Blackfeet Community College Secures New $7.5M Building with Help of New Markets Tax Credits
BROWNING, Mont. – It’s been a challenging couple of years for the town of Browning in northwest Montana, a community of 1,000 that has endured financial hardships, legal disputes and the disincorporation of its municipal government. However, a new investment into the local college will help breathe life into a community that has struggled to find its footing amid mounting economic uncertainty.
Blackfeet Community College (BCC), a two-year community college located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation east of Glacier National Park, has secured financing for a new $7.5 million Health Science Education Building with the help of First Interstate Bank and a federal program, New Markets Tax Credits, through the nonprofit Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation. The new 9,000-square-foot building will house education, nursing and health training programs. Expected to open in the fall of 2018, the expansion positions the college to begin offering four-year degree programs in Education and Nursing as early as 2020.
“This is a truly exciting moment for BCC and for Browning,” said BCC Interim President Carol Murray. “The new Health Science Education Building will be instrumental in creating jobs, and will help attract the faculty we need to grow our programs and serve the more than 500 students who pass through our campus each year.”
The financing package came together through a partnership with First Interstate Bank and Montana & Idaho CDC, which brought an innovative financing tool called New Markets Tax Credits that helps incentivize economic development projects in low-income communities around the country. Montana & Idaho CDC works with investors to turn tax credits into cash, and then uses that cash to fund catalytic development projects.
The NMTC Program’s national footprint in the education sector is particularly impressive. According to data from the U.S. Department of Treasury and the New Markets Tax Credit Coalition, community development organizations have used the tax credits to provide $2.5 billion in financing to 162 projects supporting universities, community colleges and trade schools nationwide.
“It can be challenging to attract investment in rural communities, but the New Markets Tax Credit Program has enabled us to overcome that hurdle and leverage federal dollars to make this project a reality,” Murray said. “This project will allow students in our community to get a great education and gain job skills, without having to leave Browning.”
U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, both of whom serve on the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, have been supportive of the NMTC Program for years and have co-sponsored legislation multiple times to make the tax credits permanent.
“These resources will help expand Blackfeet Community College, ensure that students attain a quality education and develop a well-trained workforce.” Senator Tester said. “Projects like this underscore the importance of the New Markets Tax Credits, and I will continue to fight to make sure Browning and other Montana communities continue to have access to these critical funds.”
“Expanding BCC is an investment in Browning’s future,” said Senator Daines. “By giving students in rural areas like Browning access to improved facilities, they will be better equipped to obtain good-paying jobs that will strengthen Browning’s economy and improve the lives of the Montanans who call it home. I am excited to support this project.”
The future of New Markets Tax Credits remains uncertain. The U.S. House version of the tax bill would repeal the NMTC Program entirely at the end of 2017, but the Senate version calls for its continuation. Since 2008, Montana & Idaho CDC has received $431 in New Markets Tax Credit allocations, which have helped finance 29 projects across Montana and Idaho and created/retained nearly 3,000 jobs.
“The impact of the NMTC Program on rural communities like Browning cannot be overstated,” said Dave Glaser, President of Montana & Idaho CDC. “This program brings financial resources to projects that would otherwise not be possible, and the impacts – job creation, economic growth and revitalization – will be felt for decades to come. We’re fighting to ensure the continuation of the NMTC Program so we have resources to support the next great project.”
“The BCC expansion represents a new era for Browning and the surrounding areas,” said Kevin Clark, Vice President at First Interstate Bank in Great Falls. “First Interstate Bank couldn’t be more excited to support a project that will create new jobs and educational opportunities for the people of this underserved community.”