|1) The cost of living in the Great Falls MSA (Cascade County) dropped from 86% of the national average in 2023Q1 to 85.7% in 2023Q2 according to the highly respected C2ER Cost of Living Index. Housing in Great Falls came in at 64.6% of the national average. GFDA’s long-term goal is to strengthen and grow our regional economy while maintaining affordability. Bozeman came in at 120.4% cost of living with housing at 151.1% of the national average. Billings came in at 100.6% cost of living with housing at 94.4%. The composite index is based on six categories: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.
2) The clean-up of the hazardous and environmental contaminants of the Baatz Building located at 400 2nd Ave South in Downtown Great Falls has begun! This is a major step forward in the redevelopment of the building to transition it into permanent supportive housing. The clean-up was made possible by a $583,000 grant from GFDA’s EPA Brownfield program, which is one of the many tools GFDA has to offer to support development projects. A HUGE thank you goes out to NeighborWorks Great Falls and Homeward, Inc. for continuing to strengthen Great Falls with high mission projects like this one. If you have a project that may need some financing contact Jill Kohles to learn about the different options available to help your business or project, JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1056.
3) We issued an RFP for a Downtown Market Assessment & Strategy Development to continue Downtown Great Falls revitalization efforts. Thank you to the City of Great Falls, Downtown Development Partnership, NeighborWorks Great Falls, and the Montana Department of Commerce’s Main Street Montana program for helping to fund the work. Download RFP here.
4) Native American Development Corporation, Sweetgrass Development, and GFDA will be co-hosting a training event geared toward helping native owned businesses apply for the Indian Equity Fund Grant in Browning on September 18th, to register for the class click here, The Montana Department of Commerce has four grant opportunities for tribal business development in Montana; see KRTV.
5) Tony and Jake headed to White Sulphur Springs for a Business Focus event with the Meagher County Chamber at Wild Oats Baking on bank and credit union readiness. The event was well attended, and great conversation was had regarding the topic and the various stages of readiness from innovative start-ups to expanding businesses. Many entrepreneurs are unaware of the wide range of support services available to them. If you would like to learn more about financing a business and what resources are available for you, please reach out to Tony at Tony@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-750-2099.
6) Styled by Belt Boutique is a family-owned boutique in Belt, Montana. Owner Jessica Wakeford said she loves owning her own business because, as a mom, it provides flexibility and an excellent work-life balance. Learn more in our Announcement of the Week.
7) Join us on September 21 from 4-5 PM at the City Bar in Downtown Great Falls to kick off our new round of funding. We’ve received an additional $500,000 to put to work in our region for assessment, clean up, and to move projects forward! As EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker said, “We look forward to these efforts as they address contamination and create new opportunities for the residents of Belt, Cascade, Great Falls, Monarch, Sun River, Ulm and Vaughn.”
8) Anna traveled to Helena for the annual Food and Ag Development Center meeting with the Montana Department of Agriculture. The Food and Ag Development Center Network discussed exciting new funding opportunities for the upcoming year. Are you planning to expand your agricultural businesses’ digital or web offerings (including e-commerce)? If so, reach out to Anna Flies to see if you are eligible for an upcoming state funding program at Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1301.
9) The State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0 (SSBCI 2.0) low interest rate program is still awaiting their third tranche of funding. This third tranche is on a first come first served basis, so start talking with GFDA now, if you have a project that could move forward with the benefit of low interest rate funding. These funds are limited and will be put to work very quickly to help our economy recover and come back stronger than ever. If you have a business startup or expansion planned that could benefit from a loan participation, contact Jill at JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1056.
10) We’re excited to announce that Christian Nichols will be joining our team starting September 18th in our new split position 50% SBDC Business Advisor and 50% Project Manager working on our brownfield program. Christian brings small business ownership and management experience. He started and ran RFP Fitness in Great Falls from 2014-2020 then sold the business. He brings excellent leadership and training experience, having served as an Airman Leadership Instructor at MAFB. He served in USAF from 2003-2016. He grew up in the small rural town of Big Sandy, CO. Please join us in welcoming Christian!
11) The support we receive from our investors and public partners is instrumental in fueling economic development, fostering a vibrant business environment, and addressing critical community needs. Learn more about our supporters here. By investing in GFDA, they are investing in the growth & prosperity of our region. Recent investments include: Advance Division—Culligan Water Conditioning of Great Falls; Leadership Division—BNSF Railway Company; Community Division—Woith Engineering, Inc. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our mission and continue making a positive impact on our community. Thank you! If you’d like to join the team dedicated to growing our economy, contact Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 1-406-781-9499 or Jenn@GrowGreatFalls.org.
