Top 10 – 1/31/2021

Black Eagle Dam in Great Falls, one of five local dams that harness the Missouri River’s waters to generate power for Montana.

GFDA Top 10

Here is our Top 10 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy — Montana’s Golden Triangle. And, sharing business resources and skill-building opportunities to empower your success.

1) Congratulations to Kessler Martin on opening Coulee Cuts butcher shop in Conrad!

2) Our Q4 2020 data collection for the national Cost of Living Index through The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) placed Great Falls’ cost of living at 89.5% of the national average, a 0.2% drop from the previous quarter. Bozeman came in at 108.6% of the national average, Spokane 106.9, Seattle 156.0 and San Francisco at 192.3. Use this data in your talent attraction efforts and find more useful data and resources on our website.

3) The City of Great Falls has put the Civic Center renovations project out to bid. It has also issued an RFP seeking proposals to utilize $475,000 in supplemental COVID recovery Community Development Block Grant funds. Proposals must be submitted to and received by the Planning and Community Development Department by 4:00pm on Friday February 26. Applications, instructions, and other important information can be found at the City of Great Falls Planning and Community Development website at Contact department staff at 406-455-8443 or for questions regarding CDBG-CV funding.

4) Despite the economic challenges faced in 2020, average wages in the Great Falls MSA continued to increase, according to 2020Q3 data released by JobsEQ. From 2019Q3 to 2020Q3 the average wage increased by $1,438 to $43,798, rising 3.4% which was substantially above inflation.

5) GFDA has put up $1,000 in prize money to encourage youth entrepreneurs from throughout the Golden Triangle who submit entries in the Montana Chamber Foundation’s The Prospects 2021 High School Business Plan & Pitch Competition. The Chamber has secured nearly $50,000 in prizes. The Prospects is a virtual statewide entrepreneurship competition with scholarships and cash prizes for high school students with new ideas and existing small businesses. It is a collaborative initiative with Youth Entrepreneurs for investing in our students and developing a mentorship platform for connecting them with business and community leaders. Entrepreneurs submit a two minute video pitch and a business summary of no more than 1,000 words. Deadline for submissions is February 12th.

6) Downtown Developers and Entrepreneurs! The Great Falls City Commission is holding a work session this Tuesday at 5:30 PM to hear about three new proposed downtown tax increment financing programs. You can attend virtually or in person; meeting info here including slides describing the proposed programs.

7) We have three excellent business trainings coming up: our Destination Creation course starting February 2nd for businesses looking to increase revenue, sales, traffic, and profitability by becoming a destination business, our monthly webinar on February 4th on Using Social Media (TikTok) to Engage Your Clientele, and our LaunchPoint class on February 4th designed for businesses who have yet to, or have just opened their doors.

8) We’ve added two great new entrepreneur resources to our website: Ascent, an SBA online resource for female entrepreneurs; and, an AARP online resource center for 50+ entrepreneurs.

9) We’re ready to kick off 2021 by moving deals forward! Join us for Investor Development Coffee on Friday, February 5th at 7:00AM to discuss ways to move development projects throughout the region forward and move into construction. This month’s development coffee will take place via Zoom. For login details, please register.

10) The Shelby Chamber of Commerce announced that they have a new director Executive Director, Ashely Lampert. Welcome Ashely! See Shelby Promoter story.

11) We have a training coming up February 16th on “Marketing Tips & Tricks for Gov’t Contracting”. Have you have been looking into Government Contracting? Or maybe you found a bidding opportunity and can put together a winning proposal but haven’t been awarded. What else can you do to increase the chances of actually winning the bid? In this workshop, you’ll learn how federal government contracting officers search for and evaluate small business contractors through the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database. You will also learn how to make your business more visible to agencies. Lead trainer Lillian Sunwall will guide entrepreneurs through the best practices. By the end, you will have additional tools in your toolbox to step up your chances of securing a contract. There is no cost, but registration is required. For more information or to register, click here.

12) If you’re a business that’s hiring a difficult position to fill, use the Talent Attraction tools and resources on our website to help attract talent from out of the region to relocate to Great Falls.

13) Montana State University Northern is partnering with Great Falls College MSU on an accelerated apprenticeship education initiative for electrical and plumbing trades. See KFBB.

14) USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for the Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvements (REAP RES/EEI), with an application deadline of March 31. REAP funds agricultural producers and rural small businesses to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems for their operations. Grant funding is available for up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs with a maximum of $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Guaranteed loan funding is also available in conjunction with grant funding. USDA webinar this Thursday February 4, 2021 from 1:00-2:00 pm eastern time to learn more about the program and how to apply. Register here.

15) Help us recruit talent to our region! Be sure to follow Live in Great Falls on Instagram and Facebook. We will be filming several Live in Great Falls “Why Great Falls?” talent attraction videos in February. These videos will follow the days of 8 Great Fallsians, highlighting the best of living and working here. Employers will be able to share these videos on their websites and in marketing efforts to attract talent to Great Falls.

16) We secured several great new leads for Downtown Great Falls this week! Check out some opportunities on our Invest in Downtown Great Falls page, or call Christian Leinhauser at 406.836.0136 for more information. Much of downtown Great Falls is a federally designated Opportunity Zone.

17) Nathan Reiff and Christian Leinhauser learned how to better engage, learn about, and help businesses in the Golden Triangle at the two day IEDC’s Business Retention and Expansion course this week. If you know someone who is doing great things in the Golden Triangle we should reach out to Nathan or Christian for downtown Great Falls. We want to engage with and help all businesses in our region.

18) Thank you to the 29 clients and partners who provided letters of support for our Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program. The letters were submitted to the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. Of the 29 letters provided, 15 came from businesses in rural communities and 22 were from woman-owned businesses. Thank you again to all who support GFDA’s technical assistance programs. We are here to help rural and urban businesses throughout the Golden Triangle – from Browning to Lewistown – start, grow, and expand. For more information on the advisory support GFDA provides to entrepreneurs, contact Jason at

19) I enjoyed two great opportunities this week, participating in a discussion about value added ag processing opportunities with the Montana house Agriculture Committee and hosting a roundtable with developers and retailers as part of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Western Division virtual meeting.

20) GFDA has several excellent career opportunities. We are looking for a Project Manager to help us put together and launch a volunteer mentor network to support small businesses and would-be entrepreneurs. This is a temporary or contract position between now and the end of September. We are looking for a Business Development Officer to focus on growing food/ag/bio processing industries in our region. This position involves helping existing businesses to expand and attracting companies from elsewhere to expand into the Golden Triangle. We’re expanding our lending team with a Commercial Credit Analyst position as well as a Loan Officer. Download pdf describing all four and please spread the word!

21) Thank you to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, Vision Net, for their increased Flagship Division investment. We also welcome new investors, Pasta Montana. Thank you for your Pacesetter Division investment. Thank you to The Fagenstrom Company for their continued Flagship Division investment. Your investments allow us to continue our efforts to bring more dollars into this region. In doing so, we bring more dollars into your stores and the organizations that you support. See our complete list of Investors in Economic Development, all working to grow our regional economy. If you want to talk about investment, contact Teresa Schreiner or call at 406.781.9499.


Brett Doney
President & CEO

Connect with me on LinkedIn to network with the Great Falls Montana region. Forward the GFDA Top 10 to friends and colleagues. You can join our distribution list HERE or text GFDA to 22828.

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”
Paul Theroux

We are HUNGRY to Grow the Great Falls regional economy, create higher wage jobs, build our tax base, improve our market competitiveness, and enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity for residents of Great Falls, Cascade County, and the entire 13-county Great Falls trade area.

Edition 478

Cost-Effective Rail-Served Industrial Sites Available
If your company needs a rail-served, BNSF-Certified, shovel-ready site with all municipal services at your door, we have lots available for immediate construction in the Great Falls AgriTech Park. Contact Jolene Schalper at 1.406.750.4481 or

January SBA 504 Loan Rates
The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 2.692%; 20-year at 2.653%; 10-year equipment loan at 2.438%; and, 20-year refinance 2.696%; 25-year refinance 2.733%. These rates are FIXED for the life of the loan and are inclusive of all fees. If you would like to find out how to get financing for commercial real estate and equipment at potentially lower rates than you’re paying for your home mortgage, please contact Jill Kohles at 406-590-1056 or

Invest in Great Falls Regional Economic Development
Contact Teresa Schreiner at 406.781.9499 or Here is a current list of our great investors.

