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Missoula's ATG acquired by international firm, $400M Montage Big Sky luxury resort breaks ground, local economic development leaders discuss Flathead's potential...and more



Missoula's ATG acquired by international firm

Missoula’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG) (hiring), a revenue consulting firm, announced Tuesday that it’s been acquired by Cognizant, which is a leading global provider of digital transformation services. Missoula ATG founder Tom Stergios called it an “incredibly exciting time” for his consulting company, which he built from his basement into one of Missoula’s fastest-growing businesses paired with ATG’s parent company in Kansas. Stergios noted that ATG will continue operations in Missoula. This presents growth opportunities for both its employees and clients. “There’s no layoffs, no one is leaving and we are retaining our brand — that’s a big deal — and our culture, which also is a big deal.” Along with its Kansas-based operations and delivery center in Missoula, ATG also has offices in Missouri and Ohio. ATG’s clients include major financial services, healthcare, communications and technology organizations ranging from startups to large global enterprises. Stergios said the acquisition will accelerate the growth of ATG and the Missoula office, which has about 130 employees. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018 subject to customer reviews. [Missoulian]

A new economic landscape: Local leaders in economic development discuss the Flathead’s potential a decade out of the recession

It’s been a decade since the Great Recession first took hold of America, eventually making its way to the Flathead Valley where it wreaked havoc on the housing and construction industries, along with manufacturing and other sectors. And while there were some very tough days and years for the valley, groundwork laid during the recession is growing into fruition now. This was the topic of discussion among economic development leaders on a panel at Leadership Montana’s annual convention, The Confluence, last week. The three-day event featured various panels, including a discussion reflecting on economic development in the Flathead in the last decade. Panelists included representatives from the Foundation for Flathead Valley Community College (hiring), the city of Kalispell (hiring), Montana West Economic Development, and Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation (hiring). The panel said the valley is poised for continued economic growth, largely due to government and organizations hearing from the public and going to work on their behalf. According to Katharine King, the assistant director of community and economic development with the City of Kalispell, “The economic downturn (led us) to regroup and look at what needed changing.” [Flathead Beacon]

$400 million Montage Big Sky luxury resort breaks ground in Montana

Montage International and CrossHarbor Capital Partners LLC announced the groundbreaking of Montage Big Sky, which is set to open in 2021 and will be the first ultra-luxury resort in Big Sky, Montana. "We are proud to announce the addition of Montage Big Sky to the Montage Hotels & Resorts collection," said Alan J. Fuerstman, founder, chairman and CEO of Montage International. "The stunning natural beauty of Big Sky and ease of access to a world-class array of outdoor recreation makes this an extraordinary destination. With our partners at CrossHarbor, we are eager to bring an elevated, welcoming resort experience to guests and residents of this remarkable community." The $400 million resort will feature 150 guest rooms and suites and 39 Montage Residences. Resort amenities include a three-meal restaurant, lobby bar and lounge, market, pub and recreation room with bowling alley, indoor lap pool, family swimming pool, fitness center, signature Spa Montage, ski lockers and skier services, and 12,870 sq. ft. of meeting and event space. [Hotel News Resource]

Missoula County to resume bitcoin business discussions

The Missoula County Commission will revive its public hearing on cryptocurrency mining later this month to consider ways to mitigate impacts like noise, electronic waste and energy consumption from commercial and industrial development. While the county initially was considering putting a one-year ban on new or increased cryptocurrency operations, Diana Maneta, the county’s energy conservation and sustainability coordinator, said the commissioners are considering alternatives for interim zoning. Montana and the Pacific Northwest region are popular locations for cryptocurrency mining because the climate helps cool the hundreds of computers needed for large operations, and the cost of electricity is fairly low. Currently, cryptocurrency mines are operating in Bonner, Montana (near Missoula) as well as in Anaconda, Montana. [Missoulian]

