Montana manufacturers rebounded because ‘they could pivot,’ says MSU center director


Montana manufacturers quickly recovered from the pandemic after a short period of layoffs and downsizing, according to the director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center.

Manufacturing makes up about 16% of Montana’s economic base, with more than 3,900 manufacturers operating in the state, according to the 2021 report from the Montana Manufacturing Center.

“Montana manufacturers have been fortunate to find themselves in situations where they can pivot,” said Paddy Fleming, director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at The Center Square. “Food manufacturers who may have depended on the food service industry have therefore shifted to retail products.”

The only manufacturing industry that has been affected is the travel industry suppliers. Apart from that, most of the manufacturers have seen their business increase.

The outdoor produce industries have seen increased demand due to the pandemic because everyone wanted to be outside, he said.

“I think they are coming back well, probably near normal demand. I don’t think we’ve seen a single Montana manufacturer go bankrupt, ”Fleming said.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana performed the analysis and prepared the report for the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center.

A year ago, he predicted that unsustainable manufacturing would return to pre-COVID levels within a year. Manufacturing employment returned to pre-pandemic levels in early 2021, according to the report. Sustainable manufacturing is on target from a year ago and is expected to return to the long-term trend in another year.

Problems with the supply chain have prompted many state-owned manufacturers to seek alternative supply chains, he said, including onshore sources. But it has also caused them delays in deliveries and is a constant concern.

Despite the pandemic, the state’s gross product from manufacturers in Montana has increased, as has the number of manufacturers, Fleming said.

“We’re seeing an influx of people into Montana due to the pandemic, I believe, and some of them are bringing in their manufacturing businesses,” he said.

The main manufacturers are now metal products and food and drink. The State also has an important sector in photonics.

Employees also saw gains with higher wages.

“In Montana, wages in manufacturing are on average 15-20% higher than the average wage,” he said.

Manufacturing jobs paid about $ 52,111 in income, while the state average for all jobs was $ 46,743.

The manufacturing sector accounts for 5.1% of the state’s total private revenue, or $ 1.1 billion, according to the report. Its approximately 20,400 employees represent 4.3% of Montana’s non-farm workforce.

These workers helped produce $ 3.1 billion of state output, or 6.1%.

As a result, the manufacturing sector has grown by more than double the national average in terms of employment, income and output, according to the report.

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