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SPRING 2021

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SPRING 2021

EYE ON BUSINESS A QUARTERLY PUBLICATION OF THE MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Articles contained in this publication are available for redistribution with proper credit and attribution. Material included in this magazine does not necessarily reflect the position of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

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13 22 Montana Chamber of Commerce Staff

25 Upcoming Events

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26 About Eye on Business

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I N D U ST RY P R O F I L E

Montana Chamber of Commerce: Working Hard for Montana Businesses F E AT U R E

Athena and Two Bear Capital Partner to Advance Women STEM Leaders in Montana FINANCE

How Outsourcing Your Accounting Can Save You in the Long Term HUMAN RESOURCES

An Employee-Centric Return to the Office T E C H + I N N OVAT I O N

The Great Pivot: How Montana’s Tech Companies are Adapting to Survive (and Even Thrive) in the New Normal P O L I CY

New Opportunities and New Challenges Face America’s Business Community

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EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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WORKING HARD FOR YOU EVERY DAY. THE MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IS MONTANA’S LARGEST STATEWIDE BUSINESS ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION, REPRESENTING A GEOGRAPHICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY DIVERSE SET OF INTERESTS.

O

ur membership sprawls over rural and urban Montana and comprises small “Mom & Pop” business, manufacturers, large publicly traded companies, and every industry in between.

Our members join the Montana Chamber of Commerce primarily Todd O’Hair because we are the state’s President and CEO premier business advocacy MONTANA CHAMBER organization. Our members trust OF COMMERCE the Montana Chamber to be their voice and act in their best interest, leaving them to focus on what they do best—running their business. In this issue of the Eye on Business, you’ll find articles written and submitted by our members, who are industry experts and leaders in their field. From finance to policy, human resources, and tech and innovation, the Spring 2021 issue is jam-packed full of information and exciting features hand-picked for our readership. The Eye is the Montana Chamber’s quarterly magazine. If you’re reading it for the first time, we’re happy our publication made it to your desk! You are one of over 7,000 recipients of this top-notch, business-savvy publication loaded with helpful articles and exciting industry profiles and features. It has been said that Montana is one big town with really long streets. The Montana Chamber of Commerce is the organization that makes those streets shorter, advocating for business and connecting business leaders statewide with a unified vision of a diversified, healthy, and vibrant economy. We hope you enjoy the Eye on Business.

Todd O’Hair

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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I N D U ST RY P R O F I L E

Montana Chamber of Commerce: Working Hard for Montana Businesses By Courtney Oppel

When the Montana Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1931, US unemployment had doubled to over 16 percent from the previous year as the Great Depression tightened its grip, drought and dust storms began to wreak havoc across the Midwest and Great Plains, and in Montana, income from the state’s largest industry, agriculture, dropped by 34 percent, while mining income dropped by 37 percent. We recognized then, as we do now, the need for an organization dedicated to advocating for Montana businesses to promote economic growth and prosperity for all Montanans. WHO WE ARE Our team of professionals at the Montana Chamber work hard for you to create networking opportunities, advocate for legislative and legal reforms that benefit— not hurt—your business, help develop a reliable workforce, and promote infrastructure improvements that make Montana a safer and more attractive place to do business. We bring together almost 800 member companies, representing every size, industry, and region in the Big Sky State. Our Board of Directors— which is comprised of business leaders that serve three-year terms—reflects the diversity of our membership and acts as the compass of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. HOW WE SERVE YOU Advocacy is one of the most vital services we provide to our members. Given the size and diversity of our membership, when the Montana Chamber speaks, business and government leaders listen. We actively follow the issues that have the potential to impact your business, and advocate on your behalf in Helena and with our state representatives in Congress. During each legislative session, we provide weekly “Capitol Connection” videos to show you what we’ve been working on in our state capitol. At the end of each legislative session, we publish our Voting Review: a comprehensive analysis of business and economic issues addressed during that session. Leading up to elections, we educate you on the candidates and issues. And through our

involvement with the Montana Justice Coalition, we keep you apprised of court decisions that impact Montana’s business climate. We also make it our priority to help members get plugged into the business community through multiple networking opportunities throughout the year. Whether you have a mom-and-pop shop and need mentorship, a quickly growing enterprise and need to reach more customers, or a multinational corporation looking for new growth opportunities, our targeted networking events provide educational opportunities and enable you to connect with your peers while growing your network. Check out our website at www.montanachamber.com or contact us for more information on these events, which include the Governors’ Cup Golf Tournament, Business Days at the Capitol, Manufacturing and International Trade Day, and our Annual Membership Meeting. Our members additionally rely on us as a resource for tools to assist you with running and growing your business. In addition to educational events and publications like Eye on Business, we give you access to information about the state of our economy and where it’s headed—so you can make smart business decisions— on an ongoing basis through press releases and various video updates on our website. Additional membership benefits include access to discounts on goods and services traditionally available only to larger employers, such as a retirement plan, office supply discounts, and Electronic Certificates of Origin discounts (through a streamlined, online process).

