Top Ten 1-29-23

Ten Montana entrepreneurial teams gave pitches at the First Annual Montana Ag Tech Innovation and Investment Summit in Great Falls. Congratulations to professor Mike Giroux and student Brandon Tillet, plant scientists at MSU Bozeman, on winning first place for their development of new Durum Wheat varieties and taking home the $25,000 prize!

GFDA’s Top 10

Here is our Top 23 for this week celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy — Montana’s Golden Triangle. And, sharing business resources and skill-building opportunities to empower your success.

1) The McLaughlin Research Institute has proposed to create one of the first rural clinical research centers in the country; see KRTV. We think its a great concept and have been actively supporting the effort, along with other exciting plans to expand MRI’s research. Benefis Health System is the first hospital in Montana to utilize the ROSA: Robotic Orthopedic Surgical Arm; see KRTVCongratulations to Benefis Senior Services on being ranked among the elite 16% if American nursing homes in the U.S. News & World Report ranking!

2) The City of Great Falls Planning Advisory Board unanimously supported zoning and annexation for a proposed 252-unit apartment development on the East end of Great Falls; see The Electric. We testified in favor of the project, citing the need for continued housing development to meet the demand described in the Housing Market Demand Assessment we published last January. While we are excited about this project and others that have been announced, we are hungry for more housing production. If you have interest in exploring development opportunities in Great Falls, please reach out to Jake Clark at

3) The average annual wage in the Great Falls MSA (Cascade County) grew 7.9% in the 12 months ending 2022Q3, according to data released by JobsEQ this week. Our average annual wage increased by $3,647 over one year, reaching $49,728. Employment in the MSA increased 3%. The highest employment growth was in construction, up 19%. Total wages grew by $192 million in the four quarters ending 2022Q3.

4) We sponsored and exhibited at the first annual Montana Ag Tech and Innovation Summit held this week at the Great Falls International Airport; see KRTV. The event attracted ag-tech businesses and entrepreneurs from across the state interested in the advancement of Ag Technology businesses in Montana. If you have an idea or business you are interested in starting, contact Justin at 406-590-1301 to see how GFDA can help.

5) Congratulations to all involved in the record-setting campaign of the United Way of Cascade County! See KRTV.

6) We secured a significant Targeted Brownfields Phase II Assessment from Montana DEQ for the Madison Apartments (former Cambridge Court) housing development. The hazardous materials assessment will be provided at no cost to the developer. This is exciting news, as it means that this site will be able to move forward to provide much needed affordable housing for Great Falls.

7) Wellness406 opened in Great Falls, offering massage therapy, a salt room, infrared sauna and a 24 hour gym; see TheElectric’s Business Bites. Mike Hallahan, executive chef and part-owner of Enbar and The Block in downtown Great Falls, was featured in an episode of “Guy’s Grocery Games” that aired on the Food Network; see KRTV. The Family Affair restaurant in Great Falls has reopened under new ownership; see KRTV.

8) Congratulations to Tilleman Equipment on the purchase of their building located at 369 Vaughn S Frontage Road in Great Falls. The business will serve as a dealer for Fendt, Massey, Gelaner, Rogator and Terragaator farm equipment. They hope to have this new location open for business by midyear. Welcome to Great Falls!

9) Would you like to increase your revenue opportunities? One way is through government contracting. Are you interested in securing government contracts? We’re here to help. Our team is experienced in getting you registered to secure government contracts and then provide trainings to help you win the bids! Call Shannon to get started, 1.406.590.1184.

10) Registration opened for the Montana Housing Partnership Conference that will be held in Helena May 15-17.

11) Interested in meeting state and federal contractors? We’re excited to host the quarterly STAR Roundtable with Northrop Grumman Corporation, MAFB Procurement Director, and others on February 9 from 8-10 AM. During the meeting you will learn about both large and small contracts. Click here to register. The meeting is both online and in person.

12) The University of Providence in Great Falls is accepting applications for its first on-campus 4-year, traditional BSN degree program. The Vander Werff Nursing Program will be the first School of Health Professions program to reside on-campus and the only BSN program within a 100-mile radius. The new program will help meet the growing demand for bachelor’s-prepared nurses. Learn more in our Announcement of the Week.

