ATG hires 100th employee, reaches $18M in economic input

Employees at ATG in downtown Missoula work with some of the largest technology companies in the world. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The employees at Advanced Technology Group in Missoula planned to celebrate when the staff grew to 25, but they were too busy to acknowledge the milestone. They tried again at 50 but the results were the same.

Now that ATG has grown its downtown office to 100 employees, it may give the celebration another shot.

The company reached the milestone at the close of July, making it one of the fastest growing tech companies in the state. Along the way, it also has emerged as an economic leader, injecting more than $18 million into Missoula’s economy each year.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Tom Stergios, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development. “We’ve been well over 100 employees for a while because we have some in Helena and Bozeman, but now we have 100 in our downtown office on Main Street.”

ATG opened that office with just two employees in 2011. The rapid growth and international reputation speaks to the company’s success. It now claims some of the leading tech clients in the world, including SalesForce, Concur and Experian, and its payroll exceeds $10 million annually.

As a rising star in the tech industry, Stergios believes ATG could double is local workforce in the years to come. It could also help bring other tech-based companies to Missoula as the city’s profile grows.

“Success for us at ATG is 300 people and all these other tech companies locating in Missoula,” said Stergios. “We already have OnXmaps, Orbital Shift and Submittable – they’re all formidable tech companies and there’s room for more.”

The success has garnered ATG – and Missoula by default – its share of attention over the past year.

In March, the company was featured in a CBS news report, in which reporter Meg Oliver described the downtown office as looking “more like a college dorm than a thriving multimillion-dollar tech company,” one that’s growing faster than the state economy and pays twice the median wage.

While the publicity has been good, Stergios attributes much of the company’s success to its focus on emerging trends, from opportunities in the tech industry to shortcomings in the workforce.

That later vision led ATG to establish a tight relationship with the University of Montana and other local programs, including the Montana Code School and the Big Sky Code Academy, both based in Missoula.

Among its partnerships with the university, ATG launched a new program teaching Salesforce – one of its largest vendors. Doing so gave UM students an inside look at real-world tech concepts that carry over into a number of jobs offered at ATG.

Meagan Damrow, the talent acquisition specialist with ATG, said the partnership has enabled her firm to hire 60 UM graduates. ATG is also working closely with the university – and with local high schools – to provide more internships.

“We have a vetting process where they come in and talk to a couple team members to see if they’re going to be a good fit, then we put them on a number of projects throughout their couple weeks here and see how they deliver,” said Damrow. “It gives them real-world insight into what they’d be doing after they graduate.”

As ATG helps grow the talent pipeline, it’s also emerging as one of Missoula’s larger economic drivers. The latest study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM found that ATG now provides more than $18 million in economic impact in Missoula each year.

“If you look at our 100 employees, they’re buying new homes, and they’re spending money with local restaurants and bars,” said Stergios. “That’s where the jobs we provide with $10 million in direct wages cascades into the economic impact.”

ATG’s growing profile and its client list has also positioned it to showcase Missoula and tackle some of the tech industry’s leading challenges, such as generational barriers and women in leadership. Both topics will be among several discussed this week in a tech summit hosted by ATG.

“We’re bringing customers and partners in from around the world, and these are the largest tech companies and the senior leaders from these companies,” Stergios said. “For many of these tech companies, it’s going to be their first time in Montana and they’ll be meeting with people who have played an important part in their success.”

Stergios said they’ll be encouraged to consider Missoula for future expansion.

“Bozeman has 10 times as many high-paying tech jobs and it’s half our size,” Stergios said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have 20 100-person companies based in Missoula.”