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For the fourth year running, Bozeman topped the field in a recent national list of micropolitans with the strongest economies.

POLICOM Corporation, which studies local and state economies, uses about two dozen factors from a 20-year period to determine the behavior of an economy over time. Bozeman has been the top micropolitan area — meaning the population is under 50,000 — since 2018.

The ranking is a good sign, city economic development director Brit Fontenot said.

“Frankly our economy rests on the back of many many many small businesses,” Fontenot said. “It really reflects the importance of small businesses to the national economy.”

Bozeman Chamber of Commerce President Daryl Schliem said Bozeman and the surrounding area is set up for economic success, bolstered by institutions like Montana State University and Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Though the POLICOM rankings don’t account for the impact of the COVID-19, Schlem pointed out that the pandemic has spurred people to leave big cities and move to places like Bozeman to remote work.

Though the pandemic is certainly still impacting businesses in the area, Schliem said Bozeman’s hotels lost much less business than hotels in other parts of the country.

“We saw a very fast drop-off in March. But we’ve also seen ... a lot faster recovery that most places have seen,” Schliem said.

It’s probably Bozeman’s last year atop the micropolitan list, Fontenot noted, as the city is expected to break the 50,000 population threshold when the results of the 2020 census are released this year.

The competition is a bit stiffer in the metropolitan list, which this year was topped by the Seattle area.

Bozeman was joined on the top 10 micropolitan list with a few other cities in the region, including Heber, Utah, Jackson, Wyoming, and Ellensburg, Washington.

Fontenot said that is in line with trends they’ve been seeing of people choosing where to live based on quality of life. Schliem agreed.

“I think if you look at all the mountain regions that are there, they’re offering the outside opportunities for families to get outdoors to recreate, to do those types of things but also be able to afford to make a good living and be within hours of where they need to be to do their work,” Shcliem said. “So I think that has a lot to do with all these economies that we see around here.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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