Montana Economic Development

Published April 1, 2000  | April 2000 issue

Number of local economic organizations:

60 to 65, according to local sources, encompassing city, regional and private nonprofit organizations, including a handful of chambers of commerce in smaller communities that assume economic development duties.

Unique local economic development tools or incentives:

Local governments in Montana have the authority to levy an additional two mils on local property taxes for a port authority. If the local community has no port activities, money generated from the two mils can be used for economic development, and currently three cities and one county are doing so, according to a state source and a local development practitioner.

Popular assistance tools or incentives:

The Montana Board of Investment acts as an umbrella financier offering low-interest loans under a variety of programs, and had a loan portfolio of $100 million as of mid-1998. According to one state official, federal assistance programs through the Small Business Administration and Economic Development Administration are used widely, partly because of limited state resources.

Other assistance tools or incentives:

State-based programs include industrial development bonding, Business Relocation Technical Assistance, Job Investment Loans, Community Development Block Grant, Microloan Program, International Trade and Foreign Relations Program, and Made in Montana Program. At the local level, tax increment financing (TIF) is used for traditional downtown redevelopment, and a variation of this program (TIFID) is specifically used for industrial development, often on undeveloped parcels. A number of revolving loan funds are also available.


Cities and counties can levy one mil specifically to fund economic development efforts, but it must be approved by voters. In the state's history, voters have approved such a levy increase only three times, twice in Butte and once in Beaverhead County. A new law was recently passed authorizing local governments to approve the additional mil levy without voter approval, but the levy must be approved annually (instead of every six years by voter referendum).

Related articles:

fedgazette, July 2000
Local Economic Development, Part II