BOZEMAN, Mont. - A law enforcement uniform and equipment company is set to open another store in the Four Corners area, west of Bozeman.
Balco Uniform was founded in 1990 in Williston, North Dakota. 10 years ago, the family-owned business changed hands when the founder gave the business to her son Jake Liudahl and his wife Shawna. Balco has a strong customer base in Montana and has been outfitting Gallatin County law enforcement for more than a decade out of their store in Williston.
We spoke with the owner to see how the move will help law enforcement get the equipment they need while costing taxpayers less.
Jake Liudahl is a Williston native and a graduate of MSU. He and his wife moved back to Williston to take over the family business, Balco, hoping one day to expand into Montana.
Two years ago, his desire to move back to the Big Sky started to look more feasible when Liudahl began to work with an Internet software program, allowing him to operate multiple law enforcement supply warehouses and stores at once.
Plus, the oil boom had driven up property prices and Williston didn't look like a viable location for his next store.
"If we were to have bought a millions and millions of dollar building we probably would have had to raise our prices to a point where we fail in business," explains Liudahl.
As a father of two, "it made even more sense to maybe take them out of Williston," says Liudahl.
Liudahl tells us a typical order for one law enforcement officer costs $1,000. Shipping, he says, makes up two to three percent. That's twenty to thirty dollars law enforcement spends on shipping for just one officer.
"It saves taxpayer dollars because it's right here and we do, we literally spend thousands of dollars with Balco on uniforms for our sworn and our detention," says Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.
Sheriff Gootkin tells us just one uniform costs more than $100 and when the new jail went in, they put in an order with Jake's company- three uniforms for 40 officers. That amounts to around $12,000.
Yet, it's not just savings and convenience Gootkin says Balco will bring to the Bozeman area.
"They're a great family, they're good people and for them to be relocating their family here, that's an addition to our county," Gootkin says.
Liudahl says it's folks like Gootkin and his deputies he's here to support.
"And service better than we ever have before," says Liudahl.
A decade in the making, Liudahl will finally realize his dreams of moving back to Montana. His store in Williston will remain open.
Liudahl says they're hiring eight people to start off with and already he says folks are stopping by to drop off job applications.
He hopes to unofficially open his doors December first with a grand opening set for the beginning of the year.
Balco is not just for law enforcement, they also carry items like concealment holsters and flashlights.
For more information about Balco, you can visit their website.