Updated 9 months ago by Erin Schermele (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Jonathon Martin decided to open the Five Loaves bakery more than seven years ago he expected challenges, but not from the city: "In 2005 it almost seemed like it was a negative attitude to helping business get open."
It took Martin six months and a trip to a state appeals board to finally get his coffee shop doors open.
He said, "My attitude is that the government should work to help you get into business not sacrificing health and safety. That is important, we need regulations for that, but how can we work with the regulations to keep people open?"
Despite some trepidation from the first go around, Five Loaves has now opened a second location across town.
And much to Martin's surprise, the process with the city has been seamless: "I didn't feel that same attitude toward small business. I felt there was some concern, to say, 'Let's get you open.' Saying, 'We won't bend or break the rules but we can accommodate.' So there was a really positive attitude there and I'm grateful."
Martin credits the fairly new building official Craig Raymond with the Great Falls city planning and development department.
Raymond said, "The things I heard first was that the City of Great Falls was not a business-friendly city...so it was interesting to really dive in and find out what that was all about."
Raymond says in the two years he's been here, he doesn't feel that idea to be true, but he understands where business owners' frustrations stem from: "They may know a lot about restaurants, but not a lot about building codes, and that's normal that is natural, so they come in and say, 'We need to get permits for this and that,' and we tell them, 'Well, yes but you also need to do X, Y, and Z,' and that's never a good feeling. They didn't know it ahead of time so they feel a little bit blindsided, they didn't plan on spending the money, it may screw up their budget."
Several months ago, Raymond worked to make changes to how permits were handled, streamlining the wait; now, what used to take 4 to 5 week is taking as little as 3 to 4 days.
He is also encouraging businesses to visit the city planning and development office before they buy or lease to see if the proposed project is feasible, which will in turn save money and headaches on all sides.
Martin hopes his positive experience this time inspires others to open their own small business: "It gives the community a flavor, a local flavor. Small business has a different feel then walking into a big box store and I think that's important."
The new Five Loaves bakery opened this week and is located at 300 Smelter Avenue NE, Suite #5.