Tech and the Outdoors: How the “Montana Mystique” is Fueling Business Growth

National Bison Range in Spring, Charlo, Montana. Photo Credit: Eric Henderson.

By Christina Henderson

Montana’s outdoor and recreational opportunities – mountains, rivers, hiking trails, and proximity to national parks – are not just good for tourism, they are also good for tech. In a 2017 research study of Montana’s entrepreneurial ecosystems funded by the Kauffman Foundation, entrepreneurs interviewed used the term “Montana mystique” to describe the state’s allure. The Kauffman study found our natural assets:

  • influence business owners’ decisions to relocate to Montana and start companies here,
  • make the state an attractive destination for clients to visit,
  • and help employers recruit and retain talented workers.

The Montana mystique has played a key role in fueling our state’s recent high-tech boom. According to the 2018 survey conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, the high-tech industry is growing 9 times the overall Montana economy, paying twice the state’s median wage, and represented more than $1.7 billion in revenue last year.

For four straight years, this same survey of high tech and manufacturing companies has found Montana’s quality of life – its lifestyle, recreational opportunities, and the beauty of the landscape – is the most frequently-mentioned advantage to doing business in the state. The relationship between Montana’s growing tech industry and our sense of place is starting to receive wider attention.

In the coming weeks, the nonprofit group Business for Montana’s Outdoors will host a series of roundtables, “Where Montana Technology Meets the Outdoors,” in Bozeman May 17 and Missoula May 31. These free networking events will look at Montana’s booming tech sector and feature the stories of tech entrepreneurs and investors who are leveraging Montana’s place-based assets to serve customers and employees.

I am honored to speak on the panels in both cities, along with several Alliance members, including Foundant TechnologiesLumenAdonX, Adelos, pulseCHECKERNext Frontier Capital and Andrew Gordon.

For more information on both events visit Business for Montana’s Outdoors Facebook page.


About the author: Christina Quick Henderson has served as executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance since its launch in April, 2014. Henderson writes and speaks on Montana business trends, entrepreneurship and high-growth companies for Montana Business Quarterly and other publications. She holds an English degree from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the University of Montana, Missoula.

About the publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 325 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates.

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