Economic Sectors



The aerospace industry represents a significant economic development opportunity in Montana. The achievements to date have advanced Montana's position in the aerospace industry as well as built a solid foundation on which the State can build a significant aerospace industry. Montana has been able to compete in the aerospace industry with larger and more established states by coordinating our efforts and combining our resources.



Agriculture is the financial engine that drives Montana's economy, bringing in $2 billion in annual revenue plus associated benefits to rural communities and our state. One in five Montana workers is employed in agriculture or a related field. Five in five Montanans consume agricultural products.

Montana ranks first nationally in the production of certified organic wheat, third in the production of all wheat and barley, and in the top six states in durum wheat, lambs, wool, flaxseed, honey, lentils and dry edible peas. We have great potential to add food products such as Montana beef and vegetables, and new economic opportunities for our rural areas including ethanol and biofuels production, wind energy and agri-tourism.

The goal for agriculture in Montana must be to compete internationally and to develop new crops, products and services while protecting our pristine environment and our international reputation for the benefit of future generations.


world view symbolic of biotechnology

It is worth noting that the existence of the biotechnology industry in Montana runs against the grain of conventional wisdom that holds that the presence of medical schools is a necessary condition for biotech development. In this case, Montana has moved forward in spite of this handicap by developing its own distinctive infrastructure that includes several medical/bioscience research institutes, hospitals with research and clinical trials capacity, and a very strong life sciences and related engineering presence and interest within its two major universities.

Health Care

prescription drugs

Montana's health care industry is healthy and booming, as it continues to expand with Montana's growing economy. The industry sectors of hospitals, ambulatory health care services, and nursing and residential care facilities are all growing at faster rates than nearly every other industry in the state. The health care industry has a large multiplier effect on our communities because the jobs in this sector are generally higher-wage and the industry creates the need for new goods and services, in turn, supporting other workers.


manufacture building images

Manufacturing in Montana is a major and growing industry. However, the sector has yet to reach its full potential, with only 6 percent of the state's labor income generated in manufacturing vs. 15 percent for the nation as a whole.

The value of Montana's manufacturing output increased by more than $500 million in 2004; however, employment was essentially unchanged. The sector currently employs over 24,000 people earning $1 billion in labor income, produces approximately $5 billion in output annually, and accounts for over 20 percent of Montana's economic base.

Table 2. Employment and Labor Income in Montana's Manufacturing Sectors, 2001 and 2004

Natural Resource



Table 1. Coal Resources, Reserves, and Mine Sizes, Montana

1.2 billion tons are presently recoverable reserves. This includes only coal that is mineable from producing coal mines. At the present rate of mining, approximately 40 million ton per year, Montana could sustain over 30 years of mining from presently mineable coal. In terms of coal reserve base, if it all became mineable, and were mined at the current rate; it would sustain mining for nearly 3,000 years.

Coal accounts for about 95% of America's fossil energy reserves and is larger than either world petroleum or natural gas reserves, when measured in terms of oil equivalency.

Forest Products

forest trees cut down

The total sales value of Montana's primary wood and paper products in 2000 was approximately $1.1 billion.

Forests cover about one-fourth of Montana's land area, some 22.5 million acres, or about one-fourth of the state's total land area. Ponderosa Pine dominates "the east side," but "west side" forests include larch, lodgepole, Douglas-fir, grand fir, spruce, western hemlock and western red cedar. About 96.5% of what was forested in the early 17th century is still forested today.

Source: Montana Wood Products Association

Mineral Production

gold nuggets

Copper, gold, and palladium, in order of value, are Montana's leading non-fuel minerals. Montana ranks first in the production of talc, and third in the production of industrial garnets. While most gold goes into jewelry, use in computer hardware and telecommunications equipment has continually increased. Platinum and palladium are used in catalytic converters to control emissions and pollutants from autos and jet engines.

Source: National Mining Association

Oil, Gas & Coal Bed Methane


Coal Bed Methane - CBM

Montana's Powder River Basin coal typically holds only about 30 cu ft per ton. Coal bed methane (CBM) wells provide about 5% of the nation's natural gas supply now, and could eventually supply 12%.

The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) has permitted 250 wells for Redstone Gas Partners, LLC in Montana, 13 wells for Powder River Gas and one for Pennaco. All are in the Powder River Basin. In addition, BOGC will authorize up to 200 exploration wells in Carbon, Stillwater, Park and Gallatin Counties as well as in the Powder River Basin. The Board will update a late 80's programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) on oil and gas development in Montana before authorizing additional wells.


Montana produces 68 thousand barrels per day of crude oil, making Montana the 10th largest producer, including Federal Offshore areas. The combined crude oil distillation capacity of the state's four petroleum refineries totals 181 thousand barrels per calendar day. Several crude oil pipelines connect the producing areas in Montana and Canada with refineries that are concentrated near the Billings area.

Petroleum Supply (Upstream)

  • Crude Oil Proved Reserves: 364 million barrels (2004), ranked 9th (10th including Federal Offshore). Accounts for 1 percent of U.S. crude oil proved reserves.
  • Crude Oil Production: 68,000 barrels per day (2004), ranked 10th (11th including Federal Offshore). Accounts for 1 percent of U.S. crude oil production.
  • Total Producing Oil Wells: 3,627 (2004)
  • Rotary Rigs in Operation: 20 (2004)

Transportation & Infrastructure:

Major Pipelines:

  • Crude Oil - Conoco, Cenex, Exxon, Belle Fourche, Texaco, Portal, Wascana, Amoco, Shell
  • Product - Cenex, Conoco, Yellowstone
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas - Conoco

Ports & Waterway Systems: None

Refining & Marketing (Downstream)

  • Refineries: Distillation capacity of 181,200 Barrels Per Calendar Day (BCD) (2005)
  • Cenex Harvest States Coop (Laurel @ 55,000 BCD)
  • ConocoPhillips (Billings @ 58,000 BCD)
  • ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co. (Billings @ 60,000 BCD)
  • Montana Refining Co. (Great Falls @ 8,200 BCD)

Gasoline Stations: 1,100 outlets (2005), or about 0.7 percent of U.S. total

Sources and notes: Energy Information Administration, Bureau of Census, and National Petroleum News "Market Facts 2004." Rankings include the District of Columbia.


Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 8.6 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas, a mean of 109 million barrels of undiscovered oil, and a mean of 240 million barrels of natural gas liquids in the Montana Thrust Belt Province of northwestern Montana.

Natural Gas Chart


technology symbols

It is generally recognized that Montana's economy is largely based on energy, natural resources, and agriculture. The technology industry within the State is relatively small, but the state does have a number of assets and is beginning to develop many of the elements required to build a robust technology economy. These components will lead to the development of a significant technology-based business community in the future.

The Montana high technology industry directly employs over 5,000 people with an annual payroll of $185 million. High-tech firms employ 18 of every 1000 workers in Montana. Most high-tech jobs in Montana are in the communication and software services industries. For Montana the average technology industry salary is $34,969 (64% higher than the average private sector wage).


two people hiking in Montana

Tourism is Montana's fastest growing industry, injecting $1.8 billion dollars into our local economy while supporting 37,000 jobs or 7% of the total workforce. Last year we hosted more than 9 million visitors, that's10 visitors for each Montana resident, that's millions more customers for our main street businesses!