Top 10 – 5/31/2020

Kelly and Heidi Fowler of Gold Fox USA in Conrad that builds custom mining equipment, including a backpacker model, and ships them worldwide.

GFDA’s Top 10

Here is our Top 22 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy — Montana’s Golden Triangle.

1) The proposed Silver Falls Distillery won unanimous support from the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment for its special use permit.

2) The state is opening a new round of grants for businesses to help defray the costs of adaptation to operating in the virus era. The Montana Business Adaptation Program will provide reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and businesses safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small businesses must be Montana-based, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since Feb. 15 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing. Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000. Eligible costs include communications tools, remote work equipment, business adaptations required to allow for better cleaning and social distancing, cleaning supplies, and travel/hotel costs related to quarantining workers. A comprehensive information resource and application portal is available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV. The application for the Business Adaptation Program will be available on Monday, June 1.

3) Apply as soon as possible for state grants because funding is limited and it appears to be taking weeks rather than days for grant decisions. The state has a transparency website that lists and maps all of the CARES Act grants approved so far.

4) Is your business struggling to meet the COVID19 re-opening requirements? There are creative solutions to help your business succeed. Call Nathan to discuss, 406.403.4937.

5) Cassiopeia Books has reopened in its new space at 606 Central. Saibeen’s Kitchen reopened May 19 in the new location at the Columbus Center, 1601 2nd Ave. N., Suite 220. The former La Quinta hotel at 600 River Drive is has changed brands and is now Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel and Suites. See more details on

6) The Montana Contractors Association has taken the lead in launching Build Montana, an effort to address the immediate and long-term workforce challenges of the construction industry; see KTVH story.

7) Our business webinar this Thursday, June 4, 11:00-11:30, is titled “What It Means to be Open and Safe During Recovery.” We’ll discuss addressing the challenges, barriers, team-building, resources, and mindset it will take for entrepreneurs to navigate reopening a business during COVID-19. Register here. You can always watch the presentation at your convenience, along with dozens of our past webinars.

8) Market research on behalf of one our small business clients quickly evolved this week into the creation of a summer child care consortium. This group includes public and private collaboration with Family Connections, Great Falls Public Schools, Cascade County Health Department, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and GFDA. The effort is to help create solutions and help parents find quality care while trying to get back to work or return to productivity levels. From an economic development perspective, child care is a critical need as we try to find a new normal. This public-private summer child care consortium is compiling best practices with links to emergency licensing, food programs, scholarships, safety and screening protocols, employee forms, and referral services. The number of quality child care spots is a long term problem. The Covid-19 crisis has created a more immediate need for hundreds more child care slots. If your business has an interest in creating a program for employees or if your business could pivot its business model by adding child care, please continue the conversation by contacting Jason Nitschke at or call 406-750-0314.

9) The first issue of our annual Great Falls Livability Magazine went so well we’re doing it again! The magazine is a tool for employer recruiters to use in their talent attraction efforts – it highlights all that Great Falls has to offer to relocating individuals or families, from education and healthcare to entrepreneurial opportunities and beyond. has highlighted Great Falls on their website in the “Places We Love” feature. Contact Soren if you would like to get involved in our talent attraction efforts, or 406-836-0147.

10) The latest video in our Doing Business in the Golden Triangle series features Sophia Sparklin, owner of Spark Architecture. Hear how this entrepreneur went from firm culture to being her own boss right in Downtown Great Falls. Next week we will take a behind-the-scenes look at Gold Fox USA and Gold Fox Signs in Conrad, MT! Be sure to like us on Facebook and hit that share button to help us spread the word that the Golden Triangle is a great place to live, work, and do business!

11) It’s not too late for businesses in Toole County to apply for funding from Toole County Forward, see the Shelby Promoter for more details. Contact Rich for help with pivoting your business plans and learn how to use the helpful online LivePlan system; or 406-836-2078.

12) It is too late to sign up for first Website Boot Camp. All of our available spots have been taken, but you can sign up to be waitlisted for the class in the event we have someone who can’t make it. Waitlisted people will have first priority for our next boot camp. For more details and to signup to be waitlisted click here.

