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GFDA Top 19 for 3/6/2016

Here's the GFDA Top 19 for this week, celebrating great things happening to move Great Falls Forward.


1) Popeyes announced it will open a new restaurant on the west side of town, scheduled to open in July. Sleep Number opened. Site construction prep work started on the new Walmart East End Retail Center. Construction work is wrapping up on Davita Dialysis' new facility, the new Fresenius Medical Care/Great Falls Clinic dialysis center, and Elkin Family Dentistry's new building.

2) Total wages in the Great Falls metro area grew 9.5% in the last two years, according to data released today by JobsEQ. This translates into an additional $124 million dollars a year earned in wages in Cascade County. Average annual wages set another record in 2015Q4, up 8% in two years. In dollars, thats an increase of $2,768 in annual earnings. 

3) Great Falls metro manufacturing employment has grown over the past 5 years at an annual average increase of 6.2% (2010Q4-2015Q4), compared to a 2.9% average in Montana and 1.4% in the USA. This new data that covers all of 2015 shows a marked improvement over the 4.4% average annual increase I noted in this week's Quarterly Investor Letter.

4) 3 Rivers Communications and CenturyLink both started installing fiber in the Great Falls AgriTech Park. RailWorks started laying rail!

5) The National Association of HomeBuilders released its Leading Markets Index ranking Great Falls the 19th best metro market in the country in terms of housing recovery (out of all 337 markets). Billings ranked 28th and Missoula 53rd.

6) SmartAsset ranked Great Falls as the most affordable housing market amongst Montana's 7 largest cities. The average Great Falls homeowner saves $1,574/year in mortgage, taxes and insurance over Billings and $3,023/year over Helena. The average Cascade County homeowner saves $6,105/year over Gallatin County, $4,947/year over Missoula County, and $3,732/year over Flathead County.

7) The City Commission approved the construction contract for the major downtown streetscape project, re-vacating the alleyway for Town Pump's redevelopment on 10th Avenue South, and a tax increment financing agreement for sewer that has been installed in the first phase of the Great Bear Innovation Park.

8) Spoke with an Atlanta-based national site selector about Great Falls and discovered she's from Hamilton, MT and graduated from Montana State in Bozeman. Small world! It was a great conversation and our business cases peaked her interest. Pitched Great Falls to an out-of-area broker representing several national brands and discussed opportunities for industrial companies.

9) Mayor Kelly and other community leaders gathered for the United Way's Prosperity Matters 1,000 people in 1,000 Days initiative kick-off. The goal is to get 1,000 Cascade County residents out of poverty in 1,000 days. To learn more about the United Way Initiative, contact Lacey at
10) Accompanied a startup client to Billings to meet with a targeted company. Helped a client finalize a loan application to secure a bank commitment. Met with four new clients, each looking to address unique challenges. For guidance on how you can start, grow or expand you entrepreneurial endeavor contact Jason Nitschke at
11) Our Second Downtown Showcase will be held on Monday, April 25 from 9:00-11:00 AM. This year's showcase will feature presentations from developers, building owners and downtown groups, offering a mix of successful projects and opportunities for development. If you're interested in presenting a success or a property ripe for development, please contact Lillian Sunwall at 1-406-771-9024 or by Friday, March 25th with a brief summary of your presentation.
11) The City Planning Advisory Board will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the City Sign Code this Tuesday, March 8, 3:00 PM in the Commission Chambers, Civic Center. All interested are encouraged to attend. Proposed changes are detailed in the agenda materials available on the City's website under City Meetings. The City's website is a great resource anytime you want background materials on items being considered by the City Commission and advisory boards.

12) We approved another Brownfields Phase 1 assessment to spur downtown redevelopment. If you have a redevelopment or new construction project that isn't moving forward due to potential contamination concerns, contact Lillian Sunwall at 1-406-771-9024 or . 
13) Our CDFI consultant visited town this week to work on developing a 5 year loan capitalization plan for us. We are preparing to pursue EQ2 investments with bank partners and program-related investment loans from foundations to help us keep pace with gap and bridge financing needs in the Great Falls trade area. Stockman Bank approved a $380,000 short-term loan to enable us to continue to support the development of new apartments.

14) Traveled to San Diego to attend NADCO's SBA 504 CDC Oversight Symposium. Networked with SBA leaders and industry peers to discuss SBA's new rules and regulations for the SBA 504 program. To learn more about SBA 504 loans, contact Jennifer Rogers at or 1-406-350-1204. Jill took another 504 training course towards completion of the NADCO series.