MONTANA CHAMBER FOUNDATION The Montana Chamber Foundation (MCF) plays a crucial role in identifying and supporting the Montana Chamber’s programs and initiatives. Established by the Montana Chamber, the MCF provides an important structure for us to fund business education and encourage entrepreneurship among K–12 and undergraduate students, participate in research projects, host events that promote economic development opportunities, and administer funds that support workforce development and entrepreneurship programs in the Big Sky State. In 2017, for example, the MCF brought to Montana Youth Entrepreneurs, a nationally recognized program that develops employability traits and instills economic and entrepreneurial principles in our future workforce. Youth Entrepreneurs helps students develop the soft skills—such as creativity, focus mastery, and a growth mindset—that Montana businesses have told us they’re looking for in potential employees. In Montana, this program has grown from 4 schools in 6 communities to 41 schools in 36 communities. The MCF also serves an essential function by funding initiatives associated with the Montana Chamber’s current long-range plan for realizing our mission and vision: Envision 2026. continued on page 8

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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P I L L A R

# 1

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

PROMOTE AND SUPPORT STRATEGIES TO PROVIDE A QUALIFIED WORKFORCE

P I L L A R

In our 2019 Workforce Development Survey, 39% of respondents turned down business opportunities due to lack of workforce. Therefore, the Montana Chamber continues to promote and support strategies to provide a qualified workforce. During the 2021 legislative session, we are focusing our efforts to pass bills that continue funding proven career and technical education (CTE) programming, utilize the school funding formula and startup funds to incentivize CTE, create alternative accreditation pathways for teachers, and clarify liability for businesses participating in workbased learning.

# 2

BUSINESS CLIMATE

REDUCE THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS IN MONTANA

To improve the business climate, the Montana Chamber recognized a need to reduce the cost of doing business in the Big Sky State. Through proactive legislative advocacy, we’ve realized several “wins” toward achieving this goal. In 2017, the state legislature passed a bill that lowered the interest rate on mistakes in business income tax filings from 12% to prime rate plus 3. In 2019, the state legislature passed a bill that eliminated tax on pollution-control equipment for manufacturers. Also in 2019, a bill passed that increased the time period a business can carry forward business losses to offset taxes from 7 years to 10 years. And just recently, during the 2021 Montana legislative session, a bill that protects businesses from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19 liability became law.

continued from page 7

ENVISION 2026 In 2015, our Board of Directors recognized the need to develop a long-term plan to identify and address the priorities of the Montana business community. We invested in consultants with expertise in creating strategic plans for organizations like the Montana Chamber to meet with leaders in the Montana business community. After more than a year of face-to-face meetings with business leaders across the state and across the spectrum of business sectors, the Chamber Board voted to create the first strategic plan, known as Envision 2026. Envision 2026 is the Montana Chamber’s ten-year plan for creating opportunities— and removing obstacles—for your business to grow and prosper by improving 8

MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Montana’s talent pipeline, business climate, entrepreneurship, and quality of life through workforce development, regulatory and legal reform, and infrastructure investment. The Board set a decade-long timeline because it realized that advancing Montana’s economy measurably in terms of gross state product, per capita income, and job growth would require time. As a result of the feedback received from the business community, the Board identified four main areas of concern that needed to be proactively addressed. Those four areas became the “pillars” upon which all Envision 2026 initiatives are built: 1. Workforce Development, 2. Business Climate, 3. Entrepreneurship, and 4. Infrastructure. As our President and CEO, Todd O’Hair,

said, “Envision 2026 is driving Montana forward!” All of these successes are directly linked to the clear focus Envision 2026 provides, and they would not be possible without the support of the Montana Chamber’s dedicated Board, staff and members, and the Montana Chamber Foundation. When you invest in membership with the Montana Chamber and help support our foundation, you can rest assured that we will continue to work hard for you, to create a bright future for Montana’s business community. stop


“Envision 2026 is driving Montana forward!” TODD O’HAIR, MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, PRESIDENT & CEO

P I L L A R

# 3

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

MAINTAIN STATUS AS NATIONAL LEADER IN NEW BUSINESS ATTRACTION

P I L L A R

Despite Montana’s status as a national leader in start-up businesses, it lacked a plan for fostering entrepreneurial development and for maintaining its top ranking in this area. The Montana Chamber Foundation’s success with bringing the Youth Entrepreneurs program to Montana has recognized the value of fostering entrepreneurship among Montana’s youth. The MCF also launched The Prospects, a virtual statewide entrepreneurship competition for high school students with new ideas and existing small businesses. On the legislative front, during the 2021 state session we are actively lobbying in support of the governor’s Montana Entrepreneur Magnet Act, which gives a tax incentive to businesses to bring their business to Montana.

