The workforce needs of Helena-area businesses continue to rise to the forefront as the unemployment rate dipped to 2.6% - leaving only 700-900 people in the work pool designated as currently not working. Employers are very challenged in recruiting (and retaining) good skilled workers! A recent discussion with St. Peters Health CEO Wade Johnson revealed that they have about 150 positions to fill and are constantly in the hiring process. He estimated that approximately 25-40 new employees go through their orientation process that happens every two weeks.

As part of their mission to market Helena as a tourist destination, the Helena Chamber Convention and Visitors Bureau recently hosted King5 TV out of Seattle to produce video to air in the Seattle market and also to promote the Helena area. Seattle has a direct flight to Helena, which makes them a target market for the CVB. The Seattle crew spent several days checking out all that Helena has to offer and enjoying our local attractions and features. They experienced much of our rich history, diverse culture and dynamic recreation such as mountain biking and fly fishing. The film crew also toured and took shots of Reeder’s Alley, the Walking Mall, the Cathedral, State Capitol, and Montana Historical Museum. They returned to the Seattle area to promote Helena as a great tourism destination location through TV infomercials and various social media sources. Mike Mergenthaler and the CVB hosted the crew and we now have several videos we can use to promote Helena – check them out on the helenachamber.com and helenamt.com websites. They are very new, fresh, and cool depictions of our beloved city! The videos aired in Seattle this past week on their evening news!

WalMart recently celebrated the opening of their online services whereby shoppers can order and pay online for items from their 40,000+ inventory, and then pick up curbside. Orders must be received before 5 p.m. and require a three-hour period before pick-up – the last order pick-up time is 8 p.m. What a great service for people short on time, with children, seniors, etc. Adding this service to WalMart is growing their staff by 27 fulltime positions with full benefits. Their service is not just groceries – while we were touring the operations, someone even ordered a new mattress!

Super 1 Foods offers online ordering with curbside pick-up. They were the first in Helena to offer this timesaving option. In case you weren’t aware, Super 1 also boasts very substantial in-store natural and organic foods and products sections.

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Target is in the game for online purchases where you can order online and then pick up, plus nationally they have even entered the optional home delivery convenience – not in Helena yet but hopefully soon.

Congratulations to NorthWestern Energy on their upcoming 107th anniversary. Energy service is sometimes something we all take for granted until it is disrupted. I am so appreciative of their hardworking crew that repairs and restores service very quickly no matter if it is -35 or 95 degrees. The most recent cost of living numbers for Helena reveal that our energy/utility costs are at 87% of the national average. That is substantially lower than many others across the nation! FYI – the Chamber recently published our 2019 Economic Trends booklet with all the latest stats on the Helena area – stop by the office at 225 Cruse Ave., Suite A and pick up a copy (free) if you are interested!

Stop by the Helena Chamber Visitor Center at 225 Cruse Ave. Suite A and check out the new improvements we’ve made. We added a large TV showing area videos in a new seating area, and we are featuring new photos from well-known photographer Mark LaRowe. Also, new historical information poster signs are being added to inform the visitors of our grand and interesting history of Helena and Montana. Remember if you need maps or visitor/relocation guides, we can provide you with those! Thanks to our great hosts/volunteers in the center for the summer. They make everyone welcome and are a wealth of local information!

Cathy Burwell is the CEO of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce.

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