UM Researchers Predict More Balanced, Slower Growth for Montana Economy

January 16, 2015

MISSOULA – Montana has witnessed something of an economic miracle in the eastern third of the state because of the boom in the Bakken, with rural areas surpassing growth in urban areas over the past five years, according to a University of Montana economist. 

The sudden decline in crude oil prices may bring growth rates into closer balance, said Patrick Barkey, director of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Barkey and Paul Polzin, BBER director emeritus, will present the outlook for the national, state and local economies at the bureau’s 40th Annual Economic Outlook Seminar to be held in nine cities throughout Montana.

Polzin said Missoula’s economy has been frustratingly slow during the past few years.

“There are three reasons for the area’s slow growth rate,” he said. “The construction industry has not rebounded, the wood and paper products industry is much smaller, and Missoula’s role as a trade center is changing.”

BBER forecasts economic growth in Missoula will be between 2.4 and 2.7 percent from 2015 to 2018.

This year’s seminar, “The New American Energy Revolution: Reshaping Montana,” will focus on the changing energy sector and feature keynote speaker Bill Whitsitt, a retired executive vice president at Devon Energy.

This is the 40th year BBER will travel around the state to deliver half-day seminars. In addition to economic forecasts, Barkey, Polzin and other economists from the Montana University System will examine the prospects for the state’s major industries.

The Missoula seminar will be held on Friday, Jan. 23 in the University Center Ballroom on the UM campus. Each seminar runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes lunch. For additional information, or to register for a seminar, call 406-243-5113 or visit

Following is the schedule for the other seminar cities:

  • Helena – Tuesday, Jan. 27, Best Western Great Northern Hotel
  • Great Falls – Wednesday, Jan. 28, Hilton Garden Inn
  • Billings – Tuesday, Feb. 3, Crowne Plaza
  • Bozeman – Wednesday, Feb. 4, The Commons at Baxter & Love
  • Butte – Thursday, Feb. 5, La Quinta Inn
  • Kalispell – Friday, Feb. 13, Hilton Garden Inn
  • Sidney – Tuesday, March 17, USDA/ARS
  • Miles City – Wednesday, March 18, Bureau of Land Management

BBER is a research center that has provided information about Montana’s state and local economies for more than 50 years. For more information visit


Contact: Rob Van Driest, interim marketing director, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-5113,