Last year, Gallatin County was ranked 7th. This is a huge jump – soon we may no longer qualify as a Micropolitan market.
Gallatin County economy ranked strongest of its size in U.S.
By Lewis Kendall Chronicle Staff Writer Jan 12, 2018
Gallatin County’s economy, widely discussed across the state, received some national attention this week. The area was named as the country’s strongest economy of its size in an annual study released by Policom, a Florida-based think tank.
The area was ranked the strongest economy — which the group defines as “the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality” — in a Micropolitan Statistical Area ahead of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; Truckee-Grass Valley, California; Traverse City, Michigan; and Wooster, Ohio.
The study separately ranked Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the Office of Management and Budget, are communities surrounding an urban center with a population greater than 50,000 and often encompassing multiple counties. There are 382 Metropolitan Areas in the country.
Micropolitan Areas are defined as areas surrounding cities with a population of at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000. The Bozeman Micropolitan Area includes all of Gallatin County.
The study measured a handful of economic metrics — among them earnings, job numbers and negative sectors such as per capita Medicaid — and factors in historical growth or decline.
“The top-rated areas have had rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period of time,” said Policom President William Fruth. “The rankings do not reflect the latest ‘hotspot’ or boom town, but the areas which have the best economic foundation.”
Fruth pointed to the area’s diversified economy — a healthy mix of tech, manufacturing, construction and the additional nucleus that is Montana State University — as well as its consistent growth as the primary reasons Bozeman topped this year’s list.
The Bozeman area has been ranked in the top 20 for the past 10 years. It was ranked seventh in 2016.
According to the analysis, the area’s construction industry was its largest in terms of monetary impact, followed by government and manufacturing. The retail sector remains the area’s biggest employer. However, while Gallatin County ranked highly in employment, its wage numbers were somewhat less impressive. Of the 551 Micropolitan Areas, Bozeman ranked 348th in per capita personal income growth and 121st in annual wage growth over the last 10 years.
“One of the reasons (Bozeman) is ranked so high is that you don’t have many negatives,” Fruth said.
Helena, Kalispell and Butte-Silver Bow were ranked 54th, 69th and 130th on the Micropolitan list, respectively.
Policom ranked Austin, Texas, as the strongest Metropolitan Area economy in the country for the second year running. Billings, Missoula and Great Falls were ranked 55th, 144th and 165th, respectively.
Fruth cautioned that it’s easy for areas with rampant growth to forgo the policies and attitudes that caused their economies to boom in the first place.
“Affluence causes amnesia,” he said. “After you roll along like this for a while, you forget how you got there. I’ve seen it.”
Policom, an economic research firm based in Palm City, was founded in 1995. The business has released its annual strength ratings since 1996.