Top 10 – 12/29/2019

The latest additions to the GFDA client-product shelf are two new products from Crooked Tree Coffee and Cakes. Owners Lindsay and Leah are now bottling five varieties of syrups and sauces to add to your home-brewed coffee, pancakes, ice cream, or favorite adult beverage. Crooked Tree is located at 501 1st Avenue North in downtown Great Falls or online.

GFDA Top 10

Here is our Top 21 for the last two weeks, celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy.

1) The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe finally secured federal recognition!!! Congratulations and thank you to all involved in this long struggle! See Great Falls Tribune and KRTV for more.

2) The National Defense Authorization Act also included funding for helicopter replacement and major construction projects at Malmstrom Air Force Base (see Tribune); The new helicopters have been named Grey Wolves. Yep, we’ll soon get to see wolves fly. See for details.

3) High Plains Financial closed a $879,000 SBA 504 loan as part of a $2.2 million project for the property purchase and renovation of the Play N Learn Academy, LLC in Great Falls. Thanks to the great work of their banker, Scott Anderson of First Interstate Bank in Great Falls, Play N Learn Academy will now get to enjoy 20 years of low, fixed interest rates and only had to come in with 10% of the project costs for a down payment. If your business is looking to expand and could benefit from low, fixed rate financing and down payments as low as 10%, please contact Jill Kohles at 406-590-1056 or

4) Students of the future new Longfellow Elementary School, part of theGreat Falls Public Schools facilities improvements, will benefit from over $400,000 in donations for a sensory room, learning resource center and playground; see KRTV for details. The City of Great Falls won a $237,400 grant for repairs to the Rivers Edge Trail, to be matched by over $36,000 in local donations; see

5) Set fire to the new year with Ignite 2020, presented by PayneWest Insurance! We’ve got grand opening announcements, business startups, expansions, real estate developments, and institutional capital projects. It all takes place on Friday, January 10th from 7:30-10:30 AM at the Meadow Lark Country Club. RSVP to secure your spot and be the first to know.

6) The Great Falls MSA (Cascade County) generated 5.0% average wage growth for the four quarters ending September 30th, according to data released by the JobsEQ online economic system. That’s the 23rd consecutive quarter our metro area has experienced average wage growth. The average annual wage earnings increased $2,003.

7) We held our second Triangle PITCH NIGHT at the Coyote Club and Events Center in Shelby. 17 people from Conrad, Dutton, and Shelby were in attendance to share ideas and network. Special thanks to the City of Shelby and the Shelby Area Chamber of Commerce for helping support the event, the Coyote Club for hosting, KSEN Radio for giving some shout-outs, and to Karl Unterschuetz of Accelerate Montana’s Rural Innovation Initiative for making the drive over from Missoula! We’ll soon be announcing the next Triangle PITCH NIGHT for January or February. To learn more and follow Triangle PITCH NIGHT as it moves through the region, follow it on Facebook at:

8) The Teton Pass Ski Area reopened! See KRTV. The C.M. Russell Museumhas moved forward with improvements; see KFBB.

9) Have you been considering renovating an old building that might have contamination – we’ve got a solution for that! See how our low-interest Brownfields clean up loans helped The Arvon Block project move forward. Got questions? Contact Lillian Sunwall at 406.750.1253 or

10) Downtown Great Falls has a second new toy store, Toylapalooza; see The Cascade County Commission approved a contract bringing back the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals to Great Falls in 2020, 2021 and 2022; see Tribune. The Great Falls City Commission approved a major storm water improvement project for the North Industrial Area (including MaltEurop, Cargill, ADF and T&K Performance) using tax increment financing funds; see Tribune.

11) Congratulations to Great Falls Holistic Health Clinic on launching their website, The folks at Great Falls Holistic Health had no previous web development experience and needed a hand getting started. We guided them through the process and they were able to design and launch a website on their own. Does your business need to get online? Don’t know where or how to start? Contact Rich Gannon at to start the discussion.

12) We held our second Get Back to Great Falls event on December 26.  This was a casual networking social to encourage family and friends who are back for the holidays to move back to Great Falls. Thanks to The Front for hosting and helping to make it a successful evening. Look for more Get Back events in the future. If you have an idea for a Get Back event, contact Nathan Reiff at

13) Congratulations to Big Sky Billing, our newest PTAC client. Cascade County Commissioners voted to award them the contract to handle billing for the Cascade County City-County Health Department. For more information, see

14) SBA 504 Rates were once again a bright and cheery spot in this wintery December month! Effective interest rates came in at 3.640% for the 25-year term, 3.579% for the 20-year term, and the 10-year term came in at 3.852%. The SBA even offers a business debt refinance loan with the 20-year rates at 3.581%.  With down payments as low as 10% the 504 is hard to beat for small business financing. Contact Jill Kohles at 406-590-1056 or to get started on your SBA 504 loan today!

15) We are very pleased to announce that we have hired Christian Leinhauser as our first Downtown Business Development Officer, in partnership with the Business Improvement District. Christian is an Air Force veteran and structural engineer in the Montana Air National Guard’s 219th Red Horse. We had 137 applicants for the new position. Christian starts work on January 2nd. Welcome to the team!

16) Glacier National Park recently announced that a major road construction project for the Many Glacier valley will start April 1st 2020. The long overdue project will greatly improve park road conditions from Babb to Many Glacier; see details here.

17) We submitted a Big Sky Trust Fund planning grant application to the Montana Department of Commerce in partnership with the City of Great Falls to help with the next step in efforts to create Montana’s first National Heritage Area to be called the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area.

18) The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is offering free Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) training on January 9-10 in Helena. More about EPC in Montana here. Register and view agenda here.

19) We joined the Cut Bank Chamber of Commerce for 2020. We are in the process of joining other regional chambers across the Golden Triangle — the Great Falls trade area. Local chambers of commerce can be important partners in economic development.

20) As he prepares for retirement from Pacific Steel & Recycling, Tim Culliton stepped down from many years of service on our Loan Committee. Thank you for your volunteer service and great business insights Tim!

21) Thank you to this week’s Investors in Economic Development,McDonald’s of Great Falls and Guy Tabacco Construction, for their Legacy Division investments; as well as Northern Directory Publishing and The Fagenstrom Company, for their Community Division investments. Why invest in Economic Development? Economic impact is not a hollow activity. A strong community relies heavily upon a strong economy. Investment is the measure of health on a community’s parks, schools, downtown, churches, nonprofits and businesses. We work to enhance the community through growth, diversification and high wage jobs. If you haven’t pledged this year, contact Teresa Schreiner at 406.781.9449 or

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.

Happy New Year!

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.

“The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable.”
Oscar Arias

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

December SBA 504 Loan Rates

The 25-year loan effective rate came in at 3.64%; 20-year at 3.579%; 20-year refinance at 3.581%; and, 10-year equipment 3.852%. 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

Events, Business Training, and Opportunities

Join us at the Montana Chamber‘s Business Days in the Capitol, January 6-7.

Glacier County Extension is offering a Ranch Profitability workshop series Jan. 7, Jan. 21 and Feb. 11. See the Shelby Promoter 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 24 of our recorded monthly business strategy webinars are available online for viewing anytime, click them out here.

The Montana Department of Commerce is accepting applications for it’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants. This program reimburses for trade show expenses and travel stipends to attend and exhibit at international trade shows. For more information visit the ExportMontana website 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 Film Office is offering powerful new incentives to promote filming and production in Montana. Click here for details.