|Bear Paw Development Has New Offices!
|After 25 years in the same location, Bear Paw Development has moved offices. While the Ryan Building in downtown Havre served our organization well since 1997, our growing staff and need for more space necessitated the move just a few blocks away into the building also occupied by the Wipfli accounting firm at 300 Second Avenue.
As our staff grew to meet the ongoing economic and community development needs of our Economic Development District in northern Montana, we ended up having three staff members share one office, one staff member located across the hallway in a separate office and the pathway to our break room went right through the office for our Food and Agriculture Development Center. In short, it was time for a move.
Our new space allows for every staff member to have their own office, everyone has a window to the outside and the layout works well for cross-department collaboration. We have a small conference room and our location is slightly closer to many amenities we use regularly in downtown Havre.
While there is still some settling in to do and all the boxes aren’t quite put away yet, we do have a fresh coat of paint, all furniture has been moved and we are now fully functional in our new location. We will be hosting an open house in the weeks to come, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello!
|Growth Through Agriculture Funding Available
The Growth Through Agriculture Program is a grant and loan program created by the Montana Legislature and administered through the Montana Department of Agriculture with the intent to diversify and strengthen the agricultural sector of our state’s economy.
GTA is accepting applications from August 12th to September 12th of this year. Eligible costs the GTA Program will consider include equipment purchases, construction costs, advertising and promotion, and consultant services for engineering. The largest amount of funding available per project is $150,000, which could include $50,000 in grant funds and $100,000 in loan funding.
The Montana Department of Agriculture also announced two new components to GTA, including the Business Acceleration Program, which funds projects up to $20,000 in grant funding over two years. The other component is the Market Development Program, designed to help agricultural entrepreneurs expand into other markets and overcome market barriers. This program will fund grants up to $5,000 over the course of one year.
For more information about the GTA Program and to receive assistance in applying for a GTA investment, please contact Wyatt Anderson, Bear Paw Development’s Director of Food and Agriculture. He can be reached at 406-265-9226 or through email at [email protected]
Bear Paw Secures $2.1 Million in Brownfields Funding
|Bear Paw’s Brownfields Program received a significant investment from the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year. Under the EPA Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Coalition grant program, Bear Paw Development received $2.145 million in supplemental funding. These funds will be added to the existing RLF program being utilized at Bear Paw to continue to provide cleanup options for properties experiencing contamination from hazardous building materials and petroleum.
Bear Paw has had an active RLF program since 2011, having been granted a total of $1.5 million during that time. With that $1.5 million, Bear Paw’s Brownfields Program has provided funds for twelve cleanup projects in our five-county region. These RLF funds have been used by multiple sites to secure other grant funding for further expansion or redevelopment of the properties. Some examples of this include the Boys and Girls Club in Havre, which utilized RLF funds to abate hazardous building materials in their facility as a precursor to significant ongoing building expansion at the site. Bear Paw had a similar role with Malta Opportunities in terms of environmental cleanup through our RLF program, which allowed Malta Opportunities to leverage funds to expand their services to disabled adults in the Malta area. Due to the successful environmental cleanup, Malta Opportunities was able to secure $620,000 in funding for the expansion. The former Kaste’s Department Store in Big Sandy is a prime example of how underused and abandoned sites can be safely cleaned up to be repurposed and contribute to the community. The cleanup of this abandoned site led to the construction of a new library facility for the small community of Big Sandy.
Bear Paw’s Brownfields Program has a strong list of upcoming projects to begin utilizing this $2.15 million investment moving forward. Upcoming projects include the Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre, where Brownfields RLF funds will assist in cleaning up several properties so that the facility can expand the reach of vital healthcare services, especially to low- and moderate-income families and vulnerable communities. In Chinook, Bear Paw plans to clean up petroleum contamination so that a building owner can open a restaurant and coffee shop. Bear Paw Development’s Brownfields RLF Program also plans on assisting a former car dealership and fueling station in Chester to clean up petroleum contamination so that the site can be utilized by a local agricultural grain merchandiser and contribute to the commercial landscape in the rural community.
Looking forward, Bear Paw’s Brownfields Program intends on applying for additional assessment funds this fall, as full environmental assessments are required to move future properties towards cleanup activities. Bear Paw has been utilizing assessment grant funds from the EPA since 2009 and has completed 87 environmental assessments in our Economic Development District.
Progress with ARPA Funding and MAG Project Identification
The Bear Paw District is starting to see the fruits of the ARPA funding tree, as construction projects are beginning to kick into gear. The Big Sandy stormwater project is set to start mid-June, with construction meetings and mobilization already underway (see photo of KLJ Engineers and representative of ACME Construction). Many other ARPA funded projects will be starting soon, as funds are allocated and contracting is completed.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation recently confirmed that all applications for minimum allocation grants (MAG) must be submitted by Nov 1, 2022 and certified as eligible ARPA water and sewer projects by the Jan 1, 2023 deadline, or the allocated funds will revert to the State. The Community Development team at Bear Paw has been busy attending the State Infrastructure Advisory Meetings and other DNRC trainings to provide up-to-date education and technical assistance to our members. Currently, Bear Paw has assisted members in securing or applying for over $30 Million in project funds, including ARPA MAG and Competitive awards, RRGL and MCEP planning and project grants, and several other funding and match sources.
In May and June, the Bear Paw Community Development team met with Cody Ferguson, the Community Development Program Manager with the Montana Department of Commerce. Meetings were held both in Helena and in several counties in the Bear Paw District. This was the first time that Cody had traveled to meet with Bear Paw and County Commissioners in person to assist in the identification of eligible projects and budgets in preparation for completing MAG applications (see photo with Liberty County Commissioners and Bear Paw team members). Cody has an energetic team at Commerce that is providing communities and Bear Paw with valuable technical assistance as all projects must meet requirements for eligible water and sewer infrastructure as outlined in House Bill 632. Cody said that meeting in person with communities provides important insight into the projects and barriers that rural counties face.
“We have been meeting virtually with dozens of local government representatives since early summer 2021, but you just can’t replace the value of meeting and discussing projects in person,” Ferguson said. “Our trip to Liberty, Hill, Blaine, and Phillips Counties allowed us to hear about the important and exciting projects each county was considering funding with its ARPA minimum allocation funds and to work through some of the nitty-gritty of project eligibility, match funding, and timing. All of us at the Department of Commerce felt like we were able to provide more and better assistance in two days of meetings than in two weeks of phone calls. We’re incredibly grateful to the Bear Paw staff in helping to make these meetings possible and for their continued hands-on work with all of the communities in their region.”
Bear Paw has hired Tina Salazar to assist the Bear Paw Community Development Team with the capacity needed to provide technical assistance to members in the allocation of ARPA Minimum Allocation Grants and identification of eligible projects and matching funds. This includes assisting counties, engineers and state-assigned technical assistance engineers with the completion, submission, and start-up of ARPA MAG projects for only $2,000 per project. This will be added as a part of the project budget when submitted for minimum allocation grants and is an eligible use of MAG funds. Adding temporary capacity through this position will assist Bear Paw with meeting the needs of members during this unprecedented time of funding for much needed water and sewer infrastructure.
The ultimate goal is to assure that no funds from the Bear Paw District will revert back to the State at the end of the year, but that we will be able to assist counties and towns to fund as many projects as possible. This is an historic time for our Economic Development District to build infrastructure that will support economic growth for generations to come.
|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