Manufacturing is on the rise in Montana, and according to a new study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, it is rising much faster here than the national average. The growth rate of Montana manufacturing is 8.6%, while the national rate is only 3.6%. Montana Manufacturing Extension director Paddy Fleming says that the growth is most notable in certain parts of Montana.

“Pretty much all of western Montana is very fertile, Billings and Lewistown also are,” Fleming said. “Much of it is in newer entities, and it is not the manufacturing we used to thank of, with large smokestacks and large buildings. Many of these new manufacturing plants are breweries, wineries, and distilleries, small outfits that don’t take up a big footprint.”

Transportation has long been a problem for manufacturing in Montana. It still is, but Fleming says that the companies that are successful are working around it.

“Shipping is always a major concern for manufacturers in Montana,” Fleming said. “I think the ones that are more successful are the ones that are producing either a high value item, where shipping is not a large portion of the cost of the item, or, those that are selling much of their product in Montana.”

The study found that the manufacture of alcoholic beverages was enjoying a meteoric rise in Montana, which now has 73 companies either brewing beer, distilling liquor, or making wine or mead. Nearly three-quarters of all Montana manufacturing companies are small, with less than 10 employees.

Below are some of the highlights of the Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research Study as they appear in their study: The State of Montana Manufacturing.

§ Montana manufacturing is growing faster than the rest of the nation. There are now 3,262 manufacturing companies in Montana.

§ 72.3 percent of Montana manufacturing companies have fewer than 10 employees.

§ Montana has 22,700 full- and part-time manufacturing employees who earn a $44,781 wage on average, compared to an average wage $37,707 for all Montana workers.

§ Montana manufacturing employees can expect to earn approximately 27 percent higher wages than non-manufacturing employees.

§ Other than “miscellaneous manufacturing,” the three largest manufacturing categories in Montana are fabricated metal products with 482 companies, food products with 360, and wood products with 344.

§ Large growth in structural steel manufacturing, small arms manufacturing and ammunition manufacturing account for much of the growth in fabricated metal products.

§ Montana’s beverage manufacturing – which includes alcohol production from breweries, wineries and distilleries – has experienced a large growth. There are now 73 companies manufacturing alcoholic beverages in the state.

§ Montana manufacturing exports have risen from $290 million in 2002 to more than $1 billion in 2014.

§ Montana’s top three export partners are Canada (44 percent), Korea (9 percent) and China (8 percent).

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