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High-tech companies continue to be an important component of Montana’s economy, generating more than $2 billion in revenue in 2018 and growing at rates up to nine times faster than the statewide economy, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research. According to the study, high tech pays more than twice the median earning per Montana worker and represents the third highest-paying industry in Montana.

The study found that Montana High Tech Business Alliance members continue to grow, with Montana employment of about 7,500 and paying an average annual salary of $65,000, 60 percent higher than the average earnings per Montana worker. Montana high-tech companies expect to increase wages by 5 percent in 2019, significantly faster than the 3.2 percent growth of all Montana employers in the most recent data. Survey respondents expect to add 1,700 new jobs in 2019 and make at least $125 million in capital investments in Montana, a 45.3 percent increase over 2018.

“2018 was an outstanding year of growth for Montana’s high-tech industry, with a record $2 billion in revenue, substantial acquisitions of Elixiter (now Perficient) and ATG, a Cognizant company, and the largest investments the state has ever seen with PFL and onX,” said Christina Quick Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. “Five years in, we are more committed than ever to responsible tech growth - helping Montana companies create engaging, high-paying jobs while celebrating and sustaining our incredible quality of life.”

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics was one Montana company that received large out-of-state investments in 2018.

“Blackmore’s 2018 Series B with BMW iVentures and Toyota AI Ventures demanded rapid growth,” Stephen Crouch, CTO, Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, said. “Montana’s quality of life was key to attracting new talent as we nearly tripled in 2018. The HTBA is an outstanding outlet for sharing this growth experience and learning from companies facing similar challenges.”

The 2019 survey included a question on what skills high-tech employers are looking for in new hires. The most sought-after skills are coding and programming, mentioned by 10.6 percent of member respondents, followed by technical skills (6.5 percent) and sales and marketing skills (5.9 percent). Survey respondents also provided the job titles of three job types their firms most often hire. Software developers were mentioned the most by member respondents at 16.9 percent, followed by sales managers (10.2 percent) and other managers (7.0 percent). For the second year, member and nonmember respondents reported where they hired new employees from; 75-80 percent of new employees from survey respondents came from within Montana.

High-tech companies reported that hiring skilled technology workers and finding capital are their firms’ largest impediments to growth, though somewhat fewer Alliance companies (13.4 percent) reported that it was harder to obtain capital in 2018 when compared to 2017 (20 percent).

For the fifth year in a row, the BBER survey found that Montana’s quality of life – its lifestyle, the work/life balance, the recreational opportunities and the beauty of the landscape – provided significant advantages to doing business in the state. Survey respondents also mentioned Montana’s high-quality workforce as a major advantage.