The Montana Economic Revitalization and Development Institute(MERDI) was incorporated in October 1974 to conduct energy research, commercialization for technology transfer and economic development. Over the years, MERDI has created or facilitated many projects in diverse industries, such as advanced energy and aerospace, mining, wastewater treatment, power generation, polycrystalline silicon production, municipal water and wastewater services.
MERDI has several areas of experience and expertise including:
MERDI also positively engages institutions of Montana's higher educational system whenever possible. Annually, MERDI provides scholarships that are awarded to students attending any of Montana's colleges or Universities. MERDI also hires or sponsors several interns and works collaboratively with many of Montana's colleges and universities on research and development projects. Several of MERDI employees serve on industry advisory boards for Montana universities. Some of MERDI employees and board directors have also served as Chancellors, Department Heads, and Professors within the university system.
MERDI believes that the critical elements underlying sustainable economic development are enterprise, infrastructure, and education. MERDI's programs, services, and activities are focused on the integration and delivery of these bedrock concepts to those we serve.
In today's knowledge-based economy, an engaged higher educational system is a critical element for a community's successful economic development policy. Colleges and Universities that emphasize curricula in the sciences and engineering and feature robust research and development inevitably become drivers of economic development within the communities in which they are located. MERDI's goal is to engage, encourage, and facilitate units of Montana's educational system to perform as such drivers of economic development. MERDI has established various programs to assist in the accomplishment of that goal.
Scholarships are awarded annually to two deserving students from the nine accredited colleges or universities in Montana. The primary award is $1,500 per year for three years, with a runner-up receiving $500 per year for three years. Applicants must be undergraduate students having successfully completed their freshman year. Each college and university may submit a single nominee and a committee of the MERDI Board of Directors will select the receivers of the scholarship and runner-up annuity. Since inception, there have been 32 scholarships awarded.
The $1,000 Kirkland Scholarship is awarded annually to a dependent child of an employee of MERDI's subsidiary, MSE. Applicants must be undergraduate students having completed their freshman year at any of Montana's colleges or universities. Selection will be based on scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. The applicant who receives the scholarship will be chosen by the executive committee of the MSE Board of Directors.
MERDI has operated the Warm Springs Ponds treatment facilities under contract to the owner, BPARCO, since 1995. MERDI is responsible for all treatment processes and water management activities. The scope of services provided has expanded over the years and currently requires 2 FTE staff and one PT intern. The Ponds were designed and constructed to remove heavy metals contamination from Silver Bow Creek, and provide a repository for over one million cubic yards of mine tailings, slickens, and treatment sludge. The active treatment system adds hydrated lime slurry to Silver Bow Creek, which then flows through a series of settling ponds. The inactive treatment or containment system maintains either a soil or water capover the containment areas, and maintains a positive hydraulic gradient away from the headwaters of the Clark Fork River by means of an interception trench and pumpback system. The Ponds are also an important wildlife habitat and recreation area. The entire area is leased to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and is administered as a wildlife management area. Recreation opportunities afforded by the site include fishing, waterfowl hunting, big game hunting, wildlife viewing, bicycling, and hiking over an extensive trail system.
MERDI currently operates the public water and wastewater systems for the Galen Campus under contract with Montana Behavioral Health, Inc. MERDI is responsible for all treatment, distribution, and collection processes for the more than 80 acre campus. The scope of services currently requires 1 FTE. MERDI assisted the Anaconda Local Development Corporation in securing EDA and CDBG funding in the amount of $1.6 million to upgrade the old systems.
MERDI's headquarters are located in the Thornton Building in historic uptown Butte, Montana. MERDI recently invested $2,000,000 in rehabilitation and renovations to the building. The Thornton Building is a 100 year old, five story structure listed on the Federal Historic Register. MERDI has incubated several start-up companies within the Thornton Building. The building currently houses 15 established businesses, primarily in the energy and technology sectors. The building has cat-5 cabling throughout, and features a state of the art commercial data center, with fiber connectivity and OC-48 backbone capacity.
MERDI is currently working with an investor group to establish a polysilicon recycling facility to be located within the Tax Increment Financing Industrial District (TIFID,) near Butte. The polysilicon recycling plant will employ up to 32 persons. MERDI secured grant funding to conduct preliminary engineering and a feasibility study. MERDI prepared a business plan and financial model and is currently securing funding for final facility design and construction.
MERDI was instrumental in the formation of the Montana Aerospace Development Association (MADA.) The goal of MADA is to provide a venue to market the aerospace resources in Montana on a national and international level. MADA is currently developing and jet and rocket engine testing facility near Butte. The facility will provide a location to test cutting edge technologies in both jet and rocket engine design. The first testing is scheduled to take place July, 2008.
MERDI formed a partnership with an independent power producer to build a 40 MW fast-fired peaking facility to augment the Judith Basin wind turbine project. MERDI provided equity investment, financial planning, funding support, and inter-governmental relations for the partnership.
MERDI provided inter-governmental relations and financial consultation on identification and securing of state and local incentive programs to reopen the Montana Resources mine. The mine successfully reopened in 2003, providing over 300 jobs to Butte and surrounding areas. Since the reopening, Montana Resources has been responsible for millions of dollars flowing back into Butte, both in property tax and gross proceeds.