Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) One of Missoula's fastest growing companies is also pushing its way onto the list of the city's largest employers, and its economic impact on the region is now measured in nine figures.

Between 2017 and the end of 2021, Cognizant ATG more than tripled its number of jobs and grew its economic output roughly five times, according to a study by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The study found that in 2021, Cognizant ATG’s impact on the Missoula region reached more than $122 million. BBER’s analysis also found that Cognizant ATG supported 814 jobs in the local Missoula economy last year, including the company’s own employment of approximately 300 individuals.

“This is a story about the power of partnerships,” Kate Pace, director of strategy operations at Cognizant ATG, told the Missoula Current. “Putting people first and investing in an ecosystem that fosters learning and growth has had a measurable impact on our ability to perform for our clients, and advance opportunities for all our stakeholders.”

Several years ago – and recognizing the need to fill hundreds of new jobs – Cognizant ATG teamed up with the University of Montana to launch the Aim Higher program. The program teaches prospective employees new skills in the tech industry and prepares them for high-paying jobs within the company.

The program was considered novel in Montana at the time and received national acclaim. Since launching in 2019, Aim Higher has hosted seven cohorts of students and led around 224 individuals into tech jobs across the state, many within Cognizant itself.

Students in Cognizant ATG's Aim High program graduate at the University of Montana. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file)
Students in Cognizant ATG's Aim Higher program graduate at the University of Montana. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file)

With a steady stream of employees, Cognizant ATG is now expanding its facilities in Missoula with the construction of two new buildings within the tech campus at the Old Sawmill District. Cognizant ATG has leased more than 40,000 square feet, which will support as many as 400 employees.

“Our relationship with the University of Montana has never been stronger,” said Kym Corwin, the company's executive director of Application Support Services. “Aim Higher continues to prove itself, ensuring folks with non-tech backgrounds have the opportunity to transition into the field and have a fast-growing career.”

ATG began as two employees in Missoula in 2011 and quickly grew. By early 2018, it claimed 130 employees and ran out of space in its old downtown office on Main Street. Later that year, ATG was acquired by Cognizant, a global provider of Internet technology.

With the merger complete and plans for growth on the horizon, Cognizant ATG found a new home at the Cambium Place in the Old Sawmill District. The facility was freshly finished when the company moved in back in March 2019.

But even then, with its partnership with UM in full swing, the company needed more space and the Old Sawmill District was set to begin construction on its tech campus. As move-in nears, the company now represents the area's largest employer. That benefits jobs in other industries including construction, retail and health care, the UM study noted.

The new tech campus at the Old Sawmill District. (Photo courtesy of Cognizant ATG)
The new tech campus at the Old Sawmill District. (Photo courtesy of Cognizant ATG)

“When I jointed ATG 11 years ago, we had big aspirations to create hundreds of jobs in Missoula,” said Holly Colbert, vice president of operations. “Looking around that small office of 10 people, it was exciting to envision what we see now. With a lot of hard work, good bets on technology and a great partnership with UM, we can reflect on and celebrate the cumulative impact of Cognizant ATG's operations in Montana and the many people who helped make it a reality.”

Tom Stergios, who started ATG's Missoula office in 2011, remains with Cognizant-ATG as vice president of strategy and corporate development, as well as general manager of the Missoula Solution Center.

"Today we are more than 300 employees strong in Missoula and close to expanding into our new state-of-the art facility in the Old Sawmill District,” Stergios said. “It’s incredibly satisfying to see the positive local impacts we’re making – the tech careers we’re fostering, the personal connections being forged, and the way our contributions overall are helping to keep the community vibrant.”