MISSOULA — Calling it a valuable tool for economic development, Missoula County on Tuesday agreed to amend a state grant that will enable ClassPass to create 80 additional jobs, bringing the positions filled in the company’s Missoula office to nearly 200.
Provided by the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund, the grant provides a reimbursement of up to $7,500 for each job created. The positions must pay at least $18.99 an hour to be eligible for that level of reimbursement.
The contract was extended from the company’s original plan to create 40 jobs and is valued at up to $600,000.
“Their award amount has been doubled, and they’ve been assisted to create another 40 jobs. That’s a total of 80 jobs,” said Nicole Rush, grants administrator with the Missoula Economic Partnership. “I’m pretty sure they’ve already hired most of these people.”
Roughly 24 companies in Missoula have used the Big Sky grant to create 532 jobs since 2013, according to MEP. They’ve received a collective $3.7 million in funding and pay roughly $20.6 million annually in new wages.
While Missoula County has limited options when addressing economic development, commissioners see the Big Sky grant as a valuable tool, one that’s been successfully applied at the local level.
“It’s not like we have a huge array of tools, but this is one I think that’s been very successful. It’s one where Missoula County government can play a role,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “It’s a little bit more of an incentive to get to where we want to go.”
ClassPass used the Big Sky grant to hire 30 employees when it launched its Missoula office in 2018. It has since grown its workforce to around 100 employees, and it took up residence in the First Interstate Bank building last year.
In announcing the company’s plans to locate its third national office in Missoula in 2017, CEO Fritz Lanman said the city’s quality of life and cost of living helped sway the decision. That was echoed a year later when Tom Aveston, the company’s CFO, said Missoula’s educated workforce and livability “really aligned with our culture and company.”
That hasn’t been lost on commissioners, who view Missoula’s quality of life as a powerful recruiting tool.
“It’s one of the reasons some of these businesses choose to locate or grow here in Missoula,” Strohmaier said. “It’s not because we can offer tax breaks or do some of the things that folks see as earmarks of local government’s involvement in economic development. This (grant) is a tangible way we can participate in the process and incentivize folks to locate here.”
Marin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Current