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Top Ten 1/28/24

About 250 community members attended the Sentinel Project Update in the beautiful Davidson Family Auditorium at Great Falls High School. A panel of Air Force leaders presented information on why modernization is necessary, an overview of the program, impacts of the project, timeline of construction at Malmstrom AFB, and real estate acquisition, followed by community Q and A. If you have specific questions about Sentinel, you are encouraged to reach out to

1)  Great Falls is the 10th best city in the nation for retirement and the only city in Montana ranked in the top 50 according to an in depth ranking by Consumer Affairs!

2) Congratulations to From the Ground Up LLC on their successful application and awarding of Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)! With this investment, the doors, windows, lights, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in the Conrad Mercantile building will be replaced and insulation added which is projected to save the real estate holding company $16,597 in annual energy costs and save enough in energy use to power 10 homes. If you are an agricultural producer or rural small business owner looking to save on your energy costs, you can check your eligibility for REAP with or at 1-406-590-1301.

3) The Downtown Development Partnership of Great Falls released 2023 results. Congratulations to the partners, investors, entrepreneurs, developers and supporters who made possible $16.5 million invested in renovating downtown buildings, 9 new downtown businesses, $710,000 in public investment, and over 38,000 volunteer hours! GFDA is proud to be a founding partner of this great effort. The partnership is a certified member of the Montana Main Street Program and is nationally accredited by Main Street America. Founding partners include the Business Improvement District, Downtown Great Falls Association, NeighborWorks Great Falls, City of Great Falls, Neighborhood Council 7, and the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

4) We continued progress on redevelopment projects in downtown Great Falls. We had our kick-off meeting with the Leland Consulting Group on the Downtown Market Assessment and Transformational Strategy project and met with local and out of market developers to discuss the next housing projects in downtown Great Falls. We also connected a small business with Shannon Clancy, our Government Contracting Officer, so they can get registered to bid on government contracts. If you’re interested in downtown Great Falls redevelopment, contact Christian at 1-406-826-0136 or

5) Shelly Vernon faced a challenging situation when her husband fell ill, leaving their family business, Vernon Quality Carpentry, in uncertain times. Determined to grow the business, Shelly enrolled in GFDA’s Profit Mastery Class and learned valuable bookkeeping and accounting skills through GFDA’s Small Business Development Center. Shelly also worked with GFDA to finance her growing business. In this video hear from Shelly on how she was able to take control of operations and help her business thrive!

6) We met with local housing partners to discuss updating the 2021 Great Falls Housing Market Demand Assessment. As we continue to work with housing developers the reality is that we are at least 4,500 units (conservatively) short, likely 6,000 units short, to meet our current demand and known growth. We need units of all configurations and sizes for homeownership and rental opportunities. If you are interested in being part of the housing team, call Jake Clark at 1-406-403-4937 or

7) The old Kiwoa Junction Mercantile located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation will be replaced by a new business. The old mercantile structure has been purchased, and construction of the new Kyiyo Mercantile on the site is underway. More information about the new mercantile can be found in the Cut Bank Pioneer Press.

8) Ask yourself: Are you tired, must work too many hours, and can’t get away? Can you trust your employees when you are away? Are you experiencing high turnover or missing revenue goals? If you answer yes to any of the questions, you need to evaluate your employees and create a list of A, B, and C players for your company. Your employees are your most valuable assets. We must always evaluate our assets and assess if they are appreciating or depreciating. Are they growing professionally, motivated, trained, and satisfied? Don’t just hire but train as well. Customers want to deal with employees who understand the business’s products or services. Make payroll an investment and not an expense. Train & rotate, don’t wait until there is an employee crisis and then decide what to do. Have a backup plan to cross-train and rotate jobs. When you’re prepared, anything can happen, but business continues as usual. Want to learn more about how to create that A, B, & C list, or have questions regarding your small business or startup? please reach out to Alan Gohary at or 1-406-750-0314.

9) Do you know a woman business owner in the Great Falls 13-county region who excels in her field? The Nomination period for the Fire Within Awards is officially OPEN! Fire Within celebrates two types of woman business owners. The Aspire Award recognizes female entrepreneurs who have been in business 1+ years. To make a nomination for the Aspire Award click here. The Inspire Award celebrates female entrepreneurs who have been in business 5+ years. To make a nomination for the Inspire Award click here. Winners are chosen for their business success not for civic engagement. Don’t miss this chance to be part of an annual event held at the Haute Hive in Great Falls that celebrates the power, resilience, and innovation of female entrepreneurs in our region. Let’s fan the flames of success together at “Fire Within”!

10) Great Falls continues to exceed the annual economic outlook projections set by Bureau of Business and Economic Research University of Montana as we learned at their annual economic outlook seminar. We share four key points that we believe will aid us in continuing that growth: we must invest in housing at all levels now; we need to continue to invest in public tools and resources that help move projects forward; and we are a team – everyone that lives and does business in the Great Falls region is on that team.

11) LOW INTEREST RATE LOAN FUNDS-GOING TO MOVE FAST. GFDA is an approved economic development organization with the State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0 (SSBCI 2.0) low interest rate program. The state is expecting their third tranche of funding any day now and it is on a first come first served basis. If you have a project that could move forward with the benefit of low interest rate funding start talking with GFDA now. These funds can be used for business purposes including purchasing real estate, equipment or working capital. If you have a business startup or expansion planned that could benefit from a loan participation, contact Jill at or 1-406-590-1056.

12) The GFDA Small Business Development Center can walk you through the steps of startup, business growth, selling or acquiring a business, and answer any questions you have regarding your business. For a no-cost business consulting, Click here to sign up.

13) GFDA has been re-certified as a Montana MicroBusiness Development Corporation for another four years by the Montana Department of Commerce. This certification enables us to offer loans to start-up and existing small businesses with 10 or fewer employees throughout our region.

14) I enjoyed participating in the JobsEQ Summit presented by Chmura Economics and beginning the certification process in this very powerful labor market data system that we use to help clients, pursue investments in the region, and track and compare performance of our regional economy.

15) Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, collaborative economic development elevates entire communities. The support and we receive from our investors and public partners is essential to helping us drive progress in our region. Learn more about them by viewing this short video. Recent investments include: Pacesetter Division—AT KlemensHybrid Steel Design. Investing in economic development today ensures that the future of our community is one marked by lasting growth and prosperity. To learn about our economic development strategy and how you can support the growth of our community, reach out to Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 1-406-781-9499 or

Headed to Nevada in the morning to meet with Roseman University of Health Sciences, our veterinary school prospect, and a manufacturing company that visited Great Falls last month. Have a great week!

Brett Doney
President & CEO