Montana’s high-tech economy generated $1B in 2016

Christina Henderson (Todd Goodrich photo)

Missoula Current

Montana’s high-tech economy generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2016 and grew seven times faster than the statewide economy, according to a new study released by the University of Montana.

Conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the study found that members of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance generated $1.09 billion in revenues last year, up from $867 million in 2015.

Non-member firms generated an additional $487 million.

“Our third annual report shows once again the incredible opportunity for the high-tech industry to transform Montana’s economy by bringing high revenues and high-paying jobs into the state,” said Christina Henderson, executive director of the alliance.

Henderson said the survey included 300 technology and manufacturing firms that belong to the High Tech Business Alliance, as well as 82 nonmember firms.

The results suggest that the high-tech sector expects to add 963 new jobs this year that pay an average annual salary of $60,000. The job growth marks a 19.2 percent increase.

“This year’s survey also showed that Montana’s positive business climate and extensive network of business resources – from our universities and nonprofits to mentor companies, banks and government – all play a crucial role in helping Montana entrepreneurs succeed,” said Henderson.

The survey also found that for the third year in a row, the state’s quality of life provided significant advantages to doing business in the state. Those who responded to the survey mentioned Montana’s high-quality workforce as a major advantage.

“Missoula is particularly poised for growth due to the underemployment that is prevalent in our area,” said Tom Stergios, the senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Advanced Technology Group in Missoula. “ATG is pleased to have hired nine people already this year and plans to add 25 to 30 more jobs in 2017.”

According to the survey, roughly 14,580 people were employed at more than 2,320 high-tech businesses across the state, with the bulk of those jobs in Missoula and Bozeman. The average pay was $66,622 a year, up 2.3 percent from the prior year.

Henderson said the data will be used to build a case study on entrepreneurial ecosystems this spring. The project marks a partnership between the Alliance, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Blackstone LaunchPad at UM, and MonTEC – the university’s business incubator.

James Grunke, president and CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership, said high-tech growth is key to the city’s economic future.

“Jobs in the high-tech sector pay approximately 46 percent more than the median household wage in Missoula, which is why growing high-tech businesses is integral to improving Missoula’s economy,” Grunke said. “We rely on the survey’s findings to attract and retain high-tech businesses in the Missoula area.”