At a time when local officials are trying to grow manufacturing in Butte-Silver Bow County, one of the area’s top prospects for adding jobs this year is in the sector that dominated for decades – mining.
A proposed gold mine in the Highlands and a route to haul the ore could clear final regulatory hurdles this year, and if so, infuse some juice into a local economy that has stalled somewhat the past few years despite being more diversified and stable than past decades.
It could mean 55 primary jobs and 125 or more secondary jobs for the area.
“It’s in a basic sector so all the money coming in is from outside the local economy,” said Gary Rowe, chief financial officer for the Montana Economic Revitalization & Development Institute (MERDI). “The multiplier effect in mining or other basic sector jobs is really high.”
Indeed, no sector pays higher wages in Butte-Silver Bow County than natural resources and mining, with an average wage of $84,878 as of June 2013, according to statistics compiled by NorthWestern Energy economist John Kasperick.
Federal government jobs ranked second with an average wage of $61,277, followed by manufacturing at $53,357. They are all well above the average wage of $35,575.
Few would turn down the mining jobs, but local leaders are focusing more on efforts to grow manufacturing. Kasperick says base industry expansion is needed to continue economic growth in Silver Bow County over the long-term.
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent agrees.
“Mining is a very important sector of the economy, but it’s finite,” Vincent said. “We’ve been putting a lot of focus on manufacturing. Those are the only jobs that can compete with these mining wages.”