Tech, manufacturing companies in Missoula adding 49 new jobs under state program

Two growing companies based in Missoula are looking to fill a combined 49 new jobs this year, including those in the city’s growing technology and manufacturing industries.

Elite One Source Nutritional Services and Advanced Technology Group both landed job-creation grants though the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund as they look to fill the positions this calendar year.

Missoula County commissioners approved the contracts on Thursday.

“The jobs at ATG are tech jobs that tend to be in the areas of account management and software development,” said Nicol Rush, the grants manager at Missoula Economic Partnership. “At One Source, those are manufacturing jobs, but they’re very highly skilled. They’re all good, skilled jobs in different industries.”

To meet the grant requirements, Elite One Source must fill its 24 eligible new jobs by August 27, paying $16.50 per hour, including benefits. ATG has until Nov. 1 to create the 25 jobs covered in its grant, with the positions paying $18.50 an hour or more.

ATG has added more than 100 new positions through the Big Sky economic development program over the past two years, making it one of the fastest growing technology firms in Missoula.

Elite One Source, which manufactures vitamins and supplements, is also facing robust growth.

“They’re crammed full in that building on Third Street,” said Rush. “They produce a wide array of vitamins and nutritional supplements under other brand names, which we’ve all probably bought at some point.”

While the two firms eye future growth, TOMIS LLC – another Missoula-based technology firm – has adjusted its baseline jobs report filed under the economic development program with the state.

“Some of the people they reported as employees, and while they do work for the organization, they may work outside of Missoula County, or work under a different payment structure than a typical salaried employee,” said Rush. “The way these tech companies operate is not always on the traditional model that these grant programs were designed to assist.”

Rush said the program was designed with the intention of helping Montana manufacturers, though it has grown to assist other sectors as well, including technology startups. Given that tech companies often operate under nontraditional models, their jobs don’t always gel with the state program and don’t always qualify for reimbursement, Rush said.

“The tech industry doesn’t think anything of having employees outside Missoula, outside Montana or even around the world,” said Rush. “But those jobs aren’t created in Missoula County, so it’s not adding to our local economy. It’s something we have to work out as we manage the grant.”

The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund provides state grants to qualified businesses to promote stable economic growth, including job creation and planning. The program is managed locally by MEP and Missoula County, which are currently managing around $1.8 million to help 13 local companies create 252 new jobs.

Despite the program’s ability to incentivize economic development, it faces an uncertain future. During the last special session of the Legislature, state lawmakers culled all reserve funding from the program.

“These (latest) grants were announced toward the end of 2017 and awarded before the reserve funds were transferred from the program,” said Rush. “I think they will open it up to new applications in July when the state’s new fiscal year starts.”