Mercantile hotel developer partners with local nonprofits to create jobs with benefits

A downtown Missoula hotel under construction will receive a reduced-rate loan to provide jobs to those in need and partner with several organizations to help the employees develop savings plans and budgeting skills.

The Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation announced the $780,000 grant on Friday, which will be offered to Mercantile Investors LLC as a below-market loan. The developers are building a new hotel on Higgins Avenue and Front Street in downtown Missoula and plan to open next year.

“This grant leverages federal funds to provide long-lasting, high-quality jobs with benefits and retirement plans,” said Dave Glaser, president and CEO of the Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation. “With that comes the opportunity for these individuals to increase wealth, gain self-sufficiency and improve the livelihood of their families and our community.”

In partnership with the Missoula Job Service and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Glaser’s organization will work to fill jobs at the new hotel. It will also team up with Homeword, another local nonprofit, to provide personal budgeting, credit enhancement and savings plans for hotel employees.

Developer Andy Holloran, who broke ground on the hotel in July, said the Marriott expects to employ around 60 workers once it opens late next year. Under the loan announced Friday, the jobs will include paid time off, and both comprehensive and health benefits.

“The tourist economy is growing in Montana, and we’re very excited to link arms with local employment and job training organizations, and invest in a project that promotes quality, sustainable jobs for Montana workers,” Holloran said.

The grant is awarded annually by the Office of Community Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Montana & Idaho CDC was one of 25 organizations to receive funding this year and the only recipient in Montana.

Both U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines support the program.

“Strengthening Montana’s tourism economy is critical to growing good-paying jobs in our communities,” Daines said. “Thanks to projects like this, we will continue to attract those dollars to our state.”

The 177-room project, now years in the making, will include ground-floor retail and dining, along with a public museum that pays tribute to the property’s 140-year history.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency expects the hotel to bring an economic impact of $13 million annually, while hotel wages are estimated north of $2.6 million.

“This grant is the final piece of the financing package, and one that will help with job creation that truly benefits the Missoula community,” said Bob Burns, the Missoula market president for Stockman Bank, which is financing the hotel’s construction.