Top 10 – 2/2/2020

Great Falls’ next generation of tradespersons, along with school board members and school staff got a tour of the construction of Longfellow Elementary scheduled to be completed in July. Construction managers from Sletten Construction explained the construction process, how they set elevation, gridlines, foundation prep, and school design to the construction class. Dave Crum from the Great Falls Public School Foundation announced gifts to purchase construction tools for the class. This is another way our schools support the growth of trade and industry in our community. See KFBB.

GFDA Top 10

Here is our Top 23 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy!

1) The Great Falls Design Review Board approved plans for the Benefis Women’s and Children’s Center. Bright Eyes Cafe opened at 300 Smelter Ave NE in Great Falls; see Great Falls Tribune.

2) More progress downtown! Eleven building permits were issued in downtown Great Falls during 2019Q4 totaling $1,815,120. Downtown volunteers donated 11,381 hours during the quarter. One new business opened.

3) The Downtown Development Partnership signed up for the 2020 National Main Street Center’s Advanced Principles webinar series. These will be available for viewing at the BID/DGFA Downtown office. First up, Quality Design for downtowns, February 11, 18 and 25, all from 12:00-1:30 PM. Contact Kellie Pierce at the Downtown Great Falls Association if you would like to participate,

4) Do you have a business idea for the urban Missouri River Corridor? Do you want to help make a business happen? Join us for our first Reverse Pitch Night focusing on the urban Missouri River corridor, February 25 starting at 6 PM at MT Pints, 215 3rd St. NW. Click here and let us know you’re coming.

5) Sletten Construction began façade work for Central Avenue Meats that will be located in Downtown Great Falls at 420 Central Avenue. Owner Drew Hicks plans to have construction on the project completed in February with the goal to have the high-end butcher shop open this spring.

6) Hire a Bobcat! Montana State University is holding its “Almost Spering” Career and Internship Fair on February 20 in Bozeman. Go get some of those students to move to our region! Details here. And, use the new Great Falls Livability digital/print magazine to help with your recruitment. Contact Soren at and see KRTV.

7) The Port of Northern Montana announced that is has a significant amount of low-cost renewable electrical power available at its Data Center Development Park in Shelby; see press release.

8) The City of Great Falls is receiving $1,088,840 this year in infrastructure funds from the state which it will use for road repairs. Cities, counties and towns across the region also receive much needed infrastructure funds. We are proud to have been partners in the Montana Infrastructure Coalition‘s policy efforts to improve vital infrastructure across Montana. Thank you to the Legislators and Governor who supported this effort! See

9) The University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research projected continued steady growth in Cascade County non-farm earnings for at least the next four years. I gave the local perspective at the annual Economic Outlook in Great Falls. See KRTV story covering the event.

10) GFDA’s Food and Ag Development Center Director was in Kansas City to meet with contacts and network within the emerging alternative finance space to increase access to debt and equity capital for companies in the Great Falls trade area. If you have ever thought about scaling-up a food or beverage brand, contact Barnett at 406-750-3285 or

11) The Cut Bank Pioneer Press published the first of what will become a monthly series of business tips and best practices produced by GFDA’s team. We’re offering these to newspapers throughout our region. These will also be posted on our website. Check out our first column on Online Reputation Management here.

12) Do you know a business that earns over half their income from outside of the Golden Triangle? We want to learn about them! These primary sector businesses fill our economic bucket and the majority of our growth will come from their growth. We have resources they may not now about. Help us identify them. Call or email Jolene if you have an idea for us, 406.750.4481 or

13) The City of Lewistown enjoyed new construction of almost $11 million in 2019; see Lewistown News-Argus. INDHemp started processing its first load of hemp at its new Ft. Benton facility, see The River Press.

14) Started work with a startup woman-owned business to explore options in government contracting. We looked at registering in the System for Award Management (SAM), navigating the SBA set-asides for getting certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business and upcoming workshops.

15) FabFx has added an Accupress at their new expanded location at 2400 10th Street NE in Great Falls. This new equipment allows Josh Minardi to bend most metals and expands his fabrication business. Josh is another one of our local entrepreneurs who is succeeding across the state. He recently did the metal fabrication for a MSU resident hall. He is currently setting up new equipment and settling into his new location at 2400 10th Street NE. If you have a business you would like to start or expand, we may be able to help. Contact Nathan Reiff at

16) USDA has open grant rounds for the Value-Added Producer Grant, Rural Business Development Grant and Renewable Energy for America Programs. Visit or contact Lea McGiboney for more info, 406-770-4291 or Let us know if we can help!

