Great Falls/Cascade County Still Stagnant

At last week’s Great Falls city commission meeting we voted to approve a $150,000 funding request, using federal ARPA funds, for the Great Falls International Airport.

The money will be used as part of a matching fund package for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant (SCASD) to help lower air fares at Great Falls’ airport.

I was happy to vote in favor of the request. But in reading the agenda report I was troubled, but not surprised, by the facts presented by John Faulkner, our airport Director:

“Twenty years ago, Cascade County was the third largest county in Montana. Since that time, we have grown only 1% in population.

Meanwhile, the next slowest growing large county grew at 26 times that rate! Gallatin County grew an amazing 72 times our growth rate.

Based on these growth rates, Helena is likely to outgrow Great Falls over the next ten years.

The picture is not much better economically.

Once Great Falls was in the middle of the pack of household income, Cascade County now has the lowest and slowest growing median household income of the larger counties.

The airlines cannot rely on growth in Great Falls. In fact, they can see the market is stagnant which makes them reluctant to invest in more flights, larger airplanes or new routes.”

Unfortunately, we’ve been hearing this same sad song for far too long.

Approving the funds for the matching SCASD grant is another small step in the right direction, but we need a lot more action.

What’s it going to take to finally change the tune? I’m all ears.

Posted by Rick Tryon

Rick Tryon is an entrepreneur, a singer-songwriter, and is currently serving a four year term as a Great Falls City Commissioner. Helping Montana become an even greater place to live, play and work is Tryon's passion.

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2 Replies to “Great Falls/Cascade County Still Stagnant”

  1. Aspen Northerner March 15, 2022 at 11:00 AM

    Considering the number of comments I have seen lately regarding people going to other airports due to ticket prices, it seems Great Falls needs to do something in this area…


    1. Hi Aspen, that is exactly what the fundraising is for! The dollars go to provide guarantees for new flights into Great Falls. The reason the flights are expensive is because we need more seats. Ticket prices go up as the aircraft get more full. The current pilot shortage has caused flights at about 100 airports across the US to be cut, especially the smaller town airports that rely on the old inefficient regional jet aircraft. Wo we need to attract more flights and lower ticket prices. The Chamber has a tax-deductible foundation if you would like to help out. The people and businesses of Bozeman has given over $10 million in incentives in the past ten years. Kalispell had a $2 million program. Billings and Missoula both offered up about $1.5 million for more flights. Our community is trying to do the same thing.


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