Friday Flash 7/10/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Wildfire Updates

The Montana Department of Commerce will again provide relevant wildfire updates for tourism partners and the traveling public at our webpage TRAVELAWARE.MT.GOV. The page will be updated daily or as fire activity impacts popular destination areas.


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 Hospitals, Department of Commerce Partner to ‘Mask Up’ Montana

45,000 cloth face coverings to be distributed through statewide network of tourism visitor centers.

As part of an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 across the state, the Montana Hospital Association and the Montana Department of Commerce today announced shipments of 45,000 free cloth face coverings to 25 communities statewide.

The Montana Hospital Association secured the reusable cloth face coverings and today begins shipping to distribution sites statewide. The face coverings are to be distributed free of charge to residents and visitors through the Department of Commerce’s network of Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVBs) and tourism region visitor centers.

If we want to keep our economy open and ensure our state’s healthcare system has the capacity to treat all patients who need medical care, we need to mask up,” said Rich Rasmussen, president and chief executive officer for the Montana Hospital Association. “Until we have a vaccine, wearing a mask is one of the most simple and effective things we can do to keep the virus from shutting down our state. It also sets the tone with neighbors and visitors alike: Montanans wear masks and you should, too.”

The Department of Commerce is coordinating a statewide responsible visitor campaign in partnership with CVBs and Montana’s nonprofit tourism regions to ensure visitors and residents are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

We’re asking visitors to our spectacular state to take the same safety precautions that Montanans are encouraged to follow,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “Masking up is one simple way all of us can slow the spread of COVID-19 and still enjoy Montana’s authentic experiences.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local public health officials recommend cloth face coverings whenever in public in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to a recent study [] from global investment firm Goldman Sachs, mask-wearing by every American could save the U.S. economy from a 5% drop in GDP, or approximately $1 trillion in reduced economic spending.

The face coverings were produced by the National Council of Textile Organizations and made available through a joint program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The face coverings are 100% cotton jersey, bind around face and ears, and are treated with a 0.5% OWG Agion AMB-10 Antimicrobial to prevent the growth of viruses and germs. The masks are adult-sized and washable up to 15 times.

Distribution will occur at visitor centers in the following cities: Anaconda, Belgrade, Billings, Boulder, Butte, Cooke City, Deer Lodge, Dillon, Gardiner, Glasgow, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Livingston, Missoula, Philipsburg, Polson, Red Lodge, Sidney, Virginia City, West Yellowstone, Whitefish and Wolf Point. Click here to read full press release. 

Montana Coronavirus Relief Funding Resources

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. For a complete list of available grant programs, eligibility requirements and to apply, visit COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

Transparency Dashboard Updated Weekly

The state of Montana has launched a dynamic dashboard that shows the Coronavirus Relief Fund grants that have been awarded to businesses and nonprofits. This dashboard will be updated weekly until all grant dollars have been expended. 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of July 6 from Destination Analysts

More than twice as many Americans took trips for the Fourth of July compared to Memorial Day, and those who did skewed younger, male, city dwellers with higher household incomes—offering some clues to travel’s near-term future.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • 63.0% of American travelers feel the pandemic is going to get worse in the US in the next month—up dramatically from 34.7% at the beginning of June.
  • Americans reported ability to be inspired to travel in the next three months—even under attractive conditions—has declined with the worsening of the pandemic.
  • The percent of Americans saying there are certain destinations they would normally consider visiting but now will absolutely not jumped to 37.3% from 29.6% in just one week.
  • When asked what’s driving the avoidance of these destinations, rising coronavirus cases and the perceived unsatisfactory management of the situation, as well as the expected poor behavior of other tourists was most cited.
  • Nevertheless, there are many Americans who are still traveling or planning to: 16.5% took a trip for the Fourth of July holiday, more than double Memorial Day.
  • The profile of these holiday travelers—younger, male, urban, affluent—may offer clues to travel’s near-term.
  • Americans who already have a destination(s) in mind for their 2020 leisure travel plans continue to show an affinity for beaches.
  • The hotel operational practices that would make Americans feel most confident that their health is being looked after is employees wearing masks and gloves, well-explained cleaning procedures, enforced social distancing and being provided with sanitizer and masks.