# 4

INFRASTRUCTURE

PROMOTE INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT TO SUPPORT COMMERCE

Promoting infrastructure development is key in our efforts to support business. In 2016, our Democratic governor and Republican legislature were at a four-year impasse on bonding for infrastructure investment, and the state gas tax had remained unchanged since 1994, leaving millions of matching federal dollars untapped. In 2017, we successfully led the effort to pass a graduated .06 increase in gas tax to leverage $59 million in new federal matching dollars in 2019 alone. This increase provided funding for 740 local bridge and road projects. In 2019, our efforts paid off again as the Montana legislature passed a $79.9 million infrastructure package, utilizing historically low bond interest rates. As a result, nearly 100 construction projects across the state, including water, wastewater and bridge repairs, began that spring. For the 2021 legislative session, we’re supporting a bill that incentivizes investment in broadband by providing a moratorium on property taxes.

Courtney Oppel is freelance writer and editor whose clients include Bangtail Press, Pearson Education, and Rowman & Littlefield. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Montana-Missoula longer ago than she’d like to admit, and lives with her husband, son, daughter, and four-footed hiking partner, Lucy, in beautiful Helena, Montana.

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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Athena and Two Bear Capital Partner to Advance Women STEM Leaders in Montana By Holly Smithson

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ATHENA

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MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Athena, a premier women’s advocacy organization that fast tracks women in STEM, is partnering with Two Bear Capital to bring leadership resources, mentoring initiatives, and targeted networking opportunities to women of Montana leading in the fields of STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics). By transforming scientists and technologists into corporate leaders, Athena’s goal is to widen the bridge to advance one million women in STEM by 2030.

“A

s market forces continue to generate strong demand for women leaders and greater social equity, we’re witnessing renewed focus on addressing disparities in pay, opportunity, and success,” said Holly Smithson, Athena CEO. “As the voice of women in STEM, we remain committed to advancing inclusive workforce values through our advocacy efforts with partners that share our values, like Two Bear Capital.” ATHENA’S WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CONTENT & NETWORKING | COMBATING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT CRISIS As companies continue grappling with the pandemic-induced employee engagement crisis, Athena launched its state-of-the-art digital platform to serve its members with virtual leadership program content, mentoring services, and educational opportunities essential for a remote workforce intent on connecting, transforming, and leading. Athena’s community of diversity champions can now access—without any geographical boundaries—its best-in-class women’s leadership development resources. At a time when our remote community is eager for cross-sector networking, re-entering the workforce opportunities, and elevating their corporate profile, Athena’s digital platform is invaluable. ATHENA ON BOARDS SERIES | WOMEN’S BOARD READINESS PROGRAM In 2018, California’s legislature enacted public-company board diversity legislation that prompted a cascading effect in the financial markets. In 2020, Goldman Sachs announced its intentions at the World Economic Forum: “No IPOs for company with all bros.” Then it was NASDAQ, followed by State Street Global Advisors, mandating diverse boardroom requirements for their portfolio companies, effective 2021. These global financial institutions are laying down the diversity gauntlet on modernizing boardrooms as the proven path to grow shareholder value, stock performance, and longterm value creation. With these strong tail winds, Athena on Boards Series is dedicated to preparing those women eager to lead from the boardroom. ATHENA’S 6/30 LIFTING WHILE CLIMBING SUMMIT | GLOBAL STEM COMPANIES SHARE DE&I WORKPLACE BEST PRACTICES This Annual Lifting While Climbing Summit (LWC) was born out of Athena’s Women in STEM Workforce 2020 Index that reveals STEM companies continue to struggle in achieving their equitable workforce goals with only one out of four STEM jobs held by women. We recognize that stronger corporate leadership, culture, and commitment are paramount in this march towards correcting these pervasive inequities at scale. We join hands under the LWC banner to lift up those companies eager to access proven, enterprise-wide equitable action plans that ultimately attract diverse customers, markets, ideas, and talent. This Summit will publish a DE&I Playbook for those companies beginning their diversity journey or those looking for data-driven approaches that accelerate their equity action plans. “STEM will be at the epicenter of innovation and wealth creation. Athena is the pioneer organization addressing the challenges to women being leaders and founders of cuttingedge companies,” said Liz Marchi, Two Bear Capital ‘s Head of Community Engagement. “We are thrilled to partner with Athena to bring new opportunities to the amazing women leaders in science. Two Bear Capital Partner Ida Khodami is a global leader in genomics and is a member of the board of Athena.” stop

ABOUT ATHENA Athena is a premier women’s advocacy organization that fast tracks women in STEM through leadership development. By transforming scientists and technologists into corporate leaders, the goal is to widen the bridge and advance 1 million women in STEM, by 2030. Its 20+ year history of advancing women in a global STEM hub marks Athena as a premier women’s empowerment advocate. For more information visit athenasd.org and follow @athenasandiego.

ABOUT TWO BEAR CAPITAL Two Bear Capital (TBC) was founded and is led by venture capitalist and Montana philanthropist Michael Goguen. With associates in Whitefish, MT, the San Francisco Bay area, San Diego, CA and Boston. TBC invests in early-stage companies with disruptive innovations at the intersections of biotech, bioinformatics, machine learning / AI and cybersecurity that deliver dramatically better solutions to the most critical problems affecting human health, security and wellness. To learn more, visit www.twobearcapital.com and follow TBC on LinkedIn.

