Missoula home manufacturing firm, film studio land job creation grants

Screenshot from Synema Studios video.

Missoula County will receive nearly $100,000 in economic development grants to help a home manufacturing firm and digital film studio create 11 new local jobs.

The latest round of grants, announced Tuesday and awarded through the Montana Department of Commerce’s Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund, brings to nearly 175 the number of local jobs created through the program over the past 18 months.

“We’re seeing people surpass their awarded job grants,” said Nicol Rush, the grants administrator with Missoula Economic Partnership. “We’re seeing a lot of interest, and I have at least three potential applications coming up for the next round.”

In the latest round of awards, Synema Studios was granted $53,000 for wage reimbursement that will help the business create nine new jobs within one year.

“They’re a local video production studio that produces content for YouTube,” said Rush. “We’re seeing growth in a lot of film industries here in Missoula, but Synema Studios is unique in that it’s an online video space.”

The second $45,000 grant was awarded to Tru-Home Montana, which is looking to hire its first six employees to begin building stick-built module homes in an indoor factory.

Eric Gabster, co-founder of the company, said the idea emerged three years ago as he and partner Jason DeCunzo began discussing the gap between the median income and the cost of local housing. The company’s founders believe their process is more cost effective than building a home on site.

“We’re a quality controlled environment, because we’re building under a roof and creating that building completely before breaking those modules apart, putting them on trucks and shipping them to the foundation, which has been poured,” DeCunzo said earlier this year. “That does end up costing less because of the time alone, but also because we’re in a model that will be producing less that 4 percent waste.”

Rush said MEP has secured more than $1.7 million in grants to assist 11 Missoula companies create 174 high-paying jobs. Also this year, the Audience Awards, HB Enterprises, Modern Entrepreneur, Orbital Shift, VIM & VIGR and Advanced Technology Group, among others, have received funding through the state program.

“My administration’s Main Street Montana plan is built on the idea that public-private partnerships are keys to growing Montana’s economy,” Gov. Steve Bullock said. “Every project funded through BSTF is a step toward the plan’s goals of creating opportunities for today’s workforce, and being stronger and more competitive for our next generation of entrepreneurs.”