Hope you had a great Labor Day Weekend!
President & CEO
|1) We made a $310,000 bridge loan to Carter Commons, LLLP for the purchase of land for the development of an affordable senior apartment community. The project is located in Downtown Great Falls and will provide 25 much needed housing units. GFDA can provide many tools to help a developer or project get closer to the finish line. Contact Jill Kohles to learn about the different options available to help your business or project, JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 406-590-1056.
2) TDS Telecommunications started construction on its fiber network that will serve all of Great Falls. When the fiber network is complete, TDS will deliver up to 8-gig internet speeds for businesses and residents, along with a variety of phone and digital TV options, according to the company. See TheElectric.
4) Congratulations to Henry’s Tire Service on their opening! It’s nerve wracking and exciting to launch a small business but we are here to help. Henry’s took advantage of working with our Small Business Development Center. If you have a business idea or have a small business we would love to offer you assistance and advising to help your business succeed. If you want to know more about the Small Business Development Center please reach out to Tony Peres at Tony@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-750-2099.
5) Nitro Creamery plans to open in Great Falls in mid-September. Dick Anderson is starting construction on industrial condos at the Great Falls Industrial Airport. Upland Foundations has begun operations in Great Falls. Learn more about all of these on TheElectric’s Business Bites.
6) We hosted an overseas prospect visit from an advanced manufacturer considering Great Falls to locate a new facility. Thank you to our partners who helped make the visit powerful — Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls College MSU and GFDA Investor business leaders! Great Falls is especially equipped to support complex projects. If you are looking for the next location for your business to thrive, please look no further than Great Falls and reach out to Jake Clark Jake@GrowGreatFalls.org 1-406-403-4937.
8) On Thursday a group of generous individuals, businesses, and community leaders stepped forward to graciously host small gatherings of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine students at various restaurants throughout our city. This initiative brought together 72 students who engaged in meaningful conversations, gaining insights into their new home. Topics spanned from the future in medicine, our vibrant arts and cultural scene, diverse food options, yoga classes, baseball, regional outdoor pursuits, experiencing Montana’s winters, and beyond. Expressing their excitement, hosts David and Melissa shared, “We are thrilled to have such intelligent new citizens living here in Great Falls. Thanks so much for the opportunity to spend some quality time with them!” A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who embraced the role of a host, fostering a sense of belonging and warmth for these promising medical students as they find their place in our city.
9) Benefis Health System has acquired Missouri River Medical Center in Fort Benton. Benefis had a management contract with the rural hospital since 2015. Benefis plans to remodel the facility into a state-of-the-art critical care hospital. Learn more in our Announcement of the Week.
10) Helped an entrepreneur create financial forecasts this week by using LivePlan. In just one meeting they had a solid framework of easy to read financial projections. If your business idea could benefit from putting some numbers on paper, contact Rich Gannon at our Small Business Development Center at 1-406-836-2078 or email him at RGannon@GrowGreatFalls.org and ask for a demo of LivePlan. The tool is free to use for our business advising clients.
11) Congratulations to BIlly Vaughn Edwards on opening Stageline Pizza in East Glacier; see Glacier Reporter.
12) We had a very exciting site visit in downtown Great Falls this week. Through our business attraction efforts, one of our target companies made a 2-day visit to Great Falls to search for their next location. This prospect hadn’t been in Great Falls in 8 years and was extremely surprised by the growth! They stayed/dined downtown and when they left, said “We don’t want to be located anywhere but downtown.” If you have a target company you think would be right for downtown Great Falls, call or email Christian at 1-406-836-0138 or CLeinhauser@GrowGreatFalls.org.
13) Congratulations to Becky Nelson of Great Falls Public Schools on being recognized with the Athena Award!
14) Lillian met with a small business this week looking to expand and purchase a building in the downtown area. The business owner wanted information on potential environmental hazards at the property and next steps. She found the discussion about the Phase I (ESA) valuable and was appreciative of the information provided. Conducting a Phase I ESA is a critical step for any business looking to expand and purchase a building, especially when dealing with an old property. This process not only helps protect the business owner’s investment but also ensures that their expansion plans align with their long-term goals while minimizing potential environmental risks and liabilities. For more information how these tools can be used in your next project, contact Lillian Sunwall at LSunwall@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-750-1253.
