Top 10 – 9/15/19

Tianta Stevens

Congratulations to Tianta Stevens, owner of Act Normal, LLC., for her recent purchase of Escape the Falls at 511 Central Avenue in downtown Great Falls. Escape rooms are a popular business throughout the country in which teams of players cooperate to identify clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish specific tasks within a certain time frame. They’re a fun night out with friends or great for corporate team building. GFDA helped Tianta work through the due diligence process of acquiring the business and its assets. A grand re-opening event was held on Friday.

GFDA Top 10

Here is our Top 18 for this week, celebrating work and successes to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy.

1) Met with site selectors in Dallas at the Site Selectors Guild Fall Forum. There are 386 metro areas across the country. Companies hire site selectors to help them eliminate sites until they have a short list of three to five. Many times the only thing differentiating the top 20 are relationships between site selectors and communities. For example, after our last site selectors meeting one of the consultants was asked by a client to find a small metro west of the Mississippi that would be a great fit for its operations. The site selector, who had just met with Jolene, told the company, “I know a community you should look at in Montana.” We are still in the running for that project and continuously building relationships to gain more!

2) Choteau resident Charles Hlavac, the former manager of the Teton Pass Ski Resort, has purchased the ski area west of Choteau and is working to open it this season! See more details in the Choteau Acantha and on KRTV.

3) I’m very pleased to announce that Nathan Reiff will be joining the GFDA team as our new Business Development Officer. Nathan was one of 111 candidates from across the country who applied for this new position. He has been a leader at the University of Providence for the last 12 years, most recently as Director of Student Engagement. Nathan earned a BA in Philosophy and Religion from Concordia College and a MS in Organizational Management from the University of Providence. He will lead our business retention and expansion efforts, as well as other business development work. Welcome Nathan!

4) We are growing and have three additional new positions to expand our team, including Commercial Loan Processor and Operations Assistant, Rural SBDC Business Advisor, and Talent Attraction Director. See descriptions below or download here.

5) The feasibility study to create Montana’s first National Heritage Area is almost complete. The proposed name, Big Sky Country NHA, was announced at a public meeting this week in Belt. National Heritage Areas were created by Congress and the Reagan Administration to boost heritage tourism, protect historic sites and celebrate our country’s rich history. See for more details and visit the organization’s website to learn how you can support this effort.

6) GFDA issued a loan commitment to RE Family Services, Inc. for the startup of their business in downtown Great Falls.  RE Family Services Inc. is a new nonprofit that will provide Great Falls foster youth with visitation programs, aiming to reduce recurrences within the foster care system and assist in rebuilding the lives of foster care children. If your business needs assistance with financing to start or grow, please contact Jill Kohles at 406-590-1056 or

7) The Great Falls International Airport and Great Falls Montana Tourism met with eight airlines this week at the second annual Montana Airline Rendezvous in Big Sky. At the meetings this week, John Faulkner and Rebecca Engum presented more than a dozen new route ideas including new direct service to California. Three airlines expressed some interest in establishing new flights in our community if we can develop a revenue guarantee program. Contact Shane Etzwiler at the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to learn how your company can support this effort,

8) Jason and Barnett partnered with the City of Shelby to host 16 people at a meeting of resource partners in the Golden Triangle. Federal, state, local and private advisors to business discussed ways to increase collaborative efforts and communicate more effectively and efficiently. Businesses that collaborate with a diverse team of advisors grow faster and are more profitable than businesses that go it alone. If your business could use an outside look, nearly all the advisors to businesses that attended the September 11th meeting are free of charge. Contact Jason at to see how GFDA and our partners help companies start and grow.

9) Great Falls Montana Tourism wants to assist with funding a group’s creation of an event in Great Falls, Montana! We are now accepting applications for grant funds that will assist with funding for the creation of a NEW multi-day event. Get all the details at

10) SBA 504 Interest Rates keep coming in low, low, low! Effective interest rates for September came in at 3.44% for the 25-year term, 3.355% for the 20-year term, and the 10-year term came in at 3.553%. The SBA even offers a business debt refinance loan with 20-year rates at 3.388%. Now is a great time to take advantage of the low interest rates on your commercial real estate or equipment project with an SBA 504 loan. 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!

11) The Montana State Fund declared a $30 million dividend to policy holders that exhibit workplace safety to the highest standard. This follows back to back $40 million dividends in 2017 and 2018. Dividends to policy holders since 1999 total $286 million. See Great Falls Tribune for details.

12) Lillian presented at the Pre-MEDA Brownfields workshop on a panel on “Best Practices for Managing QEPs”.  We received sign-off from DEQ and EPA to move forward with testing on a site and two applications for Phase One Assessments. If you are looking at an older building or property that may be complicated by environmental conditions, contact Lillian Sunwall at (406) 750-1253 or for information on how we can help.

13) Join Neighbors, Developers, Property Owners, Resource Providers, and more on Wednesday, October 2nd in the Missouri Room at the Civic Center for a visioning session on what we hope our downtown can be! We will focus our efforts on blocks that are ready to transform! Pizza and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. Please RSVP so we know how much to bring!

14) GFDA hosted a workshop/training by the State of Montana Procurement Bureau and Montana Department of Transportation on how to contract with the State and use of the eMACS system. For more information or other available workshops, contact Shannon Clancy at

15) Want to hear weekly about great events and entertainment, sign up for The Eventory, an enewsletter listing of events happening in Great Falls published by Great Falls Tourism.