17) Chase Your Dreams VR is becoming a reality very soon. On February 8th at 10 AM, Chase your Dreams will be having their grand opening downtown at 316 Central Ave. Take some time to stop by and check out what this young 8th grade entrepreneur has done to change his dream into a reality.

18) GFDA joined the Transload Distribution Association of North America (TDANA) as part of our business development efforts to attract a transload facility and operator to serve businesses in the Great Falls area.

19) Happy 1st Birthday to Alluvion Health! Join them on February 6th at 4:00pm to help them celebrate one year!

20) The Cut Bank International Airport won a $44,542 grant for improvements from the Montana Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Board; see Cut Bank Pioneer Press.

21) Congratulations to Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development in havre on being elected to the board of the National Association of Development Organizations!

22) Jill Kohles attended NADCO’s in-person training and received her certification from the Credit Risk Institute. This course focuses on underwriting and risk rating commercial loans with an focus on SBA’s 504 loan program.

23) Thanks to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, Loenbro for their Advanced Division investment, BNSF Railroad for their Leadership Division investment, Douglas Wilson and Co. and Detailed Construction for their Pacesetter Division investments and Montana Milling, Inc., Home Builders Association of Great Falls and Great Falls Association of Realtors for their Community Division investments. With a new year and new tools to tackle growth, our region is eager to invest. Thank you for being a part of Growing with GFDA!

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.

President & CEO

Connect with me on LinkedIn to network with the Great Falls region.
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“Be a doer and not a critic.”
Tony Blair

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 3.71%; 20-year at 3.641%; 25-year refinance at 3.712% and 20-year refinance at 3.641%; and, 10-year equipment 3.791%. 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

Events, Business Trainings, and Opportunities

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!

Do you have ideas for businesses on or along the Urban Missouri River that runs through the middle of Great Falls? We want to hear about them. The Missouri River Corridor Pitch Fest is an evening sharing, discussing, and supporting business on and along the Missouri River. What do you want to open? How do you want to help? What is missing? We want to connect ideas with people who can make them happen. We’ll bring business coaches, financial professionals, and others – you bring ideas! Click here to register.

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

Malmstrom AFB will be hosting their second Career and Education Pathway Fair on March 19, 2020 from 2:30-5:30 PM. The focus is military members and military spouses as well as military members/families who will be transitioning out of the military — providing information on how to pursue careers i.e. required education, certification, or how to utilize the resources you offer. The event includes a hiring fair for businesses/companies that have open positions. This will be open Active Duty Military, Guard, Reserve, DoD Civilian, and dependents. For any questions, call Carmen Kubiak at (406) 731-3060 or email

The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center is offering a Business Transition Readiness workshop in Great Falls on February 13 from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Although the focus is on manufacturing companies, any business owner who does not yet have a succession plan will find this workshop to be very valuable. Details and registration here or download flyer. MMEC is also offering an excellent Lean Principles 101 introduction to lean manufacturing in Great Falls on March 26. Download flyer here.

The Montana Department of Commerce (MDOC) is accepting applications for its new Montana Historic Preservation Grant program. Deadline is February 28th. MDOC’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is offering grants to help businesses pay for translation of marketing materials to boost exports. The program also offered trade show grants and assistance.

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.

Wholesale Buyers can register for the Made in Montana Tradeshow, March 13-14 in Helena. The 2020 show will feature 150 Made in Montana producers including more than 40 new exhibitors and a Native American Made in Montana Pavilion.

All 26 of our recorded monthly business strategy webinars are available online for viewing anytime, click them out here.

Mark your calendar for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Recreation, April 26-28 in Billings.

The Montana Department of Commerce is accepting applications for it’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants. This program reimburses for trade show expenses and travel stipends to attend and exhibit at international trade shows. For more information visit the ExportMontana website at

The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center offers a great array of workshops and trainings for all sizes of manufacturing companies.

The Montana Department of Commerce’s Film Office is offering powerful new incentives to promote filming and production in Montana. Click here for details.