In response to Michael FitzGerald’s letter to the Members and Board of Directors of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance:
The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a non-partisan organization focused on its mission of accelerating the growth of the technology ecosystem in Montana. We are passionate about supporting the growth of technology organizations large and small that wish to call the state of Montana home.
Contrary to the implications of Mr. FitzGerald’s letter, we do not support specific candidates or political parties, and people of all political viewpoints are members of our organization and are on our board. Indeed, the letter contained several misconceptions worth clarifying.
Greg Gianforte is not the sole founder of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. He was one of seven leaders of Montana’s high-tech community from diverse political perspectives who came together in 2014 to establish the organization. Mr. Gianforte was the founding board chair, but resigned from the board in 2017 when he took his House seat. Like many other members, including Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents, he is still a dues-paying member of the Alliance under Bozeman Technology Incubator contributing $5,000 per year. He and his wife Susan have hosted receptions for the Alliance – and so have more than a dozen other members from varied political viewpoints.
Today the Alliance has more than 365 member high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates across the state. One’s participation in the organization is not an endorsement, implicit or explicit, of any political figure, their remarks, or actions. Our unbiased research on Montana’s high-tech industry is regularly cited by state and national news media, including CBS News, Fast Company, Montana Public Radio, and the Missoulian. Broad, bipartisan participation from state leaders and our members is further evidence that our organization is sincere in its sole mission to grow Montana’s high tech industry.
The Montana High Tech Business Alliance works with all Montana elected leaders, Democrats and Republicans, including Governor Bullock, Sen. Tester, Sen. Daines, and Rep. Gianforte, and all have participated in Alliance events. Governor Bullock and Rep. Gianforte both spoke at the release of our Kauffman-funded report on Montana’s entrepreneurial ecosystems in 2017. We partnered with Senator Daines to sponsor the Montana High Tech Jobs Summits in 2015 and 2017. We hosted a roundtable discussion between tech companies and Senator Tester in 2018. The Alliance partnered with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to send Montana startups to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in September and to convene a K-12 computer science education discussion with industry leaders last week in Helena.
Our research has shown Montana is unique in the bipartisan support businesses receive from our elected leaders. In sharp contrast to other states where government and regulations are often mentioned as being a barrier to entrepreneurship, Montana entrepreneurs reported receiving support from Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte, and former Sen. Max Baucus and considered them “champions of entrepreneurship.”
The lead researcher on the Kauffman-funded report, Yasuyuki (Yas) Motoyama, Ph.D., of the University of Kansas, identified political divisions within the state as a threat to Montana’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Dr. Motoyama noted in his recommendations, “We should not limit our support system based on such political divisions because entrepreneurship will benefit the whole economy.”
Polarization is tearing America apart. Montana’s high-tech community can serve as a model of unity to the nation if we are willing to work together, in good faith, to preserve the bi-partisan spirit that has defined our history.
We believe that good people can disagree about politics, candidates, and important issues, but still work together as Montanans to support economic growth and high-paying jobs in our state. We welcome conversation with others in the high-tech community, members and non-members, and invite those who share our mission to join us in a genuine non-partisan effort.
The Board of Directors of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance