Bear Paw’s Quarterly Newsletter

Bear Paw Development Corporation
Paw Prints – A quarterly newsletter to keep you informed
A Note from Paul Tuss, Executive Director

As we close out another year at Bear Paw Development, we particularly want to thank the many partners we have that make our work possible. From local and tribal governments to state and federal funding agencies to the businesses we have been fortunate to work with during the past year, we are grateful to the people and institutions that allow us to fulfill our mission of economic and community development for northern Montana.

There is little question that 2020 has been a tough year for all of us. But it is years like this one that test our mettle, require even more reliance on partnerships and underscores the importance of our work to build communities and support our regional economy. We’ve had some bumps along the way, as many have this year, but as we enter 2021 we think it’s important to both accentuate the good work of the past twelve months as well as look around the corner to the opportunities waiting for us in the new year.

Take a moment to read the short articles in this year-end newsletter to get a flavor for the work in which we were engaged over the past year. While it’s impossible to capture the work of an entire year in one newsletter, these articles are representative of the commitment we have to making the Bear Paw Economic Development District an even better place to live, work, raise a family and build a business.

On behalf of all of us at Bear Paw Development, thank you for your past support. We look forward to working with you in the new year and for years to come.

Riley Mortenson Hired as SBDC Covid-19 Business Advisor

In October, Bear Paw Development hired Riley Mortenson, a Malta native, as a temporary COVID-19 Business Advisor.

Mortenson grew up on her family’s 100-year-old farm and ranch north of Dodson and attended school in Malta. Riley started college at MSU-Northern in the fall of 2016 and will graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Operations Technology with a minor in Small Business Management, as well as an associate degree in Applied Agriculture, and will graduate again in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Business Technology.

On campus Mortenson is currently serving her second term as the president of the Associated Students of Montana State University-Northern (ASMSUN) Student Senate. She is also the Professional Agriculture Students (PAS) Secretary, National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) Student President, and member of the Collegiate Stock Growers Club and American Association of University Women (AAUW). Off campus she has been the Middle School Volleyball coach at St. Jude’s in Havre for five seasons and volunteers her time with her past 4-H club in Phillips County. At MSU-Northern, Riley has also been the driving force in getting the on-campus Food Pantry established.

As the COVID-19 Business Advisor, one of Riley’s main responsibilities will be conducting a survey in Bear Paw’s five-county region. This survey will focus on the impacts that small businesses have seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ways in which the SBDC can assists businesses in recovering from those impacts. Riley will also be conducting at least two trainings per month. Some of the topics will include: Identity Theft, Cyber Security, Moving Your Business Online with an Online Market Place, and Marketing during a Pandemic. These trainings will be free and open to the public. To keep up-to-date on trainings and resources, visit Bear Paw’s website or Facebook page.

If you want more information about the SBDC and small business resources, contact Joe LaPlante, SBDC Director, at [email protected] or Riley at [email protected]. They can both be reached by phone at 406-265-9226.

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Updated

Every five years, Bear Paw Development Corporation partners with local governments, tribes, and residents to develop and update the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The CEDS is a planning document that communities can utilize to help guide economic and community development activities in our five-county area. The CEDS takes into account current data and statistics along with community input regarding the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities for the region. The data and input collected inform the CEDS action plan, which includes goals, strategies, and specific activities for implementing projects that work to expand small business opportunities, create jobs, support value-added agriculture, and improve infrastructure. BPDC also held a photo contest as part of the CEDS process to gather pictures from residents that highlight rural life in northern Montana. Photos from Sunny Whalawitsa, Amanda Moss, Morgan Ellis/C&M Photography, Christina Lickfold, Rainee Komrosky, Megan Blauwkamp, Patricias Faith, and Michelle H. Crazy are featured throughout the document. To learn more about the CEDS and to view a copy of the 2020 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, you can visit Bear Paw’s website at

Bear Paw Receives $300,000 Brownfields Grant

In October of 2020, Bear Paw Development was awarded $300,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct brownfields assessment activities in Phillips, Blaine, Chouteau, Hill, and Liberty counties. Bear Paw has operated the brownfields program since 2009 and has assisted local landowners in completing more than 65 environmental site assessments. Funding can be utilized by landowners to conduct Phase I and Phase II assessments when looking to transfer, renovate, or redevelop property in the region. The funds will be used to assess properties for hazardous materials, including asbestos and lead-based paint, and for petroleum products, such as gas and diesel. If landowners are interested in having their property assessed, they can visit the Bear Paw website to find out more about the program and contact Samantha Chagnon by email at [email protected] or by phone at 406-265-9226.

EDA Invests $2.1 Million for New Business Lending

In March, for the first time in more than twenty years, Bear Paw Development recapitalized its revolving loan fund with a $600,000 investment from the Economic Development Administration through its Economic Adjustment Assistance Program. These funds, along with a local match contribution of $150,000, will create a new loan fund that will be reinvested into Bear Paw’s five-county Economic Development District through loans to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners.

Additionally, through the federal CARES Act, the EDA also invested $1.5 million in grant funds to further recapitalize our revolving loan fund in November, with a focus on assisting businesses impacted by the global pandemic. In addition to utilizing these funds for traditional gap financing for start-ups and expansions, it will also be utilized to help businesses wishing to enter emerging markets, including value-added agriculture.

Since the origination of its loan program over three decades ago, Bear Paw Development has approved more than 400 loans to businesses in northern Montana. Use of funds include working capital, equipment and real estate purchases, and gap financing. These investments in our local economy have assisted the private sector to create or retain over 1,600 jobs.

“These investments by the EDA, through a competitive process, validates the importance and necessity of having loan funds available in our region to the private sector to meet their capital needs and help create jobs,” said Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the EDA and other lending agencies, as well as local banks, to provide business funding that not only fosters economic growth in our communities, but also assists in the pandemic recovery process”.

Bear Paw’s FADC Supports Montana Meat Processing

The Food and Agriculture Development Center at Bear Paw Development has been working with the Montana Farmers Union (MFU) to provide Montana residents with a more stable food supply chain. Montana Farmers Union has received a $150,000 Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant from federal CARES Act relief funds to purchase a mobile harvest unit. MFU, in partnership with Farmers Union groups in four other states who will also contribute to this purchase, will operate the facility as a cooperative to expand meat processing capacity. The other states include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, in addition to Farmers Union Enterprise (FUE).

The cooperative will benefit Montana producers and butchers by providing the ability to harvest livestock that will be USDA inspected and for sale. Montana livestock harvest facilities are currently being over-run and are booked well into 2021, forcing producers to hold onto livestock or ship out-of-state to a corporate monopoly. The bottleneck in the production process became evident during the Coronavirus shut down when consumers discovered meat shortages in grocery stores and consumers started seeking other sources.

This project will allow locally raised livestock to remain in the regional economy, supporting local ranchers and meat processors.

*Portions of this article are from a MFU press release.

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
Bear Paw Development Corporation | 48 Second Avenue, PO Box 170, Havre, MT 59501

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