Montana’s Growing Cities and Counties

Hey there, fellow wanderlust seeker! Are you ready to embark on a journey through the enchanting landscapes and bustling communities of Montana? Well, you’re in for a treat!

In this article, we’ll explore the growth and transformation happening in Montana’s cities and counties. Get ready to uncover the gems nestled within Flathead County, Gallatin County, and more.

These destinations have been experiencing remarkable growth rates, attracting a wave of new residents and visitors yearning for a taste of Montana’s irresistible allure. But what’s driving this rapid growth?

Join me as we delve into the rising population numbers, the employment opportunities sprouting up in downtown districts, and the fascinating components fueling this extraordinary expansion. 

Together, let’s uncover the magic that makes Montana’s growth a truly extraordinary phenomenon.

Get ready to be swept off your feet and discover the secrets of Montana’s remarkable expansion. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Montana Population Changes: How Areas Are Growing

Montana's city street with cars driving down it

First, let’s clarify the difference between population and growth rate. Population is the overall count of individuals living in a specific location, while growth rate measures the speed of population change.

The growth rate tells us whether the population is rising or falling over a given timeframe.

A high growth rate indicates rapid population increase, while a low or negative growth rate suggests slow growth or even decline.

In Montana, the population has been steadily rising.  This positive trend underscores the allure of Montana’s demographic landscape.

Here’s a table showing Montana’s population estimates and growth rate from the U.S. Census Bureau:

 Population 2020Population 2022Population ChangeGrowth Rate

Notably, the increase in population can be attributed to the influx of households from various states.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana reports that the state’s net migration rate is currently 3 times higher than the average observed over the past 2 decades.

Montana Cities: Growth Rates

A road with a water tower under a cloudy sky in Montana

Cities in Montana are vibrant urban areas with their own governments, run by mayors and city councils or commissions.

Montana cities provide essential services to their residents, ensuring access to necessities like water supply, sewage management, public safety, and infrastructure maintenance.

Each city has the power to create local laws and regulations that complement state laws and cater to the unique needs of its communities.

Montana boasts a diverse range of cities from small towns to larger urban centers. With 56 counties and 129 municipalities consisting of cities and towns, there is a wide variety of options to choose from.

However, when it comes to size and population, Billings takes the crown as the most populous city in Montana, with approximately 119,960 residents as of July 2022.

In terms of growth rates, Montana has experienced some developments in its cities. These growth rates demonstrate the employment growth and major growth happening in Montana’s cities.

Examining the fastest-growing cities in Montana between 2020 and 2022 reveals population changes and growth rates below:

Montana CityPopulation 2020Population 2022Population ChangeGrowth Rate
Columbia Falls5,3165,6563406.38%
Anaconda-Deer Lodge9,4249,510860.91%

1. Fastest Growing City in Montana: Kalispell

A street in a small town with cars driving down it

Kalispell’s rise to prominence has been well-deserved, as the city has received numerous accolades and recognitions at both the state and national levels.

In fact, back in 2012, CNN Money, a division of CNN, Fortune & Money, named Kalispell as one of the 25 premier retirement destinations in the entire country.

But it’s not just retirees who are drawn to Kalispell. According to a December 2012 article by NerdWallet Finance, this vibrant city was also recognized as one of the top 10 towns in Montana for young families.

Mike Anderson, the author of the article, lauded Kalispell for its robust public school system, affordability, and abundance of growth opportunities, factors making it an ideal place for young families to flourish.

Kalispell serves as a gateway to Glacier National Park. With such natural wonders on its doorstep, the city attracts nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers from around the globe.

The city’s downtown area boasts beautifully restored structures dating back to the 1800s. One such gem is the Conrad Mansion, now operating as a museum that showcases era-appropriate furniture.

The Hockaday Museum of Art highlights the extraordinary talent of Montana artists, adding a touch of artistic flair to this already vibrant city.

2. Second Fastest Growing City in Montana: Whitefish

A view of a snow covered mountain

Whitefish serves as an entry point to the rugged mountain peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and breathtaking valleys sculpted within Glacier National Park, this town is closely connected to outdoor activities.

Whitefish, also home to the 2nd largest ski facility in Montana, the majestic Whitefish Mountain Resort, previously known as Big Mountain Ski Area, has experienced significant population growth.

With its world-class slopes and exhilarating trails, it’s no wonder that winter enthusiasts and adventure seekers flock to this renowned destination.

Along the shores of Whitefish Lake, both City Beach and Whitefish Lake State Park offer sandy stretches, places to launch boats, and spots for picnicking.

Within the downtown area, Central Avenue is lined with various shops and dining establishments.

The city offers the perfect setting for relaxation and recreation. Both City Beach and State Park boast sandy stretches where one can unwind, launch a boat, or simply revel in a leisurely picnic with loved ones.

3. Third Fastest Growing City in Montana: Belgrade

A view of the mountains

In the last decade, Belgrade has become a rapidly growing hotspot in Montana, fostering economic opportunities and a business-friendly environment.

Belgrade’s welcoming approach to businesses, along with its advantageous transportation links and top-notch educational system, has enticed a wide range of enterprises from manufacturing to biotechnology.

Here are Belgrade’s several standout projects that are on the rise:

  1. FedEx Facility – A sprawling 200,000-square-foot FedEx building is emerging south of the water tower, bolstering the industrial scene.
  2. Murdoch’s Expansion – Jackrabbit Lane welcomes a new Murdoch’s, catering to commercial needs.

Belgrade is clearly making waves in terms of population growth rate and economic factors.

The total population change in Belgrade has been significant, attracting individuals and families looking for a vibrant community with ample opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Montana Counties: Growth Rates

A mountain with clouds in the sky

A county is geographically larger than a city. Counties contain cities, villages, towns, townships, or other municipal corporations.

