More Balanced, Slower Growth Ahead for Montana’s Economy

February 10, 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 during 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 being held in nine cities throughout Montana.

Polzin said the most recent federal data report accelerating growth in the Flathead County economy.

“The construction industry looks like it is on the mend, manufacturing is strong and Kalispell continues to evolve into a regional center,” Polzin said. Nonresident travel is now the largest basic industry in the Flathead economy.

The forecasts are for growth to average about 3 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 Kalispell seminar will be held on Friday, Feb. 13, at the Hilton Garden Inn. 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:

  • 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,