Impact Initiative - Prospera

Impact Initiative

Strategic Priorities to 2028

In 2023, Prospera served nearly 1,200 business and community clients in Montana through our core initiatives. The significance of our positive impact for the individuals and communities we serve extends far beyond the number. To provide a more comprehensive understanding, here are noteworthy highlights from the past few years that vividly illustrate the diversity and range of our clientele.

  • Advisory services were provided to over 100 agricultural producers and food-makers, resulting in the successful securing of over $1 million in funding for these clients.
  • 165 women have participated in our 56Strong mentoring program that connects women business owners and leaders statewide.
  • 10 tech and manufacturing companies received more than $1 million in business development funding for company expansions, creating jobs and new private investments.
  • Prospera secured more than $6 million in state loan funds for 4 business expansions, and in the process, secured a new future $3 million loan fund for our region.
  • After years of effort, the City of Livingston is creating a downtown development plan that will set the stage for new investments in its historic city center.
  • Over 150 individuals received business startup training, utilizing the acquired skills to launch new businesses in Montana.
  • HRDC’s Homeward Point emergency housing project, is under construction, with a $250,000 community loan from Prospera and the City of Bozeman (a collaborative effort with the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce).
  • Through our Emerging Companies Roundtable, 45 local growth companies have engaged in meaningful networking, establishing vital connections with their peers to foster the thriving success of their businesses.
  • After receiving critical loan funding from Prospera, Yellowstone Fiber sold $65 million in industrial revenue bonds to build-out Montana’s only open access fiber optic network to every home and business in Bozeman.
  • A mobile home court in Belgrade is a new resident-owned-community with a $650,000 loan from Prospera, Gallatin County and the City of Belgrade - a first-time partnership project with NeighborWorks Montana.
  • After 10 years of organizing and providing management support, Montana Photonics & Quantum Alliance has spun-off as their own non-profit and is now the industry-lead partner for the new Headwaters Tech Hub.

These examples highlight the tangible impact of our work on businesses and communities. Looking forward to 2028, our goal is to increase the number of clients served annually from 1,200 to 2,000 through our core actions and innovative initiatives. This expansion, which will involve the creation of new programs and events, is coupled with targeted outreach to rural communities. We inspire to forge new partnerships with local communities and educational organizations, intensifying our efforts in workforce development and community vitality, as we identify these as crucial needs.

These new strategic initiatives are designed to engage a broader audience, allowing us to effectively address the pressing needs of our region. While we have already begun implementing some of these strategies, our effectiveness hinges on additional staff capacity dedicated to creating new partnerships and leading actions that drive positive outcomes.

Recognizing that the solutions we seek require a long-term commitment and time, to gather resources and implement, we are launching a multi-year fundraising effort in 2024. The objective is to secure the necessary funding that will enable us to promptly act on this strategic plan. Prospera’s unique position as a local non-profit empowers us to swiftly assess the needs of the business community and shape new programs that yield impactful results.

1. BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

This core program area for Prospera will continue to support and strengthen entrepreneurship and local companies in every phase of their business. As we look ahead, we see an opportunity for a significant impact on the regional economy by extending our reach to more individuals in rural communities. Embracing creative ideas around financing options and offering industry-specific education to businesses are key components of our strategy. The fast-developing photonics/quantum industry, currently employing over 800 people in Gallatin Valley, presents a unique chance for growth and international recognition. We aim to position ourselves as a valuable resource for this industry, contributing to its expansion in photonics, optics and sensing, remote and autonomous vehicles, and quantum materials.

Focus on Innovation

  • Rural Community Outreach: Collaborate with resource partners to introduce new events and in-person business advisory services in rural communities enhancing the connection between business owners and our support eco-system.
  • Alternative Financing and Community Investing: hold our first Alternative Financing Workshop in 2024, to explore creative financing solutions for business and community projects, along with new ideas for impact investing.
  • Microloans: Identify funding and develop a plan to launch microloans, up to $25,000, catering to small businesses with unmet needs, particularly those in their early stages.
  • Dynamic Training and Roundtables: Develop new topics and themes for business trainings and roundtables to keep up with rapid changes in the economy and technology, ensuring we meet the evolving needs of local businesses.

Business Development

  • Collaborate with the Headwaters Tech Hub to support the advancement of the photonics and remote sensory industries in Montana, including active involvement in the phase II funding proposal.
  • Seek collaborative efforts with the Montana Photonics & Quantum Alliance and Montana State University (MSU) to drive advancements for regional economic and business development.
  • Facilitate access to loans, grants, and financing options to empower entrepreneurs and existing businesses, with an emphasis on reaching rural clients.
  • Provide support for small and medium sized businesses through mentorship, networking opportunities, training, and advising.
  • Offer targeted assistance to companies aiming to expand their markets beyond Montana, facilitating their growth on a broader scale.
  • Increase the availability of support in rural communities through business expos, and in-person connections, ensuring accessibility for advising and training.

2. PEOPLE AND WORKFORCE

Scale Capacity to Tackle Workforce Needs

Montana businesses are grappling with the challenge of finding skilled and talented individuals to hire, given the scarcity of available workforce. Our goal is to launch a Regional Workforce Development Program, aiming to counter this trend and build a robust workforce pipeline that supports the future growth of our business community. The program will spearhead collaborative efforts among educators, industry sectors, and companies to expedite results, place individuals in crucial roles, and equip students and educators with insights into industry trends within our changing economy.