Holly Smithson is Athena’s Chief Executive Officer. Before Athena, she served as Vice President, Business Strategy at the California Life Sciences Association, the nation’s largest statewide advocacy organization for the life sciences sector. Smithson previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cleantech San Diego. Smithson worked in public policy for a decade as a Presidential Appointee at several federal agencies and as a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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FINANCE

How Outsourcing Your Accounting Can Save You in the Long Term By Adam Malloy, CPA

OUTSOURCING & STRATEGY MANAGER, EIDE BAILLY BILLINGS (Originally

published on www.EideBailly.com)

understand how various scenarios and situations will impact cash flow. • Manage the assets on their balance sheet. • Focus on inventory and accounts receivable. THE BENEFIT OF OUTSOURCING FINANCIAL POSITIONS

T

he effects of COVID-19 have had substantial impacts on organizations and their bottom lines. For many, this environment has resulted in personnel cuts and lean business models for the foreseeable future. As your organization looks for ways to contain costs, a critical factor to consider is the importance of financial statements and accounting information. Without up-todate, accurate accounting records, you cannot make informed decisions about your operation. Financial records will be key when it comes to most tax and economic relief provisions. As guidance continues to be issued, compliance with the provisions within many of the relief legislation measures will be crucial, especially as it pertains to potential forgiveness of loan proceeds. Having a trained financial professional review these will be a necessity. THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR FINANCIAL RECORDS Preparation has always been critical for organizations. Now it’s crucial. Your finances influence most factors in your organization, from supply chain to inventory to new business models.

Monthly, you should be doing reconciliations for the following common accounts: • Bank accounts: This helps verify all revenue and expenditure activity is captured in your records on a monthly basis. • Accounts receivable: This helps ensure your customers are paying in a timely manner and will also help your collection procedures. • Accounts payable: This helps verify the amounts shown due are true payables and allows you to pay your vendors in a timely fashion. This may also help you take advantage of discounts given by your vendors for early payment. • Capital asset inventory: This establishes that any capital outlays are added to your software and/or external schedule. This list is an audit necessity. • Payroll accounts (accruals and expenses): This verifies that payroll is being accounted for properly in the correct accounts. Further, because the downturn could have a longer duration, organizations will need to pay attention to liquidity and make it their top priority. To do this, they’ll need to: • Conduct financial modeling to

With tight budgets and limited resources, many organizations have instigated hiring freezes. Yet filling the role of your accounting staff is critical. That’s why many organizations are turning to outsourcing to gain the information they need without having to bear the burden of hiring someone full-time. In addition to data entry and monthly reconciliations, financial staff can help you craft a plan to move forward, even during times of crisis and uncertainty. Outsourced accounting staff with a high level of financial knowledge can: • Ensure the accuracy and timeliness of your financial data. • Help you manage cash flow. • Present your financial data in a useful and meaningful manner to you. • Analyze market trends and help you define key performance metrics and benchmarking data. • Understand business strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities. SAVE COSTS AND GAIN EXPERTISE WITH OUTSOURCED ACCOUNTING Outsourcing through a trusted advisor can give you the answers you need to your pressing financial needs at a substantially lower cost. The economic climate may be uncertain, but your financial records should not be. stop

Born and raised in Billings, Montana, Adam Malloy earned a master’s degree in accounting from Montana State University. He has worked in both public accounting and private industry for the past 14 years. Adam’s experience results in a refined understanding of business operations and the value of useable and accurate financial data.

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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HUMAN RESOURCES

An Employee-Centric Return to the Office By Jenni Graff

FOUNDERS & SENIOR RECRUITING CONSULTANT, SILVERGATE RECRUITING

T

he decision to return employees to the office safely is complex. Professional offices in Montana generally have fewer employees, making socially distanced workspaces feasible. Despite the relative ease with which Montana businesses could safely return to work, however, there is a growing sentiment that employees are not particularly anxious to return to the office. Although this thought may require some getting used to, as Recruiting Consultants exclusively serving Montana, we are here to tell you, there is a legitimate business argument for offering more flexibility to your employees when you begin planning your return to the office. Where businesses who offer a more flexible work environment post-COVID will see their Return on Investment will be in employee satisfaction, retention, and attraction. We speak with hundreds of professional candidates each month, discussing what they seek in an ideal position, and the consensus is professional employees now demand a flexible work environment. Corroborating our daily conversations with quantifiable research, it is clear few

