Maria Valandra

Welcome Maria Valandra to the Office of Indian Country Economic Development

The Department of Commerce welcomes Maria Valandra to the Office of Indian Country Economic Development as Entrepreneur Development Program Manager.

Maria will manage the Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant, Native American Collateral Support (NACS) Program, and the Native American Business Advisor (NABA) Grant programs.

Maria has 24 years’ experience in the banking industry and community development. Most recently, she was at the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Addictive and Mental Disorders Division, as a coach and grant manager for Communities That Care, an evidence-based prevention science process that fosters the success of young people through every stage of development.

Prior to this, she worked with Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to help them execute their goals. Maria also worked at a regional bank headquartered in Billings. She held positions as a senior vice president and chief synergy officer, senior vice president of talent management and organization development, and vice president of community development.

Her past board service is extensive and includes co-founding the People’s Partner’s for Community Development, the Montana Indian Business Alliance, and the Montana Financial Education Coalition.

Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Montana State University in Bozeman. She is a member of the Nekaneet Band of the Cree First Nation of Saskatchewan. Originally from Great Falls, Maria now resides in Helena and has three grown sons and two grandchildren.

Contact Maria at or 406.841.2061.

2020 Montana Tourism Awards

The annual Montana Tourism Awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that strengthen Montana's tourism and recreation industries and thereby contribute to maximizing its economic impact for Montana residents.

In past years, the winners have been revealed at the live awards ceremony held in conjunction with the annual Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation. Unable to do so in 2020, award-winners were notified and a public announcement was made on May 19.

Therefore, additional information about each recipient and the finalists in each category will be highlighted in the Friday Flash over the next few weeks. 

Robert the Bruce

Film Friendly Community of the Year— Livingston for the Feature Film "Robert the Bruce"

Film is a powerful medium for attracting visitors to a destination, and in Montana, the landscape truly speaks for itself. But filmmaking is a lot of work, and it takes a village—or in this case, a community—to make it successful.

From lodging to crew and even locally sourced equipment, Montana communities provide tremendous support for film productions, and in return, benefit from the significant economic impact. For the Film Friendly Community award, nominees and the winner are selected by the Montana Film Office based on their assistance and support of a specific project or projects filmed in their communities. Eligibility is based on these components:

  • Projects filmed in Montana Communities or nearby areas are eligible
  • Projects must be released, on-air, or on the festival circuit by March 1, 2020
  • Projects that have filmed or photographed in the two years previous (2018, 2019) are eligible, allowing time for editing

Seven communities were nominated for projects ranging from commercials to photography to feature films. Livingston assisted the filmmakers with the Scottish period film “Robert The Bruce” in one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory.

The film needed access to talented builders, construction materials, livestock, extras, local crew, and specialized equipment. Local financier Carter Boehm is a producer on the film.
The community assisted the filmmakers with all of these elements and contributed hundreds of hours during the making of the film. The director of the film and his family have since moved to the community, and he is planning another film at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Paradise Valley.

Livingston has been showcasing filmmakers since the 1970’s and this is another example of the community spirit and participation in the art of cinema the community exhibits. You can watch the movie trailer on YouTube. The film is available on various streaming services.

We'd also like to acknowledge the other nominees in this category and thank them for the work they do to help put Montana on the map as a filming location.  

  • Big Sky | KIA Genesis “A Resolution to Keep—Commercial
  • Bannack | KIA “Ghost TownCommercial
  • Butte | David Yarrow Photography"There will be Blood—Photography
  • Virginia City | David Yarrow Photography—"Cindy Crawford"Photography
  • Helena | “Dave Turin’s Lost GoldTV series
  • Darby & Hamilton | “YellowstoneTV series

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As Montana reopens, we encourage you to support your local Taste our Place establishments by ordering takeout, delivery or dining in. You can also purchase gift cards from your favorite retailer or shop directly from your favorite Made in Montana producer online. Visit to find Made in Montana producers and retailers near you.  

