LINCOLN – The longtime owner of Lincoln-based Hi-Country Snack Foods is ready to leave the business.
James Johnson is handing the reigns over to Travis Byerly, in a multi-million dollar deal. Byerly, who already has ownership in the business, is increasing his stake and will be in control of operations.
For over 40 years, the company has manufactured, packaged and shipped its products – including the well-known jerky – at a site just west of Lincoln. According to Hi-Country’s website, the company grew from a small operation with just a couple employees to a sprawling factory of 18,000 square feet.
Though the names of the company have changed throughout the decades to reflect an expanding portfolio of products, the commitment to the community hasn’t. As details of the transaction continue to be developed, Byerly is working to keep the company local.
That’s done in part through the help of a $400,000 loan approved earlier this year and acquired through Montana Businesses Assistance Connection. The grant is a community development block grant through the Montana Department of Commerce designed to create or keep jobs in high-need communities like Lincoln.
“$400,000 is a good chunk of change in any project,” Eric Seidensticker with MBAC, said.
Seidensticker said Byerly also has had other business ventures in Montana, including a role as owner of the Montana Fish Company in Bozeman, according to his LinkedIn.
“He has a lot of experience in the industry. He’s run some similar types of ventures or been part of them in Bozeman. I think he’s got a really solid marketing background, and he’s very well versed in promoting and growing networks and brands,” Seidensticker said.
Seidensticker said Byerly is already getting to work with talk of marketing more of Hi-Country’s products to different segments of the population, like outdoor enthusiasts.
“Everybody in Lincoln is excited about it, and retaining those jobs is just huge,” Seidensticker said.
No timeline was provided on when the sale will be complete.