Business: Maker of computer-based camera systems
Location: Bozeman, Mont.
Site rationale: CEO's love of the outdoors
Less than a year after founding Vision 1 (#153 on the 2000 Inc. 500), which provides systems that act as electronic eyes for automated machines or robots, Brian Smithgall relocated the company, and his family, from Atlanta to Bozeman, Mont. He says he made the move because he likes camping, skiing, and hiking in Montana's wilderness.
The CEO certainly didn't relocate to be closer to his customers. Only four of them are in the state (out of more than 1,000 nationwide), and only one is in Bozeman. His customers -- most of whom are in high-tech centers in California, Massachusetts, and Texas -- use the systems he designs and manufactures for industrial automation or research, and there's not a whole lot of either in Bozeman.
Because of its remote location, Vision 1 doesn't provide on-site servicing of its products. That policy "forces customers to take responsibility and learn the system," says Smithgall, who does provide Internet and phone support for his products. Most of his 20 employees either grew up in Montana or moved there because of the outdoor recreational opportunities. "A lot of people make time to do things during lunch, like mountain biking or fishing," says Smithgall.
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