Anderson Steel adding jobs with $1.2 million investment

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In 2002, Great Falls-based Anderson Steel bought a $900,000 beam line, automatic equipment that does drilling, sawing, punching, shearing and fabrication of structural steel.

“It isn’t fully depreciated yet, but it is already out of date,” said Susan Humble, the owner of the metal fabrication business established in 1970 by her father, Duane “Bud” Anderson.

That beam line is being replaced with $1.2 million of fabrication equipment, which will help increase productivity and efficiency.

“The new beam line replaces five pieces of equipment,” Humble said. “A process that took two people 45 minutes to complete now takes one person three minutes.”

The plan is to leverage that increased productivity to increase sales and boost Anderson Steel’s workforce by 15 personnel this year and a total of 50 over the next four years.

“We had 40 employees and we are now up to 47, so we are half way for our hiring goal this year,” Humble said.

The investment, financed in part by a $112,500 Big Sky Trust Fund grant from the Montana Department of Commerce tied to the increase in jobs, is part of an aggressive business plan for Anderson Steel’s metal fabrication division.

“We are bidding projects across Montana and the Western U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii,” said Bob Reiman, vice president of operations for Anderson Steel Supply. “By refocusing our efforts, we are returning to the original business plan this company was founded on 46 years ago.”

For example, Anderson Steel was the successful bidder for the steel work — architectural steel components such as handrails, stairs, as well as the structural steel — for the $14 million Washington Grizzly Champion Center, a 46,000-square-foot complex that will be located behind the southwest corner of Washington-Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana. The center will house a new 7,000-square-foot locker room for the Grizzly football team, a 12,500-square-foot strength and conditioning center for all student-athletes and team meeting spaces.
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Developers: Marriott, restaurants, retail space in works for Great Falls

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Developers in Great Falls last week announced plans for a major 12.5 acre riverfront mixed-use development along the west bank of the Missouri River.

The area is located north of 4th Avenue NW on the east side of 3rd Street NW, just north of the Central Avenue bridge.

The development will be anchored by a 132-unit Marriott Springhills Suites hotel, according to the Great Falls Development Authority.

The West Bank Landing development — located just north of the Staybridge Suites and federal court building — will include six new buildings that developers say will offer a mix of retail, restaurant, office, and residential uses.

An existing 1940-vintage brick barrel vaulted building will be renovated for restaurant and retail use.

Construction on the hotel is planned to start within several weeks, according to the GFDA.

There is no word yet on what restaurants and shops may be interested in the development.

James Talcott Construction provided the images above to show what the area may look like once the project is complete.

The area just to the south has seen many updates in recent years, including the addition of the Staybridge Suites hotel, the Faster Basset restaurant, the Front Brewing Company, and Kobe Steakhouse.

Upscale apartments, brew pub planned for downtown

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The colorfully painted barricade boards have come off the historic Rocky Mountain Building at Central Avenue and 6th Street.

Three longtime redevelopment partners, joined recently by a prominent Great Falls company, are prepared to launch the rebuilding of the arty 1913-1914 building that housed Public Drug and Set Free Ministries before a 2009 fire.

Construction is expected to start late this summer and take about two years, resulting in 47 upscale apartments on the upper floors and 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor for retail or office space, said architect Dale Nelson, a partner in Rocky Mountain Building Development Venture.

“We’ve got some pretty promising potential tenants,” he said, including business people expressing interest in a restaurant, a brew pub and a microbrewery. The separate entities are talking about working together, which might use about half the commercial space.

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Industrial expansion is a bright sign for Great Falls economy

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December 20, 2015 6:00 pm • JAYME FRASER Lee Newspapers State Bureau

Several ongoing company expansions in Great Falls could herald the end of a 30-year dry spell for industrial growth, area leaders say.

Despite its prime location along transportation corridors, companies looking to expand or relocate to the Golden Triangle could not find many heavy industrial lots and none with rail access.

“We didn’t have any on the market for several decades,” said Jolene Bach, vice president of the Great Falls Development Authority.

The last industrial park built in Great Falls came online and quickly filled up in the 1980s. Local leaders had discussed developing new rail-served lots as early as the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the authority signed an option contract for more than 1,000 acres in northeast Great Falls. The area, dubbed the AgriTech Park, will be developed in phases, beginning with 196 acres divided into 10 lots.

