Long Journey to Billings

By: Htinn Aung Kyaw, Myanmar, Economic Empowerment Program

Montana CDC

May 12, Mr. Tom White, lender relations specialist from U.S. Small Business Administration, and I met with Ms. Melanie Calahan, Director of Marketing, Montana CDC. I have learnt that Montana CDC specializes in providing business loans to people who do not qualify for bank financing. And they create income opportunities, high-quality jobs, and financing solutions for all Montana communities.

Helena

Helena is the capital city of Montana. At Helena, I met with my fellowship coordinator Mr. Roger Hopkins, Deputy District Director of Small Business Administration. May 13, he arranged to meet with the Department of Commerce and I learnt about the Census and Economic Information Center (CEIC) provides the economic analysis, GIS support, techanical assistance and training to agencies, policy makers, Montana citizens and polcy makers. And also learnt about Made in Montana program which assists Montana businesses in developing and marketing their products. The program helps build recognition for products; food and beverage producers to vehicle and machiney parts fabricators; fine artists to homey crafts makers; canvas tent makers to emergency rescue blanket manufacturers and so on.

Havre

Havre is the eighth-largest city in Montana and the largest city in the Montana section of the Hi-Line. With the nearest major city, Great Falls, about 120 miles to the south, Havre serves as a medical and business center for the Montana section of the Hi-Line. May 14, Mr. Roger and I attended the Hi-Line Economic Summit at Nothern District Montana University and I heard BNSF railway’s story. The Hi-Line is a geographical term referring to the portion of the northern United States south of the Canadian border along which runs the main line of the BNSF Railway.

May 15, Mr. Roger Hopkin and I went to Fort Belknap Indian reservation and met with the Island mountain development group. It is a dynamic Native American Economic Corporation dedicated to creating a self-sustaining economy by striving to create opportunities for the Gros ventre and Assiniboine nations.

Billings

Billings is the largest city in the US state of Montana, and is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Area with a population of 165,361. It has a trade area of over half a million people.

We arrived at Billings 6:30 pm. Mr. Roger Hopkin and I went to local beer station shop and drink a cup of beer for each. I excited to meet with my host Ms. Elizabeth’s family. Elizabeth works Health Services Research and Nonprofit Consulting. Michael & Elizabeth are warmly wecome to me. They have lovely son Tanner: same as my son age & same hobby and a charming girl Cameron. They arranged the nice bed room, bath room and prepared the dinner. They are nice family and they like outdoor activities. Tanner (13 year old boy) and Cameron (11 year old girl) are very interested in soccer. They have a pet dog who is very obedient and a good hunter and also a member of their family.

On May 16, we went to the U.S Small Business Administration office in Billings. We met with the Mr. John R. laman, Senior Area Manager and attended two companies’s promotion of marketing meeting at BIG SKY Economic Development Corporation. I learnt about on site survery and asking so many questions how to develop respective organizations and approval for final dicision.

Also I learnt about how to get financing on a typical $ 1Million project from Mr. Mac Ketterling, loan officer. BIG SKY Economic Development Corporation is a statewide certified development company licensed by the SBA to administer the SBA 504 loan program in Montana. It is a direct SBA lending program designed to provide long-term, below-market, fixed asset financing to small, for profit business. It is also loan program represents permanent financing and is an economic development program utilizing job creation.

And I also learnt about that the microloan program which provides small loans ranging from under $ 500 to $ 50,000 to women, low-income, minority, veteran and other small business owners through a network of approximately 160 intermediaries nationwide.

May 17, I prepared for breakfast with Micheal. We went the Tenna’s soccer match. I got the license for hunting, fishing or trapping from the Montana fish, wildlife & park. May be I’m the first man who got the license for fishing. If you want to lincense you will show your passport and gave non residence 2 days fishing fee is $ 15 and non residence conservation fee is $ 10. This evening I got two fish from Yellow Stone river.

May 18, I got the first experience rafting trip along the Yellow Stone river with my host family. Michael and Elizabeth arranged the special program for me. I met some mushroom but it is eatable or not. I saw a lot of animals along the Yellow Stone river. American people are advanturous and they train their children for confidence.I learned a lot the culture between US and Asian countries. My host family talked about their culture and how is American daily life.

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