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Billings Alternate Work Site
222 N. 32nd Street Suite 200
Billings, MT 59101
United States
Phone: 406-869-8421
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

2014 Small Business Person of the Year: Billings, MT Architecture Firm Makes Sustainable Attainable

With a lifelong passion for architecture and a strong belief that it can change the world for the better, Randy Hafer always knew he wanted to do more than design buildings; he wanted to make his community a better place to live.  After spending 11 years of his professional career in Chicago, Illinois, Randy returned to his hometown of Billings, MT in 1992.  He rekindled his love for the High Plains, a unique landscape that requires an equally unique style of architecture, and opened the doors with wife Janna, with 3 employees, to High Plains Architects in 1999.

When Hafer started High Plains Architects, he set about renovating a 1918 downtown warehouse where he then relocated the office in 2001.  The renovated warehouse is now listed in The National Register of Historic Places.

Since that first redevelopment, High Plains has developed over a dozen downtown projects in Billings, including eight certified historic tax credit projects.  High Plains projects also include the Klos Building, an 1893 former saloon, which was the first building in Montana to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Since then it has achieved LEED Platinum certification on two additional urban revitalization projects and has three others nearing completion.

Hafer’s philosophy is that “Sustainability should not be an upgrade; it should be the bar!”  High Plains sets the bar in all aspects of the business from the service that is provided to the delivery of excellence.  They believe in rehabilitating and resorting a building; demolition is a last resort option.

Featured as a speaker in Billings’ first TEDx Talk in January 2014, Hafer was also featured in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Montana Magazine in an article entitled, “Saving Montana’s Cities.”  Hafer also received the First Annual Montana BetterBricks Award in 2009 from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.  Hafer has emerged as a highly influential force in regional urban revitalization, preserving historic buildings and shepherding communities’ resources to create high performance architecture that is respectful to past and future generations.

High Plains first year in business generated $40,000 in gross sales in 1999.  They have grown the business year after year and in 2012 ended the year at $650,000 in gross sales.

Throughout the business’s 14 years High Plains has taken advantage of four SBA 7(a) loans from operating lines to office improvement loans, all of which have been paid off, and received assistance via the Billings Small Business Development Center.  The firm has also carefully expanded to 9 employees during years when Montana’s economy has experienced a roller-coaster effect of high employment and stagnant business growth.

Hafer is unequivocally an outstanding business man, philanthropist, and visionary exceeding every standard for enriching our community while developing, designing, and building the kind of architecture and urban environments that run deep with character.  Hafer has undeniably developed an outstanding and growing business focused on innovated designs and an employee culture rich with vibrant ideas and seamless delivery.


Lessons to be Learned from Tanya Chemodurow of Abatement Contractors of Montana

After eight years, Tanya Chemodurow finally has a place to hang her kimono. 


Sitting in Tanya’s very modern office at Abatement Contractors of Montana, LLC, with a kimono hanging on the wall, it’s hard to believe she started in an old 100 square foot apartment building in East Missoula.  Touring her new 6,000 square foot facility, Tanya’s passion and devotion for the business she has developed from the ground up is evident. 


Chemodurow is an SBA all-star.   She’s received an SBA 504 loan through Montana Community Finance Corporation, became 8(a) certified for federal contracting and graduated from SBA’s e200 Emerging Leaders program. 


“All really go hand-in-hand,” said Chemodurow.  


She learned about the 8(a) program while attending a PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) conference.  SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program is a nine-year program established to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to develop and grow their business through federal contracting. Although the program does not specifically treat women as social and economically disadvantaged, Chemodurow was able to prove with evidence that she was in fact disadvantaged.  (SBA defines socially disadvantaged individuals as those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual capabilities.)


“It wasn’t easy,” Chemodurow said.  After two years and four denials, SBA finally approved Chemodurow’s application and certified Abatement Contractors of Montana, LLC, as 8(a).  Chemodurow is currently in her fifth year of the nine-year program and has been awarded over 200 contracts for more than $16 million dollars with her 8(a) status. 


