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BELIEVE it or not, you get a bigger bang for your buck in Montana. At least, a Tax Foundation report indicates that consumers in Montana get more for their money than consumers in most other states.
According to the study, in Montana $100 will buy what would cost $106.16 in another state that is closer to the national average. Buzz isn't an economist, but this appears to mean that Montanans get a 6 percent break on goods and services.
Parts of the country where $100 is worth the least are the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and California. Places where money goes the farthest: Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, and South Dakota.
The report notes that there is often a correlation between regions with high incomes and high prices.
SO WHO is the richest person in Montana? You won't be surprised to learn it is Dennis Washington, the Missoula magnate who owns Montana Rail Link and Butte's big operating copper mine, among other things.
Washington's status has been confirmed by the real-estate broker web site Movoto.com.
Washington is worth $6.1 billion, according to Movoto. Unlike many on Movoto's list, he didn't inherit his wealth, but built it with his own smarts and hard work. With the help of a $30,000 loan and a bulldozer, he started a Missoula-area contracting firm that became the state's largest construction firm.
He now owns a large group of privately held firms that fall under the umbrella of the Washington Companies, as well as a group of Canada-based companies known as the Seaspan Marine Corp. In more recent years, he's been known for building elaborate yachts and for his philanthropy, which includes much of the work on UM's Washington-Grizzly Stadium, named after him.
The country's richest person, by the way, lives nearby in Washington state. It is Bill Gates, worth a cool $80 billion.
ARE YOU as baffled as Buzz is when you stand in front of a beer cooler at the grocery store, pondering the vast array of Montana-made craft beers? Unless you're an expert or connoisseur in the stuff, it can make for a mind-numbing decision.
Well, the Missoula Independent is here to help. It has assembled an admittedly subjective, but thorough, list of the state's 50 best craft brews. The alternative weekly considered such factors as distribution, reputation and awards won locally, nationally and internationally in picking the best of the best.
The editors said: "This list may stir controversy, but we're hoping it also sparks conversation and prods drinkers to sample pints they've not yet tried."
So what beers earned the top spots? No. 1 was Double Haul IPA from Kettlehouse Brewing in Missoula, while No. 2 was Blackfoot Brewing Co.'s Blackfoot IPA out of Helena. No. 3 was Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, also from Kettlehouse, No. 4 was Whitetail Wheat Ale out of Billings' Montana Brewing Co., and No. 5, Moose Drool Brown Ale by Big Sky Brewing of Missoula.
ACTRESS Gwyneth Paltrow recently spent some time visiting Montana, and the piece she wrote about her Big Sky experiences no doubt thrilled state tourism officials. She ravved about Montana's attributes on Goop, her popular e-commerce web site where she sounds off on fashion, family and other issues.
"They call if Big Sky Country for a reason: Interrupted solely by the distant peaks of the Rockies, the horizon here goes on forever, holding dominion over horse ranches, National Forest Service lands, and a whole lot of cattle," Paltrow said in an introduction to a guide to western Montana dude ranches.
Now, these aren't exactly the 'roughin' it' kind of dude ranches. Paltrow reviewed -- with a big thumbs up -- her stays at the Paws Up Resort northeast of Missoula, the Ranch at Rock Creek near Phillipsburg, and Triple Creek Ranch near Darby. (If you want to replicate Paltrow's vacation, be prepared to fork over big bucks. They can cost around $2,000 a night, and were recently named among the most expensive luxury resorts in the US.)
Paltrow, who sprinkled her piece with plenty of photos of herself and her kids enjoying Montana activities, also took a trip to Glacier Park and stayed at the handsome but rustic Many Glacier Hotel, which she said is "inarguably one of our favorite hotels in all the world."
"There are few spots in America where the landscape can actually move you -- reminding you not only of your relative insignificance, but of how might and ancient the earth really is," she said. "Glacier is one of those places."
Paltrow, by the way, wasn't the only celeb enjoying Big Sky Country in recent days. Singer Lady Gaga joined her friend, artist Jeff Koons, who came to Big Sky to give a talk on art at the exclusive Yellowstone Club. Lady Gaga sent out a photo of the scenery via Instagram, declaring: "It is so phenomenally beautiful here."