Written by Al Stover
Great Northern Development Corporation held their quarterly board meeting Oct. 24. GNDC board members and guests attended the meeting and lunch was provided.
After the board approved the agenda, the GNDC staff gave presentations on current projects.
Lorene Hintz, with small business center programs, gave a report of her current projects.
Hintz said she has had 186 counseling sessions with 108 clients. Through these clients, there has been over $2 million of investment in the area. This is a result of new businesses, as well as buyouts and expansions of existing businesses in the area.
Hintz reported she hosted 13 workshops with 129 attendees. She is working on providing workshops for businesses in different counties requested for input from county officials on what the needs of businesses in their areas are to help her create workshops suited to those needs including trainers and speakers.
She also brought up the Incumbent Worker Training Program and said businesses can send their workers to training and can be reimbursed.
Hintz plans to promote the business plan competition. She said the competition is not only for existing businesses, but also for anyone who has a business idea. The contest has four categories based on years: 0-10 years old, 11-15, 16-20 and 21 and older.
Through the American Indian Entrepreneur Program, the state has $14,000 to invest in businesses on the Fort Peck Reservation. This can be two $7,000 grants or one $14,000 grant. She has worked with 10 clients.
Hintz also works with the Montana Growth Co-op Development and helps anyone to become a co-op. She recently worked with a group in Circle who wants to build a hotel in the community.
She also works with Investment Success Conferences puts on throughout the state. It is a small business conference that brings workshops to people in the state.
Hintz also talked about the Business Expansion and Retention program that helps businesses with growth problems, Hintz can send an interview team to a business. The team will bring back the information to her and she will then send an assessment team to the business to see how they can help.
Shelli Isle, who works with the GNDC and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition, talked about her current projects.
Isle said the corporation has been doing assessment projects around the six counties. She said some are about ready to tap the Brownsfield Assessment Grant $750,000 grant. The corporation plans to apply for another assessment grant and will try to visit with city and county officials to see if they have any additional projects in the communities.
Isle also talked about the Revolving Loan Fund Cleanup Grant, which GNDC has sub-granted to three non-profit organizations and one government entity. All four have used the grant toward the removal of asbestos.
Isle said the corporation is also considering sub-granting six more properties for the RLF Cleanup Grant for which they have already made assessments. One property will be a loan and the other five will be sub-granted.
Kelcie Bates, the GNDC loan officer for the six counties covered by the corporation, explained the different loan programs offered through GNDC, including Micro Business Program through the Department of Commerce; the Intermediary Relending Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, both through the USDA Rural Development; Community Development Block Revolving Loan Fund and the Montana Board of Investments.
Bates said the interest rates for the loans are between 6 and 12 percent and they can be used for community projects, establishment of a new business, expansion of a current business, creation of employment opportunities, preservation of existing jobs, business construction or development, purchase of property or startup costs.
The GNDC currently has 44 small business loans, which have created and retained 133 jobs. The corporation currently has up to $2 million to loan. Bates asked the board and guests to have any businesses who could benefit from the loan programs contact her.
Brianna Vine, housing specialist and marketing officer, presented her current projects.
In Roosevelt County, the GNDC completed a feasibility study for a new jail facility. They are waiting on payment from the state so the county can move forward obtaining funding for construction.
The GNDC is working on a housing plan in Garfield County. Guy Hopkins, regional planner for the Eastern Montana Impact Coalition, is working on the development while Vine and GNDC executive director Martin DeWitt is seeking funds from the state.
The GNDC has also completed housing plans for Daniels County and Vine and DeWitt are working on getting funding from the state.
Vine, along with Isle and Tori Matejovsky, have been working in McCone County, completing feasibility and impact studies for a 22-turbine wind farm, located on Montana Hwy. 13 between Wolf Point and Circle. The GNDC is administering two grants for the project. Vine said studies have shown that the project is feasible.
Vine and Matejovsky have been completing a HOME application for funding for the Wolf Point Village, a 24-unit affordable housing complex. They also finished the five-year Wolf Point Revitalization Housing Project, which benefitted 11 homes.
