Tech company expanding Bozeman operations with new building

A high-tech company in Bozeman is expanding into a new 62,000-square-foot facility off East Valley Center Road, where it will develop equipment that will be used in hundreds of military and civilian applications.

FLIR Systems has three smaller facilities in the Bozeman area and is planning to consolidate them into a single building that is now under construction on Jamboree Way near Taco Bell and Comfort Suites.

The new building, which will be finished next year, will let the company grow, said Randy Equall, the company’s vice president of laser operations.

“We’re bursting at the seams in our current plant, and this will be instrumental in allowing us to contribute to growing high-tech jobs in Montana,” Equall said.

With the new facility, FLIR Systems hopes to expand its research and development work with Montana State University and possibly bring on more Gallatin College students trained in the school’s photonics and laser technology program.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte toured the FLIR Systems site Wednesday. Daines is running for reelection against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in November, and Gianforte is in a race for governor against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney.

The two Republican lawmakers said FLIR Systems’ success highlights the importance of investing in education because it can lead to innovation and attract high-paying jobs to the area.

FLIR Systems arrived in Bozeman in 2005 after acquiring the local company Scientific Materials, which grew synthetic crystals.

FLIR Systems’ main offices are in Oregon, but it has offices around the world. Its Bozeman location focuses on developing synthetic crystals just as Scientific Materials did. The crystals are used in high-tech equipment like lasers.

The company also develops range-finders for defense and border protection agencies.

Scientific Materials and FLIR Systems both chose to locate and expand in Bozeman because MSU could provide graduates with the skills necessary to work in the company, Equall said. Today, many of the 65 employees are MSU graduates.

“We couldn’t imagine doing this anywhere else,” he said.