Montana Economic Revitalization & Development Institute
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, information technology applications and infrastructure and brownfield to greenfield projects.
MERDI has several areas of experience and expertise including:
Entrepreneurial project development
Facilitation of public-private partnerships
Project Financial Packaging
Networking and Collaborations
MERDI provides economic development services to a variety of governmental agencies, local development corporations, educational institutions, non-profits, businesses and industries.
MERDI's approach to economic development is to fully understand the complex scientific, business, and economic development challenges facing those whom we serve and develop creative and sustainable solutions that address these challenges in an economically feasible way by adding value through the implementation of these solutions.
MERDI's vision is to add economic utility and value to existing and emerging businesses within our community and state by leveraging advances in high technology. We accomplish this using strong strategic, working relationships with our partners who share this common vision for a better and growing economic future. With our partners, MERDI helps bring about the risky investments in high technology infrastructure and provide the enabling skills and solutions necessary for businesses to leverage this infrastructure. We strive to build value and increase their ability to compete more effectively and more efficiently in the market place.
Hybrid-Community Fiber Optic Network.
For several years, MERDIs primary focus has been on leveraging information technology infrastructure as an economic development tool. Most rural communities are not adequately served by traditional carriers with affordable access to reliable fiber optic data transmission networks. Recently, MERDI teamed with Fatbeam, a provider serving rural communities, to build out a 2 gigabit fiber optic network offering data transmission and internet access at affordable rates. The first phase of the project built a network backbone and connections to each of Butte School districts 12 locations. The second phase of the project connected 14 additional sites for the local government, other non-profits and businesses. The MERDI datacenter is the head-end of the network. Upon completion of the network, in addition to gigabit metro-Ethernet, the local government, the school district non-profits and businesses will have access to quality broadband internet, hosted enterprise voice, disaster recovery and business continuity, educational content delivery, virtual computing and high performance computing.
Basin Creek Power Plant
MERDI partnered with a local entrepreneur to build a new 51.8-megawatt plant to supply power to NorthWestern Energy during peak demand and to supplement its wind farms and coal-fired plants. The natural-gas fired plant was built south of Butte, Montana. It was Montana’s first energy generation project in 22 years. The new plant showcases cutting-edge technology, cooperation among corporations and environmentalists, and old-fashioned persistence. MERDI provided working capital, office space, staff support, IT infrastructure, land, project networking, and initial financial packaging to the fledgling start-up. The plant now employs eleven people and produces over a million dollars annually in property taxes.
Montana Aerospace Development Association
MERDI created the Montana Aerospace Development Association (MADA) to encourage and promote the economic development of aerospace technology-related industry throughout Montana´s private sector. MADA accomplishes this goal by building on existing aerospace technology activities in the state and growing business in new cutting-edge technology industries. MADA operates the AeroTec jet and rocket engine testing facility located near Rocker, Montana. The facility hosts aerospace researchers from across the nation who purchase rooms, food, goods, materials and services from local providers during each of their testing campaigns.
Following a nearly three-year suspension of mining operations, Montana Resources engaged MERDI to work with them on plans to reopen the Butte, Montana mine. MERDI provided consulting services regarding various incentives, including a unique application of the local hard rock mining trust fund, and led an effort to engage local and state officials and agencies to facilitate the resumption of operations. Now resumed, the mine currently employs over 350 people and in the aggregate amounts to about 22 percent of the Butte-Anaconda economic base. With historically high copper prices, the mine pays millions of dollars in real property and gross proceeds taxes.
Butte Water Company
MERDI acquired the Butte Water Company from a private party on behalf of the City and County of Butte-Silver Bow. While owned by the former Anaconda Mining Company, the community's water system has fallen into a state of extreme disrepair. Prior to the acquisition of the water company by MERDI, regulatory agencies had implemented both a boil order and a no new customers prohibition which stifled the community's growth. After acquisition, MERDI oversaw an improvement project in excess of $30 million which brought the utility back in compliance with regulatory standards. The utility was then transferred to city and county ownership. In addition to pricing the utility and negotiating its sale, MERDI provided grant writing, governmental relations, project oversight, and management services.
Remediated Land Development
When the Washington Corporation purchased the Butte mine from BPARCO, it acquired about 3000 acres of property in Silver Bow County that was outside of the permitted mining area. To varying degrees, these properties, although remediated under the superfund program, had been adversely affected by prior mining activities. The Washington Corporation agreed to transfer the properties to a land trust created by MERDI for the purpose of redeveloping these properties to thier highest, best use. Over time, these properties are now the homes of businesses, residences, power plants and school facilities. A cluster of these properties was located in the East Butte area of Uptown Butte. This area in particular has been dramatically rejuvenated by this process and is now a hub of commercial activity and new construction. The annual property taxes paid by these properties has risen from below $50,000 to over $1.2 million.
Waterford Independent Assisted Living Facility
MERDI recruited and partnered with Touchmark Living Centers of Gresham Oregon and built a 200 unit senior independent and assisted living facility. The total project construction cost was $21 million. The facility serves an aging demographic sector of the community with quality services. MERDI provided governmental relations, raised equity capital, and developed a USDA debt-financing package that funded the construction of the facility. The facility now employs 65 people and produces over $200,000 annually in property taxes.