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MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

professionals are itching to get back to the 9:00 to 5:00 grind. A recent Gallup survey found nearly two-thirds of those who worked from home during the pandemic would prefer to continue doing so. The work/life balance of a flexible workplace is a deciding factor for many when considering a job transition. With a centralized office and occasional work from home, employees work primarily from the office but have the ability to work from home occasionally. The centralized office and “work from anywhere” model increase employee freedom by allowing them to choose where they work—from the office, home, or anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. Some companies have chosen to ditch the office all together and offer fully remote work. LinkedIn named the 3-2-2 model as a workplace trend to watch in 2021, which offers three days in the office, two days remote, and two days off. As employers try to accommodate employee desires, the hybrid work model has emerged as the most favorable model for return to work. Claire Matten, Advisor at Sterling Commercial Real Estate, noted

Where businesses who offer a more flexible work environment post-COVID will see their Return on Investment will be in employee satisfaction, retention, and attraction. many businesses in Montana seem to embrace the hybrid model. “As the working world adapts to a new normal,” she said, “we’re seeing companies provide more flexibility in a mix of work from home and in-office options. However, we’re definitely hearing that the collaborative, in-person time is crucial as well.”


It is estimated that losing an employee can cost 1.5 to 2 times the employee’s salary, making employee retention the goal for any business. If a hybrid workplace model retains the majority of employees, businesses should also consider the support systems needed for success. When considering a hybrid work model, technology requirements must be evaluated. Does it provide employees with a collaborative, effective platform for working and communicating? We see companies using programs such as Microsoft 365, Dropbox, G Suite, Zoom, Asana, and Slack to manage projects and ensure that employees are completing tasks and working effectively with coworkers without being overly burdensome or big-brother-

ish. If your business is already using one (or more) of these methods to keep track of project progress, a permanent hybrid work model could be attainable with additional investments in network security. Effective HR and onboarding are imperative for setting expectations for a flexible workforce. Expectations to be set include the number of in-person hours, analog hours, core hours the employee will be available, and acceptable response time to e-mails or instant messages. We’ve noticed companies that have flourished during the pandemic have outlined policies in regard to working hours, project updates, and preferred methods and response times for communication. When enacted, trust and boundaries

are established and appreciated by all members of the team. There will not be a return to “normal” for Montana businesses post Covid. With increased global competition and a tight professional labor pool that has not ceased due to the pandemic, Montana businesses need to continue to find ways to keep their business models fresh. Doing so will satisfy current employees and attract new talent with matched drive and passion. Hybrid models have the capability to adapt with unforeseen circumstances (ahem, COVID-19), and businesses can tailor any model to align with their mission and values. If the benefits of a hybrid model outweigh the costs associated with potential employee turnover, it could be the right choice. stop

Jenni Graff is the founder and senior recruiting consultant of Silvergate Recruiting, a boutique recruiting firm based in Missoula, MT. She works with professional service firms across Montana to help them improve their talent attraction processes and recruit senior-level employees.

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T EC H + I N N OVAT I O N

The Great Pivot:

How Montana’s Tech Companies are Adapting to Survive (and Even Thrive) in the New Normal By Christina Henderson

FOUNDING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MONTANA HIGH TECH BUSINESS ALLIANCE

C

oming into 2020, Montana’s high-tech industry continued a multi-year trend of fast growth. In 2019, high-tech grew nine times faster than other sectors and represented more than $2.5 billion in revenues, according to a survey conducted by the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The official report on 2020 is still in progress, but most indicators show Montana’s high-tech industry has weathered the pandemic well overall. When COVID-19 hit, we did see a sudden downturn in Q2 of 2020 with layoffs at a few companies in software, advanced manufacturing, and marketing technology. Many impacted firms have been able to adapt quickly and leverage PPP funds to bridge gaps. A number of those employers begin rehiring in late 2020. Some big success stories emerged in recent months: • In July 2020, Missoula-based biotech therapeutics company Inimmune secured a $22M Series A investment from Two Bear Capital in Whitefish to advance multiple lead programs through Phase I human clinical testing. • Ascent Vision Technologies (AVT), a veteran-owned firm specializing in counter-drone technology and aerial surveillance systems, announced in August 2020 that it was acquired by CACI International for $350 million and will keep its headquarters in Bozeman. • In February 2021, IT consulting company Helix Business Solutions was acquired by Speridian Technologies. Kevin Sherwood, Helix CEO and Montana resident, will continue to lead Helix under Speridian as its own business unit. Helix is actively hiring for jobs that can be done from the office in Dillon, Mont. or remotely.

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MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Most tech companies have been able to shift successfully to remote work and continue operations safely. We’ve seen three key ways Montana tech leaders are pivoting their business models to meet current challenges in 2021: 1) PURSUE NEW MARKETS Some industries had immediate declines in business due to COVID-19, while others spiked in demand. Tech companies serving sectors like small business, education, retail, restaurants, and hospitality saw revenues dry up overnight. Leaders hustled to pursue new market opportunities. PFL is a marketing technology company in Livingston with more than 300 employees. Founder and CEO Andrew Field said the pandemic caused drops in some verticals, such as printing restaurant menus, but boosted others. PFL found new business warehousing and delivering supplies for medical device companies and health insurance providers. Over the last year, PFL leveled-up its customer base and enhanced its Tactile Marketing Automation product, serving sophisticated marketing organizations such as Salesforce, SAP, and Zoom. In December 2020, PFL announced plans to hire at least 80 additional new employees and in March 2021 reported 40 percent year over year growth. 2) DEVELOP NEW OFFERINGS The pandemic has driven rapid adoption of technology. A number of tech companies have stepped up to offer new solutions to emerging problems. Montana’s biotech industry in particular has accelerated its rate of innovation: • FYR Diagnostics in Missoula, funded by Two Bear Capital, is developing a faster test for COVID-19. • Bozeman’s Golden Helix developed bioinformatics software to automate the diagnostic process. • In telemedicine, startups like Pulsara in Bozeman and Ahana and Patient One in Missoula have developed innovative platforms to leverage technology

