Workforce housing efforts considered in Big Sky

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By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

A brand new housing opportunity for the workforce in Big Sky may just be the answer to the employee-housing crisis.

The new proposal, Penny for Housing, conquers employee-housing head on. This new bill outlines three major options Big Sky could go with in order to succeed, according to the Chamber of Commerce in Big Sky.

The first, allocating a sum of money every year from the 3 percent resort tax to pay for the new housing, is already in the works.

Second, a single lump sum of the funds goes directly to the new housing project.

Third, raising the resort tax to 4 percent and allowing 1 percent to go towards employee housing every year.

As information on this proposal arises, there are some who wish to stop it right away. Businesses already having to pay with the 3 percent resort tax are against the tax increase of 1 percent. More

Housing a ‘catastrophe’ for MSU students

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By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

Montana State University students are unable to find affordable housing in Bozeman that allows for a healthy school, work, and life balance.

Rising MSU enrollment and other community population growth have reduced the rental vacancy rate to virtually zero.

Kas Hamilton, an MSU student, said that “Finding affordable housing is hard, especially for students. Some places are less likely to rent to you because they have bad tenants in the past who were students….”

Kevin O’Brien, of Peak Property Management and MSU’s Good Neighbor Committee, said, “outgoing freshmen are often surprised at the competitive nature of the Bozeman rental market.” More

Arrival of Uber anxiously anticipated in Bozeman

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By ALLISON ERWIN/ Montana State News

Uber, the popular rideshare enterprise announced in December 2015 that they will be making a debut in Montana.

Uber started in 2009 and offers rides to customers via an app that can be easily downloaded on any cellular device.  The program allows customers to call a ride with the ability to view the driver’s personal information, car type, and rating information.

A handful of larger cities in Montana, such as Billings and Missoula, have already adopted the rideshare company despite protests from local taxi companies.

“Frankly, businesses like Uber and Lyft will be taking my business away,” says local Gallatin Valley taxi driver Lance Roberts who has been a driver for the past ten years.

While taxi companies have been under strict restrictions, Uber has the ability to avoid regulations by using independent contractors as their drivers instead of employees.

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Bat disease could impact farming costs

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By MEGAN AHERN and ALEXANDRA DUBIN/Montana State News

A deadly fungal disease that is easily communicable has scientists across the country stumped devising methods to prevent or slow its spread. Currently, their best efforts focus on tracking the disease to predict where it will strike next. Once signs of the disease become evident, it doesn’t take long for the victim to suffer an excruciating death by exhaustion or starvation. It may sound like the plot to a bad horror movie, but white-nose syndrome is all too real.

Though this disease isn’t communicable to humans, it remains a cause for concern.

White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects the bat population across North America and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since its arrival in Albany, New York in 2006, the United States Geological Survey, USGS, estimates that it has killed over 6 million bats in seven different hibernating species.

Brandi Skone, a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist who studies northern long-eared bats, has seen first-hand the damage white-nose syndrome can do. Northern long-eared bats, once considered one of the most prevalent bat species in North America, were recently listed as federally threatened due to population declines caused by the fungus.

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Yellowstone visits track with gas prices

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By ANNIE WASSAN and JENNY BRYAN/ Montana State News

Yellowstone National Park witnessed record visitation in 2015, and the trend is expected to continue into 2016 and beyond.

In 2015, Yellowstone National Park had just over 4 million visitors, according to its website. That was almost 600,000 more tourists than the year before.

The year 2015 also had the second lowest gas prices in the last 10 years. Only 2009 saw lower prices, a year in which Yellowstone also enjoyed a dramatic increase in visitors.  2009 was among the ten highest visitation years at the Park, while the year before was not.

It appears that gasoline prices are only one contributing factor in these numbers, however.

According to Yellowstone’s website, previous to 2007 the last record-breaking year for attendance was back in 1992.  In fact, the only year since 2007 to not make Yellowstone’s list of the top 10 years of visitation is 2008. More

MSU tourism programs gain favor

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By LILLY BROGGER/Montana State News

A two-part proposal has been requested to add an associate’s degree in culinary arts through the Gallatin College and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management through Montana State University. In November, the student senate voted in favor of a proposal to offer a hospitality management program through the Jake Jabs College of Business.

Montana tourism is one factor driving the proposal. At an Associated Students of Montana State University Senate meeting on Nov. 19, President Waded Cruzado said, “We want to empower those graduates with the tools necessary to capture the niche of Montana tourism.”

The hospitality management track would prepare students to work in the management of hospitality enterprises, like restaurants or guest lodges. According to the proposal, the vision of the program is to create, “A vibrant hospitality industry in Montana providing professional customer service and inspiring visitors to engage in our communities, cultures, and landscapes.”

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Beer becoming bigger part of state economy

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By LAUREN SHUN/Montana State News

There is nothing better than a locally brewed beer. In Montana, that is not too hard to find.

According to the nation’s Brewers Association, Montana only has 39 breweries statewide, ranking them 22nd in the nation, but they are third in the nation in terms of breweries per capita. Montana has an astounding 5.3 breweries per 100,000 adults. Oregon and Washington with are the only states in the nation ahead of Montana.

The beer brewing industry in Montana is booming. According to the Montana Brewers Association, there are 53 licensed brewers in the state, which manufacture and package over 140,000 barrels (4,340,000 gallons) of fine handcrafted beer in bottles, cans, and kegs.

Tony Herbert, executive director of the Montana Brewers Associations said, “Montana craft beer is very popular … People want more of it and we don’t really see any kind of point where this will slow down. Sure, one day it may. But (there) seems to still be potential for continuing growth for the craft beer market in the nation and in Montana.” More

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