Daines: Montana businesses well-suited for defense contracts

The U.S. Department of Defense already spends $200 million on services from Montana private contractors, Sen. Steve Daines said Wednesday.

But, there are more opportunities for Montana businesses than are being realized, he said during a Billings workshop on government contract work.

The event, organized by Big Sky Economic Development of Billings, drew several federal government agencies, as well as defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. 

“I understand what it takes to have to sell our products because if you aren’t selling something, you aren’t doing anything. You’ve got to be making something happen every day,” Daines said. “And I’m thrilled to see this U.S. economy really starting to go and take off, seeing 3.2 GDP growth just last quarter. This is the first time, in fact, in the U.S. where we actually have more jobs than we have workers.” 

Montana businesses did $200 million in Department of Defense work in 2017, according to the U.S. Office of Economic Adjustment. Cascade County, where Malmstrom Air Force Base is located, was the leading defense contract spending location with $60.5 million. Yellowstone County didn’t crack the top 10. All but nine of Montana’s 56 counties have defense work, manufacturing everything from sniper barrels to temperature-adjustable targets used for heat sensor weaponry. 

Spika Welding in Lewistown, for example, is a major manufacturer of the scaffolding used by Air Force crews to service stealth aircraft without harming radar-avoiding surfaces.

Services accounted for the 47% of defense contract spending in Montana. Purchases of supplies and equipment accounted for 34%, with construction and research making up the remainder, OEA reports. 

The amount of defense spending in Montana has fluctuated. In 2010, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was issued to combat the recession, defense spending in Montana hit $400 million, but dropped to $300 million the following year before stabilizing at $200 million annually for the remainder of the decade. 

Most of the work is done by companies with fewer than 100 employees. Programs like Techlink and Miltech, both based in Bozeman, make military patents and contracts available to the private business for development.