Broadband Brings Business to Rural Towns

Matt RezacMatt Rezac from the Blandin Foundation just sent me a great article (Global Business Thrives in Small-Town Harlowton, Montana) from New West, an online newspaper from Colorado.

It features Elk River Systems, who runs, a site that allows users to design their own tickets for events (performances, concerts, plays, sporting events, etc.) The company employs 14 people and serves 30,000 customers around the world.

The article sums up the reason Elk River Systems can and does locate in a small town in Harlowton, Montana (population 914). What they had to say and their experience seems so valuable to economic developers anywhere – but especially in rural areas:

Elk River systems exists in Harlowton thanks to four things, he says: the Internet (with a nod to Microsoft); the transportation network (a nod to UPS); the quality telecom network in Montana; and the expertise of TechRanch‘s economic development network.

Equally important, Trebesch says, are the people now working for him in Harlowton—“smart, high-quality, hard-working people that value their jobs.”

It sounds as if the founder did not necessarily have any connections to the area before moving it to Harlowton. They wanted to find an economically disadvantaged area. The people are good there; real estate if affordable. The Chamber of Commerce was very encouraging.

This entry was posted in economic development, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

5 thoughts on “Broadband Brings Business to Rural Towns

  1. Hats off to Elk River Systems this is great. We need more companies to think about locating in rural areas. Technology will help keep these small towns alive and thriving. Affordable high speed broadband access is one of the keys to their future. This will help to provide good paying jobs, not to mention important applications like telemedicine, distance ducation and civic participation. For some good ideas on how we can accomlish this goal and let rural America be part of our future check out

  2. Seaowl,

    Thanks for your comment. I was just talking about SpeedMatters to a group of folks earlier today. I think it’s great to have the success stories from the companies that are succeeding in rural areas and to provide resources such as SpeedMatters to help other businesses and communities succeed.

  3. Hi Blandin,

    You wrote “It sounds as if the founder did not necessarily have any connections to the area before moving it to Harlowton.”

    I’m the founder. You are right; I didn’t have any connection to Harlowton before moving. It made bottom line business sense to move the business to Harlowton. It also felt good to do something with technology that helped a town that welcomed Elk River so warmly. Many times, the community and other businesses in Harlowton helped us out fixing things that broke, or loaning us the use of things until we got ours fixed.

    There was only one serious glitch, FedEx had said that they would support us, but then decided not to change their routes and schedules. Good old UPS came through like a champ and they have been greatly rewarded for changing their schedules and routes to accommodate us. UPS a fine business partner. They are part of the team and the drivers are included in our company parties.

    MTInTouch our broadband provider, was a pleasure to work with and still is a dependable business partner. We talked to them about what we had planned and they had Harlo wired up right on schedule. They continue to improve their services and have what we need when we need it.

    One minor correction to the total number of employees. We have 14 in Harlo and 5 in Bozeman Montana. I did find it hard to attract programmers and a world class CEO in Harlo and so opened the office in Bozeman to fill these kind of positions. We also have an employee in LA. We all work together using site to site VPNs among other broadband enabled technologies.

    Thanks for the good words.

    Mike Yinger
    Elk River Systems, Inc.

  4. Mike,
    Wow! Thanks for your comments. I feel as if we have a celebrity reading the blog now – you made my day.

    And thanks for more information on your story. I hope that other businesses will read about your experience and realize the great potential in rural areas and the great leveling power of the Internet. For many businesses location is just a not an issue now.

    It’s interesting to hear that UPS has been such a good partner. I work with a smaller company in rural Minnesota who has similarly good things to say about UPS.

    On an unrelated note – I really enjoyed your TicketPrinting blog ( I think it’s a great example of how insider information from businesses is interesting. If I ever find myself in charge of the school raffle, I’m going to your blog for some ideas.

    Thanks again! Ann

  5. Pingback: Lack of Rural Broadband Hinders Economic Development « Blandin on Broadband

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