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 

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As Montana is reopening, we encourage you to support your local businesses. If you are interested in locally sourced ingredients, check out this list of our Taste our Place members and savor Montana flavor. You can also find Made in Montana producers and retailers in your area by visiting   

Made in Montana Member Highlight

Red Lodge company, Earlywood makes Oprah’s Favorite Things List
O Magazine’s July 2020 issue includes Earlywood’s Newlywood Set as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, Made in America.

Brad Bernhart, owner and lead maker started Earlywood over 10 years ago in a garden shed and now employs 12 people in a large shop to help keep up as demand for the company’s heirloom quality wooden kitchen utensils grows. Brad, a Billings native, is a mechanical engineer that started designing wooden spoons and utensils in his spare time. Always aiming for functional, minimalist, quality tools that will last for generations, he was slowly able to make it his full-time job.

In 2016, the company was featured in Bon Appetit magazine, sales grew so quickly they were not able keep up with production demands as there were two locations for manufacturing and shipping was done out of their home’s basement.

We feel better prepared this time around in our shop. We have hired more people and have learned how to streamline production and shipping. We will keep up the best we can. It is a really great opportunity; we are excited and anxious. Earlywood is proud to represent Red Lodge and Montana on this big stage. It’s hard to wrap my head around it all.

Earlywood has a range of products from $8 to the $250 Newlywood Set featured in O Magazine. They are primarily an online business, donating $1 from each online sale to the Nature Conservancy’s Plant A Billion program.

Outdoor Recreation

Eastern Border of Glacier National Park will Stay Closed for Summer

The Blackfeet Tribal Council has decided to close the eastern border of Glacier National Park into the Blackfeet Reservation for the remainder of the 2020 season as a result of the jump in COVID-19 cases.

According to Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command, the closure of the border is for the protection of the residents of the Blackfeet Nation.

The following roads are closed for this year's tourism season: Two Medicine, Chief Mountain, St. Mary’s, Cut Bank Creek, and Many Glacier.

The west entrance of the park remains open and visitors can travel to Avalanche Creek. However, there are still time and facility restrictions in place. Read more from KRTV here.

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Update

The summer boating season is here. Watercraft inspection stations are conducting record numbers of inspections with boaters eager to get out of the house and on the water. We are also seeing a lot of boats coming in from out of state, presenting an elevated risk of invasive species transport. All watercraft inspection stations are now open except for the Eureka station due to the ongoing border closure with Canada. Most stations are now operating during daylight hours seven days a week.

As of June 30, more than 44,000 watercraft have been inspected. Inspection stations are busier than ever, with early season numbers higher than previous years. Inspectors find more than mussels on boats. Red rim melania snails are an aquarium species that is found in Lake Havasu. Inspectors at the Anaconda station identified them on a boat earlier this season. The crew at the Flowing Wells station also found something unexpected on a boat this season. A sizeable bull snake surprised inspectors when it emerged from a boat during an inspection in May.

Click here for the AIS dashboard. To learn more about AIS, visit CLEANDRAINDRY.MT.GOV

Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program Accepting Proposals

Department of the Interior, United States (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning operates the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program. PFW Program regional and field staff work with partners to identify habitat conservation priorities and delineate geographic focus areas in their Regional strategic plans.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program provides direct technical assistance and financial assistance to private landowners to restore and conserve fish and wildlife habitat for the benefit of federal trust resources. Many PFW projects support tribal operations ensuring sovereignty means something.

Program priorities include restoring trust with local communities; modernizing infrastructure and fencing projects; hunting and fishing, including habitat preservation to support robust populations of wildlife for recreational use by the American public; the National Wildlife Refuge System, with a focus on conservation activities and projects on private lands near National Wildlife Refuge lands; and expanding priority habitats, reducing habitat fragmentation, establishing conservation buffers and providing wildlife movement corridors that result in self-sustaining systems.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through September 30, 2020. Applicants seeking technical or financial assistance from the PFW Program are requested to consult with the Regional PFW Program office BEFORE developing or submitting an application.

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

HamiltonYouth Farmers Market opens at O’Hara Commons—O'Hara Commons and Sustainability Center is hosting a Youth Farmers Market during the weekday Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Director Samantha O’Byrne said three young entrepreneurs approached her with the idea.

They’ve done two weeks in our garden and are cordoned off for their own safe area,” O’Byrne said. “I was inspired by their professionalism and self-initiation.”

