Finding Industrial Space in Montana: Opportunities and Insights for Businesses and Investors

Navigating the industrial real estate market in Montana requires a deep understanding of local dynamics, strategic selection of geographic location, and careful consideration of your specific property requirements.

This comprehensive guide is designed to assist businesses in expanding or relocating their operations, as well as investors seeking opportunities within the state’s growing industrial sector. We will highlight key regions ideal for industrial activities, and detail the critical factors to consider when choosing a property.

From assessing the suitability of locations based on transportation accessibility and local labor markets to evaluating space needs and zoning requirements, this article offers a strategic roadmap to making informed decisions that align with both current needs and long-term business objectives. Whether you are contemplating leasing, purchasing, or building industrial space, Sterling Commercial Real Estate Advisors provides expert guidance to navigate this complex market and secure a property that supports your business or investment growth.

Table of Contents

Montana's Industrial Sector – Trends and Opportunities Shaping the Market

Montana’s industrial market is experiencing a dynamic period of growth and transformation, driven by both local developments and broader economic trends. As businesses and CRE investors look to acquire commercial properties, understanding the nuances of the Montana market is crucial.

There has been a significant uptick in manufacturing and logistics operations within the state in recent years. These developments are partly fueled by national trends, such as re-shoring manufacturing operations and expanding distribution networks to meet growing consumer demand. Areas like Billings, the Gallatin Valley–including Bozeman and Belgrade, the Flathead Valley–including Kalispell and Whitefish, and Missoula are becoming regional hubs for these activities, driven by their strategic locations and quality of life that attract skilled workforces. The presence of large distribution centers, like the new Amazon facility in Missoula and another planned for Belgrade, highlight Montana’s importance as a logistics hub. These developments boost local employment and contribute significantly to the state’s economic health through increased tax revenues and enhanced infrastructure.

While opportunities abound, businesses must consider challenges, including the sparse pipeline for speculative industrial space and the geographical and logistical considerations for operating in Montana. Prospective buyers, tenants, and investors need to be strategic about location choices, considering factors such as proximity to transport routes, local labor markets, water availability, and the economic climate of specific regions.

Montana's Commerce Hubs

Montana’s major commerce hubs are well-positioned to support the growth and development of industrial enterprises. Here’s an overview of each location’s unique economic features and their potential for industrial businesses:


Missoula, often considered the cultural center of Montana, is strategically located along major transportation routes and is home to the University of Montana. This location offers a skilled workforce and a solid educational foundation for research and development activities. The area’s robust service sector and healthcare systems provide a stable economic environment. Industrial technology, bio-science, and manufacturing businesses benefit from Missoula’s educated workforce and growing focus on sustainable practices.


Bozeman is rapidly growing, largely due to its booming tech industry and the presence of Montana State University. Known for its innovation and entrepreneurship, Bozeman provides a supportive environment for startups and established industries alike. The area has a significant engineering talent pool, which benefits high-tech industrial businesses, including photonics and optics manufacturing. Its accessibility via major highways and Yellowstone International Airport makes it an excellent choice for industries requiring efficient logistics solutions.

Flathead Valley

The Flathead Valley, including Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls, is primarily known for its robust tourism industry, driven by its proximity to Glacier National Park. However, it’s also an emerging hub for manufacturing and value-added agriculture. The region offers ample space for large-scale industrial operations, and the local community colleges support workforce development in trades crucial to industrial operations.


As Montana’s largest city, Billings is a significant economic center in the region, particularly in the energy and healthcare sectors. It boasts extensive transportation networks, including interstate access, rail service, and air, making it a strategic location for logistics and distribution centers. The presence of City College at Montana State University Billings further enhances the city’s appeal by providing a steady stream of skilled graduates, particularly in technical and trade fields, which supports local industries and manufacturing sectors. The city’s robust infrastructure and large workforce are conducive to manufacturing and industrial development.


As the state capital, Helena provides a stable economic environment influenced by government activities. While it may not be as large as Billings or Bozeman in economic output, Helena offers strategic advantages for businesses focused on services and technologies related to government contracts and environmental industries. The presence of state government and related agencies can be advantageous for companies looking to leverage governmental collaborations.

