Friday Flash 7/23/21

Friday Flash Banner
Pintler Scenic Hwy

Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Wildland Fire Information for Travelers

The Montana Department of Commerce will again provide relevant wildland fire updates and resources for tourism partners and the traveling public at MARKETMT.COM. The page is updated as fire activity impacts popular destination areas and includes information on wildland fires, fire restrictions, smoke and air quality across Montana. 

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 16 CVBs, the Montana Tourism Advisory Council and specific industry stakeholders. The calls are held on the fourth Wednesday, every other month from 10:00-11:00 a.m. For assistance or information regarding this call, please contact Barb Sanem or call her at 406.841.2769. 
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • October 4-5, 2021—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • October 20, 2021—Region/CVB 1st Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due 
  • January 20, 2022—Region/CVB 2nd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • April 20, 2022—Region/CVB 3rd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • July 20 , 2022—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due

Gov. Gianforte Seeks Public Comment on Use of ARPA Economic and Workforce Funds

Governor Greg Gianforte announced the Economic Transformation and Stabilization and Workforce Development Advisory Commission seeks public comment on how to best use about $130 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds which the commission oversees.

“We’re focused on making long-term investments that will help create sustainable, good-paying jobs and bring greater opportunities to Montanans,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Hearing directly from Montanans yields the best results for our communities, so I encourage folks to have their voices heard to help guide the commission’s decisions.”

The Economic Transformation and Stabilization and Workforce Development Advisory Commission is focused on developing programs across four main areas: affordable housing, workforce development, value-added agricultural infrastructure, and business innovation.

Beginning yesterday and through August 9, 2021, Montanans may submit their public comment here. More information on the programs may be found here.

At yesterday’s commission meeting, members received an update from the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) on the state’s return-to-work bonus program. The department reported they have received 3,600 applications for return-to-work bonuses.

“Some 3,600 Montanans have applied for return-to-work bonuses and already we’re seeing increased participation in our labor force,” DLI Commissioner Esau said. “Yesterday’s commission meeting builds on the progress already made in utilizing federal ARPA dollars to get more Montanans back to work and build the foundation of a prosperous Montana economy for decades to come.”

The commission also received a status report from the Department of Commerce on the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance program. To date, the state has assisted over 2,000 Montana households struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic and has distributed over $11 million to renters and landlords. Financial assistance is still available and eligible individuals can apply online at

Recreate Responsibly

Recreate Responsibly Toolkit and Resources

The Montana Office of Tourism is committed to keeping Montana’s outdoor spaces, communities, residents, and visitors safe. Please join us communicating these guidelines for responsible recreation to visitors traveling throughout Montana. 

As part of this initiative, the Montana Office of Tourism has developed a toolkit of resources to help you educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices. To learn more or download the toolkit, click here

Tourism Grant Program

Tourism Grant Application Cycle Opens August 1!

We are happy to announce that the annual application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program will open at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, 2021 via Submittable, an online platform. The 2022 application cycle will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15. 

For more information about the Tourism Grant Program and the annual application cycle please visit our website at MARKETMT.COM

Made in Montana

2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow 

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts is scheduled for September 10-11, 2021 in Helena at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. 

Seeking Nominations for 2021 Retailer of the Year!
This award recognizes a Made in Montana retailer who makes an outstanding effort to represent the Made in Montana brand, supports Montana producers, and is committed to promoting the sale of Made in Montana goods to residents and visitors alike. 

If you know of a retailer that fits the description, this is your chance to nominate them to be honored as the 2021 Made in Montana Retailer of the Year. Nominations are due by Wednesday, August 4, 2021. 

Wholesale Buyer Registration Open
Join us for the 2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow to discover all new Made in Montana products as well as old favorites for your retail space. This year's show will feature 125 Made in Montana producers, over 30 new exhibitors, and our Native American Made in Montana Pavilion.

