What Opportunity Looks Like: Big Mountain meets the Bakken
For many Montanans the Bakken boom has provided a plethora of opportunities. For the Gearhart family of Whitefish, the growth in the oil patch has meant growth in their family-owned business, Big Mountain Glass (BMG).
The company, owned by Chris and Kathy Gearheart, has been in Montana for 41 years and has provided commercial glazing on projects such as the Metra in Billings, the new UM Native American Studies Center in Missoula, the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton, and the Whitefish Emergency Service Center, to name a few. BMG has twelve full time employees, including son and MSU graduate Scott Gearhart. Scott’s the Commercial Project Manager for the company. Scott’s wife is a full time nurse, and works part time at Big Mountain Glass as well. They also have a seven year old daughter.
With a degree in Construction and Engineering Technology from Bozeman, Scott explained that working for the family business was always part of the plan, saying that it only took a few years of working outside of Montana to realize it was where he wanted to return to work and raise his family.
Before the downturn in the local economy, says Scott, Big Mountain had twenty one full time employees. With the recent resurgence of job opportunities in North Dakota and Eastern Montana, however, he said, “The Bakken has definitely been a huge help and a huge source of revenue to us.”
The first Bakken project for Big Mountain Glass started three years ago. The Gearharts’ business has done everything from small glass instillation projects for schools, strip malls, and NAPA stores in Watford City and around Williston, to a couple of large scale projects in Dickinson and Bismarck.
“We were actually sought out to bid the penitentiary expansion job in Bismarck,” said Scott. Big Mountain not only bid the job, they won it. “This is a major project of over a million dollars in glass,” said Scott. Some of the other large scale projects they’ve worked on include housing complexes for Halliburton. Big Mountain is also waiting to hear back on a medical clinic job they bid recently in Dickinson.
Scott explains that compared to Montana, there is such a shortage of contractors bidding jobs in North Dakota that there’s almost no competition. New contractors are moving into North Dakota with no subcontractor base. The growth is outpacing the workforce, creating job opportunities for contractors, truckers, builders, skilled laborers, small businesses, and many others far beyond North Dakota.
Estimating revenue from the Bakken alone, Scott says oil patch projects account for 15% of his family’s business. Luckily for Scott, he only has to leave the Flathead about once every four months to check on jobs in North Dakota to make sure things are running smoothly. For Scott’s younger brother Tyler, however, the story is quite different.
Tyler Gearhart, like his brother, graduated from MSU in Bozeman where he lives today. He received his degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship and now works as a MWD Field Technician for The Directional Drilling Company. He was recommended for the position by his uncle, who Tyler says has worked in the oil fields for the better part of two decades. Tyler’s main responsibilities include assembling tools for down hole monitoring, setting up surface gear, and taking surveys. Like most true blue Montanans, the Gearhart brothers spend their free time outdoors fishing and skiing (pictured above).
“It was always a goal of mine to stay in Montana after college,” said Tyler, who describes the worse part of his job as the long periods away from home. He says the best thing about his job is the people.
“Don’t make assumptions about what goes on in the oilfields,” said Tyler, “Come out and experience things before you jump to conclusions.”
Retrieved 27 February 2013. The Montana Petroleum Report. For more information contact: Jessica Sena, 590-8675