City lights of Great Falls Montana over the Missouri River.

Looking to cut your food processing operating costs? Consider relocating to Great Falls, Montana. According to a new study, annual operating costs for a 325-person food processing plant are 25% lower in Great Falls than they are in Boston.

This should not be a surprise. When it comes to the cost of doing business, Beantown is on par with New York and San Francisco. In addition, the cost of living in Boston is 70% higher than the national average, while the cost of living in Great Falls is below the national average.

The study was conducted by The Boyd Company on behalf of the Great Falls Montana Development Authority (GFDA). It compared operating costs in 25 metro areas with high concentrations of food processing companies that receive raw materials from the Great Falls region.

Food processing plant operating cost rankings from most to least expensive

  1. Boston, MA          
  2. Newark, NJ         
  3. Fairfield, CA        
  4. Seattle, WA         
  5. San Diego, CA     
  6. Los Angeles, CA     
  7. Minneapolis, MN     
  8. Chicago, IL         
  9. Stockton, CA         
  10. Modesto, CA     
  11. Bakersfield, CA         
  12. Fresno, CA         
  13. Portland, OR         
  14. Denver, CO          
  15. Rochester, NY         
  16. St. Louis, MO         
  17. Portland, ME         
  18. Hershey/Lebanon, PA      
  19. Atlanta, GA         
  20. Cincinnati, OH         
  21. Dallas, TX          
  22. Buffalo, NY         
  23. Omaha, NE         
  24. Boise, ID         
  25. Great Falls, MT

Great Falls, which is one of Montana’s four Food & Ag Development Centers, was judged most affordable thanks to its low land and construction costs as well as its proximity to raw materials. The area has recently seen increased investment in food processing from local companies like Montana Specialty Mills and Pasta Montana. Some large food companies, including General Mills, also have facilities there.

“The Boyd survey reaffirms our belief that the Great Falls region is one of North America’s strongest communities for food processing operations,” Jolene Schalper, GFDA’s vice president said in a press release. “With easy access to interstate and rail corridors, in addition to the low cost of natural ingredients and products, the Great Falls region has a lot to offer food processors.”

While low operating costs are attractive, food processing companies considering Great Falls may face other obstacles, namely citizen opposition. There’s an ongoing struggle over the fate of Madison Food Park, a development proposed by Canadian meat processing company Friesen Foods, which would be located 8 miles east of the city. While the industrial food park would provide the area with jobs and an economic boost, citizen groups are concerned that it will also have environmental consequences and strain local infrastructure.

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