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The original item was published from 2/18/2015 10:31:29 AM to 3/5/2015 12:05:01 AM.

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Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: February 18, 2015

[ARCHIVED] High tech businesses give big economic boost

Butte’s mining jobs pay some of the best wages in the state. But there’s another growing sector in southwest Montana that packs an economic punch.

The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research released a study on Tuesday touting the importance of high-tech and manufacturing jobs.

The 143 members of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance – eight of whom are in southwest Montana – pay their employees more than $50,000 a year, and combined for more than $632 million in sales in 2014.

“I don’t think people appreciated the contribution high-tech and manufacturing are making in the state,” said Greg Gianforte, chair of the business alliance and founder of RightNow Technologies in Bozeman. “Honestly, we weren’t sure either.”

The group, founded last spring, hopes to use the study as a tool to help “shine a brighter light” on the sector.

One of the key findings of the study is that members said attracting qualified, talented employees is one of their biggest obstacles. One of the business alliance’s biggest goals is to improve recruiting.

“You have a tremendous asset in Butte with Montana Tech,” Gianforte said, pointing to its highly qualified computer science graduates.

People with Hoplite, a small software-security company that opened an office in Butte’s Thornton Building in July, said that they hoped to work with Tech to recruit interns and graduates.

But Gianforte said that all of last year’s Tech computer science graduates took jobs out-of-state.

The business alliance hopes to change that with tools like a jobs portal posting open positions for member businesses.

According to the study, alliance members plan to add 400 new jobs over the next year, and employment and revenue are expected to grow 8 to 10 times faster than the state average.

Tech companies can operate from virtually anywhere nowadays. It’s not like tech workers need to flock toward major cities.

“The Internet really removes geography as a constraint,” Gianforte said.

Read the full story in The Montana Standard.
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