13) Great Falls College MSU celebrated the success of the college’s new CDL program. Thirty students have enrolled in the program since July and and many have been hired by area businesses. The CDL program was made possible by collaboration between community partners, Cascade County, 15 local businesses, and the state. Congratulations to all involved in this innovative approach to addressing the workforce shortage of CDL drivers in our region. More business partners are needed. If you are a business interested in partnering with Great Falls College MSU on this truck driver training, contact Priscilla Azure, or Tammie Hickey, Let’s keep the program going!

14) A big shout out to Columbia Grain on the release of their new Producer Solutions Platform designed to help producers maximize profits; see Western Ag NetworkBig Equipment Company in Havre has partnered with Rome Agricultural and Construction Equipment in Cedartown, GA to build a new Big Bud tractor to be completed in March. Big Equipment will continue to build these tractors right in the heart of Montana. If you’re interested in a new Big Bud Tractor, call Big Equipment Company at 406-265-9554.

15) The Montana Department of Commerce has announced a new program to help companies to implement cybersecurity measures. Cyberattacks on small to medium-sized businesses are becoming more frequent, targeted, and complex. Visit the MONTANA Grants Application Portal.

16) A BIG thank you to Dr. Kartina Stark and six of her business research students at the University of Providence who will be helping complete a Downtown Great Falls Business & Building survey. For the next 14 weeks, the students will gather valuable data that will help us better understand downtown vacancy rates. The data will help us continue to attract private investment in Downtown Great Falls. If you have questions about the survey, please call Christian at 406.836.0136.

17) The Montana Department of Agriculture released information for a new round of Specialty Crop Block Grants. Applications are due March 17th. Grants are available to enhance the marketability and competitiveness of Montana specialty crops. State and/or local organizations, government entities, producer associations, academia, community based organizations, and other specialty crop stakeholders are eligible to apply either as single entities or in combined efforts. We’re here to help. Give Justin Loch a call 406-590-1301. Informational sessions for applicants will be held on February 22 at 1 PM, click here to join, or March 8 at 10 AM, [http://%20https//]click here to join.

18) If you are a vendor preparing for a successful 2023 Farmers Market season, plan to attend the FARMERS MARKET SUCCESS VENDOR WORKSHOP on Monday, February 13 from 9:30 – 1:00 PM. This is a great opportunity to enhance your market presence and also network with other vendors across the state. Register here or contact Katesha at 406.788.0860 or

19) I presented the local section of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research’s annual Economic Outlook for the Great Falls region; see KRTV. As always, the University of Montana’s BBER presented great data and analysis on the state of the Montana economy. Here is just one of the interesting facts that can be read in detail in the BBER’s Montana Business Quarterly — Montana state general fund revenues increased 21% in FY21 and 34% in FY22. Historically, 5-6% annual growth has been considered good.

20) I also enjoyed participating in the first Montana Recovery Resources Symposium at Ft. Harrison, speaking on the Economic Development & Workforce Panel along with USDA, EDA, SBA, and the Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District. The event was organized by Montana Disaster & Emergency Services and involved many federal, state and local agencies working together on the Yellowstone flooding disaster recovery.

21) Expanding your agricultural processing business and need funding? Attend USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) workshop this Tuesday, January 31st, 12 – 1:30 PM and Thursday, February 2nd, 4:30 – 6 PM. Applications for the grant open February 1st. This workshop is an opportunity to learn more about grant specifics and what to expect. For more information, click here or contact Katesha at 406.788.0860 or

22) We participated in the Montana Department of Commerce’s listening session for Central Montana tourism resiliency planning project called Brand MT. Brand MT is hosting a variety of listening sessions, surveys, and other community feedback sessions. To learn more about statewide tourism efforts, visit Brand MT.

23) Economic development doesn’t just happen. It takes a team and the support from the community and our team of INVESTORS. They are the ones driving growth in the region. Recent investments include: Executive Division—Calumet Montana Refining; Advance Division—Transystems, LLC. They and other investors see the positive changes happening and are proud to be a part of it! If you want to make a positive difference in our local economy, contact Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 406-781-9499 or

We’re working with clients on some exciting projects — getting close to putting all the financing pieces together. Stay tuned!

Brett Doney

President & CEO

Events, Business Training, and Opportunities
January 31st is the deadline for employers to register for the Montana Job Growth Tax Credit Program. The job growth incentive tax credit (JGTC) encourages the growth of high-paying Montana-based jobs. The credit applies to certain industries and offers a tax credit equal to 50% of employer-paid payroll taxes for qualifying new employees. Visit the web site to see eligibility or click here to go directly to the application. Chris Bradley and Logan Hendrix are our contact people for the Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit Program.They can be reached at

43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses and attacks are becoming more frequent. The Montana Department of Commerce has launched an ARPA Cybersecurity Program. Businesses can apply for up to $8,000 in reimbursement for newly implemented cybersecurity measures paid to an accredited Montana cybersecurity company. For guidelines and the application, click here.