15) Electric City Coffee and owners Thad and Heidi Reiste hosted the unveiling of the Montana Business Navigator along with Governor Bullock. This is an online tool designed to help Montana's entrepreneurs, innovators, and small business owners find the right permits and licenses they need so they can start and grow their businesses. The event also launched the first of three statewide marketing videos produced by the Montana Film Office promoting Great Falls Small Business Development Center services. Watch the videos at
16) Montana is the 6th Best State to Retire To according to BankRate. Montana GDP increased 3.5% in the 2015Q3, 7th best in the U.S., according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
17) Do you think more people should be part of Team Great Falls? Share the Top 10 on social media and encourage others to sign up for the Top Ten, Important Announcements, and Special Events. Join by emailing one of us or by text message. Text: GFDA To: 22828 
Thank you to L'Heureux Page Werner for hosting the Forward Great Falls Investor Development Coffee. The next Coffee will also be at LPW on April 1 at 7:00 AM.

19) I've been named to the International Economic Development Council's Data Standards research group. This is a team of site selection consultants, economic developers and IEDC researchers charged with publishing a series of reports on new data standards and uses for business attraction, expansion and start-up.


Untame your entrepreneurial spirit!


Connect with me on LinkedIn to connect with other Great Falls business leaders.


Quote of the Week

"The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do."

Andrew Carnegie

Good luck to the Great Falls College MSU on their upcoming Carnegie Hall performance in May!

Upcoming Events


Our next LaunchPoint for new(er) entrepreneurs is Tuesday, March 22, 4:00 PM at GFDA. Contact Jason Nitschke at or 1-406-771-9022 to sign-up for this fun hour!


The Montana Chamber's Business and the Law Conference will be held on March 22nd in Helena. More info at


Great Falls Job Fair will be held Tuesday, March 29th from 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM at the Montana ExpoPark Exhibition Hall. Employer registration is now open. Visit the website or contact Barbara Hardy of the Great Falls Job Service at 791-5816 or


Montana Energy 2016 will be held in Billings March 30-31. More info at


The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center is offering another ExporTech training this Spring.  The nine-week session will feature three-full day workshops: April 13, May 12, and June 14 in Kalispell. Develop your own proactive export strategy and learn how to be successful in global markets.  ExporTech™ clients have seen dramatic increases in sales through exports ($770K on average per company within 6-12 months).  As a company, you will receive hands-on group workshops as well as individual coaching by local and national experts in order to develop an export plan by the end of the nine-week course. For information on the Spring 2016 ExporTech session (, contact Jenni West, MMEC associate director, at (406) 994-3876 or


Two Great GFDA Job Openings

Loan Officer. Exceptional professional sought for new Loan Officer position to support the growth of our commercial gap and bridge financing efforts. Join our fun, creative, fast-paced, results-driven team focused on growing and diversifying the Great Falls regional economy and supporting the creation of higher-wage jobs. Duties include business development, deal structuring, underwriting, closing, loan servicing, and reporting to a variety of funding sources. Requires the ability to work with a diverse clientele, banks, and partners to structure often complex financing for businesses, real estate projects and non-profits. Minimum 3 years of experience in commercial lending, economic development or the CDFI industry, and BA or equivalent additional experience. Salary dependent on capabilities and experience, excellent benefits, flexible work environment, professional development and growth opportunities. Send letter and resume to Brett Doney at EOE. Open until we find a great candidate!

Director of Development. Exceptional, positive fundraiser sought to join our dedicated, passionate, results-driven economic development team. Help us grow and diversify the Great Falls regional economy and support the creation of higher wage jobs. Help us engage existing investors, connect with new investors, and enhance our web and social media communications. You will be meeting with business leaders to listen to their challenges and opportunities, engage them in Forward Great Falls efforts, and secure their investment in the future of Great Falls. We're looking for a proven star with excellent speaking, writing and listening skills, social media savvy, tenacity, and integrity. BA/BS and relevant business, marketing, fundraising or communications experience. Salary range $45,000-55,000 with excellent benefits, professional development and growth opportunities, and flexible work environment. Work with a great team, help us move Great Falls Forward, and make a difference in people's lives! EOE. Cover letter and resume to Brett Doney, President, Open until we find a great candidate.


Manufacturers: 20 or 31.5 acre, rail-served heavy industrial lot in Great Falls AgriTech Park ready for immediate construction start! Gas, electric, water, sewer, fiber, and rail all to your lot line for $30,000/acre. Join Pacific Steel & Recycling, Montana Specialty Mills, Helena Chemical, and Ruedebusch Development in this new industrial park. Contact Jeremiah Johnson at 1-406-750-3285 or



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