Award Winners

Each year, the Montana Ambassadors host an Annual Awards Dinner to honor our member’s commitment to and excellence for Montana.

2020/2021 Winners

Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year – West Paw, Spencer Williams

A 5th generation Montanan, Spencer Williams grew up on a working ranch in Columbus, Montana. Spencer attended Middlebury College in Vermont. After he graduated with a degree in German, he moved back to Montana, where in 1996, he purchased a small soft goods pet toy company in Livingston, Montana. Under Williams’ leadership, West Paw went on become a world-class manufacturer of eco-friendly and award-winning pet toys, beds, leashes, collars and treats. West Paw’s pet products are sold in over 5,000 North American locations and in over 40 countries worldwide. In 2016, Forbes magazine named West Paw “One of the Best Small Companies” in America.

Montana Ambassador Legislator of the Year – Senator Jason Ellsworth

Senator Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton demonstrated strong leadership in taking on the broadband challenges that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation that he sponsored, SB 297, was an excellent step toward securing a better future for the state. When the federal government subsequently provided the state with an allocation through the American Recovery Plan Act, Senator Ellsworth’s legislation became even more critical. It was through work with industry leaders, the Gianforte administration, and his fellow legislators that SB 297 will serve as the guide rails for how billions of federal funding will be deployed in Montana to close the digital divide and better support business access to the critical last mile.

Montana Ambassadors Mike Malone Educators of the Year – Gregory Johnson

For more than 25 years, Greg Johnson served as Artistic Director of the Montana Repertory Theatre and as a professor at the University of Montana. Under his leadership, the Rep, the professional theatre company in residence at the University of Montana, grew to become the most highly regarded professional theatre-touring company in the U.S., training thousands of students in every aspect of the craft. Mr. Johnson died at age 71 earlier this year.

Montana Ambassador Business of the Year – Inimmune

Inimmune is emblematic of the type of startup success story that is becoming transformational for Montana’s economy. In addition to proving highly adept at securing federal funds to support their research targets, commercialization efforts, and high-paying jobs to execute on these fronts, in 2020, Inimmune secured the largest Series A round in Montana history with a $22 million commitment from Two Bear Capital.

Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year – Jon & Cassie Wick, 5518 Designs

In 2012, Jon Wick started 5518 Designs, a branding, graphics, and print design company proudly based in Butte. Wick’s design work was awarded the 2013 Butte-Silver Bow Moving Mountains Award and was named a Distinguished Alumni of Montana Tech in 2015. In 2016, 5518 Designs expanded into a retail location at 27 N. Main Street in Butte, Montana, in the historic Chequamequon Building, offering their very own brand of outdoor and recreation-inspired apparel line, custom merchandising packages, and creative business solutions.

Montana Ambassador Plenipotentiary Award – Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston serves as the Community Relations Officer at First Security Bank of Missoula, a Glacier Bank Company. For 36 years, Johnston worked at the University of Montana, as the Director of Alumni Relations. Johnston has always served Montana well in strengthening connections to the state throughout his professional career and generous time as a Montana Ambassador.

Montana Ambassador of the Year – Front Line Workers

Frontline workers across the state, including but not limited to: health care workers; social workers; grocery store workers; retail employees; restaurant staff; truck drivers and delivery services; postal workers; firefighters, police officers and other first responders; educators; housekeeping staff; and utility workers. This past year has taken an incredible toll on local communities, our state and our nation. These everyday heroes risked their health on a daily basis to keep our communities and state running. They helped us to get through this pandemic, provided us with the stability we needed us to endure, and inspired us with hope.

2019/2020 Winners

Montana Ambassador of the Year – Suzi Berget-White

Berget-White is the Director of Business Development for Prospera Business Network. Prospera provides a comprehensive array of business services, including group training and individual business counseling, tailored to the needs of start-up and nascent businesses and aspiring women entrepreneurs throughout the state. Berget-White serves as the Bozeman Chapter Vice President bringing together Ambassadors to learn, collaborate and network.

Outreach Ambassador of the Year – Ken Fichtler

Fichtler has spent his career in high-tech business management and marketing. He is also an entrepreneur and business investor, having started Montana companies like Gecko8 Studios and Fermion Technologies as well as co-founding the first and largest TEDx event in the state, TEDxBozeman. Most recently he has served as the Senior Marketing Specialist for Lattice Materials. Ken is a graduate of the Montana State University School of Business.

Montana Ambassador Business of the Year – Montana Resources

Mr. Dennis Washington took a chance on the mine in Butte in 1986 and reopened mining in Butte after it had gone dormant for three years. Today, Montana Resources continues to produce copper, molybdenum, and silver with 374 safe dedicated employees. The company strives to purchase goods and services both locally and in Montana. Annually, the mine purchases about $25 million in goods and services from businesses in Silver Bow County.

