The Alliance is writing a series of profiles on Montana cities to help people find the right community when they’re looking at taking a high-tech or manufacturing job or locating an office in Montana. Help us capture your communities’ flavor, amenities, and business environment for our website by sending information to emily.simonson[at]mthightech.org. We’ll write about cities in alphabetical order and update these pages in the future.
By Emily Simonson, Christina Henderson, and Katy Spence
Montana’s largest city may have a history as a cow town, but proximity to the Bakken oil fields and a business-friendly culture also make Billings fertile ground for entrepreneurs in high tech and manufacturing. Billings has been continuously named as a top city for entrepreneurs and a top city in which to live.
Doing Business in Billings
Aaron Ramage, VP of Projects & Administration of Diamond B Companies, said Billings is stable and growing, a great place to do business, and one of the city’s biggest draws is its economic diversity.
“Billings is pretty easy to get around, the downtown is picking up and growing, and the diversity of the economy includes oil and gas, ag, and high tech,” Ramage said.
The diverse industries are beneficial for Diamond B Companies, which is an umbrella organization that hosts a number of other companies that operate in technology, real estate, oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and hospitality.
Energy tech company GTUIT builds, manufactures, and operates small-scale mobile natural gas processing systems. President and CEO Brian Cebull co-founded the company in 2011, which employs more than 40 people. GTUIT has recently expanded into more national and international locations. Cebull says GTUIT bridges the gap between manual labor and engineering high tech control systems.
Chris Nelson, founder of financial technology company Zoot Enterprises in Bozeman, grew up in Billings and earned degrees in Accounting and Information Systems from MSU – Billings. Nelson and his brother Mike renovated the historic Northern Hotel in downtown Billings into a chic, modern landmark. In 2017, Zoot purchased the GE building and located a team there.
Kampgrounds of America (KOA), the world’s largest network of campgrounds and a leader in outdoor hospitality and related-technology, was founded in Billings in 1962. KOA’s technology talent is responsible for the architecture, development, and support of its proprietary reservation and property management system as well other technologies that improve the operations of their parks. The company’s first female CEO, Montana native Toby O’Rourke, said KOA empowers their employees to take advantage of camping, RV, and other outdoor recreation activities Montana offers through yearly stipends and other benefits.
To further support business, Big Sky Economic Development is a public-private partnership that provides guidance and resources for creating, expanding, and retaining businesses, recruiting new companies, and building community. Big Sky Economic Development also hosts BillingsWorks, a collaboration of Billings businesses and organizations that anticipates and responds to workforce needs.
Billings also has a strong system of financial institutions, including the headquarters of First Interstate Bank (FIB). FIB was founded in 1968 and now has 148 offices across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
Local business development organizations such as the Yellowstone Tech Alliance and 1 Million Cups, meet regularly to connect entrepreneurs with each other and with experienced business leaders and resources to help them grow their businesses. Yellowstone Tech Alliance is particularly focused on workforce, which aligns well with the state’s recent work with Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeships program.
With its business friendly-atmosphere, Billings is a great place for startups. Check out our Startups to Watch lists from 2018 and 2019 for more information on companies like web development platform Cardsetter and survey system Raven CSI.
Tech startup pitch competition and accelerator program Early Stage MT holds regional competitions in Billings. Winners of the regional competition enter the week-long HyperAccelerator and compete in the statewide showcase for $50,000.
In the last three years, coworking spaces have become more popular in Billings. The city’s most recent addition is BHive WorkSpace, located in central Billings and offering memberships, day passes, and conference room rentals.
Check out a selection of Billings jobs from our members:
Senior Accountant, Audit – Billings, Bozeman or MissoulaWipfliBillings, Bozeman, Missoula
Sales Executive- Personal LinesPayneWestBillings
Risk Analyst I – BillingsFirst Interstate BankBillings
Payroll Support Specialist – BillingsWipfliBillings
Loan Servicing Specialist 4 – BillingsWells FargoBillings
Amenities and Fun
Associated Employers President Greg Roadifer has lived in Billings for 27 years. Out of all the places he’s lived, Roadifer said Billings offers a better business environment and opportunities. One of his favorite things is that Billings feels like a small town but has all the amenities, Roadifer said.
“Great restaurants, good entertainment, sports and arts… good elementary and high schools,” Roadifer said.
Beyond good K-12 schools, Billings offers a number of higher education institutions. Montana State University-Billings offers courses in Business Administration, Finance, Information Systems, Computer Science, Computer Desktop/Network Support, Computer Programming & Application Development, Computer Systems Technology, and a wide variety of engineering and manufacturing programs. MSUB also offers a number of online programs including in administration, finance, and human resources. Rocky Mountain College offers courses in Business and Accounting, Computer Science, Communication Studies, and Organizational Leadership.
For the active-minded, Billings residents rave about the city’s bike trails and close access to camping, hiking, and water recreation on Lake Elmo and the Yellowstone River. ZooMontana is a great space for families, and the Pictograph Cave is also a much beloved tourist attraction close to home. For winter enthusiasts, Billings offers great terrain for cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park are both a few hours drive outside of the bustling city.
Billings hosts more than 20 festivals a year, including The Wine & Food Festival in May, the Strawberry Festival in June, Summer Fair in July, and the Harvest Fest in October.
Ken Lutton, president of Technology by Design, and his wife especially love attending the Magic City Blues Festival. In August, Billings closes off Montana Avenue to host the festival.
“Every year they have a two-day concert,” he said. “So they have six or eight bands playing over the two days. I really enjoy those.”
Residents also noted summer concert series Live After Five, a big Fourth of July celebration, and a bustling farmer’s market. Some of the city’s most popular venues include Metra Park, which has hosted concerts for Johnny Cash, Elton John, and Carrie Underwood, and the Alberta Bair Theatre, which hosts theatrical performances and artists like Jewel, The Head and The Heart, and Kansas. Check out more events on Billings365, powered by Cardsetter.
Billingsites are proud of their community and eager to show guests the best Billings has to offer.
“If you’re willing to venture out and spark up conversation with locals, we’re more than happy to tell you where to go, what to eat, what to see, etc.” Karen Baumgart, director of BillingsWorks, said.
Ready to start planning your trip to Billings? Check out our list of great eateries and lodging in Billings and connect with Visit Billings to find more things off the beaten path.
In addition to the extensive bike trail system, the Logan International Airport continues to add direct flights to popular hubs around the country, such as daily flights to Dallas and multiple daily flights to Portland during peak season, as well as extended flights to rural Montana.
About the Authors: Emily Simonson is the staff writer and content creator for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. Originally from Havre, Emily will graduate from the University of Montana with a degree in English in May 2020. She is also a Public Affairs Specialist in the National Guard and enjoys reading and knitting in her spare time.
Christina Quick Henderson is Executive Director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, management and organizational behavior in the College of Business at the University of Montana.
Katy Spence is the Communications Director for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and has an Environmental Journalism Master’s Degree from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of highly-engaged high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org or subscribe to our biweekly newsletter.