By Brett Doney
Great Falls is a pioneering city built on a rich heritage of farming and ranching, industrial development,
the United States Air Force, and entrepreneurship. Situated at the Great Falls of the Missouri River -where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains – this city has protected its unique history and many call it genuine Montana.
Ten years ago, Great Falls was still struggling to recover from the closing of the Anaconda Smelter and numerous military cutbacks. Despite economic hardship, Great Falls never lost its spirit. Public and private community leaders came together to forge a comprehensive Forward Great Falls economic development plan. Revitalization of the city’s historic riverfront and downtown areas were identified as a key ingredient of an economic turn-around.
With the help of EPA brownfields assessment (a brownfield is a property where previous uses have left, or may have left, hazardous substances or pollutants, like a former gas station or industrial facility) and revolving loan funds, and years of hard work, Great Falls is now enjoying an economic renaissance.
Award-winning redevelopment projects and new businesses along the riverfront and downtown have attracted dozens of new businesses, regional shoppers, tourists and new residents. Employment records were set in 2013 and 2014. Most telling, student enrollment in Great Falls Public Schools broke 20 straight years of decline to grow in each of the past two years.
Thanks in part to EPA’s brownfields assistance, we’re working with private developers who have proposed future projects that will continue this positive momentum. The future is bright for Great Falls!
About the author: Brett Doney is President and CEO of the Great Falls Development Authority in Great Falls, Montana.