Developing Central Montana’s economy is like ‘rolling a snowball’

News-Argus Managing Editor
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Staff of the Snowy Mountain Development Corporation take a break before convening their annual meeting at Pine Meadows Golf Course last Wednesday. Shown are (from left) Business Development Director Bob Giese, Community Director Carly Wheatley, Executive Director Kathie Bailey, Regional Director Sara Hudson and Financial Director Diane Pennell.

Photo courtesy of Carly Wheatley

Two business people were honored for their part in growing the local economy last Wednesday at Snowy Mountain Development Corporation’s annual meeting. Greater Montana Land Company real estate professional Joe Irish and Red Rover Pet Boarding owner Sarah Kolar both received awards: Kolar for Business of the Year and Irish for Educator of the Year.

“Joe Irish has worked with our First Time Home Buyer program for years,” said SMDC executive director Kathie Bailey. “He comes to every class to teach our first-time buyers how to get the most out of working with a real estate professional.”

Bailey said the SMDC staff nominated Kolar’s dog boarding and doggie day care facility for the Business of the Year award based on the amount of growth the business has seen.

“She’s at something like 90 percent capacity year-round,” Bailey said. “She has surpassed her projections for business growth and is thinking of expanding.”

Both local business people were part of the annual ceremony reporting on SMDC’s accomplishments for the past year.

“In the 19 years as an agency, SMDC has grown from an idea to a full-service economic development organization with net assets nearing $2 million,” Bailey said.

Bailey is proud of the accomplishments she’s seen while at the helm of the organization, but is quick to point out the accomplishments are a team effort. The over-arching goal, of course, is to improve the economy in the region, but Bailey said her office works within three areas of focus: business development; leadership, education and training; and strategic development.

“One reason our office is able to achieve so much with just the equivalent of 4.2 full-time positions is because we use a wholistic approach. We have an attitude of ‘how do we do this project?’ That’s how we eat an elephant,” Bailey said.

Covering a six-county region in Central Montana means lots of “windshield time” for Bailey and her colleagues. But the results are substantial.

 “Through our Procurement Technical Assistance Center, we helped Central Montana businesses gain access to over $9 million in government contracts in 2018,” Bailey said.

That’s just one of the many services and programs available through SMDC.

“When people come to see us, they are usually focused on just one thing,” said SMDC Community Coordinator and Government Contracting Advisor Carly Wheatley. “They don’t realize all the resources that might help us. We’re very good at looking at the ‘overall’ of something.”

That “overall” includes state and federal programs with low interest loans, grant funding, technical assistance or training, Wheatley explained.

Wheatley said she encourages anyone looking to start or expand a business to contact the SMDC office and see what resources might be available.

Working with local governments, non-profits and individual businesses, the SMDC team has quite a track record. Since 2004, the organization has assisted 1,535 businesses, including the creation of 1,414 jobs. 

“I see us doing better than other regions,” Bailey said, “but we have to work hard to make this happen. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill – it takes a lot to get it moving.”


Snowy Mountain Development Corporation by the numbers

(according to the SMDC 2018 annual report)


Counties covered – 6 (Fergus, Golden Valley, Judith Basin, Musselshell, Petroleum and Wheatland)

Number of Loans – 25

Total Dollar Amount of Loans -- $2,115,218

Jobs Created or Retained – 129 

Businesses Assisted – 109

Projects Assisted – 33

Total State Dollars Managed -- $1,426,046

Federal Dollars Managed -- $1,912,072


For more information or a copy of the annual report, contact SMDC at 535-2591 or visit their website:



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