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Great Falls economy is on the rebound, but still faces challenges

 Jolene Schalper
Joe McKenney
Posted at 9:32 AM, Jan 22, 2022

GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls economy is projected to trend upwards in 2022. The Great Falls Development Authority recently commissioned a survey from Chmura Economics.

The survey gathered information about how Covid has affected the Great Falls region. Some industries were disproportionately affected, such as restaurants, which were part of the most affected group in terms of jobs lost. There were almost 900 food industry jobs lost in 2020’s second quarter, more than a quarter of the total jobs.

The economy in Great Falls is on the rebound, but there are still challenges to be faced in 2022.

GFDA senior vice president Jolene Schalper said Great Falls is growing and becoming more exciting for people to live and work in, but there are a few issues the city must address for people moving in.

“The report was about expected as far as numbers, but this really brought to light supply chain disruptions that perhaps we’d felt before but never to this degree and we’re about to see even more supply chain disruptions happening. With that though, there have become other challenges like housing and childcare,” Schalper said. “Great Falls is poised for growth; however, we need the people to be able to work in the workforce. And we just need more people back into our community. To do that, we really must work on our housing and our childcare, our two big issues that are facing our community. But it’s not insurmountable. We have the data, we have the tools, now together we can solve that.”

Despite these challenges, there is hope on the horizon. The survey anticipates Great Falls will be back to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity by the end of the year.

The GFDA says some businesses won’t make it through the year, but overall, the economy is expected make a recovery from last year. Even though some officials did not anticipate the effects of Covid to be so widespread, the economy of Great Falls is in the recovery process and many industries are expected to continue trending upward this year.

City Commissioner Joe McKenney sees the struggles from the last few years but is also optimistic about this coming year and what it can do for Great Falls.

“What I’ve seen from the economy is,it is struggling. But we’re recovering. You know the people of Great Falls and Montana are very self-reliant but to see it in writing is really disheartening. We all know that Covid has had a strong negative impact. It’s affected everything. Really that’s the shocking part. When it first happened, I thought it would affect the hospitality industry somewhat and the retail industry, but it has affected every industry. Employers are going to have to be creative in attracting staff. It’ll be a long-term challenge, but again, we’ll get through it,” McKenney said. “I moved here about 40 years and it was much more stagnant I remember. Now there’s a lot more going on and people are seeing that.”

Click here to read the full report.