Photonics can grow Montana’s economy and create quality jobs

New report offers policy recommendations to foster Montana’s photonics industry to support an annual average of over 6,300 jobs through 2030
Media Contact:

Kate Ringness  |  866.517.5045 ext. 701

Date Published: June 5, 2017

MISSOULA, Mont. – Building on Montana’s strengths in photonics can maximize job growth and give the state a competitive economic edge. This is according to The Montana Jobs Project: A Guide to Photonics and Advanced Energy Job Creation, a new report created by the American Jobs Project in partnership with the University of Montana. The JPB Foundation, Incite Labs, the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, the Fung Institute, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society funded the report.

“Our research shows that smart policies and a focus on sector-based growth can allow states to become hubs of innovation and job creation in advanced industries that dovetail with a state’s own strengths,” said Kate Ringness, Lead Editor of The Montana Jobs Project. “By fostering photonics industry growth, Montana could reasonably support over 6,300 direct, indirect, and induced jobs from 2017 through 2030.”

Millions of Americans lost good-paying jobs during the recession, and unfortunately, many of the jobs created during the recovery have been in relatively low-skill, low-income occupations. In contrast, The Montana Jobs Project proposes innovative strategies to create thousands of skilled jobs that pay well for Montanans today and into the future, informed by principles of competition, local control, and less red tape.

Mary Craigle, Director of Data Initiatives and Special Projects at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry stated, “As Montana’s economy continues to be driven by a diverse spectrum of industry sectors, The Montana Jobs Project provides a valuable guide to photonics and advanced energy job creation.”

The report recommends state-specific policies and non-legislative solutions to support job creation by capitalizing on growing market opportunities and aligning manufacturing with critical economic system components, including access to capital, innovation ecosystems, and workforce development.

 The Montana Jobs Project finds that:

  • Montana holds a competitive advantage in the photonics sector, thanks to its:
    • Substantial pre-existing photonics cluster that currently employs over 400 Montanans at forty-eight photonics firms
    • Defined organization of the cluster through the Montana Photonics Industry Alliance
    • Rising national and regional demand for photonics and growth in photonics end-use markets, including advanced energy
    • Access to cutting-edge photonics labs and centers at Montana State University
    • Excellent workforce development program at Gallatin College
    • Network of local businesses and incubators available to advise and grow the industry
  • By building strong economic foundations that support industry growth, Montana’s photonics industry has the potential to employ 6,300 direct, indirect, and induced jobs from 2017 through 2030.

University of Montana’s Paul Polzin was an advisor to The Montana Jobs Project. Polzin stated, “The Montana Jobs Project proves that Montana’s economy is not just about natural resources. The authors of this report show that Montana’s cutting-edge photonics industry could serve as a catalyst for job growth. The report provides a list of practical and time-proven strategies and policies to help this industry grow. It is a must-read for every economic developer, elected official, and everyone else who is working to grow and diversify the Montana economy.”

The Montana Jobs Project offers policy recommendations that could help grow Montana’s photonics industry. These include:

  • Boosting the state’s foreign direct investment strategy
  • Providing tax incentives to attract new photonics businesses and fill supply chain gaps
  • Establishing a technology investment tax credit
  • Leveraging philanthropic funding to grow the cluster
  • Becoming an AIM photonics innovation center
  • Introducing lab space and equipment sharing

The Montana Jobs Project report provides an exciting vision of how Montana can leverage its growing photonics industry and market opportunities in the advanced energy sector to create high quality jobs and economic opportunity in the state,” said Larry Johnson, President of the Montana Photonics Industry Alliance. “The strategies presented in the report are well founded and realistic. This is a call to action that demands our attention.”

The American Jobs Project website features reports on Montana and many other states, as well as a Policy Bank detailing best practices and innovative ideas for job growth in advanced energy industries. To learn more and download a copy of the Montana report, visit