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
67 W Kagy Blvd, Ste. B
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.

How Business Friendly Are Montana’s 25 Largest Cities? – 2012 Report

Note: Updated with official full study on November 8, 2012.

By John Hill, PhD, President, American Indicators

In order to excel in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, Montana must be as attractive as possible to businesses wishing to relocate to or expand in the state. There are numerous state level comparisons of Montana’s business friendliness to inform policymakers in Helena. The same sort of report dedicated to comparing major cities and towns in Montana simply doesn’t exist. Cities and towns are the real engines that drive the statewide economy and Montanans should consider how they compare against each other with respect to economic, social, and educational factors attractive to businesses.

The Montana Policy Institute (MPI) and American Indicators have collected data on Montana’s 25 most populous incorporated areas and ranked them based on criteria that both ensure business success and protect the entrepreneurial spirit.

The three categories ranked are:
  • Economic Vitality
  • Business Tax Burden
  • Community Allure

In summary, this report looks at a number of factors:
  • What cities have the best tax policy?
  • Which have more community allure, such as low costs of living and low crime rates?
  • What cities have experienced the most yearover-year population and job growth?
  • What type of economic vitality do cities have, including the average incomes for local residents?

These and other questions are answered in this report.

Click here for the full study (PDF – 3MB)