NewsGreat Falls News


Downtown Great Falls celebrates community involvement

Downtown Great Falls
Urban Art Project
Posted at 10:47 AM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 15:39:12-05

GREAT FALLS — It was a successful year in downtown Great Falls in terms of the number of volunteers and organizations that contributed to the community - and the Downtown Development Partnership predicts an even more successful year as we enter the third month of 2022.

According to the DDP, there were more than 32,000 volunteer hours dedicated to the downtown community, with more than $9.6 million dollars invested in renovating and rehabilitating downtown buildings.

Figures include $4.4 million dollars invested in the Civic Center rehabilitation project and four new business that located downtown, creating approximately 38 new jobs.

Here is the full text of the news release from the DDP:

As a certified member of the Montana Main Street Program, the Downtown Development Partnership (DDP) collects data and submits quarterly Reinvestment Reports for Downtown Great Falls (5th Avenue N to 5th Avenue S west of 15th Street to the river). The data collected includes several downtown indicators including volunteer hours, dollars invested in the rehabilitation/renovation of downtown buildings and the number of new businesses and associated jobs created. These statistics help demonstrate how the downtown is performing.

In 2021 there were over 32,000 volunteer hours, over $9.6 million invested in renovating/rehabilitating downtown buildings, this figure includes $4.4 million invested in the Civic Center rehabilitation project, and four new businesses chose to locate downtown which created approximately 38 new jobs.

As we adapt to our new normal, our amazing volunteer base is getting back to assisting all of the many organizations that depend upon their support and we are slowly approaching our pre-pandemic levels for volunteer hours. The continued support of the Great Falls Police Department’s volunteer, seasonal foot patrol is a wonderful example of volunteers supporting our downtown, with over 3,100 volunteer hours contributed through this program alone. It says a lot about a community when individuals donate 32,180 hours of their time and energy to groups and organizations that they believe in. If downtown organizations had to compensate volunteers in real dollars, in 2022 it would have translated to approximately $918,419 (based on the current federal rate of volunteer time). It is evident that volunteers continue to provide a significant investment to Downtown Great Falls.

The Reinvestment Report is also a useful tool because it can show not only how the downtown is performing quarter to quarter, but also from year to year. Despite the pandemic, rehabilitation and renovations continued and 2020 and 2021 were both productive years. In just two years, over $17 million has been reinvested in the downtown economy through the redevelopment of existing properties.

Joan Redeen, community director of the Great Falls Business Improvement District, said, "Volunteers are tremendously important. All of these organization that are working on improving and revitalizing our downtown are non-profit organizations, and we all depend heavily on volunteers. In our downtown office, we have one and a half people, so one full-timer and one part-timer, and we wouldn't be able to do a third of what we do without the volunteer support that we've received."

The Great Falls Police Department, The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Visit Great Falls Montana agency are just some of the few that rely on volunteers.

Redeen noted, "All of these organizations rely heavily on the support of volunteers. We have a fantastic supportive community; when we ask for volunteers, they usually show up, so we're grateful for that."

She added, "I think that things are looking up. I think we're slowly starting to come back out of the pandemic, so I do anticipate that our numbers will continue to rise again. The federal government places a dollar figure on the hourly value for volunteer time, and so the current rate for that is about $27 per hour for volunteers, so it's crazy how much it equates to financially."