Great Falls

Great Falls has historical significance in manufacturing and is an established state leader in food processing and energy. With access to essential transportation routes like Interstate 15 connecting Montana to Alberta, Canada and the presence of Malmstrom Air Force Base, the city is positioned as a key player in industries requiring high levels of security and infrastructure. Great Falls also benefits from competitive utility rates and various economic incentives that reduce operational costs for industrial businesses.


Butte’s history is deeply rooted in mining and continues to reflect significant industrial activity. Its rich geological resources benefit manufacturing and renewable energy sectors. Montana Technological University in Butte also provides a specialized workforce skilled in engineering and technical fields, supporting innovation and technical proficiency in industrial operations.

For businesses looking to capitalize on Montana’s economic opportunities, these hubs offer a mix of strategic advantages, skilled labor pools, and supportive business environments, making them ideal for fostering robust industrial operations.

Sterling Commercial Real Estate Advisors leverages extensive Montana market data and possesses an in-depth understanding of the unique advantages of each city. With this knowledge, we are able to guide clients in determining the optimal fit for their industrial operations or investment strategies. Our insights ensure that every decision is informed by comprehensive local intelligence, enhancing the potential for success in Montana’s dynamic industrial market.

Key Considerations for Finding Industrial Space

When searching for industrial real estate, there are several key factors to consider:


Consider the location's proximity to major transportation routes, including highways, rail lines, and airports. Access to these transportation networks is crucial for efficient logistics and distribution. Additionally, situating your business near other complementary industrial companies, such as a cabinet manufacturer being next to a flooring company, can enhance operational synergies and supply chain efficiencies. This strategic positioning can lead to more streamlined production processes and potential cost savings.

Space Requirements

Evaluate your specific space requirements, including the square footage needed, ceiling height, loading dock accessibility, and office space. Determine whether the space can be easily customized or expanded to accommodate future growth.

Zoning and Permits

Ensuring that the property is zoned correctly for industrial use and securing the necessary permits to conduct your business are critical steps in acquiring industrial property. Zoning laws can vary significantly by location, and navigating these regulations and the complex permit acquisition process can be particularly challenging if you are unfamiliar with the local area or lack the appropriate contacts.

Work with Montana Commercial Real Estate Experts

When navigating the complexities of finding a suitable industrial property, partnering with knowledgeable advisors is crucial. Real estate firms specializing in industrial commercial real estate bring a wealth of resources, including site-selection services, in-depth market research, comprehensive buyer and tenant representation, and strategic space planning. These services are vital for identifying properties that meet all your company requirements—from location and space configurations to zoning and permit processes.

Specifically, Sterling Commercial Real Estate Advisors distinguishes itself with a team that’s earned more CCIM and SIOR designations than any other firm in the state. As a result, you’ll receive expert guidance driven by deep industry knowledge and a proven track record. Led by recognized professionals like Claire Matten, CCIM/SIOR, our team specializes in the industrial asset class, combining local market expertise with a robust network of contacts that streamline every phase of the property acquisition process.

Choosing the Right Location

When exploring the prospect of locating or relocating your industrial business, choosing the right location is an important decision that can shape your company’s growth. Variables such as accessibility to key transport routes, proximity to raw materials or customers, and the availability of skilled labor are just a few components that will influence your business’s day-to-day operations and long-term success. It’s essential to thoroughly analyze your business needs and align them with the characteristics of potential locations. Decisions should be data-driven, factoring in current market conditions and future growth prospects.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Location for your Industrial Operations

In the process of securing an industrial space, there are critical factors to contemplate:
  • Access to Transportation: Investigate the proximity to major highways, rail lines, and airports, ensuring ease in distribution and logistics.
  • Labor Market: Assess the local labor market for the availability of skilled workers suitable for your industry.
  • Cost Considerations: Examine the cost of the property, tax rates, utility expenses, and potential economic incentives.
  • Local Regulations: Understand zoning laws, environmental regulations, and any constraints that may impact your operations.
  • Growth Potential: Look for spaces that offer the possibility of expansion to accommodate future growth.
  • Community Impact: Consider your business’s impact on the local community and how the community’s reception could influence your operations.

