I read a great article in the business journal of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle today. In it, Steve Hample of Hample and Peck ( a trust/banking organization) outlined what may have set Bozeman apart from the rest of Montana on its road to recovery from the fiscal collapse in 2008.
Hample began with the standard reasons for why Bozeman may have been more likely to recover from economic decline. Such reasons included the scenic area, our clean air, the low crime, the good schools, the presence of MSU and a continually growing tourism industry. I’d agree with these reasons, but I appreciated how Hample took the story farther than the obvious.
Over the last two years, Montana has ranked first on the “Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.” The index correlates the ratio of new businesses formed compared to the size of the population. Now granted, Montana always does very well or very poorly in most surveys based on per capita, so I thought maybe this one was similar.
However, Hample noted that the other two states that have always ranked close to us in this index were Colorado and California. Both have respectable populations, as well as the great mystery to any Montanan, cities. Hample suggests, then, that our number-one ranking is not due to the rural aspect of living in Montana, but instead the quality of the individuals coming to Bozeman.
Now, of course, what came first? The chicken or the egg? Does a scenic area, clean air, low crime and good schools attract better, smarter people, that then leads to a better, smarter town? Or do these factors actually create better, smarter people, that then lead to improvements in the latter. It probably is both and probably doesn’t really matter either way, so long as the improvement continues!
But what I loved about the article was how Hample suggested that we may have actually already passed a specific tipping point for continued economic success and less hardships in the future. Hample pointed to the presence of Right Now Technologies in Bozeman, which attracted many high-tech individuals and support-staff who would not have been in Bozeman before the business started. Some of their staff went on to start their own tech based companies and so on.
Our airport has now become the biggest in the state. With such good skiing and proximity to Yellowstone, it’s surprising it’s taken this long! But having such an airport at our disposal attracts more people, and who knows who may stick around after their visit? Now, the obvious factors, good schools, low crime etc., almost see their influence increase with the increased exposure to higher numbers of people
Essentially, Hample states that we have ascended into a different league, “like a football team moving to a higher division.” It took a lot of work to get over the barrier, but since Bozeman has, it now has access to a myriad of benefits that other towns simply cannot access. I hope we can continue such a trend and potentially hop another one of these economic barriers as Bozeman continues to grow into the future.
Hample, Steve. “Enjoying Success.” Business Journal for Southwest Montana. 23 September 2014.