- From 2001-2013, Montana’s employment increased by 14% while total real personal income increased by more than a third. Compared to the U.S., Montana’s real per capita income grew nearly three times as fast.
- As Montana’s economy diversifies, state assets–such as quality education and federal public lands–are increasingly important to attracting businesses and people crucial to the state’s economic future.
- The top five fastest growing Montana counties during 2003-2012 benefited from nearby public lands and a diversity of growing economic sectors.
A public presentation of this report in Bozeman was sponsored by Business for Montana’s Outdoors as part of the Haymakers Summit to share the new research and facilitate discussions among some of Montana’s leading businesses. The Summit featured panel discussion from various Montana businesses including high tech firms, health care organizations, and realtors.
Montana Is Growing and Outperforming Rest of the Nation
Changes in population growth (births and deaths and net migration) vary widely across Montana. With these changes, seven counties today generate more than two-thirds of all jobs and total personal income in the state.
Since the start of the 21st Century, Montana’s employment, personal income, and per capita income growth all have significantly outpaced the United States.
A Mix of Service Industries Led Montana’s Job Growth, Diversifying the State’s Economy
Counties with Public Lands Attract Workers and Retirees
The top five fastest growing Montana counties during the 2003-2012 time period combined nearby public lands and a diversity of growing economic sectors.
Counties with protected federal lands such as National Parks and Wilderness are benefiting from retiring Baby Boomers who consistently migrate to counties with high natural amenities.
In addition to senior migration, counties with protected lands have experienced strong job growth as well. During the last four decades western non-metro counties with more than 30 percent federal protected land increased jobs four times faster than non-metro counties with no protected federal lands (345% vs. 83%).
Montana counties with a higher share of federal lands have outperformed counties with smaller shares of federal lands, attracting a larger rate of in-migration and overall population growth.
Montana Also Is Seeing an Increase in Non-Labor Income, Earnings, and Per Capita Income
Non-labor income in the form of investments, along with retirement and other age-related payments, now accounts for 42 percent of personal income in Montana, and nearly half of net new personal income growth in the last decade. In 2013, investment and retirement-related income represented $13.8 billion. This money in turn stimulates health care, construction, and other sectors.
On average, western non-metro counties have a per capita income that is $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected public lands within their boundaries.
Data in this publication are from: U.S. Department of Commerce. 2014. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Accounts, Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Commerce.
2013. Census Bureau, Population Division, Washington, D.C. U.S. Geological Survey, Gap Analysis Program. 2012. Protected Areas Database of the United States (PADUS) version 1.3
Montana’s seven largest counties are Cascade, Flathead, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Silver Bow, and Yellowstone.
The West is defined as the 11 public lands continental western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
“Protected” federal lands include areas such as National Parks, Wilderness, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, National Recreation Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Wildlife Refuges.
For job growth, see: https://headwaterseconomics.org/economic-development/trends-performance/west-is-best-value-of-public-lands; for migration and population change, see: https://headwaterseconomics.org/dataviz/migration/; for non-labor income, see: https://headwaterseconomics.org/land/reports/non-labor.
Lorah, P. R. Southwick, et al. 2003. Environmental Protection, Population Change, and Economic Development in the Rural Western United States. Population and Environment 24(3): 255-272; McGranahan, D. A. 1999. Natural Amenities Drive Rural Population Change. E. R. S. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C.
Non-Metropolitan counties are counties without an urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, or a high degree of social and economic integration with a Metropolitan Statistical Area as measured by commuting ties.
Rasker, R., P.H. Gude, M. Delorey. 2013. The Effect of Protected Federal Lands on Economic Prosperity in the Non-Metropolitan West. Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy.
For More Information
Headwaters Economics is an independent research group whose mission is to improve community development and land management decisions in the West.