Focus on People: Workforce and community development must align to ensure the presence of adequate assets for the sustained success of our economy. Incorporating housing and childcare into the equation is essential to provide our workforce with choices and options that support their needs. These sustained efforts demand dedicated staffing and consistent attention to yield tangible results.

Actions

  • Support the expansion and development of a new Gallatin College facility at MSU.
  • Support the pathway of micro-credentialing being developed for the MT University System.
  • Actively participate in the workforce development programs underway at MSU, the Headwaters Tech Hub, and partner organizations.
  • Survey businesses to identify training needs for their employees, creating pathways for skill enhancement and workforce retention.
  • Develop new programing for K-12 students and teachers to broaden their understanding of workforce opportunities and available pathways.
  • Plan innovative events and activities aimed at expanding the workforce pipeline and attracting new talent to our communities for sustained business success.
  • Expand connections with MSU and other regional institutions to encourage more companies to utilize internships and apprenticeships for workforce growth.

Workforce Strategies

  • Education – create experiences that link businesses and employment opportunities with students and companies, ensuring the education community can keep pace with fast changes in business and technology.
  • Pipeline – Establish pathways for individuals into current and future job opportunities. Assist growing companies in building their own workforce pipeline, connecting with the education system and attracting talent.
  • Skill Building – Provide training for the existing workforce to enhance productivity and prepare for changes. Address local companies’ training needs for workforce retention.
  • Talent Attraction – Target key sectors for workforce attraction and recruitment, offering support to attract workforce to vital business sectors and linking resources to address housing and childcare needs.

3. PLACE AND COMMUNITY

Scale Capacity to Lead New Community Vitality Strategies

“We shape our buildings and thereafter our buildings shape us” - Winston Churchill

Intentional acts of community building are fundamental to the creation of great communities and a high quality of life. A crucial aspect of our economic success involves addressing community infrastructure needs, to ensure the prosperity of both small towns and fast-growing cities. Our goal is to be a strategic partner, supporting local and regional efforts for downtown revitalization, infill development, innovations in housing and child-care, infrastructure and more. Building great places requires a long-term commitment to transform ideas into reality. This program aims to bring together business and community resources, securing the funding needed to enhance the quality of life we all desire. Leaving these challenges to chance is not an option.

Focus on Placemaking: Scale up a community vitality program that can proactively contribute to positive developments in our communities, creating spaces for people and businesses, while preserving our quality of life.

Actions

  • Engage in regional planning with the new Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in Gallatin County and explore collaborative solutions to regional issues.
  • Be a funding catalyst and develop new financing tools for community projects such as housing, childcare, and community facilities, by providing funding solutions that address local needs.
  • Partner with local governments and non-profit entities to develop collaborative efforts for new projects and new capacity.
  • Promote innovative solutions for community development that provide spaces for people, businesses, and community activities.
  • Link efforts with workforce development programs to ensure that people have access to resources that grow the workforce pipeline.

Community Vitality Strategies

  • Community Building – Support infill development initiatives, especially in rural communities, through innovative design and new investments.
  • Innovation – Ensure our region is prepared for the rapid changes coming in transportation, mobility, and the digital workforce influencing the design and construction of cities.
  • Infrastructure – Address the need for soft and hard assets in business and community infrastructure.
  • Funding – Seek new funding opportunities to assist communities in planning for the future and implementing impactful projects.
  • Policy – Support policies and solutions for new public-private partnerships that yield positive outcomes.


Actions Needed for Success

Prospera’s capacity to make a significant impact requires scaling new capacity for PEOPLE AND WORKFORCE and PLACE AND COMMUNITY initiatives. Our ability to make an impact will not be fully realized without new staff capacity, that can devote time and energy for program development. Opportunities with the Headwaters Tech Hub and funding at the state and federal levels are currently underway and should be leveraged to bring additional resources into our communities.

To do this, we need additional staff capacity for workforce development and community vitality efforts along with administrative support for the programs as they mature. This new capacity needs at least three years of funding to make a meaningful impact. The actions we have planned include:

  • Hire New Program Leaders. Aim to hire two positions, one for workforce development and another for community vitality. These roles will lead proactive efforts working with people and communities to identify projects that address critical issues. This capacity building will attract project funding, launch new programs and partnerships with local agencies, and build solutions that do not exist today.
  • Become a Community Strategic Partner. With new capacity, Prospera can strategically advance workforce development programs, support housing solutions, bolster vital infrastructure and initiate new community projects that address local needs. This support is often in the form of funding resources. We can utilize our own loan funds or outside resources. We aim to be a catalyst for positive community outcomes so our towns and rural communities can participate in a fast-changing economy.
  • Resource the Prospera team. To support new program work, we will continue to invest in our people and operations so that we are effective. This will include additional staff, office space, equipment, technology resources, and professional services to ensure the success of our new program areas.


Multi-Year Commitments

Prospera plans to launch a fundraising effort that will seek multi-year commitments from supporters to scale-up capacity for this strategic plan. The aim is to make substantial progress in 2024, seeking support from businesses, donors, foundations, and government agencies to enable this work. A 3-year commitment of funding is sought to make staffing and organization commitments to fully resource the effort.