#124. The Most Rural of Locales

Posted on | The Agurban

A few weeks ago, we ran a series on The New Economy. We defined what The New Economy is, how to develop strategies for success in The New Economy and named the states that were leading the way to succeeding in The New Economy. We recently came across a company that, according to Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, is a poster child for The New Economy

The Most Rural of Locales

Elk River Systems is a 14-person company in the tiny central Montana town of Harlowton (pop. 941), and has more than 30,000 clients in a dozen countries. The company runs a web site that allows users to design their own tickets for events (performances, concerts, plays, sporting events, etc.). The company then prints the tickets and tosses them in the mail. Elk River Systems proves that with today’s technology, businesses can operate from anywhere, even in the most rural of locales.

Company CEO Lance Trebesch says Elk River Systems exists in Harlowton thanks to four things: the Internet; the transportation network (UPS); the quality telecom network in Montana; and the expertise of TechRanch’s economic development network. (TechRanch is an entrepreneurial resource center and works with technology startup ventures that develop software, Internet, life sciences and environmental technologies. Their mission is to help Montana based entrepreneurs launch and build companies that will become long term, profitable operating entities, and create high paying, intellectually stimulating, clean jobs in Montana.)

In addition, Trebesch says, of equal importance, are the people now working for Elk River Systems in Harlowton. They are “smart, high-quality, hard-working people that value their jobs.”

When the company was founded in 1998, a concerted effort was made to place it in an economically disadvantaged community. Harlowton was selected because of its solid labor force and welcoming Chamber of Commerce. Trebesch says “Small towns are great, vibrant centers with incredible histories and good people. It’s a competitive advantage for us.” The natural amenities of the Rocky Mountain West area are a nice bonus.

It’s easy to understand why the company has grown 25 percent every year since its inception in 1998.