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Great Falls makes the list of most affordable cities in the US

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Posted at 8:34 AM, Jun 14, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Outdoor recreation and proximity to Glacier and Yellowstone combined with the cultural offerings of places like the CM Russell Museum and Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art make Great Falls an attractive place to live.

A leading name in finance says the city’s low cost of living is another reason for its desirability as a destination.

Kiplinger Personal Finance ranks Great Falls in the top 25 among cheapest places to live in the United States, among cities with 50,000 or more people.

“It tells a story that is extremely positive. We've seen other communities in Montana become increasingly unaffordable,” said Jake Clark, Vice President of Business Development for the Great Falls Development Alliance.

The Electric City landed at number 16 on the publication’s list of cheapest places in America to live.

From an economic perspective, the article points to the Electric City’s cost of living being 14.3 percent below the national average. It highlights the area’s unemployment rate of less than three percent, average house price of under $250,000 and median household income of almost $59,000.

The recognition can have a positive business impact.



“For businesses, they look at the environment for which their employees can have the highest quality of life,” said Clark. “So, we've done some place marketing with Livability Magazine and some others to help get that story out there.”

The article touches on the Treasure State tax climate, pointing to a recent two-time $675-tax rebate for property owners. But it doesn’t mention rising property tax levels in many parts of Big Sky Country.

When it comes to business recruitment, Montana may not offer higher tax-based incentives of other states, but it can provide a lower cost of doing business.

"We don't have a lot of upfront resources at the state level to go and buy businesses to into our market. But we have a longer-term approach to the success of business and that's why we have the tax environment that we have in Montana,” said Clark.

While Great Falls has been represented in a number of publications that are less prestigious, Clark says the Kiplinger article represents a good source of accurate information for the Electric City.

“We participate with a company called C2ER where we actually go and grab grocery prices and call around for haircut prices and get really accurate information about the cost of living in our market,” said Clark. “That's the data that this article is based on. So it is as accurate as possible for the true cost of living in Great Falls.”

With the cost of living going hand in hand with housing, Clark says Great Falls has work to do to remain affordable.

“We commissioned a demand assessment update this year showing that Great Falls needs about 650 new homes of all types combined each year to keep up with the demand for homes in Great Falls,” said Clark.

No other Montana cities made the Kiplinger list, which was topped by Decatur, Illinois.