Join us for a Great Falls Public School Community Forum on Youth Wellness, Thursday February 2nd 6:00-7:30 PM at the University of Providence Conference Center. An overview of the issues currently facing youth in our community along with a panel of stakeholders will share data and discuss what is currently being done by the school District and its partners to address the challenges. The audience will be encouraged to interact with the panel throughout the session. For more information, call Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Office at 406-268-6001.

ArtsFest Montana will return to downtown Great Falls August 11-18. The Business Improvement District is looking for property owners who would like to have a professionally painted mural installed on their building. Contact Kellie at or 1-406-727-5430. See TheElectric for more details.

Our next government contracting webinar will be on Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 11:00 am. The topic is “Does the Government Buy My Products/Services?”. If you would like to register, CLICK HERE. If you have any questions, contact Lillian Sunwall at or (406)750-1253.

If you are trying to redevelop a property that involves an environmental cleanup (including lead paint and asbestos) and you have a gap in your financing, your project may qualify for our low-interest brownfield redevelopment loan funds. We can make loans anywhere in Cascade County or within 100 miles from the borders of Cascade County which covers much of the region. We’re eager to help make your project move forward. Contact Tony Peres at 1-406-750-2099 or We also have some small business or nonprofit startup or expansion loan funds available for Glacier and Blaine counties.

MSU Extension’s Community Development team is offering a monthly Reimagining Rural Inspiration Hour webinar the third Wednesday of each month from 11:30 AM to 12:45 PM. See all the topics and register for free here.

The Veteran Small Business Certification Program Has Moved to SBA. Firms verified by the VA Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) as of January 1st are automatically granted certification by SBA for the remainder of the firm’s eligibility period. SBA intends to grant a one-time, one-year extension of certification to current VOSBs and SDVOSBs verified by the VA as of the transfer date on January 1, 2023. This additional year will be added to the existing eligibility period of a current participant. New applicants certified by SBA after January 1st will receive the standard three-year certification period. SBA is now accepting applications for certification. For more information, contact Lillian Sunwall at or (406) 750-1253.

Employers, are you aware of the Incumbent Worker Training program, Trades education & Training Tax Credit, and other resources available at the Montana Department of Labor & Industry? Check out their latest resource newsletter.

Join us in person at GFDA on February 9th from 8:00-10:00 AM for the first in a quarterly series of STAR events designed to assist businesses with navigating and benefiting from doing business with government agencies and large federal contractors (often referred to as Primes). The Northrop Grumman team will present via Zoom and we will have Q&A after the meeting. Connect with panelists from a variety of large and small businesses currently successfully performing as prime and subcontractors. Learn helpful tips to assist your company in achieving its government contracting goals. Learn about new opportunities nationally and on or near missile wing Air Force Bases (Cheyenne, FE Warren, Malmstrom and Minot) Gain insight and information about the importance of registering with the large contractors,, and others to make your company more visible and propel your contracting opportunities. Find out about free resources to help you on your journey. Register here.

The Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held April 23-25 in Helena.

The White House released a Guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act. There are many tax incentives that will be available for businesses, non-profits, and public agencies to reduce their energy costs and build new power generating facilities. We’ll be organizing briefings and trainings to help you learn and take advantage of these as more guidance is released. For now, download the Guidebook here. The National Association of Counties has prepared a summary of the IRA; view it here.

Have You Reviewed the New FCC Map? The FCC recently released a new map showing broadband availability across the country. Why is this important? There is more than $42 billion in federal grant funding available for broadband infrastructure development projects, and it will be allocated based on the number of unserved and underserved locations identified in the FCC map. The FCC Broadband Map is available online, and you can enter a specific address to see the data on broadband speed and availability for a specific location. If you have questions or concerns about the information, the deadline for submitting challenges to the map is January 13. Online resources can guide you through the challenge process.


The Montana Work-Based Learning Collaborative, a network of public and private partners working to expand and improve on-the-job learning for Montana students, has released its first Work-Based Learning Toolkit for Employers. The toolkit provides outlines, forms, and frameworks for employers in four key areas for work-based learning success: meaningful projects, welcoming community, mentorship, and expectations/feedback. Download toolkit.

