Two Truths About High Tech Montana: ATG, Workiva, Helix Business Solutions

As I’m out talking with people, I sometimes hear them say things about Montana’s business community that are based on false assumptions. To counter, here are two truths I’ve learned working with Montana’s high tech and manufacturing companies.

1. Montana has the A-team.

Since I became director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, I’ve met many people – members and prospective members – who I would call A-players. I define A-players as smart, ambitious, highly-skilled people who get things done and make things happen. A-players think, and perform, at a very high level. When I’m around them, I am extra aware of the need to hustle and bring my A-game if I want to play in their league.

Sometimes I encounter outsiders, or even fellow Montanans, who have the misguided perception that our state is playing with the B-team. They seem to think that if a company is from Montana, it can’t be as good as one you’d find in a big urban center. They assume professionals who land in Montana couldn’t make the cut somewhere else. This is absolutely false. Montana is home to world-class people and companies.

Many of our business leaders have had big jobs on Wall Street, in Washington D.C. or Silicon Valley. They’ve had key roles growing local companies like RightNow Techologies in Bozeman, that sold to Oracle in 2012 for $1.8 billion. Montana companies are innovators and well-known in their industries. Their customers are in the Fortune 500, mostly out-of-state and overseas.

These A-players could build successful companies anywhere, but they choose to be here.

2. Businesses want to be here. 

Someone said to me this week, “I don’t know of any out-of-state companies that have located a branch in Montana just because someone wanted to be here.” As I told my colleague, a number of high tech companies in the Alliance have opened offices in Montana because their executives want to live here, and high-quality talent wants to live here. Here are three examples:
  • Advanced Technology Group (ATG) is a Management and Technology Consultancy headquartered out of St. Louis with over 225 employees and locations in Kansas City, Denver, Cincinnati, and Missoula. Tom Stergios founded the Missoula Solutions Center in 2010 and has since hired 50 recent graduates of the University of Montana and Montana State University. Stergios held senior positions at Accenture, Axiom, IBM, Cygent, and Convergys, but wanted to move back to his hometown of Missoula.
  • Workiva (formerly Webfilings) is a software company that helps customers file electronic documents with the Securities and Exchange Commision. Headquartered in Ames, IA, Workiva has offices across the U.S. from New York City to Los Altos, Calif. The company opened a Bozeman office in 2012 and expanded to Missoula in April 2014, tapping graduates of MSU and UM. Jeff Trom, CTO and Managing Director for Workiva, relocated to Bozeman from Iowa because he wanted to live in Montana. (Trom is also one of the founding board members of the MHTBA.)
  • Helix Business Solutions, headquartered in Memphis, TN, provides professional services to customers of Oracle’s Cloud Service (RightNow) platform. Travis Cottom, Director of Cloud Business Solutions for Helix, has returned to his hometown of Dillon, Mont. with the goal of bringing 30 jobs and making the company Dillon’s largest employer. Helix Business Solutions recently launched a series of technology boot camps in partnership with the University of Montana Western to train new employees, potential future employees, and interns.

When I visit these companies, I’ve noticed they have a lot in common – fast growth, innovative work environments, and a company culture that I’d expect to see in Silicon Valley. These are great companies to work for. They could be anywhere, and they choose to be here in Montana.

Christina Henderson, Executive Director

Image Caption: Helix Business Solutions kicked off a series of Technology Boot Camps in Dillon, Mont. July 28. Students include new employees, potential future employees, and interns.