ABOUT

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SUPPORTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN NORTH CENTRAL MONTANA

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Sweetgrass Development is a private, non-profit corporation created in 2004 to support economic development in the counties of Glacier, Cascade, Pondera, Teton and Toole, as well as the Blackfeet Nation. We are a diverse area that includes a large metropolitan area, many small towns, rural farming areas, several Hutterite Colonies and the Blackfeet Reservation.

We assist businesses and community entities with a variety of projects, including but not limited to funding grants, Brownfields assessments, community meetings, and real estate listings. We want to see the people and businesses succeed and enjoy succeeding in North Central Montana.

We want to see citizens of all ages find happiness and prosperity in our counties. We want to see strong infrastructure, viable housing, dynamic businesses, and upward growth in our communities. We want to maintain our heritage and environment and make them the best places to live in The Last Best Place.

OUR COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (CEDS)

Production of a CEDS document is required to be recognized as an Economic Development District by the U.S. Economic Development Agency (EDA), but it's so much more than just red tape. Our CEDS document is our mission statement. It is the core of what we do. It is the result of a local planning process, a survey of economic conditions, and a guide to growing the Sweetgrass Region. It is our 5-year action plan and a living document that is continually updated to guide our Scope of Work for each year.

This Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is a resource for Sweetgrass Development to accomplish the following:

  • "The region will have a diversified age population with services, recreational, economic opportunities to support the populace and serve as a destination for young and old."

  • "The region will contain unique and individualized communities with updated infrastructure, adequate and affordable housing, a strong business presence and vibrant economy, with flexibility for continued growth and expansion."

  • "The region will serve as a corridor to Glacier National Park providing leisure activities for locals as well as visitors."

  • "The development within the region will connect citizens and visitors worldwide through technology and infrastructure."

  • "Preserve the local heritage and improve the quality of life while protecting the environment."

The Board of Sweetgrass Development partnered with the Montana State University Extension Local Government Center (MSU-LGC), Browning Community Development Corporation (BCDC) and Southeastern Montana Economic Development District (SEMEDD) to prepare the five-year plan.


This CEDS document was developed by staff and Board of Sweetgrass Development and SEMEDD. Seven community meetings were held throughout the region, facilitated by MSU-LGC and notes provided by the staff of BCDC. The citizens of the region were heavily involved in the identification of community opportunities and challenges and the development of an action plan.


Focus groups and economic analysis were conducted during the summer and fall of 2011. A draft of the CEDS document was circulated for review by the Board of Directors, staff, and Strategy Committee in October. A final draft was available for public comment in November and submitted to EDA in December 2011. EDA approval was granted at the end of January 2012.

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HISTORY OF SWEETGRASS DEVELOPMENT

During the 1960s and 1970s, the EDA started forming regional organizations called Economic Development Districts (EDD). These "EDDs" often encompassed several counties in order to promote regionalizing community development efforts. One of the very first EDDs in Montana was the Bear Paw Development Corporation, based in Havre and overseeing the north central portion of the state. The Bear Paw Development Corporation still serves the counties of Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Chouteau and Liberty today; it was officially recognized as an EDD on March 22, 1969.

The EDA was not the only agency that recognized the effectiveness of regionalization. The North Central Montana Resource Conservation and Development Area (RC&D), a program sponsored through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS), formed its own, larger district. The RC&D district includes the five counties of the 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 with a targeted focus on land conservation.

In order to provide more business-oriented services, the RC&D wrote an application for the western five counties in their district (Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton and Toole) to form a brand new EDD. In early 2004, this district, titled the North Central Montana Economic Development District (NCMEDD), was officially recognized by the EDA. Ever since, we have done business as Sweetgrass Development!

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MEET THE STAFF OF SWEETGRASS DEVELOPMENT

We utilize our staff's skills and experience to bring you the knowledge and assistance you need to make your project happen in North Central Montana! Contact them today to find out how you can make your project happen in our region.

SARAH CONVERSE

Executive Director

Sarah is celebrating her 13th year as the executive director for Sweetgrass Development! As a rancher and a lifelong advocate for Montana business, Sarah represents the region, pursues funding, and helps north-central Montana be its very best. She lives in Great Falls, MT (Cascade County).

COREY HAGEMAN

Regional Director

As our Regional Director, Corey oversees business technical assistance operations and grantwriting. His experience with procurement puts him in a unique position for networking with different industries in north-central Montana. He lives in Great Falls, Montana (Cascade County) with his wife and two children.

SEAN MCGUIRE

Executive Assistant

Sean handles communications and administrative processes for Sweetgrass Development. He is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum who served in the Montana Economic Opportunity chapter. He lives in Great Falls, MT (Cascade County) with his partner.

KATHLEEN WOODFORD

Administrative Assistant

Kathleen Woodford conducts grant research and conducts administrative processes part-time for Sweetgrass Development and for the Pondera Regional Port Authority. She brings decades of experience in grantwriting, journalism, and more. She lives outside of Conrad, MT (Pondera County).

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MEET THE 2021 BOARD OF SWEETGRASS DEVELOPMENT

We are proud to have our counties and communities represented by a dynamic 17-member Board of Directors who come from all corners of the Sweetgrass Region. The board holds quarterly meetings as well as an annual meeting each year in order to monitor and shape the progress of Sweetgrass Development in its mission to help cultivate growth in the counties of Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton, and Toole.

Mary Ann Harwood

Commissioner

Toole County

Toole County

Government

Lorette Carter

City Dev. Coord.

City of Shelby

Toole County

Government

Del Darko

Council Member

Town of Belt

Cascade County

Government

John Overcast

Commissioner

Glacier County

Glacier County

Government

Holly Hovland

Council Member

Town of Sunburst

Glacier County

Government

Llew Jones

Senator

State of Montana

Pondera County

Government

Jim Larson

Commissioner

Cascade County

Cascade County

Government

Dale Siefert

Commissioner

Pondera County

Pondera County

Government

Gerald Wagner

Environ. Dir.

Blackfeet Tribe

Blackfeet Tribe

Government

Lila Evans

Owner

B and L Plumbing

Glacier County

Business/Organization

Shane Etzwiler

President/CEO

GF Chamber of Com.

Cascade County

Business/Organization

Jason Gibson

Owner

Private Businessman

Cascade County

Business/Organization

Cynthia Johnson

Owner

Desert Claim Farm

Pondera County

Business/Organization

Brenda Schilling

Executive Dir.

Glacier Co. PA

Glacier County

Business/Organization

Mike Mills

Owner

Mills Motor Comp.

Teton County

Business/Organization

Tony Sitzmann

Owner

Oil West Services

Glacier County

Business/Organization

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© 2021 by Sweetgrass Development.
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Supporting economic development in the counties of Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton, & Toole.

521 1st Avenue NW

Great Falls, MT 59404