The State Science and Technology Institute, a nationally respected research and advisory organization based in Ohio, enumerates five elements that are required for a community to develop a tech-based economy: intellectual infrastructure, mechanisms for transferring knowledge, physical infrastructure, a highly skilled technical workforce and sources of risk capital.
All of those elements can be found in Missoula. No surprise, then, that a number of innovative and award-winning technology companies have chosen to make Missoula their home.
PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION
Missoula Economic Partnership has partnered with The University of Montana to facilitate the world’s first undergraduate course in InfoSphere Streams, a cutting-edge “big data” compute platform from IBM. “This is an exciting opportunity for our state to carve out a name as an area on the cutting edge of the technological world,” said Montana Senator Max Baucus.
Situated on a relatively uncongested east-west line of fiber optic cables with nearby access to north-south U.S. / Canadian fiber, Missoula boasts all the necessary infrastructure for major IT operations. World-class wind, hydroelectric and coal-fired generation plants combine to ensure reliable sources of low-cost power. Missoula’s geographic location provides a low risk of natural disaster as well as abundant and inexpensive access to water — making our town an ideal data center location.
Of course, the IT industry is more about people and innovation than it is places and natural resources. Here too, Missoula shines as an intellectual hub of the state with a highly educated and skilled workforce. Not only that, but skilled professionals around the country watch our local help-wanted ads because they want to move to this area for its quality of life.
Our labor pool is, for most practical purposes, inexhaustible both in quality and quantity. Not many communities can say that. As a result, businesses get remarkable, experienced talent for affordable wages.
The University of Montana plays a major role in the development of our tech-savvy workforce. In late July 2012, The University of Montana announced it would offer the world’s first undergraduate course in InfoSphere Streams, a cutting-edge “big data” compute platform from IBM. This was just the latest addition to UM’s well-rounded computer science offerings for undergraduate and graduate students. UM’s ample research laboratories and academic curriculum routinely generate new knowledge, much of which is routed through the school’s Office of Technology Transfer and into the private sector.
The broader community of Missoula boasts important support mechanisms for fledgling entrepreneurs and early-stage technology businesses. The MEP Angel Network connects local businesses to early-stage capital. The Innovation Initiative offers businesses free one-on-one counseling with renowned experts in fields as diverse as IP, distributed workforce or mobile app development.
It is also worth noting that Montana enterprises have a remarkable track record of success securing federal Small Business Innovation Research grants. Fully 33 percent of Montana applicants have received funding. That’s more than twice the national average. In addition, companies receiving SBIR Phase I Grants are eligible for up to $30,000 from the Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program. And Montana is so serious about supporting scientific and technological innovation that the state offers a $500 bonus to entrepreneurs and faculty members who submit joint SBIR grant applications.
For a partial sampling of local Resources, Companies and Workforce connections, please click to expand the sections and explore the links below.
A number of organizations and associations work to promote and enhance the information technology industry in Western Montana. They include:
Big Sky DevCon — the first statewide technology conference for Montana software developers, Web designers and business leaders in the technology industry.
Innovate Montana — a public-private partnership led by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to promote and market opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in Montana’s growing economy.
Missoula BarCamp — held each spring, Missoula BarCamp is an “unconference” where the agenda and the conference is created dynamically by the attendees during the event. Its focus is on learning about technology, especially Web technology, for fun and for nonprofits.
Missoula Unix Users Group — Google group with occasional meetings for Missoula-based Unix programmers and users.
Montana Associated Technology Roundtables — provides networking and information opportunities to the entrepreneurs, investors and professionals of Montana and the Inland Northwest Region.
Montana Telecommunications Association — provides government affairs, communications, training and education, trade shows and related services to independent telecommunications service providers throughout Montana.
Montana Programmers — network of coders from all walks of life, languages, backgrounds, industries and skill levels.
Montana Web Designers & Developers Association — exists to connect Internet-based developers and firms who are graphic or Web designers; Web programmers; media and graphic artists; Internet service providers, marketers and consultants; and industry insiders and innovators.
Sustainable Business Council — provides education and technical assistance to help businesses, organizations and individuals in Montana adopt sustainable practices that protect and enhance the environment, the region’s economy and local communities.
Missoula and the surrounding region are home to numerous innovative and award-winning information technology companies.
Axiom IT Solutions — specialists in IT consulting and custom software solutions, with more than 155 years of experience and training in the spectrum of platforms, technologies, environments and databases. (Missoula)
Big Sky Commerce — an integrated provider of merchant credit card transaction processing services, check processing services, Internet payment gateways, related software application products and value-added services. (Missoula)
Edulog — Leading provider of school district planning software and intelligence, with products covering bus routing and tracking, boundary optimization, enrollment projection and other needs. (Missoula)
GCS Research — creators of connected “smart” applications and data systems, innovative extensions for industry-leading core platforms, and extensible, integrated Web services that employ GIS functionality and data. (Missoula)
Geodata Services — provider of GIS services for planning, business and community collaboration. (Missoula)
Hunting GPS Maps — creator of Garmin-compatible GPS maps that combine topographical, ownership, hunting district boundary and other data. (Missoula)
iCloseBy — maker of iFob, an app for iPhone or any laptop that uses wireless connectivity to communicate directly with other close-by copies of iFob, instantly letting people exchange taglines & simple profiles. (Missoula)
Logisys —developer of software solutions for law enforcement, fire and EMS; focused on providing efficient decision-making tools for dispatch and records management. (Missoula)
Lupine Logic — offers innovative information technology services for decision and field support in technical, research and scientific markets. (Missoula)
Orbital Shift — its online scheduling software streamlines the process of creating and maintaining work schedules, while enhancing staff communication and awareness. (Missoula)
Quantpost — advanced options analysis and HFT systems to help create a stream of opportunity while carefully managing risk. (Missoula)
SameSky Systems — provides application software, system development/deployment and operation services within cloud computing and high-performance computing environments. (Missoula)
Systems for Environmental Management — nonprofit research and educational corporation serving the community of professional fire and land managers and planners with public domain software. (Missoula)
Submittable — makers of a cloud-based online curation platform used by thousands of organizations to handle digital content, applications, film and audio submissions. Submittable was selected as a 2012 Y Combinator participant. (Missoula)
TeraDact Solutions — provides proven software tools and data integration solutions, incorporating artificial intelligence and semantic processing techniques into a model-based development environment. (Missoula)
Missoula offers distinct outdoor amenities, safe neighborhoods, a strong public K-12 education system and the fifth-shortest metro commute time in the U.S. (16.8 minutes) — the very things that attract interesting, talented, creative people. What’s more, we have a long history of developing highly educated professionals, with 24.7 percent of Missoula residents over 25 holding a college degree.
Our Information Technology workforce is bolstered every year by a new crop of graduates from The University of Montana, which offers degrees in information systems management, mathematics and computer science. In autumn 2012, UM became the world’s first university to offer an undergraduate course in IBM’s groundbreaking InfoSphere Streams “big-data” computing platform. The school is also the first of just 50 universities worldwide with access to IBM’s cloud computing infrastructure.
In addition, Missoula College offers one- and two-year degree programs in a number of information technology fields through its applied computing & electronics and business technology programs.