Export Montana, part of the Montana Department of Commerce (MDOC), is organizing a trade mission to the Czech Republic and Hungary in June. They have grant funds to pay for 75% of the costs plus $2,000 toward travel costs. Grant funds are available for any of your export business development efforts. Contact Angelyn Deyoung, MDOC International Trade Officer, at or 1-406-431-5075. We’re thinking about going back to exhibit and network at the Global Energy Show in Calgary in June, participating again in the USA Pavilion. If you may be interested in joining us to connect with Canadian energy, industrial, construction, logistics and related companies, contact Jolene at or 1-406-750-4481.

The Montana Bioscience Cluster Initiative is offering funding through its 4th “F” Fund (4FF) to provide direct assistance to Montana bioscience entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in need of money for travel to key conferences, small equipment purchases, or temporary staff assistance in relation to proposal development, etc. This fund is designed for maximum flexibility in support of new and established businesses and entrepreneurs in the bioscience industry. The fund will provide grants of $250 to $5,000. In exceptional circumstances the fund may consider larger applications. Grants may be awarded in phases (e.g. $1,000 initially with additional $1,000 on achieving specific milestone). More info and application here.

We released the Bioscience Economic Development Strategy for the Great Falls Montana region. The report, prepared by Tripp Umbach with the input and assistance of key local industry partners, details four key findings and four strategic actions to grow and diversify bioscience-related industries in Great Falls. This report, along with other key findings from our strategic planning process will help guide the efforts of GFDA moving forward. Contact Jake Clark with questions regarding the report,

Many businesses that obtained SBA COVID EIDL loans will have their 30-month payment deferral expire soon. Are you one of those businesses? If so, the SBA Montana District office is holding a webinar on how to start making your loan payments. There are five webinar sessions scheduled. For more info visit SBA Montana.


The Made in Montana Food & Gift Tradeshow will be held in Helena on March 10-11, 2023. Exhibitor applications open October 19th and spaces sell-out fast.

Cybersecurity challenges for businesses continue to grow. The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) is offering an array of useful resources to help Montana businesses to protect themselves.

Do you have open government contracts? Is your registered due to renew in the next few months? continues to have issues with the transition of the new validation process. It is recommended that businesses start early to renew their registration to keep from going inactive. If you are having trouble getting through the process, contact Shannon Clancy at for assistance.

The Montana Innovation Partnership is offering a number of trainings and an accelerator program for companies interested in pursuing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants.

Montana STEP grants can pay for 75% of your international export marketing efforts up to $10,000. The Montana TechLink Center at MSU is offering a new round of workshops on how to win Small Business Innovation Research funding.

What’s it like to live in Great Falls Montana? Get a glimpse through the Great Falls 2022 Livability Magazine! Livability Great Falls is a tool for recruiting people from outside our community and is one of the tools for our Talent Attraction campaign. We also have a Email List to share resumes of trailing partners and others and we promote Hot Jobs – jobs that would entice people to move here. If you are recruiting people from outside Great Falls, click here to join our recruiter email list and learn more.

We have migrated our pre-business workshop for early stage and pre-venture startups to a self-paced, video-facilitated, online format. Business Basics for Startups is now live and ready for beta testing. If you’d like to check out the content and provide feedback, we’d appreciate it. Click here to check out the new modules and resources. Please direct feedback to Rich at

The best resource we scan daily to stay abreast of business and community innovation is (Montana Associated Technology Roundtables) which we are proud to help sponsor. Sign up for their free newsletter.

The Great Falls Childcare Demand Assessment shows a need for additional childcare facilities to serve 580 children in Great Falls. For assistance with childcare facility business planning, contact Rich Gannon at or 1-406-836-2078.

Join the Trailing Partner Email Group specifically for employers to share resumes of trailing spouses/partners across the Great Falls region with other employers looking to hire. “Your (Live in Great Falls) website is very impressive and helpful! Great Falls looks amazing, and we love what we’ve seen real estate-wise, and business-wise.” This quote was from an email sent to us from a couple considering relocation to Great Falls. We will be sharing their resumes (with their permission) on the Trailing Partner Email Group.

The Great Falls Housing Market Assessment shows a need for over 450 new housing units per year in the immediate Great Falls area. For assistance with housing development, contact Jake Clark at or 1-406-403-4937.

Visit our relocation website 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.


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

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.

Curious to see how these projects pencil out?For each of the vision projects we have project analysis that includes Project Descriptions, Cash Flow Projections, and Rent Roll Summaries.