SBA 504 Interest Rates | May 2024 | 10 Yr:  6.908%, 20 Yr: 6.656%, 25 Yr: 6.555% *rates may vary Learn More »

How the Business Climate in Montana Has Changed (& Why It’s Important)

Mar 4, 2022

The business climate throughout the state of Montana has drastically changed over the past few years.

Since entering the market in 2019, Dakota Business Lending has had the chance to be a part of this change and join Montana on its journey towards providing more opportunities for businesses throughout the state.

We sat down with Christie Williams and Anjie Martins – members of our 406 team – to help us understand what the business climate is like in Montana, how it has changed, and the factors leading to this change. Here’s what they had to say…

Christie Williams – Business Development & Commercial Loan Officer
Anjie Martins – Senior Credit Manager

What makes the state of Montana unique?

Martins: There’s no doubt that the recreational opportunities in Montana make the state an attractive place to live. The opportunities for a work/life balance and the small-town community feel make Montana appealing and have caused an influx of families moving to the area.

Williams: Gallatin County is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, and other areas such as Billings, Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, and parts of eastern Montana have seen population increases as well. People love the slower pace of life that Montana has to offer and are willing to forgo other conveniences and amenities in order to have that.

Q: Tell us about the business climate throughout the state and the shifts it has gone through over the past few years.

Martins: There has been a shift in Montana being known as a destination for vacations to a place where people want to live and build their lives, and some changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, have made that move possible. This shift has brought more and more small businesses to the state and has had a positive impact on the business climate in general.  

Williams: The dynamic is shifting. Entrepreneurs are risk takers, and one way or another, people are finding and creating their own business ventures and following their passions. Part of that shift may be due to age demographics, with many young families moving to the state and businesses being bought and sold through generational ownership changes. Various financing programs have really helped these risk takers take their ideas and bring them to life, especially in high growth markets throughout the state.

Q. How has Dakota Business Lending and other financing entities played a role in this shift?

Williams: There are so many financing programs and resources across the state. One way we have been able to play a small part in this shift is through the SBA 504 program. It’s attractive to business owners – it is user friendly and it allows start-up and existing businesses to get financing with low down payments, better rates, and longer terms.

Historically, Montana has had 16-24 SBA 504 loans approved per year, on average. Looking at the recent loan volume, that number has nearly doubled with 46 SBA 504 loans approved in Montana in 2021 alone. With new financing entities entering the area to provide these programs, more borrowers across the state are getting access to this loan program, which is so critical for their ability to grow and succeed.

Martins: Not only is the loan volume strong, but these numbers reflect a significant increase in partnerships among resource providers and speak to the ability of the state to create relationships that truly help small businesses. At Dakota Business Lending, our primary mission is to find creative financing solutions for our borrowers, and that means bringing together lenders, economic developers, and other local financing resources to find the right fit. We don’t just promote using the SBA 504 program – we promote working together with the endless resource partners throughout the state to help small business. It’s incredible to see the entire state come together to support entrepreneurs and their needs.     

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges that businesses face throughout the state?

Williams: Because Montana is such a big state, it has several “microclimates”, each with their own unique challenges. It is critical for borrowers to find a good lender or financing partner that truly understands their area and can help address the challenges specific to their location.

In addition, entrepreneurs often do not understand the importance of their financial statements and business plan. These are living, breathing documents that help dictate the business’s plan for success. It’s not just something the bank is asking for – it is critical and is worth putting the time into. Montana has many resource partners throughout the state that help business owners create these documents and set their business up for success.

Martins: Like so many others today, communities and businesses in Montana face the challenge of finding employees. And in our small towns, it’s very limited. There has been a strong effort to recruit people to fill these jobs. Additionally, the state and business communities have been very focused on finding ways to incentivize, educate, and retain quality employees within the state. We want to see Montanans grow and thrive in the communities that they know and love. 

Q. Where should entrepreneurs turn for assistance if they are looking to start or expand their business in Montana?

Williams: There is a very strong network of support for businesses in Montana. The Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center, Veterans Outreach Center, SCORE, and Prospera are great resources for both start-up and existing businesses. There are also a variety of professionals that are able to support businesses like accountants, bookkeeping services, and other entrepreneurial friendly companies that businesses can subcontract with for additional help.

Martins: The state has been working hard to provide educational opportunities for individuals and businesses. There are several universities, satellite campuses, and community colleges that have great programs. Many have flexible schedules and can be done online, providing great opportunities for individuals and businesses alike.  

Q. What is your biggest piece of advice for business owners in Montana?

Martins: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are so many resources and people out there who want to help. Talk to your lender. Reach out to business development organizations and resource providers. Do not let the unknowns stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Williams: My dad always said, “find your support team.” An acronym that may be helpful for creating your team is BAIL – Bankers, Accountants, Insurance, Legal – who can advise you and provide support and assistance in areas which you need. Surround yourself with people who support you and want to help. Those people in your life are the key to your success, even if they’re not on your payroll.

It is incredible to see the business climate shift and continue to grow and support small businesses throughout the state. Dakota Business Lending is proud to play a small part in helping small businesses across Montana succeed and looks forward to continuing to join Montana on its journey to growth and success.

For questions or more information on the SBA 504 loan program and how you can attain financing for your business, contact Christie.