90-1-204. Priorities for funding -- rulemaking. (1) Under the big sky economic development program provided for in 90-1-201, the department must receive proposals for grants and loans from local governments and tribal governments. A local government shall work with an economic development organization on a proposal. The department shall work with the local government and the economic development organization or with an applicant tribal government in preparing cost estimates for a proposed project. In reviewing proposals, the department may consult with other state agencies with expertise pertinent to the proposal.
(2) (a) The department shall adopt rules necessary to implement the big sky economic development program. In adopting rules, the department shall look to the rules adopted for the Montana coal endowment program and other similar state programs. To the extent feasible, the department shall make the rules compatible with those other programs. To the extent feasible, the department shall employ an approach pertaining to the use of funds so that, except as provided in subsection (2)(b), the needs of rural areas are balanced with the needs of the state's urban centers.
(b) For high-poverty counties, the department shall employ an approach pertaining to the use of funds that is intended to lower poverty levels in the county to a percentage at which the county no longer is defined as a high-poverty county.
(c) The rules must provide for the types of uses of funds available under the big sky economic development program. The types of uses of funds by:
(i) local governments and tribal governments include but are not limited to:
(A) a reduction in the interest rate of a commercial loan for the expansion of a basic sector company;
(B) a grant or low-interest loan for relocation expenses for a basic sector company; and
(C) rental assistance or lease buy-downs for a relocation or expansion project for a basic sector company;
(ii) a certified regional development corporation or a tribal government include:
(A) support for business improvement districts and central business district redevelopment;
(B) industrial development;
(C) feasibility studies;
(D) creation and maintenance of baseline community profiles; and
(E) matching funds for federal funds, including but not limited to brownfields funds and natural resource damage funds.
(d) (i) The rules must provide for distribution methods for financial assistance available to local governments and tribal governments. The rules must provide for distribution based upon the number of jobs expected to be created because of the funding.
(ii) Funding may not exceed $5,000 for each expected job, except that funding for a project in a high-poverty county may not exceed $7,500 for each expected job.
(iii) The rules must require equal matching funds for a grant or loan, except that the rules for a grant or a loan in a high-poverty county may allow a 50% to 100% match requirement for the high-poverty county.
(e) The rules may provide for greater incentives for a high-poverty county.
(f) The rules must provide for the full or partial repayment of a grant if the new jobs or some of the new jobs for which a grant is given are not created.
(g) A grant or loan under the big sky economic development program may be made only for a new job that has an average weekly wage that meets or exceeds the lesser of 170% of Montana's current minimum wage or the current average weekly wage of the county in which the employees are to be principally employed. For purposes of this subsection (2)(g) and subject to subsection (2)(h), the department may consider the value of employee benefits in determining whether the wage requirements have been met.
(h) Nothing in subsection (2)(g) exempts an employer from minimum wage requirements.