HELENA – It’s a symbol only certain businesses in the state can claim.
Like Notice Snowboards in Whitefish and Trailhead Spirits in Billings, or even cleaning supply manufacturing company Diamond Products in Helena.
Those are just a few of the businesses branded by a program to help Montana producers and growers launch their products.
With the little “Made in Montana” logo, stamped on tags, the Department of Commerce is working with businesses from an idea born in 1983 from former Governor Ted Schwinden.
“It was the brain child of [Schwinden] and I believe a man named John Wilson,” explained Made in Montana Program Manager Lonie Stimac. “It was a little cocktail napkin idea; they drew it out and then came back home and imitated the program.”
Stimac said the goal of the program is simple, “To identify Montana products to not people not just in Montana, to people not just in the United States but actually globally.”
Be a member of the Made in Montana program has many benefits, Stimac added. Not only is the program free to join, but there are other ways the Commerce Department can help growing business.
“Once they join our program, we feed them into the pipeline of programs that the Department of Commerce has,” Stimac said.
Like financial programs and even social media.
“We have a much farther reach than we ever had before with advertising,” explained Stimac.
The program has more than 3,400 participants, creating hand-dipped candies like The Parrot in Helena or growing Kracklin Kamut in Big Sandy.
“They have a real pride in what they’re doing and that shows up in their work,” Stimac said with pride.
Stimac said Montanans aren’t the only ones who take pride in their products – so do the 30 million visitors every year.
“We know from the research, and from the spending surveys that we do, that they spent $70 million just on things that were tagged with Made in Montana.”
The Department of Commerce is preparing for the annual Made in Montana Tradeshow, which Stimac said is going to be bigger than ever. There are 155 registered exhibitors, 177 booths and 41 new businesses.
“It’s purpose is to help match make between the producer and the store owner. You can look at these products, you can test them, you can taste them and then you can buy them now,” she said. “But we’re also going to tell you at the tradeshow where you can buy them around the state.”
There may be even some new products created at this year’s show.
“When they’re [producers] off by themselves working, there’s not a lot of collaboration. But when you bring them together at the tradeshow, all of a sudden we’ve got the people who are making Bloody Mary mix, talking to someone who roasts nuts and they say, ‘you know what, let’s see what happens when you mix the two together’,” Stimac exclaimed.
As these products and businesses continue to do well, they aren’t the only things expanding.
“If you can create another job, and it’s for your son or daughter, or for your neighbor’s son or daughter, that’s helping our small communities to grow,” she added.
The trade show will be held March 23-24 in Helena at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds.
The public showcase day is Saturday and open to the public. This year the event starts even earlier than last year; shoppers will be allowed to browse from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To get a look at the event’s floor plan, click here.