Governor Bullock Announces Montana Ambassador Award Recipients

Montana Ambassadors


 Governor Steve Bullock today announced the 2020 Montana Ambassador Awards, honoring individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to economic development in Montana.

It’s my honor to recognize this group of hard-working Montanans and Ambassadors who help ensure that Montana remains one of the best places in the country to live, work, play, start a business and raise a family,” said Governor Bullock. “This commitment to growing Montana’s economy, creating more good-paying jobs, and revitalizing communities across the state is vital to our continued success.”

It is important to honor the exceptional accomplishments of Montana’s educators, businesses, Ambassadors, and organizations that form the bedrock of our state,” said Jenni Graff, President of the Montana Ambassadors. “This year’s awards recipients inspire creativity in the boardroom, classroom, and their communities, and we are thrilled to host an engaging online event to truly celebrate their efforts.”

The honorees will be recognized at an online awards ceremony the evening of October 8th featuring videos highlighting each recipient.

Montana Ambassador of the Year – Suzi Berget-White

Berget-White is the Director of the Montana Women’s Business Center (MWBC) based in Bozeman and hosted by Prospera Business Network. The MWBC 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.

Acceptance Video

The 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.

Acceptance Video

The 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. 

Acceptance Video

The Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year – Western Cider

Western Cider is located on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. The dream was seeded in 2012 when co-founder Michael Billingsley 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. 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.

Acceptance Video

The Outreach Montana Ambassador of the Year – Ken Fichtler

Ken is the Chief Business Development Officer in the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development.  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.

Acceptance Video

The Montana Ambassadors Mike Malone Educators of the Year

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.

Acceptance Video

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.

Acceptance Video

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.

Acceptance Video

For more information on these awards, visit


The Montana Ambassadors is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization of leaders in business, education, and local and state government with a common dedication to serving the Governor, doing business in Montana, and furthering the best interests of the state.



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