MISSOULA -- Anyone who has started a business in Montana knows there are lots of steps -- some mundane, some complicated -- just to get through the bureaucratic system.

Now, in an effort to streamline that process and encourage entrepreneurship, the state has created the Montana Business Navigator, a new online tool that guides prospective business owners through the hoops of identifying the necessary registrations, licenses and permits needed to begin.

On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Bullock formally introduced the website to the Missoula business community during a news conference at Rivertop Renewables, a chemical company located in the Montana Technology Enterprise Center on East Broadway.

“Small businesses are a driving force in our state’s growing economy,” Bullock said. “The Montana Business Navigator is the result of direct feedback we solicited from entrepreneurs and small-business owners across the state who told us about the need to streamline information, cut red tape and make it easier to create jobs.”

Bullock said the website, which can be found at business.mt.gov/navigator, is meant to be a “one-stop shop” for anyone looking to start a business.

“It walks them through the basics of registering a business with the secretary of state, and in addition to simplifying the permit process, it offers a comprehensive list of resources to aid in the business process,” he said.

Organizations such as the Missoula Economic Partnership and the Montana World Trade Center are available to anyone who needs advice or input, Bullock said.

The website includes the Montana Business Checklist, which brings together all of the state’s business permits and licenses in one location.

Mike Knauf, the CEO of Rivertop Renewables, said Montana’s natural beauty and business climate is conducive to attracting high-tech startups, but challenges remain.

“We have a superior quality of life here, with beautiful lakes and rivers, microbreweries and golf courses,” he said. “In other states, startup CEOs kiss a lot of rings, but they don’t get a lot of governmental action. The software industry has great potential here, but there are some great hurdles to compete with Silicon Valley and other technology clusters. My dream of building a major chemical company headquartered in Missoula is very much alive.”

Knauf said that his company is going to see “rapid expansion in the coming months” due to the first sales of its products to commercial customers.

Bullock also made a point to tout the economic strength of Montana.

“Montana is experiencing strong business and employment growth,” he said. “Our unemployment rate of 4 percent is a point below the national average. More people are working than ever before in our state’s history, and 10,000 jobs were added last year alone. There’s a lot to be excited about from a government that’s living within its means.”

David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@missoulian.com.

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