October 5, 2009

A new study from the Governor's Office seeking to quantify the Restoration Economy in Montana finds

that every $1 spent on restoration generates an estimated $2.59 in economic activity. And in the case of the Milltown Superfund cleanup, the effort will generate an estimated $292 million in economic output over the project's lifespan.

The Restoration Economy is a term that's emerged in recent years to encompass all the work that's going into repairing environmental damage to the nation's ecosystems, including efforts to cleanup and/or restore Superfund sites, old mines, brownfields and forests as well as repair aging infrastructure.

The study, An Estimation of Montana's Restoration Economy, was sponsored by the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Dept. of Labor and Industry. Researchers estimated the economic benefits from restoration by using the Silver Bow Creek Superfund cleanup in the Upper Clark Fork Basin to determine what types and how many jobs are involved in the restoration industry.

The results indicated that 31.52 jobs and $2.59 million in economic activity are created for every million dollars of funding spent on restoration. About 35 percent of restoration jobs are in the construction industry, with 15 percent of jobs in environmental consulting and 10 percent of jobs in government oversight, research, and education.

Using the Silver Bow cleanup as a model, researchers then applied its findings to the Milltown Reservoir Superfund cleanup and restoration. An estimated $113 million will be spent on the Milltown Dam project, resulting in more than 3500 full-time equivalent jobs (1,240 jobs in restoration and 2,323 jobs in other industries) These jobs would be spread over the full timeframe of the project, meaning that if the Milltown Dam project takes 10 years to complete, it would produce an average of 356.3 FTE jobs per year.

Extrapolating the multiplier from the Silver Bow Creek project, the $113 million budgeted for the Milltown project would generate about $292.7 million in economic activity over the life of the project. This economic activity includes $120.2 million in employee compensation, $23.4 million in proprietor income, and $12.8 million in business taxes collected by federal, state, and local governments.

The study also found that average wages paid in restoration were higher than those in similar fields and that the workforce was almost entirely local, i.e. Montana-based.

"Good-paying jobs are being created every day in Montana for men and women operating back-hoes and driving dump trucks who are working to correct mistakes of the past," said Governor Brian Schweitzer in a recent media release. "They're working in our watersheds and forests, on our rangeland, and in mine and land reclamation projects. It's a new restoration economy where workers are upgrading hometown water-systems and revitalizing watersheds as well as Main Streets."

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