County throws its weight behind new business

Scott Shindledecker - Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Park County Commission unanimously agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to apply for a $375,000 grant to support a Seattle-based company seeking to open a manufacturing plant in Livingston.

The county will apply for the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund job creation grant with Prospera to assist "glassybaby," as the company is called, in opening a plant that could employ as many as 140 workers.

Glassybaby workers make handblown candles and glassware. According to information in the project proposal, glassybaby plans to hire and train local people in Livingston and the surrounding communities to blow glass. They will begin hiring in May 2022 and will have a full spectrum of job offerings in glass blowing, retail, fulfillment, quality control and etching departments.

The proposal also indicated the company planned to hire about 140 employees within the next two years. Seventy-five will be eligible to be paid with the Big Sky Development grant money. It also indicated they will be paid substantially more than the Montana state minimum wage of $9.20, although exact figures were not specified.

Paul Reichert, Executive Director of the Prospera Business Network in Bozeman, said he’s excited for the new project.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a job creation grant with Park County, so we’re happy it’s happening,” Reichert said.

“This may move the dial a bit here,” Commissioner Bill Berg said of the impact the business could have.

Commission Chairman Steve Caldwell echoed that sentiment, saying, “It’s a great project.”

Other information in the proposal said glassybaby is woman-owned company and was founded in 2001 by Lee Rhodes, a three-time cancer survivor who found great hope and healing in the light of a lit, handmade votive. Glassybaby began by making one hand blown glass shape, usually used as a votive. The item is now made in over 480 colors, sold in a retail store as well as being shipped all over the world. It has stores and glass blowing shops in Washington and Oregon, according to information on its website.

Currently, a team of more than 70 artists hand blow these votives at the U.S. hot shop locations.

It also reports it donates $5 from each sale to organizations worldwide. Since its inception, glassybaby has given back $12.2 million (as of January 2022) to communities. In the proposal, glassybaby said it hopes to use the grant money to help offset costs of major equipment purchases and new employee wages, which are estimated at $1.2 million. Matching funds are from glassbaby reserves, according to the proposal.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a number of items, including:

• Surveying and opening the county road on Ninth Street Island. It will help approve access to those wanting to fish the Yellowstone River.

Park County Public Works Director Matt Whitman said, “We need to have a surveyor go out and survey it, and then the landowners can clean up anything that is in the right of way.”

Karrie Kahle, of the Park County Environmental Council, was appreciative.

“We appreciate your efforts in this, so we don’t lose access there,” Kahle said.

“I’m all for opening access to Yellowstone River. I grew up fishing there,” Commissioner Clint Tinsley said.

• The commissioners approved offering the county Health Department Director position to Shannan Piccolo, Chief Deputy County Attorney, at a salary of $100,000.

• County Health Officer Dr. Laurel Desnick reported COVID-19 cases are at their lowest level since the summer and fall of 2021.

“We are at a medium-risk level, and masks are no longer required unless for people in high-risk categories or in nursing homes.

Desnick still urged caution and to avoid having too many people in one place. She also said tests are available at the County Health Department or at other locations throughout the county.