Vine said she completed a preliminary architectal report for a hospital expansion project in Culbertson. She and Matejovsky are working with Glasgow to get that city to complete a housing plan. She is also working with Jordan to get them a planning grant for their updated growth policy.
In regards to her duties as marketing officer, Vine said she plans to update the GDNC’s website. Vine also thanked office assistant Brittany Deavila for helping her on several marketing projects.
Stoney Anketell, representing the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribal Executive Board, asked who is guaranteeing credits on the tax credit that is used on the Wolf Point Village project. Vine said Michael Associates from Minnesota. They also said that Jonathan Reed, the developer for the project, is overseeing the tax credit.
Anketell also asked how many megawatts the wind farm would produce. DeWitt said hopefully 75.
Anketell said the wind farm is an exciting project and congratulated the GNDC.
Matejovsky, EMIC, said she covers 16 counties and has been working in the GNDC region. She focuses on infrastructure and works with counties and cities to focus on housing, roads, sewer projects, health facilities and public safety and finds funding for these projects. She said the goal with EMIC is to assess the impacts of energy development in eastern Montana. She also said Hopkins helps communities identify what projects are most important and what needs to happen.
Matejovsky said she takes projects as they come to her. She is helping Jordan get funding for their wastewater sewer system. She has helped Glasgow and Valley County submit funding applications for their fairgrounds to help with accessibility parking.
She also helped GNDC write their grant for Community Development Financial Institution training, which allowed them to get training and consulting and will help them apply to be a CDFI. Outside the region, Matejovsky also helped Fallon County with wastewater sewer planning.
Matejovsky has other projects such as helping Vine with the housing project in Glasgow. She also said she would be willing to speak with other city and county officials about infrastructure in their area.
Wolf Point Mayor Dewayne Jager expressed his appreciation to Vine and Matejovsky for their work on the Wolf Point Village Project.
Hopkins introduced himself as the regional planner for EMIC. He said he focuses on the planning aspect and goes into communities, helping them with growth management policies, ordinances, zoning and other things.
Hopkins is focusing on Bainville, working with them on funding for a impact fee study and the financial amount of new connection fees for their sewer system and their planning, also giving advice on planning.
Hopkins is also working with Prairie County and the Town of Terry. He also said he does the economic part of his training. He is working with Garfield County and Jordan on other projects.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald asked Hopkins if he had any contact with the Roosevelt County Planners. Hopkins said he has contacted Julie Burke, but has not gotten a response. MacDonald said he will talk to the planners.
After Hopkins was finished, DeWitt spoke for GNDC financial officer Toni Pedersen, who had some personal obligations and could not attend the meeting.
DeWitt said that Pedersen is “the glue that holds us all together.” He also said that Pederson “keeps tabs” on the rest of the staff and makes sure they are not overdoing things.
DeWitt said Pedersen has been assisting him on the CDFI application. If GNDC achieves CDFI status, it will open up several funding opportunities the corporation can use.
Pedersen also identified a mentorship program through the Opportunity Finance Network. GNDC was one of 16 organizations in the United States selected for the program. DeWitt and Pedersen went to Detroit, Mich., in August for training. During the training, DeWitt and Pedersen had to identify what they wanted to achieve for GNDC through the mentorship program.
Pedersen also helped the staff with technical assistance funding to help the GNDC with training and consulting.
DeWitt gave his executive director’s report. He said the GNDC finished a draft for the EMIC facing energy development and finished a draft of the study for the energy development. He said the draft is open for public comment until Dec. 1 and will be posted on the website. DeWitt told board members, commissioners and councilmen that they can inform the community about the study.
DeWitt also said the corporation is working on an organization strategic plan. He said they had an initial meeting and a SWOT analysis. One of the actions they made was for more involvement from the board. He also said he was glad to see both new faces and regular attendees at the meeting.
One way GNDC plans for more board involvement is to market themselves and determine the interests of the board members and their motives for being involved. DeWitt said he will meet with several cities and counties throughout November. He also said he would speak with the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes and other organizations that were not at the board meeting.
The board approved the minutes for the meeting of July 18 meeting. They also approved the annual financial report.
GNDC accepted a bid from Russell Vandercook to put steel siding on the north and east exterior walls.
GNDC’s next quarterly board meeting will be Jan. 10.