Determining Your Space Requirements

Evaluating and determining your space requirements is critical before you set out to find your ideal industrial business property. This involves a careful consideration of both your current operations and future plans. Begin by analyzing the specifics of your operation—whether it involves manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, or research and development. Each of these functions has unique space needs, from ceiling height and floor load capacity to dock doors and office space.

Account for the non-operational areas such as break rooms, restrooms, and storage. Moreover, think about the workflow and the layout needed to optimize efficiency. Take note of the equipment sizes and operational clearance required. Don’t forget to consider your anticipated growth; acquiring a space that can adapt to your growing business will avert the need for frequent relocations.

Assessing Your Needs for Industrial Business Space

To accurately assess your needs for industrial space, it’s vital to start with the specifics of your daily operations. Working in partnership with a commercial real estate advisor can significantly enhance this process. Here are a few areas to begin with:
  • Type of Industry: Different industries have varied space requirements—manufacturing companies generally need larger spaces than those in distribution.
  • Operational Requirements: Detail the physical needs of your operations—power requirements, water access, waste management systems, etc.
  • Equipment Space: Evaluate the space needed for your machinery and equipment, ensuring each has enough room to operate safely and efficiently.
  • Employee Accommodations: Consider your number of employees and the space they need to perform tasks without hindrance.
By clearly understanding your needs, you can communicate more effectively with a commercial real estate professional and find spaces that meet your requirements.

Understanding the Different Types of Industrial Properties Available

Various types of industrial properties cater to different business needs:
  • Warehouses: Ideal for storage and distribution with features like high ceilings and loading docks.
  • Manufacturing Plants: Equipped with heavy power and large, unobstructed floors suitable for machinery and assembly lines.
  • Flex Spaces: Flex spaces offer a combination of office and industrial space, which benefits businesses that need customer-facing offices or showrooms to complement their operations.
  • Research and Development (R&D) Facilities: These facilities are tailored for businesses focused on innovation and technology and are often situated near academic institutions.

Calculating the Amount of Space Required for Your Operations

Calculating the exact square footage needed for your operations is essential. Here’s where to begin:

  1. List Equipment and Space Needs: Jot down all the machinery, equipment, and space each requires.
  2. Plan for Human Resources: Calculate the area needed for workstations, offices, and communal spaces.
  3. Add Storage and Receiving Areas: Incorporate space for inventory, raw materials, and shipping and receiving operations.
  4. Factor in Growth: Add a percentage to your total to accommodate future expansion—experts often recommend planning for 10-20% growth.

A table outlining space per function can help you visualize and sum up the total space required.

Function Approximate Space Needed
Manufacturing Area
20,000 SF
10,000 SF
5,000 SF
Ancillary Functions
2,000 SF


37,000 SF

Searching for Industrial Business Property

Navigating Montana’s industrial real estate market requires a strategic and informed approach. Once you’ve identified your search criteria in the steps above, a successful search begins with understanding the nature of local markets and the various types of spaces available. Montana has regions with different industrial strengths, from the energy-focused east to tech-savvy college towns. It’s beneficial to watch city and state economic development websites for insights on emerging industrial hubs and additional properties coming onto the market.

When examining potential spaces, prioritize those with the amenities and specifications your business requires. Check on zoning regulations to ensure the property suits your industrial use. Identify locations that enhance your operational efficiency and visibility if customer interaction is part of your business.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the potential long-term implications of your choice. Is the space adaptable to future technological advancements in your industry? Will the location remain advantageous as your business scales? Considering these factors will help you find an industrial business space that meets your immediate needs and supports your company’s growth trajectory.

Leveraging the services of a Montana Commercial Real Estate Expert

Collaborating with a local real estate brokerage will give you the best possible outcome. Firms like Sterling Commercial Real Estate Advisors specialize in business property services and have the local knowledge and professional networks to uncover listings that may not be publicly advertised. Our agents provide tailored service, including assisting with space planning, buyer and tenant representation services, and identifying prime investment opportunities, ensuring clients find spaces that align with their operational and financial goals.

Reputable agents bring a wealth of experience and can negotiate favorable lease terms or purchase agreements on your behalf. They understand the nuances of the Montana industrial market, from street names’ significance in traffic flow and accessibility to the reputations of various industrial parks and business districts.

