Great Falls Economic Development Wins Two National Awards

Great Falls Development Association

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has selected the Great Falls Development Authority to receive two 2019 NADO Impact Awards. GFDA is the only economic development organization in the Rocky Mountain West to be recognized with NADO awards this year.

We are excited to earn these awards! Results Matter. Thank you to the outstanding GFDA staff team, volunteer leaders, investors, partners, and, most importantly, our incredible clients!!!

The Impact Awards honor NADO members for their creative approaches to advancing regional community and economic development and improved quality of life. These projects have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of services and program delivery provided by regional development organizations across the country. The awards will be presented at NADO’s 2019 Annual Training Conference in October in Reno.

Great Falls Region Food & Ag Development Center
We are receiving an Impact Award for the first two years of our Great Falls Region Food & Ag Development Center. We launched the Center in July 2017 with funding from the Montana Department of Agriculture and GFDA investors. In its startup, our center has assisted over 47 businesses that have made capital investments in our region totaling over $54 million, created 68 new primary sector jobs, and led to increased agricultural production of over $45 million per year.

The Center works with local entrepreneurs, existing local businesses, and targeted companies from other regions in the food, ag processing, and natural resource sectors. The Center grew out of our strategic planning process launched in 2009 as we sought to recover from the loss of a USAF missile squadron. We created a manufacturing partnership in 2013 with the help of the Economic Development Administration. It quickly became apparent that food and ag-processing industries offered opportunities for our region, which led us to create the Center.

For more information about the Great Falls Region Food & Ag Development Center, contact Barnett Sporkin-Morrison, Center Director, at 406-750-3285 or [email protected].

Great Falls Region Bridge Loans


We are receiving an Impact Award for our Bridge Loan financing product.


Ten years ago, we were faced with a challenging opportunity. One of our clients was working on a potential brownfield redevelopment of a long-abandoned former gas station located at a prominent cross-roads entrance to historic downtown Great Falls. Our brownfield team leader worked with the client, a partnership of two local developers, to get the project qualified for state petroleum board cleanup funds, but once the board approved the project they were out of funds and suggested the project be put on hold for 3-4 years when they would have funds available.

The project would not be financially viable with a regular loan our of our EPA brownfield loan fund or a regular gap loan from our other revolving loan funds. The clients did not have the funds available to do the property cleanup and then be reimbursed by the petrol board years later. We were launching a downtown main street initiative and very much wanted to see the project kickstart the downtown effort. Working with the EPA, the petrol board, the bank involved in the project and the client, we were able to create a bridge loan using just the petrol board guarantee as security. This allowed what became the Mountain Mudd Coffee House redevelopment to happen.

The success of the redevelopment caused our economic development organization to investigate creating a new bridge loan product to complement our longstanding gap financing loan product. In the ten years hence, we have put together 11 bridge loan packages totaling $16,314,289 that have leveraged over $121,617,469 in private investment in our region, along the way very significantly expanding our organization’s mission impact. Our success leads us to believe that most economic development organizations who host revolving loan funds should explore bridge lending.

To use, the simple differentiation of a bridge loan from a gap economic development loan, is that our repayment comes from a single occurrence outside of the normal revenue from the business, real estate development or non-profit. These creative financing structures provide upfront capital needed for a project to move forward, capital that traditional lenders cannot provide. Our bridge loans typically have a short term of 12-36 months.
For more information about our bridge loans and other financing products, contact Jill Kohles, Loan Officer, at 1-406-590-1056 or [email protected].

THANK YOU again to all who helped us create our Food & Ag Development Center and Bridge Loan Product! We’re just getting started!!!


Brett Doney

President & CEO



Connect with me on LinkedIn to network with the Great Falls region.

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1 Comment

  1. Russ Fletcher on August 23, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Outstanding! Congratulations to the innovative team at GFDA.

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