Wed, Jan

Butte is a city that prides itself on its mining past. At the turn of the last century, she was notorious for being the quintessential definition of a Western boomtown. As the world moved from its agrarian past to embrace electricity, so too did their demand for copper. As the war effort roared during the 1910’s, so did an economy that boasted the cultural, commercial, and financial center of the Great West. As the American economy shifted once more in the second half of the last century, our prosperity and population slowly receded to our current glory. Now, we are a town that stands between a prideful past and the unknown future.

There was always something special about the people in Butte. They have a resilience that never dies. Not after bone-chilling winters, not after magnitudes of environmental disaster, not after distraught economic downfall; the people here held onto a pride that the harsh of the world can never tear away. They stayed with the determination and vigor to face the future, whatever it might be. The pride of the past resonates in the hearts of every resident. But the winds shift, and our city is thrust into an evolving world with an economy that dictates change.

Copper was the lifeblood that grew a small mining town to a national city. And it’s fall in prices also unwinded a prosperous metro of 100,000. The copper mines did more than just create wealth, they forged a local sentiment that stands distinct from the rest of the country. It brought people from diverse backgrounds to earn a living from the fruits of their labor, it forged a liberality that echoed the discontent of laborers, and it built grit that defines the resilience of our city.

In the second half of the last century, the boom faded, and so did the wealth and population of Butte. But despite, she survived. I heard a wise man say that “Butte only exists because people wants it to.” It’s that sentiment that keeps us going. Our pride never falters even in the coldest of winters.

Over the last few years, there has been a renaissance of innovation and culture in Butte. It wasn’t created by luck, but by men and women who refused to let our town die. Every single day, we hear of technological marvels that dot the offices of Main street, and every weekend, we explore the cultures of art that line the windows of Uptown.

This all started with a pride that stands resolute despite the difficulties of the world. But, the most important characteristic of our town is our heart. Butte is a place where people are generous beyond their means to care for the community we share. It’s a place where the colds of winter might shiver the skin, but it never touches the soul underneath. Despite the season, people will greet you with a smile and a genuine warmth in their voice.

This ethos spawned the seeds of the revival we see today. From across the country, people who stepped foot in this town fell in love with the identity of Butte. They didn’t move here for the economy like a century past; they moved here for the heart of this community. The stories of our innovators resonate across the country, and the arts of our city define a new culture for Montana. The nickname “The Richest Hill on Earth” isn’t a forgotten jest of our past, but a testament to our future.

The Berkeley Pit that entrenches this town is a constant reminder of our history. It’s a hole that’s in a purgatorial limbo of being filled, but filling the pit isn’t the solution. Despite what happens, that pit will always be besmirched. We will never find the exact thing to fill it, because it no longer exists. The earth has been dug, the water tainted, and the damage has left a resonate mark on our town. Instead, it is a prideful remembrance of our past, and its remediation will be an augury of Butte’s revitalization. The pit is a reminder that we have persevered, and we will establish the future enshrined in our ethos.

As the years go by, Butte will always be Butte, but a city isn’t defined by its past, it’s defined by the deeds of the present. We’ll never be as fancy as Missoula, as progressive as Bozeman, as lovely as Helena, as beautiful as Whitehall, as quaint as Livingston, or as resolute as Billings. Instead, we have grit and we have heart.

There are fancier, more progressive, lovelier, more beautiful, more quaint, and more resolute cities across our nation. But there is only one Butte. It’s our grit that keeps us going. It’s the heart that pumps even when the mind chooses to concede.

Butte is a historic town where the traditions of the past sew deeply into the fabric of our being. But despite the bone-chilling winters and economic downfall, our pride never falters. We are women and men who grew up on the difficulties of life, and the scars that remain is not a reminder of our past glory, it’s evidence that we have survived and we will continue to thrive.

It’s resilience that built Butte.

When I moved to San Francisco in the heydays of the tech boom, she was a much younger city, a soulful city trying to define herself in the face of a massive influx of wealth and talent. As foreign influences mixed with intrinsic identities, the two conflicted causing unsustainable inflation and population booms that put public utilities on edge. But more importantly, this influx also brought an abundance of culture and talent that not only defines San Francisco, but her empire of the Pacific. Her identity was never lost; it only grew, evolved, and matured. And through this profound experience, San Francisco gave birth to her most important offspring. It wasn't technology; it was the public medium.

San Francisco has always been known for its counter-culture identity, a voice that rung independently of the echoes across the country. This independence was forged by our own identity as much as our country's. America was settled by individuals who chose to leave the Old World and establish a new life in a land thousands of miles from home. The West is no different. What they found in California was an environment free from the influences of Old Money, and an atmosphere that was accepting of ideas and peoples of different cultures. That's how my father ended up here at the turn of the millennium.

In the past, technology has always been a compliment instead of a core in business. Associates who close deals are more pronounced than the analysts who ran the business. Because of the scarcity of resources, also known as economics, there can only be a few businesses who can earn a contract. A simple example would be construction. The investor can only pick one developer for a new skyscraper, because there is only one plot of land, and only enough capital for one attempt. You can't start with one company and then switch to another mid project without very serious and dangerous consequences. Issues can range from labor agreements, to the suppliers and grade of steel, to the standard bolts used to uphold the concrete jungle.

