A Havre sports bra business and a Chester biofuel factory were among nine Montana businesses honored by Gov. Brian Schweitzer with an innovative business award.
The awards will be presented at the first Governor’s Innovation Day and Awards Dinner set for Aug. 28 at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Enell Inc. of Havre and Earl Fisher BioFuels of Chester are among the nine.
“Montana’s innovation economy is on fire; companies across the state are growing and creating jobs in new, innovative ways, ” Schweitzer said this morning in a release announcing the awards. “These are just a few companies that exemplify the opportunities businesses have in Montana. When you could be doing business anywhere in the world, why not do business in Montana with our low taxes, world-class schools, and a quality of life that is unmatched? ”
Wayne Koepke, husband of Enell founder Renelle Braaten and chief financial officer for the business, echoed that this morning. The ability to work via the Internet and through other modern information-technology services allows him and his wife to have a highly successful business right in Havre.
“Fortunately, we can do it in Havre and in Montana, ” he said. “Back 20 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to do that. ”
Enell was started 20 years ago to provide athletic bras for well-endowed women. The company’s products have been featured on “The Oprah Show” twice and are endorsed by Pro Beach Volleyball Players, Olympic Biathletes and other sports enthusiasts.
Renelle Braaten said she is honored by the award.
“It was pretty awesome, ” she said. “I didn’t even know (Schweitzer) knew I was around. It makes me feel pretty good. ”
Koepke and Braaten said they are continuing to expand, and are in the research and development stage of a new product.
“We’re always on the hunt for that, ” Braaten said. “We just want to make sure that whenever we put anything out it’s the best, right down to the thread. ”
Earl Fisher Biofuels was created when fourth-generation Hi-Line farmers Brett Earl and Logan Fisher returned to the Hi-Line and created a plant in Chester to convert the oil from local crops to biodiesel.
The two were out harvesting their 2012 crops and could not be reached for comment this morning.
The company has worked closely with Montana State University-Northern’s BioEnergy lab, including in providing fuel for testing biodiesel in BNSF Railway switch engines in the Havre station, and now are selling biodiesel to Ezzie’s Wholesale which is blending it with petroleum diesel and selling it in downtown Havre.
Scweitzer’s release said the plant allows local crops to be converted to fuel and consumed locally, providing an engine for economic development and a sustainable econonomy and sustainable agriculture.
“The Chester facility is the blueprint to duplicate the process in other small communities throughout the state, ” the release said.
Companies receiving the 2012 innovative business award
• Architectural and engineering firm CTA Group of Billings
• Laser company Bridger Photonics of Bozeman
• Enell Inc. of Havre
• Rivertop Renewables of Missoula
• Battery system developer Zinc Air of Columbia Falls
• Event company Ticket River in Harlowton
• Technology company TerraEchos of Missoula
• Earl Fisher BioFuels of Chester
• Simms Fishing Products of Bozeman