Pillar 5: Nurture Emerging Industries And Encourage Innovation
Technology and innovation are opportunities that can lead to expansion of new and existing industries.
Technology and innovation are drivers of new job growth. Northwest and Southwest Montana have seen robust growth in technology and high-tech manufacturing. In the east, the economy has benefited from new techniques to drill oil; in agricultural areas, farmers have had great success using precision agriculture. We need to be nimble and responsive to keep up with a rapidly changing global economy and ever-improving technologies by nurturing emerging industries and encouraging innovation.
The surveys, roundtables and meetings with business leaders throughout the state identified diversifying the economic base as one of the Montana Main Street Project’s top goals. Technology and innovation are opportunities that can lead to expansion of new and existing industries. To help diversify Montana’s economic base, we can identify and support opportunities to develop potentially high growth industries such as knowledge-based services, which export ideas and services.
Education is vitally important to emerging industries and to encourage innovation. Partnerships between our universities and business communities that move ideas to market already exist. These successful partnerships can serve as models for other Montana communities. Two-year colleges can and must quickly respond to changing skill sets required by new programs, software or machinery. Maximizing the responsiveness of two-year colleges will help the workforce adjust in a dynamic economy.
The natural challenges associated with having large-distances between businesses have prevented the spread of best practices within industries, and limited the development of in-state supply chains across industries. Many business and community leaders who attended the roundtable events asked for more networking opportunities across the state and across different sectors of the economy. For example, participants suggested that university researchers and innovators need to communicate with businesses to understand production processes so that new commercial technologies to improve efficiency can be developed. In turn, these innovators need start-up capital and customers so that productivity-enhancing technologies can rapidly spread through Montana’s economy.
Innovation is important to all industries, including emerging as well as traditional Montana industries. We must continue to promote technology and innovation in our traditional industries, such as precision agriculture in wheat farms, clean resources extraction methods, and technologies that improve worker productivity.