Buyers can pre-register through Friday, September 3, 2021, but can also register on-site the day of the show. To learn more or to register as a wholesale buyer, click here

International Travel News

Canada to Reopen Borders to Vaccinated Americans

Over one year after closing its borders to non-essential travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canadian government announced Monday the country will be reopening to vaccinated tourists beginning with U.S. citizens and permanent residents on Aug. 9, and then to everyone else on Sept. 7.

Officials cited the hard work of Canadians in getting the pandemic under control, rising vaccination rates and declining Covid-19 cases as reasons for its reopening plans. They plan to use the window between when Americans and the rest of the world are cleared to enter to adjust border control measures and make sure they’re ready for an expected influx of passengers. Read more from the Missoula Current here


Agritourism Industry Sees Opportunity with New Website

Agritourism may not be a word you hear every day, but everything from your favorite farm stand to your annual pumpkin patch trip falls under its umbrella, and nowhere is agritourism as bustling as the Last Best Place.

Despite the success of this industry, until this summer, a Montanan interested in turning their farm into a field trip didn’t have a lot of resources to get started. For many, the idea was and is daunting. Cue Professor Shannon Arnold. “There are very little educational resources that exist specifically focused on Montana agritourism,” explained Dr. Arnold. Together with fellow MSU professor Anton Bekkerman, these ag advocates applied for and received a grant from the Montana Department of Agriculture in 2018.

“Our goal with the grant was to develop this educational campaign for both prospective and emerging operators of specialty crops and agritourism businesses in Montana,” said Arnold. A labor of love 3 years in the making came to fruition this May with a first-of-its kind website offering a step-by-step guide for busting into the agritourism industry.

Here, you’ll find advice from agritourism experts, videos and detailed podcasts so you can pop in the headphones and learn without missing a weed. “For an operator that might be interested in starting an agritourism business, they could go to this podcast and they could listen to different perspectives of how different people started their agritourism business, where did they go for resources, what were some of their challenges, how did they overcome those,” said Arnold. Read more from KPAX here

Outdoor Recreation

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series

New Webinars Added! American Trails brings agencies, trailbuilders, advocates, and volunteers the latest in state-of-the-art information on all aspects of trails and greenways. Our webinars focus on a variety of trail topics, usually applicable to all trail types, with expert presenters. Webinar topics are chosen from current cutting-edge trail topics selected from attendee/presenter suggestions as well as recent popular conference sessions. For more information, visit or click on individual webinar links below. 

Upcoming webinars:

If you missed a previous webinar, they are available for FREE and immediate download here

Fly Shops are Busier than Ever in Montana

Fly shops across western Montana are busier than ever. So much so, that many shops are struggling to keep shelves stocked with some of the basics to fly fishing.

Daniel Uter’s fly shop, The River’s Edge West in Four Corners is a prime example. While their shelves are not bare, they have holes that are begging to be filled. “Every day is a different story” Uter said to MTN. “We may not have everything, but we have something this year.” Uter was referring to items that are usually not difficult to come by like leader, tippet, or fly line for example. Your favorite brand may not be on the shelf and you may have to look to a brand you normally do not buy.

“Normally when you would just call up the company and say, you know I need to get some new fly line and leader and tippet for the store. They don't have it this year” Uter explained. There are plenty of shops dealing with the same problem. “We tell people to be flexible. We have something.”

And the rivers are seeing plenty of traffic as well. Guides and casual anglers are looking for opportunities to float or wade, and often in the same spots with Hoot Owl restrictions slowing traffic on some of the region’s favorite destinations. Read more from KBZK here

Montana FWP is Intercepting More Mussel-Contaminated Boats this Year

Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks say that since the start of the boating season, they’ve already stopped more watercraft for suspected invasive mussel contamination than they did last year.

In 2020, aquatic invasive species checkpoints conducted around 174,000 inspections and identified 35 vessels contaminated with zebra or quagga mussels. This year, they’ve already stopped 39 mussel-fouled boats, after just under 53,000 inspections.
contaminated boats this year. 

“It’s hard to say why we are at a much higher rate of contaminated boats, but the good news is that we’re catching them, the people that are bringing them in – that we’re getting them stopped and cleaned up,” said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon.

