High Plains Architects
Billings, Montana

Montana Ambassadors History


Approved by the state legislature in 1983 as a joint venture by Governor Schwinden and the Department of Commerce, the “Build Montana” program’s goal was to promote and encourage long-term economic growth in the state. To gather and evaluate data from other states about economic development activities, Governor Schwinden enlisted the Chamber of Commerce, Montana Bankers Association, International Trade Commission and the Montana Department of Commerce.


The Articles of Incorporation for the Montana Ambassadors are filed.


Ed Jasmin elected the first President of Montana Ambassadors.


The first meeting of the Montana Ambassadors is held in Helena with 120 members present.

1985 - 1995

Annual Catch and Release Fly Fishing Tour

Created to promote Montana as both a business location and a vacation destination. In cooperation with the Governor’s Office, Ambassadors hosted out-of-state executives on fishing excursions to give them an opportunity to view the beauty of the state and provide an informal networking setting.


Ambassador Survey

In collaboration with the University of Montana Bureau of Business & Economic Research, the Ambassadors conducted a formal survey of the membership on key issues that affect Montana’s economy and business climate. When the results came in, the membership took aggressive action to address venture capital, quality of higher education, local economic development efforts and many more areas of concern.

1989 - Present

John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition

Hosted by the University of Montana College of Business, the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge is the premier opportunity for Montana’s brightest and boldest students to present exciting new entrepreneurial ideas for adjudication. The Montana Ambassadors has sponsored this event both financially and by providing judges and coaches for entries.

1994 - Present

Bragg/Lewis Business Retention and Expansion

To ensure that Montana businesses are appreciated, supported and receive assistance to help overcome problems, the Ambassadors created the Bragg/Lewis Business Retention and Expansion program. To this day, Ambassadors continue to mentor and provide support for businesses.

2004 - 2016

Montana Business Open

In order to connect businesses, higher education and government, the Ambassadors created the Montana Business Open to continue the betterment of Montana. The tournament provided a high-level networking opportunity for the Governor to introduce business prospects to members of the Montana Ambassadors, educators and business officials and share all that Montana has to offer.


Outreach Chapters: Pacific Northwest (PNW) & California Chapters Formed

To help build business bridges from other states to Montana, the Montana Ambassadors began to focus on building out-of-state chapters in key cities that have a contingency of Montanans with strong connections to the state. The PNW Chapter (Seattle) holds a speaker series and draws high-level business representatives for networking. The California Chapter (Los Angeles) holds events focused on a range of topics including bio-science, the film industry and many more. Both the PNW and California chapters have had success in strengthening businesses in Montana.

2005 - 2010

Montana Arts Council

To show their support of the fine arts, the Ambassadors held Home Town Celebrations, organized by each Chapter Vice President, to honor the Governor’s Arts Awards recipients and recognize outstanding creative arts across the state.

2006 - 2016

BEAR Program

Implemented statewide, the Business Expansion and Retention program, or BEAR Program, allowed Ambassador member to join local BEAR Teams and conduct interviews with local business who sought assistance. The BEAR Teams then provided the business owner resource options that would help the owner strengthen the business.


60 Summits

In order to create a Montana workforce that is healthy, productive and on-the-job, the 60 Summits was created to bridge the divide between traditional boundaries and build a shared vision to support injured workers to remain at or return to work safely and productively. From the 60 Summits, the nonprofit foundation, Worksafe Montana, was born and carries on the 60 Summits efforts across the state.


Boone Pickens: Energy Jobs for MT

On February 27, 2009, in partnership with the Montana Ambassadors, Governor Schweitzer arranged to have internationally known T. Boone Pickens present at the Montana Ambassadors Annual Conference. Over 300 people attended Pickens keynote address and many took the Pickens Pledge to reduce foreign oil dependency.

2012 - 2016

A World In Motion

Montana Ambassadors Arne Siegel leads the charge to launch the first A World in Motion (AWIM) program in Montana. Due to an investment of $5,000 from the Ambassadors, 17 schools received kits to build Gravity Car Cruisers, an exercise that encourages the use of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) studies. Montana Ambassadors provided funds and participated in classrooms to work with the students. Over 3,990 students were able to participate during the lifespan of the program.

2016 - 2018

Innovate Montana Symposium

Montana’s signature annual business and networking event, the Innovate Montana Symposium connects innovative ventures from diverse industries with economic opportunity. Attendees receive insights, tools, and collaboration to foster thriving businesses and communities throughout the state. The Montana Ambassadors serve as the Fiscal Agent for the event and provide mentors for the Solution Lounge.