On Monday, June 10th, I was honored to join community and business leaders to officially break ground on DJ&A’s new headquarters in Missoula. Beyond creating a high-tech workspace for our rapidly growing team here in Western Montana, this project is set to be a catalyst for continued healthy economic growth in Missoula. This will be the first project constructed in Missoula that is funded through the Opportunity Zone program, a program created by the 2017 tax bill that create tax incentives to promote long-term improvement and development in designated zones across the country. To celebrate the occasion, employees from DJ&A, A&E, and Jackson Contracting Group, joined Mayor John Engen, Missoula Redevelopment Agency Director Ellen Buchanan, and Missoula Economic Partnership Director Gran Keir at the project site to share some words about their vision for future development in Missoula. “It’s gratifying to see a local company make bold, bright investments in their future and the future of Missoula. Our community’s planning, programs and public investment help give confidence to companies like DJ&A, who are investing in redeveloping the West Broadway corridor and, in doing so, creating jobs and opportunities and prosperity in our community. I’m grateful for the vision DJ&A is demonstrating and its commitment to the economic vitality of this great city.” – Missoula Mayor John Engen “This is an important project from our perspective because the City, MRA and a private party worked closely together, and we think these public-private partnerships are the future of smart growth here in our community. We think the kind of teams that came together for this project are exactly what we need more of.” – Grant Kier, Director of Missoula Economic Partnership We are incredibly thankful for the broad support this project has received from our community, including a commitment from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to fund new sidewalks, boulevards, and street trees, within the public right-of-way. In addition, DJ&A and City of Missoula Public Works are collaborating to bring gravity sewer to the area. I couldn’t be more excited for what this project means for the future of DJ&A and continued healthy growth here in Missoula.
For the past four years, DJ&A employees have proudly supported CANdemonium, the Missoula Food Bank’s annual design/build competition and fundraiser to fight hunger in Missoula. As part of this creative competition, local businesses are paired up with architect and engineer firms to build giant structures from full cans of food, which are then donated to the food bank after the competition ends. In 2018, more than 17,500 pounds of food was donated after this competition, keeping our city’s food bank shelves stocked for several months. Under this year’s theme, Comic-CAN, DJ&A employees teamed up with long-term Candemonium partner Horizon Credit Union to design and build a giant PAC-Can and ghost based on the popular arcade game. This 5 1/2-foot structure is made up of 2,948 cans of corn, beans, and chicken broth, with a monetary value of approximately $2,800. Special thanks to our teammates Horizon Credit Union and our employee volunteers for their efforts in bringing Pac-CAN to life. If you’d like to join us in supporting the Missoula Food Bank, stop by Southgate Mall before April 11th and drop a donation in the bucket next to your favorite can structure. You can also vote by ‘liking’ the photo of your favorite structure on Facebook.
This week, I had the opportunity to present to the Missoula Organization of Realtors (MOR) about the benefits of developing land in Opportunity Zones. I’m particularly excited about this new community development program because of our company’s personal connection: DJ&A’s new headquarters will be the first Opportunity Zone project in Missoula. What are Opportunity Zones? The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act created the Opportunity Zone program to spur economic growth in distressed communities. Rather than relying on taxpayer dollars to fund the program, the program invites private investors to fund long-term improvement projects in low-income communities. As part of the legislation, state governors were to identify up to 25 Low-Income Community Census tracts to serve as Opportunity Zones. In Montana, where DJ&A’s headquarters are located, Governor Steve Bullock identified zones in both urban and rural communities, including one located in Missoula. What benefit can they provide? Opportunity Zones provide a significant federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into “Opportunity Funds,” which in turn support the long-term improvement of infrastructure and development in the designated zones. Improvements can include the development of affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, new construction, and workforce development. DJ&A’s New Office I’m hopeful that this program will spur healthy growth and economic development in areas of our country that sorely need it. We are proud to be pioneers in this effort by developing our new headquarters in the Missoula Opportunity Zone and hope that many others will follow suit. If you wish to learn more about the benefits of developing your project in an Opportunity Zone, please feel free to reach out to us.
Every December, our employees from Missoula and Vancouver come together to celebrate what we’ve accomplished over the last year at our annual Christmas party. One of our employee’s favorite traditions at the party is our charity raffle. DJ&A purchases some great prizes, our employees purchase tickets, and all of the money is donated to a nonprofit or deserving cause nominated by our employees. This year, right around the time we were selecting our raffle beneficiary, an article appeared in the Missoulian that inspired us to kick our fundraising up a notch. After learning that our local Salvation Army was $11,000 short of their fundraising goal to operate a much-needed Warming Center in Missoula, we decided to not only pledge our charity raffle funds to support the need, but also put out a challenge to other businesses and Missoula residents to join us. We pledged an initial donation of $5,000 from our raffle funds and set up a GoFundMe page to encourage others to help us meet the goal. The Missoulian generously helped us get the word out, and we watched as donations started to trickle in. On the night of our party, our employees blew through all previous charity raffle records and raised $6,770 for the shelter, beating our previous fundraising efforts by more than $1,000. And, our community stepped up to the challenge to donate additional funds, bringing the grand total to $12,614 in less than two weeks. We want to thank all who stepped up and generously donated to support this critical need for our neighbors in Missoula. You can read more about the warming center and DJ&A’s challenge here.