The Bureau of Business & Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana is in the midst of its 45th annual Economic Outlook Seminar series.
On Wednesday, the half-day seminar was presented in Great Falls, highlighting economic trends for local economies and the state of Montana.
“It’s time to take a step back and think about where economic growth is heading across the state,” said BBER director Patrick Barkey.
Every year, industry experts give their outlooks for Montana’s important sectors, including health care, forestry, travel and tourism, real estate, manufacturing and agriculture. This year, the seminar also will include the outlook for high-tech and start-up industries.
The theme of the 2020 seminar tour is “Finding Good Workers: New Challenges, New Solutions.” After more than a decade of economic growth that has featured strong hiring and steadily falling unemployment rates, many Montana businesses are struggling to find a supply of suitable workers for their job openings, Barkey said. Some businesses even are questioning how they can continue to fill orders, let alone capitalize on new opportunities.
“As economic problems go, this may be a good one to have – too many jobs,” said Barkey. “But finding solutions to Montana’s workforce shortages will require creative thinking. While boosting worker salaries may address some of the workforce issues, it won’t solve the problem.”
Barkey also said, "It's also a nice opportunity for workers. It's led to some improvement in wages and certainly some economic security which is a good thing is."
It was also an opportunity for the community to learn about development happening now right here in Great Falls.
Great Falls Development Authority president Brett Doney noted, “There are seven other projects that have not yet been announced that we are working on, and they are really exciting. Housing to entertainment to new dining and retail - it’s a real mix, which is what we like."