Whitefish, Kalispell Fastest Growing Cities in the State

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – New census statistics show that Whitefish is the fastest growing Montana city since the start of the decade, while Billings remains the largest.

The population of Whitefish increased by 60.6 percent from the 2000 census to 8,083 residents by the summer of 2007. But it is still only the 11th largest city in Montana.

Billings, with an estimated population of nearly 102,000, topped the population list. It grew by 13.4 percent over the same time frame.

The other fastest growing places by percentage are: Kalispell (42.7), Belgrade (40.5), Columbia Falls (40.3) and Bozeman (38).

The data, put together by the U.S. Census bureau, estimates Montana’s population at 957,861 in 2007, up 6.2 percent from 902,195 in the 2000 Census. It estimates Montana’s population will surpass 1 million between 2015 and 2020.

The largest population drops were seen in Hysham, which lost nearly a quarter of its population, along with Flaxville and Medicine Lake, which lost a fifth of their residents. But those towns have just a few hundred residents, making them susceptible to large percentage fluctuations.

Of places with at least 1,000 residents at the start of the decade, Scobey and Plentywood were at the bottom with a 17 percent drop.

Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge County both declined by just about 6 percent over the time frame — although they picked up residents in the last year.

The four largest cities have grown over the decade.

Missoula, the second largest at 67,165, grew by 17 percent. Great Falls grew by just under 4 percent to 58,827. Bozeman increased by 38 percent to 37,981.

Butte-Silver Bow dropped to 31,967 and has fallen behind Bozeman over the course of the decade in the ranking of the state’s largest cities.

Helena, with 28,726 resident, has grown 11 percent and is getting close to surpassing Butte. The Capitol city currently is the state’s sixth largest city.

The smallest town tracked by the census is Ismay, in the far eastern part of the state. It has held steady at about 25 residents since 2000.