Micropolitan success
ERIK PETERSEN/CHRONICLE An economic research firm says Bozeman has the seventh strongest micropolitan economy in 2010 out of 576 small cities studied.

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An economic research firm says Bozeman has the seventh strongest micropolitan economy in 2010 out of 576 small cities studied in the country.

Helena ranked sixth and Jackson, Wyo., ranked 10th, according to Policom, a Florida-based independent economic research firm.

A micropolitan area is defined as an urban area with a population of 10,000 to 50,000 residents.

The firm specializes in analyzing local and state economies. In ranking the "quality" of the economy, Policom considers factors such as jobs, per capita earnings and growth in areas including population, small businesses and the construction and retail industries.

Bozeman has been ranked in the top 10 since 2004, the first year the data is available from Policom. The city's best ranking was sixth in 2009.

Bozeman City Commissioner Chris Mehl, who is policy director at the local research firm Headwaters Economics, said there is no doubt Bozeman has had rough times during the economic downturn, but the study shows that the city has shown more stability than others.

Mehl pointed to Bozeman's natural amenities, highly educated workforce, airport and market connections and government employment opportunities, including jobs with Montana State University and the national park service, as examples of traits that give the city a leg up in weathering economic hardship.

Relative to other small cities Bozeman competes with, such as Bend, Ore., or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Mehl said Bozeman is doing pretty well.

"We're in a good spot compared to other microcities," he said.

Amanda Ricker can be reached at aricker@dailychronicle.com or 582-2628.

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