When talking about manufacturing, many associate the industry with high-tech goods, lumber or metals. But in the Flathead Valley, beverages such as microbrews and lager are behind one of the biggest shifts in manufacturing that the region has experienced in years.
According to information from the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), distilleries, breweries and wineries have helped the local manufacturing sector grow in a major year this year.
The Chamber of Commerce President, Joe Unterreiner, has stated in news interviews that food and beverage manufacturing is one of the fastest growing sectors in the whole region at the moment.
In an effort to help the public learn more about the local industry and to attract workers, the chamber recently organized an event called the Manufacturing Month. Tours of manufacturing businesses scattered throughout the Flathead Valley were held.
Businesses visited included firearms manufacturers like Proof Research, as well as beverage manufacturers such as Flathead Lake Brewing Co. and cap machine company, E-PAK Machinery, Inc.
Recent trends in the food world are likely to have significantly contributed to the growth of local manufacturing. All throughout America, the “local food” movement is becoming hugely popular and Montana is no exception.
People are looking to buy food and beverage items that were produced by local manufacturers, often preferring it to items made by multinational brands.
In many places around the country, the benefits have spilled over into a variety of industries, not just manufacturing. Restaurants are getting more people to come in for local beer and local dishes. Many farms and ranches have profited from the renewed interest in local foods too.
The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce has given a few reasons why so many consumers are now eager to buy local foods. The most common ones include beliefs that local foods are more likely to be fresh, have an “authentic” feeling, give local residents something to be proud of and that local businesses are more likely to care about product quality and customer satisfaction.
Some are also happy to spend money on local products, as doing so helps fuel Montana’s economy and creates job or business opportunities for the state’s residents.
The BBER has released a study in August that provides some interesting numbers about local food and beverage manufacturing in Montana. It shows that beer production has grown by 87 percent since 2010 and that it’s still going strong, as a 15 percent production increase has been reported from 2015.
This production growth has had very positive effects on local business owners and workers, with sales growing by 111 percent and employment experiencing a boost of 204 percent from 2010 to 2015.
Estimates based on this data conclude that 1,044 permanent jobs have been created due to the expansion of manufacturing. Just over 67 percent of these jobs involve manufacturing positions at various local breweries.
In fact, the industry has done so well that employers are having a hard time finding an adequate supply of workers. Some businesses have teamed up with the Flathead Valley Community College to hire graduates of the various manufacturing trade programs offered by the institution.
The Chamber of Commerce is happy with the recent developments in the food and beverage manufacturing world and believes that the sector will keep performing very well in the coming few years.