Phil Van Pelt

BILLINGS (KPAX) — Montana residents are legendary for the pride they have for their home state, but a 2022 Census Bureau study shows that transplant Montanans are catching their homegrown counterparts.

"I have been intimately equated with Montana my entire life but I wasn’t born and didn’t grow up here," said Billings resident Craig Lancaster on Wednesday.

In a chart published by the Montana Free Press last week, it shows over 40% of Yellowstone County residents were born outside of Montana.

From 2021 to 2022, more than 4,000 new out-of-state residents came to Yellowstone County, according to the Census Bureau.

Many in Billings say the area's economy is attracting more people.

"Billings has a strong economy and that can benefit both the well-to-do and the underprivileged," said Billings resident Dale Fransetich.

"I think we are seeing a lot of growth in Billings, which is really exciting, but I think it's steady growth," said Big Sky Economic Development senior director of engagement Marcell Bruski.

Bruski mentioned that it's that economy that sets Billings apart from the rest of the state.

"Some areas of the state, they’re seeing big influxes. Billings has always had that strong, steady growth because of our diverse economy, which plays to our industry," added Bruski.

Gallatin County continues to see the largest influx of out-of-staters with just 37.3% of residents being born in Montana.

It's a number that’s been shrinking each year since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Montana was exciting during and after COVID because we’re big, we’re a big state, we’ve got a lot of space. So, I think that really put Montana on a map in a new way, comparing to what it’s been in the past," Bruski added.

Both professionals and residents agree that the allure of Montana will likely keep those numbers climbing.

"People like it here. They like Montana and they like the space, and they like the beauty of it and they like all of those things," Long said.

"Billings has a had a steady growth of population for decades and I don’t see that changing," Bruski said.

According to the Montana Free Press, between about 44 and 46% of residents in Western Montana were born in the state.

That trend also holds true in fast-growing urban areas around Missoula and Kalispell.