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Missoula Economic Outlook – Slow But Steady Growth in 2014 [AUDIO]

house construction
photo courtesy of jekemp/flickr

The west is back. That’s the headline from University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director Patrick Barkey.

Barkey says that news has been a long time coming for both Ravalli and Flathead counties.

“The trajectory is definitely up,” Barkey said on Friday, December 27. “It should be a better building year ahead for these two counties. Missoula county will also do better, even though Missoula has already been growing. The big picture, the view from 30,000 feet is that things are improving.”

Barkey said the reason for the coming growth is all about making adjustments.

“A whole lot of adjustments took place during the recession,” Barkey said. “Housing prices certainly went through a major adjustment, as did banking and financing. But now, to use a medical analogy, the patient has had enough time in the emergency room, and is now showing signs on life.”

Barkey said new home construction will be on the rise in 2014.

“There’s a lot of things that are starting to work again,” Barkey said. “Americans actually do need houses, and so we do need people to build them, we can’t just stop building for a long, long time like we have done. So, it’s a combination of some very ordinary things like that just working through themselves that has helped to heal the state’s economy.”

Barkey said despite the disastrous roll-out of the Affordable Care Act and the coming fees and taxes in 2014, the medical sector of the economy will continue to be a bright spot for western Montana, despite the fact that both St. Patrick Hospital and Missoula Community Medical Center have undergone staff reductions over the past year.

“There’s more to health care than hospitals, and they have undergone some major adjustments,” Barkey said. “There’s medical services, and there are even some social assistance included in health care. Even though the focus has been on the insurance exchanges, many hoping they fail while other are hoping they succeed, Whatever the case may be, they should create more demand for health care services, and that’s not such a bad thing for people running hospitals.”

Barkey said a recovery is in progress, albeit an unbalanced recovery.

“There’s still a situation where big businesses are making money, while lower paying households are not doing so well, there’s a lot of things not working out as well as we think,” Barkey said. “But, all in all, things are improving.”

Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director Patrick Barkey.

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