2017 brings positive outlook for Montana manufacturers

By Missoula Current

State manufacturers have a positive outlook for 2017, though food and beverage were less optimistic, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Montana.

Most respondents to the survey, led by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM, said 2017 would be better than 2016.

Paul Polzin, emeritus director of BBER, said respondents expressed optimism for all economic indicators and manufacturing categories. The least optimistic sector included food and beverage.

“Manufacturing is a diverse industry and this makes forecasting difficult,” said Polzin. “We used a survey of Montana manufacturers to gauge their opinion of last year, and also what they think will happen to their plants in the future. Generally, Montana manufacturers have a positive outlook for 2017.”

Polzin said the Montana Manufacturing Information System at UM was created to improve Montana manufac­turers’ knowledge of other manufacturers in the state.

It aims to provide detailed and current information about manufacturers across Montana and to increase the exposure of their products and capabilities. It also looks to improve decision-making by collecting and reporting accurate information about manufacturing in the state.

“This report validates what we have suspected – Montana’s manufacturing industries are growing and they are very optimistic about the future,” said Paddy Fleming, director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at MSU. “Growth in Montana’s manufacturing industries will lead the state to more high-paying jobs, a more diversified economy and an economy that is much less recession prone.”

Survey respondents reported that the two most significant challenges facing manufacturers in 2016 were health insurance costs (73 percent), and the availability of qualified workers (66 percent).