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Economic Development: How does Billings compare to its peers? We're checking the data

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At Big Sky Economic Development we are often asked, “How’s the economy doing?” While we can talk all day about our community’s key industries, business success stories, and new developments over the past few months, we have decided to dive into the data.

Data enables us to understand the economic pulse of our community, and perhaps more importantly, how we compare to others in our region.

To start, we decided to take a look at how we stack up against Boise, Fort Collins, Casper, Bismarck, Rapid City, Cheyenne, Missoula, and Great Falls. The key indicators (by statistical area) we used are real GDP over time, population growth, number of businesses over time, current educational attainment, employment over time by age bracket, unemployment rate over time, employment to population over time, employment by industry, current gini index for household income (community equity), housing affordability, and total personal income (by county).

From these measures we gleaned some interesting perspective. For example, the Billings economy (based on annual total personal income) is 38 percent larger than that of Bozeman’s ($6.65 billion vs. $4.12 billion) but only constitutes 53 percent of Fort Collins’ ($14.1 billion.) While the size of our economy is at the front of the pack, our population growth over the last 10 years (16.4 percent) is at the back, only surpassing that of Great Falls (6.3 percent). When considering our median household income ($51,077) vs. housing affordability ($1,097 per month average,) we rank right in the middle of our peer communities, suggesting that regionally our affordability is on par.

In Billings, we always talk about how diversified our economy is, but when we took a look at how diversified our peer communities are, the competitive nature of our region became abundantly clear. We are stacked up against communities with extremely strong economic bases that share many of the same quality of life benefits; who are working as hard to grow their economy as we are ours.

At Big Sky Economic Development, we have taken the dive into data and are striving to position ourselves as the “go-to” place for economic information. As we work to grow our economy through business growth services, new-business recruitment, and community development. We will keep our eyes open, and our finger on the economic pulse of our economy.

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Data enables us to understand the economic pulse of our community.


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