Grown in Montana

June 15, 2020US Department of Agriculture Webinar "Battlefields to Farmfields"This is an informational webinar connecting veterans with agricultural programs and other resources in Montana. The webinar is scheduled to start at 11:45 a.m. MDT. To register, click here

Tribal News

Blackfeet Ease Some COVID Restrictions, Keep Quarantine

The Blackfeet Tribe last week took a step toward lifting restrictions put in place amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The tribal business council canceled the Blackfeet Reservation’s stay-at-home order and non-essential travel restrictions.

The easing of restrictions means non-residents can travel to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, but a 14-day quarantine order is still in effect for those returning or traveling from an area with known infections. The curfew on reservation was also extended from 8 to 11 p.m.

Bars, restaurants and casinos were given the go-ahead to open their doors, but they are required to submit a reopening plan to the tribe for approval. Churches and places of worship are allowed to do the same, and are being asked to operate at 50% capacity.

Read more or listen to the broadcast from MTPR here

Montana’s Tribal Nations Preserve COVID Restrictions To Preserve Their Cultures

As Montana plows forward with its reopening, including throwing open the doors to tourism on June 1, the outlook is starkly different for members of the state’s Native American nations, which have approached the coronavirus with greater caution and stricter controls.

For members of the state’s far-flung tribes, who make up nearly 7% of Montana’s population of roughly 1 million, protective attitudes toward elders and cultural heritage have shaped a pandemic response around defending the most vulnerable rather than prioritizing economics. Tribal leaders across the state say reservation shutdowns and stay-at-home orders will continue for now, as widespread, proactive testing for the virus on reservations gets underway. Read more from Kaiser Health News here

Outdoor Recreation

As the National Parks Reopen, Remember to #RecreateResponsibly

America’s adventurers got some welcome news recently as the National Park Service (NPS) entered its next phase of reopening. The agency will work alongside park superintendents and state officials to reopen parks that are deemed safe—beginning with open-space parks that allow for convenient social distancing.

Rejoice, but don’t forget to heed the NPS’s guidance and #RecreateResponsibly.

What does #RecreateResponsibly mean?

Just as U.S. Travel issued guidance for the travel industry to promote the health of customers and employees, the NPS has its own tips to allow visitors to enjoy the parks responsibly:

  • Know before you go. Visit for current park conditions and availability of restrooms and other facilities. Make a plan, follow the 10 Essentials, and if you are sick, stay home.
  • Keep it close. Follow the state and county orders governing the open status of the area you’re considering visiting. The NPS is working closely with governors and state and local health departments as we increase access and services across the National Park System.
  • Keep your distance. Recreate with the people in your household. Give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail, at a boat launch, or in a parking lot. Follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines for staying six feet away from others. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth if you’re near others.
  • Know your limits. Postpone challenging hikes or trying new activities while first responders, parks, and communities continue to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.
  • Keep it with you. If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas.

This is a positive step toward a return to normalcy. Studies show that 6 in 10 Americans are eager to travel again, but will first feel most comfortable participating in outdoor activities and traveling to destinations by car. With more than 400 sites in every pocket of the country, the NPS has something to offer every type of traveler—whether one is a serious hiker, a history buff, a sunseeker or a road tripper.

The reopening of national parks will provide a much-needed boost to the American economy, too. In 2018, national parks welcomed 318 million visitors who contributed $40.1 billion to the economy and supported 329,000 jobs. Gateway communities rely on visitor spending, and the next phase of reopening should provide some relief to these local economies.

As always, the health of visitors is paramount. U.S. Travel applauds the NPS for its phased approach to responsibly welcoming back visitors, and stands ready to assist the agency as it reopens sites across America. Read more from the U.S. Travel Association here

NPS Recreate Responsibly

Best Marketing Practices

Cooperative and Opportunity Marketing

Last year’s investments and foresight seem to be paying off in 2020 for the Gardiner CVB as decisions were made in FY19 to move from less printed materials to more digital advertising.

As part of that strategy and overall plan, 100 new images were added to the digital library. Those assets were available to use in 2019 and beyond. Cooperative marketing with Cooke City Chamber of Commerce on the jointly maintained Northern Range website produced an increase in online traffic that exceeded their goals.