“For the first time, our clients .... were ready for a video conference. And that meant no more last-minute plane flights, no more paying for hotels or being separated from our families.” SHERRI DAVIDOFF, LMG SECURITY

within healthcare and minimize contact between patients and frontline workers. COVID-19 has created countless new pain points for entrepreneurs to solve and increased the urgency for customers seeking solutions. 3) GO REMOTE The shift to remote work has not only allowed tech companies to continue operations during shutdowns. It has also paved the way for firms to provide more services remotely, benefitting both businesses and their employees. For Sherri Davidoff, founder and CEO of LMG Security in Missoula, 2020 was a year full of ups and downs. “Above all, I’d say it was a year of opportunity,” Davidoff said at the Montana Economic Outlook Seminar in February. LMG Security is a consulting company that helps clients prepare for, defend

against, and repair the damages of cyberattacks. For years, LMG was ready to offer services like penetration testing, ransomware negotiations, and wireless network assessments remotely, but customers preferred to have consultants on site. With COVID, all of that changed. “For the first time our clients were willing to accept that—they were ready for a video conference, were ready to plug in these devices and work with us,” Davidoff said. “And that meant no more last-minute plane flights, no more paying for hotels or being separated from our families. My expectation and hope is that a lot of this will continue into the future…and this gives caregivers, [particularly] women, more opportunities to grow in the industry.” Despite the challenges of 2020, business leaders have shown that through resilience, adaptability, and innovation, Montana’s high-tech companies are positioned for a fast comeback. stop

Christina Quick Henderson is founding executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and an instructor in the University of Montana College of Business. She worked previously as Marketing Director for the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research. She holds an English/Education degree from the University of Iowa and an MBA from UM.

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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P O L I CY

New Opportunities and New Challenges Face America’s Business Community By Chris Eyler

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTHWEST REGION, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

A

s the first quarter of 2021 comes to an end, the U.S. Chamber has embarked on a new path forward under new leadership as Suzanne Clark was officially named President and CEO. In her first remarks to the U.S. Chamber Board of Directors in early March, she laid out our vision for the future, a vision that builds on the successes achieved during the 24-year tenure of her predecessor, Tom Donohue. Moreover, it is a vision that reiterates the Chamber’s commitment to promoting and defending our system of free enterprise and working with policymakers at all levels of government, irrespective of party, to get out-of-work Americans back to work, while enacting pro-growth policies on infrastructure, immigration, and the workforce. While this transition comes at an inflection point in our nation’s history, the Chamber has not missed a beat. Throughout what has arguably been one of most challenging years in recent history, we have been working tirelessly to make sure that Congress responds to the needs of employers during the ongoing pandemic. This included working with Congress and the outgoing administration to build on the success of the CARES Act and pass additional aid for individual Americans, a desperately needed extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, and an all new grant program designed to assist many of the entertainment venues that have been mostly shut down for the past year. Shortly thereafter, the new Congress and new administration passed additional aid, much of which was directed at struggling businesses, including some of the hardest hit in the hospitality sector. But most importantly, it included significant resources aimed at turbo-charging the level of vaccine distribution we need to get America back to work. For Montana’s businesses, this aid has been lifesaving. Since its creation, the PPP has provided 15,289 Montana businesses over $649,793,383 in assistance, which in turn has saved thousands of Montana jobs.

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MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Looking forward, Montana can expect to receive nearly $1.4 billion in direct assistance through the American Rescue Plan. $304 million of this is earmarked for the state’s cities and counties. However, this year has not been without its challenges. We all witnessed in horror the events of January 6th as rioters briefly took over the center of our republic. The Chamber has spoken unequivocally that this kind of behavior has no place in our democracy, and we will hold members of Congress accountable. Furthermore, some of the new administration’s early steps have raised significant concerns among employers across the nation. Most notably, its embrace of the PRO Act, which represents a radical re-write of American labor law and significant threat to freelancers and other independent contractors. In short, this legislation would essentially eliminate right-to-work laws, encourage “card check” certification, impose first contract

