With world events beyond our control, Shelby and Toole County are feeling the hardship and devastation business shutdowns are causing our business community. A dedicated group of City of Shelby, City of Sunburst and Toole County officials and local business owners have initiated Toole County Forward. The group’s goal is to create a lending/grant pool from private and public investment to sustain Toole County businesses. Toole County Forward has been actively seeking donations to build a fund city and county businesses can apply to for assistance in meeting payroll, paying rent and utilities and purchasing inventory to reopen doors. 

“It is critical people support local businesses,” said Dwaine Iverson. “I was looking at how we come out of this crisis, it will determine what our future is. Right now there are no cars on Main Street, that will be our future if we do nothing.”

There are two funds, which are administered by the Toole County Community Foundation and City of Shelby, with a small group of professionals serving on the loan committee for both sources of funding. To date, the Toole County Community Foundation has received $50,000 in private donations from local business who believe strongly in helping their fellow business owners. Toole County Forward is hoping to grow the donation pool to $75,000 in the coming weeks and are accepting donations to the Toole County Community Foundation.

“I think all of us should look at how we can make the community stronger,” said Iverson. “We need a program for local businesses to use, we need to help them. We need to support each other, get back to being a community and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, together. We are showing business owners we are all in this together, no one has to shoulder it alone.”

As part of the Toole County Community Foundation application, businesses must provide a streamlined business plan. North Central Montana is very fortunate to have Rich Gannon, Great Falls Development Authority Business Development Specialist, available for assistance free of charge. Gannon is able to walk business owners through GFDA’s LivePlan, an on-line business plan development tool. Gannon can be reached by email at RGannon@growgreatfalls.org or calling (406) 836-2078 to set up an appointment to begin the process. 

“A lot of businesses made a plan for being shut down for two weeks, not two months,” said Iverson. “Senator Daines has done a lot to make sure Montana has help and he has taken the Toole County Forward plan to Washington, D.C. and it is being used as stage four in the federal format. Small businesses are the backbone of our country.”

Foundation assistance applications and guidelines are available through the Toole County Community Foundation, 301 1st St. So., Shelby, MT  or the Office of Community Development, Shelby City Hall,  112 1st St.  So., Shelby, MT or by calling Lorette Carter at Shelby City Hall; (406) 434-5222 or email, shbcdc@3rivers.net. 

On the City side of the funding, the City of Shelby has established a loan/grant program in the amount of $75,000, which is available to businesses within the corporate city limits. The fund is derived from program income generated through the City’s previous CDBG housing program. 

The program is intended to assist in retaining employees with funds available for payroll, as well as working capital. There is limited funding so loan/grants will be reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Loan parameters are $2,500 to $10,000, dependent on the financial need of the business. 

A summary of the program and application is available by contacting Lorette Carter at (406) 434-5222 or email, shbcdc@3rivers.net. 

Area CPA’s, Dwaine Iverson, Steve Nichols, Gary McDermott and John Steinhoff have also graciously agreed to provide guidance in creating a business plan, as well as information related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) under which the Paycheck Protection Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs fall as part of Toole County Forward’s commitment to assisting and sustaining area businesses.

“We are lucky to have the city, county and NETA in support of this,” said Iverson. “People are putting up money. If you start a lot of little fires it gets going faster. But it is critical that people support local businesses. Buy gift certificates from them now to put some cash in hand and as they open back up and you need T-shirts for your teams or whatever, shop local. It’s not the big box stores that are going to help do this.”

Most important to all our businesses is local support. With all of us receiving stimulus checks, please use those dollars to shop local! Our businesses have shuttered their doors in hopes of assisting in slowing the progression of COVID-19. They have sacrificed much for our safety and wellbeing. Please help them in their time of need. Shop local!

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