The youthful vendors are a close knit group of kids making and selling their crafts – hair scrunchies, skin care products, baked goods and bracelets. The fenced in area has one way traffic for social distancing. The mid-week farmers market has strict requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including optional masks, socially distanced markings for waiting to enter and a cap on the number of shoppers in the venue at one time.

Haley Weber, 11, said she sells scrunchies and handmade cards and takes custom orders.

What inspired me to do this farmers market was that I had started a scrunchie business about a year ago,” Weber said. “I thought that it was a good opportunity for people to find out about my business and for me to make some money.”

Lauren Nelson, 12, said she was inspired by her friend Haley to participate in the youth market. Nelson sells body and lip sugar scrub and baked goods.

I have been practicing these things during the quarantine time and have been having a lot of fun,” Nelson said. “I like being able to talk to my friends there and I like the happiness of selling something I made.” Read more from the Ravalli Republic here.

Miles CityMontana Ag Network: New Meat Processing Program Developed at Miles Community College—The recent disruptions in the livestock product supply chain due to COVID-19 has raised awareness of the American public to the importance of the local food supply chain. Because of this, a new meat processing program is being developed to encourage more people to pursue a career in meat processing in Montana.

For the past several years, Miles Community College (MCC) has been hoping to develop a certificate that can offer a journeyman certificate in meat cutting. Kim Gibbs, agricultural instructor, says MCC, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and Montana Meat Processors Association have teamed up to make a meat processing certificate/degree a reality.

When COVID-19 hit, we realized that people start starting to be concerned where their meat came from, where their food comes from,” said Gibbs. “The Montana Farm Bureau got in contact with Montana Meat Processors Association and MCC about this program, and we started the development of the program. One of the unique things about the program is you'll have your core classes and then we’ll do internships at processing facilities across the state of Montana.”

Montana meat processors are also excited to help students grow their skills in meat cutting. Brian Engle of Pioneer Meats in Big Timber explains why. Read more from KTVQ here.

Missoula and BillingsMissoula Ranked #7 and Billings Ranked #15 in WalletHub's 2020Best-Run Cities in America—Even when the U.S. isn’t in a time of crisis, running a city is a tall order. The larger the city, the more complex it becomes to manage. In addition to representing the residents, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. That often means not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost and whether and how much to raise taxes, among other decisions.

WalletHub compared the operating efficiency of 150 of the largest U.S. cities to reveal which among them are managed best. We constructed a “Quality of Services” score made up of 38 metrics grouped into six service categories, which we then measured against the city’s per-capita budget. Read more from WalletHub for findings, expert insight and a full description of our methodology 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

These ‘Caremongering’ DMOs Guide Residents to Support Local Businesses

At its heart, tourism is about people. During the COVID-19 crisis, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and tourism businesses have demonstrated how to uplift both locals and visitors. There are many stories of mutual support. Caremongering is a term that made news in Canada during the early days of the crisis when regular people sought to promote care and kindness in a rapidly changing world.

As travel restrictions are slowly lifted, encourage your community to stand behind local shops, cafes, restaurants, and companies.
Here are examples of destination marketing organizations helping residents care for local businesses. Read more from Destination Think! here.

Funding Resources

USDA Seeks Applications for Technical Assistance Grants to Help Socially Disadvantaged Groups

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to help socially disadvantaged groups develop business and strategic plans in rural areas.

USDA is making $3 million in grants available under the Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant Program. Eligible applicants include cooperatives, groups of cooperatives and cooperative development centers. The grants are intended to help disadvantaged groups develop the capacity to implement plans and undertake projects to improve economic and social conditions.

A socially disadvantaged group is one whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.

Electronic applications must be submitted to by midnight Eastern Time on August 10, 2020. Additional information is available on page 38111 of the June 25 Federal Register.

USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB) to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page here

Our Town Grant Program

Our Town is the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program. It supports projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes.

Successful Our Town projects lay the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture and design into local strategies for strengthening communities.

Projects require a partnership between a local government entity and a cultural organization; and should engage in partnership with other sectors (such as agriculture, economic development, education, environment or workforce development). Cost share/matching grants range from $25,000 to $150,000.

For more information, click here for a description of the program. If you have questions contact the staff at with your question or to set up a time to speak to staff.

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