Billings lawmaker: Bill taking shape to seek state dollars for One Big Sky District

Posted at 2:32 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 18:19:39-05

HELENA- A bill paving the way for Montana to become an investment partner in large economic development efforts, such as the One Big Sky project in Billings, is taking shape but has not yet been formally introduced.

Republican Sen. Roger Webb of Billings, the chief sponsor, says what started as a six-page bill draft is now 42 pages long. And it’s not done yet.

Webb said this week that five Montana communities have expressed an interest in the bill that would require $300 million in private investment to trigger an infusion of $125 million from the state.

Webb stressed his bill is still a work in progress but has the potential to spark billions of dollars in economic development for the state.

“It has the potential of generating billions of dollars. I mean can you imagine five of these projects going on at once? That’s potentially $5 billion, and our state budget is only $10 (billion). But this has a 20, 30, 40-year impact that nothing else has,” Webb said.

In addition to Billings, the other communities that have projects that could benefit from Webb’s bill are Bozeman, Missoula, Big Sky and Polson.

The bill is considered a revenue measure, so it needs to be formally introduced by the 60th legislative day, which gives Webb just over three weeks to work out the details.

On Feb. 11, the Billings City Council approved adevelopment agreement for One Big Sky with Big Sky Economic Development and Landmark Construction.

That agreement committed no public dollars, but project backers say they will likely request money from the city’s tax-increment finance district to pair with private money to develop the project.

If completed, One Big Sky would entail a massive redevelopment of downtown Billings.

Reporting by Jay Kohn for MTN News