Top 10 – 8/23/2020

Construction has started on the new Citizens Alliance Bank at West Bank Landing! Look at this great mural at the soon to open Hokkaido Ramen restaurant in Great Falls.

GFDA’s Top 10

Here is our Top 21 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy — Montana’s Golden Triangle. As promised, this issue is packed with new businesses, project starts and completions, and some important data and resource info.

1) Great Falls was ranked the 7th Most Affordable Metro Area in the West by AdvisorSmith (see KFBB).

2) Something pretty amazing is happening in the Great Falls MSA according to preliminary July labor data released this week by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. The number of employed people in the MSA (same geography as Cascade County) grew by 714 in July, which was expected as we continued to recover from the pandemic-induced job losses earlier this year. We’ve dropped from 12.2% unemployment to April to 6.1% in July. The amazing thing is that we had 198 more people employed this July than last July and 1,401 more people in our labor force. In fact, we had the most people employed in a July since we lost the 364th missile squadron in 2009. Let’s keep this trend growing! We still had 2,402 people looking for work last month and many more looking for more hours.

3) The Great Falls City Commission approved the zoning change needed for Big Sky Select Property’s proposed Station District development in Downtown Great Falls (see Great Falls Tribune). The project includes 112 new riverfront apartments and renovation of the historic Milwaukee Depot (see Tribune and KRTV). If you are interested in exploring development and business opportunities downtown, contact Christian at 406.836.0138 or

4) Construction has started on the expansion of the dental hygienist program at Great Falls College MSU, see KFBB. The College’s CyberSecurity Program has been designated a Center of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, see KFBB. Great work!

5) There are two chances this week to sharpen your business sense – The LaunchPoint: A Pre-Business Workshop on Tuesday, August 25th from 4-5 PM, and a free webinar about Contracting Your Goods & Services with the State of Montana on Wednesday, August 26th at 10:00 AM. More training events, tools, and resources for entrepreneurs can be found on our website.

6) Malmstrom AFB is going strong. The new $17.4 million tactical response helicopter operations facility is nearly complete; see USAF leaders announced that construction of the new missile system will begin in 2026; see Tribune.

7) SBA 504 loan rates are at historic lows, and with the ability to lend across the state, we are eager to make deals happen! Take a look at the August SBA 504 rates and contact Jill Kohles to discuss your project. These loans work really well to lower your equity required for business acquisitions that involve real estate. or call (406) 590-1056.

8) Congratulations to Falls Print Works on launching their new full service copy and print shop and to Liisa Nelson on opening the new Theorii Contemporary Art Space gallery, both in Downtown Great Falls; see KRTV and KFBB. Last quarter, ten building permits were issued downtown totaling $670,099, four new businesses opened (not bad for middle of pandemic!) and volunteers donated 3,133 hours to downtown organizations. This week the City Commission approved $24,000 in tax increment financing funds to support the Downtown Development Partnership. Thank you!

9) Trying to set up a website with checkout/ecommerce functions? Want your customers to seek you out as a destination? Wondering how your business compares to others? Looking for new markets? Want a business plan template that you can use on-going to make strategic adjustments? These are some of the tools and resources we provide. GFDA is your go to team of business advisors. Call Jolene to connect, 406.750.4481 or

10) Congratulations to First Bank of Montana on opening a new branch office in Conrad, see Cut Bank Pioneer Press. Congratulations to Opportunity Bank on being named a top lender by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Montana DEQ issued the permit for the Black Butte Copper mine in White Sulpher Springs; see Tribune.

11) Thirteen meat processors in our region have been awarded over $1.5 million in Montana Meat Processing grants to expand processing operations. Christiaens Meats in Valier won a grant for $33,000 (see The Valierian), DaButcha in Shelby (see Shelby Promoter) and C&C Meat Processing in Babb (see Glacier Reporter) will each receive $150,000 to upgrade and improve their businesses. Other processors include The Butcher Block in Great Falls (see KRTV), T and A Ranch in Cascade, Hilger Meats and Judith Mountain Meats in Lewistown, Diamond D Bar Processing in Geraldine, Cordova Farms and 5D Processing in Choteau, Bear Paw Meats in Chinook, 406 Processing and BCH Discount Meats in Great Falls, Big Sandy Meat Shop in Malta, and Castle Mountain Grocery and Rawhide Meats in White Sulpher Springs. For help with food, ag and bio-processing operations, contact our Food & Ag Development Center Director, Barnett Sporkin-Morrison at or 406-750-3285.

