Study: Montana’s High-Tech Industry is Thriving

High-tech businesses are projected to pump $35 million of investments into the state this year

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — Montana’s high-tech industries are booming, and the growth isn’t showing signs of stopping, a new study reports.

The study by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research showed that wages in those industries are twice the median earning per Montana worker, and they are projected to pump $35 million of investments into the state this year.

The study commissioned by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance also projects the growth of high tech businesses to be eight to 10 times greater than the average statewide economic growth.

Launched in April 2014, the alliance strives to provide networking, promotion and job growth for high tech and manufacturing jobs around the state.

“High tech and manufacturing represents a very strong economic engine for the state,” Greg Gianforte, MHTBA board chair, told the Independent Record.

The biggest challenge facing these companies is finding skilled workers to hire, Gianforte said. This is why the alliance launched a high tech jobs portal that could help connect those companies with the skilled workers they seek.

Most of this booming growth is occurring in the greater Bozeman and Missoula markets. Alliance director Christina Henderson said about two-thirds of MHTBA’s members are in those two metropolitan areas.

But the beauty of many technology careers, Henderson said, is they don’t suffer from geographic limitations.

“The opportunities to grow businesses in Helena are similar to what’s going on across the state,” she said.

The alliance has several members in Helena that are striving for growth, such as digital and non-digital gaming developers Anvil Studios, LLC.

Born and raised in Montana’s capital city, Dylan Kahn partnered with other “young talent” to “pursue this new, emerging demographic in the game industry.”

Though working in Helena and other remote communities now, Kahn said the company is contemplating a move to Bozeman or Missoula within the next six to 10 months.

But eventually it may be forced out of the state.

Kahn said Montana “hemorrhages” young talent out of the state every year, and if Anvil continues to prosper it may be forced to chase that talent to other areas.

“We haven’t been concerned enough with the desires of young people who want to live here, the economy hasn’t reflected those desires or interests,” Kahn said.