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Southeast Montana Coal Country Getting Several Million To Boost Workforce, Industrial Diversity

Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Commerce is directing several million dollars to help with workforce and industry diversification in southeast Montana’s coal country.

The department’s Economic Development Administration announced Thursday that it’s awarding a local nonprofit $2.4 million for construction of a business and entrepreneurship center in Colstrip.

“Coal country, no matter if it’s in Appalachia, Utah, Montana, needs some good news. And this, we hope, will be some good news,” says Jim Atchinson, Southeastern Montana Development Corporation executive director.

Part of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant closed in early 2020. One Montana Chamber of Commerce study from 2018 estimates closure of the remaining two units could cause a loss of more than 3,000 jobs statewide.

Atchison says the Southeastern Montana Development Corporation is still fundraising for the business center, which he says will cost roughly $3 million to build.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.