By Phil Drake | Montana Watchdog
HELENA — Polson is Montana’s most business-friendly town, topping the list in a study that ranks the economic vitality, business tax burden and community allure of the state’s 25 largest cities, according to a report released Monday by two think tanks.
Officials with the Bozeman-based Montana Policy Institute and Alabama-based American Indicators say the study — “How business friendly are Montana’s 25 largest cities?” by John Hill of American Indicators — provides a ranking of measures most sought by businesses.
The authors encourage officials in other Treasure State cities to seek low tax rates on businesses and families, focus on education and public safety and make their cities as attractive as possible to prospective businesses.
“Cities and towns are the real engines that drive the statewide economy and we compare how business friendly they are,” Glenn Oppel, MPI’s policy director, said in a news release.
The state’s most business-friendly cities have limited governance, a thriving economy, low crime, reasonable tax rates and quality education outcomes, according to the report.
Polson achieved its No.1 status with a score of 69.34 out of a possible 100 points. Anaconda, which finished last, got a score of 23.94.
Polson officials were not immediately available for comment, but the executive director of the Anaconda Chamber of Commerce was surprised about her city being at the bottom.
“It’s a small town,” Edith Fransen said. “There’s not a tremendous amount of businesses, but the ones we have are very helpful.”
Economic vitality was measured by medium per-capita income and job and population growth. Business tax burden was based on total property tax rates in its city and county. Community allure included the cost of living, education performance and crime rates. Business tax burden and economic vitality each made up 40 percent of the overall score. Community allure made up the remaining 20 percent.
The report also breaks the cities into five population tiers.
Ranked by size, Bozeman was the most business-friendly city in the top-tier of the largest cities, beating out Billings, Great Falls, Missoula and Butte, in that order. Havre won over Kalispell, Helena, and Miles City in the second tier. Belgrade topped out the third tier, and Polson and Glasgow topped out the fourth and fifth tiers, respectively.
“By making simple adjustments, many cities across Montana could be on their way to becoming Montana’s most business-friendly city, and in the process, help establish Montana as a destination for growing companies both regionally and nationally,” Hill writes in the study.
He adds that it’s unlikely any city would get a perfect score. MPI plans to publish this study on an annual basis, Oppel said, adding that it will help track the business-friendly progress of the various cities and see how various policies affect job growth and community well-being.
The full report is available at www.montanapolicy.org.
Here are the top 10 cities and their scores:
1. Polson – 69.34 points
2. Sidney – 69 points
3. Glasgow – 67.14 points
4. Bozeman – 62.86 points
5. Belgrade – 62.05 points
6. Dillon – 59.78 points
7. Billings – 58.70 points
8. Lewistown – 56.50 points
9. Livingston – 54.33 points
10. Great Falls – 53.35 points
Contact Phil Drake at email@example.com or (406) 442-4561.