When you think of manufacturing, you might envision people in factories working with machinery that produces all sorts of building materials like steel or textiles. However, another type of manufacturing has been booming in one Montana community, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
In the Flathead Valley, food and beverage manufacturing has been boosting the economy with a strong revenue stream and adding a multitude of jobs to the community as well. The local agriculture of the community, it seems, has been a boon for the area.
Cherries from the Flathead region are sought out and used for purposes like making drinks at the Glacier Distillery Co.
Drink manufacturing in the area and Montana as a whole has been significantly on the rise. Makers of beer, wine, and liquor are having their day in the sun and the light is not going out anytime soon. In fact, since August 2010, beer manufacturing in Montana has gone up an impressive 87 percent.
What’s even more encouraging is how good this has been to the local economy.
As the sales have risen, so have employment opportunities. Employment in the food and beverage manufacturing sector in Montana has gone up 204 percent over the last five years. With that, $33 million has been added to the pockets of residents who have found gainful employment.
The local aspect of the food and beverage manufacturing has been exciting the communities. Joe Unterreiner, president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, says restaurant patrons have been particularly pleased by this development of locally-sourced food and drink items.
“It’s authentic, it’s locally made, you believe it’s going to be fresh, it’s not mass produced,” Unterreiner said. “It’s really exciting to see happening out there.”
Also, some midwest filling machine companies have seen an increase in business.
While food and beverage is one area of manufacturing in Montana that is seeing a boon, others have been struggling. The lumber industry has been suffering, as Weyerhaeuser factories have been shutting down. Meanwhile, firearms manufacturing has been affected by business decisions from upper management.
It seems there are manufacturing jobs available, but it’s just uncertain whether they’ll be able to be adequately filled. Unterreiner reports of the Flathead Valley Community College having a strong manufacturing trade program which local businesses have been working with.
Ultimately, there is a shortage of workers. According to Mike Nye, chairperson of the Flathead Manufacturing Alliance, that is a problem which is widespread in the manufacturing industry.
Nye envisions going to testify with other members of his group at a legislative session. Since the Flathead Manufacturing Alliance is comprised of many businesses rather than just one, Nye says their power of persuasion should be strong.
“Instead of just one business going, we can have a little more pull, the perception of a larger body of business,” Nye said.
While there may be a decline in manufacturing in certain industries in the Flathead Valley and the rest of Montana, the food and beverage industry is doing quite well currently. Given the impressive rate at which revenues and employment have increased, don’t be too surprised if breweries and wineries start becoming the domineering economic force in the area.