The rest of the country may view Montana as nothing but farmland and rolling plains, but a new emphasis on technology could change this narrative in the near future.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, a new report from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research has revealed that the state’s high-tech industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation.
The Montana High-Tech Business Alliance has doubled its membership in the past year, creating nearly 940 new jobs. Furthermore, Montana’s high-tech jobs are paying an average of $56,800, which is more than twice the median salary for workers in other industries.
One successful tech company in Montana, Wisetail, specializes in creating online training programs for firms like The Cheesecake Factory and Jamba Juice. While the company’s home base in Bozeman, MT, used to scare off some clients, it now actually helps to attract more business.
“It was a bit of a liability,” said Justin Bigart, owner of Wisetail. “We would be thought of as ‘less than’ our peers in San Francisco — less smart, less capable, less fast. Now, Bozeman is a critical part of our brand. We hold our annual user conference in Bozeman. Now it’s a competitive advantage.”
As companies like Wisetail help to redefine the national image of Montana, more people are flocking to The Treasure State in search of lucrative jobs. In fact, Montana’s population is projected to grow by 14.1% by 2043, which is largely due to its recent emphasis on technology.
In addition to attracting workers from other states, Montana is also focused on growing its tech industry from within. The Montana Code School, which teaches skills that are essential in today’s technological world, is the fastest growing department at Montana State University.
“It’s amazing to see what’s going on with the high-tech industry in Montana,” said John Paxton, head of MSU’s computer science department. “It’s accelerating.”
The Montana Code School is boasting a 90% job placement rate for graduates, and most alumni end up staying in Montana to begin their career. Despite the rapid evolution of technology in Montana, it’s also worth noting that the state’s agriculture industry is also performing well.
As the Flathead Beacon reported, Montana recently received nearly $900,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support conservation projects. A portion of this money will be used to create new jobs in agriculture, wildlife management, and outdoor recreation.
While Montana may not be regarded as the “Tech Capital of the Nation” any time soon, Bigart believes that it is well on its way to establishing itself as a top destination for clients and workers.
“I’m very bullish about the tech industry in Bozeman and Missoula,” Bigart said. “It’s not ‘in the future.’ It’s happening now. The conditions we need are already here.”