ClassPass to expand hiring as businesses remain bullish on Missoula’s economy

Job seekers review opportunities with ClassPass during the company’s recent celebration after opening its Missoula office. The company received 2,500 applications, prompting it to expand the number of jobs it will bring to Missoula. (Missoula Current file photo)

When ClassPass introduced itself to Missoula at a music-infused celebration to mark the opening of its downtown office in January, the company was looking to fill a handful of jobs, primarily in customer experience and sales.

Now, inundated with resumes from skilled employees, the tech company’s plans for Missoula have grown several times over, along with the tech-related jobs it plans to fill.

“They’ve been operating in Missoula for nine weeks right now and have received over 2,500 resumes,” said Jenni Graff, director of economic development for the Missoula Economic Partnership. “As a result of that, ClassPass has decided to expand. Within the next two years, they’re going to hire 120 employees in Missoula.”

Graff broke the news Tuesday at a luncheon with MEP investors while highlighting the results of a new business survey, which presented a bullish outlook on Missoula’s economic future.

Over the past year, MEP surveyed 101 area business that represent $642 million in revenue and nearly 9 percent of the city’s workforce, or around 4,700 employees.

The results, offered by large companies and small, found the majority of local businesses across several industries were poised to expand, with a combined capital investment of $26 million. Roughly 72 percent also had plans to hire within the next year.

Graff said businesses in wholesale and retail were bullish on growth, while internet technology, arts and entertainment and manufacturing expressed an optimistic outlook.

Jenni Graff, the economic development director for the Missoula Economic Partnership, said the state’s tech-industry is booming during a recent presentation. (Missoula Current file photo)

“It’s not completely rosy, though,” Graff cautioned. “Business support and back office are expecting layoffs in the next year. It’s a pretty large sector in our economy, so the fact that they’re looking to retract like that is something we need to look at.”

The survey was intended to identify opportunities and challenges in the local economy. The timing of results could be significant as MEP explores its future after last month’s resignation of former president and CEO James Grunke.

MEP Board Chairman Scott Burke said Grunke’s position will be filled in the months ahead, though it will likely be crafted with the future in mind. What that future is remains to be seen.

“With the departure of James on to bigger and better pastures, it allowed us to take a step back as an organization,” Burke said. “It provided us an opportunity to take a step back and see what we’re doing good, doing well, and what we could do differently or better.”

Attracting ClassPass to Missoula last year served as a major economic success, and the company’s projected job growth is cause for future optimism as Missoula spreads its wings and promotes its trained and eager workforce.

The company currently claims offices in New York City, San Francisco and Missoula. Some employees will be free to move between offices, company officials have said.

“Missoula is a market people will relocate to – they want to be in Missoula – and we now have the data from ClassPass to show that’s absolutely the case,” Graff said. “(Recruiting) ClassPass was an exciting win, but what’s more telling right now is the number of qualified resumes they’ve received as part of their effort to locate here.”

ClassPass praised the city for its receptiveness during its recruiting party back in January, and the other businesses that responded to MEP’s survey expressed general satisfaction in doing business in and with the city of Missoula.

The survey also found that 90 percent of businesses were poised to increase their sales. And while taxes, domestic competition and government policies scored high among factors limiting growth, consumer trends and new technologies scored high, Graff added.

“When I look at positive factors, that’s a good sign,” said Graff. “Our businesses are innovating, they’re looking at new consumer trends and are poised for the future. On the negative side, access to skilled labor is the No. 1 challenge businesses are confronted with right now.”