Immediate Release: Study ranks MT cities on business friendliness

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Glenn Oppel, Policy Director
Montana Policy Institute

The Montana Policy Institute and American Indicators ranked the business friendliness of 25 cities across Montana based on three categories: 1) economic vitality; 2) tax burden on businesses; and 3) community allure. Factors included in the economic vitality category include recent job growth, residential population growth from 2010 to 2011, population growth from 2000 to 2010, and median per-capita income. Business tax burden focuses on the property tax in each locality. Finally, factors measured in community allure include the cost of living index, per-capita violent crime rates, percent of adults age 25 or older with at least a high school diploma, and average Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) scores for all high schools in incorporates areas. The overall most business friendly city is Polson, with Glasgow and Sidney very close behind. For the top tier of largest cities, Bozeman took the top spot and fourth overall. The full report is available at


Montana Cities Ranked On Business Friendliness

Bozeman, MT – The Montana Policy Institute and American Indicators have released a ranking of the economic vitality, business tax burden, and community allure of Montana’s 25 largest cities, providing an index of the measures most sought after by businesses. Polson tops the list, while Anaconda ranks lowest overall.

The report also breaks the cities into five population tiers, with Bozeman heading the largest city rankings and Glasgow leading the smallest group by population.

“Cities and towns are the real engines that drive the statewide economy and we compare how business friendly they are,” according to Glenn Oppel, MPI’s Policy Director. “Businesses that want to start up or relocate in Montana will not only look at the state’s business climate but also stack localities up against each other. Cities that are more welcoming to job creators and their families will obviously have an edge.”

The rankings use several criteria to measure the business climate of each city: tax policy; community allure, including cost of living and crime rate; year-over-year population and job growth; and economic vitality, including average incomes.

“We wanted to make sure that we conducted a comprehensive comparison of cities around the state,” emphasized Oppel. “That’s why we included both large and small, as well as western and eastern, cities in our comparison.”

The western Montana town of Polson takes the prize for the most business-friendly town in the state, with two eastern cities – Glasgow and Sidney – very close behind.

Ranked by size, Bozeman was the most business-friendly city in the top-tier of the largest cities, beating out Billings, Great Falls, Missoula, and Butte in that order. Havre edged out Kalispell, Helena, and Miles City in the second tier. Belgrade topped out the third tier, and Polson and Glasgow topped out the fourth and fifth tiers, respectively.

Oppel pointed out that MPI plans to publish this study on an annual basis to track the business friendly progress of the various cities and see how various policies affect job growth and community well-being.

The full report is available at


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The Montana Policy Institute is an independent, nonprofit policy research center based in Bozeman. It provides analysis and information to encourage individual freedom, personal responsiblity, and free markets in Montana.

Montana Policy Institute
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Bozeman, MT 59715

MPI is a Montana tax exempt corporation operated exclusively for the public benefit. No substantial part of the activities of the Institute are used for the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, promote any political campaign, or on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

Teen Unemployment and The Minimum Wage Study (2012)

Click here for full study (PDF – 4MB)

By Glenn Oppel, MPI Policy Director

As the Great Recession persists, unemployment remains a key concern in Montana and the nation as a whole. Although the jobs situation in Montana is somewhat better than the national average, the unemployment rate for working-age teens (16-19) is historically very high. Moreover, fewer and fewer teens are actually entering the workforce.

Figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrate that teen employment prospects are dismal:

• Between 2006 and 2011, the teenage unemployment rate in Montana almost doubled from 10.2% to 19.4%. The highest rate for that period was 24% in 2010.

• Montana teens with less than a high school education have seen their unemployment rate double from 10.4% in 2006 to 20.8% in 2011.

• The average hours worked per week for Montana teens fell from 12.1 to 8 hours – a decrease
of 34%.

• The percentage of Montana teenagers who have a job declined from 48.2% in 2006 to 36.6%
in 2011.

