|Paw Prints – A quarterly newsletter to keep you informed
|Message from Executive Director Paul Tuss
As with the rest of Montana and the entire country, Bear Paw Development is doing what we can to make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt with the global pandemic. It hasn’t been easy and we’ve all been impacted by COVID-19 one way or the other, many of us personally. However, our goal to properly serve the economic and community development needs of our five-county Economic Development District in northern Montana continues.
Through working with state and federal funding agencies, we are helping local governments repair and replace aging infrastructure, keeping an eye on both functionality and affordability. From a private sector perspective, we are helping small businesses in our region to recover from some of the most devastating financial times most of them have seen. By strategic investments through our revolving loan fund and counseling by our Small Business Development Center and Food and Agriculture Development Center, we know we are having a positive impact on the economy of northern Montana and on the bottom line of the businesses we are able to assist.
While we’ve turned the page on another year, we still fully understand the need to be front-and-center when it comes to doing what is possible to make this special part of Montana the very best it can be, and a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family and invest.
Thank you for your past support and for the trust you have placed in Bear Paw Development to continue to meet the economic and community development needs of this region.
Here’s to a great 2022!
QuickBooks Course Offered and Upcoming SBDC Trainings
The SBDC recently offered a QuickBooks Desktop course through Havre High School’s Community Education Program. Participants learned how to navigate through the desktop platform, create new customers, vendors, and employees. Other topics covered were working with lists, bank accounts, using other accounts, entering sales information, receiving payments, making deposits and entering and paying bills.
Also through the Community Education Program Google Applications will be offered in January. Some applications that this hands-on class will cover include Google Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, and Sites. The benefits of using the Chrome Browser will also be covered. Ample time will be given for questions.
Also coming on January 25th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. through the Havre Community Education Program will be a basic Excel learning course. A few things students will learn are: entering and formatting data, basic formulas, linking spreadsheets together, creating simple reports and learning keyboard shortcuts, plus much more. The cost for this class will be $10.
To register for the workshop, contact Tiffany Olson at 406-395-8550 or register online here. For more information or questions please contact Joe LaPlante, SBDC Director, at 406-265-9226.
The Montana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA’s funding is not an endorsement of any products, opinions, or services. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. All SBA funded programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made if requested.
The Community Development and Planning Departments at Bear Paw Development have been burning the midnight oil, providing education and technical assistance to our local government members in the Bear Paw Economic Development District regarding the American Rescue Plan Act, known as ARPA. ARPA provided for $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to balance the rise in costs and falling revenue due to the COVID pandemic.
Montana received $463 million in ARPA funding, which will provide support for many projects, including water and wastewater in rural Montana. For those not familiar with the ARPA funding, or who may need a little extra clarification, here is an ARPA 101 crash course to help you better understand how these funds are allocated, and what they can be used for.
The ARPA legislation was passed in Congress and became law in March of 2021. While ARPA funds multiple facets of economic recovery due to the COVID pandemic, water and sewer infrastructure are predominantly addressed throughout. ARPA allocations have come to communities in two different forms. The first is through direct funding from the US Treasury and is known as Local Allocation Direct Treasury Payment, also referred to as Pot A funds.
The second set of funds are Minimum Allocation Grants or Pot B Funds. These funds were allocated through House Bill 632 in the Montana Legislature and are set aside for counties and incorporated communities for water and sewer infrastructure. These funds can be accessed by the County or incorporated community by providing a 1:1 match or 25% of their Pot A allocation funds, whichever is less. These pot B funds must be allocated by December of 2024, and used by December of 2026, and unallocated funds will be returned to the state pool.
In HB 632, an advisory commission specifically to address water and wastewater infrastructure was created. This Infrastructure Advisory Commission works directly with the Montana Departments of Commerce and Natural Resources and Conservation to assure that funds are allocated quickly and according to U.S. Treasury guidelines. HB 632 provided for approximately $463 million in ARPA funding to be dispersed in the following ways: $150 million to Minimum Allocation Grants, $10 million to Regional Water Systems, $43 million to fund Long Range Planning Bills (HB 11 & 14), and $177 million to be used for Competitive Grants. These Competitive Grants are referred to as Pot C and allow for communities to leverage their A & B funds to complete their projects.
As an example of how these funds can be leveraged in our local communities, we can look at the Town of Big Sandy. Big Sandy applied for funding last legislative cycle through RRGL and MCEP (formerly TSEP). They were funded for $125,000 from RRGL and $484,671 through MCEP. Both programs were financed through the ARPA allocation as a part of HB 14. Originally the community planned to apply for a loan from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) for $493,087 to completely fund their project. By leveraging their Local Funds (Pot A) with their State Allocation (Pot B), and by partnering with Chouteau County for additional ARPA funds, Big Sandy was able to move forward with their stormwater project without incurring any additional debt for their community.
In partnership with DNRC and the Department of Commerce, Bear Paw Development hosted a training for our region regarding ARPA allocations and how they can be used. That training is available to view on our website, http://www.bearpaw.org under the tab, Bear Paw ARPA Training.
In addition to Bear Paw Development, local government members can receive additional support from the Montana Department of Commerce. As a part of HB 632, funds were earmarked to provide up to 20 hours of technical assistance (TA) for qualifying entities. Technical assistance is available to communities for multiple activities, including writing grants requesting their allocations, answering questions regarding engineering procurement and any questions regarding your ARPA Allocation. For more information on TA and ARPA visit http://www.ARPA.MT.gov and use the chat feature, email or call the hotline to contact a representative.
|Montana ARPA Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program
In October of 2021, Governor Greg Gianforte launched a $7.5 million Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program to invest in value-added agricultural products across Montana, with the goal to strengthen and diversify the industry. The program accepted concept papers through mid-December that have been scored and ranked. The highest scoring applications will be invited to submit a full application for funding by February 2022, after which the ARPA Economic Transformation, Stabilization and Workforce Development Advisory Commission will consider final funding recommendations.
All grant requests through the program require a funding match to assure commitment from grant recipients. Applicants applied for awards up to $150,000 with a 1:1 match; awards from $150,001 to $300,000 with a 2:1 match; or awards from $300,001 to $450,000 with a 3:1 match. Successful grant applicants should be notified before the end of the first quarter of this year.
Several grant applications were submitted by businesses and individuals in the Bear Paw Development Economic Development District, with many of them receiving grant writing assistance from Bear Paw’s Food and Agriculture Development Center.
For help with value-added agriculture projects, contact Bear Paw’s FADC at 406-265-9226.
|Bear Paw Development is a private non-profit organization that works to improve regional economic conditions in Hill, Blaine, Liberty, Chouteau, and Phillips Counties and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservations. To find out more, visit us online at http://www.bearpaw.org