25th Anniversary header title

The manufacturing landscape of our state has changed significantly over the last 25 years, and MMEC has been a partner working side by side with manufacturers through it all. We’ve watched as very large natural resource manufacturing operations gave way to a wave of entrepreneurship, high-tech manufacturing and value-added agriculture manufacturing. These new industries along with our traditional manufacturers have diversified Montana’s economy and reduced the chance of economic recession.

 

 

 

 

FEATURED VIDEO

West Paw was the first manufacturer MMEC ever contacted, and over the last 25 years we've had the opportunity to watch them flourish.

 

 

THEN

  • Montana supplies more organic crops than any other state in the nation.
  • Farmers and ranchers grow a plethora of raw products such as barley, wheat, seeds, etc.
  • To process these ag products, they were shipped out of state, and the producers would only receive about 14 cents on the dollar profit.

NOW

  • By 2021, “Value Added Agriculture” is exploding in Montana.
  • As just one example, raw barley is $3 a bushel, whereas malted barley can be sold at $6 a bushel.
  • Companies like Wheat Montana and Montana Eggs, among others, have helped Montana expand into Value-Added Ag.
 
Jeremiah Johnson beer can and glass

The Changing Landscape of Montana Manufacturing: Agriculture

While large-scale farming of commodities such as wheat and barley continues, it is complemented by rapid growth in specialty crops, value-added goods, and direct sales and interactions with consumers.

THEN

  • Montana used to be home to large corporations based around natural resource extraction. Companies such as saw mills, metal and oil refineries, and other agricultural processing operations employed large numbers of workers. Over time, over-logging, outdated technology, and a cascade effect of closing mines and foundries brought an end to the era of many big corporations in Montana.

NOW

  • The number of manufacturers in Montana has grown, but now most Montana manufacturers are small businesses. More than half have fewer than five employees; and roughly 85% have fewer than 20 employees.
  • The state is ranked highest in entrepreneurial activities and has been #1 four years in a row according to the Kauffman Foundation.
 
Headframe employees posing with hand sanitizer

The Changing Landscape of Montana Manufacturing: A Strong Entrepreneurial Spirit

Over time, you could say that the landscape has “flipped,” because we now have a large number of small manufacturing businesses. Their success is founded on a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to creating and maintaining good jobs in our state.

THEN

  • Montana owes a lot of its history to large extraction companies like Anaconda Copper Mining (ACM). The landscape was dotted with lumber mills and metal refineries taking advantage of the state's abundance of natural resources. Once extraction became economically unviable and large companies left, the cascade effect was felt on other downstream industries.

NOW

  • Today, companies have diversified into other high growth industries like the photonics industry in collaboration with local universities such as Montana State University, resulting in 35 Photonics companies in the state.
  • Exporting of products including value-added ag, outdoor clothing and equipment, and machinery, leading to a rise in manufacturing exports of about 120% to $1.18B in 2019.
 
West Paw dog toys displayed on wall

The Changing Landscape of Montana Manufacturing: Product Diversification

Building on the popularity of outdoor recreation in Montana, the state is home to numerous companies that produce sporting goods, outdoor clothing and equipment, and pet supplies.