MTA Mike Malone Educators of the Year – Sara Rinfret, Jim O’Neill, David Firth

Sara Rinfret

Rinfret teaches courses on regulatory policy, environmental policy, state and local government, public policy, and public administration at the University of Montana. She is the Chair of the Baucus Institute Department of Public Administration & Policy and Director for the Master of Public Administration Program. Her main area of research is focused on environmental regulations.

Jim O’Neill

O’Neill is the curriculum director for Butte schools, he has been instrumental in the success of the school district’s anti-bullying campaign, and the establishment of the Community Action Team (CAT) that was formed to prevent suicide. The CAT is a tremendous partnership with the local government and various community members and has evolved into a healthy community coalition. Over the past three years, youth suicide attempts have been reduced from 17.4 percent to 12.6 percent.

David Firth

Firth is a professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Montana He has played a pivotal role in creating rewarding career opportunities for Montanans, including cultivating a ground-breaking relationship with ATG-Missoula (now a Cognizant company) that has resulted in the development of over 150 (and growing) high paying tech jobs in Montana.

Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year – Western Cider

Western Cider was founded in 2015 by Jon Clarenbach, Michael Billingsley and Matt LaRubbio with the goal of creating a culture of cider across Montana.

The dream was seeded in 2012 when co-founder Michael planted 2,500 cider apple trees in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. – just south of Missoula. Today, there are 5,000 trees and over 50 varieties of apples. It is this connection to the land that Western Cider is building on as they source from dozens of fruit, hop and honey producers around the state.

Western Cider aspires to create an institution of great cider, good times and a life worth living in their far-flung region of the American West. You can find their ciders in stores, restaurants and bars around the state along with their tasting room on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year – Jason O’Neil

O’Neil opened the doors to The Sidecar in 2017 in Helena intent on creating a space for entrepreneurs and creatives to thrive. The ecosystem he has created has become an integral part of downtown, spreading the Sidecar culture throughout many of the new businesses on Last Chance Gulch.

2018/2019 Winners

Montana Ambassadors of the Year – Mike and Gloria O’Rourke

The O’Rourke’s have served as the administrative and financial managers for Montana Ambassadors from 2006 to 2019, providing the framework of support for the organization to thrive under various leaders. Gloria and Mike have contributed countless hours and thousands of miles to serve the needs of their home state. Nominators recall that Mike and Gloria show a willingness to go above and beyond, which has always been the earmark of their service. Through their work Gloria and Mike have traveled the state and region representing their organizations, but more importantly representing their home; Montana.

The roots of their work began in 1995 when Gloria held a position with Gene Vuckovich at Montana Rural Development Partners. She served as Gene’s executive assistant until the program closed in 2003. Through her work with MTRDP Gloria had also begun providing administrative services for the Montana Economic Developers Association, so when MTRDP closed its doors, MEDA approached Gloria about become a sole proprietor so that she could continue to provide administrative services for them. As a result, Montana Economic Development Services was born. In her work Gloria has developed a huge network of friends and colleagues all across the State. She knows the best places to have pie and she even knows how to get hot water in the shower (you have to first flush the toilet) in a small motel in Chester.

Through their work Gloria and Mike have traveled the state and region representing their organizations, but more importantly representing their home; Montana. In 2008 both of them were appointed as Montana Ambassadors by then Governor Schweitzer. Gloria and Mike have always been proud to serve alongside these organizations, but perhaps more importantly, they have always been proud to tackle any project that would share their love for this great State.


Outreach Ambassador of the Year – James Thompson

Half of my professional life has been spent in corporate finance (banking, investment banking, and venture capital) and the other half running companies as the CEO or CFO. I led the team that completed the $80m HaloSource 2010 IPO and subsequent sale to Strix PLC in early 2019. After the Strix sale, I returned to investment banking intent on being an “advocate” for entrepreneurs.

I rejoined Alexander Hutton, a 33-year-old investment banking firm in Seattle, as Managing Director, where I had interned as a grad student 20+ years ago. At Alexander Hutton we help entrepreneurs prepare for, and execute sale processes (either partial or full sales). Over our long history we have helped 213 private companies which is far more than any other firm in our region. We have several clients/prospects in Montana today and we believe both strategic acquirers and financial investors are increasingly looking at Montana as much more viable economy to invest in as compared to 20 years ago.

As an aside, I grew up in Butte (I have $10,000 worth of dental work to prove it!), have a home on the Big Hole River and am a passionate Montana Ambassador. The Pacific Northwest chapter is a rabid group of passionate Montana ex-pats. We hold networking events 2–3 times per year led by speakers from Montana business leaders to Montana politicians to Montana educators. In Seattle, there is a terrific community of Montana ex-pats that are eager to hear about their home and how they can get involved.

James Thompson

Montana Ambassador Business of the Year – Montana Precision Products

Montana Precision Products manufactures tube and duct assemblies for the aerospace industry. It is the only aerospace facility in the United States which provides investment casting, CNC machining, welding and assembly under one (expanding) roof. The company supplies critical components to the world’s largest commercial aerospace programs and employs 270 dedicated team members.

