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Montana's major urban areas: trends and forecasts.

This year's regionwide emphasis precludes any detailed study of Montana's local areas. However, we do want to provide a brief summary of important trends and forecasts in the state's major urban areas. That information follows.

The 1980-82 recession was relatively mild in Billings. But nonfarm labor income turned downward at mid-decade due to declines in oil and gas, food products (meat packing), railroads, and other manufacturing. Trade center activity is Billings' largest basic industry.

The cyclic pattern of Missoula's economy is caused by its basic, industries. Labor income in the wood and paper products and other basic industries exhibits a classic cyclic profile; note declines in 1969-70, 1973-74, and 1980-82. The recent growth in trade center activities occurred mostly in the export component of medical services - that is, nonresidents coming to Missoula for treatment.

Cascade County's economy has been roughly stable in the 1980s. Interestingly, the data are contradictory when we try to assess the economic impact of Malmstrom Air Force Base. The early 1970s' peak staffing at the base seems to have had little effect on Cascade County's nonfarm labor income. Labor income declined in 1979-82 when base staffing also declined; but the Anaconda smelter closed during that period too. So it remains difficult to isolate the base's impact. It may be relatively weak because the Base Exchange is supplied by some non-local wholesalers and because many service people live on base.

Flathead County was one of the fastest growing areas in Montana during the 1980s, but growth rates have decelerated since mid-decade. Wood products and primary metals refining are the two largest basic industries. Both were responsible for cyclic declines in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, and along with nonresident travel, were the factors behind the 1980s' rapid growth. Kalispell is close to trade center status, which accounts for the projected growth in nonfarm labor income, accompanied by a decrease in the basic industries.

Bozeman was another fast-growing urban area in Montana, but increases moderated in the late 1980s. Both the growth and slowdown can be traced to basic industries. Montana State University and manufacturing (which includes a significant number of high tech firms) were increasing in the 1970s and early 1980s, and have been stable or declining since 1985. Nonresident travel increased significantly in the late 1980s.

Helena has a stable economy dominated by state and federal governments - both noncyclic industries. State government was primarily responsible for increases in the 1970s and for 1980s' stability. (State workers' wage freeze is clearly visible in the mid-1980s data.) Recent increases in trade center activity mostly occurred in health care.

Butte-Anaconda nonfarm labor income decreased by almost one-third between 1979 and 1986. This trend was caused primarily by the Anaconda Company's demise. The company shut down its Anaconda smelter during 1980 and closed the Berkeley Pit in 1983. Butte-Anaconda's economic base is now smaller, but more diverse; the Montana Power Company and its subsidiaries comprise the largest component.

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Title Annotation:The Montana Economy within a Regional Context
Author:Polzin, Paul E.
Publication:Montana Business Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1992
Words:491
Previous Article:Montana and its region.
Next Article:Regional resource industry dependency.
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