Downtown digs: ClassPass to occupy First Interstate building, grow to 175 employees

ClassPass opened its Missoula office in January and has since grown to 100 employees. It will occupy the fifth floor of the First Interstate Bank building in downtown Missoula in January and grow its workforce to 175. Employees gathered in their future office space on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, to celebrate with Gov. Steve Bullock. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The fifth floor of the First Interstate Bank building in downtown Missoula has sat empty for much of the past nine years, never mind its panoramic views and proximity to trendy bars and restaurants.

Now, it’s about to get its first tenant.

ClassPass on Wednesday staked claim to the 15,000-square-foot office, marking the company’s rapid growth in Missoula. What started out as a plan to hire 50 back-office workers last December has since grown to 100 employees and is set to expand to 175 next year.

“Early next year, we’re going to move into this space,” said Bryan Mitchell, head of talent acquisition at ClassPass. “That’s 175 seats we think we can fill very, very quickly.”

ClassPass selected Missoula last year for its third North American office after vetting 900 U.S. cities in 25 states. It opened that local office in January in the Millennium Building, though its growth has since prompted the need for additional space.

It now plans to occupy the fifth floor of the First Interstate building in January.

“Here we are, less than a year later with over 100 employees in town, and it’s exceeding our expectations,” said Mitchell. “It wasn’t just about getting us here. It’s the continued support (Gov. Steve Bullock) has given us once we were here.”

Bullock, who attended Wednesday’s celebration, praised ClassPass’ selection, saying a number of organizations and people played a role in bringing the company to Missoula.

“What started as a plan for a small sales branch has now exploded to not only the customer experience, not only a larger sales branch, but also Internet technology,” Bullock said. “It’s safe to say the emphasis we’re putting on growing the economy and ensuring Montanans have a place to live, recreate, to educate and raise a family – combined with our business friendly environment – are paying off.”

Recruiting an international tech company to Missoula seemed a longshot a decade ago, when the city was searching for an identity as it transitioned from its reliance on jobs in natural resources.

ClassPass is now one of several rapidly growing tech firms calling Missoula home, including ATG, which also has ramped up hiring and plans to add additional jobs under its new owner, Cognizant.

Bullock said Missoula’s tech growth and its proximity to the University of Montana provide new opportunities for students looking for work after graduation, and others looking to move back home.

“Everybody takes credit for ClassPass being here, but really, it’s here because of the community and quality of life and the talented people they can hire,” Bullock said. “I know how much this means for the city of Missoula. I know how much it means for the 100 people who are working here.”

Gov. Steve Bullock praises ClassPass for selecting Missoula for the location of its third North American office. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The Missoula Economic Partnership has identified technology as one of the key industries it looks to grow in the coming years. The city’s pool of educated workers also plays to its advantage, said City Council member Julie Armstrong.

“ClassPass realized that after nationwide search, only Missoula offered a truly unique combination of elements – exceedingly high quality of life, a beautiful natural environment and a motivated, untapped workforce,” she said. “I’m so happy ClassPass believed in Missoula.”

Bullock cited a story in the New York Times, saying that while the Silicon Valley gets all the credit, the real hotbed of entrepreneurial activity is “a few hundred miles to the northeast” in Montana.

“Why I like that is somebody from New York thinks San Francisco to Montana is only a few hundred miles,” Bullock said. “But we are really a place where you can marry quality of life and an educated workforce with innovation and the excitement of generations both older and younger to provide incredible opportunities for this state going forward.”