Montana’s High-Growth Spots Slow Down

By Beacon Staff

Populations continue to climb in many of Montana’s fast-growing regions – just at much slower rates than recent boom years.

“Basically the same areas that have been growing since 2000 are still the ones growing, although it’s slowed down quite a bit,” James Sylvester, with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, said.

Economic downturn has cut growth by as much as half in many of these areas, Sylvester added, largely because of the economic downturn.

Flathead County’s population grew by nearly 2 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. The report puts the number of residents here at 88,473. That’s 14,002 more people than were counted here in the 2000 census.

Other northwestern counties saw small population increases: Lake County added 124 people, or 1 percent; Lincoln County increased by 123 people, or 0.65 percent; and Sanders County added 23, or 0.21 percent. Glacier County decreased by 37 residents, 0.28 percent.

Gallatin County’s 3 percent growth rate, up to 89,824 people in 2008 from 87,243 the year before, was enough to earn it a spot on the list of 100 fastest-growing counties in the country last year. Ranked at number 98, Gallatin’s growth was significant – but still sedate compared to first-placed St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, which grew by 12.8 percent.

Billings and Missoula also claimed spots on a top-100 list, placing 70 and 80, respectively, in the ranks of fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Billings’ population grew by about 2,500 people or 1.7 percent to just more than 150,000 residents, while Missoula saw 1.6 percent growth to about 107,000 residents. Population estimates for other Montana cities aren’t yet available.

Flathead County Population Estimates (2008-2000)

2008: 88,473
2007: 86,766
2006: 84,549
2005: 82,530
2004: 80,626
2003: 79,152
2002: 77,269
2001: 75,987
2000: 74,710

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