Cody To Beartooth Pass To Fox, Montana To Billings
Comfort Suites ($80 + 6,000 points)
August 9, 2021
My intent yesterday was a simple drive to Fox, Montana and then on to Billings to find a truck stop to call home for the night. It turned out to be more.
I started the day with a walk around downtown Cody. The town is true to its roots with a bit of "modern" thrown in. I enjoyed looking at the architecture. In a shop called "Surf Wyoming" I learned that folks in Jackson take their surfboards out onto the Snake River and surf against the flow of the river. How innovative is that? A fly fishing shop confirmed my belief that those shops have the coolest hats and stickers. I try to pull off that I am a fly fisherman; I suspect the people see right through me.
Lots of Harleys on the road this weekend -- all the motorcycles I saw were Harleys. I think you can tell from some of the photos that this area is hardcore Republican country.
ehy build that road?
too wind for Buddy
red lodge busy no vacancies
I drove out of Cody on Wyoming Route 120 which would take me into Montana. The landscape was dramatically high desert -- I had expected Wyoming to be all mountains. Another item learned.
I suspect I was an hour out of Cody when I passed by a road that was advertised as an "All-American highway." From the looks of the terrain it was headed into, that road was going into the mountains. I decided that might be more interesting that the route I was on so I doubled back and jumped on Wyoming 286 or maybe it was 296.
It was a beautiful drive somewhat affected by the smoke from the wildfires. The higher the road rose, the more pronounced was the effect of the smoke.
I though the scenic areas was right in front of me!
Here you can really see the effect of the smoke. That is Index Peak which is around 11, 000 feet.
There had been signs about "cows on road" and "loose stock." These cows resembled a gang as they walked alongside the ride. I was a bit concerned they might charge me although I knew they were more afraid of me than I was of them.
I was waaay outside of cell range at this point. No Google Maps to help me decide which turn to take. I figured Fox, Montana was to my right so I headed that way. Here's a description of the highway.
The Beartooth Highway is an All-American Road on a section of U.S. Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming between Red Lodge and the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, passing over the Beartooth Pass in Wyoming at 10,947 feet above sea level. It has been called "the most beautiful drive in America," by late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt. Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.
It was too windy for Buddy so no photo of him with the Montana sign.
The drive on the Beartooth Highway was tiring. Lots of turns and lots of nerves due to the narrowness of the road and the sheer drops. The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado has nothing on this drive. I kept thinking to myself that there must have been an easier route to build the highway. I concluded that the 1930s were a time of an attitude of "heck yeah, we can build it" so they took on the challenge of building a highway over difficult terrain. I can only imagine how beautiful this drive must be when there is not smoke enveloping the scenery.
US Route 212 continues into Red Lodge, Montana.
Red Lodge is a town in and the county seat of Carbon County, Montana, United States. It is part of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,125 at the United States Census, 2010. It is known as being the gateway to the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park.
On September 17, 1851, the United States government signed a treaty with the Crow Nation, ceding the area which now contains Red Lodge, MT to the Crow Indians. Rich coal deposits were found there in 1866, and gold was discovered nearby in 1870. An 1880 treaty between the U.S. government and the Crow allowed the area to be settled starting April 11, 1882.
The Red Lodge post office was established on Dec 9, 1884 with Postmaster Ezra L. Benton. A rail line was constructed into town, and coal shipments began in June 1889. The boundaries of the Crow Reservation were redrawn October 15, 1892, opening the whole area to settlement. From then until the 1930s, coal mining defined the town.
In the late 19th century, many new settlers came to Red Lodge, MT. The majority came from Italy, the British Isles, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. By the mid-1880s, migrants were still outnumbered by large numbers of Native Americans. By 1892 the population reached 1,180.
In 1896, Red Lodge had twenty saloons and, as the library records show, riotous and violent living was characteristic of the town. By 1906 the population had grown to 4,000 and by 1911 this had increased to 5,000.
Red Lodge suffered in the Great Depression, which forced many mines to close. To offset this downturn, the manufacture of illegal bootleg liquor, labeled syrup, became an economic mainstay and was sold as far away as Chicago and San Francisco.