Study claims new Montana hardrock mines would create 3,200 Montana jobs

A new study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research helps put some hard numbers to the economic impact of hardrock mining in the state of Montana. Bureau Director Patrick Barkey explains, "We took a look at the contribution made by the eight largest hardrock operations in the state of Montana, which is a small number of companies, but a pretty big economic footprint," Barkey said. "We found that those mines, which mine copper, palladium and concrete products, jointly support over 12,000 jobs across the state. Those jobs pay an average of $86,000 a year in earnings for the workers." The study also looked at the economic potential of proposed mines if they were opened up. "We looked at the three proposed mines, the Rock Creek, Montanore and Black Butte mines," Barkey said. "We looked at a scenario where those were fully developed and became operational. That would add, roughly speaking, another 3,200 jobs to the state economy and more than $200 million in personal income within the first five years of operation." [KGVO]

Silicon Valley's longest-serving CEO retired to Helena, but never slowed down

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, visionary, published author, mentor and philanthropist and is proud to call Helena home. He’s also renowned as the longest-serving Silicon Valley CEO. Originally from a small, rural town in southeast California, his interest in space and engineering led him to hold more than 20 patents for semiconductor design and to co-found Micrel Corp., a semiconductor company. Zinn served as chief executive officer for 37 years. Micrel was started with $300,000 in personal savings, something rarely done in today’s startup world. Zinn said he did it without investors so he could control his destiny and do it his way. In 2003, Zinn traded his laboratory for a ranch at the base of McDonald Pass (near Helena) and officially “retired” three years ago when Micrel was acquired by Microchip. Since then Zinn has launched ZinnStarter, the Zinn version of Kickstarter for undergraduate students. The program, which is at six universities, is part of an entrepreneurial leadership program that teaches students how to start a business. And, Zinn hasn’t stopped there. He’s also working on a book, the second book in a “Zen of Zinn” series, as well as writing for various business publications. [Helena Independent Record]

Idaho-based Fisher’s Technology expands Montana presence

Expanding its presence in Montana, Fisher’s Technology (hiring) has acquired Davis Business Machines. Fisher’s manages IT environments, sells and services copiers and printers, and streamlines business operations with electronic document management and related software solutions. The acquisition gives Fisher’s, based in Boise, a total of five locations in Montana. As of July 2017, the company had locations in Billings due to a previous acquisition as well as an office it had started in Great Falls. [Idaho Business Review]

Mead a drink? Bozeman to get first meadery

Valhalla Meadery is slated to open later this fall in Bozeman. It will be the first meaderly to open in Bozeman, and the second in Montana joining Hidden Legend Winery in Victor, Montana (Bitterroot Valley). Initially planning to serve the fermented honey beverage in its tasting room, the company hopes to eventually expand to also bottling the product. With a whole slew of well-established breweries in Montana, Valhalla co-owner Dylan Watson said there’s a lot of potential for mead to take off. And considering the state is one of the top honey producers in the nation, he said there are also plenty of opportunities for business partnerships. Mead is not for the faint of heart: Strong meads usually run in the 14 percent alcohol content range, and Watson said they can make it with up to 16 percent alcohol content. Lightweights need not stay away, though. Watson said he plans on having a mead with lower alcohol content. They will also run a small kitchen at the meadery. [Bozeman Chronicle]

Montana Made: Montana Canvas

Montana Canvas might be the simplest business in Montana. They focus on the two Ts — tents and tarps — and have done that since 1982. “Our products are sold throughout the U.S and actually throughout North America,” said Montana Canvas owner Kirt Dinges. There are currently 28 people working in the factory near Belgrade. And, if you ask how Montana Canvas has been able to survive for more than four decades, that’s your answer: the people. “We have our office manager, been with us 30 years. We have several people in the shop that have been with us 15, 20, 25 years. So back to what you said, it’s a special place and a special group of people which is why Montana Canvas is still here,” Dinges said. Montana Canvas has moved from manufacturing truck tarps into the luxury boat tarp world and wall tents for hunting and fishing. [KTVQ]