In a significant move in its continued evolution from a telephone and broadband provider to a fully integrated technology solutions company, Blackfoot has announced the creation of a high-tech innovation program.
As part of this program, Blackfoot will welcome Joe Fanguy to its executive team on January 2, 2018, as VP for Strategic Development. Fanguy will bring with him nearly a decade of leading technology commercialization and economic development efforts in Montana. Among those efforts, business incubator MonTEC was revitalized, and subsequently produced $30 million in private investment; the Blackstone LaunchPad, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) launched programs at the University of Montana; and Accelerate Montana was established as the University of Montana’s economic development arm, which now serves 750 Montana businesses/entrepreneurs annually.
“Joe is uniquely qualified to forge relationships between established tech companies like Blackfoot, start-up companies, the Montana University System, and private investors,” said Blackfoot CEO Jason Williams. “With Joe’s leadership, Blackfoot will help continue to foster Missoula’s robust, high-tech ecosystem.”
In developing its high-tech innovation program, Blackfoot will look to partner with local and global high-tech start-ups, investment firms, educators, economic development groups, and the state’s research programs at the University of Montana and Montana State University.
The University of Montana’s VP for Research and Creative Scholarship, Scott Whittenburg, said he looks forward to building upon the successes of the past several years in partnership with Blackfoot. “As the University approaches $100 million a year in research expenditures, Missoula and Montana, will become an increasingly attractive place for companies to locate,” said Whittenburg. “Having strong ties between the university and the private sector will only strengthen the opportunities, and the impacts of our research, creative, and entrepreneurial activities,” he added.
In his new role, Fanguy will drive strategic corporate, non-profit and philanthropic partnerships for Blackfoot around innovation with regional and global leaders. “Building upon existing relationships, and forming new ones, is a very exciting part of the opportunity to lead this effort,” Fanguy said. “The future is bright for tech in Montana, and Blackfoot is well positioned to lead the way, along with other exciting tech companies, adding jobs and wealth to our communities.”
A 2017 Kaufmann Foundation report, conducted in collaboration with MonTEC, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, and the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, noted the tech industry in Montana is now worth $1 billion. In addition, the report ranked Missoula and Bozeman 9th and 12th highest in start-up rates among 394 areas around the country, making Montana not only the best place to live, but also a great place to do high-tech, start-up, and related business.
“Seeing firsthand the increase in tech activity over the last decade in Montana is inspiring, and something to build upon for future generations,” said Fanguy, citing the report.
James Grunke, CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership, sees the Blackfoot announcement as a win-win for everyone. Grunke said, “Public/private partnerships are key to economic development, especially in tech. Combining Blackfoot’s vision of being a tech leader and Joe’s track record of success will set the stage for significantly moving the needle forward for our community and our state,” he added.