The downtown has been redeveloped since the mid-1980s for historic and cultural tourism, as the Red Lodge Commercial Historic District. The buildings in downtown Red Lodge fell into disrepair in large part because population had dropped from its 1915 peak of 6,000 people to about 2,000.
As of 2006, an estimate suggests that the population of Red Lodge may increase from about 1,200 people in the winter to over 1,800 people during the summer tourist season, arriving via the Beartooth Highway.
Red Lodge is located at 45°11′15″N 109°14′55″W (45.187515, -109.248475). U.S. Route 212 runs through the town. Rock Creek flows alongside Red Lodge. Grizzly Peak is one of several mountains surrounding Red Lodge.
Red Lodge experiences a continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with cold, somewhat dry winters and warm, wetter summers. Summers are cooler than in areas of Montana further north, due to the high elevation. Winters however, are milder than areas further to the east due to the chinook wind influence, as with most of Montana.
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,125 people, 1,082 households, and 513 families residing in the city. The population density was 758.9 inhabitants per square mile (293.0/km2). There were 1,675 housing units at an average density of 598.2 per square mile (231.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.3% White, 0.4% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.
There were 1,082 households, of which 19.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.6% were non-families. 43.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.92 and the average family size was 2.62.
The median age in the city was 47.3 years. 16.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.8% were from 25 to 44; 34.4% were from 45 to 64; and 19.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.4% male and 50.6% female.
Red Lodge is well known for many outdoor recreation opportunities: skiing, mountain biking, fly fishing, and backpacking are nearby. In April it is host to a popular triathlon called the Peaks to Prairie.
Smith Mine disaster
Site of the Smith Mine disaster
In 1943 tragedy hit Smith Mine #3 near Bearcreek, the area's largest remaining mine. An explosion trapped and killed 74 men with only three of the workers in the mine that day escaping, making it the worst coal mine disaster in Montana's history. The mine was shut down shortly thereafter but was reopened in the late 1970s. The Red Lodge cemetery contains a memorial.
At one time, Fox had two grain elevators and was the largest grain shipping point in Carbon County. Finnish immigrant miners settled here, and as late as 1920 their children still spoke Finnish at home and on the playground, and English only in the classroom.
Billings is the largest city in the U.S. state of Montana, with a population estimated at 109,736 as of 2020. Located in the south-central portion of the state, it is the seat of Yellowstone County and the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Area, which had an estimated population of 183,799 in 2020. It has a trade area of over 500,000.
Billings was nicknamed the "Magic City" because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in March 1882. With one of the largest trade areas in the United States, Billings is the trade and distribution center for much of Montana east of the Continental Divide, Northern Wyoming, and western portions of North Dakota and South Dakota. Billings is also the largest retail destination for much of the same area.
The city is experiencing rapid growth and a strong economy; it has had and is continuing to have the largest growth of any city in Montana. Parts of the metro area are seeing hyper growth. From 2000 to 2010 Lockwood, an eastern suburb, saw growth of 57.8%, the largest growth rate of any community in Montana. Billings has avoided the economic downturn that affected most of the nation from 2008 to 2012 as well as the housing bust. With more hotel accommodations than any area within a five-state region, the city hosts a variety of conventions, concerts, sporting events, and other rallies. With the Bakken oil development in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, the largest oil discovery in U.S. history, as well as the Heath shale oil discovery just north of Billings, the city's growth rate stayed high during the shale oil boom. Although the city is growing, its growth rate has diminished markedly with oil price declines in recent years.
See also: Timeline of Billings, Montana
The Crow people, who are indigenous to the area, call the city Ammalapáshkuua. It means 'where they cut wood', and is named as such because of a sawmill built in the area by early white settlers. The Cheyenne name is É'êxováhtóva, 'sawing place' and the Gros Ventre name is ʔóhuutébiθɔnɔ́ɔ́nh, 'where they saw lumber', both also named for the sawmill, or translations of the Crow name.