Partner with an agent committed to staying up-to-date on industry and market trends. By helping you define your needs and offering strategic advice, experts can streamline the process of securing the right space for your business.

Conducting Property Visits and Inspections

Once you’ve honed in on potential industrial business spaces, the next crucial step is to conduct thorough property visits and inspections. These are invaluable because they provide a tangible sense of the site’s actual condition, scale, and environment. Make sure to allocate sufficient time for each visit to conduct a rigorous inspection without rushing.

During these visits, it’s beneficial to bring along a checklist, any necessary measuring tools, and a camera or smartphone for taking photos for later reference. If possible, involve a professional inspector or an experienced contractor who can help identify any underlying issues that might not be immediately apparent.

When working with a commercial real estate advisor, preparing for and scheduling property visits will be handled for you.

Tips for Conducting Property Visits and Inspections for Industrial Space

  • Schedule visits during various times to get a well-rounded perspective on the property.
  • Bring a comprehensive checklist of items to inspect and questions to ask.
  • Take systematic notes and photos to help you remember and compare spaces.
  • Consider the current conditions as well as the potential for customization or expansion.
  • Look beyond the interior to examine accessibility and the condition of external areas.

Key Factors to Consider During Property Tours and Inspections

  • Structural Integrity: Check for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, water damage, and rust.
  • Systems Check: Ensure that electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems are operational and up to code.
  • Operational Space: Evaluate the warehouse, manufacturing, and storage areas for space adequacy.
  • Loading/Unloading: Assess loading docks and freight elevators for functionality and flow.
  • Accessibility: Consider ease of access for trucks, employees, and customers.
  • Zoning and Compliance: Verify that the property aligns with local zoning laws and business permits.

Assessing the Suitability and Functionality for Your Operations

When assessing a space’s suitability and functionality, focus on whether the property supports your business’s specific needs. Examine the layout to ensure it coincides with your operational workflow. Ask about any restrictions that may impede future growth. Discuss any changes you may need that are essential to adapt to technological progress. Here are a few aspects to consider:
  • Space Layout: Confirm that the space fits your operation’s flow and includes essential areas, such as offices, R&D labs, or showrooms.
  • Technology Infrastructure: Look for built-in technological capabilities and the potential to upgrade.
  • Flexibility: Evaluate the space for scalability and the ability to reconfigure for different uses.
  • Environmental Considerations: Examine the property for energy efficiency and environmental impacts.
  • Security Features: Check existing security measures and consider potential improvements.

Remember, each industrial business has unique requirements, and the space you choose should be adequate and capable of accommodating your future ambitions. Evaluating these factors will put you in a strong position to make a knowledgeable decision about leasing or purchasing industrial business space in Montana.

Options for Acquiring Industrial Commercial Property

When deciding on the best path for acquireing industrial commercial properties, businesses face several choices:

  • Buying an existing facility
  • Leasing
  • Considering build-to-suit options
  • Constructing a new facility

Bozeman is rapidly growing, largely due to its booming tech industry and the presence of Montana State University. Known for its innovation and entrepreneurship, Bozeman provides a supportive environment for startups and established industries alike. The area has a significant engineering talent pool, which benefits high-tech industrial businesses, including photonics and optics manufacturing. Its accessibility via major highways and Yellowstone International Airport makes it an excellent choice for industries requiring efficient logistics solutions.

Buying an Existing Industrial Space

  • Advantages: Buying an existing facility often allows for immediate occupancy and control over the property. It also offers potential long-term cost savings compared to leasing and the opportunity for property appreciation.
  • Considerations: The initial capital outlay can be substantial, and the property may require modifications to meet specific operational needs.
  • How Your CRE Advisor Helps: Your SterlingCRE advisor will help analyze the market to find properties that best match your requirements, evaluate the cost of any needed renovations versus the benefits of acquisition, and facilitate the negotiation process to secure favorable purchase terms.

