Top 10 for 12-6-22

Construction on the new Aim High Big Sky indoor aquatics and recreation center in Great Falls is making great progress. The 20-million-dollar project is tentatively scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2023.

GFDA’s Top 10

Here is our Top 19 for last 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) Calumet Montana Renewables is moving forward with strong local support. The Cascade County Commission voted unanimously to support Industrial Revenue Bonds for the project. These are just one of many tools we use to grow and diversify our economy. To learn more about Montana Renewables click here.

2) The EPA finalized approval of canola oil for several additional types of fuel under the renewable fuel standard including renewable diesel. Great news for area farmers and Calumet Montana Renewables!

3) Congratulations on the opening of a new bakery and coffee shop in Shelby. The Whistle Stop Bakery and Coffee Shop officially opened their doors on November 26th. Read more about the new bakery in the Shelby Promoter.

4) The new CDL program at Great Falls College MSU is achieving great success. Download flyer to learn first results!

5) We are putting lots of effort into housing production because we want Great Falls to be an affordable community. We have been working to close the gap between income and cost of living by supporting the creation of higher wage career opportunities while promoting housing production to keep our cost of living as low as possible. We have much work to do on both rentals and homeownership, however, two of the housing affordability indices we monitor show we’re doing better than many other communities in the region.

Great Falls housing is more affordable than other communities in the region, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve home ownership affordability monitor that compares housing prices with household income. As of September, Great Falls earned an affordability score of 67.4, a far cry from a perfect score of 100 which only Toledo, Ohio scored, but better than Billings 62.9, Helena 60.4, Bozeman 52.4, Kalispell 50.9, Spokane 49.9, Coeur d’Alene 49.7 or Missoula 45.4.

Moody’s predicts that housing prices will drop 15-20% in 2023 in the 210 metro housing markets that are “significantly overpriced” if there is no recession and 25-30% if there is a recession. Moody’s calculates significantly overpriced housing markets by comparing housing prices to household income. Any market that they score as 25% or more overpriced is in the “significantly overpriced” category that Moody’s predicts large drops in. Great Falls scores only 16.46% so we are not a significantly overpriced market. A number of markets in our region are scored as significantly overpriced by Moody’s, including Billings 31.03%, Missoula 37.84%, Spokane 53.15%, Idaho Falls 57.71%, Coeur d’Alene 62.6%.

So are homes cheaper in Great Falls than elsewhere and more likely to retain their value. Now we just need to build more!

6) October employment data released by the Montana Department of Labor indicates that the Great Falls MSA had 556 more people employed this October than pre-pandemic October 2019 and that our labor force this October was 381 people larger. Our unemployment rate this October was 2.7% which leaves 1,038 unemployed people in Cascade County looking for work.

7) Annie’s Tap House is officially open in Great Falls joining three other businesses in The Commons on Central co-op space. Learn the story behind the name in our Announcement of the Week. If you’re interested in expanding your business into Downtown Great Falls, call Christian at 406.836.0136 and let’s discuss the opportunities in Downtown!

8) We traveled to Shelby last week to partner with the Shelby Chamber of Commerce and Sweetgrass Development in a Business Pitch at The Alibi Lounge resulting in solid ideas and great feedback. If you are interested in partnering on a Business Pitch please reach out to Tony Peres at or 406-750-2099.

9) The Montana Office of Tourism released three digital booklets detailing resources for partners including Made in Montana ProgramsTourism Grant Programs, and Montana Film Office Programs.

10) We networked with Ag Producers and Value Added Ag Companies at the Montana Grain Growers Association’s annual convention in Great Falls. There is plenty of opportunity in North Central Montana for all types of value added agriculture entrepreneurs and innovators. If you are interested in value-added products as a business or ag processing, contact Justin at or Katesha at to discuss tools and resources to get your company to the next level.

11) The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) is still accepting applications for their low interest rate participation loan. GFDA is an approved participating lender that can use this program to help your business innovate, expand, or stabilize. This program is a first come, first served program with limited funds available. If you have questions on the program please reach out to Jill Kohles at 406-590-1056 or

12) Our Small Business Webinar Series, co-hosted with MSU Extension, last week contained some great information about how setting up automations and reducing friction for your customers can yield big results. Steve Dogiakos of Choteau presented on how he helped the Montana Dinosaur Museum in Bynum increase sales by over 250% in the past few years.  To watch a recording of the presentation click here.

