More Balanced, Slower Growth Ahead for Montana’s Economy

January 23, 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 arrives in Billings on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Crowne Plaza. The 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 Yellowstone County, impact from the Bakken oil field developments continues to contribute to the economy. “The Billings area benefits from the indirect and service activities associated with the oil boom,” Polzin said. “However, there are potential threats looming.” 

According to Polzin, “If oil prices continue to fall and the Bakken cools, the impacts would reach Billings – and if the EPA declares sulfur dioxide levels to be excessive, that could negatively impact some older manufacturers (refineries) in the area.”  

The Bureau expects overall growth to be between 2.4 and 2.8 percent per year 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.

Following is the schedule for the other seminar cities:

  • Missoula – Friday, Jan. 23, University Center Ballroom, UM Campus
  • Helena – Tuesday, Jan. 27, Best Western Great Northern Hotel 
  • Great Falls – Wednesday, Jan. 28, Hilton Garden Inn
  • Bozeman – Wednesday, Feb. 4, The Commons at Baxter and Love
  • Butte – Thursday, Feb. 5, LaQuinta 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,