Economic Outlook Seminar to Explore ‘The Future of Higher Education in Montana’

BBER’s annual event held in Kalispell on Feb. 6; Robert Nystuen of Glacier Bank and Board of Regents is keynote speaker

By Myers Reece
Robert Nystuen of Glacier Bank and Board of Regents is keynote speaker a Feb. 6 event. Beacon File Photo.

The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s 43rd annual economic outlook seminar will be held in Kalispell on Feb. 6, with this year’s program exploring the relationship between higher education and the state’s economy.

The keynote speaker is Robert Nystuen, president of Glacier Bank and vice chair of the Montana University System Board of Regents.

The seminar — themed “The Future of Higher Education in Montana” — runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn on Tuesday and features a lineup of industry and economic experts. Kalispell is one of nine cities on the seminar’s tour, which kicked off in Helena on Jan. 23 and wraps up in Havre on March 14.

In 2015, Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Nystuen to the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s university system. Nystuen, who lives in Lakeside, became vice chair two years later. He has also been involved with the board of trustees at Flathead Valley Community College since 2002, serving as the board chair for eight years.

Nystuen’s experience with FVCC and the Board of Regents, combined with his lengthy career in banking, gives him unique insight into the relationship between higher education and the economy.

“We have to continue to do a better job of articulating the value of education,” Nystuen told the Beacon last August. “I’ve always maintained that the key to personal, business and economic prosperity is through education, most notably higher education. I think that’s the gateway to a brighter personal career.”

The half-day seminar and luncheon will also highlight economic trends at the local, state and national levels. Patrick Barkey, director of the BBER, and Paul Polzin, the institute’s director emeritus, will present economic forecasts, including reports focused on the Flathead, while other speakers will analyze industries specific to their fields of expertise.

Altogether, speakers will provide outlooks on what the BBER calls “Montana’s important sectors:” nonresident travel, health care, real estate and housing, agriculture, manufacturing, forest products and energy.

The seminar’s industry specialists include Norma Nickerson, director of the UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research; Todd Morgan, director of forest industry research at the BBER; George Haynes, agricultural policy specialist and professor with the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University; Joe Untereinner, CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce; and other local experts. Economists Bryce Ward and Brandon Bridge of the BBER are also on the program.

The BBER calls higher education a “future-oriented business,” which educates and prepares the “leaders of tomorrow.”

“But what is the future for colleges and universities themselves?” the BBER asks on the seminar’s website. “In an economy that increasingly rewards knowledge and expertise, the need to cultivate and grow a competitive, skilled and educated workforce is more vital than ever.”

“Yet the way we do this and the way we pay for it has come under the microscope in recent years,” the research institute continues. “This year’s Economic Outlook Seminar examines the question of how Montana’s higher education system returns value to all of us who live and work here.”

For more information, visit www.economicoutlookseminar.com.