Several dozen watercraft inspection sites are operating across Montana. All boats and other watercraft are supposed to be inspected for mussels and other invasive species whenever they come in from out of state, cross west over the Continental Divide or enter the Flathead Basin. Leaders say compliance is generally good, but game wardens are watching and will pull over drivers who fail to stop. Read more from KRTV here

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

BozemanNo Vacancy: Bozeman Hotels Fully Booked as Area Sees High Tourism—Hillary Folkvord looked to book a hotel for the upcoming Professional Bull Riding events in Big Sky. The only room available was going at $900 for the night. “Heck no, I’m not staying there for $900,” Folkvord said.

Instead, Folkvord found a limo service that would drive her group to and from Big Sky on the weekend — a cheaper alternative than staying the night. Folkvord, who co-owns the RSVP Motel in Bozeman with her sister, knows hotel prices in Bozeman and the surrounding area are climbing as more tourists visit southwest Montana. “Room rates around town are skyrocketing,” she said. “People are willing to pay anything to stay in Bozeman.” The tourism and hospitality industry are on the rebound in Bozeman after taking initial hits in early 2020. A search of room rates for a given night this month in Bozeman ranged from nearly $650 to about $250. 

“We’ve been seeing Bozeman being sold out across the board,” said Daryl Schliem, the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce president. “In July, hotel rooms have been almost at 100% capacity and we’re expecting that for August and early September.” That’s up from summer 2020, which was down 24% in occupancy rates. The chamber tracks that through the city’s bed tax. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here

MissoulaDowntown Missoula Business Owners Face New Challenges as Tourism Increases—Downtown Missoula businesses are seeing an increase in tourism and while sales are going back up, there are some different challenges they're facing this year. The owner of Mood Boutique, Sarah Allen, said she asks her customers what brought them to Montana.

"I mean I've definitely asked before like, 'have you been to Montana before? What brought you here?' and people are just like 'I always wanted to come' or 'I knew someone who went through here,' 'we have family here and just have never made it,'" Allen said. She said her store is almost never empty these days, and her sales are up nearly 50% from this time in 2019.

But now, businesses here in Downtown Missoula are experiencing some other problems. "I definitely think I needed more help, but I feel like you're just competing with everyone trying to hire," Allen said. "So, we've just been working our butts off by ourselves and not really getting much of a break," Allen said.

Downtown Missoula Partnerships Marketing and Events Director, Kristen Sackett, said a lot of businesses are experiencing this. "They're going from one extreme to another of, not really having business and just trying to get anybody to come, to now they're over-inundated with a large amount of people but the staffing has been a very large challenge for them," Sackett said.

This means you might have to wait a little loner for your food, or to check out at a boutique, but Sackett is encouraging everyone to be patient. Read more from KHQ here.

Other News

MSU Extension Accepting Applications for Reimagining Rural Virtual Gathering

Montana State University Extension is accepting applications from rural Montana communities to participate in the Reimagining Rural virtual gathering planned for this fall. The virtual gathering is a series of three evening events where people come together in their communities to listen to virtual speakers discuss positive examples of successful rural communities.

Following the speakers, local groups each have a facilitated conversation about how those ideas might work in their community. Sessions are planned from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 13, Sept. 27 and Oct. 4. Any community in Montana is welcome to apply, and participation is free.

“People who are passionate about creating vibrant, robust rural places, growing local capacity and who are eager to learn, connect and lead local change will find some great inspiration through Reimagining Rural,” said Jennifer Anderson, MSU Extension agent for Rosebud and Treasure counties and an organizer of the virtual program. “These local leaders often can’t make the trip to the conferences held in larger communities because they have businesses to run or jobs they can’t leave, but Reimagining Rural brings those ideas to any town, no matter how remote.”

