Montana Regions Working Together to Build Local Supply Chain Resilience

Economic Development Districts (EDDs) working together across regional boundaries can use federal and state investments to drive transformative economic impact across their regions. Rural regional organizations may have limited staff capacity on their own, but when partnered with other EDDs, these coalitions can have an outsized economic impact on their regions. Additionally, EDDs can use existing staff experience and capacity, in this case their experience with Revolving Loan Funds and lending, to support local food supply chains and build resilient food systems. 

Bear Paw Development Corporation of Northern Montana (BPDC) led a coalition of five Montana EDDs in securing a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP). The MPILP was established in 2022 to diversify and decentralize meat processing supply chains away from centralized, large-scale industrial facilities and towards locally owned modes of production. By establishing and supporting smaller-scale facilities across the country, the program aims to:

  • Improve food supply chain resilience
  • Lower prices for consumers
  • Decrease transportation costs and the carbon footprint of shipping meat and poultry products long distances
  • Promote consumer knowledge about where their meat is raised and processed

Source: USDA Webinar on MPILP program requirements

BPDC has used MPILP funds to establish the Montana Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program Coalition in partnership with 4 other Montana EDDs:

Montana Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program Coalition

This USDA-financed Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) supports small, Montana-owned meat and poultry processing operations throughout the rural 5-region area. Funds can be used by processing and packing facilities to meet their capital improvement and equipment needs in:

  • Purchasing and developing land
  • Constructing a new facility
  • Modernizing or expanding an existing facility
  • Developing, installing, or modernizing equipment and technology
  • Improving leaseholds
  • Ensuring compliance with occupational and other safety requirements
  • Modernizing equipment or facilities to ensure food safety
  • Refinancing debt
  • Paying for feasibility studies
  • Undertaking pollution control and abatement
  • Offsetting start-up costs, working capital, fees, and other expenses related to federal inspection

Supporting the Regional Ranching Industry 

The BPDC region and Montana have extensive agriculture and ranching industries that support thousands of jobs across the region and state, making a meat processing lending program an important tool for supporting these local industries and supply chains. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2022 over 58.1 million acres of land in Montana were used for agriculture and ranching and Montana’s total agriculture sector was valued at $4.3 billion. In the Montana ranching industry, 2.1 million head of cattle comprise 83% of the state’s total livestock. In addition to this statewide economic growth, the BPDC region hosts a thriving ranching and processing industry that is vital to the regional economy. Supporting the region’s agriculture and timber industries was the second-highest economic priority for regional stakeholders in the 2022 BPDC Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining industries are the second-highest employers in the region, accounting for approximately 2,400 jobs.

To market the availability of funds, BPDC’s loan services staff relied on existing relationships with meat processing facilities and regional stakeholders built through planning processes like the CEDS as well as past relationships built through their Economic Development Administration-supported RLFs. Through their EDA-supported RLFs, BPDC has been awarded $3.4 million over 5 awards since 1989 and has lent out over $20 million, leveraging $34 million in private investment to support the creation and retention of over 1,200 jobs.

Originally awarded $10 million from USDA with a 3-year spenddown goal, BPDC lent $1.9 million in the first year, with another $2.8 million approved by Bear Paw’s Loan Review Committee that is currently waiting on closing documents and USDA approval.  The lending coalition aims to support Montana-owned small businesses and gives preference to facilities that are working to receive USDA Certification.

Speaking on the value of this program, Eric Seidensticker, Food and Agriculture Development Center Director at Montana Business Assistance Connection said:

“The partnership my organization has forged with Bear Paw Development Corporation represents inter-regional collaboration and innovation. By working together, we have been able to bring much needed capital and resources to rural businesses that are committed to their communities. The team at Bear Paw Development values my priorities just as much as their own. This is truly Montanans helping other Montanans.”

RLF Structure 

BPDC is the lead organization in the Coalition and holds monthly meetings with USDA RD staff and other lending coalition partner organizations. Each EDD originates their own projects and brings potential loans to the BPDC RLF Loan Review Committee for final approval. Having each EDD originate their own projects gives the program more geographic spread across the large 26-county region, while retaining uniform procedures by centralizing the approval process through the BPDC RLF Loan Review Committee.  Additionally, each EDD either hosts or has access to the services of a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) that assists applicants in developing business plans and understanding program requirements. The SBDC staff in each region have been important partners as they can more easily travel to meet with potential applicants, work directly with potential applicants on business plans, ensure any collateral and purchased assets remain in good condition, and track progress on funded projects.

Recognizing the value of the program for the rural economies in their region, Paul Tuss, Executive Director at Bear Paw Development Corporation said:

“The Montana MPILP Coalition is a wonderful on-the-ground example of collaboration between Economic Development Districts in our state that focuses on advancing a critical sector of our economy. Adding value to the high-quality agricultural products we raise – in this case meat and poultry – will benefit our rural communities, create jobs, expand the tax base and strengthen our food supply chain. This project was funded and will continue to be successful because of the unique partnership that has developed between the five EDA-certified Economic Development Districts, who all share the common goal of enhancing Montana’s rural economy.”

Key Takeaways

National Priorities and Local Impact

BPDC relied on the CEDS planning process to make connections with local industries, learn about community needs, and identify prospective industry sectors they can support through their EDD programming. BPDC was able to translate a national funding agency priority from USDA (strengthening national food supply chain resilience) into local impact (supporting local small businesses and regional economies).

Existing Staff and Relationships

New funding opportunities don’t always require identifying entirely new stakeholders or building new working relationships. Existing partnerships that have developed through past projects may be able to supplement and enhance programming and EDD services in new ways.

Partnerships and Collaboration Matters

EDDs have a natural tendency to collaborate with one another based on their mutual interest in enhancing the economic vitality of regional economies.  This project takes that collaboration one step further by utilizing interregional partnerships to secure funding from USDA that will help build an important sector of the economy for rural Montana.  As the federal investment creates a new revolving loan fund, the grant funds will be utilized repeatedly for job-creating projects that will continue to bolster the region’s agricultural economy.


This case study was prepared by NADO Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker ([email protected]).


Contact Joe D'Antonio

Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.

Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.

Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.

As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.

Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.

Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.

Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.

Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.

Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.

Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.

Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.

When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.

Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and execution of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.

Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.

Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy. 

Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.

Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.

Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.  

Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.

An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.

Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of her family’s favorite pastimes.

Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.

When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.

Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.

Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.

Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.

Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.

A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.

Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.

In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.

Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.

Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.

Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.

An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.

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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

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