Top 10 – 7/5/2020

A look back at what the West Bank Landing site looked like in its early stages of cleanup and redevelopment. The 18,000 square foot Citizens Alliance Bank building now under construction is the fifth project in the development. Thank you to Cascade County, the City of Great Falls, the West Bank Landing development team, tenants, and the many local, state and federal partners who have made this riverfront revitalization happen!

GFDA’s Top 10

Here is our Top 19 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy — Montana’s Golden Triangle. As we start our new fiscal year, I would like to thank the 65 volunteers who serve on our boards and standing committees, and many more who, along with our investors and local, state and federal partners, help on projects and initiatives to make what we accomplish possible! You are priceless!

1) The Great Falls Tribune has a great story describing progress on Great Falls Public Schools facility improvements. Vintage Sellers has new owners. Congratulations to Tara and Shawn Strunk, Mark Tronson and the entire 5th & Wine team and thank you for saving this wonderful business! See KRTV. Fit Republic is opening a gym in the Holiday Village Mall behind Harbor Freight; see TheElectricGF.com. The C.M. Russell Museum plans to make an exciting announcement this coming Saturday and hold a special auction. Stay tuned!

2) The draft feasibility study for the proposed Big Sky Country National Heritage Area was released for public comment. This would be the first National Heritage Area (NHA) in Montana. More info and download a copy of the draft study here. There are NHA’s that boost tourism in 34 states, including 6 in abutting Colorado, North Dakota and Utah. Sen. Mitch McConnell is pushing for the creation of one in Kentucky which could be an opportunity for Montana.

3) Congratulations to Zach Olson on opening his new storefront for Hobby Time RC on 901 8th Ave North. Zach started in 2018 and is excited to expand to a larger and more visible location. Congratulations to Browning’s Alia Heavy Runner and her short film Iniskim which has been nominated for three Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, Northwest Chapter. For more information on the film and what inspired the story see Cut Bank Pioneer Press.

4) Our partners at Family Connections, who assisted in the publication of our Child Care White Paper, are one of a number of groups promoting needs assessment surveys to address child care demand in Montana. The more input received will better address child care needs throughout the Golden Triangle. Perhaps as importantly, findings of this and other surveys will indicate entrepreneurial opportunities in the child care space. To complete the ENHANCE survey, click here. To access GFDA’s Child Care White Paper about pathways to entry, click here. To discuss opportunities in the child care space, contact Jason Nitschke at JNitschke@GrowGreatFalls.org.

5) Ike and Susan’s Lounge and Casino is under new ownership. George Richard took over July 1st and will guide Ike and Susan’s on Great Falls’ east side into its 30th year of operation. The acquisition will also retain 11 jobs. During this challenging time for businesses, ensuring all that are viable stay open and continue to employ is of vital importance. George will be celebrating past, present, and future customers with a free barbeque on July 11th starting at 6 PM. GFDA assisted George with due diligence and employee re-onboarding assistance. If you’re considering selling your business or are an entrepreneur interested in buying one and could use an unbiased third-party view, contact Jason Nitschke at JNitschke@GrowGreatFalls.org.

6) Did you apply for Montana COVID Grants? Did you receive any? Were you denied? The application questions didn’t ask for as many details as the state needed. While some of the grants have closed, if you are a business in the Golden Triangle who applied and did not receive, call Nathan Reiff, 406.403.4937 or NReiff@GrowGreatFalls.org. He is working with the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development to find out what additional information you need to provide. The state removed the 50 employee cap on business adaptation grants. Talk with your lender about the new loan deferment program. See more info about all the state CARES Act grant programs at https://commerce.mt.gov/Coronavirus-Relief.

7) Employers! Join us this Thursday for a 30-minute webinar on Tackling Unemployment Insurance. We’ll discuss understanding traditional unemployment insurance, pandemic unemployment assistance, and the role employers play when employees are collecting unemployment insurance. Thursday, July 9, 11:00-11:30 AM. Register here.

8) PPP loans are now available through August 8th. There is $130 billion available to put to work for businesses, gig workers, agricultural producers and more. Talk with you bank or credit union. Contact Nathan on our team if you run into any difficulties; NReiff@GrowGreatfalls.org or 406-403-4937. If your business is short on cash and PPP isn’t the answer, contact Jolene on our team at JSchalper@GrowGreatFalls.org or 406-750-4481.

9) The latest video in our Doing Business in the Golden Triangle series features Louie Stoltz, owner of Cut Bank Creek Brewery in Cut Bank, MT. Next week we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the Messy Apron (home of Montana’s biggest pizza) in Cut Bank, 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!

10) The Montana PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) is offering a free webinar “Imminent Changes to the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification Process” July 10th, 9:00-10:00 AM. More info and register here. This will also cover changes to the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) certification. If you are currently self-certified, that certification will no longer be valid after October 15th. If you can’t make the webinar, contact Shannon Clancy on our PTAC team at SClancy@GrowGreatFalls.org or 406-590-1184.

