Below are questions we believe will be of interest to the 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 cause us to want to live here and have enabled us to build our businesses. We feel it is important to urge our elected officials adopt policies that will protect and enhance those conditions that make Montana such 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, state and Federal, are treasures that are the equal of lands found in any other state. Many of our cities as well as the current state administration 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 PreK 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 higher tech and higher 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 infrastructure is adequate as it is but is great need of funding to improve roads and bridges and to expand internet access outside of 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 to 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 the 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 and protect those qualities that already make Montana the best 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 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. We also support community colleges which provide qualified job candidates for roles that are vital to building strong communities and businesses. 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. We oppose 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. We feel strongly Montana’s school programs should be expanded to the Pre-K level as this 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. First and foremost this is a moral question, and we do not see any grounds for prevarication on the topic: We welcome diversity. Second, diversity is good for business. Having a state and culture that welcomes diversity is critical to employee recruitment and retention for our businesses. It is critical that we have elected officials who understand this and will maintain laws and policies that promote and protect diversity in the state.
How does Montana rate today as a favorable state for entrepreneurs in the technology and other industries?
In 2015 Montana for the third year in a row was ranked by the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity as the highest in the country in entrepreneurial activity. Montana is, today, a fantastic place to start and grow a business, and we aim to keep it that way. One of the ways to do that is to support elected officials who have proven their commitment to public education, diversity, public lands and other policies that critical to business activity in the state.
What’s the source of the claim that Montana has the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the country with a growing tech/biotech industry?
As reported in the Missoulian in June of 2015, for the third year in a row Montana was named the top state in the country for entrepreneurial activity by the Kauffman Foundation Index of Startup Activity. Montana’s rate of startup activity was up from its prior year rate, and based on the number of new entrepreneurs per 100,000 adults in the state, was fifty percent higher than the national average.
How has the Bullock Administration helped promote or protect diversity in Montana?
Governor Bullock has never taken an action that would facilitate discrimination on any basis. Instead, he has worked actively to block such actions by others and to protect diversity in Montana. He issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment and state contracts, and after the Supreme court decision affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry he officiated a same-sex marriage in Montana. He continues to be a vocal advocate for equal pay and created the Equal Pay Task Force to find ways to close the gender-based wage gap in Montana.
What has Bullock done to promote a strong public education system in MT?
Governor Bullock has and continues to advocate for early childhood education funding. He created the first ever STEM scholarship program for students seeking college degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He started a program to bring high-speed fiber connectivity to rural schools. And, he vetoed legislation 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.
What is the tax structure like in Montana as it relates to business start-ups?
A 2015 WalletHub study ranked Montana as having the fairest tax system in the country with the third lowest overall tax burden in the nation. In the same year the Tax Foundation ranked Montana as the sixth best state in the country for business tax climate. Further reduction in our taxes is less important to our businesses than wisely using our existing tax dollars to support public education, refurbish our infrastructure and enhance access to our public lands. If there are to be tax cuts they should be directed at working Montanans to better enable them to support their families and to purchase the goods and services that our and other businesses provide.
What are the facts about job growth in Montana?
In 2014 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Montana sixth in the country for long-term job growth. As of April 2016 Montana’s unemployment rate was 4.2%, significantly lower than the national rate of 4.9%. A study by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that between 2009 and 2014 Montana saw an 8.6% increase in manufacturing employment compared to only 3.6% for the national average.
What about wage growth in Montana?
Wages and wage growth in Montana are not as bad as the “49th in the country” figure some have quoted. In the 2014 census it ranked 34th in per capita income. Figures like this can be misleading, according to an analysis by political science professor David Parker of MSU. He points out that Montana has a higher percentage of retired people and small business and sole proprietorship owners than most states and these people typically do not report wage income, bringing down the statewide average. And the fundamentals are moving in the right direction. Unemployment is a full point below the national average, and in a 2014 Chamber of Commerce report Montana ranked sixth in the country in long-term job growth. Besides, who wants to be first in wages, which generally comes with the highest costs of living–California can win that particular race.
What has Bullock done to improve infrastructure in MT?
Bullock’s infrastructure plan was narrowly defeated by the legislature in 2015. He has named infrastructure as his top 2017 legislative priority and has proposed a $200M program to address critical needs in Montana’s communities, to be funded by a prudent mix of cash and bonds while still preserving a meaningful “rainy day fund” for the state.
Where does the Bullock Administration stand on public lands, public access and a clean environment in Montana?
Bullock’s advocacy for public lands and access started before he became Governor. As Assistant Attorney General he wrote the landmark opinion that established stream access from public bridges. In 2013 he vetoed 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.
Why do people say Montana is a fiscally prudent state?
This was first reported in the Missoulian based on a study conducted in 2014 by a J.P. Morgan analyst who looked at bonded debt, pension liabilities and other such factors. When it comes to debt, bond ratings and other liabilities, Montana’s status has only improved since that time.