Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras Visits Sidney
February 23, 2022 | View PDF
Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras visited Sidney on Feb. 18. During her visit she sat down for a listening session at Sidney Sugars followed by a tour of the facility. Juras also met with the Richland County Commissioners and visited Sidney High School.
This visit is the second time the Gianforte administration has visited the area since taking office. The governor made a personal visit in October 2021. "He (Gianforte) loves traveling around Montana and listening to what is going on on the ground." Juras stated. "After every trip he comes back and literally brings to the team the five or six things we need to follow up on."
Attending the meeting were police officials from the city and county, the Sidney Mayor, representatives from the Sidney Area Chamber, Richland Economic Development, Sidney Sugars management and our local state representatives among others.
"The legislature is right around the corner," stated Juras. The governor is starting to work on policies to bring forth in the next judicial session. "The governor wants to continue working on the tax climate, we need to do something on property taxes. We continue to work on schools. Workforce development is a huge project of his right now," she continued.
Regarding workforce issues, Sidney Sugars General Manager Dave Garland mentioned some of the difficulties of having workers for the factory through the end of campaign. "Something has to give or change, how we find employees for the next one that's going to be our top priority" he stated.
Representative Brandon Ler mentioned bringing up legislation to alter how shifts are structured. The change to three, 8-hour shifts as apposed to two 12-hour shifts. "It is attractive to the younger generation and I think it is the way to go," said Garland.
But because the law is in statute, any change would have to wait until January 2023, after harvest and campaign has begun. "Even if it was introduced on day one, it would be two weeks into January before anything would technically be changed," said Ler.
Sidney Sugars has had some innovative ways to address worker shortages. Starting 2014 Sidney Sugars has worked with the Fort Peck Tribe to bring workers to Sidney Sugars. The factory has employed 40-60 people per year with some of them becoming permanent employees and supervisors.
Sidney Sugars is not alone with staffing issues. Almost every business in the area is hiring. Currently, the unemployment rate in Sidney is at 1.9%. Many in the community feel housing and family recreation in the area are contributing factors in attracting more workers to move to the area. The Roundup will explore these and other issues brought up in the meeting in future editions.