Missoula County approves state grant, reimburses ATG for creating 34 new jobs

Employees at Advanced Technology Group in Missoula tend to their duties in the headquarters in the Old Sawmill District. The company was acquired by Cognizant last year and remains one of the city’s fastest growing employers. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Missoula County commissioners last week approved a $255,000 state grant to reimburse ATG-Cognizant for creating 34 new jobs in 2019, making it one of Missoula’s fastest growing employers.

Jobs affiliated with the grant from the Big Sky Trust Fund, managed by the Montana Department of Commerce, pay more than $19.65 an hour.

“They’ve actually hired all 34 employees already,” said Nicole Rush with the Missoula Economic Partnership. “They’re paying above that $19.65 an hour. A lot of them are jobs for the graduates who have just come through the AIM program at Missoula College.”

ATG, acquired by Cognizant in 2018, opened its new headquarters in the Old Sawmill District in March. There, it announced its plans to ramp up hiring and launch a new training program at Missoula College to develop its workforce needs.

More than four dozen students have completed the 12-week program, and most have landed jobs within the company. Members of the business community have praised the program for its ability to ramp up a skilled workforce for Missoula’s growing tech sector.

“It means opportunity,” Tom Stergios, vice president of strategy and corporate development for ATG in Missoula, said earlier this year. “It means all my existing employees will be able to do their current job, and there will be a host of new ones.”

Missoula County administers the Big Sky Trust Fund grants locally in partnership with MEP. Rush, who handles the grant applications, has seen the number of submissions increase in recent years, signaling a strong local economy.

The grants provide funding to growing businesses to help offset the purchase of new equipment and reimbursement of wages associated with new jobs. To be eligible for reimbursement, the jobs must pay at or above the median wage, which sits at $19.65 an hour in Missoula County.

Rush identified one of the future applicants as Bedrock Sandals. The company announced in October that it would locate its national headquarters, flagship store and repair shop in Missoula.

It’s not yet known how many jobs the company looks to create over the coming year.

“We wanted a place with better backyard access to rivers and mountains, a more affordable cost of living, and more seasons for testing and developing new footwear,” Bedrock co-founder Nick Pence said last month. “Missoula’s down-to-earth feel, outdoor recreation, and sense of community hit all the marks.”

Rush said the next round of Big Sky grant applications is due Dec. 18, including Bedrock Sandals.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at martin@missoulacurrent.com