Sen. Daines tours MT Silversmiths

Business back standing strong
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Sen. Daines tours Montana Silversmiths  (Photo courtesy of Sen. Daines' Office )

Montana Silversmith employee Jamie Lowery stops to visit with Sen. Daines last Friday during a tour of the facility. (Courtesy photo)

Senator Steve Daines spent a few hours in Columbus last Friday to tour Montana Silversmiths.

Before the low-key tour got underway, Daines spoke to a handful of workers, telling them that he was excited to get to see the business up-close for the first time.

Daines, who grew up in Gallatin County and spent a lot of time in Stillwater County hiking and recreating, said that decades ago, in a church nursery in Bozeman, he met a man by the name of Kent Williams.

Williams, of course, would go on to found Montana Silversmiths and grow it into the tremendously popular business it is today. Daines showed the staff his Montana Silversmith’s facemask that he picked up at a trade show and claimed it is his favorite.

“I think I wore it to Biden’s inauguration,” Daines said smiling.

The senator also told the staff that as a fellow Montanan, he was proud of the business they had built.

He also apologized for being just a bit late, saying he had to stop at the Columbus McDonald’s because it is his favorite McDonald’s in the state.

“You get out of Billings and it’s the first place you can kind of take a breath,” Daines said.

During the tour, led by Vice President of Operations Lance Neirby and Vice President of Marketing Judy Wagner, Daines introduced himself simply as “Steve” and he visited briefly.

Daines comes home from Washington D.C. as often as he can on the weekends to be with his family and tries to stop by one Montana business.

LIFE IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL

In a short interview with the News, Daines spoke to the political temperature in Washington D.C. as currently being difficult for Republicans. He pointed towards elections in two years that could bring changes to both the house and senate.

Daines said he encourages Montanans to make sure their voices are heard with Montana’s other senator, Jon Tester, as one vote can be important with the current balance of power.

Daines is currently in his second term, having beat former Montana Governor Steve Bullock in the November 2020 General Election. He first served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What a difference a year makes.

Last April, Montana Silversmiths kept itself busy —and afloat — by getting its hands on 3D printers and making masks for local healthcare, First Responders and the Sibanye-Stillwater mine.

The first 250 masks went directly to local essential workers.

In the end, the company distributed 75,000 across the state and charged only what it cost them to make.

While the company never brought that to the public’s attention, Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago made sure that Sen. Steve Daines knew about it during a tour of the facility last Friday.

The revelation drew a smile from Daines, who said he has long been a fan of the Montana-made business.

BUSINESS BACK WITH A BANG

After having to cut back hours and layoff employees, the company’s fortunes have changed. All COVID-related positions have been rehired, the company is hiring and has even upped the starting wage as it looks for 15 more production employees, said Vice President of Operations Lance Neirby.

Business began to pick back up in September 2020, said Neirby.

“We have been hiring employees ever since,” said Neirby.

Judy Wagner, vice president of marketing, said the company began to see a rise in their jewelry sales at an unexpected time when only essential businesses were open.

“We were able to stay open during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns thanks to our ability to pivot to printing masks for First Responders. Remaining open also allowed us to continue to support our retailers, who also were deemed essential,” Wagner told the News. “The ranch and home stores like Shipton’s Big R specifically saw an increase in their sales due to their ability to provide services across consumers needs from animal feed, medicines, and other critical items, along with giftgiving Montana Silversmiths jewelry and buckles. Thankfully, we were able to stay relevant during a very tumultuous time for the country.”