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The 143 members of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance pay their employees an average of more than $50,000 a year, and together the companies combined for more than $632 million in sales in 2014.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana released its new study Tuesday, representing the first true benchmark measuring the reach of the state’s growing high-tech manufacturing sector.

Based on a survey of 101 alliance members, including those in Missoula, the study found that sector wages provide twice the median income earned by the average state worker, and that industry jobs will continue to outpace other parts of the state’s economy.

“It was really encouraging to see the optimism in the high-tech manufacturing sector,” said Greg Gianforte, chair of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. “As I’ve believed for some time, high-tech manufacturing represents a huge potential to create high-wage job opportunities in our state.”

The report, “A Profile of Montana’s High Tech Industries,” found that members of the alliance expect to add 400 new jobs this year, and increase their wages by 7 percent.

It also found that alliance members expect to make $35 million in capital improvements this year as they continue to grow and expand their reach. Several new firms have recently landed in Missoula, including those in Bonner.

“We started this alliance last summer hoping to have 50 members,” Gianforte said. “We now have 143 members. These companies are coming out of the woodwork, and it bodes well for the potential growth of this sector.”

Data compiled by BBER found that high-tech manufacturing represents roughly 5 percent of the state’s overall economy. The study also suggests that its figures understate the actual size of that sector in Montana.

BBER estimated the industry to be three times what the study reports. Of the alliance’s 143 members, 47 are located in Missoula.

“One of the interesting statistics we found, 40 percent of all payroll growth in all of Montana occurred in Gallatin County,” Gianforte said. “Bozeman was initially the leader in high-tech. What’s encouraging, high-tech startups are scattered across western Montana.”

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