A Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grant awarded to onXmaps of Missoula helped the company create 19 new jobs over the past two years, Missoula Economic Partnership officials said Thursday.

The grants, administered locally by MEP and Missoula County, help reimburse businesses for job creation and expansion costs, and are 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.

“They (onXmaps) have moved forward with their hiring plan,” Nicol Rush, grants administrator with MEP, said Thursday. “They've hired 19 of the 25 jobs they were awarded for. They may get to the 25 jobs by the (Nov. 19) deadline.”

Over the past year, concerns have risen that the program administered by the Montana Department of Commerce may be targeted by the 2019 Legislature as a potential area to cut.

Rush and other program advocates have said they anticipate defending the program during the session.

In Missoula, a number of firms have benefited from the program, including Advanced Technology Group (now Cognizant), Orbital Shift, VIM & VIGR and the Audience Awards, among others.

“Over the last year, MEP has secured $816,500 for eight companies for a total of 123 employees,” said Scott Burke, chairman of MEP's board of directors. “These are well-paid employees, and this is a great program to have for the state, and hopefully we can continue to administer that.”

The grant awarded to onXmaps for its job creation totaled $142,500.