The Economic Development Administration (EDA) recognizes the effectiveness of regional economic development efforts in rural areas of the United States. During the 1960s and 1970s, EDA formed regional organizations called Economic Development Districts (EDD). The Districts often encompassed several rural counties. The most familiar EDD in Montana is Bear Paw Development Corporation located in the north central portion of the state. Bear Paw Development Corporation serves the counties of Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Chouteau and Liberty. Bear Paw was officially recognized as an EDD on March 22, 1969.
The North Central Montana Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), another federal program sponsored through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS), also recognized the effectiveness or of regionalization. The RC&D formed its own, larger district. The RC&D district includes the five counties of Bear Paw Development Corporation as well as the Sweetgrass Region. The RC&D provides technical assistance in grant writing, planning and other community development projects that have more of a land conservation focus.
The RC&D wrote the application for the western five counties of the RC&D district (Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton and Toole) to once again form an Economic Development District. In early 2004, the new North Central Montana Economic Development District received notification from the EDA of official recognition and began doing business as Sweetgrass Development, EDD. The benefits for the five counties of the new EDD include:
- Participation in EDA and state funding programs;
- Reduced dollar match for grant programs;
- Inclusion in the area-wide CEDS document; and
- Networking with other communities in the region.