Montana Precision Products, which has been a joint venture between SeaCast and GE Aviation since 2013, began as SeaCast of Montana. SeaCast was founded by Butte natives Mike and Bert Robins, who were enticed back to Montana in 2007 by the state’s capable labor force, productive educational system and supportive business environment.

Montana Precision Products

MTA Mike Malone Educator of the Year – Beth Weatherby, Chancellor, UofM Western

umw sealDr. Beth Weatherby became the 22nd chancellor of the University of Montana Western on January 15, 2015. Founded in 1893 as Montana’s Normal School, Montana Western is the only public university in the United States offering Experience One, where students take a single course at a time in order to facilitate experiential learning across the curriculum. The student experience at UMW frequently involves activities and programs that are created with community and industry partners. Montana Western regularly receives state and national rankings that reflect the positive impact of Experience One and the university’s focus on student success.

Dr. Weatherby moved to Dillon from Marshall, Minnesota, where she began her academic career as a faculty member at Southwest Minnesota State University. After ten years as an English professor and director of SMSU’s Creative Writing Program, she served at SMSU as Dean of Arts, Letters & Sciences for five years and then as Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs for eight years. While at SMSU, she co- founded Connect, a networking organization for professional women in southwest Minnesota.

Her book of short stories, Small Invasions, won the Minnesota Book Award. Other awards include fellowships to the Salzburg Seminar for Global Leadership, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and a Loft-McKnight Award for Fiction.

Dr. Weatherby earned a Doctorate of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Albany in New York and a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is honored to be the Chancellor of Montana Western, which she calls “one of the nation’s most unique, innovative and effective universities in the nation.”

Beth Weatherby

Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year – Hell Creek Music & More, Glendive

The brick and mortar business, Hell Creek Music & More, located in Glendive, began with $300 and a building in 2003. The business has crafted dinosaurs, comics, and musical instruments into an array of eye candy for any enthusiast. For four separate years, Hell Creek Music & More was listed as one of the top 100 music stores in the world by the National Association of Music Merchants. The business was instrumental in bringing in a host of artists for concerts and signings. One concert, Drum Wars, hosted both Carmine and Vinny Appice that included the Montana State University Drumline. Most recently it hosted legendary guitar shredder, Michael Angelo Batio, whose famous silver double guitar is on display at the store among other signed guitars and memorabilia.

In 2012 Hell Creek Music & More purchased a 38-foot Tyrannosaurs Rex replica and is one of the featured items on display when entering one of the doors to the store. In a separate entrance a ceiling relief sculpture depicts the drawing of the Creation of Man of the Sistine Chapel with a twist. In Hell Creek Music & More it is God Creating Rock ‘n Roll and each cherub have a KISS painted face. Although Hell Creek Music & More does not actively sell on line, it does have an online presence with social media and a website. There is a three-minute video on YouTube showing the installation of the Tyrannosaurs Rex and the website for the store is A patron of Hell Creek Music & More said, “A person is not just a customer, they are a fan.”

Hell Creek Music

Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year – Dave Erickson, Water & Environmental Technologies

Dave graduated from Montanan Tech in 1988 and moved to Houston, Texas to work in the Petroleum and Engineering Consulting Field, gaining experience in subsurface contamination and remediation projects. After several years of working in the southeastern US, job opportunities brought him back to Butte with a subsidiary of the Montana Power Company. In 1994, Dave and Elizabeth started Water Resource Services, a consulting business working on water rights issues and land development projects. In 2000, Dave and two partners, Elizabeth Erickson and Josh Vincent, started Water & Environmental Technologies (WET). From 4 employees in 2000 to over 70 today with offices in Butte, Anaconda, Bozeman, Kalispell and Great Falls, WET provides employment to many scientists and engineers and, more importantly, many young native Montanans, keeping jobs and talent in Montana. The company focuses on hydrogeologic, hydrologic, environmental and civil engineering projects in the Northwestern US.

Mr. Erickson is presently the President/Principal Hydrogeologist of WET, President of SepticNET, and Member/Manager of Berkeley Properties and German Gulch Development, all companies that he started and developed. In addition, he serves on several company and nonprofit boards in Southwestern Montana. While Dave has been accused of being a serial entrepreneur, his focus has always been to provide jobs and growth to southwest Montana and opportunities for Montanans to live and work in the area. Dave and Elizabeth were fortunate to get the opportunity to move back to Montana and thoroughly enjoy the chance to make similar offers to displaced Montanans. Dave married Elizabeth Jeffery (BS Geophysical Engineering, MS Hydrogeological Engineering) in 1988 and have three children: Ariane (PhD Biomaterial Engineering), Danielle (Chemical Engineering) and Zack (Mechanical & Metallurgical Engineering). Dave and Elizabeth live on the family ranch in Southwestern Montana.

