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GFDA Top Ten for 3/6/17

 Happy Monday! Here's the GFDA Top 20 for last week, celebrating great things happening to move Great Falls Forward. Team work produces results! It's amazing what we can accomplish as a community and region when we put our heads and hearts together to make good things happen.

1) Friesen Nutrition started construction on its new facility in Great Falls. The construction fence went up for Hobby Lobby to start construction. The new Walmart anchoring the East End Center is wrapping up construction. Underway projects include Montana Eggs, Springhill Suites and Peak Fitness & Health Center at West Bank Landing, Cargill, downtown Lithia, Petsmart, Hampton Inn and Target renovations, Talus Apartment Homes addition, City Brew, Teriyaki Madness, and Mitch Stelling's downtown office buildings.

2) Projects announced to start construction this year include Montana Specialty Mills, Benefis Hospital Emergency expansion, Town Pump's new hotel, The Farran Group's 216-unit apartment complex on the west side, NeighborWork Great Falls and GMD Development's 124-unit Rockcress Commons apartments, the Black Eagle Solar development, Pasta Montana's new production line, Ulta Beauty, Panda Express and more.

3) Last week I gave you data about wage increases in 2016, average wages up 2.6% and total wages up $61 million. In the past 3 years, 2014-2016, average wages in the Great Falls MSA (Cascade County) increased 11.5% and total wages grew by 12.5%, an increase in annual total wages of $161 million. That's a nice increase in yearly spending power!

4) In the 4th quarter of 2016 we reached a milestone. Our average wage grew to 75% of the national average, from 72% just three years ago. Cost of living held steady at 99% of the national average. We have much more work to do to close this gap, but progress is nice!

5) Manufacturing employment in Cascade County has grown at a steady 7%/year for the last four years and has now reached 3.5% of our job base, up from 2% when we started our Manufacturing Partnership. Our manufacturing location quotient has gone up to 0.42, but the national average is 1.0 so we have more work to do. That's our mantra --- celebrate success and get back to work!

6) Hosted our first Transload Taskforce meeting. Our next one will be on March 27 at 4 PM at GFDA (300 Central Avenue #406). This is a preliminary discussion to determine: need, type, location, and partners. To learn more, contact Jolene Schalper at JSchalper@GFdevelopment.orgor 406.750.4481.

7) The University of Great Falls and Providence St. Joseph Health announced they are introducing two new graduate programs in Infection Prevention & Epidemiology and Organizational Leadership & Healthcare Administration.
8) Worked with a local business new to government contracting on getting registered into the SAM system so they could receive payment on products sold to the Park Service; did training on marketing to Malmstrom and local federal agencies and research on what the government purchases.
9) The Tourism Business Improvement District has issued an RFP for the next step in developing future plans for Cascade County's ExpoPark. Download RFP here. The Cascade County Planning Department is working on an RFP for land use planning of the Smelter site in Black Eagle.

10) Exhibited and networked with manufacturers and exporters at the State Chamber's Manufacturing and International Trade Day in the Capitol Rotunda. Our goal is to increase both manufacturing and exporting across North Central Montana. Give us a call to talk about your project! Jolene Schalper 406.750.4481.

11) 1,107,690 visitors spent at least one night in Great Falls in 2016, a whopping 29% increase over 2015, according to data released by the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research. Visitors spent $256 million in Cascade County last year. Expenditures were 20% in retail, 20% in restaurants, 20% in fuel, 14% in lodging and 10% in grocery stores.

12) Assisted local entrepreneurs to finalize two loan proposal packages, one startup and one expansion, in preparation for bank presentations. Began strategic planning work with a developer of a historic property. Worked through cash flow solutions and opportunities to increase profitability with a well-established firm. Continued planning sessions for a startup to be downtown. Discussed financing options with two entrepreneurs considering business acquisitions. Took next steps with a second-year company working on marketing strategies and Year 3 planning. Did you know only 30% of businesses last 10 years? What are you doing to get there? Perhaps we can help analyze cash flow or your promotional strategies to improve return on investment. Connect with Jason Nitschke at 

13) Submitted a request to EPA Brownfields for supplemental funding to our successful Brownfield Cleanup loan fund so that we can keep assisting developers and business to tackle new redevelopment projects..

14) Great Falls will host the Montana Economic Developers Association spring conference May 2-3 at Great Falls College MSU. There are a few sponsorship opportunities available. Email me at

15) Mike met with commercial lenders in Helena, Butte and Bozeman to let them know that we do SBA 504 loans statewide so that they can offer their borrowers a below market, fixed interest rate for 20 years and down payments as low as 10%. If you would like to learn more about the SBA 504 program please contact Mike Archer at or call 406-284-1789.
16) The City of Great Falls and the River's Edge Trail Foundation have developed a new Interactive Trail Map that shows the trail and its amenities.
17) GFDA has been accepted as an exhibitor at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC this June. The annual Summit brings foreign businesses from around the world to the U.S. to consider investing in new manufacturing, technology and other businesses in America.
18) The City of Great Falls is working with GFDA to try to put together funds to commission a household labor survey so we can dig into untapped available workforce. Our MSA labor force participation rate is 3.9% lower than the state average. The data would helps to support job creation, particularly for those most in need in our community.
19) Thank you to Loenbro for hosting the first quarter Forward Great Falls Investor Development Coffees! Mark your calendars for the next quarter that will be held at AE2S! April 7, May 5, and June 2. Contact Jolene if you are a GFDA Investor and would like to host, 750.4481 or
20) The International Economic Development Council published an overview of critical federal economic development programs, all of which we use in Montana to help businesses create new jobs and invest private sector capital. Check out: Why Invest in Economic Development.
Celebrate Women Entrepreneurs!
Embark FCU and GFDA are pleased to announce registration is open for bothFire It Up! and The Fire WithinFire It Up, a speed networking evening of professional development, is on March 23 at Electric City Coffee; click here to register. The Fire Within, a celebration of outstanding women entrepreneurs, is March 30 at the Meadowlark Country Club; click here to register.

Untame Your Entrepreneurial Spirit in Great Falls, Montana!


Brett Doney
President and CEO
Connect with me on LinkedIn to network with the Great Falls region.

"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."
Mattie Stepanek

Business Events of Note
The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center is offering a number of excellent training opportunities including ExportTech, SME Lean, Food safety and much more. Visit
2017 Governor's Conference on Tourism & Recreation, March 12-14 in Helena.
Cost-Effective 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 Brett Doney at 1-406-750-2119 or


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Physical Address
300 Central Ave. Suite 406
Great Falls, MT 59401
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PO Box 949
Great Falls, MT 59403