13) Our next government contracting webinar will be December 13th at 11:00 AM on “Can A DBE Certification Help My Woman-Owned Business?” featuring Shannon Hahn at MDT. To register, click here. For more information, contact Lillian Sunwall at

14) Registration is now available for IGNITE 2023 attendees here! IGNITE 2023 is an energetic, fast-paced hybrid event where the Golden Triangle’s most exciting new business developments are announced. This year we already have three very significant projects to announce! The format is simple and quick: three-minute presentations on projects that will either start or open in 2023! If your business has an announcement and you’d like to present at the event contact Jake Clark;

15) Sweetgrass Development released its draft economic development strategy and is seeking public comment.

16) Get ready for the first annual Montana AgTech Innovation & Investment Summit set for January 24, 2023 in Great Falls Montana. The summit will bring together entrepreneurs and investors. Do you have an AgTech Innovation? Are you ready to pitch to investor? We can help! Get your pitch ready with coaching from one of our business advisors. Call Katesha to learn more, 406.788.0860. To register or learn more about the summit, click here.

17) GFDA is governed by a large and diverse Board of Directors. The board is made up of Investor Members and representatives of public and private partners. We are pleased to welcome our two newest board members; Jim Dea, Broker/Owner of ERA Advantage Realty and Tyler Muzzana, Operations Manager/Director of Engineering of Energy West. These two have been key members of our community for years and we are looking forward to having their expertise & insights on our board. Welcome to the team Jim & Tyler!

18) We have two great career opportunities to join the GFDA staff team. Download info on Small Business Advisor — Director Regional Small Business Development Center and Loan Originations & Closing Associate. GFDA is proud to be on Equal Opportunity Employer!

19) GFDA relies on the support from our INVESTORS. Because of them, we are able to keep providing businesses with the tools & resources they need while also focusing on a number of initiates that will help to grow diverse economic opportunities. Recent investments Community Division— ERA Advantage Realty and Northern Directory Publishing. They along with our other investors and public partners all share the same goals to enhance the overall quality of life for our residents. If want to support our team & help to grow the region, contact Investment Director Jenn Gallmeier at 406-781-9499 or


Brett Doney

Download our GFDA Services and Staff Team handout or our GFDA 2022Q3 Quarter Index. View the We Are Great Falls video!

Cost of Living in the Great Falls metro set a record for competitiveness in 2022Q3 at 85.6% of the national average, according to the C2ER (the Council for Community and Economic Research). Compare our local rate to Seattle’s 152.2%, Portland’s 122.2%, Bozeman’s 125.0%, Denver’s 111.2%, Salt Lake City’s 107.4%, Boise’s 105.4%, or Spokane’s 103.5%. Use our Cost of Living Calculator when trying to recruit new employees from our of town.

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; download AgriTech Park Flyer. Contact Jolene Schalper at 1.406.750.4481 or

November SBA 504 Loan Rates

The 25-year loan effective rate (including all fees) came in at 6.529%; 20-year at 6.452%; 10-year equipment loan at 6.534%; and, 20-year refinance 6.470%; 25-year refinance 6.547%. 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
The ConnectMT program is holding a second round of broadband outreach in-person and virtual sessions in December. For more information about ConnectMT and these upcoming events, please visit the ConnectMT website.

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.

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) stopped accepting new applications for Veteran-owned small business verification or reverification as of October 24th. This transition is part of a government-wide effort that streamlines and consolidates all certifications offered to VOSBs and SDVOSBs under the Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA will assume responsibility for the program as of January 1, 2023. For more information or questions, contact Lillian Sunwall at

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. TheMontana Manufacturing Extension Centeris offering a series of excellent workshops and trainings this fall.

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.

USDA is accepting applications for the new Fertilizer Production Expansion Program. $500 million in grants is available to help existing fertilizer producers to expand.

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

Attention Veteran-Owned Businesses! In less than a year the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) will transfer to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As of January 1, 2023, all functions of VA’s CVE will be handled by the SBA. To help make this a seamless transition, we encourage all self-certified SDVOSBs to complete the verification process through the VA now before the transfer becomes effective. Please start the verification process at For more information on starting the verification process, contact Lillian Sunwall 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.

We’ve released the Great Falls Childcare Demand Assessment that 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.

We’ve released the Great Falls Housing Market Assessment that 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.