Top 10 – 3/15/2020

A beautiful look at tranquil Giant Springs courtesy of Great Falls Tourism.

GFDA Top 10

Here is our Top 14 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy!

It has been quite a week for everyone. GFDA has postponed or switched to virtual our meetings, trainings and events through the end of March as we see how things develop. If your business needs help, please let me know. Working together is our strength. It’s what makes Montana, Montana.

1) Congratulations to our Fire Within Inspire and Aspire winners who have demonstrated exceptional excellence in entrepreneurship! Inspire winners are women who created successful businesses that have excelled in the test of time. Aspire winners are women who started younger businesses that show great promise. There are so many incredible female entrepreneurs in our region that we just couldn’t limit the awards to one in each category. Learn more about them and click on the surprise reveals below.

Inspire Winners: Erin Schermele Merchant (Erin Schermele Films); Amber Hofstand (Windrift Hill); and, Vanessa Bucklin (PCI Conrad Insurance).

Aspire Winners: Tara Beam (Roadhouse Diner); Hallie Thompson (Wholesome Hal’s); Candice English (The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers); and, Ashley Wilkinson (Fetch). We have one more winner to announce on Monday. Be sure to like The Fire Within Facebook page to keep up with all the latest in female entrepreneurship within our region!

Given the growing concerns around COVID-19, GFDA and Embark Credit Union made the difficult decision to postpone The 10th Annual Fire Within previously scheduled for Thursday, March 26. Read the announcement here. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the new date.

2) Networked with dozens of consultants at the Site Selectors Guild annual conference. We hosted a panel on strategies for rural communities to further engage site selection consultants. Site selectors discussed having available sites and shovel ready land (such as the BNSF-certified Great Falls AgriTech Park), messaging and relationship building (like being present and accessible) and gave several examples of communities that were fast and nimble with permitting processes. Congratulations to Jolene on winning the conference talent show (and free registration for next year’s event)!

3) Prior to the Site Selection Guild conference, co-hosted a lunch with several Montana economic development organizations for Atlanta-based site selection consultants. Great to partner with Montanans to pitch our wonderful state!

4) Great Falls made’s 2020 list of Best Small Cities for Business for the second year in a row!

5) Twenty-five active duty military, veterans, and military spouses joined us for our first Boots to Business workshop of 2020. All of GFDA’s upcoming, in-person training events are being postponed as a precaution related to concerns over the coronavirus. This includes our March 18th Digital Marketing Strategies workshop, the second day of our Profit Mastery workshop on March 27th, and Jason’s presentation at the April 1-2 Small Business Summit hosted by the Department of Transportation’s DBE program. Please reach out to Jason with questions about modifications to upcoming trainings via email at

6) Many of the Western Art Week activities have been postponed, but they’ll be back stronger than ever! The arts are an important industry for Great Falls and our entire trade area. KRTV ran a great story about local artist Tom Dean.

7) We urge you to support the Great Falls Public Schools elementary operating levy. We have Kids Education Yes lawn signs, posters and flyers in our office available for pick-up. KEY needs volunteers to make phone calls and help in get out the vote efforts, and of course donations.

8) The Crafter’s Lounge opened in Great Falls at 724 6th Street NW, see KRTV.

9) Lillian and Shannon participated in the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers’ spring training event, learning about new opportunities for local businesses to win more government contracts.

10) Jolene participated in the review and re-accreditation visit for the economic development team in Asheville, North Carolina. GFDA is proud to be the first accredited economic development organization in the Rocky Mountain West and both Brett and Jolene engage in the peer review process of leading-edge economic development organizations. These visits are insightful as we get to learn the future best practices from the top tier economic development organizations.

11) The Cut Bank Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event to help determine the feasibility of a co-working space in Cut Bank. The informal event is scheduled for Tuesday March 24th, 2020  from 5:30-7:00 PM at the Cut Bank Creek Brewery. The Chamber has created a Facebook event for the meeting.

12) 3 Rivers Communications announced that their $4.5 million project to upgrade the City of Choteau’s telephone and internet cables from copper to fiber optics should be completed by August.

13) We joined the Montana Nonprofit Association.

14) Thanks to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, TC Glass, for their Pacesetter Division investment, Falcon, Lester, & Schaff, P.C., Alanna Ballard, and Midway Rental for their Community Division investments, and Schnider Funeral Home for their Supporter Division investment. With your support, we continue to provide businesses with resources, support, and access to capital in ways that would not otherwise occur. GFDA continues to help create economic opportunities, improving the quality of life throughout North Central Montana. If you want to be part of GFDA’s mission, contact Teresa Schreiner at or 406.781.9499.

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.

Brett Doney
President & CEO

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

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”
Walt Whitman

Support Local Education!

The Great Falls Development Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to support the Great Falls Public Schools elementary schools operating levy. Join us in supporting the critical efforts of Kids Education Yes!

GFDA Career Opportunity

We have a great job opportunity! Commercial Lending Operations Specialist. Experienced, self-motivated lending operations professional sought for two-person lending team within 15-person nonprofit economic development Community Development Financial Institution. Help us to continue to grow our gap and bridge financing efforts to support entrepreneurs, businesses, developers and non-profit organizations throughout the Great Falls trade area and across Montana. Responsible for working with borrowers to put together thorough and accurate loan application packages, preparing loan documents, coordinating loans closings, managing our loan portfolio, maintaining digital loan files, preparing reports to public and private loan capital sources, and maintaining excellent relationships with clients and bank partners. Requires working familiarity with commercial loan documents and recording, insurance, appraisals, and lending practices. Requires the ability to maintain accurate records, work with a wide variety of clients and bank partners, and excellent computer and communication skills. Must be detail-oriented and organized with the flexibility to help achieve our overall team mission. Experience with EDA, USDA, CDFI, EPA and/or SBA 504 loans a plus. Live on the Missouri River along the Rocky Mountain Front and work with a great team! Salary range $45,000-50,000+ with excellent benefits, professional development, growth opportunities, and flex-time work environment. EOE. Cover letter and resume to Brett Doney, Open until we find a great candidate.

Economic Development Services

See our updated Great Falls Economic Development Menu of Services which includes our expanded staff team. We provide award-winning and internationally-accredited economic development services throughout Montana’s Golden Triangle, and SBA 504 loans statewide.

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

March SBA 504 Loan Rates

The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 2.878%; 20-year at 2.804%; 25-year refinance at 2.88% and 20-year refinance at 2.806%; and, 10-year equipment 2.839%. 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

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!

Protect Your Business An estimated 25% of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster, according to the Institute of Business and Home Safety. Protect your small business by identifying risks relevant to your location both natural and man-made. Smart planning can help you keep your business running if disaster strikes. Potential flooding is a genuine concern in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota in 2020. Participate in this webinar to find out the right steps to prevent and prepare for disaster, and where to get aid if disaster strikes. SBA is offering a webinar to help you prepare, It’s Your Small Business, Protect It! on Mar 31, 2020 11:00 AM MDT. Register here.

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. Next up, Economic Vitality for downtowns, March 17, 24, and 31, from 12:00-1:30 PM. Contact Kellie Pierce at the Downtown Great Falls Association if you would like to participate,

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

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!

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 offers a great array of workshops and trainings for all sizes of manufacturing companies. They are offering an excellent Lean Principles 101 introduction to lean manufacturing in Great Falls on March 26. Download flyer here.

The Montana Department of Commerce’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is offering grants to help businesses pay for translation of marketing materials to boost exports. The program also offers trade show grants and assistance. MDOC’s Film Office is offering powerful new incentives to promote filming and production in Montana. Click here for details.

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.

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