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Yellowstone County has weathered the troubled years of recession and rebuilding rather well, thanks largely to economic growth in Eastern Montana, which has been generated by the energy industry. The strength of agriculture also buoys the economy of Yellowstone County.
Yellowstone County is projected to grow 3.5 percent in 2013 in earnings, a growth rate that is projected at 3.3 percent for each year through 2016. In 2012 the county's rate of growth was 2.5 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in 2011.
Agriculture in Montana has had a good run for a while now, despite drought, recessions, politics and volatile markets. For the most part 2013 is projected to be as good, if not better, in Montana, as was 2012.
Montana has not been as hard hit by the drought as have areas to the south. And, in fact, because drought induced shortages have pushed up market prices, Montana ag producers end up being net beneficiaries of the drought – and of floods. Floods last year in North Dakota which impacted ag production pushed up demand for production from Montana.
Montana's economy experienced a better year than anticipated in 2012. It will be a tough performance to beat this year.
The growth is "tilted" to Eastern Montana because of the impact of oil and gas production. "Evidence of the energy industry is everywhere," said Pat Barkey, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of Montana.
"For the first time since the beginning of the recession we are starting to see a glimmer of growth in most areas of the state. . . even the slower growing counties are at least growing," said Barkey.
Activity in the huge Bakken field is going home.
Home is Montana, where the Bakken was originally discovered.
Drilling equipment and crews are moving back across the border from North Dakota—where the Bakken Boom has been the Biggest—boosting Montana's rig count to 22 from just eight at this time last year. Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation issued a record 356 oil drilling permits in the first ten months of the year, easily beating the previous record of 313 set in 2005.
In October a Texas company paid $13.5 million for 75,000 acres of oil and gas leases, one of the largest federal lease acquisitions by a single company in Montana in recent years. Several other companies, including Bakken leader Continental, are working to expand the boundaries of the state's most productive Bakken field, known as Elm Coulee.
MDU Resources Group, Inc. and Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. announced that they have formed a joint venture to develop, build and operate a diesel refinery in southwestern North Dakota. The joint venture will be called Dakota Prairie Refining, LLC.
MDU Resources Group's participation in the joint venture will be through its wholly owned subsidiary, WBI Energy, Inc.
A few days ago, the government reported the stunning news the U.S. economy actually contracted by .1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The Washington Post sent a news bulletin shortly thereafter that blamed the problem on "cuts in government spending, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles."
John Berlau, Senior Fellow in Finance and Access to Capital at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, had the following to say in reaction:
While the housing market in Montana has improved since the end of the recession, "overall credit remains tight, and many potential Montana buyers cannot secure a mortgage based upon credit score or household debt," said Scott Rickard, Director, speaking to the attendees of the Economic Outlook Seminar in Billings. And, for Montana, the situation is better than in many other parts of the country, because on average credit scores tend to be higher in Montana.
A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease auction netted $11,433,090 in revenues from the sale of 25 Federal leases, totaling 2,831.38 acres, in North Dakota. The quarterly sale took place at the BLM's Montana State Office in Billings.
The highest single-parcel bid was $1,596,000 submitted by Slawson Exploration Company, Inc. of Wichita, Kan., for an 80-acre parcel located in Mountrail County.
The next BLM Federal oil and gas lease sale is scheduled for May 7, 2013, at the BLM's Montana State Office, located at 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings. Additional information is available by writing the Bureau of Land Management, 5001 Southgate Dr., Billings, Mont. 59101, by calling (406) 896-5004, or at www.blm.gov/mt.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103