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Study: Montana’s manufacturing sector doing well



Jobs in alcoholic beverage production double in 4-year span

EBS Staff 

BOZEMAN – The number of jobs the manufacturing sector provides in Montana has increased at a rate more than double the national rate, according to a new report commissioned by the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University.

The 2017 State of Montana Manufacturing report, prepared by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, indicates that manufacturing employment has increased 18.3 percent in the past seven years, to a total of 19,400 jobs.

“Manufacturing is really defined as anybody that takes something physically and changes the value of it,” said Paddy Fleming, the director of MMEC. Examples he listed include breweries, distilleries and even newspapers.

The report suggests a generally positive trend in manufacturing for the state. It found that company earnings in manufacturing have increased 14 percent since 2010, and there were more than 3,300 manufacturing establishments in Montana in 2015. Leading categories within the industry include miscellaneous manufacturing with 691 establishments, followed by fabricated metal manufacturing with 493 establishments and food products with 370.

The average wage for a worker in the industry was $47,227 in 2015, which is 18 percent higher than the average Montana worker’s wages.

In terms of earnings, the two largest Montana manufacturing industries in 2015 were associated with the processing of coal and crude oil (18 percent of total earnings) and the processing of wood products (15 percent).

The study noted that the production of alcoholic beverages is a rapidly growing industry in Montana. Distilleries, wineries and breweries employed 711 people in 2015, up from 267 in 2011.

Most Montana manufacturers are small businesses: 85 percent of Montana’s manufacturing businesses have fewer than 20 employees.

Fleming theorizes that the growth in Montana’s manufacturing sector is due to overall ingenuity as individuals branch out to find jobs in the state. “This is my opinion, but Montana is full of entrepreneurs and people in love with the state. Maybe they can’t find a job but they want to stay in the state so they create a job,” he said.

Growth in the manufacturing sector is good news for Montana, Fleming said. “It means we have a much more diversified economy. When grain is down, the whole economy isn’t down. It diversifies the economy so we’re not so dependent on one industry.”

The 2017 State of Montana Manufacturing report can be found at

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