More Balanced, Slower Growth Ahead for Montana’s Economy

January 21, 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.

The seminar lands in Helena on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Best Western Great Northern Hotel. The Great Falls seminar will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the Hilton Garden Inn. Each seminar runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes lunch. Call 406-243-5113 or visit BBER online at to register.

In Helena the economy traditionally has been stable over time because of the large presence of state and federal governments, Polzin said.

“The real bright spot in the Lewis and Clark County economy has been the expansion of The Boeing Company, which is located near the airport,” he said. “Beginning in 2010, there has been significant growth, and this industry is now three times larger than just a few years ago.” 

 The forecast is that growth in Lewis and Clark County will be about 1.8 to 2.3 percent per year from 2015 to 2018.

Polzin said in Great Falls “manufacturing employment has increased by 100 to 200 workers, with estimated earnings of about $35,000 per year.” He believes these increases are being driven by ADF and Loehnbro – businesses indirectly serving oil producers in Canada and the U.S. – as well as BE Aerospace, a manufacturer of aircraft passenger cabin interior components.

The bureau forecasts about 2.2 percent average growth from 2015 through 2018 in the Great Falls area.  

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.

Following is the schedule for the other seminar cities:

  • 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

The UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research 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,