This past week, the Montana Economic Outlook Seminar was presented in Bozeman by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The Bureau has been providing economic information about the state of Montana and its local economies for more than half a century. They are based at the University of Montana- Missoula as a branch of the School of Business Administration. The conference touched on economic outlooks for the state of Montana and nation and focused on the sub-sectors of healthcare, travel and recreation, agriculture, manufacturing, forest products, housing and energy as they pertain to the state and Gallatin County and its neighbors. More information on their website.
Twelve take away points from the conference pertinent to Gallatin County –
1. There is a big push to bring higher paying jobs to the state of Montana. Greg Gianforte, CEO and founder of Right Now technologies gave the keynote address which focused on a plan he’s created to accomplish this. His focus is on Hi Tech. A program he’s created is codemontana.org to get kids excited about computer science. Other high paying industries include Mining, Finance, utilities, information, wholesale trade and manufacturing.
2. There is good business confidence that 2014 will be a better economic year than 2013 – however, there is a tendency towards optimism on ‘next’ year forecasts. For the past few years which have not been quite accurate.
3. Western states are leading growth in the United States – outpacing the national average. Partially due to the west being closer to Asian markets.
4. Housing prices have been recovering state wide, and in some places well above where they were, from the downturn in 2008.
5. Non farm earnings have been steadily climbing in Gallatin County and the employment levels have reached 2008 levels.
6. Gallatin County is the fastest growing county in Montana – with project growth of 4.2% in 2014 and between 3.7% – 4.3% for the three years following.
7. Agricultural crops such as corn and wheat are on a steady decline, however hay and pulse crop prices are doing quite well. Cattle prices are at historical highs. This means good income for many of Montana’s farmers and ranchers – Montana has also managed to avoid many of the natural disasters and weather fluctuations that have affected other portions of the country.
8. Gallatin County is in the top three markets in the state for manufacturing jobs. There is a high employer multiplier with this sector – there are 2.1 jobs created in the community for every manufacturing job.
9. Statewide, housing sales were up 9% in 2013 and prices were up 7%. Foreclosure is down throughout the state – with only 4% of homes experiencing negative equity and a 1.9% delinquency rate (nationally there is a 13% negative equity rate and a 5% delinquency rate).
10. Gallatin County has the highest median home price in the state at $277,000 for 2013.
11. Last year there were 4000 housing starts in the state – during the peak there were 6000 housing starts per year. In the trough only 2500. A lot of building for clients/buyers and a trend away from speculation building.
12. Out migration of the Montana population in their 20s tends to make Montana an ‘old’ state. Slated to be 5th oldest in the nation by 2030. However, in migration of people in their 30s-40s makes the school age segment of the population soar – lots of children. Gallatin County has positive net migration except for the 24-30 year old age bracket.