Economic Partnership, Missoula County track progress of job creation grants

Employees at ClassPass in Missoula listen to Gov. Steve Bullock recently during a company announcement. ClassPass is one of the city’s fastest growing employers. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Missoula County commissioners approved an extension to two job creation grants this week, and closed out a third grant that had successfully met its goals.

The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grants help reimburse businesses when creating new jobs and cover some costs associated with expansion.

The Audience Awards, based in Missoula, received an extension through next December to create three jobs covered by the Big Sky grants. ATG, recently purchased by Cognizant, also received an extension as it looks to create 25 new jobs under the program.

“They’ve created 12 of the 25 jobs they were awarded for, so they’ve asked to extend their contract for an additional year,” said Nicol Rush, the grants administrator. “Their acquisition by Cognizant sort of slowed down their hiring, but they’re halfway there.”

While the two companies received an extension to create new jobs covered by the program, ClassPass closed out its first grant, capping a run of success.

The company, which located its third North American office in Missoula last December, met its goal of creating 22 jobs under the program.

“They created all 22 of the 22 jobs they were awarded for back in January,” said Rush. “They already have additional funding, because they were awarded a second grant that runs from July to create 40 jobs.”

That grant is underway and ClassPass already has filled 30 of the 40 jobs awarded under the program.

“They’re moving ahead pretty quickly with that one,” said Rush.

The grants are awarded by the state and administered locally by MEP and Missoula County. They’re awarded to firms that export a product and pay a living wage.

In Missoula County, that’s $18.99 an hour, or $39,498 a year.

Over the last year, MEP has secured more than $816,000 for eight companies for 123 new jobs, according to the organization’s chairman.