Ravalli County is fortunate to have one area designated as an Opportunity Zone. However, that would be of little value if no Opportunity Zone Funds are established. Enter, Bitterroot Gateway Development, LLC!
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established a new economic development program called Opportunity Zones (OZ) designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities. This program provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into “Opportunity Funds,” which are specialized vehicles dedicated to investing in low-income areas called “Opportunity Zones.” This program has the potential to direct private capital toward distressed communities and serve as a catalyst for long-term, inclusive economic development. Ravalli County Economic Development Authority (RCEDA) submitted a proposal, on behalf of the County and with support of the City of Hamilton, to the State of Montana requesting Opportunity Zone designation for three census tracts.
Steve Grover is the managing member of Bitterroot Gateway Development, LLC. Mr. Grover has extensive experience in complex financial structures and project development using economic development tools and resources. Using his expertise, Mr. Grover set up the first Opportunity Zone Fund and project in Ravalli County’s OZ. This is one of the first Funds to be established in Montana. The fund is accepting investors now.
Bitterroot Gateway Development, LLC spent nearly five years working through the legal, engineering, feasibility studies, tax consulting and overall development work to bringing the project to fruition.
The Hamilton Opportunity Fund I will spur interest and awareness from investors and has already put Ravalli County on the OZ map. RCEDA, Ravalli County and the City of Hamilton have created access to the financial incentives from the OZ through the successful designation of census tract six.
Montana Studios, LLC will be the first media manufacturing campus in Montana, featuring the only purpose-built sound stages within a 400-mile radius. The Studio will be located 20 miles from the ranch set for Paramount Studios “Yellowstone” TV series. Montana Studios, LLC leased set storage space to Paramount in the spring of 2018. Currently, discussions are underway with industry executives to provide full service production space for “Yellowstone” Season 3.
In addition to the primary business of movie and other production type work, leased space for light industrial manufacturing is nearly non-existent in Ravalli County. RCEDA has been sending potential tenants to Mr. Grover for months. Several of these referrals are now tenants.
Media production is a growing field of business. It calls for on-time and short-term training. The Bitterroot College will be an important partner in the process of making those training opportunities available.
Today, light industrial and other tenants are maintaining seven jobs at the project site. The bridge loan was a combination of USDA IRP, MT Board of Investments, and Ravalli County Revolving Loan funds. The RCEDA staff and Board of Commissioners tackled the new project and approved the loan in time to meet key deadlines. The ability to call on and receive essential support immediately in an “all-hands-on-deck” manner is an asset that only rural communities can provide. We are proud that Ravalli County, RCEDA, and the City of Hamilton can be counted on to provide this type support to business ventures. RCEDA provided the first loan for an OZ project in Montana.