Local mall exception to grim national trend

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By CULLAN STAACK/ Montana State News

Shopping malls are losing some of their most valuable tenants—department stores—at an alarming rate. Retailers like Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s have been closing hundreds of locations over the last several years, leaving dead or dying shopping malls in their wake as they try to remain profitable amid the growing threat of e-commerce.

The slow death of the American shopping mall is not evenly distributed. A disproportionate number of recent high profile store closure announcements have been in communities that are already struggling, according to Conor Sen, a Bloomberg View columnist and portfolio manager for New River Investments. Bozeman does not fit the profile of a struggling community, and as a result, the Gallatin Valley Mall is not currently exhibiting any signs of future foreclosures. More

Food bank fills empty tables with local generosity

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By EMILY SCHABACKER/ Montana State News

Gallatin Valley Food Bank serves 3,105 individuals a month including families, kids, single parents, and seniors; but with the upcoming summer season, Laura  Stonecipher, program coordinator at the food bank, expects an increase in clients. Despite this increase, the food bank is experiencing a decrease in donations.

On average, Gallatin Valley Food Bank serves 1,200 households every month, according to Stonecipher.

Stonecipher said, “the majority of our clients do not come regularly…. Think about your budget and everything lines up, but then your car breaks down or you have a medical bill…. then you need to divert money that you might spend on groceries to pay for those bills.”

The food bank also supports Bozeman’s seniors with their Senior Commodity Program, according to Mariah Smith, administrative officer at the bank.

“Clients have to be over 60 years old and there are some income limits as it is a government funded program. It is an extra two bags of food plus cereal and shelf stable milk. That’s once a month for our seniors,” said Stonecipher. More

Mystery Ranch develops paratrooper backpack

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By TYLER BARTON/Montana State News

For decades, technology for parachute deployment has remained relatively stagnant. However, thanks to the efforts of local backpack manufacturer Mystery Ranch, that has changed. In March, Mystery Ranch released a new line of high-altitude jump packs that significantly reduce the baggage on military parachutists.

Mystery Ranch employee Liz O’Brien said, “The design for jump packs hasn’t changed much since Vietnam. This is the first major shift since then.”

With the inclusion of several carefully placed loops, Mystery Ranch’s efficient new design supplants the need for additional equipment that ensures lines connecting the chute deploy properly.

The new design will make U.S. military parachutist operations smoother and will free up space for mission-critical items.

Though the U.S. military has contracted Mystery Ranch packs for over a decade, beginning with Navy SEAL prototypes in 2004, they produce a variety of backpack styles for many different situations, including mountaineering, climbing, hunting, everyday use, and even heat-resistant packs designed especially for firefighters. More

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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