Dave Erickson

Montana Ambassador Plenipotentiary Award – Channing Hartelius

A life-long resident of Montana, Mr. Hartelius was raised on a farm homesteaded by his grandparents near Great Falls, Montana. After graduating from Great Falls High, as a two-time state speech champion, he continued his education at the University of Montana. While enrolled there, Mr. Hartelius was Secretary General of the Model United Nations as well as a collegiate debate champion. After graduating, Mr. Hartelius would attend George Washington University in Washington DC, graduating Cum Laude in 1971. Returning to Montana, Mr. Hartelius would work in the Attorney General’s office and serve in the United States Military as a Captain in the Army Reserve.

In 1971 Mr. Hartelius would found the law practice eventually Hartelius, Durocher and Winter PC. For the past four decades, Mr. Hartelius would secure his reputation as a skilled trial attorney, author, and dedicated member of the community. To that end, Mr. Hartelius has served on the Board of Directors for the Grizzly Athletic Association, as Past President of Great Falls Jaycees, Secretary for the CM Russell Museum of Art, as well as being on the State Bar Board of Trustees and Vice President of the Portage Route Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Foundation. He received this year the local bar association’s highest award for ethics.

Mr. Hartelius has been published numerous times over the course of his prolific career, most notably Viewpoint on initiative 48 (Tort Reform), The Montana Handbook on Contracts for Deed, Effective Discovery Procedures in Montana, and Evidence in Trial Practice in Montana. When not affecting change in the courtroom and within his community, Mr. Hartelius enjoys doing presentations as George Washington and spending time with his wife Donna, two dogs and two cats, dividing his time between Great Falls, Cascade, and Augusta, Montana.

Channing Hartelius

Legislator of the Year – Representative Jim Keane

Political leadership can be hard to define. Often it means different things to different people, but for this particular legislator, political leadership is synonymous with tenacity.

Over his tenure in the Montana State legislature, Jim Keane has been a persistent force when it comes to economic development of this state. Through a sheer strength of will, a dogged perseverance, and the patience to see the follow through of steady change, Representative Keane has been able to lead important policy changes that are not defined by political party.

Importantly and most recently his bipartisan leadership was vital in the passing of HB52, which protects and continues the economic development programs that help businesses and communities across the state. Jim Keane was elected to Senate District 38, representing Butte, Montana, in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. He was a member of the Montana House of Representatives, representing District 75, from 2000 to 2009.

Representative Jim Keane

2017/2018 Winners

Montana Ambassador of the Year—Chris Burke

You may have had the pleasure of Morning Glory Coffee and Tea, but you no doubt have had the pleasure of enjoying Chris Burke’s many social media photos and postings of all things Montana, as well as  Montana Ambassadors. Chris and his wife, Laura, started Morning Glory Coffee & Tea, Inc.® in 2005 after returning to Montana from Kauai, HI to West Yellowstone. They had previously met while working in Yellowstone National park, and have lived and worked in Both Livingston and Bozeman before their  time on Kauai working with Kauai Coffee Company.   While constantly promoting Montana, Chis and Laura own and operate a specialty coffee roasting, wholesale, retail and e-commerce business on the border of Yellowstone, National Park, which they started thirteen years ago in West Yellowstone.

Their  coffees are distributed and sold to restaurants, grocery and gift stores throughout Montana and Yellowstone National Park, as well as to customers nationwide through their  e-commerce website.  Chris currently works  as a guide to Yellowstone National Park and represent West Yellowstone Montana as a council member along with operating Morning Glory Coffee and Tea with his wife Laura and sons Patrick and Joseph Burke.

OUTREACH Montana Ambassador of the Year—Jeff Wright

Jeff, a California native  was introduced to the Treasure State as a Boy Scout and spent his high school summers exploring Montana’s Big Sky.  From the moment he set foot in the state he knew that Montana was truly a special place.  Jeff came back and earned his BA in History and Political Science from the University of Montana and got to experience the wonders of all four seasons of Montana’s beauty.

After graduating, Jeff landed at the Record Plant Recording Studios in Los Angeles as an engineer and studio manager working with the top recording artists of the era, and even won a Grammy. From there he spent nearly a decade with Apple, starting as a part time sales person and working his way up to running the Los Angeles area high profile and flagship retail teams.

Currently, Jeff lives in Southern California with his wife Samantha and two young children. In 2013, he joined Incite as their COO.  Incite is an art/technology/entertainment studio based in the Playa Vista (aka “Silicon Beach”) area of Los Angeles. Keeping himself rooted in Montana, Jeff also owns a small businesses in Missoula: Trapper Peak Coffee which is housed in the Missoula Public Library.   In 2016, Jeff was appointed as a Montana Ambassador and is an active member of the California Chapter.  In the summer of 2018 he co-founded the non-profit Montana Outdoors Foundation with four close friends who are also fellow Ambassadors.

