Jeff Wright President of Montana Outdoors Foundation

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.

Tell us about your connection to Montana – both professionally and personally.

Growing up in Pasadena, CA, I had always heard of Montana but didn’t have the chance to visit it until I was a Boy Scout in the early 90’s.  It’s a long story, but the short version is that my friends and I in Troop 35 had been accused of being “overly creative” by the camp director on Catalina Island, and accordingly were asked to find another summer camp location for two years.  A family in our Troop had property in Phillipsburg, MT and they offered it up for a couple weeks to be our summer camp location for that summer. The moment that I set foot on their property, I fell in love with Montana and knew it was a unique and special place.  

I met the woman who would later become my wife at UM (Go Griz) and although I moved back to LA to work in the music business following graduation, Montana was never far from my heart.

In 2014 we helped my sister-in-law, Jemarie Allen, put together Trapper Peak Coffee Co which is currently located in the basement of the Missoula Public Library.  Jemarie runs a great business and is looking forward to the opening of the new library building later next year where her café will have a bigger space, with excellent street visibility and ready access to the growing clientele of downtown Missoula.  Stop by and pick up a sandwich and a latte!

My wife and children and I spend the majority of our free time in Montana, visiting family, friends and exploring as much of the state as possible.

You have had a pretty fascinating career, but you’ve always maintained a pretty close connection to Montana. What keeps you coming back here?

I’ve been fortunate to have some diverse and interesting career experiences thus far in my life. In each of those experiences, Montana has served as a place of inspiration.  Sometimes it’s been being able to come here and vacation, other times it’s coming here to work with organizations and help them expand or improve. Big picture, it’s the inspiration find a way to move back to Montana.

How long have you been a Montana Ambassador? Why have you chosen to serve as an Ambassador, and what unique qualities or skillsets do you offer as a Montana Ambassador living and working outside of the state?

I have been an Ambassador for the past three years and was first introduced to the organization by Bill Johnston.  Serving as an Ambassador offers a unique opportunity to meet businesses and entrepreneurs from across the state and to be able to help them as a collective organization in ways that positively impact their growth and development.  Living and working outside the state gives me the chance to identify businesses in the tech, entertainment or outdoor recreation spaces that are interested in relocating their operations to Montana and work with fellow Ambassadors to answer their questions and ultimately help them make the move.

What was your motivation for launching RecCon?

Montana has given me so much over the years that I wanted to find a way to somehow give back.  The beauty and adventure of the state inspired me to found the non-profit Montana Outdoors Foundation in the summer of 2018 and headquarter it in Missoula.  Along with a board of directors composed of fellow Montana Ambassadors Bill Johnston, Lynda Colucci, Tyler Delaney and Mike Ferrucci, we set out to create a summer event called RecCon Montana that takes place this July 19 & 20 in Missoula at Fort Missoula Regional Park

RecCon is intended to highlight the Montana businesses and non-profits that work in outdoor recreation and give them all a place to come together every year, share their products, their stories and their passion for Montana’s outdoors with residents and visitors alike.

What is your vision for the event 10 years from now?

I see RecCon growing to become the must-attend outdoor recreation event in the state.  It will always showcase organizations from across Montana and will someday undoubtedly attract exhibitors from around the world.  We want to draw not only Montanan’s as guests, but also visitors from around the country so that they can all discover new places to explore, meet the companies and people that work in those areas and learn about the outdoor recreation opportunities that surround them.  We also have ideas on how to expand the reach of RecCon from being just an annual event in one place each year, to directly benefiting communities across the state with something of a tool kit that allows them to host their own version of RecCon during the year, and roll those up to the big summer event.  That’s a ways down the road, but something we’re putting thought into for sure.

Why is Missoula, MT a prime location for an event like RecCon??

Missoula is a great place to do just about anything, but it’s particularly great to host RecCon because of the outdoor culture that Missoulians wholeheartedly embrace.  Additionally, it’s proximity to a number of outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, a world-class university, exceptional restaurants and breweries, great people and a city government committed to outdoor recreation make it ideal.

I live in Montana. I know about the recreational activities available here. Why should I go?

As we’ve worked on the planning for RecCon, I’ve spoken to a number of Montanan’s who have noted that although they have explored the state and traversed its front ranges and backcountry, there are still locations that they’ve not had a chance to explore and still others that they likely don’t know about.  Our goal is to not only motivate visitors from outside the state to explore Montana, but to inspire Montanan’s to deepen their relationship with the state and learn about a place they’ve never been and set the goal of exploring it this year.