Small business centers expanding in Montana, including Great Falls

Three Small Business Development Centers are expanding across the state, including the Great Falls center, which is based in the Great Falls Development Authority.

The Great Falls center has hired Rich Gannon to fill a new rural business adviser position.

The position was created to make business assistance more accessible in rural communities. The adviser will be based in Cut Bank and focus on outreach to Cascade, Fergus, Judith Basin, Glacier, Teton, Pondera and Toole counties, according to a release from GFDA.

Gannon was raised on a farm and ranch in the Sun River Valley and received a business degree from the University of Montana, according to GFDA. He spent eight years working in Alaska as a staff accountant, comptroller and air taxi dispatcher. He and his wife moved to Cut Bank where he created a web consulting firm, which he has run since 2008, according to GFDA.

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The rural business adviser position was made possible in-part through an additional $200,000 in funding provided to Montana’s SBDC network by the 2019 Legislature through House Bill 52.

According to the Montana Department of Commerce, the funding also allowed the Butte and Billings Small Business Development Centers to hire additional advisers.

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“The increased efforts in our rural areas are designed to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem as strong as the ones already existing in Montana’s fastest growing urban centers,” Jason Nitschke said in a Montana Department of Commerce release. Nitschke is the GFDA vice president and Great Falls SBDC regional director. “These efforts will be most successful by developing collaborative relationships amongst the other resource partners also serving this region.”

According to the state commerce department, certified business consultants at the SBDC’s support entrepreneurs at every stage of their business at no cost to clients and the state program advises nearly 1,000 businesses annually.

The Montana centers celebrated their 30th anniversary this year and have assisted nearly 33,500 entrepreneurs and helped create and retain more than 15,000 jobs since 1989, according to a release from the Montana Department of Commerce.

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The Montana SBDC network is funded in part through a 1989 cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Montana Department of Commerce. The lead center is located in Helena and oversees administrative operations of 10 satellite offices across the state.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our state’s Main Street economy, and we’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners launch or grow their companies,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said in a release. “Having more staff covering three regions of Montana means we can make our services available to even more Montanans who are looking to expand their business or who want to get a new business up and running.”