“Pretty much as soon as they became available they sold,” Bach said, noting five lots were claimed quickly and a sixth has recently come under agreement. “It confirmed there was pent-up demand.”

Bach said the first 10 AgriTech Park lots — and all the zoning and infrastructure work required — were spurred to completion, in part, by the possibility of losing Pacific Steel and Recycling. The regional company with headquarters in Great Falls had outgrown its riverside recycling facility and was looking to expand — even if that meant leaving town.

Instead, Pacific Steel and Montana Specialty Mills agreed to pay some of the costs to extend a rail spur and other utilities into the AgriTech Park, work which is underway this winter. Bach said the companies will be reimbursed, plus interest, with tax increment funds accrued from the park.

Around the same time as the AgriTech Park gained steam, nearby land in the north industrial area started to sell as the economy warmed up. ADF International and Loenbro both opened new fabrication facilities in the area this year.

ADF International General Manager Dan Rooney suspected that the same market characteristics that brought their company to Great Falls could entice other manufacturers.

“Great Falls happened to be the largest metro area south of the Canadian border and was very near a high-and-wide corridor that was already established,” Rooney said, referring to a federally designated transportation corridor for oversized shipments. “Because our oil field modules are 24-feet wide and 24-feet tall, you have to have a clear route for them.”

Despite the oil drilling slowdown, Rooney said his company still expects to grow the number of jobs in Great Falls during the next year, noting that they have shifted fabrication to serve other industries.

Joe Aline of Shumaker Trucking and Excavating Contractors said the northeast corner of Great Falls is a natural area for industrial growth given the lack of residential development that could create tensions with operators. Aline, who sold some of the lots under development and has done site work for the companies moving in, expects building to continue at a steady pace now that the city has shovel-ready lots available.

“It’ll start to build on itself now that we have several of these industrial manufacturers here,” he said. “We haven’t seen that type of growth here since the smelter growth back in the 1980s. It’s great, instead of call centers, to get industrial, hands-on-type jobs that tend to pay more.”

State labor statistics show that the total value of annual wages paid in Cascade County has grown 6.8 percent since 2010 to $4.6 billion even as the number of people employed has remained almost flat.

Area leaders attribute the wage growth to the higher-paying industrial jobs added to the market, but also to increased hiring competition. After peaking above 6 percent in 2011, unemployment in Cascade County fell to 3.5 percent in September, the lowest it’s been since 2007.

“With all these employers competing for workers, it’s a challenge to fill openings,” said Brad Talcott of James Talcott Construction, who worked on several industrial construction projects in recent years. “But it’s a good thing. It’s an exciting time.”

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Great Falls, Louisiana Purchase, Missouri River, Recycling, Adf International, James Talcott, Cascade County, Dan Rooney, Great Falls Development Authority, Transportation Corridors, Designated Transportation Corridor, Brad Talcott, Joe Aline, Oil Field Modules, Oil Drilling Slowdown, Steel, General Manager, Vice President, Golden Triangle, Jolene Bach

Great Falls Top 5 Happiest Cities in Montana!

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GREAT FALLS — A new survey has ranked the top ten happiest cities in Montana, and Great Falls came out looking pretty happy indeed.

The website Credit Donkey collected data from the U.S. Census and FBI crime statistics, and looked at seven factors for each one of Montana’s incorporated cities and towns. Those factors are restaurants, crime rate, commute, departure time, income, divorce rate and housing.

Rebecca Lake at CreditDonkey.com wrote:

Between the spectacular views and truly epic sunsets, Montana really is a little corner of paradise on earth. The winters may be cold, but the people are warm, especially those living in our 10 favorite spots in Big Sky Country. These are the places where residents have the most reasons to be happy, from the range of dining options to the low crime rates, lower likelihood of divorce, and housing they can actually afford.

With all of the data collated, Great Falls ranked as the 5th-happiest in Montana.

The survey said of Great Falls: “It managed to climb to number five on our list based on how it rated for the average commute time, the violent crime rate and housing costs. There are plenty of things to do here, both indoors and out, as well as nearly 200 bars and restaurants where you can whet your whistle or your appetite.”

When it comes to overall livability and happiness, Miles City in eastern Montana topped the list.

Here are the top ten:

10. Missoula
9. Belgrade
8. Whitefish
7. Billings
6. Laurel
5. Great Falls
4. Helena
3. Bozeman
2. Havre
1. Miles City
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