Gallatin County ranks first in the state in overall economic investment, according to a recent report.

The report, published by New York-based financial tech company SmartAsset, evaluated counties based on several factors — including GDP growth, new building permits and municipal bonds — to create an aggregate score showing overall economic investment.

On a scale of zero to 100, Gallatin County scored 52.15 on the organization’s Incoming Investment Index, just beating out Madison County, which scored 52.08. Park County ranked 15th out of 56 counties in the state with a score of 24.

Gallatin also ranked first in the state in the number of new building permits, issuing just over 18 permits per every 1,000 homes. The county came second in GDP growth — adding $439 million between 2010 and 2013 — behind Yellowstone County, which added $501 million. Overall, Gallatin County ranked 63rd in the country for Incoming Investment Index.

The organization’s methodology tended to favor less population dense areas. Four of the top five counties ranked by Incoming Investment Index are located in North Dakota.

Nevertheless, the findings add to a growing body of evidence pointing toward strong local economic growth. Bozeman-based Prospera Business Network noted similar positive trends in its annual economic profile.

“Gallatin County continues to be the state’s fastest growing area as measured by annual growth in real wages; driving growth in the Bozeman area is an earlier housing recovery and strength in university and tourism-related spending,” the network wrote.

The county is “Montana’s economic growth leader,” added Paul Polzin, director emeritus for the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Polzin credited Montana State University, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of the county’s economic earnings, as the driving force behind the area’s improving economy.

And experts expect the upward trend to continue. BBER projections call for a 3.7 to 4.3 percent growth in earnings in Gallatin County between 2014 and 2017.

“Over the longer run, positive trends in Gallatin County’s high-tech sector and the transition of Bozeman into a regional trade and service center suggest continued growth,” wrote Polzin.

Bozeman added more than 1,500 new electric and gas connections for residential and commercial use in the past year, according to data from NorthWestern Energy. By comparison, the second highest came in Missoula, which added around 650 connections.

New power connections are a good indicator of growth, and they are just one of several regional measurements that are trending positive, said David Fine, economic development specialist for the city of Bozeman.

“Gallatin County is first in growth in Montana in a lot of metrics. It doesn’t surprise me that a national economic organization would look at the data and say that Bozeman is showing growth, because that is what we’re seeing as well,” said Fine.

But despite positive scores in urban pockets, Montana as a whole is struggling for growth. More than 25 counties scored zero in SmartAsset’s Incoming Investment Index.

“There are a number of clusters where we’re doing very well. But if you look at incomes in this area, we can do more to create higher paying jobs,” said Fine.

Economic development remains an oft-discussed topic in local politics, with mayoral candidates continuing to argue over the proper approach to growth.

Overall, though, Bozeman and the surrounding area has laid the groundwork to ensure future economic stability, Fine said.

“One of the things that Bozeman has done really well is make strategic investments that will allow us to grow for the next couple decades,” he said. “Bozeman is a community that invests in itself and you can see that paying off.”