16) Join us at the third annual Montana Food Show! This tradeshow will provide opportunities for food buyers and food producers to connect and find ways to get more Montana foods on Montana plates. 100 Montana fresh produce, meat, food and beverage companies will be showcasing their products at theBrick Breeden Field House in Bozeman on Friday, September 27. Buyers can register and learn more at Questions? Contact Marty Earnheart with the Montana Department of Agriculture at 406.444.9126 or

17) We published our Quarterly Investor Letter that included links to a brief FY2019 Highlights, current list of Investors in Great Falls Economic Development, current GFDA and High Plains Financial Boards List, Strategic Plan, and Five New Initiatives.

18) Thanks to this week’s Investors in Economic Development, Mitchell Development and Investments, LLC, for their Advanced Division investment and Global Credit, LLC for their Community Division investment. Through investment, GFDA works hard to use your dollars to generate leads, real estate deals and business development potential suited to the needs, interests and opportunities of the Golden Triangle. If you haven’t invested this year, contact Teresa Schreiner at 406.781.9449.

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.

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.

“Be nicer to your customers than your competitors.”
Richard Reed


GFDA Job Openings

Commercial Loan Processor and Operations Assistant
Economic Development
Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)

Dynamic, self-motivated professional sought to join our passionate, creative, fast-paced, results-driven economic development lending team. Help us to keep growing our gap and bridge financing efforts to support entrepreneurs, businesses, developers and non-profit organizations throughout the Great Falls trade area and across Montana. This position receives,reviews and processes commercial loan documents, maintains loan application files and other duties related to the processing and servicing of the commercial loan portfolio.Reviews all gathered pending documents for accuracy, completeness, loan authority, lien position, insurance, flood insurance, collateral, appraisal, coding, risk rating, disbursements, etc. Reviews documents for compliance purposes, recognizes problems with documentation, and takes appropriate action. Requires the ability to maintain accurate records, work with a wide variety of clients, and have computer and communication skills. Experience with SBA 504 loan servicing and/or economic development loan funds a plus. Must be detail oriented and organized with flexibility to help achieve our overall team mission. Live on the Missouri River along the Rocky Mountain Front and work with a great team! Salary range $35,000-45,000 with excellent benefits, professional development, growth opportunities, and flexible work environment. EOE. Cover letter and resume to Brett Doney, President, Open until we find a great candidate.

Rural Business Advisor
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Motivated, innovative, and impact-driven professional to boost our entrepreneurship coaching and training efforts in rural North-Central Montana. Work with entrepreneurs, business owners, and stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to address some of rural America’s economic challenges. This new position will coach, counsel, and advise existing rural businesses, stimulate startup activity, and deliver meaningful trainings primarily in rural Cascade, Glacier, Teton, Toole, and Pondera counties. Our mission is to stimulate innovation, increase collaboration within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and deliver impact to employers and innovators. Day-to-day responsibilities will include providing advisory support to business owners, helping them identify and solve the problems that arise in entrepreneurship. Requires excellent communication skills. Prefer five to seven years’ experience in business management, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, human resources, or related field. Bachelor’s degree required. Salary range $40,000-$50,000 with excellent benefits, professional development, and flexible work environment.EOE. We encourage candidates who live, or would like to live, in one of our wonderful rural communities to apply. Remote work available. Cover letter and resume to Brett Doney, President, Open until we find a great candidate.

Talent Attraction Director
Digital Content Marketing

Dynamic, self-motivated professional sought to join our passionate, creative, fast-paced, results-driven economic development team. We are looking for an experienced digital marketing star who can create and implement a content-driven workforce recruitment effort for our community and region. Engage our business leaders and residents using Social Toaster and social media, help us use Linked In and other platforms to help our companies attract talent to relocate to Great Falls. Requires excellent writing, computer, and communication skills. Live on the Missouri River along the Rocky Mountain Front and work with a great team! Salary range $35,000-45,000 with excellent benefits, professional development, growth opportunities, and flexible work environment. EOE. Cover letter and resume to Brett Doney, President, Open until we find a great candidate.


SBA 504 Loans

SBA 504 rates came in at insanely low levels in August. The 25-year note came in at 3.626%; 20-year at 3.526%; and, 20-year refinance at 3.559%. There was no 10-year equipment debenture sale this month but July’s sale came in at 3.922%. These rates are FIXED for the life of the loan and are inclusive of all on-going 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


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


Events, Business Training & Opportunities

2019 GFDA Business Education Calendar

The Montana Downtown Conference will be held October 23-25 in Missoula. This is always a great conference with lots of idea sharing. More info here.

The Montana Innovation Partnership is offering trainings later this month on Market Research for Early Stage Technologies and on Writing Winning SBIR/STTR Proposals. See more info here.

The Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District is offering a major grant opportunity of up to $100,000 to spur creation of a new multi-day events that will attract visitors to the city during the non-summer September through mid-June season. New events are events that have not previously been and are not currently being held in Great Falls. Proposals submitted shall comply with the instructions and procedures outlined in the detailed Application Instructions available to download at Apply by submitting a proposal electronically in PDF format to by 5:00 PM on September 30.

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.