15) Congratulations to Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and Malmstrom AFB on winning the 2023 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Exemplary Community Partnership Award from the Military Child Education Coalition.
16) The State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0 (SSBCI 2.0) low interest rate program is still awaiting their third tranche of funding. This third tranche is on a first come first served basis, so start talking with GFDA now, if you have a project that could move forward with the benefit of low interest rate funding. These funds are limited and will be put to work very quickly to help our economy recover and come back stronger than ever. If you have a business startup or expansion planned that could benefit from a loan participation, contact Jill at JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1056.
17) The Ag Committee of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual Future of Ag Tour on Thursday, September 7th. Learn more and register here.
18) USDA opened another round of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP). If you are a meat or poultry processor considering expansion but missed the first round of funding, please reach out to Anna at Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1301.
19) I had fun speaking on a national webinar panel for the Council of Development Finance Agencies talking about how we connect with rural and other hard to reach entrepreneurs and small businesses in our region.
20) Fostering local economic growth demands commitment, collaboration, and the backing of our valued investors and public partners. Discover more about these crucial contributors here. They recognize that enhancing opportunities requires investing in GFDA’s initiatives, which in turn drives our mission to foster high wage jobs and broaden possibilities throughout our region. We extend our appreciation for their consistent support. To become part of the team that is leading the change, reach out to Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 1-406-781-9499 or Jenn@GrowGreatFalls.org.
Have a fantastic week!
President & CEO
|1) We made a $40,000 gap loan to Eva and Raymond Sholey to help finance the startup of R & L Trucking in Conrad. Thank you to our partner on the deal, the First Bank of Montana.
2) Congratulations to all involved in the 2023 Montana MultiCultural Fair held this week in downtown Great Falls! We are proud to continue to sponsor this great event. See KRTV.
4) Congratulations to the AWARE team and CEO, Matt Bugni, on the ribbon cutting for their new building at 3360 10th Ave South in Great Falls. Lillian participated in the event to thank Aware for their important hard work helping individuals live independent lives. In 2021, AWARE purchased the former Blue Cross Blue Shield office building and after renovation, this space is now home to offices for staff, AWARE’s day treatment center, meeting and training rooms. In FY22, AWARE served 762 people in Cascade County.
5) This week the GFDA partnered with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center to host a three day, in person Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) training course for several major food manufactures in our region. When a business reaches more than 1 million in food sales, they are required to have one person on staff trained in PCQI to continue to expand. If you would like to you or your employees to become certified in either PCQI or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), please reach out to Anna at Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1301.
6) Ten amazing new murals were created on buildings in Downtown Great Falls during the 2023 ArtsFest Montana this week. Congratulations to the artists, the Business Improvement District, the City of Great Falls, and all the volunteers, property owners and businesses that helped make this possible.
7) Tony traveled to Bozeman this week meeting with lenders and talking SBA 504 loans. If your business is looking to expand or if you’re looking to purchase a business please reach out to Tony to see if this is an option for you. Tony@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-750-2099.
9) Approximately 60 students from the first class from Touro University were able to spend an evening downtown and participate in activities that were donated in support of the new medical school. A big shout out to Littles Lanes, Brush Crazy, Chase Your Dreams VR, and Escape the Falls for donating and participating in this awesome night.
10) Web Panel: Montana Cybersecurity Grants and Tools to Protect Your Business; 2:00-3:00 PM, August 23rd hosted by Montana High Tech Business Alliance with Montana Department of Commerce. Register Here. Through the Montana Department of Commerce’s Cybersecurity Reimbursement Program, businesses can apply for up to $8,000 in reimbursement for newly implemented cybersecurity measures paid to an accredited Montana cybersecurity company. Visit the Montana Grants Application Portal at covidreliefmt.org/submit for details and to apply. Questions? Contact Vena Dagnall.
11) The Montana Outdoor Recreation Summit will be held October 11-13 in Butte.
12) The Montana Indian Equity Fund will begin accepting applications for their small business grant starting September 1st, the deadline for applications is October 31st. The grant can be utilized to assist start up or existing Native American owned businesses in Montana. If you need help with the process, contact small business advisor Rich Gannon at 1-406-836-2078 or via email at RGannon@GrowGreatFalls.org.
13) Registration is open for the Montana Main Street Downtown Conference that will be held in Great Falls, October 18-20.