• From 2006 to 2011, teen employment share in all industries dropped from 6.3% to 4.2%; in leisure and hospitality from 18.9% to 13.9%; in retail trade from 10.2% to 5.2%; and for all other services from 4% to 1.6%.

A recent analysis of state-specific employment effects of the minimum wage finds that increases in the federal and state minimum wage rates have accelerated this trend. According to simulations run as part of this analysis, increases in the minimum wage from the base of $5.15 in 2006 to $7.35 in 2011 cost Montana teenagers 1,178 jobs . Teen jobless rates could get even worse as Montana’s minimum wage is adjusted annually to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) despite job market realities or unemployment trends. Montana’s 2012 minimum wage rate is currently $7.65 and will increase to $7.80 in 2013 if the CPI continues to hover at close to two percent.

Minimum wage proponents may see annual increases as “raises” to poorer workers. What they fail to realize is that minimum wage increases serve as a tax on employers that would otherwise employ more low or unskilled workers if not for higher labor costs. This is especially true for working-age teens as our issue brief will show. Policymakers in Washington, DC and Helena should consider the disproportionate impact that minimum wage increases have on our youth as they struggle to find their first job.

The War on Small Business

By: Carl | July 19, 2010, 9:22 am

So we’ve got financial reform now. Boy we really stuck it to those big banks. Never mind that they were lobbying in favor of the bill that passed and gave tens of millions of dollars to the politicians who supported it. I’m sure we’re sticking it to them.

And we got health care reform. Boy we really stuck it to Pharma and big insurance. Never mind that Pharma spent (and is spending) hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for, advertising in favor of, and supporting candidates who supported the reform bill. And never mind that big insurance (and AARP, one of the biggest health insurance providers in the country) lobbied for and supported it once they got their guaranteed customer pool through mandates. And never mind that big businesses like Walmart supported it from the beginning knowing full well that paying for employee insurance and doing all that paperwork will be way more expensive for those annoying small town competitors than it will be for huge corporations like them. But I’m sure we’re sticking it to them now.

And we’re working on cap-and-trade. Boy we’ll really stick it to those energy companies. Never mind that BP and other oil companies were early and avid supporters of taxing themselves and then getting massive subsidies for more expensive and more profitible renewable energy schemes. And never mind that AIG, the Chicago Board of Trade and others have billions of dollars tied up in energy credit trading. And of course never mind that little mom and pop outfits like GE and many more multi-billion dollar corporations have invested millions in lobbying and billions in technologies that they expect to get paid back through cap-and-trade subsidies. I’m sure we’ll really stick it to them in the end.

Yes we’re really sticking it to big business. They’re going to make billions in subsidies and bailouts, but by golly they’re not going to be able to dupe people into borrowing more than they can afford or into buying insurance that fits their individual needs instead of everyone else’s, on average; that is until big business is the only game in town.

Unfortunately all of these reforms come with huge paperwork and compliance costs. Small banks, even though they had nothing to do with the financial crisis, will still have to create massive amounts of reports and comply with increased capital and insurance mandates. Small businesses will have to spend billions tracking sales and purchases, as well as what they provide for employee health insurance. Big businesses can absorb this kind of overhead, but for small banks and businesses it’ll be crippling, especially when they won’t be able to pass the costs on to consumers since the big boys won’t have the same marginal costs.

What we’re seeing is the systematic elimination of small business in this country. The barriers to entry will be so high, and the cost of complying with regulation so stringent, that small businesses will be unable to make any return on their investments. Many existing businesses will simply close up shop. Community banks will retrench into niche markets and leave home loans and other products to large national chains, or just get bought up by Wall Street banks. New entrepreneurs will look at the barriers to entering the marketplace and do something else – probably get a government job since that’s virtually the only sector guaranteed to grow.

The end of this path lies in a business/government partnership where large corporations operate under the umbrella of government protection and direction. There’s a name for that, but I don’t want to be incendiary. Look to 1920s Italy for an example.

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