Business in Profile: Central Avenue Meats

Drew Hicks, 32, Central Avenue Meats

Hicks was born and raised in Geraldine and went to college in Missoula. Then he moved to Denver; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Colorado Springs until 2017.

“I moved home both to take care of my dad, who still lives in Geraldine, but also because I saw an opportunity to start a business in the community I’ve always loved,” he said.

He chose to open here because, “I saw an opportunity to fill a need in the market (a craft, whole-animal butcher shop) in an area that had a very good local supply of beef. But also, I felt like Great Falls has an up-and-coming downtown and there were real-estate opportunities to establish a business like ours in a central location, before it became too expensive, like many other downtowns in the state (Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Helena) and nationally.”

What are the top 3 advantages to operating a business in Great Falls?

  • “The cost of living as a resident and establishing a business are lower than others cities in Montana;
  • Being healthcare, agricultural and trade-centered, I feel Great Falls can weather some of the employment and market issues that could cripple towns that are more centered around tourism, service-industry jobs or academic type jobs;
  • The existence and support of the business/restaurant community, both city-wide and specifically downtown, as well as the resources provided by the Business Improvement District and most important, the Great Falls Development Authority. There are a lot of people who go out of their way to network and connect entrepreneurs and community members.”

What are the top 3 challenges?

  • “A pessimistic local-attitude about the present state of the town, which seems to run rampant at times;
  • Less technology resources compared to other places in the state;
  • Like many other places, a lot of hoops to jump through in dealing with local government regulations.”

If there was one thing you could change to existing regulations to remove barriers to business, what would it be?

“I feel like Great Falls is not any worse than most of the other paces I’ve lived, especially as to the strictness of regulations, but I’ve heard that the city zoning services can be tedious to deal with. Our only real frustrations came when we were given the same chemical-wastewater paperwork to fill out that the refinery uses, even though we are completely different businesses. A little more “one-size-fits-all” than I was hoping for from a city this small.”

 What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business in Great Falls?

“Take advantage of the business counseling services from the GFDA, as well as grant opportunities from the BID. If these are pursued genuinely, I feel like you’ll get accurate, honest feedback as to whether or not your business idea is viable in Great Falls, and if so, there are plenty of networking opportunities through those organizations.”