13) Since the rates are so low, we received several telephone calls inquiring about what the SBA 504 loan is and how it can benefit business owners. The Small Business Administration created this program to increase the accessibility of business property loans to entrepreneurs, with competitive interest rates and fees, fixed terms, and a low down payment. It is a loan that allows a business owner flexibility to maximize benefits while promoting business growth and job creation. If you have questions or want to know more about the SBA 504 loan program, please contact Jill Kohles at or 406-590-1056.

14) Worked with a business in the region to research statistics and access information for an upcoming bid with a federal agency. Helped a client on some questions related to a webinar related to DOD’s effort with Project Spectrum for securing their company for qualifying contracts. If you would like more information on all our PTAC government contracting services, contact Shannon Clancy at

15) Nathan Reiff completed training to become a Destination Creation Course facilitator. The Destination Creation Course provides business tools to grow sales and customer traffic, with specific chapters on COVID-19 survival tips. Look for this course coming to the Golden Triangle soon. If you have questions or would like to be pre-registered for the course, contact Nathan Reiff 406-403-4937 or

16) Issued an RFP for talent attraction marketing services to increase visibility of Great Falls as a GREAT place to live and work for individuals and families considering relocation, and to explore strategy options for all our talent attraction efforts. Download RFP here.

17) Worked on a Brownfields site to move the project towards redevelopment by looking at options and navigating the cleanup process for the potential purchaser. For more information on our Brownfields Toolbox, contact Lillian Sunwall at

18) We worked with Downtown business developers this week to move projects forward. Be on the look out for new project announcements coming soon. If you have a project Downtown or are looking to start one, contact Christian at 406.836.0136 or

19) Register now for our monthly pre-business workshop LaunchPoint, Wednesday June 17, 4-5 PM which will be virtual. Active duty military, veterans and military families are welcome to register for Boots to business, a pre-business workshop for transitioning military service members. Thursday and Friday, June 18-19, 8 AM – 5 PM. Register here.

20) We subscribed to the Startup Space online entrepreneurial ecosystem that we plan to use to boost our support of existing businesses and startup entrepreneurs in Great Falls and the entire Golden Triangle region. We also signed our contract renewal with Big Sky EDA to host our regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) that provides free government contracting assistance to local businesses across most of the Golden Triangle. Thank You to our GFDA Economic Development Investors who make this service possible! The upcoming year’s investor provided match is $49,919.

21) Developers, investors and businesses throughout the Golden Triangle, join us this Friday, June 5th at 7 AM as we continue Virtual Development Coffee. Come share questions, concerns and updates about projects. Keeping in touch and discussing how we move forward in the region’s pipeline is crucial. Join us via Zoom. If you would like to attend the meeting, email Teresa Schreiner or call 406.781.9499.

22) Thank you to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, Sletten Construction for their Pacesetter Division investment, and Eagle Beverage, Family Connections Montana, and NeighborWorks Great Falls for their Community Division Investments. Investors continue to guide our work and secure the region’s economic future. To learn more about investment, email Teresa Schreiner or call 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.

Take care,

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.

“Every strike brings me closer to my next home run.”
Babe Ruth

GFDA Career 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 $45,000-55,000+ 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

May SBA 504 Loan Rates

The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 2.758%; 20-year at 2.683%; and, 10-year equipment 2.644%. 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

Community members are invited to participate in the effort to create a wayfinding plan for Great Falls. Visit the Great Falls Wayfinding Facebook page for project information. We’ve set up a mapping website so you can put pins on locations and landmarks that you think should be included in the Wayfinding plan. See article for more details.

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

Montana has nine grant opportunities to help address the COVID crisis. Visit

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!

The Montana Innovation Partnership is hosting a virtual meetup covering Intellectual Property for SBIR/STTR candidates and awards on June 11 at 3:30 PM. Register here.

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

Does your business need a website to help it convert to online sales? Adding an online sales option can help your company diversify your revenue stream and access more markets. If you are ready to take on this challenge, join us for our new four part Website Boot Camp. We will teach you how to build your own website from start to finish including a fully function online store. For more information and to sign up click here.

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.

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!

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 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.

The 4th annual Montana Food Show will be held in Missoula on October 26. Learn more at The Montana Beverage Show will be held in Helena on November 9. Visit for more information. The Export Montana team is hosting Riddle of the Exporter training in Billings on July 28 and Kalispell on July 30. The training is free and will help you learn about and prepare for export markets. Learn more here.

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