Events, Business Training, and Opportunities

You are facing tough decisions right now. We’ve developed toolkits to help you decide what is best for your business. Toolkits include: Crisis Toolkit, Hibernation Toolkit, Business Resiliency Guide, Re-Opening Toolkit, and a Child Care Whitepaper. All of these can be found on our website.

Trisha Gardner, CCHD Health Officer, presented a Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce webinar talking about workplace protocols with employees who have either been exposed, contact traced, waiting for results, and/or tested positive. Click here for the presentation and question and answer afterward.

NIH SBIR/STTR Proposal Lab that will be held virtually during February 9-25, offered by the Montana Innovation Partnership, powered by the MSU TechLink Center.

Attention Small Businesses! Sign up Today!- Virtual Capability Briefings with U.S. Army Corps are available…This is a great chance to get a virtual one-on-one meeting to market your business to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. See official announcement. If you would like information on how our Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can help you with other government contracting opportunities, contact Shannon Clancy at

If your supply chain has been impacted by COVID-19 or if you are researching new product lines, you may be facing challenges sourcing certain items. The MEP National Network is leading a new effort to offer Supplier Scouting, a formal process to connect U.S. companies to domestic manufacturers that can meet specific supply chain needs. The program leverages the knowledge and connections of MEP manufacturing experts in every state. Contact MMEC’s adviser for the Great Falls region, Doug Roberts at or 1-937-489-3985.

See calendar of upcoming MMEC online training.

The SBA hosted a webinar on the new Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. The recording is available for viewing. Qualifying applicants may be able to receive a grant of 45% of their 2019 annual revenue to use on a wider range of expenses than the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Venues in business on or after January 2, 2019 have a different calculation for their maximum grant amount. The grant and PPP cannot be used together. The grant application period has not been announced yet. As soon as it is, we’ll send out an eblast.

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts has been rescheduled for September 17-18. Exhibitor registration will open in early May 2021 and wholesale buyer registration will open in early July 2021. Made in Montana members are encouraged to verify their membership status and information in the online directory at to be sure it is accurate and up to date.

Our partners at the Montana Women’s Business Center in Bozeman are taking applications for their third annual Impact Grant Competition. This competitive grant opportunity will award a total of $15,000 in funds to women-owned businesses in Montana.

Job Service Great Falls is hosting online Job Fairs on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 10-11 AM. Employers should contact a job Service Workforce Consultant at 406-791-5800 to participate.

The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Great Falls Public Schools partnered to create a Military Welcome to Great Falls video for military service members and their families.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership now exceeds 500 member companies offering over 235,000 online job listings. Employers, check out how you can gain access to fantastic employees!

The USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2 has almost $14 billion available to help agricultural businesses impacted by the pandemic. More crops and agriculture operations are eligible under CFAP2 than under the first CFAP program earlier this year. Farmers or ranchers can apply directly at or by contacting their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office. See full story on Montana Standard.

If you missed the Invest Downtown Great Falls event, don’t fret, we recorded it! Make your way over to our Downtown Great Falls page to watch the recording and hear about Downtown Successes, Opportunities, the Visioning, and the announcement of Mountain Wave Distilling. While you’re visiting our Downtown page, check out some more opportunities that are available in Downtown Great Falls! For more information or to inquire about some of these opportunities, call Christian Leinhauser at 406.836.0136 or email,

The Blackfeet Tribe announced a grant program to support Blackfeet tribal business owners whose businesses have been affected by COVID 19. For more information.

Montana’s Incumbent Worker Training program just became easier to use. Employers can view the videos at their convenience to learn how to use these grants to fund skills-based training of existing employees. These grants area available to for-profit and non-profit employers with less than 50 employees in the state. We can help you with these if you run into a snag. Or contact the IWT program manager,

There are many documented benefits of remote working and there are unique stressors. We explored these stressors and management techniques with Erin Butts, GFPS, and the Stop the Stigma Team on a workforce focused webinar. In case you missed it, here are the slides which include contact information for Erin if you want to follow up.

A great food processing workshop is being offered by Headwaters RC&D.  Basics of Running a Food Subscription or Community Supported Agriculture Programs, Wednesday January 27th, 1-3 PM, will cover the basics of, and differences between, subscriptions and community-supported agriculture programs. Topics covered will include pricing, packaging, building a program, fulfillment, and more. This program is for farmers, ranchers, meal kits, and food producers of all kinds.

