Technology is the great equalizer. There’s no reason Missoula can’t compete with Silicon Valley and that’s the message we heard at the Montana High Tech Jobs Summit.

On Monday, close to 700 Montanans came out to the University of Montana to talk about the growth of high tech jobs in our state. Technology has removed geography as a constraint to doing business and the opportunities are endless. Our big sky and Montana way of life are our greatest recruiting tools as Montana takes hold of the future – a future we know lies in technology.

We had a first class lineup of speakers at the Summit. Men and women who’ve learned about technology, not from a textbook, but from living and breathing it, gathered to discuss the future of high tech jobs. These jobs are growing at seven times the rate of Montana’s economy. The rest of the world is realizing what we’ve known all along in Montana, you can work where you like to play.

Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte, who started RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, knows a lot about that. He shared his insight into the importance of entrepreneurship in bringing opportunity to Montana communities. RightNow Technologies became Bozeman’s largest commercial employer with wages that averaged over $70,000 a year and created over 500 jobs in Montana before being acquired by Oracle. RightNow Technologies is just one Montana success story. We also heard from businesses like Blackfoot, Butte Broadcasting, LMG Security, onXmaps, and many others.

We also talked about the gap that exists between rural and urban America. There’s no doubt we must close the technology gap to bring more opportunity to rural Montana. We were excited to hear T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer, Neville Ray, pledge to launch 5G in Montana by 2020.

Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, U.S. Senator John Thune also spoke about rural America and growing high tech jobs. He understands rural - his hometown of Murdo, South Dakota has 461 people. It was great to hear about his efforts in the Senate to bring broadband to underserved areas in rural Montana and on tribal lands.

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“There’s a lot of change ahead, but there’s a lot of opportunity as well.” That was the encouraging message we heard from Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, and in an era of ever-changing technology, it’s critical that Montana remain a leader in innovation and high tech jobs. Our kids and grandkids will hold jobs one day that you and I will never know, but it’s something we can look forward to.

Technology is growing in Montana and it’s bringing more and more high-paying jobs to our state. You don’t have to trade the great Montana way of life, our hiking, fly-fishing and hunting, to have a good-paying job. Technology has removed geography as a constraint to business and Montana is realizing those benefits.

If you were at the Montana High Tech Jobs Summit, thank you for being a part of the important discussion about high tech jobs in our state. The future is technology and that future is here in Montana.

Steve Daines is a U.S. Senator for Montana. 

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