Boasting scenic landscapes and vibrant urban and rural communities, Montana had experienced a decade of unprecedented inbound migration and steady economic growth. During this time, the state performed well in several key economic indicators, including innovation funding and overall gross domestic product growth. However, heightened regional competition for private investment, business attraction, and workforce demands raised questions about how Montana could better leverage its assets. A forward-looking approach to economic development became even more urgent as COVID-19 accelerated disruptions in industry supply chains, the labor force, and social norms.
Seeking to enhance Montana’s competitive position, the Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA), in partnership with the Montana Chamber Foundation, contracted with TIP Strategies to assess the state’s economic development tools. The purpose of this analysis was to create a next generation approach to economic development that would help the state adapt to technology innovations and changing market forces. Over the course of six months, TIP’s consulting team met with more than 250 stakeholders and collected over 200 survey responses from across the state to solicit input about Montana’s challenges and opportunities. The team also assessed current conditions underpinning Montana’s economic and community development efforts; inventoried more than 125 programs, strategies, and tools across multiple agencies; and conducted a competitiveness analysis of five benchmark states. Three action areas emerged as a result of this work: 1) modernize Montana’s programs and tools; 2) invest in Montanans through entrepreneurship and training; and 3) upgrade Montana’s economic and community structures. These recommendations emphasized collaboration and sought to build on one another to improve Montana’s competitive position, create jobs, and grow its economy.