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Jan 31, 2013 11:05 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News

University of Montana report says Montana economy still struggling

MISSOULA - Western Montana's economy is still struggling according to the latest report from the University of Montana's latest report.

The 2013 Economic Outlook is being discussed at seminars around the state this week, with Missoula's presentation set for Friday morning.

Statewide, the eastern Montana economy is being helped by the Bakken oil boom.

However, the report finds Missoula's economy is still slow, primarily because of the loss of key employers like Smurfit Stone.

The researchers say recovery will depend on smaller progress, such as the new firms setting up shop at the old Stimson mill site in Bonner, said Paul Polzin, a research associate at the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research and professor.

"Missoula has been the slowest to start to come around," Polzin said. "That's because there have been permanent closures in our basic industries, wood products. The recession was also quite severe in Kalispell. But like Bozeman it did not effect other basic industries."

Friday's seminar will also focus on the impact health care reform is having on Montana's economic outlook. It starts at 8 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn.

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