The downtown core and much of the rest of Billings is in the Yellowstone Valley, a canyon carved out by the Yellowstone River. Around 80 million years ago, the Billings area was on the shore of the Western Interior Seaway. The sea deposited sediment and sand around the shoreline. As the sea retreated, it left a deep layer of sand. Over millions of years, this sand was compressed into stone known as Eagle Sandstone. Over the last million years the river has carved its way down through this stone to form the canyon walls known as the Billings Rimrocks or the Rims.
The Pictograph Caves are about five miles south of downtown. These caves contain over 100 pictographs (rock paintings), the oldest of which is over 2,000 years old. Approximately 30,000 artifacts (including stone tools and weapons) have been excavated from the site. These excavations have proved the area has been occupied since at least 2600 BC until after 1800 AD.
Lewis and Clark Expedition
In July 1806, William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) passed through the Billings area. On July 25 he arrived at what is now known as Pompeys Pillar and wrote in his journal "... at 4 P M arrived at a remarkable rock ... this rock I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction." Clark carved his name and the date into the rock, leaving the only remaining physical evidence of their expedition. He named the place Pompy's Tower, naming it after the son of his Shoshone interpreter and guide Sacajawea. In 1965, Pompeys Pillar was designated as a national historic landmark, and was proclaimed a national monument in January 2001. An interpretive center has been built next to the monument.
The area where Billings is today was known as Clark's Fork Bottom. Clark's Fork Bottom was to be the hub for hauling freight to Judith and Musselshell Basins. At the time these were some of the most productive areas of the Montana Territory. The plan was to run freight up Alkali Creek, now part of Billings Heights, to the basins and Fort Benton on the Hi-Line.
In 1877 settlers from the Gallatin Valley area of the Montana Territory formed Coulson the first town of the Yellowstone Valley. The town was started when John Alderson built a sawmill and convinced PW McAdow to open a general store and trading post on land Alderson owned on the bank of the Yellowstone River. The store went by the name of Headquarters, and soon other buildings and tents were being built as the town began to grow. At this time before the coming of the railroad, most goods coming to and going from the Montana Territory were carried on paddle riverboats. It is believed it was decided to name the new town Coulson in an attempt to attract the Coulson Packet Company that ran riverboats between St Louis and many points in the Montana Territory. In spite of their efforts the river was traversed only once by paddle riverboat to the point of the new town.
Coulson was a rough town of dance halls and saloons and not a single church. The town needed a sheriff and the famous mountain man John "Liver-Eating" Johnson took the job. Many disagreements were settled with a gun in the coarse Wild West town. Soon a graveyard was needed and Boothill Cemetery was created. It was called Boothill because most of the people in it were said to have died with their boots on. Today, Boothill Cemetery sits within Billings' city limits and is the only remaining physical evidence of Coulson's existence.
When the railroad came to the area, Coulson residents were sure the town would become the railroads hub and Coulson would soon be the Territories largest city. The railroad only had claim to odd sections and it had two sections side-by-side about two miles west of Coulson. Being able to make far more money by creating a new town on these two sections the railroad decided to create the new town of Billings, the two towns existed side by side for a short time with a trolley even running between them. However, most of Coulson's residents moved to the new booming town of Billings. In the end Coulson faded away with the last remains of the town disappearing in the 1930s. Today Coulson Park, a Billings city park, sits on the river bank where Coulson once was.
Early railroad town
Named after Northern Pacific Railway president Frederick H. Billings, the city was founded in 1882. The Railroad formed the city as a western railhead for its further westward expansion. At first the new town had only three buildings but within just a few months it had grown to over 2,000. This spurred Billings' nickname of the Magic City because, like magic, it seemed to appear overnight.
Panoramic view of downtown Billings 1915. View is to the east and south from a high point at the intersection of North 28th Street (street extending away in the right half of the photo) and 3rd Avenue North (street extending away in the left half of the photo).