12) Congratulations to Town Pump on the opening of the new Main Stay Suites & Sleep Inn in Great Falls! See Tribune. The Valley Country Store is reopening under new ownership. Congratulations to Sonny and Rupa Muhar on their third store in the area! See Fairfield Sun Times.

13) Worked with several businesses this week who hadn’t applied, or got stuck completing, a state grant application. The Stabilization Grant covers up to 6 months or $20,000 of operating expenses for all Montana businesses with fewer than 50 employees. So far, 8,237 Montana companies have been helped through this program and nearly 6,000 have received their second $10,000. Visit for information on all of the open COVID recovery state grant programs. If you need help starting or completing the application for this, or any of the state grants, contact Nathan Reiff at or 406-403-4937.

14) The City of Great Falls has started work with TD&H on a sewer lift station river crossing feasibility study; see Infrastructure such as this seldom makes the news except when it fails. Kudos to the City for continuing improvements to its water and sewer systems! Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks has constructed a new trestle bridge in Sluice Boxes State Park, one of my favorite day hikes; see KFBB.

15) We are issuing an RFQ for QEP Environmental Services for our new EPA brownfield assessment grant that will provide hazardous materials phase one and two reports for proposed redevelopment projects throughout Cascade County. Contact Lillian Sunwall for more info at or 406-750-1253.

16) NACDC Financial Services along with GFDA will be hosting a virtual coffee meeting discussing various grants and programs available to small businesses on the Blackfeet Reservation at 10 AM on Wednesday August 26th, 2020. RSVP with Nathan Reiff in order to receive a link to the zoom call and a coupon for a free coffee at Hinman Coffee House in Browning. or 406-403-4937.

17) The latest video in our Doing Business in the Golden Triangle series features Matthew Achak, President & Co-Founder of FCR in downtown Great Falls, MT. Next week we will take a behind-the-scenes look at True Brew and their new location off of 10th Ave S in Great Falls. 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!

18) Montana ranks 7th in the 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform – but are we in danger of losing our place? Join the Montana Chamber on Wednesday, September 2nd at 12:00 PM, for a free webinar with Harold Kim, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), for a discussion about business liability protections related to COVID-19 and other matters that impact perceptions of Montana’s legal climate. Register here.

19) GFDA was approved as a lender this week by the Montana Board of Investments so that we can offer some of our borrowers the benefits of the COVID Relief Loan Deferment Program.

20) The National Restaurant Association is offering a ServSafe dining program as a way to assure customers that it is safe to eat at establishments who make the commitment. More info on how to do this for your restaurant at ServSafe.

21) Are you underemployed, or explore a new career path? Microsoft has launched a global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. They have identified 10 jobs as having the greatest number of job openings, steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online. Learn more about the initiative, or go to to start upskilling!

More announcements are in the works as well as more announced projects moving forward. Let’s keep the positive momentum going.

Mask up Montana!

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.

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
Colin Powell

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.

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.

Great GFDA Career Opportunity
We are boosting our lending team with a new Loan Officer position. Download position posting or visit our website. GFDA is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer and Lender. We encourage all qualified candidates to apply! Please help us spread the word.

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

August SBA 504 Loan Rates
The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 2.266%; 20-year at 2.210%; 10-year equipment loan at 2.387%; and, 20-year refinance 2.211%. 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

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

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 Montana Chamber hosted a webinar helpful for businesses interested in learning more about the Montana Loan Deferment Program. See recording of webinar 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.

The Montana Indian Equity Fund (IEF) will begin accepting applications for the small business grant program starting August 1st. Applications will be accepted through September 30th. If you are a Native American entrepreneur looking to start a business or expand an existing business, check out this grant opportunity. For help applying, contact Rich at 406-836-2078 or He can assist with the application process and help you connect with a local Native American Business Advisor.

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

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

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.