Jeff may live in California, but his heart never left Montana.  He never misses an opportunity to tell anyone he meets about what a truly great place this state is, and he is always working bring business home to Montana.

Jeff Wright

Montana Ambassador Business of the Year—Red Oxx Manufacturing

Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. was founded by Marine Corps. Veteran, Jim Markel Sr., USMC Capt. Ret., in 1986, manufacturing high-quality, weightlifting accessories for the fitness industry.  In 1992 Jim Sr. was joined by his son Jim Jr. after his own service in the Marine Corps. Like his father, Jim Jr. was a Parachute Rigger in the First Force Reconnaissance Company. Perry Jones, an 11-year veteran of the US Navy, joined the father-son team in 1992, putting his Air Crew Survival Equipment Man sewing skills to use at Red Oxx fulfilling contracts for fitness giants like Weider, Parabody and Gold’s Gym.

By 1994, ready to retire and amidst the growing trend of off-shore production, Jim Sr. sold the company to Jim Jr. and Perry. The early years of ownership for the new partners saw the continued decline of domestic manufacturing and traditional distribution networks.  As with all change, came also opportunity with another growing trend: the internet.  The first site was created just a few years later–before e-commerce even had a name.

It’s now been over 30 years since the birth of Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. and 24 with Jim Markel, Jr. and Perry Jones at the helm.  During that time Red Oxx Mfg., Inc. has launched several iterations of, moved 7 times, hired hundreds of hard-working, talented Montanans; there’ve been late nights, early mornings, second mortgages, highs, lows, accolades, disappointments, joy—and everything in between.

Today, Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. continues to manufacture—only now its soft-sided luggage and outdoor gear.  Both its retail showroom and production facilities reside in the East Billings Urban Renewal District. Red Oxx products have shipped to every state in the US and to multiple countries on all seven continents.  Red Oxx employs 27 hard-working, talented men and women. They are the life-blood of the company and have helped make Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. what it is today; what it strives to be in the future.

Red Oxx

Montana Ambassador Mike Malone Educator of the Year—Jakki Mohr

Dr. Jakki Mohr, Regents Professor of Marketing, the Poe Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Fellow, Institute on Ecosystems, (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison) has been at the University of Montana since 1997.  Prior to joining the University of Montana in 1997, Mohr was an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Before that—some say, in another life–she worked in Silicon Valley at Hewlett-Packard (before it became known as HP).  

Jakki’s curiosity has driven her research and teaching over the course of her career.  For example, why is it that so many cutting-edge innovations never achieve their promise?  Why do so many new technologies have unintended consequences—to users and to society? What do successful companies do differently in the commercialization process than other companies?  

Searching for answers to these questions has taken her from studying distribution channels in the computer industry, to cooperative agreements for research-and-development, to understanding why so many strategic alliances in business fail, to challenges companies face in developing and commercializing break-through innovations.  Answers to these questions can be found in her award-winning research, published in the Journal of Marketing, the Strategic Management Journal, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the Journal of Product and Innovation Management, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and Restoration Ecology, among others, as well as her book, Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations (2010, 3rd edition, with Sanjit Sengupta and Stanley Slater), used by colleges and universities worldwide (translated into three languages) as well as by managers for executive training sessions.

Some of the high points of her career include serving on the National Academies of Sciences Committee to overcome barriers to electric vehicle deployment in the United States (2012-2015); traveling to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to participate in a workshop on the future of energy and transportation (in the world’s largest producer of oil and in a country where women can’t drive—talk about colliding realities); receiving the Most Inspirational  Teacher of the Year at UM (2001), the Montana Professor of the Year (2005) and the Marketing Professor of the Year (Academy of Marketing Science 2008); seeing her former students thrive and succeed in their chosen professions; and guest-teaching at universities around the world, including ORT University (as a Fulbright Specialist) in Montevideo, Uruguay, Chile, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, India, France, and Italy. Her most nerve-wracking experiences have been giving the Provost’s Distinguished Lecture at the University of Montana in 2009 and giving her first TED talk at TEDx-San Diego in 2011.  She also thought it was pretty cool to be interviewed for a story in Wired magazine and on NPR’s Market Morning Report. For more information and student blogs visit:

Jakki Mohr

Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the YearSarah Broussard

Community and horses are the mix that have comprised a large majority of Sarah Broussard’s life. The daughter of avid eventing supporters, Jerome and Rebecca “Becky” Broussard, Sarah began competing at the age of ten and established herself early as a leader in the sport. In her
teens, Sarah competed with a select group of the nation’s top young riders at the North American Young Rider Championship, commonly referred to as the Junior Olympics of Eventing. In both 2017 and 2018, Sarah and her family were privileged to host that event, now known as the North American Youth Championships, concurrently with The Event at Rebecca Farm.

