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Return of the Rocky Mountain high

Towns in the Mountain West, once held back by their isolated geography, are luring a new generation because of their scenic beauty. The hub of the 'Green Coast' movement: Bozeman, Montana.

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Baldy Mountain forms the backdrop for homes on the outskirts of Bozeman, Montana. This is the cover story in the June 10 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

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Greg Gianforte, a charismatic man with a goatee who resembles Mr. Clean, is known for passionately stalking opportunity in the West – both in the boardroom and in the woods. He tells the story of once rising before dawn during hunting season, suiting up in camouflage, and disappearing into the rugged foothills around this small Montana city.

After shooting a black bear with a bow and arrow, he hurried home to put on jeans and a starched shirt, and headed into the office just in time for a 10 a.m. conference call with clients on the other side of the world. They, of course, had no idea what he had done that morning before work.

Yet the chance to get in some early morning hunting is a prime reason Mr. Gianforte, the founder and former chief executive officer of RightNow Technologies, a customer-service software firm, moved to Bozeman to begin with. After selling a different high-tech company in Silicon Valley in the mid-1990s, he and his wife settled here intending to retire as 30-somethings. But the restless entrepreneur soon came up with another idea for a start-up firm.

Venture capitalists in California told him he would never be able to make it work in such an isolated area, one closer to geysers than sales markets and software engineers. Undeterred, in 1997, he converted a guest bedroom into an office and put up $50,000. In 2011 he sold RightNow to Oracle for $1.5 billion. It had become the largest private employer in Montana, with 550 workers, and has inspired numerous spinoffs.

"The Internet removed geography as a significant obstacle that formerly prevented out-of-the-way places from being active players in the New Economy," says Gianforte. "I think this is the future."

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