Montana Specialty Mills breaks ground in AgriTech Park

Montana Specialty Mills, LLC, broke ground Tuesday on what will be a $20 million, 20-acre processing facility at the Great Falls Montana Development Authority’s AgriTech Park, along River Drive near Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The facility is expected to be completed by next fall, will add about 10 new employees and help the company expand into the non-GMO and organic oilseeds markets, which will mostly be canola, but also some flax and possibly some sunflower and safflower, said Steve Chambers, president and CEO.

The company has operated a plant in Great Falls for the last 70 years and Chambers said they were glad to have an opportunity to expand that operation in Great Falls. 

“We chose our new location in the AgriTech Park because it has the infrastructure, subdivision and zoning already in place for us,” Chambers said. “Being able to build immediately and not worry about anything else has saved us a lot of time and money.”

 That’s part of the goal in attracting manufacturing companies to AgriTech, said Brett Doney, president of the Great Falls Development Authority.

Doney said infrastructure, which includes rail, has been installed for the first six lots, five or which have been sold. GFDA hopes to always have one or two lots that are shovel ready, but don’t want to get ahead of themselves with infrastructure.

The plan is to add infrastructure in phases as businesses come in and the park develops, Doney said.

AgriTech is in a tax increment financing district and in 2015 the city approved an agreement for an estimated $6.7 million worth of public infrastructure in the park.

The developer proposed to install infrastructure improvements in three phases and the city will reimburse the developer for those improvements through tax increment funds. The city will pay interest at 4 percent annually once the site has reached set performance benchmarks. The city does not accrue or pay interested until specific performance based tax increment levels are reached during each phase of the project.

When the 15-year TIF districts sunsets, the tax revenues go back into the general fund.

So the Montana Mills groundbreaking is good for the company, but also good for the park development in helping meet those performance benchmarks and get reimbursement for the infrastructure improvements, Doney said.

Helena Chemical and FedEx Ground are already operating in the park and the site is also certified by BNSF as a premier park.

Pacific Steel and Recycling owns property in the park and invested $2 million in those infrastructure improvements.

“We could not have done the park without them,” Doney said. The company has not yet broken ground on the new site, but Doney said they’re hoping that will be soon.

Montana Specialty Mills selected its new location at the 197-acre AgriTech Park because of those ready to build lots with easy access to infrastructure, according to the company.

The company’s relocation allowed an opportunity to expand into markets like non-GMOs, organic vegetable oils and protein meals. The company currently employs 15 full-time workers and is planning to add 10 more at the new location.