Situated at the hub of five valleys and the convergence of three rivers, directly adjacent to Interstate 90 between Minneapolis to Seattle, on main routes to the oil fields of eastern Montana and Alberta, Canada, and amid the abundant natural resources of the Treasure State, Missoula serves as a regional hub of manufacturing. From dental instrument makers to award-winning breweries. From aircraft parts to nutritional supplement producers. Missoula’s manufacturing sector is diverse, stable — and primed with opportunity.
In recent years, Missoula County’s manufacturing sector was hit by the closures of the Smurfit-Stone Container mill in Frenchtown and the Stimson Lumber mill in Bonner. Together, those two closures alone represented more than 500 highly skilled jobs lost locally. Many of those workers remain underemployed today; others have sought retraining through Missoula College or now “commute” to the oil fields of Eastern Montana, separating them from their families often for weeks at a time.
PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION
“Thanks to the professional assistance of Missoula Economic Partnership and the can-do attitude of local officials throughout Missoula County, our decision was ultimately made easy.”
— ALCOM President Trapper Clark.
In late 2012, the Maine-based trailer manufacturing company chose Missoula County for its first expansion facility.
As a result, Missoula offers a deep and broad pool of skilled and available manufacturing workers. In late 2012, when Missoula Job Service performed a test employee search for a Canadian manufacturer seeking pipefitters, electricians and other skilled laborers, nearly 200 qualified workers submitted resumes — despite knowing those jobs were not imminently available.
Complementing our strong workforce, the Missoula Valley offers an array of shovel-ready sites and built facilities. Bonner Property Development offers 170 acres of heavy industrial space at the former Stimson Lumber mill with numerous existing buildings, a rail spur, robust utilities and moments-away access to Interstate 90. At the former Smurfit-Stone Container mill site, M2 Green Redevelopment offers more than 2,400 acres with various building shells, a rail spur, a three-mile road directly to Interstate 90, and other capacity and infrastructure. And the Missoula Airport Industrial Park, located adjacent to the airport and moments from I-90, is currently in the late planning stages, featuring 600 acres of developable land including large industrial tracts.
As mentioned, Missoula offers multiple transportation options connecting the community to the broader Pacific Northwest. I-90 runs through town, as do state highways 200 and 93, providing alternate north/south routes and a convenient corridor to the Canadian oil sands. Montana Rail Link offers FRA Class II service with more than 900 miles of track serving 100-plus stations in Montana, Idaho and Washington. And Missoula International Airport connects our community to the world with a full range of freight and passenger services.
Utility rates in Missoula compare with the best anywhere. The Missoula area historically has enjoyed electricity and natural gas rates that are among the lowest in the nation. Our water supply and wastewater treatment facilities offer ample capacity for industrial users. The relatively uncongested northern east-west U.S. line of fiber optic cables runs through Missoula, which also enjoys nearby access to the north-south Cut Bank U.S. / Canadian fiber.
In short, Missoula is ready with the people, the sites and the infrastructure to help new, expanding and relocating manufacturing operations thrive and grow.
For a partial sampling of local Resources, Companies and Workforce connections, please click to expand the sections and explore the links below.
A number of organizations and associations work to promote and enhance the manufacturing sector in Western Montana. They include:
Innovate Montana — a public-private partnership led by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to promote and market opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in Montana’s growing economy.
Missoula College — provides degree and certificate programs as well as customized workforce training programs to support area businesses.
Montana Department of Commerce — provides resources for businesses throughout the state; also runs the Made in Montana program, which seeks to promote the quality of goods manufactured in the state.
Montana Manufacturers Information System — brings Montana Manufacturers closer to each other by providing detailed information about each manufacturer’s products, processes and capabilities in one website.
Montana Manufacturing Council — statewide association for manufacturers and their supporters.
Montana Manufacturing Extension Center — economic development organization helping manufacturers with engineering, technical and business management issues.
Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center — helps businesses understand how to tap into federal, state and local government markets.
Montana Technology Innovation Partnership — a Montana Department of Commerce initiative created to promote technology commercialization in the state.
Montana World Trade Center — works to increase international trade through public-private partnerships, business networking and student education.
Sustainable Business Council — provides education and technical assistance to help businesses, organizations, and individuals in Montana adopt sustainable practices that protect and enhance the environment, the region’s economy and local communities.
Missoula and the surrounding region are home to leading manufacturers in a variety of fields.
American Eagle Instruments — maker of top-quality dental instruments.
Bayern Brewing Inc. — craft brewery and bottler specializing in traditional Bavarian-style beers.
Big Sky Brewing Company — brewery and bottler specializing in English-style ales, with distribution in 24 states.
Big Sky Composites — produces compression-molded, high-performance composite parts for defense, medical and other markets.
CM Manufacturing — manufacturer of high-strength steel and nonferrous parts for U.S. military aircraft.
Diversified Plastics Inc. — leader in precision plastics engineering and fabrication for agriculture, forest products, food processing and other markets.
FELCO Industries — maker of conveyors, buckets and other specialty excavator attachments.
GT Advanced Technologies — leading provider of technology, systems and materials for the solar, LED and other specialty markets.
Nutritional Laboratories International — manufacturer of custom formulations for the dietary supplement and pharmaceutical industries.
Paradise Dental Technologies — innovative designer and manufacturer of dental instruments.
Purity Systems — manufactures and sells a line of specialty ion exchange resins used in mining, industrial waste treatment and environmental remediation.
Rawlings Wastewood Recovery Systems — builds and markets a portfolio of stationary, portable and skid-mounted waste wood recovery systems.
Spectrum Aquatics — maker of equipment and products used in the construction, operation and maintenance of commercial swimming pools and spas.
Sunburst Sensors — designs and manufactures chemical sensing instruments for use in marine and freshwater environments.
Talus Outdoor Technologies — creator and manufacturer of ColdAvenger® cold weather protection masks.
As of 2010, a total of 2,210 workers were employed in the manufacturing sector in Missoula County, placing the county fourth among all Montana counties in total manufacturing employment.
The sector has immediate opportunity for growth, having suffered an overall decline of more than 25 percent in total employment in the past decade, due in large part to the closure of the Smurfit Stone Container mill in Frenchtown and the Stimson Lumber mill in Bonner. Missoula Economic Partnership believes Missoula County can immediately staff 1,000 new manufacturing jobs with our existing workforce of skilled, experienced workers.
Missoula’s manufacturing sector is also primed with potential, thanks to the presence of Missoula College. The school offers a strong slate of existing one- and two-year programs in fields such as welding technology, heavy equipment operation, electronics technology and more. In addition, Missoula College can provide customized training programs for individual businesses, from one-week primers to accredited degrees.