Scott Brown says he's kinda behind on his bills.
It's cool at 8 a.m. and steam rises off fresh-poured asphalt at the intersection of Higgins, Beckwith and Hill. Heavy equipment from Knife River Corporation beeps and belches around what's looking more and more like a roundabout each day.
Brown, 28, works a few sunflower seeds with his lips. Lolo Peak Landscaping and Supply's business has slowed over the last few months, he explains. He leans on his rake, watching three coworkers pull apart a bungled portion of ceramic wall.
"We've had a couple hospital jobs and now this, which has kept money in our pockets," Brown says. "But I think everybody's slow right now."
Brown's been with Lolo Peak four seasons. He moved here from Tacoma, Wash., in 2001. Kevin Connell, working an adhesive gun on the ceramic bricks, says Brown's the chattiest guy on the crew.
A tiger tattoo peeks over Brown's shirt collar as he talks. The name "Arianna" is inked on the opposite side.
"That's my daughter," Brown says. "She's seven."
Arianna lives with her mom right now, Brown adds, but he spends a lot of time with her.
Lolo Peak's 14-day landscaping project is an example of where federal stimulus dollars are landing locally. The Higgins roundabout alone boasts a budget of $600,000. The paycheck Brown pulls from his job–$26 an hour–will help support Arianna and his 2-year-old son, Khalil. According to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act website, stimulus funding will create or save 11,000 jobs in Montana in the next two years.
"I'm behind," Brown says. "But this one paycheck from this job alone will help me get all caught up."
Brown isn't banking on landscaping long-term. He took up boxing at the Dogpound Submission Fighting Academy a few months back, is three-and-two in the ring, and has a kickboxing match in early August.
For Brown, the short-lived stimulus boost is perfect, holding him over while he tries to make it as a professional fighter.
"Keeps me in the gym," he says. He spits a seed in the grass and continues raking dirt.