As the Event Organizer of The Event at Rebecca Farm, Sarah along with her team and family, facilitate a world-class equestrian triathlon each July in Northwest Montana. Known as one of
North America’s largest equestrian triathlons, The Event draws elite horses and riders from across the continent, as well as attracting thousands of tourists and spectators. Simultaneously, Sarah oversees The Event’s corollary initiative, Halt Cancer at X, which provides funding for breast cancer research and local cancer support services. To date, Halt Cancer at X has raised and granted more than $500,000.

Along with organizing The Event at Rebecca Farm and raising awareness for Halt Cancer, Sarah volunteers currently as a paramedic and has served as a captain with local volunteer fire department. She has two children and resides in Kalispell.

Sarah Broussard

Montana Ambassador Entrepreneur of the Year—Eduardo Garcia, Montana Mex

Eduardo Garcia is a chef, outdoorsman, athlete, motivational speaker & the co-founder and director of the national food brand, Montana Mex a food manufacturer of Montana Organic, Non GMO clean label sauces, seasonings and oils.

Eduardo is the subject of the award winning feature length documentary “Charged”, a feature length documentary about a life threatening electrical injury he sustained in 2011.

As a celebrity Chef Eduardo has appeared on numerous TV shows including ABC’s the CHEW, PBS’s Moveable Feast and most recently is the host and director on a outdoor cooking show called “A Hungry Life” that is premiering nationally August 15th through Austin, TX based company YETI coolers.

Eduardo is on a personal mission to help those who are dealing with trauma.  He is a spokesperson and athlete for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a NGO that provides support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles. 

To unwind Eduardo spends his time at home in Montana, tending to his garden, collecting fresh eggs from his chickens and roaming the hills with his family.

Eduardo Garcia

2016/2017 Winners

MTA Plenipotentiary—John Rogers 

Governor Bullock named John “Ambassador Plenipotentiary” for his outstanding service to Montana’s continuing economic development. John worked to improve Montana’s economy on both the national and statewide stages, most recently serving as Montana’s Chief Business Officer. Under John’s leadership GOED initiated the Choose Montana brand and outreach campaign; created the Montana Economic Development Report highlighting Montana’s key industries; expanded Montana’s footprint at national, and even international, trade shows and events; and created the Montana Business Navigator, a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art tool to help businesses understand and access necessary permits and licenses. John’s contribution to Montana and its economic future has been exemplary.

Since retiring from government service, John has started a consulting firm, allowing him to collaborate with economic development organizations and entrepreneurs across the state. John, his wife, Judy, and their daughter, Jill, live in Helena.

John Rogers

MTA Mike Malone Educator of the Year—Paul Gladen 

The Montana Ambassador Mike Malone Educator of the Year is recognized for outstanding accomplishment, excellence and leadership in the field. Paul Gladen exemplifies this award. Paul is Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, a program that helps students, alumni, faculty and staff explore entrepreneurship.

In addition to serving as a Montana Ambassador, he is co-founder of Muzeview, a research and consulting business based in Missoula and a co-founder of the Hellgate Venture Network, a networking group for Montana entrepreneurs. Paul is also a founding team member of the Montana Code School.

A native of England, Paul has an MA in Mathematics from Oxford University and an MBA from Manchester Business School. He spent the first 14 years of his career working for Arthur Andersen, one of the world’s largest accounting and consulting firms. He has lived and worked in London, New York, Rome, Dublin & Chicago before moving to Missoula in 2008.

Paul Gladen

In Memory – Outreach Ambassador of the Year—Peter Rosten

It is difficult to describe Peter: dedicated and directed; passionate and compassionate. Driven. He was a blues musician, boogie boarder and powerful athlete. He was just as comfortable exploring the far corners of the world as he was atop a horse in Montana. He was fluent in Spanish and French while speaking sufficient Japanese to get himself both into and out of trouble.

Peter’s business ventures and accomplishments are too numerous to list here, but as a result of his awe for Montana’s youth, Peter was “driven” for the last 14 years of his life to create MAPS Media Institute. Using a unique synergism between business and education – and his many media arts talents and contacts – Peter helped youth “find their voice” through the media arts. His world was enriched immeasurably by the thousands of students and supporters that grew MAPS beyond Peter’s wildest hopes. The many productions enriched Montana and worldwide audience the videos brought to our door.

Peter’s legacy and work will continue through his trusted MAPS partner and confidant Clare Ann Harff, along with staff Bill Bratches, Tim Kolberg, Dru Carr, Mika Virtaneva, Lucas Laparra and Sarah Jones. An endowment fund has been established to ensure MAPS programming for generations to come.

Peter Rosten

Outreach Ambassador of the Year—Lynda Colucci

At present, Montana Ambassadors have only two out-of-state chapters; one in the Pacific Northwest and one in California. Largely because of Lynda, the California Chapter of Montana Ambassadors has been highly effective in building bridges of opportunity between California businesses and business professionals with interests in Montana.

