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Outdoor Recreation Draws Tech Companies to Montana

Montana's outdoor recreation is cited as one reason it has ranked as the top destination for business startups, four of the last five years. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
Montana's outdoor recreation is cited as one reason it has ranked as the top destination for business startups, four of the last five years. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
May 29, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Montana's natural beauty is attracting technology companies, and perhaps even beginning to rival Silicon Valley. The high-tech sector is growing nine times faster than the rest of Montana's economy and earned $1.7 billion in revenue in 2017, according to a survey by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance.

Christina Henderson, the executive director of the alliance, says this expansion is expected to continue because tech companies and their workers value access to the outdoors.

"Montana, with our access to national parks and outdoor recreation, skiing, great trails, flyfishing - all of those outdoor assets are key to attracting and retaining knowledge workers, which is the type of talent that we need to fuel the tech industry," she explains.

Henderson says attracting talent will be critical to the industry's continued growth in Montana. She says the state has ranked as the top destination for start-up companies four out of the last five years.

This Thursday, the group Business for Montana's Outdoors is hosting a roundtable in MIssoula on technology companies and outdoor recreation.

Henderson says the Montana lifestyle has a lot in common with the entrepreneurs who start tech businesses.

"What we saw is that Montana's landscape and the types of people who are attracted to that rugged wilderness, and who are willing to go out backcountry camping or skiing, are the kinds of people that also are willing to take on the risks and start companies," she says.

Because the outdoors is so important to the state's flourishing tech sector, Henderson says it's also important to members of her alliance to protect it.

"In our view, conserving our outdoors, preserving access to public spaces is a bipartisan issue, and something that our members definitely support," she notes.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT