Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Seminar provides analysis of state’s economy

| January 25, 2023 12:00 AM

Inflation, recession, strained labor markets and a new wave of in-migration to Montana are the focus of the 2023 Economic Outlook Seminar, which is held in communities throughout Montana.

The University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research brings its economic seminar to Kalispell on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Hilton Garden Inn. The seminar will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Montana's economy turned in another blistering growth performance in 2022, but the rapid rise of interest rates, the continued pain of raging inflation and falling global commodity prices are shifting the sands beneath the foundation of that strong growth, according to Patrick Barkey, director of the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

One of the first to feel those changes will be the state’s housing industry, Barkey said. Conventional 30-year mortgage rates exceeding 7% have cut the flow of loan applications to a trickle and sent sales of existing homes sharply downward.

“With the winds of economic change all about, the question for Montana increasingly becomes, what kind of recession is in our future? Montana will not escape the slowdown that is now underway,” Barkey said.

In addition to an in-depth look at Montana’s economy, the seminar also will feature a keynote presentation by Bryce Ward, economist and founder of ABMJ Consulting, titled “The Future of Montana: What the New Wave of In-Migration Means for the State.”

The COVID-19 pandemic sent plenty of people from congested urban areas around the country to live in places like Montana and other Mountain West states, said Ward, adding that the promise of keeping their jobs in the big city while enjoying the lifestyle of the West has had a powerful appeal.

“The pandemic has changed Montana: more people, different people, more expensive housing,” Ward said. “In economics jargon, the demand for Montana has increased.”

The half-day seminar also will provide expert insights on Montana’s largest industries, including real estate, agriculture, wood products, and health care.

Another Montana’s industry – tourism – has had a noteworthy year. Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” the popular TV series filmed in Montana, has sparked the interest of a worldwide audience, bringing an estimated 2.1 million visitors and $730 million in spending to the state in 2021.

“The ‘Yellowstone’ TV show has demonstrated the power of Montana’s American West image to influence people to visit the state,” said Melissa Weddell, the director of UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. Weddell will present the tourism outlook at the seminar.

For more information and access to the online seminars visit or call 406-243-2782. Registration is $90 and includes lunch.