ClassPass, Consumer Direct apply for grants to expand Missoula workforce

ClassPass is looking at creating over 100 new jobs, and funding for 40 of them may come from the state for the next year. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Missoula County commissioners this week approved applications from two growing Missoula companies to expand their workforce through a statewide grant program.

ClassPass Inc. and Consumer Direct Care Network sought a one-year extension for additional funding through the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund job creation grant. Administered through the Montana Department of Commerce, the grant offers businesses an incentive for providing high-paying jobs.

The department will consider the requests during the July application cycle.

“It’s a state incentive program through the Montana Department of Commerce,” said Nicole Rush, business initiatives director with the Missoula Economic Partnership. “It awards $7,500 per full-time job created by a company in Missoula that is paying at least $19.65 an hour, so it rewards companies for creating permanent, full-time, high-paying jobs.”

ClassPass used the grant to hire 30 employees when its operations began in 2018. Now, the company is looking at creating over 100 new jobs, and funding for 40 of them may come from the state for the next year.

Consumer Direct Care Network has created about 40 new jobs as well over the past year, and aims to add another 13.

The companies must hire new employees before funds are dispersed. The requirement for what defines a high-paying, full-time job varies by county. 

“The funds can be used to pay wages of employees, to purchase equipment or software, and lease new office space,” Rush said. “Basically, it reimburses the company for expansion-related costs.”

About 24 companies in Missoula have used the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grant program to create 532 jobs since 2013. Collectively, they’ve received $3.7 million in funding and now pay $20.6 million annually in new wages, Rush told the Missoula Current in May.

“It provides some state support for businesses and I’m told by some companies that it helps them expand faster and feel more comfortable in investing in Missoula,” Rush said.

ClassPass CFO Tom Aveston said the grant helped fund positions within its customer service and software engineering teams as well as in recruitment and human resources.

Currently, the Missoula office has 158 employees.

“More or less every function now within the company is represented in the Missoula office,” Aveston said.

Ben Bledsoe, president and CEO of Consumer Direct Care Network in Missoula, said the in-home-based care company has received grants for the last four years, making it competitive and relevant in today’s working world.

The grants have helped improve Consumer Direct’s training program and has allowed for more IT positions, as well as call center and help desk employees.

“We have very low margins and it can be really hard to compete with Direct TV and new technology companies that are coming in,” Bledsoe said. “It’s really been a challenge to recruit those people, so every little bit counts for us.”

County commissioners Josh Slotnick and Dave Strohmaier said the grant provides incentives for companies to bring their operations to Missoula, which improves the city’s overall quality of life. Companies are willing to open up shop in the city because of its amenities and recreational opportunities.

“These companies could exist anywhere. They’re choosing to come here,” Slotnick said. “I believe they’re choosing to come here because of what we offer. Certainly these economic incentives help, but these incentives aren’t so big that they’d completely change the equation. They do demonstrate on our part a real willingness to partner.”

Contact reporter Mari Hall via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.