Montana May Soon Be the New Silicon Valley

Montana is known for its wild countryside and its many great outdoor amenities, but there’s much more going on in our state than what you may realize. Montana has made some major strides in its economic performance in recent years, with more to come.

The High-Tech Sector is Booming

The high-tech sector is growing exponentially in Montana, contributing more than $1.5 billion in revenue last year, according to a survey conducted by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance (MHTBA). That’s an increase of more than 70% in revenue from what was reported in 2015! The board chairman of the MHTBA, Greg Gianforte, says that the high-tech industry remains the fastest growing sector in Montana.

For a better perspective of this substantial growth, the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business reported from a survey that the number of high tech business alliance members doubled in its first year from 101 companies in 2014 to 202 companies in 2015.

This survey revealed an increase of nearly $200 million in revenue from 2015 to 2016 across more than 200 high tech and manufacturing alliance members. High tech companies are expected to raise Montana’s average wages this year by adding nearly 1,000 new jobs paying an average annual salary of $60,000—$20,000 more than the state’s average.

The Silicon Valley may be getting all the attention, but it seems that may soon change. In 2016, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ranked Montana as the #1 state in the nation for entrepreneurship. There is great optimism for business ventures in Montana, particularly in Bozeman.

Successful companies like Oracle (which bought RightNow Technologies for an astounding $1.4 billion), Workiva, Foundant Technologies, Wisetail (whose owner has an inspiring start-up story to tell), Elixiter, and, to name a few, have taken root in Bozeman and are growing rapidly.

SoFi, a finance company, announced plans in 2015 to double its workforce to 100 employees in Helena. Imagine what a company like this will bring to a small town of roughly only 30,000 people.  

The Talent is Growing

Surprisingly, Montana could be doing even better. Companies have mentioned their aspirations to grow faster in Montana, but their main inhibitor is a workforce shortage. There is plenty of work to go around, but there’s just not enough people. This is why many companies in Montana have positioned themselves near universities like MSU in Bozeman and UM in Missoula.

Fortunately, a qualified workforce seems to be ramping up. MSU has had record enrollment for 12 out of the last 14 years. And the computer science department at MSU is the fastest growing department on campus, with an amazing 40% growth from 310 to 430 majors from 2014 to 2015.

MSU has also been attracting the best and the brightest of the state. In 2016, 71% of all High School seniors that received an honors scholarship chose to enroll at MSU. And the talent is showing—the university’s average test score from last year’s freshman class broke a 27-year record, with a grade point average of 3.47.

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