At Montana’s “On the Rise” economic summit hosted by U.S. Senator Steve Daines in Bozeman last week, challenges around corporate culture, housing and labor shortages dominated discussions. between Flathead Valley business leaders.
In addition to speakers like Robinhood co-founder Baiju Bhatt and Max Baucus, longtime U.S. senator from Montana and former U.S. Ambassador to China, Flathead-based leaders in technology, film and of manufacturing shared their views on the changing business climate at the local level. .
GL Solutions CEO Bill Mosely last year moved his software company to Kalispell from Bend, Oregon, where median house prices were unaffordable for his employees and the local government was too overbearing for his business.
Mosely was drawn to Montana’s business environment and lower taxes and he was impressed by the business community, where local Montana West Economic Development (MWED) and City of Kalispell officials welcomed the relocation. and the well-paying jobs it brought.
“One message that came out from the local business community was that they wanted to see a future for their children,” Mosely said.
With 50 employees at the company, Mosely said he was impressed with the local Montana workforce and his new hires had a strong work ethic. Kalispell has also created an ideal location to relocate employees, he said.
Since leaving Bend, where median home prices were near $700,000 before the pandemic, he says solving Flathead’s housing crisis is important and supports deregulation for developers and zoning.
“Housing costs affect labor costs,” Mosely said. “It affects your whole community – housing is a critical issue.”
At Nomad Global Communication Solutions, CEO and President Will Schmautz has struggled to find enough employees for his company that makes mobile incident command centers. The 75,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Columbia Falls has hundreds of employees, but they need about 200 more, Schmatuz says, and they’re working to create an attractive company culture. Since all of Nomad’s customers are out-of-state, he says it’s difficult to find employees who want to leave Montana to operate out-of-state services.
“We have a deep need (for employees) to leave Montana,” Schmautz said.
At S&K Technologies, Inc, a company owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, CEO Chad Cottet also stressed the importance of building a strong company culture and investing in remote worker training.
“We have to pay more but we also have to be part of a bigger culture so that they stay and work harder and deliver and the company delivers for them,” Cottet said.
Film industry professionals also participated in the summit, with producers of the TV series “Yellowstone” and MEDIA Coalition of Montana (MCM) co-founder Lynn-Wood Fields stressing the importance of bringing jobs well-paid to the film industry in the state.
Along with MCM, Fields promotes Montana as a location for motion picture media and says a 2019 legislative bill has helped raise employee salaries, which she hopes will help to continue creating jobs. high-paying jobs in the state.
“I grew up in the Flathead and there’s real angst and I have friends who say, ‘I can’t afford to live here,'” Fields said. “I’m passionate about this industry because it provides jobs over $50,000…Film is a blue-collar job, and it really takes a Montana work ethic.”