COLUMBIA FALLS — With 25 full-time employees and a popular line of Redneck brand meat products, the Stampede Packing Company has gained a national following since opening just over 30 years ago.
Now the family owned business is ready to beef up even more in a community ripe with economic activity.
With the help of a new state grant, the Kalispell company is moving forward with plans for a new, bigger facility in the industrial park in Columbia Falls.
This week Lieutenant Gov. Mike Cooney presented Stampede a $27,000 check that will go toward the plans for a refrigerated meat processing plant. Stampede received the funds through the Big Sky Trust Fund grant with the assistance of Montana West Economic Development, which has helped steer economic activity to the 110-acre industrial park.
“This is going to be terrific for you and the entire company,” Cooney told Sam Laurens, the plant manager at Stampede and son of owner T.S. Laurens.
“Hopefully we will continue to see your success grow and grow.”
Columbia Falls is enjoying a recent run of economic growth with the inclusion of a large hotel, the Cedar Creek Lodge, which is opening soon, and small businesses, such as North Fork Pizza and Backslope Brewing along with a noticeable uptick in residential home development.
But the potential addition of Stampede and the planned development of a large cross-laminated timber facility in the same property mark the momentous arrival of tent-pole industry.
SmartLam, which produces CLT at its site off Veteran Drive, is working on plans to build the world’s largest CLT facility in the industrial park alongside Stampede.
“These are clean industry and good paying jobs,” Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia said of SmartLam and Stampede. “These are enormous for our economy and our area.”
Both expansions are hinging on the addition of infrastructure to the industrial park. An estimated $1.2 million is needed to add sewer and utilities to the site along with roads and other infrastructure.
Columbia Falls has worked to spur development at the industrial park by annexing the property along Railroad Street and establishing a targeted economic development district (TEDD) that would help with infrastructure needs.
To help with its development, SmartLam has applied for new market tax credits and will find out if it was successful June 1.
Although nothing is certain, city officials and business leaders are optimistic that the industrial park will work out as a site for expansion.
Stampede has had its sights set on growing to Columbia Falls for years. The company has grown at its current facility off Airport Road in Kalispell to 25 full-time and six part-time employees, selling the popular variety of meat products across the country. After outgrowing its current space, the company began seeking a new property where a larger facility could be developed. Attention centered on the industrial park and the potential timing with SmartLam’s arrival could be pivotal.
“We’re growing fast. We need to expand and we’ve wanted to be up here for some time,” Laurens said. “We’re beefing up.”