Bozeman’s year-round natural amenities are hard to beat: world-class skiing in the winter at Bridger Bowl Ski Area; whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River come spring; hiking Baldy Mountain or fishing miles of designated Blue Ribbon trout streams in the summer; and basking in the fall colors while viewing the abundant wildlife in and around nearby Yellowstone National Park. It’s an outdoor-lover’s paradise.
But Bozeman is also a tech-savvy, economically vibrant, highly educated city on the grow. Montana State University students have earned prestigious scholarships and research grants that place the relatively small school on par with top research universities nationwide. University research has helped carve a niche in the laser optics industry, making Bozeman second only to Albuquerque for laser optics companies.
“We have about 35 companies in town that work in the lasik industry – everything from equipment for lasik eye surgery to military weaponry that uses lasers,” says City Manager Chris Kukulski.
Software giant Oracle also employs about 1,000 people in Bozeman, and manufacturers of American-made outdoor recreation gear – such as Simms Fishing Products, Mystery Ranch handmade backpacks (used by the U.S. military), and Sitka Gear – call Bozeman home.
No wonder the city’s population grew 36 percent between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, 54 percent of that population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“We’re a safe, small town that’s grown into a small city,” Kukulski says. “People are very comfortable raising a family here.”
Bozeman's elementary, middle and high schools all get high marks from Great Schools, as well as strong community support. Three private schools – one with a 105-year history – round out the city’s attractive lower education offerings.
Downtown restaurants, breweries, arts and shopping define Bozeman’s unique culture. “Probably the best gem we have is a very successful Main Street,” Kukulski notes. “Our Main Street is fully occupied, dynamic and successful, with a very eclectic mix of businesses.”