14) The State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0 (SSBCI 2.0) low interest rate program is still awaiting their third tranche of funding. This third tranche is on a first come first served basis, so start talking with GFDA now, if you have a project that could move forward with the benefit of low interest rate funding. These funds are limited and will be put to work very quickly to help our economy recover and come back stronger than ever. If you have a business startup or expansion planned that could benefit from a loan participation, contact Jill at JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1056.
15) GFDA team member, Katesha Brandon-Campbell is moving on to other opportunities in Denver, CO. While we are sad to see her go, we will continue to serve our Food/Ag/Bio processing clients. If you are operating in that sector your primary contact at GFDA should be Anna Flies, Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org 1-406-590-1301.
16) GFDA relies on the continued support from our investors & public partners. Learn more about them here. It’s through partnerships like theirs that we are able to make a lasting impact on our community. Recent investments include: Pacesetter Division—Macek Companies, Inc. Their support is invaluable as we work towards driving economic growth and development in our region. If you’d like to be a part of the team that is growing our region, reach out to Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 1-406-781-9499 or Jenn@GrowGreatFalls.org.
An amazing week!
President & CEO
|A packed two-week Top 22!
1) Week to week we talk about the exciting successes of entrepreneurs, businesses and developers in our region, but on a quarterly basis we get our report card on how we’re doing in building a stronger overall economy. JobsEQ released data for 2023Q1 that documents the Great Falls MSA (Cascade County) increased employment by 3.1% over the four quarters ending 2023Q1, hitting the highest employment level on record. Local average annual wages increased by 8.1%, compared to 6.4% statewide and 2.8% across the nation. This enabled our average annual wage to reach 76% of the national average for the first time. Since GFDA was founded, our MSA’s average annual wage has increased from 63% of the national average to 76% while our cost of living has fallen from 93% to 87% of the national average. Our long term goal is to get our average annual wage above our cost of living. We’ve closed the 30 point gap to 11 points.
2) Over the four quarters ending 2023Q1 total wages earned in the Great Falls MSA increased by 11.5% or $208 million. That adds significant spending power for local consumers. The number of business establishments (not including self-employed) increased by 9% with 250 new businesses, both according to JobsEQ data.
3) Jolene travelled to Colorado to network with site selectors focused on transportation and logistics. The Logistics Forum has very limited participation and gives us the chance to really connect with and learn from industry experts. We were invited to attend through Tim Feemster, one of our strategic plan consultants. Questions, reach out to Jolene 1-406-760-4481.
4) Groundbreaking was held for a new youth wellness center that will be located across from the Rocky Boy Health Center; see KRTV. Nineteen year old Avery Allen has opened the Below Zero Dance Studio in Great Falls; see KRTV. Play It Again Sports is planning a new store in Great Falls. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Great Falls College MSU, ADF, Allied Steel, and Montana Vocational Rehab have partnered to launch the first 10-student cohort of an accelerated, six-week structural welding course.The comprehensive program is designed to equip individuals with essential skills and qualifications to build careers in the critical welding industry; see The Electric’s Business Bites.
5) We spoke with several facilities in need of an FDA-compliant Food Safety Plan and a qualified individual on staff to create and implement it. Sound familiar? Learn to develop your plan and receive a certificate of completion directly from the Food Safety and Preventive Controls Alliance from Montana Manufacturing Extension Center Instructor, Claude Smith, this month for the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual for Human Food training, August 16-18 here in Great Falls. Click here for more information and to register, or contact Katesha at 1-406-788-0860 or Katesha@GrowGreatFalls.org.
6) Animal lovers rejoice – Fetch Pet Boutique is expanding in Great Falls to increase capacity for boarding and doggy daycare services. Learn more about this growing business in our Announcement of the Week.
7) Lillian and Lisa travelled to Detroit to participate in the National Brownfields Conference. Lillian gave a presentation on Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds.
8) Arts Fest 2023 is here. August 11-18, artists will enrich our downtown by creating ten new murals, attracting visitors and foot traffic, and boosting local businesses and tourism.
9) As part of putting our new Economic Development Strategy to work, GFDA’s Board adopted a Board Dashboard for FY2024 that sets specific milestones to achieve this fiscal year for the Strategy’s 46 actions. GFDA’s Executive Committee adopted an Executive Committee FY2024 Dashboard that sets specific financial, governance, resources, and operations milestones for the fiscal year.
