ABC Fox Montana: Big names in the Big Sky

MISSOULA – Some big names were under the Big Sky today.

Senator Steve Daines hosted a tech summit that brought leaders from Microsoft, Facebook, and T-Mobile to the University of Montana.

These big names could mean big opportunities for some local businesses.

Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, is one of many big names to speak at the Montana High Tech Jobs Summit.

“It’s an amazing experience to have that kind of access at an event like this,” said Chris Hamilton, Product Manager of onX.

Onx is a Missoula-based mobile app used by hikers to create maps of the back-country.

Hamilton said that this event helps him learn from the best.

“We are making sure people are aware of onX and what we’re doing and networking with people,” said Hamilton.

Senator Daines, who came up through the tech industry, said that Montana needs to stay focused on this growing field.

“These high-tech jobs are growing seven times faster than the rest of the Montana economy and these jobs pay twice the state average in wages,” said Senator Daines.

Microsoft is pushing a $10 billion dollar effort to bring broadband internet access to rural areas across the nation including Montana.

Smith said that it is very difficult to build and grow a small business without this.

“It impairs not only your ability to reach customers, but it also impairs your ability to do your own work to manage your businesses finances in the like,” said Smith.

Smith said that broadband can improve agriculture yields by at least twenty-percent.

Daines said that it is his goal is to increase the quality of life with high technology, especially for people trying to develop and grow businesses like Hamilton.

“To be able to have a tech job in Montana and to be able to take advantage of all the benefits of Montana  and the outdoors is just an amazing thing,” said Hamilton.

This job summit is such a valuable experience for millennials and for younger people in the industry because they have the opportunity to network and pitch ideas to such established people in the tech industry.