The new relocation website is officially LIVE! This website was the #1 request we got from local recruiters and HR professionals for aiding in attracting talented workers to Great Falls. The Great Falls At-A-Glance two-pager is a great complementary resource that highlights Great Falls for people unfamiliar with our community. The Great Falls Livability relocation magazine is a new tool to help you recruit talent from out of town to relocate to the Great Falls trade area. For printed copies or to have a conversation about best practices for recruiting employees, email Soren at Let’s talk Talent Attraction!

Attention all businesses doing government contracting: Are you aware of the regulations for Cybersecurity? Don’t know where to start? Check out this E-Book – Cybersecurity 101 for Government Contractors. By entering the promo code “4PTAC2020” at the checkout link, you can receive it for free. For more information and future trainings on cybersecurity or doing business with the government, contact our government contracting advisor Shannon Clancy at

Great Falls Tourism has a host of resources available to help local businesses deal with the pandemic. Check out the resources at If you are a business owner and need materials to help educate your customers on how to stay safe, Great Falls Tourism is here to help, contact Rebecca Engum at 406-761-4436 to arrange for material distribution.

The Montana Department of Commerce is offering business grants to increase your international digital marketing efforts. Read more here.

The Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism and Business Development has launched the “Montana Aware” campaign to promote safe and responsible behavior among those who are traveling in the state. Through the formal “Montana Aware” campaign, 17 of Montana’s Convention and Visitors Bureaus and six tourism regions share $5 million to promote the initiative. To download the partner toolkit visit MARKETMT.COM.

USDA announced the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the United States. The final rule incorporates modifications to regulations established under the interim final rule published in October 2019. The modifications are based on public comments following the publication of the IFR and lessons learned during the 2020 growing season. The final rule is available for viewing in the Federal Register and will be effective on March 22, 2021. More information about the provisions of the final rule is available on the Hemp Production web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service website.

The Great Falls Livability relocation magazine is a new tool to help you recruit talent from out of town to relocate to the Great Falls trade area. Here is the online link to the magazine. For printed copies, and to have a conversation about best practices for recruiting employees, email Soren at Let’s talk Talent Attraction!

We have Brownfield Clean-Up money that we want to put to work! Our low interest Brownfield Loans can be used to clean up hazardous materials including but not limited to lead paint, asbestos, etc. Are you working on a project that could use some clean up? Call Lillian today to discuss eligibility 406.750.1253 or

We are scheduling another Destination Creation Course which helps businesses increase their revenue, sales, traffic, and profitability. The proven 14-point business success strategy developed by internationally-known business consultant Jon Schallert teaches techniques to increase your ability to attract customers who are willing to go out of their way and postpone buying until they can visit your business. The Destination Creation Course retails for $399, and we are offering it FREE (for now) to Montana businesses. If you are interested in taking the course complete this survey to help us tailor the course to your schedule. Or if you have questions, contact Nathan Reiff at 406-403-4937 or

The Montana Cooperative Development Center has put together a free online Montana Cooperatives 101 course. This self-paced resource includes recorded presentations, activities and custom videos that will help you learn about the cooperative business model and successful Montana coops.

Northrup Grumman is working to gather subcontractors for the missile upgrade project. This is a long process and they expect to gather information for three to four years. If you are a small business interested in doing business with Northrop Grumman, please complete the Supplier Information form at

Manufacturers, if you’re not engaged with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center hosted by MSU, you’re missing out on powerful resources, services, and networking. MMEC clients report cost savings of $160.3 million, new investment of $328.4 million, $1.3 billion in new and retained sales, and 6,186 new and retained jobs since 2000. We’re proud to host an MMEC business adviser who covers the Golden Triangle region. Contact Doug Roberts at or (937) 489-3985.

Of our online business planning tool, LivePlan, one said: “LivePlan is Awesome!” The LivePlan tool is helping her streamline her strategy in preparation for presenting to bank partners. We offer LivePlan licenses for free to active clients. Learn more about LivePlan on our website.

All of our recorded monthly business strategy webinars are available online for viewing anytime, click them out here.