GREAT FALLS — Madison Food Park has been trying to secure funding for a plot east of Great Falls for the past couple of years. The proposed plots are for ‘Big Sky Cheese’ and ’Silver Falls Distillery’. Both developments have secured bridge loans from the Great Falls Development Authority, but building has yet to commence.
Now, due to post-pandemic complication, Big Sky Cheese has run into some financial trouble. The developer defaulted on their now-expired loans. Interest on their loans hasn’t been paid by Big Sky Cheese over the last fiscal year, totaling nearly $2 million in unpaid loans.
“Since the pandemic has wound down, they haven't been able to put together the money to keep our loans current. But also the loans have expired because our bridge loans are short term,” says GFDA president Brett Doney.
Unfortunately, because the loans stem from a federal source, the GFDA have no choice but to file a civil lawsuit against Big Sky Cheese, though Doney says there is a mutual understanding between his authority and the developer.
“We're working very closely. It's an amicable thing. The developer knew that that we had to do this,” says Doney.
Doney hopes the development is able to progress as he continues to work closely with both developers and lenders for Big Sky Cheese.
“This project has been stuck longer than we had hoped, but there's still a good possibility that the money will come together to to build the cheese plant and build the distillery,” says Doney.
If the project is unable to be seen through, the GFDA have enough collateral at their disposal to recover the lost loans, though there is some concern since GFDA was in first position on the plot of land midway between Great Falls and Belt.
“If things can't come together, we could put that money to work in other things in the region. We're still very hopeful that the Big Sky Cheese and Silver Falls Distillery will will go ahead. And we're doing everything we can to support that,” Doney says.
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