11) Please be aware of scammers. We have heard from several businesses that have been targeted by scammers claiming to be with the State of Montana and needing EIN and bank account information. One business had already received their MT COVID Stabilization Grant and was told there was a problem with paperwork and they needed to email their bank account information and EIN. The State will not ask you to email that information nor will they call you and ask you for sensitive information. If your application is incomplete you will receive an email telling you to log back into the official state online application. Never share your business or personal information via email or phone.

12) Developers, investors and business professionals throughout the Golden Triangle: join us next Friday, July 10th at 7 AM as we continue our virtual installment of Investor Development Coffee. Come share and learn from other members with questions, concerns and updates about projects throughout the region. Now more than ever, keeping in touch and discussing how we find opportunities in the trade area is crucial. Join us via Zoom. If you would like to attend the meeting, email Teresa or call 406.781.9499 for an invitation.

13) The U.S. Department of Energy projects that U.S. wind power could double in the next 10 years to 224 GW. By then, wind could make up 20% of the electricity mix, versus 7% today, according to Kiplinger. Let’s try to re-open doors to get more wind power development in the Golden Triangle!

14) Thanks to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, AT Klemens for their Pacesetter Division investment and Hinebauch Insurance Agency for their Community Division investment. Without question, we find ourselves in an unusual public-health crisis. Like everyone in the Golden Triangle, the pandemic continues to alter our day-to-day for the unforeseen future. But with your support, we can continue to push out products and services for businesses impacted by COVID-19. We would love to hear how your business is doing. Email Teresa or call 406.781.9499.

15) GFDA’s Board elected officers and made committee appointments for our FY 2021 that started on July 1. Serving a second one-year term are Chair – Len Watkins of Gusto Distributing, Vice Chair – Errol Rice of Transystems, Treasurer – Mark Macek of Macek Companies, Secretary – Dianne Meinhardt of Cogswell Insurance, and Immediate Past Chair – Ron Nelson of Church, Harris, Johnson & Williams, PC. Joining the officers on the Executive Committee are: Joe Briggs, Cascade County Commissioner; Mark Cappis of Cappis Consulting & Tax; Forrest Ehlinger of Benefis Health System; Rebecca Engum of Great Falls Tourism; Heidi Hockett of Northwestern Energy; Ted Lewis of First Interstate Bank; Tim Peterson of LPW Architecture; Dan Readen of Liberty Electric; and, Nate Weisenburger of AE2S. Thank you for serving!

16) High Plains Financial’s Board held its annual meeting and elected Craig Nowak of Morrison-Maierle and Dan Reardon of Liberty Electric to the Board. Reelected to the Board are Rebecca Engum of Great Falls Tourism, Greg Thayer of Montana Milling, Jon Von Eschen of Stockman Bank, and Joe Von Stein of US Bank. Officers elected are Chair – Len Watkins of Gusto Distributing, Vice Chair – Rebecca Engum of Great Falls Tourism, Treasurer – Greg Thayer of Montana Milling, Secretary – Dan Rearden of Liberty Electric, Assistant Treasurer – Amanda Boutilier of JCCS, and Assistant Secretary – Erin Townsend of Embark Credit Union. Thank you for serving!

17) Thank you to Travis Neil of Dick Anderson Construction who stepped down from GFDA’s Board and Loan Committee Chair, Mark Mehta of Mehta Properties who stepped down after many years on GFDA’s Loan Committee, and Ryan Smith of Nelson Architects and Rich West of WET who were term-limited off the High Plains Financial Board. We appreciate your service!

18) I had fun this week recording a presentation on economic development revolving loan funds for the Community Development Finance Association’s on-demand virtual training program.

19) I am very pleased to announce the promotions of Jana Williams and Jill Kuntz to Vice President. Jana joined GFDA in 2011 and has done an outstanding job managing our accounting and office operations. Her leadership has produced clean audits, high rankings from federal partners, and substantial cost savings. Jill joined us in 2015 and has done an outstanding job managing our lending operations. Her leadership has produced significant increases in our lending volume and loan capital, excellent relationships with our borrowers, bank and credit union partners, and loan capital sources, and high rankings from federal partners. Congratulations and thank you Jana and Jill!!!

Hope you’ve enjoyed a fantastic 4th of July weekend!

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.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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.


GFDA Career Opportunity — Commercial Lending Assistant. 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, BDoney@GrowGreatFalls.org. 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 JSchalper@GrowGreatFalls.org

June SBA 504 Loan Rates

The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 2.597%; 20-year at 2.522%; 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 JKohles@GrowGreatFalls.org.

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 TheElectricGF.com article for more details.

Invest in Great Falls Regional Economic Development

Contact Teresa Schreiner at 406.781.9499 or TSchreiner@GrowGreatFalls.org. Here is a current list of our great investors.


Events, Business Training, and Opportunities

Montana has many grant opportunities to help address the COVID crisis. Visit https://commerce.mt.gov/Coronavirus-Relief.

The new relocation website LiveInGreatFalls.com 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. 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 Soren@GrowGreatFalls.org. 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 LSunwall@GrowGreatFalls.org.

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 https://oasis-sbeforms.myngc.com/

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 https://agr.mt.gov/MTFoodShow. The Montana Beverage Show will be held in Helena on November 9. Visit www.beverageshow.mt.gov 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.