Lynda’s high-level California contacts have caused her to shine light and influence on the Montana film industry, Montana bioscience, photonics, healthcare industry, and more.

From opening her own home to host Chapter networking events to proudly flying Montana’s flag at her front door to traveling back to Montana for Ambassador events, Lynda embodies what an Ambassador should be.

Lynda, originally from Montana, spent the majority of her professional life working in Seattle and California. Even though Lynda is a busy insurance executive for a large insurance carrier, she has been involved in nonprofits for many years including organizations that have worked serving the underprivileged, victims and survivors, and the environment. She has many experiences working in leadership roles with newly formed groups, which lends itself well to her role as a Montana Ambassador.

As Rick Edwards said, when nominating Lynda Colucci for Outreach Ambassador of the Year in 2011, Lynda is proof that you can “take the girl out of Montana, but you can’t take Montana out of the girl.”

Lynda Colucci

MTA Business of the Year—XTANT Medical 

A homegrown Montana company employing more than 250 people located in Belgrade, Xtant Medical is an accredited tissue bank and medical device company designing, processing, manufacturing and marketing advanced medical products around the world.

Their outstanding innovation in the fields along with their focus on efficacy and safety for the patient and functionality and ease of use for the surgeon makes them a leader in spinal and orthopedic treatment products.

Xtant Medical is a company that is known throughout the orthopedic industry nationwide. Their commitment to continuing to grow their business in Montana make them our Montana Ambassador 2016 Business of the Year.

XTANT Medical

MTA Innovator of the Year—Blackmore Sensors and Analytics

Blackmore is a leader in developing compact and robust frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) LIDAR sensors and supporting analytic tools.

Blackmore’s core technology brings the advanced toolsets of modern radar into the optical domain, enabling a new era of unprecedented LIDAR systems performance. Blackmore’s technology is ideal for a variety of intense, mission-critical, automotive, military and industrial environments, where traditional EO/IR sensors and direct detect 3D imagers are limited by cost and performance specifications.

This Bozeman-based company is gaining a worldwide reputation for innovation and design making them the Montana Ambassador Innovator of the Year.

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics

MTA Placemaker of the Year—Angie Dickinson; Style Alley 

Style Alley, a woman’s clothing store, opened in Forsyth this past winter. Angie Dickinson, the store’s owner, left the fashion industry after many years, most recently with Schwarzopf Professional based out of Denver, to move to Forsyth. An ad for a commercial property in Forsyth “called her home” she says, and she put everything she had into opening the store.

In small communities, entrepreneurial businesses can literally change the landscape, and Angie’s new business is doing just that. Angie is continuing to develop her store and is working to add a salon to her shop soon.

Style Alley

Montana Ambassador of the Year—Melanie Schwarz

Since becoming a Montana Ambassador, Melanie Schwarz has demonstrated a willingness to devote her time and effort toward making Montana and Montana Ambassadors the best they can be.

Melanie Schwarz is the Director of Marketing and Member Investors at Big Sky Economic Development in Billings. Melanie has extensive experience in marketing, public relations, event planning and community engagement which she incorporates in her work for Montana Ambassadors.

Melanie’s work at Big Sky Economic Development includes the management of the 150 private business investors by providing relevant forums, education and community/business related information and opportunities. Additionally, she oversees the organizational marketing for Big Sky Economic Development and BillingsWorks, BSED’s Workforce Development Program.

In addition to serving as Montana Ambassador President, she serves on the Billings Downtown Rotary Board, MSU Billings City College Advisory Board, Rocky Mountain College Community Advisory Committee, Job Service Employer Committee (JSEC) and the Billings Community Foundation Advisory Board. She is also part of the Innovate Montana Symposium Steering Committee and an active member of the Leadership Montana Alumni.

Melanie is married to husband, Brynn, and they have three children and two grandchildren. Melanie enjoys being active in her community, traveling and visiting her kids and granddaughters whenever possible. 

Melanie Schwarz

Previous Winners


Entrepreneur / Innovator / Placemaker of the Year

* Indicates previous award titled “Dennis Washington Entrepreneur of the Year”

2017 Placemaker:  Sarah Broussard, Rebecca Farms
2017 Entrepreneur:  Eduardo Garcia, Montana Mex
2016 Placemaker:  Angie Dickinson, Style Alley
2016 Innovation:  Blackmore Sensors and Analytics
2015 Tyann Hermes, Kootenai Drug True Value and Shakti Soul Yoga
2014 Renelle Braaten, Enell Sports Bra
2013 John & Courtney McKee, Headframe Spirits
2012 Brian Menges, 2nd St. Bistro
2011 Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants
2010 Mike Yinger,
2009 The Huls Family, Huls Dairy
2008 John O’Donnell, TechRanch
2007 Ron Ueland, Butte, MT
2006 Larry Noonan, AWARE, Inc.
2005 Don Cape, JWT Capital, LLC
2004 Andrew Field,
2003 Bill Phillips, Phillips Environmental
2002 Michael Schaer, Computers Unlimited
2001 Mike McCue, LigoCyte
2000 Mike Degn, Moo Juice
1999 Toni Broadbent, Insty Prints
1998 Ralph Hutcheson * & Gary Hoovestal-Special Acknowledgement *
1997 Ken Thuerbach *
1996 Marc Pierce *
1995 Dean Folkvord *
1993 Mike Felt *