An investment of only a few hundred dollars in social media posts increased Facebook followers by 30% and Instagram saw 100% increase in followers. Visit Gardiner Montana social media channels are now positioned to be key communication and promotional tools to engage and update visitors and Montana residents as they navigate travel during COVID19.

Montana in the News
Tourism Partner Shout-Outs, Recognition and News

Flathead ValleyBusinesses Near Glacier National Park Thankful West Side has Opened
With West Glacier now open, businesses in the area are hopeful for more tourism. Glacier National Park has been closed since March 24, due to the coronavirus concerns.

Monday marked the opening day for Glacier National Park with limited services and recreational areas. Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner told MTN that the opening of the gates is a huge step for the Flathead Valley.

Just to say that it’s open, even on a limited basis would be normal for this time of the year,” he said. “And if you don’t have it, it’s sort of an indicator that we’re not really fully into our tourism and recreation here in the Flathead.” Read more from the Missoula Current here


Complete the 2020 Census Now!

Filling out the Census is quick, easy, and safe. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete and your information and privacy are protected by federal law. Montanans can fill out their Census forms online at or by phone at 1.844.330.2020. The Census is also available via TDD (Telephone Display Device) at 844.467.2020. Learn more at CENSUS.MT.GOV.

Other News

4 Steps to Reopening Your Business Safely

As states begin to lift their stay-at-home orders, here's what your business needs to know about safely resuming operations.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have relaxed their stay-at-home orders and begun to reopen non-essential businesses. For business owners, this means navigating a new world of social distancing, face coverings and decreased in-store capacity as consumers slowly start to resume their "normal" lives.

For many businesses, the key to getting back to business will be prioritizing the health and safety of both employees and customers in a clear, demonstrable way. You and your staff will need to strictly adhere to and enforce any new health guidelines put in place by your state and/or municipality, and effectively communicate those protocols to your patrons.

If your business is preparing to reopen its doors, here's what you need to know about safely resuming operations while building trust and confidence among your customer base.

  1. Prepare your workplace for the transition
  2. Create and employee wellness plan to monitor health
  3. Implement safety measures for handling physical items
  4. Communicate your plans clearly to employees and customers

Read more from the U.S. Chamber here

Funding Resources

Coronavirus Relief Fund Grants

Families, small businesses, non-profits, health services centers and individuals across Montana hardest-hit by impacts of COVID-19 are eligible to apply for grants through new programs created in response to the emergency. Visit COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV for a complete list of grant programs, eligibility requirements or apply.

Rural and Tribal Community Funding

Montana Community Foundation (MCF) and Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA) have partnered to create and administer the Montana COVID–19 Fund. This statewide fund will provide safety-net funding for Montana's rural and tribal communities adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund will specifically support those communities that do not have established community-specific funds. The fund will grant directly to nonprofit intermediary organizations (community foundations, United Ways, etc.) and rural tribal communities for re-granting in the areas identified by the Montana COVID-19 Fund Steering Committee. For more information, click here

USDA Implements Immediate Measures to Help Rural Residents, Businesses and Communities Affected by COVID-19

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.

Effective March 31, 2020 until September 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees. Read the full announcement here to learn more about the opportunities USDA Rural Development is implementing to provide immediate relief to our customers, partners, and stakeholders.

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide Lists Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents Impacted by COVID-19

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Monday unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic. The  USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, click here

Other Dates/Events to Note

October 4-6, 2020Northwest USA Spotlight Tourism Conference (Helena)—Spotlight is a 2.5 day tourism conference with educational seminars, networking functions, site-seeing tours and a supplier trade show. Attendance will consist of 30-35 QUALIFIED group tour operators and buyers (coming from all over the US and Canada) along with about 25-30 Suppliers. For more information, click here

October 6-8, 2020—The 2020 NAISMA (North American Invasive Species Management Association) Annual Conference (Virtual)—The 2020 NAISMA Annual Conference will be held on a virtual platform rather than our traditional in-person meeting in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

This year’s virtual conference will be presented live during the conference dates. Sessions will also be recorded for post-event attendee access. Attendees will be able to log in to view presentations for up to 1 year after the event. To learn more, click here