With a lower cost of doing business, an abundance of land with plenty of room for growth, a quality of life that attracts top talent and a strong network of resources for startups, it’s no wonder the Great Falls region was named one of the top 12 Best Small Cities to Start a Small Business by Go.Verizon, as well as No. 9 on AdvisorSmith’s Top Cities (with a population under 150,000) where Americans start the most businesses. In fact, Great Falls is a great place for businesses large and small, and the pro-business atmosphere breeds innovation across the region’s growing industries.
Great Falls, MT is a Destination for Innovation
A strong network of resources and access to talent stir new ventures in Great Falls.
Cargill, one of the world’s leading agribusinesses, for example, has developed a process at its Great Falls plant to glean omega-3 fatty acids from canola oil. The development will reduce reliance on fishmeal, increase the viability of farm-raised fish and reduce pressure on oceans.
“For innovative agricultural companies like Cargill, the Great Falls area offers many features that enhance agricultural innovations. Highly productive farmland with a talented farming base is essential for projects like our omega-3 canola project,” says Keith Horton, Cargill’s senior trial agronomist.
“Great agricultural universities, like the network of Montana State University, aid in groundbreaking research. It’s also important for an innovative company like Cargill to be situated in a community that supports agriculture in general as well as new innovations.”
Diving into the Talent Pool
Horton says the university system in Montana has done an excellent job of providing talented people who have helped develop its omega-3 canola oil. Area groups, such as the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA), have helped post job openings and reach people within the Great Falls community.
For Susan Crocker, co-owner of The Good Wood Guys, workforce development initiatives are critical to the growth of the urban sawmill, custom build shop and retail hardwoods store that she and her husband, Chris, operate in Great Falls.
“Being able to work with the state and the college to help develop an apprenticeship program, utilizing the Incumbent Worker Training grant, and getting help with safety protocols has helped us grow a great team that sees this as a career, not just a job,” she says.
She, too, credits organizations, such as the GFDA, as well as local school systems, higher education institutions and local business groups, such as the Great Falls Home Builders Association and Montana’s American Institute of Architects.
Crocker says organizations, such as the local Job Service, helped with recruitment, and programs, such as the Incumbent Worker Training program grant, help small businesses like theirs afford outside training for their employees.
And Crocker says the region’s quality of life also plays a role in the ability to innovate.
“Quality of life matters more than pay to most people. We have an employee from Florida and another from South Dakota. Both left jobs with higher pay to be here,” Crocker says. “Great Falls is definitely a draw. The cost of living is affordable – people can live in a nice house and have a pretty short commute, which offers them more time for the things they enjoy outside of work.”