Montana is in something of a technology boom, one which has caught national attention by media such as the Associated Press and CBS News. And, while the boom is concentrated in Missoula and Bozeman, its tentacles are reaching out into other Montana communities, and its rapid growth is expected to continue, according to Christina Quick Henderson, of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, at The Montana Outlook Seminar.
A survey conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, reveals that Montana’s High Tech industry is growing seven times faster than the overall Montana economy. It pays twice the median wage, and generated more than $1 billion in annual revenues in 2016. Companies expected to create nearly 1000 jobs in 2017. The survey was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The technology companies are contributing to spin-off entrepreneurial efforts in Bozeman related to photonics and software clusters. For example, more than 40 photonics companies have sprung up in Bozeman since 1980 and more than 15 new ventures have been launched by former RightNow employees since the firm’s sale to Oracle in 2011, according to the report.
Montana’s technology ecosystem is impacting other communities too such as Columbia Falls, Butte, Lewistown and Malta.
Montana technology entrepreneurship is being spurred by venture capital and angel investment groups, which are also expanding. Next Frontier Capital in Bozeman has made more than 10 investments in Montana high tech companies since raising its first $21 million fund in 2015. That has helped finance companies such as SiteOne Therapeutics, Submittable, Clearas Water Recovery, Quiq, Orbital Shift, IronCore Labs and Blackmore Sensors.
Frontier Angels, a Montana-based Group of Financial Investors, is reorganizing with plans to grow from 35 to more than 100 members, and to expand efforts to fund startups across the state. The group has invested about $15 million into more than 50 Montana tech- based companies since 2006.
Next Frontier Capital announced the closing of a second $22 million fund in October, indicating the momentum behind Tech Investment in Montana.
The Kaufman survey found that Montana entrepreneurs have dense networks of local support, an excellent work force with high retention rates, come from all over the country, target national and international markets, procuring inputs globally.