Traditional industries require significant time and money to implement, and the effectiveness of a transaction cannot be realized until long after the investment has been spent. Thus, in these situations, the winners of contracts fall on appearances, because the results aren't readily available. However, the technology industry is a bit different. If you wanted to implement an electronic payment solution, you can actually try all 5 major providers in under a work week. The culture of San Francisco isn't the art of the deal, it's empiricism of results.

The reason why technology fertilized in San Francisco results largely from its culture. Back in the early 90's, there was this growing novelty dreamed up by scientists called the Internet. Most authorities dawned this wave of information technology as a passing phase that will soon subside to traditional lines of business. If you look at the Internet objectively, it's insane. The Internet is a series of tubes that connect thoughts and opinions, and if you pitched this idea to Wall Street two decade ago, they would have called you crazy.

As Generation Y matures from youths to adults, it's hard to understand why so many of us harbor irreconcilable differences between the generations before us. Beneath the veneer, the millennials are just a bunch of men and women facing the same rites of passage as our parents. Though the nuances are unique per generation, the core value holds for all of humanity: It's a story of coming-of-age and self-acceptance. As we mature over the next four decades, we will, like our forefathers, hold the reigns of the American economy. 

Generation Y grew up in an era that shook the foundations of our country. Due to our youth, we sat on our hands as our lives convulsed in change. With the rise of domestic security, and a subsequent recession, the world became an aloof place segregated by corporations of greed and politics of power. 

For most of the last decade, we watched older men and women make decisions that dramatically influenced our lives; yet, we had no say on the outcomes. We went to war under an oil baron defending a country under attack, and we lost our savings to avaricious capitalists misestimating an opaque and increasingly complex economy. 

With the advent of equally biased media, we could only induce a world that's ruled by conspiring politics of greed and corporations of power. Though the truth is wrought less of malice, the inference of dishonest men will never leave our hearts. It's the same reason why gossip prevails despite facts contradicting slander.

As we grew older, our distaste for greed and malice forged a stoic identity that refused to acquiesce to the enmity that ran rampant across our country. To us, resistance was not an act of arrogance or defiance, it's a restitution against a world succumbed to the immoralities of our childhood antagonists.

As our local Google, Apple, and Facebook grew into global behemoths, we obliquely confirmed our destiny. We don't need to invade countries, or gamble on stocks; we can be better than that. We can tweet pictures of food.

As sons and daughters of humble engineers, our generation found mathematics and technology as expected knowledge, rather than formidable excursions. Instead of accepting math as our experienced field of study, no different than farmers with horticulture or writers with diction, we viewed our discipline as an intrinsic identifier of our distinction. We had no doubt that we'll build great empires, especially relative to the ordinary populace. 

We watched movies where heroes triumphantly conquered greed-infested empires through acts of wisdom and courage. We played video games as champions who saved worlds through determination and valor. Our childhood engrained a philosophy that we were special individuals yet to realize our true potential. We are trainers from Pallet Town, warriors from Northshire Abbey, and residents of 4 Privet Drive. 

Last week I visited Seattle to report on a video game tournament. The prize pool was an astonishing 10 million dollars, enough to turn a gamer into a career athlete. I enjoy my video games as much as the next guy, but what caught my attention was the city itself. It reminded me of a younger San Francisco. As I wrote this editorial, my thoughts drifted away from technology and towards the juxtaposition of these two tech metropolises. 

Up until the mid 00's, Seattle was home to the world's foremost technology company, Microsoft. Located a dozen miles outside of city limits, this PC goliath has had a significant influence on the Puget Sound economy, much like Google upon the Bay Area. It's common to see talented employees leave their corporate jobs to build something original, but they never forget the experiences, cultures, and skill sets that their prior employers instilled upon them. You can bet half of San Francisco's techies have a year at Apple or Facebook stamped onto their resumes. 

Seattle is no exception; Gabe Newell, the Microsoft veteran who founded Valve Software, is a prime example. Valve hosted the aforementioned tournament, and made a minimum of 50 million dollars in receipts.

The 10 million dollar prize pool was largely fan sponsored. When gamers purchased an annual virtual compendium, 25% of the sale price was added to the championship prize pool. Compendium sales revenued 40 million dollars. In addition, Valve sold out Key Arena, 17,000 tickets starting at $100 dollars each, for their 4-day tournament. Furthermore, most attendees left this annual event with souvenirs. My friends waited three hours - yes, three hours - to buy $12 collectible plushies and $30 action figures. 

Seattle's sprawling video game industry is an absolute powerhouse. Excluding Valve, firms include Nintendo of America, Bungie, Arenanet, Big Fish, and PopCap. Seattle is also home to an array of traditional tech companies, including Amazon, Classmates, Redfin, Expedia, and Tableau, just to name a few.

San Francisco's game industry, specifically mobile applications, still reigns supreme in scale, revenue, and profit, but quality is an arbitrary term. The juxtaposition is intuitive, mobile and Internet games descend from Apple and Google, while PC games arise from Microsoft. 

Furthermore, divergent cultures has greatly influenced the two regions, albeit for better or for worse. San Francisco has a dired mindset of optimizing towards some apparent maximum. When we drove from Seattle to Lynwood, my friend opened Google Maps without considering our context or setting, and to no one's surprise, Google suggested that we take the massively overcrowded highway at peak rush hours. "Google figured it out, it inputs all the data and calculates the best way," said a friend. San Francisco believes that there is an optimum for any situation, but can we say the same for life outside of a computer screen? Furthermore, if everyone takes the same path from point A to point B, is it the best or the most popular?