Reimagining Rural is made possible through a collaboration among MSU Extension, the Burton K. Wheeler Center and the Montana Community Foundation. Applications are due August 9, 2021. To learn more or to download the application, click here

Rental Car Shortage Means Extra Cash for Some Montanans

Visiting Glacier National Park had been on Jim Schneider’s bucket list for years. So, he and his wife booked flights to Montana from Omaha, Nebraska and rented a cabin in June to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. But a few months before the flight Schneider realized they hadn’t reserved a car. “There was not a rental car to be found anywhere around Kalispell,” Schneider says.

A shortage of microchips around the world has slowed car production and limited rental car supply after some companies sold off vehicles during last year’s pandemic-related economic downturn. This means as tourism surges, some visitors to Montana like Schneider are having a hard time finding a vehicle to rent, putting their trip in jeopardy.

After considering alternatives, like renting a U-Haul, Schneider found Bigfork resident Wayne Grilley. Grilley is one of many Flathead Valley residents hosting vehicles on the car-sharing marketplace, Turo, to help meet the rental car demand. The online platform works like Airbnb, but for cars. “I just felt in the Flathead Valley, it was a need, because it's not just this year that there's a shortage on cars,” Grilley says. In addition to Grilley renting Schneider one of his own cars, “He rented us two canisters of bear spray at a cheaper price than anywhere else that we’d found to rent bear spray from,” Schneider says.

Grilley owns an Airbnb and figured offering renters a car on Turo would be a good complement. He bought one car and started renting it out right before the pandemic hit. Since then, he’s bought two more cars, and all three are booked through the summer season. Read more from MTPR here

Funding Resources

FY22 Montana Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant 

The Office of Indian Country Economic Development is accepting applications to the fiscal year 2022 Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant program. Applications will be accepted through August 31, 2021.

Grant funds are intended to support tribal members in Montana to start or grow their business by deploying funds to support their business strategy. Funds may be used for the purchase of land, building and equipment, assets including furnishings, equipment and technology and selected use of working capital and business operations. 

Tribal enrolled members of Montana tribes are the only eligible applicants for this portion of the Program. All applications must include documentation of tribal enrollment. A maximum of $14,000 per eligible applicant will be available in fiscal year 2022. 

Native American Business Advisors are available on each Reservation to assist applicants as they develop their grant proposals. Contact information for each advisor is available at NABA.

For more information contact Luke Robinson or visit the website.

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

USDA is making available up to $3 million in cooperative agreements under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) for eligible entities to help them provide planning support, technical assistance and training to foster placemaking activities in rural communities. Qualified entities can use the funds to help rural communities create plans to enhance capacity for broadband access; preserve cultural and historic structures; and support the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces. For more information, click here

Other Events/Dates to Note

July 27, 2021ARPA Infrastructure Advisory Commission Meeting—The ARPA Infrastructure Advisory Commission will meet Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. in the State Capitol. The meeting will be held in Room 137 as well as virtually, and livestreamed here. Click the “Streaming For Today” button on

If you cannot be in Helena and would like to give live public comment, you may join the meeting via Zoom. Please email by noon, July 26, 2021, to request login information.

During the meeting, the Commission will discuss public comments, review outreach activities, and summarize applications received. 

Find the meeting agenda and information here

September 23-25, 202148th Annual Montana History Conference (Butte)—After a year of isolation and social distancing, the Montana Historical Society is excited to gather with our friends for “A Blast from the Past! Mining Montana History.” The Montana History Conference is an annual gathering of history enthusiasts from across the state and the nation.

The conference begins on Thursday with workshops ranging from re-registering you livestock brand to tips for getting your historical books and articles published. Thursday also offers an educators’ workshop and the ever-popular, daylong Made in Montana Tour.

Thursday evening finds us in historic Uptown sampling “A Taste of Butte” in a progressive reception featuring the Elks Club, Headframe Distillery, and 51 Below Speakeasy. Afterward, the adventurous can join Ellen Baumler for tales of historical otherworldly encounters followed by a visit to some of Butte’s most haunted places.

On Friday and Saturday, conference sessions will feature a wide array of speakers and topics including scandals at the State Highway Commission and the State Normal College in Dillon, to the Great Explosion of 1895 and tales of Butte’s infamous “Galloping Gallows. For full program and registration information, click here.