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Billings, MT
MSA: Billings, MT
Best places ranking: #1 among small metro areas
Population: 152,005
The biggest city in Montana, Billings is still a small town in size and spirit. It's the largest urban area between Fargo, N.D., and Spokane, and it serves as the regional hub for more than half a million people. But with a population of a little more than 100,000 (150,000, if you count the suburbs), Billings remains the sort of place where the average commute time is a mere 16 minutes and business proprietors are on a first-name basis with their UPS delivery guy.

Major local industries are agriculture, energy, transportation, healthcare and education. An eclectic mix of businesses call Billings home, including three oil refineries, First Interstate Bank and Kampgrounds of America, which operates campsites throughout the U.S.

The city's business climate is best described as temperate. Unemployment is rising but remains well below the national average. The national real estate bubble skipped Billings -- today, Montana's foreclosure rate is the fourth-lowest in the country.

Billings is not complaint-free, however. Some argue that Montana's lack of a state sales tax places an excessive burden on property owners. Others point to Montana's general isolation and wish that there were more price competition among the airlines serving Billings Logan International Airport. Helaine Olen

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Billings, MT

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Local smallbiz lenders

  • Glacier Bancorp
  • Flathead Holding Company Of Bi
  • Yellowstone Holding Company
  • Stockman Financial Corporation
  • First Interstate Bancsystem I
See all local lenders

Billings Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
(2007)
5,687 3,516
Small business growth rate
(2004-2007)
6.2% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
6 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
28.5% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
224.5 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
3,465 3,395.2
Population growth
(2003-2008)
6.5% 4.93%
Per-capita income
(2007)
$37,968 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
(2002-2007)
32.8% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
(2006)
$5,980 $4,952
GDP growth
(2001-2006)
40% 33%
Average hourly wage
(2008)
$17.1 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
2,015 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$670 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.9% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.6% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
12% 0.1%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."
From the November 2009 issue
"It's not for our customers, or the needs of our product, that we are based here -- it's definitely the lifestyle. Billings is a great town. " -Paige Darden
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The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
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 A growing economy  Population growth
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This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's Economy.com.

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