10) The Cut Bank Farmer’s Market will be hosting a farm to table community dinner featuring locally sourced food on Thursday, August 17th at the Cut Bank Creek Brewery. Tickets can be reserved by contacting the brewery at 1-406-229-0298.
11) We committed $60,000 of GFDA Investor funds to commission a feasibility study for a major new project by in Great Falls being considered by a prospect. The prospect is invested the other half of the funds.
12) Shannon networked at the GovMatch 2023 Navy Week Event, hosted by Montana APEX (formerly PTAC) in Billings. The event served as a dynamic platform for Montana businesses and entrepreneurs from across the state to network, showcase their capabilities, and meet directly with contracting professionals from 17 agencies including the U.S. Navy, State of Montana, Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to discuss contract opportunities. If you are interested in government contracting, contact Shannon Clancy at SClancy@GrowGreatFalls.org.
13) Web Panel: Montana Cybersecurity Grants and Tools to Protect Your Business; 2:00-3:00 PM, August 23rd hosted by Montana High Tech Business Alliance with Montana Department of Commerce. Register Here. Through the Montana Department of Commerce’s Cybersecurity Reimbursement Program, businesses can apply for up to $8,000 in reimbursement for newly implemented cybersecurity measures paid to an accredited Montana cybersecurity company. Visit the Montana Grants Application Portal at covidreliefmt.org/submit for details and to apply. Questions? Contact Vena Dagnall.
14) Anna, Katesha, and Tony toured INDHemp’s state of the art facilities to learn more about the production of hemp fiber and bedding materials as well as hemp seed oil and hemp hearts. While in Fort Benton they also visited HybridSteel in their new facility to learn about the amazing work they do for companies in the Great Falls regional food, ag and bio processing industries like INDHemp, Pasta Montana, and Agrolink. If your ag, food, or bio processing company is interested in moving to the next level, contact Anna Flies at Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1301.
15) We have been working on three exciting business attraction prospects, each with the potential to bring high wage jobs and significant investment to our region. If Great Falls could be the next home for your business or expansion, please reach out to Jake Clark at Jake@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-403-4937.
16) The Montana Indian Equity Fund will begin accepting applications for their small business grant starting September 1st, the deadline for applications is October 31st. The grant can be utilized to assist start up or existing Native American owned businesses in Montana. If you need help with the process, contact small business advisor Rich Gannon at 1-406-836-2078 or via email at RGannon@GrowGreatFalls.org.
17) Registration is open for the Montana Main Street Downtown Conference that will be held in Great Falls, October 18-20.
18) The State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0 (SSBCI 2.0) low interest rate program is still awaiting their third tranche of funding. This third tranche is on a first come first served basis, so start talking with GFDA now, if you have a project that could move forward with the benefit of low interest rate funding. These funds are limited and will be put to work very quickly to help our economy recover and come back stronger than ever. If you have a business startup or expansion planned that could benefit from a loan participation, contact Jill at JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org or 1-406-590-1056.
19) There’s still time to be part of the welcome team for the inaugural class of students at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine! On Thursday, August 24th, we’re inviting community members to host a group of 3 to 5 students for dinner at a restaurant of your choice. Your kindness will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on these aspiring medical professionals as they begin their journey in our city. To get involved, reach out to Jenn at 1-406-781-9499 or Jenn@GrowGreatFalls.org by August 17th. Let’s come together to support these promising students as they embark on this exciting new chapter.
20) GFDA’s Food and Ag Development Team is working with the Montana Department of Agriculture to secure additional resources that will assist agriculture based businesses and producers with energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. If you are a rural small business or agricultural producer interested in learning more. Please contact Anna at Anna@GrowGreatFalls.org or at 1-406-590-1301
21) Do you know an outstanding business in the Great Falls Area that deserves recognition? Nominations for The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s 135th Anniversary & Awards Gala 2023 are now being accepted. Nominate a business today.
22) We want to express our deep appreciation to our dedicated GFDA investors & public partners. Learn more about there here. Their commitment and contributions serve as the foundation of our mission. With their support, we drive economic growth and nurture innovation in our region. Recent investments include: Leadership Division—James Talcott Construction, Inc.; Pacesetter Division—Haute Hive; Community Division—Hoven Equipment Co. and K&K Trucking, Inc. Their partnership is crucial as we work to make a lasting impact. To find out how you can impact the future of our region, reach out to Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 1-406-781-9499 or Jenn@GrowGreatFalls.org. Together, we can shape a brighter future for our community.
We’re on a roll!
President & CEO