How Montana Outdoor Recreation Attracts the Best Employees

 In Butte Business, Butte Culture, Montana

Living under the Big Sky is almost synonymous with ready access to the outdoors. The state of Montana has 33.8 million acres of public lands, nearly 170,000 miles of river and more than 3,200 lakes and reservoirs – so it only makes sense that, in a recent poll conducted by the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, 87% of Montanans consider themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts. We certainly value our surroundings.

It’s easy enough to attribute the high number of local outdoor enthusiasts to the beautiful Montana landscapes – mountains like these can inspire anyone to get outside and enjoy the view. But, as it turns out, Montanans benefit greatly from all this time spent recreating outdoors, despite the beautiful surroundings. From a societal standpoint, communities with nature nearby experience reduced crime rates, fewer deaths and illnesses, and improved educational outcomes. For individuals, easy access to outdoor activities – like camping, fishing, snow sports and hiking – promotes personal fitness, thus reducing stress levels, obesity rates and risk of chronic diseases. In short, access to the outdoors seems to greatly contribute to the overall well-being of both individuals and entire communities.

Happy People, Better Employees

A survey of Montana’s high-tech industries, which pay twice the median wage, shows that “Montana’s quality of life – its lifestyle, the work/life balance available here, the recreation opportunities, and the beauty of the landscape” provides a significant advantage in business. A successful business environment can be replicated in most cities – hence the push for corporate standards in larger, franchised companies. In a world where geography is no longer a barrier to doing business, however, a physical environment that suits employers and employees alike suddenly becomes a priority. Especially given the benefits on employee morale and overall well-being, the Montana lifestyle is a great way to attract and retain employees.

Many Montana businesses have already cited access to outdoor recreation as a competitive advantage when encouraging out-of-state applicants. Jason Corbally, president of Missoula transportation software company Education Logistics (EduLog), told the Missoulian last year that there’s a steady pool of qualified graduates coming from Montana public universities – but “the area’s recreational and cultural opportunities are very attractive to talented out-of-staters,” too.

“After all,” he continued. “Who doesn’t want to work and live in paradise?”

Opportunity for Outdoor Companies

The tech industry isn’t the only one experiencing significant growth.

According to the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, the state’s outdoor recreation economy is the second largest economic sector – generating $7.1 billion in consumer spending and more than 71,000 jobs. Montana ski areas alone made a $83 million economic impact in a four-month season in 2010.

As more people enjoy Montana’s natural features, an increasing number of outdoor companies have appeared to meet demand and match interest. Whether it’s a business specializing in local raft tours or a backcountry ski manufacturer, leaders in the outdoor industry continue to scope out locations in Montana based on access to public lands, proximity to landmarks, and prevalence of wildlife. R.L. Winston Rod Co., for example, is a long-standing expert in fly rod design and manufacturing, and chose to move to the Butte area to be near world-class trout fishing.

Especially in Western Montana, individuals working in the outdoor economy comprise a large portion of total employment. The outdoor economy accounts for 43% of all employment in the Southwest, which includes cities like Butte and Bozeman.

Map of Montana regions, highlighting percentage of outdoor industry employment vs. total employment. Southwest Montana, including Butte, has highest percentage and is highlighted in gold.
Graphic courtesy of Montana Department of Labor and Industry

The Last Best Place to Live and Work

Most Montanans already know the positive effect of living near nature – there’s always something to inspire creativity, productivity and a good time spent recreating outside. Montana Connections Business Development Park would like to encourage out-of-staters to not just visit Montana, but to consider the state one of the last, best opportunities for business.

The best news for businesses interested in moving to Big Sky Country? As the fourth largest state in the country, there’s definitely enough room for all of us.

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A dark Honda Odyssey lines up with other vehicles in evening city traffic.Scoular Grain mill and facility located in Butte Silver-Bow County, Montana. Scoular is an example of a large company in Butte, Montana.