Unlike many of the other representatives in the Montana Legislature, I don’t yet own a house and my business opportunities are still in the phases of what I’d call adventurous. When traveling across Montana, I consider myself lucky enough to have friends who supply a couch to sleep on.
As one of the youngest members of the Montana Legislature, many of you are aware of my fight for individual liberty and privacy rights, especially in the wake of the overreach by the NSA and our own federal government.
When I read a recent column by Helena IR news editor Leah Gilman, it seems that much more than our individual liberties are under attack. Gilman’s column criticizing Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte’s financial success was more than just a cheap partisan attack on a man many hope will run for governor, it was an attack on the very concept of free enterprise, success from nothing, and the American dream.
I grew up as a kid in the low-income community of Roundup, where very few job opportunities existed and success consisted of going to college and getting a decent paying job out of state. I was able to attend college due to the scholarships I received from funds donated by wealthy Montanans, including Dennis Washington and the late Jack Corrette. While attending the University of Montana, I remember hearing Greg Gianforte speak of the American dream success story of RightNow Technologies, and how he literally started the company out of a spare bedroom in his Bozeman home. This story gave me and many other young Montanans hope in our futures and interest in technology.
Some people convert a spare bedroom into a play room, an office, or maybe a sun room. Greg Gianforte converted his spare bedroom into a company that created top paying jobs and later sold for nearly $1.5 billion. That is a Montana success story.
This past Labor Day weekend, I thought of all too many of my friends who have to work two jobs just to make ends meet, or had to leave the state entirely for work. Greg Gianforte isn’t just a positive role model for the next generation of Montanans; he has proven that he is an energetic, active champion for Montanans by traveling the state non-stop to talk to business owners, colleges and Montana organizations so they can all work together to bring good paying jobs back home.
When Montanans like myself see a success story, we don’t get jealous or divisive. Instead, we get motivated and inspired and we ask ourselves, if Greg can do it, why can’t I?
Daniel Zolnikov is a Republican state representative from Billings. He represents House District 45.