NBC Montana: Montana named Regional Tech Hub, among 30 new designations

by NBC Montana Staff

The Economic Development Administration just named Montana a Regional Tech Hub. It comes with $500,000 in strategy development funding to help launch the hub’s activities.

The designation is competitive, with just about 30 new hubs selected from nearly 200 applications.

It means the state can compete for millions of dollars in funding from federal and private sources to develop new technology.

Sen. Jon Tester’s office touted years of efforts by the senator to secure the designation. The bipartisan Chips and Science Act included Tester’s provision to put a hub in a rural state.

“The Treasure State is ready to lead the nation in strengthening American security through domestic manufacturing and innovation. I’m proud to have led the charge to secure this competitive designation that will unlock new private and federal investments to turbocharge Montana’s economy, small businesses, and academic institutions,” Tester said.

Sen. Steve Daines’ office credited his work on the Endless Frontier Act that was signed into law as part of the Chips and Science Act.

“Today’s announcement is another milestone for Montana, speaks volumes about the quality of our workforce and further solidifies our standing as a leading hub for cutting edge technology and research in the country. From optics and photonics to quantum computing, I am grateful help advance Montana’s ability to contribute even further to the important research and development that will help strengthen our national security and help us stay competitive against China,” Daines said.

Tester’s office released the following information:

As part of his continued push to bring a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub to Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced today that Montana has been selected as a Regional Tech Hub by the Economic Development Administration. The highly competitive designation follows a years-long push by Tester to secure a rural Tech Hub in Montana and opens the door for the state to compete for millions of dollars in new private and federal investment. With Senator Tester’s backing, Montana was selected from nearly 200 applicants to receive one of roughly 30 new Tech Hub designations.

Along with the crucial Tech Hub designation, Montana was also awarded $500,000 in Strategy Development funding for immediate use to help launch the Hub’s activities.

“Innovation can happen in any corner of America, which is why I’ve led the push to bring a Regional Tech Hub to Montana,” said Tester. “Today’s designation affirms what Montanans across our state already know to be true: there is untapped potential in rural America, and the Treasure State is ready to lead the nation in strengthening American security through domestic manufacturing and innovation. I’m proud to have led the charge to secure this competitive designation that will unlock new private and federal investments to turbocharge Montana’s economy, small businesses, and academic institutions.”

Montana business, technology, and university leaders praised Tester’s efforts to secure Montana’s Tech Hub designation, allowing the state to advance to the next phase of the Tech Hub process:

“In Montana, our ability to adapt, innovate, and educate makes us uniquely positioned to house a tech hub,” said Seth Bodnar, President of the University of Montana. “With UM’s record research growth and Accelerate Montana’s innovative programs for workforce development in a rural setting, we are as prepared as any place in the U.S. to conduct the research, development, and manufacturing needed to ensure international dominance in the critical technology fields in our proposal. Senator Tester and his relentless push to deliver a Tech Hub to our state will bring tremendous opportunities for Montanans for years to come.”

“This designation for a technology hub in Montana gives us another opportunity to punch above our weight for our national competitiveness and securing our supply chains for technological innovations. Industries such as mining, agriculture, construction, and infrastructure development, will greatly benefit from this program. Designating Montana as a Tech Hub under the CHIPs legislation passed in 2022, has the potential to supercharge Montana’s economy, while ensuring the United States is a global leader in technology,” said Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. “We thank Senator Jon Tester for his leadership in delivering this win for our Treasure State and Region.”

“Supported by the solid foundation of Montana’s world-leading photonics ecosystem, a diverse team of government, academic, and industry partners has collaborated to apply for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through the EDA Tech Hub program. This series of grants funded by the CHIPs Act championed by Senator Tester would exponentially increase the rate of industry growth by focusing on commercializing our industry-leading technologies in smart optical sensors for end-use applications,” said Jason Yager, President of the Montana Photonics and Quantum Alliance. “This new Headwaters Tech Hub would drive advancement in Autonomous Vehicles, National Defense, Infrastructure Security, Wildfire Response, Critical Resource Management, Precision Agriculture, and Integrated Industrial Equipment. By solving the problems of tomorrow today, this grant will have an impact not only locally, but nationally and globally.”

“Montana State University is excited be a member of the statewide consortium seeking to develop the Headwaters Regional Technology and Innovation Hub and is grateful to Senator Tester for his leadership in securing Tech Hub designation for Montana. Thanks to key faculty experts in this area, the core technology of the hub – smart photonic sensing—has long been a key research and economic development engine at MSU, stimulating the growth of a local optics and photonics industry in the Gallatin Valley,” said Alison Harmon, Vice President of Research & Economic Development at Montana State University. “With the far-reaching applications of this technology from autonomous vehicles to precision agriculture and national defense, we know that this tech and innovation hub will have a positive impact on the local economies of rural Montana, in ways that also have national importance for food, water, and energy security. Most importantly, we believe it will create many new opportunities for our students as they engage in work force preparation to become future industry leaders.”

“Bridger Photonics is thrilled that the Headwaters Tech Hub Consortium has advanced to the second phase of the Tech Hubs program. I am proud of the dedicated efforts of the Bridger team and consortium members whose work led us to this pivotal next step,” said Pete Roos, President and CEO of Bridger Photonics. “Montana is a hotbed of innovation, and the Hubs program presents a promising opportunity for us to harness and leverage this potential to its fullest.”

Tester has led the charge to bring a Regional Tech Hub to Montana after specifically securing a provision in his bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act to ensure the program includes rural states. Tester’s push to secure a Regional Tech Hub in Montana would open the door for Montana to lead the nation in critical tech development, bring millions of dollars in federal and private-sector investment, and help America outcompete countries like China.

During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing earlier this month, Tester pressed Administration officials on how they planned to ensure rural America does not get left behind during the implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act.

In August, Tester urged the United States Department of Commerce to strongly consider the Montana-based “Headwaters Tech Hub” consortium’s application to make Montana a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub. In March, Tester urged the Biden Administration to consider feedback from Montanans on why the state should be selected for a rural Tech Hub. And in February, Tester hosted a roundtable at Missoula College to discuss next steps for securing a regional Montana Technology and Innovation Hub, and the innovation and economic growth it would bring to the state.

Last year, Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act that will invest in high-tech manufacturing across the country, strengthen technology supply chains, and bolster development of cutting-edge research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Tester was the only member of the Montana congressional delegation to serve on the conference committee that negotiated the bill.

Among Tester’s key achievements in negotiating the legislation were provisions that establish Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs in key areas across the country. He championed an amendment to ensure that a rural state like Montana will have an opportunity to secure Tech Hub funding, which could ultimately bring hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funding to the state.