Business of the Year

2017 Red Oxx Manufacturing
2016 XTANT Medical
2015 Sunburst Sensors – Jim Beck, Michael DeGrandpre
2014 GTUIT – Brian Cebull, Jim Haider
2013 Dick Anderson Construction
2012 NorthWestern Energy
2011 Stillwater Mining Company
2010 D.A. Davidson & Co.
2009 CCCS, Inc
2008 Glacier Bancorp.
2007 CTA Architects Engineers
2006 Blue Rock Products
2005 Semitool
2003 North Country Media
2002 Zoot Enterprises
2001 Stream
2000 Wells Fargo Bank Processing Center
1999 Big Sky Airlines

MTA Mike Malone Educator of the Year

2017 Jakki Mohr, University of Montana
2016 Paul Gladen, University of Montana
2015 Susan J. Wolff, Dean, College of Great Falls, MSU
2014 Greg Kegel, MSU-Northern
2013 Lorri Brenneman, Montana Department of Agriculture – Agriculture in the Classroom
2012 Dr. Steve Mock and Dr. Rob Thomas, U of M Western
2011 Dr. Waded Cruzado, President, Montana State University
2010 Frank Gilmore, Chancellor, Montana Tech
2009 David S. Forbes, Dean, University of Montana
2008 Jon “Tony” Rudbach (1937-2008), Assoc. V.P. Research, University of Montana
2007 Harry W. Fritz, Professor, University of Montana & Dean Jane Baker, COT, Butte
2006 Geoff Gamble, President, Montana State University
2006 Rich Semenik, Dean, Montana State University
2005 George Dennison, President, University of Montana
2004 Mary Moe, Dean, MSU COT Great Falls
2003 Jane Karas, President, Flathead Valley Community College
2002 Willard Weaver, Dean, MSU COT Great Falls
2001 Arthur DeRosier, Jr., Rocky Mountain College
2000 Joseph McDonald, President, Salish Kootenai College
1999 Michael Malone, President, Montana State University

Ambassador of the Year

2017 Chris Burke
2016 Melanie Schwarz
2015 Brent Campbell
2014 Pam Haxby-Cote
2013 Jeff Laverdiere
2012 Dr. Joe Michels
2011 Leslie Messer
2010 Lisa Perry
2009 Bill Johnston
2008 Carl Kochman
2007 Sean Thompson & Dale Mahugh
2006 Rick Edwards
2005 Ken Richardson
2004 Pat Seiler
2003 Turner Askew
2002 Jon Marchi
2001 Philip Sandquist
2000 Evan Barrett
1999 J. Logan Rogers
1998 Alan Nicholson
1997 Kay Foster
1996 Penny Copps & Jim Smitham
1995 Gary Carlson
1994 Greg Cuniff
1993 Bob Bragg
1992 Dan Smith
1991 Dan Regan
1990 Jim Scott
1989 Bud Lilly
1988 Gary Buchanan
1987 Dan Regan
1986 Bob Henkel
1985 Russ Ritter
1984 Al Bell

Legislator of the Year

2015 Senator Ed Buttrey, Senator Chas Vincent & Representative Bryce Bennett
2013 Representative Duane Ankney
2007 Senator John Brueggeman & Representative Dan Villa
2003 Senator Bob DePratu

Outreach Montana Ambassador of the Year

2016 Lynda Colucci, California Chapter
2016 Peter Rosten – In Memory, MAPs
2015 Russ Fletcher,
2014 Chris Aageson, PNW Chapter
2013 Kurt Burgess, California Chapter
2012 Missoula Children’s Theatre with Don Collins
2011 Lynda Colucci, California Chapter
2010 Kirk Van Alstyne, Pacific Northwest Chapter
2009 Joe Whittinghill Pacific Northwest Chapter

Ambassador Plenipotentiary

Pronounced plĕn’ə-pə-tĕn’shē-ĕr’ē, this is a title made to any member of the Montana Ambassador organization who has rendered especially meritorious service to the industrial or economic development of the State. The award in honorary in nature and continues throughout the lifetime of the recipient.

2016  John Rogers
2015 Rick Edwards
2013 Max Baucus
2012 Evan Barrett
2007 Jon Marchi, Liz Marchi & Tom Siebel
2005 Larry Gianchetta
2004 Butch Ott
2003 Arne Siegel & Keith Colbo
2000 Dan Lambros
1997 Dan Smith
1985 Ed Jasmin
1984 Gary Buchanan