Leasing an Existing Industrial Space

  • Advantages: Leasing can be more flexible and less financially burdensome upfront than buying. It typically involves lower initial costs and frees up capital for other business uses.
  • Considerations: Lease agreements may have restrictions that limit modifications to the property, and there is no equity buildup through leasing.
  • How Your CRE Advisor Helps: Your advisor will review and negotiate lease terms to ensure they align with your business needs, such as the lease length, renewal options, and allowances for property improvements.

Considering Build-to-Suit Options

  • Advantages: Build-to-suit allows for facility customization according to specific operational requirements from the ground up.
  • Considerations: This option requires a longer time frame and potentially higher costs, depending on the build’s complexity and the site’s preparation needs.
  • How Your CRE Advisor Helps: SterlingCRE advisors facilitate discussions with builders and developers to outline your exact needs and oversee the project from planning to completion, ensuring all specifications are met within budget and time constraints.

Building a New Facility

  • Advantages: Constructing a new facility offers ultimate customization and control over the building’s design, materials, and layout, perfectly tailoring it to your business’s operational needs.
  • Considerations: Similar to build-to-suit, this option involves significant time investment and higher upfront costs. Additionally, finding the right location and obtaining necessary permits can be complex.
  • How Your CRE Advisor Helps: Your advisor will provide comprehensive support, including site selection, financing guidance, navigating zoning laws, and coordinating with architects, contractors, and local authorities to ensure the project meets all regulatory requirements and business expectations.

Choosing between buying, leasing, build-to-suit, or constructing a new facility involves weighing multiple factors such as cost, control, flexibility, and time. Your SterlingCRE advisor is essential in this process, offering expert guidance and support at each step. By leveraging our deep understanding of the Montana industrial real estate market and extensive professional network, SterlingCRE Advisors ensures you make a well-informed decision that aligns with your immediate needs and long-term business strategy.

Negotiating a Successful Transaction for Industrial Space

Negotiating a successful transaction is crucial when securing commercial property in Montana, whether through leasing, buying, considering build-to-suit options, or constructing a new facility. Each approach requires a tailored strategy to ensure the terms meet your business’s operational needs and growth objectives. SterlingCRE Advisors are vital in guiding these negotiations, leveraging their market expertise to secure the best possible client outcomes.

Understanding the Transaction Process

  • Leasing: Negotiating a lease involves discussing terms that affect your business’s short-term functionality and long-term viability. This includes lease length, renewal options, and modifications to the space. Your SterlingCRE advisor ensures that terms like tenant improvements, maintenance responsibilities, and lease escalations are clearly negotiated to align with your business plans.

  • Buying: Purchasing property offers more control but requires detailed due diligence to ensure the property meets all your specifications without unforeseen liabilities. Negotiations might focus on price, closing conditions, and warranties that mitigate potential risks. A SterlingCRE advisor assists in conducting thorough property evaluations and navigating the complexities of property transactions to ensure a fair deal.

  • Build-to-Suit: For build-to-suit arrangements, negotiation extends beyond the terms of the lease or purchase to include detailed agreements on the construction process, timelines, and specifications. Defining responsibilities for design and building compliance, funding arrangements, and future alterations is crucial. SterlingCRE advisors coordinate between developers, contractors, and clients to ensure that all parties’ expectations and requirements are met.

  • Building: Constructing a new facility allows maximum customization but requires significant negotiation regarding land acquisition, zoning, permitting, and builder contracts. Negotiating terms that include contingencies for construction milestones and adherence to budget and schedule are essential. Your SterlingCRE advisor will provide insight into selecting the location, identifying available land for purchase, choosing qualified contractors, securing favorable terms, and ensuring compliance with all local regulations.

Strategies for Effective Negotiation

  • Market Research: Understanding the current market conditions is crucial. Your SterlingCRE advisor provides data-driven insights, helping leverage market trends to negotiate from a position of strength.

  • Expert Representation: Whether negotiating a lease, purchase, or construction deal, having a SterlingCRE advisor with extensive experience and a track record of successful negotiations in the industrial sector is invaluable. They can identify favorable and unfavorable contract terms, propose alternatives, and negotiate effectively on your behalf.

  • Comprehensive Due Diligence: Thoroughly assess all aspects of the property or project. This includes physical inspections, reviewing zoning and compliance, evaluating long-term business impacts, and financial analysis to ensure the transaction aligns with current needs and future growth.

