A Message from Tod Petersen

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February 14, 2024 |
Article | 5 min
| Business Insights

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Montana, the “Treasure State” is a place of great beauty from the stunning landscapes of the Rocky Mountains to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Both tourists and new residents, with primary and secondary homes in the area, help boost the local economy, said Tod Petersen, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Bank, a division of HTLF Bank.

Rocky Mountain Bank, a division of HTLF Bank, has nine locations across the state. Petersen manages the operations from Bozeman.

“Bozeman is really experiencing growth and even people from across the state can’t believe it’s growth,” said Petersen, a Montana-native, of people relocated from other areas of the country.

Interest in Bozeman, population around 58,000, and other Montana cities has made the state second in population growth in the U.S. from 2020 to 2022.

MARKET ADVANTAGES

Along with new homes and sales of existing homes, many new residents bring investment capital or open new businesses in the area.

Although agriculture has long been an economic driver in the state, the U.S. Department of Commerce named Montana a regional Technology and Innovation Hub.

High tech and manufacturing are growing throughout the state and especially in the Bozeman area, offering new opportunities for individuals and businesses, Petersen said.

MARKET CHALLENGES

The area’s economy could be vulnerable if travel declines or public budgets are reduced, Petersen said, which could happen if the economy slides into a recession. That could also impact homebuilding and real estate, creating a downward turn in the housing market, where supply could exceed demand.

Other concerns are inflation and rising interest rates that have occurred throughout 2023, he said. Both make it more expensive to be in business.

Unemployment is low in Bozeman, the rate is about 2.7 percent, Petersen said.

The low unemployment rates also mean Bozeman, like other parts of the country, have trouble finding qualified workers for vacant jobs.

“With unemployment low, staffing seems to be a challenge for most local businesses. Wage inflation adds expenses to organizations, reducing their profitability,” he said.

Montana State University with about 16,000 students is the city’s largest employer, with about 5,000 people working there.

Quote from Tod Petersen

“With unemployment low, staffing seems to be a challenge for most local businesses. Wage inflation adds expenses to organizations, reducing their profitability,” he said.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Clients need to work on rigorous planning and budgeting, including a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, Petersen recommended.

Clients also need to analyze their cash conversion cycle — speeding up the receipt of cash and slowing down payments, he said.

“They need to focus now more than ever on risk management, largely due to growing incidents and concerns with fraud. They need to stay vigilant and proactively focus on prevention measures to avoid fraud,” Petersen said.

Sound capital management also includes reducing their debt to avoid higher interest costs.

Other strategies include investing in technology to maintain efficiencies for their organization and to access wider markets nationally. Also beefing up their efforts to attract and retain talent.

WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP

“We believe maintaining communication with your bank and your bank relationship team is a first line of defense,” Petersen said of how the bank wants to work with its customers.

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The bank has services like the Commercial Card, Positive Pay and other treasury management solutions to help maximize a client’s cash cycle and protect them from fraud.

Positive Pay allows customers to review account numbers, check amounts and payee names before the bank pays the check. The Commercial Cards adds safety if customers carefully monitor charges and report fraud within the required window of time.

“You want to avoid paper checks. Even a large commercial customer can pay with a card. We offer them the opportunity to pay their vendors with cards, ACH or wires,” Petersen said.

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