Dusty Eaton CEO/Principal A&E

Montana Ambassadors Interviews are part of an ongoing series of blog posts bringing you stories, insights and advice from leaders and business all across Montana and beyond. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the interviewee. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Montana Ambassadors or its members.

Are you familiar with the Montana Ambassador organization, and if so, would you share your experience?

I was thrilled to be nominated for Montana Ambassadors by Heather Bellamy and Chantel Schieffer, and approved by Governor Steve Bullock. Both Heather and Chantel are fellow alumni of Leadership Montana, a program devoted to empowering Montana leaders for the development of our exceptional state, as well as Montana Ambassadors. As a graduate of the class of 2018, Leadership Montana was an incredible experience that renewed my understanding of Montana’s diverse markets and evolving needs. Throughout the course of the program, I developed close personal relationships with professionals working in various industries across the state, some of whom were Montana Ambassadors. I look forward to networking with more inspiring business leaders through Montana Ambassadors, in addition to assisting the organization’s initiatives to further enhance this special state and perpetuate my professional and personal interests regarding the long-term success of Montana.

Most information today is readily available. What is something about your firm that you would like to share?

A&E is a multi-disciplinary design firm with a team of 63 professionals dispersed throughout our five offices located in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell, and Seattle. As one of the largest and longest standing architecture firms in the region, we have gained a unique understanding of the design industry, keenly aware that our business requires constant modification to not only adapt to changes in trends, techniques, and technology, but to also satisfy the evolving needs of our clients. We have expanded our team to incorporate a broad collection of design skills to provide a holistic design experience flexible to each project’s unique requirements, fusing architecture, graphic design, identity development, project delivery, branding, creative writing, tradeshow booth design, social media management, interior design, and construction management into one, comprehensive design practice. We don’t just provide a service – we develop creative solutions for all design challenges within any given project. This approach provides a more mindful and satisfying client and end-user experience, ensuring our work yields a successful outcome with each design component harmoniously integrated within the overall project scope.

What are some of the pleasures of your job?

I love working in Montana, and truly believe this region is the “last best place.” I am able to balance family with professional pursuits while still engaging in top-tier projects with local and international clients holding high expectations. A&E strives to create unique design solutions, and I enjoy playing a key role in facilitating innovative ideas. As CEO, my job is a balance of leadership and strategy coupled with project management and client interaction, affording me the opportunity to engage in all my passions. Everyday brings something new, and I enjoy the challenge of each new endeavor.

What are some of the advantages and challenges of a Montana-based company?

The greatest advantage of a Montana-based company is simple – our people. Montanans possess an exceptional work ethic and strong value system. We know who we are and what we are made of. A significant portion of our firm is comprised of local graduates, and we continue to search our communities’ universities for top talent to join our team. However, we recently hired several very talented professionals with zero connection to Montana other than a positive visitor experience. While Montana’s reputation across the nation continues to evolve, I believe it is critical we continue to invest in tourism to support additional workforce initiatives. While Montana still holds a sense of remoteness in terms of the rest of the country, we have a wealth of positive attributes to offer the national market.

Working in a state as large as Montana demands regular travel which can be challenging to balance with my young family. I travel strategically to lessen the impact on my personal life, as well as rely on technology to provide ample opportunities for connection regardless of my location. State-of-the-art communication and technology tools are an invaluable component to my success as a Montana professional.

What would you say to other business owners about the advantages of a Montana-based company and recommending they open their office/facility here in the state?

The new generation of younger professionals seeks recreation and experience as opposed to commuting for hours in traffic. The culture of Montana offers outdoor adventure and entrepreneurial freedom – it’s an easy sell. Not only is our lifestyle liberating, but our professional pursuits are equally exciting. I work on a wide range of projects that achieve national recognition. A&E recently collaborated with an exceptional creative team to design Montana State University’s Norm Asbjornson Hall, the largest LEED Platinum building in Montana. In fact, the city of Bozeman is rapidly becoming a booming technology mecca, leading the industry on a national scale. Montana offers hard-working professionals the opportunity to excel coupled with a great quality of life, which is often an elusive ambition in the corporate world.