News, President's Corner|

Todd O'Hair President and CEOAs Montana’s economy bounced from Covid, home prices escalated throughout the state. In some parts of the state, rising so much that housing has suddenly become an issue for an economy yearning to grow—creating a headwind for business expansion and even employee retention in many communities. It’s an issue that is front and center with many of the business leaders I talk to and it’s not just relegated to familiar high growth cities like Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell. It is a statewide issue. 

The source of this housing crunch is complicated and due to a variety of frustrations. Supply chain issues remain as a pinchpoint—garage doors for example, have become hard to get and create logistical problems for contractors forced to double back weeks or months later to “finish” a job.  Low interest rates, high home equity and remote work created increased demand. Permitting challenges, including some perhaps too onerous and others, complicated by a workforce shortage for review and approval processes. Mix it all together with a Montana economy taking off and you suddenly face an unexpected hurdle to full economic potential. Two important questions:  When does it become more “normal” and what can be done about it? Montana’s Chief Economist, Barb Wagner, is leading the discussion at our Mid-Year Economic Update on July 28 focusing on the economics driving the housing issue and providing her perspectives on what the future holds. As an added bonus, Governor Greg Gianforte will provide remarks on his efforts as the state’s CEO. 

Recognizing the potential hump housing presents to reaching our full economic potential, Governor Gianforte just announced the formation of a Housing Task Force. I am honored to be among the diverse set of leaders appointed to this task force, charged with understanding the problem and identifying solutions. Our first meeting will be this Wednesday and I look forward to representing Montana’s business community in that discussion. As a tool for information gathering, watch for a housing survey from the Montana Chamber of Commerce. The Montana Chamber is partnering with other leading business groups such as the Montana Bankers Association and Montana Hospital Association to gather facts and create a baseline for decision making. 

I’m honored to be here at the Montana Chamber of Commerce in this role. As the state’s largest statewide business advocacy organization, we are in the middle of some of the biggest challenges facing our state as well as leading to seize the opportunities to build an economy we as Montanan’s deserve. Thank you for your support!

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