Local leaders cut ribbons Friday for two new manufacturers that recently opened in the Montana Connections Business Development Park, 7 miles west of Butte.
SepticNET and Blacklock Block Manufacturing have taken up residence in a new 12,000-square-foot building — built by SepticNet — in the complex.
It’s adjacent to the Port of Montana, a transportation hub that provides access to rail and highway transportation, which celebrated its 30th anniversary Friday.
SepticNET has been around as early as 2006 and has two patents involving decreasing nitrate levels in septic systems.
Co-owner Dave Erickson said that he and his business partners Elizabeth Erickson, Josh Vincent and Steve Anderson were working at Water & Environmental Technologies in the early 2000s when they started to notice that nitrates leached from septic systems were hindering development in south Butte.
“There’s a lot of areas in Montana you can’t develop anymore because they have high background nitrate,” he said.
Erickson said people who use septic systems also tend to use well water. If the level of nitrates in the ground is too high, it can get into the ground water, which can make it difficult to get permits for new septic systems.
To solve this problem, Erickson said, SepticNET offers septic systems that can reduce nitrates by 99 percent.
Recently SepticNET moved from its Uptown location to the development park. Its new building was constructed with the assistance of a matching grant from Montana Connection’s tax incremental financing district.
Established in the 1990s, the Montana Connections Business Development Park uses Tax Incremental Financing to fund infrastructure projects inside its boundaries and provide incentives to businesses to locate there. TIF districts do not mean tax increases; instead, they capture property taxes paid on building improvements and new developments in an area so the money can be reinvested in that area.
Kristen Rosa, administrator of the district, said the development park was branded as “Montana Connections” in 2010.
“We really want the name to portray the assets we have here,” Rosa said.
Some of those assets include two nearby railway lines and the crossroads of Interstates 90 and 15 that “connects” the 1,200-acre complex to the rest of the state.
Access to transportation is something that Erickson said is important to him and to Blacklock Block Manufacturing, which is renting 3,000 square feet in the new SepticNET building. (There is another 3,000 square feet available for rent).
Erickson said that Blacklock, which manufactures concrete blocks and decorative pavers, couldn’t be profitable without access to rail.
“He’s manufacturing concrete blocks, so everything’s heavy,” said Erickson. ”Transportation costs out past about 300 miles from here start to affect his competitiveness.”
But by being able to transport his product by rail, Erickson said, Blacklock is able to transport the heavy concrete at a lower price, thus bringing down the cost of the company’s product.
As for the new SepticNET building, Erickson said he hopes it will contribute to economic development.
“We wanted to build a new manufacturing space, but we also wanted to build something that could be expanded,” he said, noting that there’s a need for “clean, quality manufacturing space” in Butte.
He added that SepticNET wants to collaborate with Montana Connections to build four more buildings in the future, which he hopes will “plant the seed” for the establishment of more manufacturing firms in the county.