Connor McMahon, Montana retail specialist, traveled to the ICSC national convention in Las Vegas in May 2022. The conference had been canceled for the two prior years. Connor says the demand to expand retail footprints was evident throughout his interactions with developers, other brokers, and retailers. “Attendance was high,” he says. “There was renewed interest in retail expansion after putting those strategies on ice after a couple of years.”
In particular, Montana is of interest to retail brands and their developers. The size of the market and name recognition from national publicity has created the right conditions for retailers to consider their growth plans for the state. Some places get a little more visibility than others, though.
“Bozeman,” Connor notes. “Everyone knows Bozeman. We shared with several developers and brands that Bozeman’s commercial pricing is the highest in the state. But, it isn’t the largest market. So, although Gallatin County is certainly popular, there is potential for expansion into equally strong markets like Missoula and Billings.”
However, locals aren’t the only ones dealing with sticker shock at land prices. And, Connor relayed that national developers had the sense that Montana had a bit more low-hanging fruit than is actually available. Connor noticed “a misperception that commercial land is inexpensive here. It came as a surprise to hear that some areas of Montana demand the same prices as some major metropolitan markets.”
What’s the takeaway for Montana landowners in or near retail corridors? Entitling your property puts you miles ahead of the competition, says Connor. He recommends performing proactive soil and environmental assessments. A comprehensive listing package is more attractive to potential buyers or tenants. “We are getting more of these calls every day from folks looking to sell or lease their land and need the advice to make it as marketable as possible,” he says.