NewsGreat Falls News


SBDC provides growth opportunities for small businesses

Posted at 5:50 PM, Apr 09, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The United States Department of Agriculture reports rural populations are growing. In the last decade, Western and Southern Montana counties saw a 10-20% increase in population.

Great Falls Development Alliance is a private/public economic development partnership. The goal of GFDA is to expand the Golden Triangle region of Montana. The organization helps bring in new businesses to Great Falls and surrounding communities.

One leg of GFDA's office in Great Falls is its Small Business Development Center. It's funded through state and private entity dollars and in November of 2023 — GFDA hired a new Regional Director, Al Gohary.

"We're helping entrepreneurs grow their business and stay in business."

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration website, "Small Business Development Centers provide counseling and training to small businesses including working with SBA to develop and provide informational tools to support business start-ups and existing business expansion."

GFDA says it's unique to have SBDC in its office — the role is in partnership with the parent organization, the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Gohary, is an Egyptian-American immigrant who came to the United States in the 1990s. His experience as an employee in Northern Africa is much different from his experience in the U.S.

Gohary earned his start working in hotels and for the last 25 years he's received numerous accolades for his business development strategies.

"It transformed my life as a business owner versus an employee in Egypt. There’s no ceiling. I see the American Dream, we use that cliché all the time, but there’s no ceiling of what you can do in the United States no matter where you’re located."

After working in the public and private sector in California — Gohary says the strategies used in California can be used here to bring positive growth to rural Montana. The opportunity to make an impact in Great Falls is what inspired him to take the job in Central Montana.

"What better impact can I have than in a small town in Montana where people need this to thrive."

Great Falls Development Alliance Vice President, Jake Clark says business owners in the area are putting more into their communities than ever before.

"Great Falls has more economic opportunity right now than ever before. We’ve got a growing population. We have a growing number of business in our area, our existing business are growing expanding and investing more into our community, than has been done in a really long time." Clark said.

According to a report supplied by GFDA completed by JobsEQ — Great Falls median household income is $52,665, slating the cost of living index at 86.1. Compared to the National Average, the annual average salary in the U.S. sitting just over $70,000 puts Great Falls 13.9% lower in cost of living.

These numbers show the potential Great Falls has to be one of Montana's larger metropolitan areas with an affordable cost of living. With nearly 99% of Montana businesses being small businesses, Gohary's footprint in developing new and established businesses will propel the local economy.

"The Great Falls Developmental Alliance has done a great job of pulling together experts who are passionate about what they do and finding a lot of tools to bring to the table for starting and growing a business. So, Al in our small business development center is a perfect example of that," added Clark.

"My calling is to advise small business owners and entrepreneurs." Gohary said.

If you're interested in working with the GFDA Small Business Development Center contact GFDA at (406) 750-4481.

The GFDA Small Business Development Center will create a comprehensive plan that works for your business at free or low-cost.

Great Falls Development Alliance is located in the West Bank Landing at The Portage Building at West Bank Landing, 405 3rd St NW, Suite 203.