The nearby town of Coulson appeared a far more likely site. Coulson was a rough-and-tumble town where arguments were often followed by gunplay. Liver-Eating Johnson was a lawman in Coulson. Perhaps the most famous person to be buried in Coulsons Boothill cemetery is Muggins Taylor, the scout who carried the news of Custer's Last Stand to the world. Most buried here were said to have died with their boots on. The town of Coulson had been on the Yellowstone River, which made it ideal for the commerce steamboats brought up the river. However, when the Montana & Minnesota Land Company oversaw the development of potential railroad land, they ignored Coulson, and platted the new town of Billings just a couple of miles to the northwest. Coulson quickly faded away; most of her residents were absorbed into Billings. Yet, for a short time, the two towns coexisted; a trolley even ran between them. But ultimately there was no future for Coulson as Billings grew. Though it stood on the banks of the Yellowstone River only a couple of miles from the heart of present-day downtown Billings, the city of Billings never built on the land where Coulson once stood. Today Coulson Park sits along the banks of the Yellowstone where the valley's first town once stood.
By the 1910 census, Billings' population had risen to 10,031 ranking it the sixth fastest-growing community in the nation. Billings became an energy center in the early years of the twentieth century with the discovery of oil fields in Montana and Wyoming. Then the discovery of large natural gas and coal reserves secured the city's rank as first in energy. In the early 20th century, its served as regional trading center and energy hub for eastern Montana and northern Wyoming, an area then known as the Midland Empire.
Built in 1985 and standing at 272 feet, First Interstate Center is the tallest building in Montana.
After World War II, Billings became the region's major financial, medical and cultural center. Billings has had rapid growth from its founding; in its first 50 years growth was, at times, as high as 200 to 300 percent per decade.
Billings's growth has remained robust throughout the years, and in the 1950s, it had a growth rate of 66 percent. The 1973 oil embargo by OPEC spurred an oil boom in eastern Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota. With this increase in oil production, Billings became the headquarters for energy sector companies. In 1975 and 1976, the Colstrip coal-fire generation plants 1 and 2 were completed; plants 3 and 4 started operating in 1984 and 1986.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Billings saw major growth in its downtown core; the first high-rise buildings to be built in Montana were erected. In 1980, the 22-floor Sheraton Hotel was completed. Upon its completion, it was declared "the tallest load-bearing brick masonry building in the world" by the Brick Institute of America. During the 1970s and 1980s, other major buildings were constructed in the downtown core; the Norwest Building (now Wells Fargo), Granite Tower, Sage Tower, the MetraPark arena, the TransWestern Center, many new city-owned parking garages, and the First Interstate Center, the tallest building in a five-state area.
With the completion of large sections of the interstate system in Montana in the 1970s, Billings became a shopping destination for an ever-larger area. The 1970s and 1980s saw new shopping districts and shopping centers developed in the Billings area. In addition to the other shopping centers, two new malls were developed, and Rimrock Mall was redeveloped and enlarged, on what was then the city's west end. Cross Roads Mall was built in Billings Heights, and West Park Plaza mall in midtown. Several new business parks were also developed on the city's west end during this period.
Billings was affected by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in May; the city received about an inch of ash on the ground. The Yellowstone fires of 1988 blanketed Billings in smoke for weeks.
In the 1990s, the service sector in the city increased with the development of new shopping centers built around big box stores such as Target, Walmart and Office Depot, all of which built multiple outlets in the Billings area. With the addition of more interchange exits along I-90, additional hotel chains and service industry outlets are being built in Billings. Development of business parks and large residential developments on the city's west end, South Hills area, Lockwood, and the Billings Heights were all part of the 1990s. Billings received the All-America City Award in 1992.
4th Ave. N., and N. 28th St. Intersection, Downtown
In the 21st century, Billings saw the development of operations centers in the city's business parks and downtown core by such national companies as GE, Wells Fargo and First Interstate Bank. It also saw renewed growth in the downtown core with the addition of many new buildings, new parking garages and a new MET Transit Center, and in 2002 Skypoint was completed. Downtown also saw a renaissance of the historic areas within the downtown core as building after building was restored. In 2007, Billings was designated a Preserve America Community.