arbitration, legalize secondary boycotts, mandate California’s ABC test for determining independent contractor status under the NLRA, re-establish the Browning Ferris standard for joint employer determinations, and massively increase penalties on employers. While the PRO Act passed the House earlier this month, it does not have enough support to pass in the Senate under current filibuster rules. However, there is increasing pressure to eliminate the filibuster so that it and other pieces of controversial legislation can more easily move through the Senate. The Chamber believes such a move would create a far less deliberative legislative process, as well as contribute to instability as our federal laws would change dramatically every time political control of Congress and the White House shifts from one party to the other. We have made it clear that the Chamber believes that rules like the filibuster ultimately contribute to better and more


thoughtful legislation, and that we oppose any effort to eliminate the filibuster. We are equally as concerned by recent actions taken by the administration to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and prohibit oil and gas development on federal lands. This strikes at the heart of Montana’s economy, threatens the gains we have made in achieving energy independence, and puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. Nevertheless, the reasons to be positive about the future are far more numerous than the reasons to be pessimistic. American businesses have struggled, but they have remained strong and led the way during the current crisis. As Tom Donohue explained in his final State of American Business Address, “Our nation has seen it in the determination of small businesses who have kept their doors open and kept their employees on payrolls

... the reasons to be positive about the future are far more numerous than the reasons to be pessimistic. American businesses have struggled, but they have remained strong and led the way during the current crisis.

against all odds ... we’ve seen it in the tireless dedication of the essential workers who have kept daily life running for all of us ... and we’ve seen it in the precedentshattering global innovation leading to the development of safe and effective vaccines, faster than anyone dreamed.” America’s economy is poised for historic growth. But it is up to us to make sure policymakers enact sensible policies that allow businesses to thrive and create jobs.

To be successful, we need the help and support of our state and local chamber partners. Chambers like the Montana Chamber and the local chambers across the state have been instrumental in leading their communities through the pandemic. They have been invaluable in guiding and informing our advocacy in Washington, D.C. And, they will be at the leading edge of our efforts to build lasting economic growth for the 21st century. stop

Chris Eyler is the U.S. Chamber’s Executive Director for the Northwest Region. He works directly with state and local chambers on behalf of the U.S. Chamber throughout the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. He previously spent nearly 13 years as a staffer to three U.S. Senators.

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EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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M ON TA NA STAT E U N I V E R SI T Y

Building Montana Business

MSU provides critical resources to help Montana companies succeed.

Contact the MSU business assistance program that can help your company: MSU Technology Transfer facilitates university and business partnerships, and technologies and research collaborations at MSU. | tto.montana.edu

TechLink helps businesses and entrepreneurs identify, evaluate, and license technology

developed within Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs labs nationwide and leads the Montana Innovation Partnership, connecting Montana businesses to Federal SBIR and STTR funding opportunities. | techlinkcenter.org · montanainnovationpartnership.org

Find out more about business assistance at Montana State

The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, part of the MEP National

Contact

Network, provides hands-on assistance from staff with extensive experience helping

Daniel Juliano

montana.edu/mmec · mmec@montana.edu · 406-994-3812

2310 University Way Building 2-2

Blackstone LaunchPad, in the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship,

PO Box 170531 Bozeman, MT 59715

provides students, faculty and alumni with mentorship and support to develop their entrepreneurial ventures, so they can bring their ideas to life and grow their business. montana.edu/launchpad

406-994-7483

MSU Innovation Campus, located on approximately 100 acres adjacent to Montana

tto.montana.edu

State University, provides services, facilities, programs and expertise to stimulate and support the growth of research and technology-based enterprises. | msuinnovationcampus.org

daniel.juliano@montana.edu


MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE STAFF:

WORKING HARD FOR YOU EVERY DAY.

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TODD O’HAIR President & CEO

MATTHEW OLSON Director of Network Development

BRIDGER MAHLUM Government Affairs Director

KIMBERLY SELIGMAN Communications & Marketing Manager

Todd@MontanaChamber.com 406.439.0289

Matthew@MontanaChamber.com 406.360.6443

Bridger@MontanaChamber.com 406.270.2652

Kimberly@MontanaChamber.com 406.437.4634

Contact me for: Envision 2026

Contact me for: Envision 2026 The Prospects Workforce Development Youth Entrepreneurs

Contact me for: Legislative Advocacy Political Action Elections & Endorsements Montana Justice Coalition Montana Infrastructure Coalition

Contact me for: Advertising Marketing Publications Media Inquiries Member Communications

STACYE DORRINGTON Office & Events Manager

PAYTON DOBBS Member Relations Coordinator

DEE DURAND Senior Office Administrator

Stacye@MontanaChamber.com 406.439.4220

PaytonD@MontanaChamber.com 406.431.3749

Dee@MontanaChamber.com 406.431.3248

Contact me for: Events Registration & Sponsorship Montana Chamber Foundation

Contact me for: Becoming a Member Member Services

Contact me for: General Montana Chamber Info Member Services

MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Come stay with us!

