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The Old Sawmill District in Missoula would have seemed at the beginning of this decade like the most unlikely place in the city to become a tech hub. But that just shows how fast things are changing there.

On Wednesday, executives with the publicly traded tech company Cognizant, along with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Missoula Mayor John Engen and University of Montana President Seth Bodnar, held a ribbon-cutting for the official opening of the new Cognizant ATG Missoula Solution Center.

The company employs about 140 people in Missoula and 175 statewide. It specializes in helping businesses across the world “effectively plan, implement and optimize cloud-based business processes and technologies.” Cognizant's clients are in a wide range of industries, including financial services, health care, communications and technology.

The company also formally announced a new 12-week training program in partnership with UM that will prepare students for tech consulting jobs and give them the opportunity to apply for open positions at the company, which has been on a hiring spree the last few years.

Cognizant acquired ATG last year, and leased 15,700 square feet in the Cambium Place building at the Old Sawmill District soon afterwards.

Engen remembered how, growing up in Missoula, the area was a blue-collar lumber yard and later an abandoned, polluted industrial waste area where kids got into trouble.

“I’m here to recognize a success story,” he said. “There are lots of success stories in Missoula, Montana, but the fact of the matter is those success stories are happening at an increased rate and they’re happening because people work together in this community.”

The company has received grants from the Montana Department of Commerce for job creation in the past. They qualify because they pay higher-than-average wages and bring in money from outside the state.

“It’s an honor to extend my congratulations and thanks to Cognizant for investing in ATG and for their commitment to keeping a home in Missoula, creating more jobs in the community, and ensuring students have access to education and training to help them succeed in high-demand technology fields,” Bullock said.

Bullock flew in from Helena to be at the ribbon-cutting, and took a private tour of the new office with company officials.

“In Montana, we’ve put an emphasis on growing the economy and making sure we continue to be an attractive place to live and do business, and right here is an example of how that is paying off," Bullock said.

Cognizant, which is traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange, was recently ranked at number 195 on Fortune Magazine’s list of the 500 largest corporations in the U.S. in terms of its total revenue.

The company has indicated it plans to keep hiring here and has plans to consolidate its workforce in Missoula and perhaps build a new space in the Sawmill District down the road. Some employees are still working downtown at the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson building.

“We’re excited to be opening our new Cognizant ATG Missoula Solution Center and laying a foundation for future growth in Montana,” said Allen Shaheen, Cognizant’s executive vice president of North American digital hubs.

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He said Montana, and Missoula in particular, are attractive places to do business based on the "local talent pool, quality of life (the company) can offer employees, readily available educational resources, and a thriving tech community."

"This new center will serve as a key innovation hub as we continue to expand Cognizant’s portfolio of cloud solutions," he said.

The company specializes in connecting Salesforce-trained experts to other businesses around the world.

Tom Stergios, senior vice president of corporate development, also announced the company will be giving a $25,000 grant to UM’s SpectrUM program, which is designed to inspire kids to pursue higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The new training program at UM will offer roles including data analytics, project management, Salesforce technologies and other avenues.

Bodnar noted that the Cognizant ATG Missoula Solutions Center employs 100 UM graduates.

“The energy at the University of Montana has been on the rise and a big part of that is Tom Stergios has been spending more time at the university,” Bodnar said. “Today is an exciting day. Today is a culmination of recognition of a tremendous partnership that has been going on for nearly a decade now between the university and the city of Missoula and ATG.”

On Tuesday, March 19, the company is hosting a meet-and-greet at 5:30 at Cambium Place for anyone interested in applying at the company. Registration is required online. For more information visit ATG on Facebook.

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