With the completion of the Shiloh interchange exit off Interstate 90, the TransTech Center was developed and more hotel development occurred as well. In 2010 the Shiloh corridor was open for business with the completion of the Shiloh parkway, a 4.8-mile (7.7 km) multi-lane street with eight roundabouts. More shopping centers were developed in the 21st century. One of the newest is Shiloh Crossing, which brought the first Kohl's department store to Montana. Other new centers include Billings Town Square with Montana's first Cabela's, and West Park Promenade, Montana's first open-air shopping mall. In 2009, Fortune Small Business magazine named Billings the best small city in which to start a business. Billings saw continued growth with the largest actual growth of any city in Montana. On June 20, 2010 (Father's Day), a tornado touched down in the downtown core and Heights sections of Billings. The MetraPark Arena and area businesses suffered major damage.
In the 2010s, Eastern Montana and North Dakota have experienced an energy boom due to the Bakken formation, the largest oil discovery in U.S. history. In August 2016, a 324-foot high-rise complex called the One Big Sky Center was proposed for downtown Billings. If built, it would be the tallest building in Montana and Montana's first 300-foot plus building.
The Rims border the northern and eastern edges of the downtown core.
Two-thirds of the city is in the Yellowstone Valley and the South Hills area and one-third in the Heights-Lockwood area. The city is divided by the Rims, long cliffs, also called the Rimrocks. The Rims run to the north and east of the downtown core, separating it from the Heights to the north and Lockwood to the east, with the cliffs to the north being 500 feet (150 m) tall and to the east of downtown, the face rises 800 feet (240 m). Billings elevation is 3,126 feet above sea level. The Yellowstone River runs through the southeast portion of the city. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 43.52 square miles (112.72 km2), of which, 43.41 square miles (112.43 km2) is land and 0.11 square miles (0.28 km2) is water.
Around Billings, seven mountain ranges can be viewed. The Bighorn Mountains have over 200 lakes and two peaks that rise to over 13,000 feet (4,000 m): Cloud Peak (13,167 ft (4,013 m) and Black Tooth Mountain (13,005 ft (3,964 m). The Pryor Mountains directly south of Billings rise to a height of 8,822 feet and are unlike any other landscape in Montana. They are also home the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. The Beartooth Mountains are the location of Granite Peak, which at 12,807 feet (3,904 m) is the highest point in the state of Montana. The Beartooth Highway, a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks along the Montana–Wyoming border, rises to 10,947 feet. It was called "the most beautiful drive in America" by Charles Kuralt. The Beartooth Mountains are just northeast of Yellowstone National Park. The Crazy Mountains to the west rise to a height of 11,209 feet at Crazy Peak, the tallest peak in the range. Big Snowy Mountains, with peaks of 8,600 feet, are home to Crystal Lake. The Bull Mountains are a low-lying heavily forested range north of Billings Heights. The Absaroka Range stretches about 150 mi (240 km) across the Montana-Wyoming border, and 75 miles at its widest, forming the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park.
Downtown Billings has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa) depending on the isotherm used, closely bordering on semi-arid (Köppen BSk), with dry, hot summers, and cold, dry winters. However, areas outside of downtown can have a hot-summer continental climate, even with the -3C/27F isotherm, due to the urban heat island effect, as exemplified by the Billings Logan International Airport. In the summer, the temperature can rise to over 100 °F or 37.8 °C (1 to 3 times per year) while the winter will bring temperatures below 0 °F or −17.8 °C on an average of 17 to 18 nights per year. The snowfall averages 55 inches or 1.40 metres a year, but because of warm chinook winds that pass through the region during the winter, snow does not usually accumulate heavily or remain on the ground for long: the greatest depth has been 33 inches or 0.84 metres on April 5, 1955, after a huge storm which dumped 4.22 inches or 107.2 millimetres of water equivalent precipitation as snow in the previous three days under temperatures averaging 26.7 °F (−2.9 °C).
The snowiest year on record was 2014 with 103.5 inches or 2.63 metres, topping the 1996–97 previous record of 98.9 inches or 2.51 metres. The first freeze of the season on average arrives by October 4 and the last is May 7. Spring and autumn in Billings are usually mild, but brief. Winds, while strong at times, are considered light compared with the rest of Montana and the Rocky Mountain Front.
Due to its location, Billings is susceptible to severe summer weather as well. On June 20, 2010, a tornado touched down in the Billings Heights and Downtown sections of the city. The tornado was accompanied by hail up to golf ball size, dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning, and heavy winds. The tornado destroyed a number of businesses and severely damaged the 12,000-seat MetraPark Arena.
