Dillon’s economic future lies in its tradition of innovation, according to local high tech guru

Local high tech educator and entrepreneur Frank Odasz uses his laptop to demonstrate the advantages of digital entrepreneurship in southwestern Montana, while enjoying a sunny morning with his dog, Boo. M.P. Regan photo

 

Embracing new technologies and the innovations swirling around them could be the key to Dillon sustaining its traditional appeal, landscape and lifestyle while creating a bright economic future, according to a local high tech guru Frank Odasz.

The town’s first microcomputer applications professor when he started at Western Montana College in Dillon in 1988, Odasz says he has “a 30-year history of having the right idea, a decade before others see what’s coming.” And what Odasz sees coming through broadband Internet lines are huge and unprecedented economic opportunities and the chance to sustain their ways of life for residents in rural communities like Dillon.

“In Dillon, we have a wonderful lifestyle, and with online jobs we could become a model championing how Montanans can preserve our cherished lifestyle and grow our economies so our state’s rural communities can start adding jobs and stop losing our youth,” said Odasz, who has run his own, one-man business, Lone Eagle Consulting, out of his Dillon home since the late 1990s.

That surge in vital growth to the local economy would come, if properly nourished, from small, home-based businesses like Lone Eagle, said Odasz, who believes that harnessing broadband Internet to sell services and products to the world could prove vital to the area’s economic future.

“Our established economic and educational leadership tends to be non-digital and gets intimidated by new technology,” said Odasz, who worked as a roughneck on oil rigs, a carpenter and as a dude ranch manger before fully embracing an education and career in computers.

“But the reality is that digital tools are getting easier to use all the time, so there is a real niche for low-tech e-commerce opportunities that don’t take much time, money or expertise to generate,” added Odasz, who says that anyone can now create a free e-commerce website in less than an hour from a home computer.

“New entrepreneurship allows you, with no capital, to quickly create a micro-multinational company you can run from your bedroom. That is unprecedented.”

But Odasz says that most rural communities are risking their economic doom by failing to recognize these digital opportunities.

“So many of our rural communities are dying. We have young people leaving Montana to find work in larger cities because no one is teaching them how to retain their rural lifestyle through e-commerce and telework,” added Odasz, who said some rural communities have managed to reverse that trend by embracing new digital opportunities and fostering mentorship and collaboration.

“As more and more people are getting online and shopping online, web-based businesses are booming,” offered Odasz, who estimated that five billion more people around the world could come online in the next decade.

 

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