  • Customization to Needs: Every business is unique, and so are its space requirements. Negotiations should always focus on tailoring the agreement to fit the specific operational needs of your business, including flexibility for future changes or expansions.

Whether you are leasing, buying, entering a build-to-suit agreement, or constructing a new facility, each path to securing industrial space in Montana involves complex decisions and negotiations. Partnering with SterlingCRE Advisors ensures you have seasoned experts who understand the intricacies of commercial real estate transactions. They provide the strategic advice and robust negotiation skills needed to secure a space that meets your current needs and supports your long-term business objectives. With SterlingCRE, you’re positioned to make well-informed decisions that leverage the best of Montana’s industrial real estate market.

Evaluating Cost and ROI for Industrial Space

When considering industrial business space in Montana, a thorough evaluation of costs and the potential Return on Investment (ROI) is crucial for making informed business decisions. Understanding the interplay between initial expenses, ongoing operational costs, potential property value growth, and the overall financial balance is vital to determine the long-term viability of an investment.

Understanding the Cost Factors Associated with Industrial Business Space in Montana

The cost of leasing or purchasing industrial space in Montana can vary significantly based on several key factors:
  • Location: Areas in high-demand cities often command higher prices compared to more remote locations, reflecting their accessibility and potential for business traffic.
  • Size and Condition: Larger and well-maintained properties typically incur higher costs. The condition of the property can significantly impact initial investment needs, particularly regarding renovations or upgrades necessary to meet operational standards.
  • Market Demand: Fluctuations in the real estate market can affect property costs, with high demand periods leading to price increases.
  • Additional Expenses: Expenses such as property taxes, maintenance, utilities, and insurance should be factored into the total cost of ownership or leasing. These can vary widely depending on local rates and the specific features of the property.

Evaluating ROI for Industrial Properties in Montana

The ROI from industrial properties can be influenced by several factors:

  • Rental Income: Ongoing income generated if the property is leased out, which depends on market rates and occupancy levels. 
  • Appreciation: The potential increase in property value over time, influenced by market trends and property improvements.
  • Operational Efficiency: Savings realized through efficient use of space and effective energy management.
  • Tax Benefits: Advantages like depreciation and potential write-offs that can improve financial outcomes.

Evaluating ROI for Industrial Properties in Montana

  • Calculate the balance of annual rental income against operational expenses.
  • Monitor market trends for indications of property appreciation.
  • Implement measures to enhance operational efficiency, potentially lowering costs.
  • Consult with a financial advisor to maximize tax benefits.

Long-Term Financial Implications of Leasing vs. Purchasing

For businesses, the decision between leasing and purchasing industrial space involves contrasting the immediate and extended financial impacts:

  • Capital Expenditure (CapEx): Buying typically requires a higher upfront investment compared to leasing.
  • Equity Building: Purchasing a property allows for equity accumulation, which can yield significant returns upon resale.
  • Financial Flexibility: Leasing provides greater flexibility, allowing businesses to adapt more easily to market or operational changes without the long-term commitment of property ownership.
  • Ongoing Costs: Ownership entails full responsibility for all associated costs, whereas leasing may share or transfer some expenses to the landlord.

Costs-Benefit Analysis

It’s imperative to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis considering your business’s operational needs, financial capacity, and strategic goals. This analysis should explore various scenarios of property use and market changes to ensure that your investment decision supports sustainable growth and financial health.

Making the Final Decision

Making the final decision on industrial business space in Montana requires weighing several key factors, including location, space requirements, and future growth potential. Consulting with Sterling Commercial Real Estate Advisors provides access to comprehensive market data, expert representation, and strategic planning. Our deep knowledge of local market conditions and the requirements of industrial business operations will guide you through property evaluation, purchase, or leasing, ensuring your decision supports both immediate operational needs and long-term business objectives. This strategic approach is not just about securing space for today’s operations; it’s an investment in your company’s future.


Ready to Find Your Ideal Industrial Space in Montana?

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Our team of experts is ready to guide you through every step of the process, from identifying the perfect location to negotiating the best terms. Let us help you secure a space that aligns with your business needs and enhances your operational success.

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