Last week, I noted that Greg Gianforte, the Bozeman tech guru and presumptive GOP candidate for governor, had made the peculiar decision to hire out of state firms for his campaign’s web, graphic, and media work, spending over $50,000 not in Bozeman or another Montana community, but in firms across the country.
After I posted, I received some feedback from Bozeman-area designers about the message Gianforte’s decision sent about the quality of Montana work. While none wanted to use their names, I spoke to three members of the web and graphic design community in the Bozeman area, all of whom were surprised to learn that Mr. Gianforte chose not to use a local firm for this work.
One local designer told me that Bozeman is loaded with the talent necessary to have done the work, writing in an e-mail:
And, with MSU here, we have creativity and talent pouring out of the university and students eager to start their careers and test out their skills. So, I am completely confident in saying that Bozeman has the talent Gianforte needed, and with the countless options available to him in Bozeman alone, we have the prices to match that any out of state source.
Another spoke about the message Gianforte’ decision to outsource sent, telling me:
Bozeman is building a reputation for itself as a tech center, something Greg is taking a lot of credit for. For him to not use the local tech businesses he says he champions is a slap in the face to those of us who have chosen to stay here in Montana to work.
A Bozeman graphics artist said that choosing local could have made a difference for a local company:
Graphic design is such a competitive market, and every job helps. The $750 spent on that logo, plus the benefits of being associated with a high-profile campaign, would have helped a local artist immensely.
I also spoke with Jeff Milchen, the co-director of the Bozeman-based American Independent Business Alliance (Amiba), an organization whose mission is to help communities become more resilient through supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. While not commenting specifically on the outsourcing of work by the Gianforte campaign, Milchen told me that a local firm “absolutely” could provide the web services and graphic work a candidate would require. He noted that there is “no shortage of talented designers in communities across Montana,” and said that, given the “incredibly talented designers in Montana it was hard to imagine” how someone would need to hire web or graphic work out of state.
In our conversation, Milchen talked about the value of using a local business, noting that local designers are more responsive, can work more efficiently, and have the kind of local knowledge that will improve the product. In addition, he noted the importance of businesses and individuals patronizing local businesses, which he said will both “create wealth locally” and encourage more entrepreneurial development in that local community.
Amiba notes that decisions to purchase goods and services locally results in a significant multiplier effect, with “48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses [being] recirculated locally.” When a business or individual or political campaign buys locally, the money stays in the local community, enriching us all.
Milchen also noted a potential concern about using a firm out of state—it makes it far more difficult to tell if the work has been outsourced, which is a real concern for web development and graphic work. There are countless overseas shops producing cheap web and graphic work, and using a local developer best ensures that local designers are doing the work—and getting paid for it—from beginning to end.
The message seems clear: if you want to ensure high-quality work, encourage local businesses, and prevent outsourcing of jobs, you hire locally. If you’re a candidate who is running on a platform of high-paying tech jobs, you hire locally. If you tout the benefits of telecommuting, which can definitely facilitate overseas outsourcing, you absolutely hire locally.