We are in Business for YOUR Business! e. info@belgradechamber.org p. (406) 388-1616 a. 10 E. Main St. Belgrade, MT 59714

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PROVIDING A PLACE FOR YOUR RESERVATIONS & SHUTTLE (406) 442-1770 Minutes from the Capitol - Complimentary Breakfast - Pool & Hot Tub Montana-friendly Hospitality

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rendevous casino and burger grill

TECHNOLOGY TO PLUG IN

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202 3rd Ave. NW Sidney, MT 59270

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2300 King Ave W. | Billings, MT 59102 | (406) 652-4980

Cindy Duncan • Office: (406) 652-7771

Representing BCBS of MT, Paci�icSource and AFLAC

BLACK BUTTE COPPER

WE’VE LOVED MONTANA FOR OVER 35 YEARS. WHY STOP NOW?

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, MONTANA PERMITTED. PROTECTED. COMMITTED TO DOING IT RIGHT. BLACKBUTTECOPPER.COM

2429 W Holly St. Sidney, MT 59270

406-488-4400 800-624-6540 tri-cnty.com

We’re proud to collect used cooking oil throughout beautiful Big Sky Country and recycle it into biofuel. Our services also include grease trap cleaning for our customers in many areas. It’s been our privilege to serve you for over three decades, and we will still be here three decades from now.

ADVERTISE IN THE NEXT ISSUE KIMBERLY SELIGMAN

Baker Commodities, Serving Montana (800) 551-0501 www.bakercommodities.com/blog/montana

Communications & Marketing Manager

Kimberly@MontanaChamber.com 406.437.4634

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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A safer workplace is about five minutes away. No matter the work, safety works in Montana. Our library of videos is full of simple strategies to protect yourself and your co-workers on the job. Take a minute to check them out, then get going again, safely. See them all at safemt.com.

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MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Montana’s electric cooperatives, we do more than keep the lights on for you!

501 Bay Drive • Great Falls, MT 59401 • 406.761.8333 • mtco-ops.com

Building the future of the construction workforce.

UPCOMING EVENTS Montana Centers of Opportunity Forum July 29, 2021 Kalispell Governors’ Cup Golf Tournament July 29–31, 2021 Flathead Valley

Annual Membership Meeting October 25-26, 2021 Billings

build-montana.org

Our corporate office moved! Learn more: www.mpqhf.org

Professional Property Management 40 W. 14th St. STE 4A

406.457.5542

Play, Eat, Stay!

Since 1980, our attorneys have been pairing deep knowledge counsel to clients of all sizes and industries on matters involving litigation, commercial transactions, government regulation, natural resource, and employment law.

Manufacturing Day October 25-26, 2021 Billings

Economic Update Series Dates and Locations TBD

Contact: W. Scott Mitchell 406.252.2166 401 North 31st Street Suite 1500 Billings, MT 59101 hollandhart.com

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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REACH TOP BUSINESSES ACROSS MONTANA

The Montana Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly magazine provides an opportunity to reach business leaders across the Treasure State. Eye on Business is distributed to all of the Chamber members, which includes professionals in all industries and segments of Montana’s economy. Put your company in the hands of Montana’s business leaders today!

TO ADVERTISE

KIMBERLY SELIGMAN, Communications & Marketing Manager Kimberly@MontanaChamber.com • 406.437.4634

SUBMIT AN ARTICLE

All of the articles in Eye on Business are written by our members who are industry experts and leaders in their field. If you would like to submit an article for consideration in an upcoming publication, please contact Kimberly Seligman.

OUR VISION We all get stuck sometimes...

Shodair is there to help! Helping Montana families for 125 years and the 2019 Helena Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year!

For more information visit shodair.org

As the leading business advocate, the Montana Chamber of Commerce envisions a business climate that is optimal for Montana business prosperity.

OUR MISSION To create and sustain an optimal business climate, business prosperity, and a strong Montana economy, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, through advocacy, education, and collaboration, works to provide an empowered and educated workforce, reduce business growth obstacles, and advance positions that promote success for Montana businesses.

Interested in narrowing the skills gap? Wondering how to promote your industry in Montana’s education sector? SkillsUSA Montana is the bridge between you and Montana’s classrooms!

Who are we?

SkillsUSA Montana is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure Montana has a skilled workforce.

For more information, please contact: Mary Heller, State Director SkillsUSA Montana

mary.heller@skillsusamontana.org 406-399-0640 To learn more: www.skillsusa.org

SkillsUSA Montana: Working with industry to grow tomorrow’s quality workforce. 26

MONTANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Dear Northwestern Energy customers,

Our future is stronger.

During what has been an unprecedented year, we have learned to work better, harder and smarter in order to provide the services you need. From hospitals and schools to homes and ranches, we’ve worked around the clock to power our communities with reliable and affordable energy. And now, as we look toward a brighter future, we know the path forward is possible because of the men and women who work here and the friends and neighbors who have supported us along the way. Thank you.

NorthWesternEnergy.com/BrightFuture

EYE ON BUSINESS SPRING 2021

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Profile for Deanna Johnson

Montana Chamber of Commerce - Eye on Business, Spring 2021  

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