Below are questions we believe will be of interest to visitors to this site. We have developed the answers using our own opinions and/or the best information we can obtain. We may find new information that will cause us to modify or expand on the answers and, from time to time we will learn of other questions that merit listing.
Most of these questions and answers are couched in the context of the technology industry, but many of them are equally relevant to other industries in Montana, ranging from biotech to outdoor recreation to service industries.
Why are we doing this?
We have chosen to live here and to raise our families and start our businesses. We believe our success and the success of other businesses in the state depend the conditions that caused us to want to live here and build our businesses. We feel it is important to have elected officials who will work for and defend policies that will protect and enhance those conditions that insure that Montana continues to be a great place to live and work.
What’s wrong with the way things are now?
Much is already great about Montana, which is why we live here. Our public lands are treasures that are the equal of lands found in any other state. Many of our cities as well as the current administration in Helena have embraced diversity and rejected discrimination. We have a strong public education system that helps prepare our younger generation for future prosperity. But these attributes could be even better and in some cases are under threat from other forces in the state. Our goal with this site and other work is to protect what we already have in these areas and to make them even better in the future.
What Are The Threats To These Key Principles?
Our legislature will not give the Governor the tools needed to protect access to our public lands and some of them work to have our public lands put into private ownership where the public will be denied access. The legislature also has not provided the funds needed to expand our education system to the Pre-K level and to keep our existing schools competitive with those in other states. Diversity, which is not only morally appropriate but also is so essential to the tech industry and other high paying businesses, is often under threat by those who do not respect the rights of those who don’t look or think like them and do not acknowledge the importance of diversity to a thriving business community. Our existing infrastructure is adequate but the legislature has been unwilling to provide essential funding for maintenance or to expand internet access beyond urban areas. These threats must be resisted and overcome if Montana is to be a state where job opportunities will be available to new comers and the younger generation of Montanans who desire to remain in the state to work and raise families. Our hope through this site and other efforts is to convince Montana’s citizens and thus it’s elected officials of the importance of these key principles and to give greater priority, and funding, to protecting and enhancing them.
Is this just another business support organization?
We are not a business support organization. Our purpose is to educate Montana’s business leaders and citizens and to advocate for policies and candidates who will promote, protect and enhance those qualities that already make Montana the a great place to live, raise families and grow our businesses.
Why are public lands and public access relevant to the technology industry in Montana?
We all enjoy and cherish the natural beauty of Montana and our state’s legacy of open space, public lands and public access. Our public lands, state and Federal, are a key asset and a major factor in recruiting and retaining employees for our businesses. Access to public lands contributes to the quality of life of every resident. These lands belong to all Montanans and all Americans and are part of what make our state and country unique.
Why is the technology industry important to Montana?
A recent study from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research says Montana’s technology industry is growing nine times faster than the statewide economy, contributing nearly $1.7 billion in revenues in 2017. This sector is expected to add 1200 new jobs in Montana in 2018, an 18.5% growth rate. These are high paying jobs that stimulate further economic activity in other industry sectors. The report also highlights the importance of public lands to the success of the tech industry as well as other business sectors.
Why are public schools important to the technology industry?
We all have children in the public school system and we all believe in public money for quality public schools, from pre-K through University. These are critical factors when we try to recruit and retain employees from out of state. They also are critical because the public school system is educating the future workforce of Montana. We know this because we all have hired Montana university graduates and find them to be among our finest employees.
What are the challenges in Montana’s current education system?
There are some in the state who want to divert our public education funds to private schools without any accountability to curriculums and quality of teaching. OSM opposes this as we fear this will undermine the existing strong public education system. Currently Montana is one of only a few states that don’t sponsor Pre-K programs. Expanding Montana’s school programs to the Pre-K level will add to the competitiveness of Montana in attracting employees from other states as almost all other states provide Pre-K education which has been proven to lead to stronger performance in later school programs and beyond graduation.
What do we mean by “diversity” and why is it important?
Diversity means including and respecting people of all types regardless of gender, sexual preference, gender orientation, religious preference, ethnic affiliation, race or any other distinction. Diversity is good for business. Having a state and culture that welcomes diversity is critical to employee recruitment and retention for our businesses.
Why is healthcare important to the Technology Industry?
When we recruit employees from technology businesses outside of Montana or from within the state healthcare benefits are a critical factor. If we don’t have affordable and accessible healthcare services we cannot succeed in recruiting essential employees. It is especially important to have protection for pre-existing conditions. This enables employees we are recruiting to leave their current jobs without fear of losing coverage.
Healthcare programs are mostly a Federal issue, which puts emphasis on having Congressional representatives who are committed to improving our current healthcare laws rather than repealing them. But, State government also has an important role in maintaining strong healthcare systems, which means it’s important to have a Governor and Legislature that will work to maintain and improve these programs.
How important is the state government in Helena to the diversity factor in Montana?
The current Administration has never taken an action that would facilitate discrimination on any basis. Instead, it has worked actively to block such actions by others and to protect diversity in Montana. The current Administration issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment and state contracts and has advocated for equal pay for women, including creating the Equal Pay Task Force to find ways to close the gender-based wage gap in Montana.
How Important is State Government to promotion of a strong public education system in MT?
The current Administration has and continues to advocate for early childhood education funding. It created the first ever STEM scholarship program for students seeking college degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It started a program to bring high-speed fiber connectivity to rural schools. And, Governor Bullock vetoed bills passed by the legislature that would have facilitated the diversion of public funds to private schools that seek to avoid accountability to basic curriculum standards and teacher qualifications.
Is the Business Equipment Tax an obstacle to the growth of the technology industry in Montana?
No. This tax has been reduced significantly over the last two administrations, first by Governor Schweitzer and then by Governor Bullock. In addition, businesses with less than $100,000 in equipment assets are exempt. Practically speaking, the Business Equipment Tax has no impact on start-up businesses inside or outside the technology sector. The businesses it impacts are larger capital-intensive companies outside of the technology sector, such as Exxon and Phillips petroleum.
Where does the Current Administration in Helena stand on public lands, public access and a clean environment in Montana?
The Bullock Administration has consistently advocated for protection of Montana’s public lands and for easy access to them. In 2013 the Governor had to veto legislation that would have limited public land acquisitions by the state, and in 2015 he vetoed legislation aimed at selling or transferring Federal lands to the state. The Bullock Administration has been successful in securing access to streams and lands around the state including in 2015 securing access to 50,000 acres in the Rocky Mountain Front. These actions demonstrate the importance of having elected officials who believe in and will stand up for our public lands and access to them.