Business in profile: Hi-Line Climbing Center
Brian and Abby Thompson. The Hi-Line Climbing Center. Opened in 2016.
Brian is originally from Butte and Abby is from Deadwood, South Dakota. The following answers are from Brian Thompson.
“We had left Montana for post-grad education and wanted to come back really badly. Once a job opened in Great Falls we took it. The climbing gym opened later to fill a gap we saw in our new community and a gap in our hearts for accessible rock climbing. We liked the location, the affordability and the people and we saw loads of potential.”
Why did you open/acquire a business here?
“We knew climbing as a sport and the way it brings people together and inspires them in a healthy way. We knew it would be popular and we thought we would enjoy it. We saw a lot of potential in this community and with that we had an opportunity.”
What are the top 3 advantages to operating a business in Great Falls?
It is affordable, the community is hungry for novel ideas, Great Falls will only continue to grow.
What are the top 3 challenges?
Communication, lower income community, aging population.
If there was one thing you could change to existing regulations to remove barriers to business, what would it be?
“I would take a closer look at building code requirements. I think the requirements are in the right place but I think enforcement is lacking on existing structures. I think owners should be required to keep structures up to a threshold level of code compliance before they are allowed to rent or sell a property. The capital it takes to renovate an existing property is huge right now…too big for start-ups. It also allows real estate investors too much leeway to gobble up properties and sit on them. This cripples development in our downtown area and makes it look blighted, further discouraging development. More needs to be done to make our properties attractive and active. In neighborhoods, the same needs to apply to rental properties. City planning allows too much leeway to rentals and some landlords let their properties fall into disrepair, damaging our neighborhoods as well. So I would like to see growth-minded city planning and enforcement that promotes active use of buildings. I think this could spur a need to have businesses renting and owning.”
What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business in Great Falls?
“I would say carefully plan and have lots of conversations. If you look around at other communities you can readily see what our town lacks in some areas. Many people from here drive other places for art and entertainment and dining. There is opportunity. If you aren’t afraid of hard work, it is very rewarding owning a business in Great Falls.”