Musings on Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Monday, October 06, 2003
Finding Middle Earth in Montana
George Gendron describes entrepreneurship as "the art of the new." It is the process of creation, more akin to art than business administration. I've argued that the economic frontier is a magnet for creative talent of the business variety. No surprises then, that the frontier first attracted other types of creative souls. One of the most interesting in these parts is a young author whose book, Eragon, is outselling Harry Potter.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/07/books/07DRAG.html?pagewanted=1 (free registration required)
Entrepreneurship in Big Sky Country
In the 2003 Inc. 500 listing, the states of Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia have been labeled "entrepreneurial deserts." There is not a single Inc. 500 company among them. I'm glad to report that my home state of Montana has avoided that distinction, as it has every year since 2000. Over the last four years, Montana has been represented on the Inc. list by three different companies: Commercial Energy of Montana (2002, 2003), PrintingForLess.com (2002), and Image Labs International (formerly Vision 1; 2000, 2001). Okay, Montana still doesn't rank as an entrepreneurial oasis by this particular measure, but the state's recent entrepreneurial performance is encouraging by historical and geographical standards.
For starters, in the 18 years ended in 1999, Montana companies made the Inc. 500 list just four times: twice in the 1980's and twice in the 1990's. Pretty desert like. Furthermore, the representative companies were located in the (relatively) larger towns of Great Falls and Butte. Commercial Energy is in Cut Bank, which has a population of just 3,100. PrintingForLess.com is based in Livingston, an old railroad town of some 6,900 souls. Entrepreneurial growth companies not only exist in a remote regions, they can thrive in small towns within those regions. The urban advantage remains, but it isn't deterministic.