BBER Survey: Montana Manufacturers More Optimistic About 2016

Missoula and Kalispell areas expressed more optimism toward 2016 than in 2015

By Beacon Staff

A University of Montana survey recently found state manufacturers had a positive outlook for 2016, although they were somewhat less optimistic about 2016 than they were about 2015.

The survey was conducted in November 2015 by UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“The food and beverage sectors were the most optimistic across the state,” said Todd Morgan, director of BBER’s forest industry research program and whose group also monitors the Montana manufacturing sector. “This could be due to the growth of the microbreweries and new distillers in Montana.”

He said the Missoula and Kalispell areas expressed more optimism toward 2016 than in 2015, which differed from other parts of Montana. The petroleum products sector saw the largest reduction in outlook due to the prolonged period of declining prices.

The survey also found the major concerns for Montana manufacturers continue to be finding and retaining adequate labor and skilled workers, the general economy, markets, competition and sales.

“The strong U.S. dollar relative to other currencies and slower economies in China and Europe are contributing to reduced exports by Montana manufacturers,” Morgan said, “and exports account for about 10 percent of Montana manufacturing sales.”

Paddy Fleming, director of the Montana Manufacturing Center, said the number of manufacturers in Montana has more than doubled since 1996, adding about 7 percent more employees to that workforce.

“In Montana, 81 percent of manufacturers have less than 10 employees, and they tend to be very entrepreneurial,” he said.

The BBER survey was conducted in conjunction with Montana State University’s Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, which has more than 20 years’ experience in growing Montana’s economy by helping manufacturers grow, innovate and increase their profitability.

For more information, visit MMEC at http://www.montana.edu/mmec/.

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