As an 8(a) company, Chemodurow was invited to participate in SBA’s inaugural e200 Emerging Leaders program in 2011.  She almost didn’t sign-up as it was a seven-month, 100-hour commitment traveling to Helena every other week, but she felt like it was important to learn more, to fill in her weak spots and become more comfortable with her business financials.  


She said she is glad she didn’t turn down the opportunity to gain so much knowledge and make new contacts.  During the e200 Emerging Leaders program, one of the segments was on financing and Linda Kindrick of Montana Community Finance Corporation was a guest panelist.  That’s where Chemodurow learned about SBA’s 504 loan program and began wondering if that loan product would work for her business and her growth plan.  After graduating from the e200 class Chemodurow approached Kindrick and began the process of obtaining a 504 loan for her new facility.  The three-year strategic growth plan that she put together during the e200 program was instrumental in helping her obtain the loan. 


Chemodurow credits her success to her commitment to taking advantage of every available opportunity and to always making time and a concerted effort to learn more. 


“I’ve been in the right place at the right time many times, and it’s not by accident,” Chemodurow said.


As for her future plans, Chemodurow said she will continue to learn and continue to grow.  “I’ve learned a lot by trial and error and I’ve learned that if I don’t try, I’m not only going to not get anything, but I’m also not going to learn.”

Bozeman Businessman Named Montana's Small Business Person of the Year

Joe Billion, of J.C. Billion, Inc., has been named the Montana Small Business Person of the Year for 2013 by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Billion was nominated for the honor by David Ely, President/CEO, Energy Design Service Systems.

J.C. Billion, Inc. was started by Joe Billion in 1978, when he and his father purchased a General Motors dealership in Bozeman, Mont. Eventually, Joe took over sole ownership of the company. Over the past 30 years, Joe has grown the company significantly. J.C. Billion, Inc. now includes four auto dealerships, J.C. Billion Nissan, J.C. Billion GMC/Buick, J.C. Billion Dodge and Billion Livingston, and two additional businesses, Billion Auto Body & Executive Detail and Eco Joe's Car Wash.

When J.C. Billion, Inc. opened in 1978 it had a total of 32 full time and two part time employees. As the sales grew and the business expanded, the number of employees also increased. Today, the company employs a total of 133 full time and 26 part time employees and has plans to add an additional 20 to 50 new team members in the near future.

Billion has more than 45 years of direct experience in the auto industry.  During that time he has spearheaded the expansion of J.C. Billion, Inc. leading to a growth of 12 times the annual sales from 1978 to 2007.  Over the years, he has also made a point of learning the responsibilities of each position within the dealership to develop an understanding of the importance each person plays in determining the overall success of the business.  Billion is committed to his employees and the community he serves, evidence of his annual bonuses to employees and his personal generous contributions to charitable organizations.

What may be the most impressive accomplishment of Joe's is his recent business expansion.  Since 2010, Billion has been engaged in the construction of Billion Plaza II.  This project features three, state-of-the-art, energy efficient dealerships that include large showrooms, office spaces, service and part areas and facilities for employees to use.  The recession that hit the U.S. economy in 2008 had an extremely devastating impact on the U.S. auto industry and easily could have prevented the Billion Plaza II from becoming a reality.  However, Billion's business planning allowed him to scale back operations during this time to remain profitable.  Throughout this tumultuous time, Billion never lost sight of his goal of creating the Billion Plaza II and by working strategically to secure the necessary funding, he was able to break ground on the first dealership in 2011, with all three dealerships being completed by early 2013. 

Billion was chosen as the state's top small business based on its history as an established business, growth in number of employees, increase in sales and unit volume, and response to adversity and innovation of products and services offered. 

Billion, along with other award winners, will accept his award during the Montana Small Business Week award luncheon on June 13, at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bozeman.  The public is welcome to attend, contact the Montana District Office at 406.441.1081 for more information.

Other 2013 award winners include:

  • Inga Lake and Julie Brubaker | Apage Home Care, Inc. | Kalispell
  • Serena Rundberg | The Nova Cafe | Bozeman
  • Rachel Carlyle Edington | Gluten Free Mama LLC | Polson
  • Chris Parson | Kalispell SBDC Director
  • Glacier Bank
  • Montana Community Finance Corporation

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