Billings has many sections that comprise the whole of the city. The sections are often defined by Billings's unique physical characteristics. For example, a 500-foot (150 m) cliff known as the "Rims" separates the Heights from downtown Billings.
There are 11 boroughs called "sections" within Billings' city limits.
Neighborhoods and zones
The south side of Billings is probably the oldest residential area in the city, and it is the city's most culturally diverse neighborhood. South Park is an old growth City park, host to several food fairs and festivals in the summer months. The Bottom Westend Historic District is home to many of Billings first mansions. Midtown, the most densely populated portion of the city is in the midst of gentrification on a level few, if any, areas in Montana have ever seen. New growth is mainly concentrated on Billings's West End, where Shiloh Crossing is a new commercial development, anchored by Scheels, Montana's largest retail store. Residentially, the West End is characterized by upper income households. Denser, more urban growth is occurring in Josephine Crossing, one of Billings's many new contemporary neighborhoods. Downtown is a blend of small businesses and office space, together with restaurants and a walkable brewery district. The Heights, defined as the area of the city northeast of the Metra, is predominantly residential, and a new school was recently constructed to accommodate growth in the neighborhood.
Main article: Billings Metropolitan Area
Billings is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area. The metropolitan area consists of three counties: Yellowstone, Stillwater, and Carbon. The population of the entire metropolitan area was estimated at 183,799 in 2020.
Historical populationCensusPop.%±1870145—1880587304.8%189083642.4%19003,211284.1%191010,031212.4%192015,10050.5%193016,3868.5%194023,21641.7%195031,83437.1%196052,85166.0%197061,58116.5%198066,7988.5%199081,15121.5%200089,84710.7%2010104,17015.9%2020 (est.)109,7365.3%U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2010, there were 104,170 people, 43,945 households, and 26,194 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,399.7 inhabitants per square mile (926.5/km2). There were 46,317 housing units at an average density of 1,067.0 per square mile (412.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.6% White, 4.4% Native American, 0.8% Black, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.2% of the population.
There were 43,945 households, of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.4% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.6% of residents under the age of 18; 9.8% between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.3% from 25 to 44; 26.3% from 45 to 64; and 15% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age in the city was 37.5 years. The gender makeup of the city was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $35,147, and the median income for a family was $45,032. Males had a median income of $32,525 versus $21,824 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,207. About 9.2% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over. 29.4% of the population had a bachelor's degree or higher.
Billings' location was essential to its economic success. Billings's future as a major trade and distribution center was basically assured from its founding as a railroad hub due to its geographic location. As Billings quickly became the region's economic hub, it outgrew the other cities in the region. The Billings trade area serves over a half million people. A major trade and distribution center, the city is home to many regional headquarters and corporate headquarters. With Montana having no sales tax, Billings is a retail destination for much of Wyoming, North and South Dakota as well as much of Montana east of the Continental Divide. $1 out of every $7 spent on retail purchases in Montana is being spent in Billings. The percentage of wholesale business transactions done in Billings is even stronger: Billings accounts for more than a quarter of the wholesale business for the entire state (these figures do not include Billings portion of sales for Wyoming and the Dakotas). Billings is an energy center; Billings sits amidst the largest coal reserves in the United States as well as large oil and natural gas fields.
In 2009, Fortune Small Business magazine named Billings the best small city in which to start a business. Billings has a diverse economy including a large and rapidly growing medical corridor that includes inpatient and outpatient health care. Billings has a large service sector including retail, hospitality and entertainment. The metro area is also home to 3 oil refineries, a sugar beet refining plant, commercial and residential construction, building materials manufacturing and distribution, professional services, financial services, banking, trucking, higher education (4 campuses, 19 others have a physical presence/classes), auto parts wholesaling and repair services, passenger and cargo air, cattle, media, printing, wheat and barley farming, milk processing, heavy equipment sales and service, business services, consumer services, food distribution, agricultural chemical manufacturing and distribution, energy exploration and production, surface and underground mining, metal fabrication, and many others providing a diverse and robust economy.