Montana Administrative Register Notice 8-99-205 No. 3   02/09/2024    
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In the matter of the adoption of NEW RULE I pertaining to the administration of the Montana Growth Fund, a part of the Big Sky Economic Development Program










TO: All Concerned Persons


           1. On December 22, 2023, the Department of Commerce published MAR Notice No. 8-99-205 pertaining to the public hearing on the proposed adoption of the above-stated rule at page 1769 of the 2023 Montana Administrative Register, Issue Number 24.


2.  The department has adopted the above-stated rule as proposed: NEW RULE I (8.99.1101).


3. The department has thoroughly considered the comments and testimony received. A summary of the comments received and the department's responses are as follows:


COMMENT NO. 1: Commenters had concerns about whether economic developers would use the program because administrative fees are not included. 


RESPONSE NO. 1: The loan participation program is through preferred lenders as the participating entity.  These lenders may charge interest and/or loan origination fees for their portion of the loan.  The department successfully has used this model in the past, including through the State Small Business Credit Initiative Program (SSBCI), which was met with high demand and full allocation of the funds within two days of the program being launched.


COMMENT NO. 2: Comments were received asking for clarity on what the grant program funds could be used for.


RESPONSE NO. 2: MGFGP funds may be used for projects that advance the "Purpose" of the MGFGP, as established on page six of the proposed Guidelines, and/or for projects that fall within the "Types of Uses" identified on page eight of the Guidelines.  The intent of the grant program is to assist projects that have completed the feasibility or proposal stage, i.e., are "shovel ready," and will have a significant economic impact in the community and state.  Additionally, funds may be used to supply matching funds for a federal grant.  Other programs that provide funds for planning grants can be found on the department's website at https://comdev.mt.gov/


COMMENT NO. 3: Comments were received that the thresholds for the forgiveness loan are too stringent.


RESPONSE NO. 3: The initial funding for the Montana Growth Fund is limited.  The department's goal is to grow the fund over time to assist more businesses.  To ensure this goal, the loan program provides a funding opportunity that is similar to past programs that does not hinder future fund growth.


COMMENT NO. 4: A comment was received that the links to the rural and urban area maps did not work.


RESPONSE NO. 4: The links were updated during the notice period, and correct links were provided to the commenter.


COMMENT NO. 5: A comment was received regarding the need to support infrastructure investment.


RESPONSE NO. 5: The department recognizes the importance of infrastructure investment.  Although the Montana Growth Fund may facilitate some investments in infrastructure, it is not the only program administered by the department that facilitates infrastructure investment.  Additional programs that support infrastructure projects can be found on the department's website at https://comdev.mt.gov/.


COMMENT NO. 6: A comment was received asking how a Basic Sector Company's goods and services would be measured and managed.


RESPONSE NO. 6: The term "Basic Sector Company" is defined on page two of the Guidelines.  If applicants believe they satisfy that definition, they will need to attest to that fact to the department.  The department may require applicants to provide the factual basis for the attestation, including during the contracting process.


COMMENT NO. 7: A comment was received regarding whether federal EDA RLF loan funds may be used as a match for the loan participation program.


RESPONSE NO. 7: The match requirements for the MGFLP are established at page four of the Guidelines.  The required match can be either private concurrent financing, cash injection by business, or any private investment to secure the loan.  Other forms of match are not permitted at this time.


COMMENT NO. 8: A comment was received asking to include "expansion of a Montana small business" as a ranking factor.


RESPONSE NO. 8: The department supports Montana small businesses.  The definition of "small business" varies between state and federal programs, however, and is difficult to apply consistently.  Because the department recognizes Montana "businesses" to include small businesses, small businesses do fall within the ranking factors included in the Guidelines. 


COMMENT NO. 9: A comment was received regarding childcare creation as a ranking criterion.


RESPONSE NO. 9: "Childcare creation" is listed on page five of the Guidelines as a ranking factor for the MGFLP.  If applicants can explain to the department in their application how their proposed project will create or support childcare opportunities in their community, the department will consider that when reviewing MGFLP applications.  Examples of how a proposed project might create or support childcare opportunities in a community could include, but are not limited to, the following: (i) applicants that provide childcare services to employees directly, either on-site or off-site; (ii) applicants that provide childcare stipends, or other support, to employees; and (iii) applicants who provide childcare services to the public, and are applying for funding to expand their operations.



/s/ John Semmens                                       /s/ Mandy Rambo

John Semmens                                            Mandy Rambo

Rule Reviewer                                              Deputy Director

                                                                     Department of Commerce


Certified to the Secretary of State January 30, 2024.



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