Joel Frushone with the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Anthony Foti with the U.S. Department of Commerce toured the building on Tuesday and spoke to local entrepreneurs about struggles and opportunities in Billings.
All of them agreed that making connections with business owners and experts is an important step to business development.
Chantal Hale is the founder of Malax Massage, a mobile massage platform that allows clients to get a massage where they want and when they want. She said that if it weren’t for an event through Rock31, she wouldn’t have met her developer who has helped her continue to form the idea.
“Without that event, I wouldn’t have had those opportunities,” Hale said.
Drew Gerber recently founded Take Initiative, a service that brings students and small businesses together to give students more options in their career path, especially in rural parts of the state. As he develops his business, one obstacle will be finding capital and scaling to provide access to services across the state. Finding the right people to do it is another issue.
“I’m really focused on that personal interaction, but we really need to figure out how to get all of these opportunities to a large number of kids,” Gerber said.
The building is located in an Opportunity Zone, designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities. The zones provide investors with tax breaks for investing in Opportunity Funds dedicated to these communities. The investments could include revitalization, workforce development, affordable housing, infrastructure and business startup and expansion. The program was developed out of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.