Bear Paw Development Corp. had a record year, despite an economic downturn, with $19.2 million brought into a five-county region, which encompasses Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap Indian reservations. Bear Paw received $90,000 in total from the region's governments. For each dollar of that local investment, Bear Paw leveraged $214, Paul Tuss, the economic development agency's executive director, told Havre City Council members Monday evening. "In my perspective, a very good return on investment," he said. In 2008, the return was $99 per $1 from the $8.9 million total. Stimulus funding was one of the main reasons for the high level of funding. Infrastructure projects were funded with $15,585,956. One of those projects built an addition to Harlem's water treatment plant and replaced obsolete equipment, raised the pump station above the flood plain, installed two new pumps at the intake pump station, installed microfiltration units, replaced pipeline and expanded the wet wall. The $2.3 million project had been worked on since 2001. Business lending saw a slight uptick, though, with a total of $2,500,100 invested, Tuss said. Grateful Bread, a local bread and lunch shop, opened in 2009, with the assistance of financing through Bear Paw Development. A business loan through Bear Paw also made Rob Voshall's purchase of L&R Meats in Fort Benton possible. Through Bear Paw's work and involvement, 170 jobs were either created or retained in the region, 97.5 of those jobs from the infrastructure improvement projects at Malta's Hi-Line Retirement Center and Big Sandy Activities. "It's critical. It's absolutely critical," Tuss said this morning about the jobs. Often people turn to Bear Paw when there are no other options left for improvements, loans or creative additions to businesses. "It's incredibly important that when other resources aren't available, we're able to step in and fill that gap," he said. Tuss said that funding numbers might be down from last year because of the lack of another large influx of stimulus dollars, even with talk of another program at the capitol. But many projects will still be worked on, including ones for which funding was received for in 2009. For example, ground was officially broken on the Montana Agro-Energy Industrial Park southwest of Havre in October, but the first phase of construction is slated for this month. Projects for 2010 are already under way with Brownfields Program assessments being wo r k e d o n c u r r e n t l y. Community feedback is already occurring, Tuss said. A series of public meetings will seek to identify properties that have been or are perceived to have been contaminated by toxins with the goal of putting them back into productive use, he added. Despite the lower price of petroleum products, Tuss said he expects a continued emphasis in the region on value added agriculture and renewable energy. "It's more difficult to engage in those projects when the price of gas is $2.50 a gallon versus $4.50 a gal lon," he said. "They're no less important, however." Building relationships with entities such as Montana State University-Northern's biodiesel program and using resources already in the region will help, he added. "I think people would look at 2010 as cautiously optimistic," he said, adding that there is hope that the corner has been turned in the recession, despite continued caution in investments.
Bear Paw touts $19.2 million brought to area in 2009
Published: Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
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