In an article in the Bozeman Chronicle recently, Bozeman’s economy was ranked the strongest in the nation for a micropolitan city for the third year in a row in a recent national report.
Since 2018, POLICOM Corporation has ranked Bozeman as the strongest economy in a city with fewer than 50,000 residents. The group uses 23 different factors over a 20-year period, including wages, unemployment and welfare. Bozeman has ranked consistently in the top 20 since 2011.
A “micropolitan” city is any city with at least 10,000 residents but not more than 50,000. Bozeman barely fits in that category; the U.S. Census Bureau estimated in July 2018 that Bozeman’s population had surpassed 48,000. Bozeman has long been ranked the fastest-growing micropolitan city in the nation, but that title will likely be lost once it hits 50,000 residents. Its metropolitan cohorts in Montana will be Billings (population 109,550), Missoula (population 74,428) and Great Falls (population 58,701), and it will also be in the same category as cities like Seattle and Denver.
“What this means for Bozeman is significant ... because if and when Bozeman trips the 50,000 population number, it puts the city in a different category,” said Brit Fontenot, the director of economic development for the city of Bozeman.
When Bozeman jumps from micropolitan to metropolitan, there will be federal money available for infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure. The Bozeman area will also need to form a Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, to assist that planning.
“The fact that we have the number one strongest economy for a micropolitan community is a team effort,” said Fontenot. “We should all be proud of the fact that we were recognized.”
Other Montana cities also made the list of top 25 strongest micropolitan economies. Kalispell ranked 10th, and Helena came in at 24. Butte and the Silver Bow County area ranked 106.
Bozeman Mayor Chris Mehl said that while Bozeman will likely fall in the ranks when it is classified as a metropolitan city, the city’s low crime, diversifying economy and the experiences it can offer will continue to make it a destination for those who want to live and work in Montana.
“We have people that live in Bozeman because the crime is low, Main Street is incredible, the K-through-12 schools are great and their kids walk to school safely,” said Mehl. “All the things that make Montana amazing.”