Soon after its founding in 1882, Billings became known as the “Magic City,” a nickname given to the city because it grew so quickly that it sprung up as if by “magic.” Prior to May of that year, only three buildings (a railroad building, a store and a house) graced the townsite in the present-day downtown area on Montana Avenue between 28th and 29th streets. But within 30 days of the town being opened for settlement, 5000 lots were sold. By the Fall of 1882, there were 155 places of business, 99 homes, 6 railroad buildings, 25 tents and one church.
By Alex Tyson
Billings Chamber of Commerce
Convention & Visitors Bureau
Excerpted from the Billings Relocation Guide
Ask residents about what they love about the city of Billings and you’ll more than likely get a plethora of responses that in some way all relate to the goodness of the people in the community. Whether you choose Billings because of its resilient economy, education and medical opportunities, low crime rate, strong housing market, or the history and wonderful leisure ventures, you’ll find the people who do business here, raise their families here, retire here, and/or play here – genuinely enjoy the community in which they live.
The Billings area has evolved into a center of commerce with a great small town feel. It’s large enough to experience the community at your own pace, but small enough to still run into friends at the grocery store. In Billings, business is booming, people are enjoying life and the scenery is as original as the people.
Billings is a regional hub of commerce for an area that stretches in excess of 125,000 square miles. The city is a destination for consumers because it provides goods and services to a vast region. Billings is energized. It embraces its history, but looks forward to the future.
Billings, the county seat of Yellowstone County, was named after Frederick Billings who was the President of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1879 to 1881. The city was nicknamed, the “Magic City,” not long after it was founded in 1882, because of the immediate growth in population. More than a century later, Billings is a vibrant city with a population that nearly doubles every thirty years. As the city matures, transportation continues to play a major role in the economy. With the excellent rail, road and air transportation, industry thrives here.
Agriculture plays a vital role in the Billings economy. The Western Sugar Cooperative Plant processes a multi-million dollar crop of sugar beets every year. Sugar beet farmers from all across the area, deliver their sugar beets to the WS Coop plant. You can always tell when it is fall because the sweet smell of sugar-making sweeps across the city with every cool breeze. Agriculture is Montana’s number one industry and Billings plays a major role in maintaining that statistic. Livestock auctions, agriculture supply stores, and well maintained roads help support farmers and ranchers in a large radius of the region.
Energy also plays a vital role in the local, state and regional economies. A wealth of long-term energy resources has resulted in utility rates that are among some of the lowest in the nation.
Three oil refineries make Billings and Yellowstone County the oil-refining capital of the northern Rockies. Exxon-Mobil and Conoco-Phillips operate refineries in the Billings area, while Cenex-Harvest States runs an operation 20 miles west in Laurel. Coal is a rich natural resource and water is plentiful and of excellent quality.
In addition to its role as a trade, service and energy Mecca, the educational and medical communities provide tremendous options and opportunities for residents and people in outlying communities. Quality education can be found at all levels of curriculum. From pre-school diplomas to doctorates, Billings offers a full spectrum of top quality educational opportunities. The Billings Public School System is the largest in the state and boasts some of the most qualified educators in the nation. Montana State University Billings, Rocky Mountain College, University of Mary and the newly expanded MSU Billings College of Technology all offer innovative and competitive degree programs that draw students from across the region.
The city’s medical corridor provides the most advanced healthcare services in a four-state area, including Wyoming and the Dakotas. Two fully equipped and modern hospitals, St. Vincent Health Care and the Billings Clinic, offer care from a staff of doctors and healthcare specialists who have received national attention for their medical achievements. There are also 40 medical clinics, some that focus on homeopathic care. Hundreds of physicians offer quality care in every major medical specialty. A complete range of medical services, surgical services, and emergency care are available in the heart of the city.
If you like to play, you’re sure to enjoy Billings’ playgrounds. From the gorgeous Rimrocks to free-flowing Yellowstone River, you can walk the dog, ride your bike, run like crazy and enjoy the beauty of Billings’ big sky. The recreational opportunities are endless in the greater Billings area. You can take up an outdoor hobby in each of the four seasons. Enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, hunting, golfing, rafting, bird-watching, boating and much more. You can enjoy a long hike and then hit the town for a first-class dinner at one of the area restaurants. Want to enjoy nature in your vehicle? Take a Sunday drive on the gorgeous Beartooth Scenic Bi-way or Chief Joseph pass. Yellowstone National Park is one of the world’s most incredible scenic wonders and it’s a short Montana drive. Want to take in some history? Head to Pompey’s Pillar 20 miles east of Billings, to check out part of the journey along the Lewis and Clark Trail. You can also head south to historic Little Bighorn National Monument.
Billings is where the plains meet the mountains. You can work hard all week and play hard all weekend. Enjoy rugged mountains, wildlife areas, open vistas, spectacular scenery and meet friendly, helpful people along the way.