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As data from the 2020 Census confirms Bozeman’s population has surpassed the 50,000 mark, the city is making preparations to move from micropolitan to metropolitan status.

Data released from the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday officially put Bozeman’s population at 53,293 in the 2020 Census, a 43% and a more than 16,000-person increase over 2010’s population of 37,280. The metropolitan designation brings with it increased opportunities for federal funds and a requirement that the city embark on regional planning efforts with Gallatin County and Belgrade.

Now city staff are working to determine whether Bozeman will become an “entitlement city,” which City Manager Jeff Mihelich said opens the city up to receiving community development block grants. These funds can be used for a number of things, including revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development and improving facilities or services.

To be designated an entitlement city, Bozeman would have to have certain levels of poverty, Mihelich said, something the city is sifting through newly released census data to determine.

“We were the fastest-growing micropolitan in the United States for quite a long time, and now that we’re a metropolitan area if we can unlock some of those federal funds, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to deal with some of the growth pressures we’ve had over the last few years,” Mihelich said Friday.

Indeed, the Census Bureau called out Bozeman and a handful of other cities, mostly in the western U.S., as the country’s fastest-growing micropolitan areas. Bozeman was also one of just six micropolitan areas to grow by at least 15,000 in population from 2010 to 2020.

There was a chance reaching the 50,000 population threshold wouldn’t bring Bozeman metropolitan status. A policy change from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget proposed raising the threshold to 100,000 for a city to reach metropolitan status.

The policy would have stymied Bozeman’s hope to be reclassified as a metro area, and also demoted Missoula and Great Falls to micropolitan status.

The policy was nixed in July, but it wasn’t until the Census Bureau released key population data Thursday that Bozeman’s fate became clear.

Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus said the news is exciting.

“I think it’s good news, because it really opens up a lot more opportunities for us financially that were not available before,” Andrus said.

Mihelich said the city is also anticipating it will get the go-ahead from Gov. Greg Gianforte to start forming a metropolitan planning organization, which would involve planning work with the city, Belgrade and Gallatin County.

The work would mainly focus on transportation planning, Miehlich said, but could include work on housing efforts.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at or 406-582-2607.

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