Counties in Montana, the administrative divisions responsible for local governance and public services, play a crucial role in managing both urban and rural areas within their jurisdiction.

With land use planning, public health services, education, and vital record maintenance falling under their purview, these counties are the backbone of local affairs.

Montana has 56 counties. In terms of population, the biggest county is Yellowstone County with a population estimate of 169,852 residents, as of July 1, 2022.

In terms of growth rate, below is a tabulated presentation of population statistics for different counties of Montana, comparing population figures for the years 2020 and 2022:

Montana CountiesPopulation 2020Population 2022Population ChangeGrowth Rate
Mineral County4,5295,05852911.69%
Lincoln County19,67821,5251,8479.39%
Flathead County104,349111,8147,4657.14%
Ravalli County44,17247,2983,1267.09%
Missoula County74,13176,9552,8243.80%

1. Fastest Growing County in Montana: Broadwater County

A brick building with a flag on it

Broadwater County, nestled between the rapidly growing counties of Gallatin and Lewis and Clark, is experiencing its own impressive surge in population.

As housing costs continue to rise in the neighboring counties and with close proximity to Bozeman and Helena, Broadwater County is becoming a destination for new residents looking to build their homes.

This rapid growth in Broadwater County brings with it a mix of advantages and challenges for the area.

On one hand, the influx of newcomers will stimulate economic activity, create job opportunities, and contribute to the vitality of the community.

On the other hand, the county will need to carefully manage its resources and infrastructure to accommodate the rising population and maintain the quality of life that residents value.

2. Second Fastest Growing County in Montana: Mineral County

A red brick building with columns and a grassy lawn

Situated in the northwestern region of the state, Mineral County, founded in 1914, shares a border with Idaho, adding to its unique charm and allure.

Covering an expansive area of 1,223 square miles, Mineral County is blessed with breathtaking natural wonders that make it an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Mineral County is rich in minerals and promising opportunities for its residents. Mining has played a pivotal role in its history, from the early days of gold and silver mines in the 1860s to the present.

These economic opportunities have contributed to the growth trends we see today.

In terms of income levels, this County boasts a median household income of $50,750 in 2021. This figure speaks to the economic prosperity that residents can enjoy while residing in this fast-growing county.

The opportunities for economic advancement and the high quality of life make Mineral County an enticing destination for those seeking a vibrant and thriving community.

3. Third Fastest Growing County in Montana: Lincoln County

An old brick building with snow on the ground

In Lincoln County, Montana, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of endless leisure pursuits. From camping and fishing to hunting and rodeos, there’s something for everyone in this region.

Prepare to be blown away by the abundance of fishing locales, including picturesque alpine lakes, the renowned Blackfoot River, and the countless mountain drainages that encircle this county.

Lincoln County thrives as both an outdoor haven and a hub of growth, with a population that increased for 10 out of the 11 years between 2010 and 2021, this county is experiencing rapid growth.

In fact, its largest annual population increase of a whopping 2% was observed between 2016 and 2017. Talk about an enticing trend!

In 2021, the median household income in the county stood at $41,922 in the US dollar. This figure speaks volumes about the good future that awaits residents and businesses alike in this thriving community.

Montana Growing Cities and Counties Final Thoughts

A valley with mountains in the background

Montana’s evolving demographic showcases a compelling story of growth and attraction.

The population changes in both its counties and cities, unveil a tapestry of development driven by various factors.

The rapid growth in counties such as Broadwater, Mineral, and Lincoln is attracting new residents who are in search of economic opportunities and vibrant communities.

In the bustling cities of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Belgrade, where outdoor enthusiasts and families discover their ideal haven, Montana’s allure resonates on various levels.

The promise of boundless natural beauty and thrilling outdoor pursuits is an undeniable draw, painting Montana as a playground for adventurers and explorers.

Meanwhile, the economic vibrancy of certain cities, like Bozeman, Kalispell, and Belgrade, coupled with job opportunities, further accelerates the state’s population growth.

This fusion of natural splendor and economic potential shapes Montana’s trajectory, underscoring its place as a dynamic and sought-after destination.

In this tale of growth, Montana strikes a delicate balance between preserving its identity and embracing progress.

The state’s counties and cities collectively contribute to its evolving narrative, demonstrating how diverse attributes can harmoniously shape the future.

As Montana continues to flourish, it stands as a testament to the magnetic pull of its landscapes and the promising opportunities it presents.

Montana Growing Cities and Counties FAQs

1. Is Montana Experiencing Rapid Growth?

Yes, Montana is experiencing rapid growth and is considered one of the swiftest expanding states in the United States.

Looking ahead, projections indicate that the state will welcome an additional 161,000 residents over the next few decades. By the year 2040, Montana’s population is expected to reach 1,236,000.

2. Where Do Wealthy People Live in Montana?

Among the various locations in Montana having populations ranging from 1,000 to 25,000 residents, the most affluent is Helena Valley Northeast.

This town holds the highest average household income at $142,825, surpassing the statewide average by approximately $60,600.

3. Why Is Bozeman Experiencing Such Fast Growth?

Bozeman is experiencing rapid growth due to its blend of beauty, outdoor activities, educational opportunities provided by Montana State University, and an economy with a growing tech sector.

The city’s appeal to both professionals and entrepreneurs seeking a high quality of life, combined with its position as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, has fueled its fast-paced expansion.

4. Why Is Bozeman So Popular?

Apart from housing Montana State University, Bozeman’s fame comes from being a premier fly-fishing hub in North America, with abundant waters like the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone rivers.

In addition to these renowned fishing spots, smaller creeks such as East Gallatin River, Hyalite Creek, and Bozeman Creek offer equally exceptional angling opportunities.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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