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Missoula & GFDA Working Together

Missoula and Great Falls Business Development Organizations Working Together to Get Loan Dollars to Small Businesses  

MCDC and Great Falls Development Authority partner to provide financing to Woman-owned Assisted Living Facility in Great Falls. 
Great Falls MT -- The Montana Community Development Corporation of Missoula (MCDC) and the Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA) recently partnered to provide a business expansion loan to an assisted living facility in Great Falls. This first time alliance between the two non-profit business development entities accomplished something that conventional banks cannot always do, especially in the current credit market. The alliance put loan dollars into the hands of a small business owner who had a promising business model but was unable to secure a business loan for the final phase of her expansion. MCDC’s enterprise loan will allow Robin Fleek, of Sapphire, Inc. to accomplish her expansion plans, double her facility’s residential capacity and create eight additional jobs in Great Falls.   “Sapphire House is a great project and we’re proud to be associated with it,” says Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Executive Director of MCDC.
Fleek’s business has thrived since she opened 5 years ago, with current residents and their families recommending Sapphire House to friends and family.   At the request of family members of one of her residents, Fleek became licensed as a Category “C” facility which allows Sapphire to serve people with severe cognitive impairments, like Alzheimer’s. 
With increased demand, Fleek saw the opportunity to expand. She set out to purchase the next door property, a “twin” to her existing Victorian Sapphire house. According to Fleek, she had her eye on the property ever since she started her business.   She says that people told her she ought to just demolish the old Victorian rather than pay the price of renovation. But Fleek loved the idea of preserving the twin Victorians. And, she attributes the demand for her facility at least in part to its architectural charm and homey atmosphere. “Residents at Sapphire spend a lot of time mingling in the large living room with its two-story fireplace and large dining room. They don’t just stay in their rooms like in other facilities.”  Fleek wanted to avoid the pitfalls of other off-site home health care expansions and keep her business on one campus. With the addition of the “Ruby house,” Sapphire House Inc, will be able to offer the highest level of assisted living service in two separate home environments connected by a deck and yard.
Fleek purchased the Ruby house through a conventional bank loan and used her own resources to gut the building and move it closer to the existing facility. But she didn’t qualify for a conventional business loan to renovate and remodel the house. So she turned to the Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA).   She worked with the GFDA to qualify for a loan, but because of other loan needs in the Great Falls area, GDFA did not have enough funding for her project. That’s when Sheldon Bartel, Chief Operating and Loan Officer at GFDA, contacted MCDC in Missoula. Bartel’s experience matching financing to business development projects indicated to him that Sapphire was a perfect fit for MCDC. “The approval and funding of Sapphire’s loan from MCDC is a win-win for everyone involved – Robin and her business, the Great Falls Community, MCDC and GFDA,” says Bartel.
Robin’s loan dollars came from MCDC’s revolving loan pool, which has grown steadily in the last couple years. MCDC Executive Director Cates is pleased to be able to put MCDC loan dollars to work for Montana communities throughout the State. “Montana needs creative ways to get financing to businesses right now, and this Great Falls-Missoula partnership is a good model.”
According to both non-profits, providing Robin Fleek with a business loan to increase the availability of essential health care services in Great Falls achieves the missions of MCDC and GFDA. Both non-profits want to help build economic opportunities for all members of their community through business development. They do this by getting loan dollars to home-grown businesses like Robin’s, which immediately create new jobs and provide essential services in the community.  
For additional information on the Sapphire Inc. Project contact:
John DeGroot
MCDC Loan Officer
Phone: 406-728-9234 #206
Additional Information about MCDC:
MCDC serves clients in nine counties throughout the state and works in conjunction with other community development centers and community lending institutions to make business financing available to improve economic conditions for individuals and communities.     
MCDC loan clients include low-income people, women and minority owned businesses and people in low-income places. Since 2001 MCDC has used its revolving loan funds to make 164 loans, totaling over 16 million dollars. Over half of those loans were to women-owned businesses. MCDC also provides business consulting services for all business owners and has served over 300 consulting clients in the last 2 years. 
For more information on financial services offered by GFDA contact Sheldon Bartel or call (406) 771-9029.


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