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Breweries Help Montana Manufacturing Growth Surpass National Rate

Under the new bill, craft brewers will now be able to sell beer in tasting rooms on premises and still can and keg up to 60,000 barrels a year.
Kelli Whithorn (CC-BY-2)
Big Sky Brewery, Missoula Montana.

Employment in Montana’s manufacturing sector is outpacing those same jobs nationally. That’s according to the latest annual report from the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center based at Montana State University.

The center’s director, Paddy Fleming, says there are many reasons behind that employment growth.

Fleming says Montana’s manufacturing sector is broad. It ranges from fabricated pipe and steel for the energy sector and construction to small arms and ammunition, nanotechnology, to food and beverages

"Manufacturing is a very broad term. Any time there’s value added."

And Fleming says companies large and small make up the nearly 3,300 manufacturing businesses in the state.

Just over 72-percent of them are small and employ less than 10 people. And the annual report says manufacturing wages are 27-percent higher than non-manufacturing jobs.

Fleming says there’s a reason why manufacturing in Montana is growing faster than in the rest of the nation.

"Well MT is also number one in the nation for entrepreneurship so I think it’s related to that and I also think besides that you’ve got people who want to move to Montana for the outdoor lifestyle, so they move to MT and figure out how to stay here. And that sometimes involves starting a manufacturing business."

The three largest manufacturing industries in the state, in other words companies, are fabricated metal products, food products, and wood products.

But Fleming notes there’s also been a large growth in beverages, namely breweries, wineries and distilleries. There are now 73 companies manufacturing alcohol.

"I think there’s a huge potential for further growth in the distilleries and the breweries just keep shocking me. So obviously we haven't hit the saturation point on the breweries yet. And you’ve got distilleries in small towns like Ennis, MT and a brewery in Belt, MT."

Fleming adds Montana manufacturers are also exporting their goods overseas. The report says the state’s top export partners are Canada, Korea, and China.

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