When you think of manufacturing, your mind goes to giant mills and factories with hundreds of workers, like the old Anaconda Company, or the Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant.

But, the face of manufacturing in Montana is now smaller, much smaller, with hundreds of small operations throughout the state. Director Emeritus of the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Dr. Paul Polzin, said there are three main areas of growth in Montana's current manufacturing picture.

"Many of these firms are producing high-tech, very advanced products," said Dr. Polzin. "The first is arms manufacturing. That includes both rifles and ammunition, and it includes accessories for sportsmen. Those  particular firms tend to be concentrated in Ravalli County and also in Flathead County."

Polzin said another fast-growing area is very familiar to western Montana, and specifically to Missoula.

"The second fast-growing area of manufacturing is alcohol production," he continued. "There are two major parts of this. The largest and the fastest growing are craft breweries, and they, of course, brew beer. The second component is distilleries."

Another area taking off in Montana is fabricated metals.

"The third very rapidly growing segment is something called fabricated metals, and it's a diverse category,' he said. "That includes two new firms up in Cascade County and across the state, and they produce a variety of fabricated metals."

According to a report recently commissioned by the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University, most Montana manufacturers are small businesses: 85 percent have fewer than 20 employees.

Manufacturing accounts for 27.6 percent of Montana’s gross product, up from 25.8 percent in 1997. Montana ranks 32nd in the country according to that figure.

Company earnings in manufacturing increased 14.1 percent since 2010.

Manufacturing workers earned an average of $47,227 in 2015, which is 17.5 percent higher than the average Montana worker’s wages.

Read the entire report here. 

More From KBUL NEWS TALK 970 AM & 103.3 FM