What Are Other Thriving Cities Doing That Great Falls Is Not?


Someone sent me a link the other day to a very interesting news piece from KBZK in Bozeman, MT. – ‘Bozeman ranks #1 for strongest micropolitan economy’.

That’s the strongest micropolitan economy in the nation, not just the state. As the report explains:

“According to Policom, an Economics research firm, Bozeman is ranked number one for economic strength in a micropolitan area. This is the second year in a row Bozeman has earned this ranking, out of 551 current micropolitan statistical areas in the United States.”

A micropolitan area is defined as having a population of less than 50,000 people. Here are the 2019 Policom national rankings for four Montana micropolitan areas:

  • Bozeman ranked 1st
  • Kalispell ranked 14th
  • Helena ranked 49th
  • Butte ranked 104th

I also took a look at the Policom metropolitan area rankings. A metropolitan area is defined as having “…at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by the location of the commuting workforce.”

There are 383 metropolitan areas nationally. Great Falls, Billings and Missoula are three metropolitan areas in Montana  and here are the national 2019 economic strength rankings for each:

  • Missoula ranked 75th
  • Billings ranked 87th
  • Great Falls ranked 185th

Policom lists rankings from 2015 – 2019 for each area and I found the ranking history for Great Falls to be interesting:

Great Falls, MT (MSA) 2019










Missoula, MT (MSA) 75 144 188 226 199
Billings, MT (MSA) 87 55 97 128 120


Clearly we’re going in the wrong direction, Great Falls. But why? What are the other communities doing that we are not?

In the coming weeks I’ll be attempting to help answer those questions in a series of articles for E-City Beat. Feel free to send me your suggestions and ideas by commenting here, on the E-City Beat Facebook page, or emailing info@ecitybeat.com.



Posted by Rick Tryon

Rick Tryon is an entrepreneur, a singer-songwriter, and is currently serving a four year term as a Great Falls City Commissioner. Helping Montana become an even greater place to live, play and work is Tryon's passion.

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “What Are Other Thriving Cities Doing That Great Falls Is Not?”

  1. Variety and quality of dining and shopping and recreation. Indoor @nd outdoor.


  2. There’s been a lot of energy put into if and how midwestern cities can be revitalized. This 4 part series from Forbes is worth reading.

    Unfortunately, it seemed indicate that unless the city was tied to a major university, being a state capitol, or being a satellite City to a major Metropolis in area of a million people or more, its prospects were limited to various rates of decline.

    For instance Montana State University has a current undergraduate enrollment of about 15000. Assuming the national average amount of financial aid (grants and loans) at $15,000 per student, that’s 225 million dollars in “subsidy” just through student aid that is added to the local economy. Since the $15,000 per-student doesn’t even cover annual tuition, there’s all the out-of-pocket money the students add as well. And that money comes into the city year after year.

    And that doesn’t even begin to account for the impact of all the students that stay to work, raise families, or start businesses.

    If I was looking for a city to compare Great Falls to, I’d be looking for a city of approximately the same size in North Dakota or South Dakota that isn’t in the middle of an oil field, isn’t a state capital, and does not have a major university.

    There’s obviously a lot of things Great Falls could try to do, and try to do differently. But to imply that it’s fate hangs solely in leadership is a bit like saying that the Grizzlies could have beat Clemson or Alabama with better coaching.


  3. […] my most recent article here on E-City Beat I said I would be doing a series of articles focusing on what we can do to build a better Great […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *