Big Sky Business Insight Summit 2022: Speakers
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Danielle BergnerAttorney, Hall Render (Milwaukee, WI)Danielle Bergner is an attorney and shareholder in the Real Estate practice group at Hall, Render, Killian, Heath, and Lyman, the country’s largest health care focused law firm. Danielle is a nationally recognized real estate expert with specialized expertise in economic development, affordable housing and housing finance. Her clients include large corporate employers, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. Before joining Hall Render, Danielle served as General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer for a high-growth regional real estate development and investment firm, and as Deputy City Attorney for the City of Milwaukee where she developed and implemented catalytic, award-winning housing and community development strategies. Danielle has been recognized in Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA. She has also been selected to the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, Women of Influence, and Power Broker lists, and as a Business Journal National Influencer.
Bryce WardFounder, ABMJ Consulting (Missoula, MT)Bryce Ward is the founder of ABMJ Consulting and a research associate at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and BAs in economics and history from the University of Oregon. He has expertise in urban and regional economics, labor economics, health economics, public finance, social economics, real estate economics, environmental and natural resource economics, and statistics/econometrics. He taught classes at Harvard University, Lewis and Clark College, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University. He has published dozens of scholarly articles and economic reports, and he has provided expert testimony in dozens of court cases and legislative proceedings. His research has been featured in places like the New York Times, the Associated Press, PBS NewsHour, NPR, and ProPublica.
Caitlin JensenExecutive Director, Zero to Five Montana (Helena, MT)Caitlin Jensen is the Executive Director of Zero to Five Montana, and is passionate about making Montana the best place for children and families with young children. She began her career in early care and education at a Seattle Head Start classroom 19 years ago, and has since dedicated her career to early childhood systems and policy. Her experience working with young children and families, both locally and internationally, led her to pursue her Master’s in Social Work with an emphasis on Policy & Advocacy at the University of Washington. While in graduate school, she also completed a Maternal and Child Health Leadership fellowship through the UW School of Medicine/Seattle Children’s Hospital, and last summer earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Social Sector from Babson College. She enjoys connecting with policy makers, parents, employers, child care providers, community leaders, and other critical partners to find common ground work towards solutions
Bruce TribbenseeCo-founder, Submittable (Missoula, MT)12 years ago Bruce and two other creative people founded a startup here in Missoula that has grown to more than 150 employees. While at Submittable he shepherded an onsite child care center. After experiencing the child care shortage first hand with his son, and then learning even more about child care in Montana through the Submittable center he saw how broken the system was. He now works with Zero to Five in Helena and organizations in Missoula to help create more child care opportunities and find innovative solutions for the future.
Edie WilleyChief People Officer, Bozeman Health (Bozeman, MT)Edie Willey currently serves as Chief People Officer for Bozeman Health. She leads with nearly 25 years of experience in transforming cultures, organizational development, leadership, and talent management. As a member of Bozeman Health’s executive team she oversees education, human resources, spiritual health, volunteers and governance. Edie holds a masters in organizational development & behavior from the California School of Professional Psychology (now known as Alliant University); and a doctorate in spiritual science from the Peace Theological Seminary and College of Philosophy. She currently serves on the board for Hospice of Bozeman Health and volunteers with Freedom to Choose to participate in empowerment programs for women and men incarcerated in a CA state penitentiary.
Laura SeyfangExecutive Director, Big Sky Community Housing Trust (Big Sky, MT)Laura Seyfang held the position of Executive Director for the newly formed Big Sky Community Housing Trust from 2018-2022. She is retiring from that role on May 15, 2022. Seyfang‘s background as an engineer and plant manager in the automotive industry for 34 years, then 4 years as an executive director for the American Red Cross, along with many years of volunteer service with Habitat for Humanity, positioned her to lead implementation of the Big Sky Housing Action Plan. Under Laura’s leadership the nonprofit implemented several innovative Housing programs to support workers in the fast-growing Big Sky resort community including Rent Local, HomeShare and Good Deeds.
Hannah Van WetterCEO and Co-Founder, Foothold (Butte, MT)Upon graduating from Williams College, Hannah joined the general contracting world, working for a large commercial contractor in Boston, then moving to Bozeman and working as project manager for a high-end residential construction firm. In the summer of 2020, Hannah and co-founder, Sam Atkins, started Foothold as a way to combat some of the glaring housing supply shortages in Southwest Montana. Through a desire to improve the construction landscape and an ability to connect those to get it done, Hannah is persistent and thoughtful, and motivated to make accessible housing a more equitable option for all.
Heather GrenierPresident/CEO, HRDC District IX, Inc. (Bozeman, MT)Heather is the President and CEO for the Bozeman area’s Community Action Organization, HRDC. HRDC has developed more than $120 million in community housing developments spanning the entire housing continuum and provides housing services along that same continuum, from emergency shelter to homebuyer education and down payment assistance. HRDC has been working to alleviate poverty since 1975 and focuses on community solutions that address needs relating to early childhood care and education, housing and homelessness, energy savings and weatherization, transportation, senior independence, food and nutrition, and economic wellness. Heather is one of 200 nationally certified Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) instructors and has more than 20 years of experience advocating in the Non-Profit and Community Action arena.
Austin HobzaHuman Resources Manager, Paradise Dental Technologies (Missoula, MT)Originally from Billings, Montana, Austin completed his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology at the University of Montana. Shortly after, he started his human resources career as an HR Generalist for a Missoula insurance company and later became the HR Manager for PDT, Inc. In his 5 years at PDT, he has earned his Senior Certified Professional certification from the Society For Human Resource Management, and worked with his team to implement family-oriented policies that have kept turnover below 2% year over year.
Robert FarmerSVP of People Solutions, Clearwater Credit Union (Missoula, MT)Robert Farmer SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a University of Montana graduate and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Robert also holds an MBA with a Human Resource Management emphasis and is a nationally recognized trainer. He has worked for Clearwater Credit Union Union for 20+ years and has many years of leadership and supervision experience. As the SVP of People Solutions, Robert oversees the Credit Union’s human capital and organizational culture. Robert is a past Big Sky SHRM Chapter President and has spent many years on the Montana State SHRM Council. He is currently serving on the Global Alliance for Banking on Values HR Steering Committee and is the president of the Missoula Job Service Executive Committee.
Katie StevensMAI, Stevens & Co. (Missoula, MT)Katie Stevens, MAI is a designated commercial real estate appraiser with Stevens & Co., a real estate appraisal & consulting firm in downtown Missoula. She received her Certified General Appraisal License with the State of Montana in 2017 and became a Member of the Appraisal Institute (MAI) in 2021. Katie graduated from the University of Providence with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After graduation, Katie joined the Peace Corps and was placed in Azerbaijan for two years working on youth and community development. When she returned to Missoula after living abroad, she worked as the Development Coordinator for Garden City Harvest before realizing she could also have a positive community impact from the private sector. Katie is a board member with United Way of Missoula County & is the Chair of United Way’s Live United Committee.
Rebekah NelsonVice President of Employee Benefits Outreach, Zoot Enterprises (Bozeman, MT)Rebekah Nelson is Zoot’s Vice President of Employee Benefits Outreach and the President of Zoot Adventure Learning Academy or ZALA, Zoot’s onsite childcare center. She has spent three years bringing the vision and dream of ZALA to fruition, which achieved a joint goal for her and her husband, Chris Nelson (the Founder and CEO of Zoot Enterprises). Rebekah is a passionate advocate for healthy work/life balance and creating safe, nurturing, and high quality childcare for the community. This passion guides her as she steers ZALA through its daily operations and long-term planning. As an executive team member for Zoot Enterprises Rebekah works diligently to bring innovative and fresh ideas to the table that help to boost the benefits within the Zoot community and Gallatin County. Rebekah’s innovations have led her and her team to creating a very unique Business Membership program for the child care center allowing the local businesses to participate in offering the child care services to their employees as a benefit that would have been hard to create individually.
Carly WheatleyDeputy Director, Snowy Mountain Development Corporation (Lewistown, MT)Serving as the Deputy Director for Snowy Mountain Development Corporation in addition to Government Contracting Advisor under the Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Carly has had the opportunity to serve Central Montana in economic and community development as well as advocate at the State and National level for resources and assistance for a six county region. She brings 10+ years involvement in the nonprofit sector; extensive experience as a board member for numerous organizations including the Montana Economic Developers Association and the Fergus County Port Authority; and knowledge and management of numerous and unique economic development projects including efforts centered around improving child care opportunities across the state. In 2021, for her community work both professionally and personally, Carly was recognized as one of the areas 15 under 40 Rising Stars.
Meghan BallengerExecutive Director, RAISE Montana (Lolo, MT)Meghan Ballenger is the Executive Director of Raise Montana, formerly named The Montana Child Care Resource & Referral Network. Raise Montana’s mission is to advance the early childhood profession and improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of childcare in Montana. Meghan earned her undergraduate and graduate degree in the field of social work in her home state of North Carolina and is grateful for the variety of professional opportunities her education has afforded her including working as a child and family therapist and with families experiencing domestic violence. Meghan believes transformational change is possible through collaboration and open communication. Meghan believes every child and family deserve love, care, and access to a successful future. Access to a successful future often begins with quality early care and education. Through the mission of Raise Montana, Meghan has an opportunity to address those systemic failures and create better access to that successful future each family deserves.
Heather FosterCEO, Missoula Family YMCA (Missoula, MT)Heather Foster is the CEO of the Missoula Family YMCA. She first joined the Y in 2014 as its HR director before assuming her current role in 2018. The YMCA is a 501c3 charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the community of Missoula through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. The YMCA is one of Missoula's oldest and largest nonprofit organizations employing over 325 employees and serving thousands of families and children annually. Under Heather's leadership, the Y has raised over a $2 million to benefit its financial assistance programs, served more than 450,000 healthy meals and snacks to children, expanded services to become Montana's largest provider of licensed child care, provided health and wellness programs to more than 15,000 Missoulians and most recently has led the organization through transformational changes during the pandemic, ensuring the Y kept its doors open to provide emergency child care to essential employees, worked with local partners on food distribution, supported isolated seniors and innovative wellness programing creating a new virtual Y. In addition to leading the Missoula YMCA, Heather also serves in the following roles supporting YMCAs across the Mountain West Region. Policy and Advocacy Chair- MT Alliance of YMCA's, board member for Mountain State Alliance of YMCA's and committee member for the Regional Advisory Hub- Midwest/Mountain YMCA'S.
Julie LaceyEconomic Development Director, Missoula Economic Partnership (Missoula, MT)Julie brings to MEP a wealth of business acumen, technical assistance, and experience with Missoula’s economic landscape. Most recently, she served as Director of Client Relations for MoFi, where she worked with key partners to connect capital to people and projects just outside the financial mainstream. She also oversaw MoFi’s Community Facilities lending program. Prior to her 8 year tenure at MoFi, Julie worked as Director of Marketing at the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). She holds an MBA from the University of Montana, and an undergraduate degree in economics and environmental studies from Bowdoin College.
Kaia PetersonExecutive Director, NeighborWorks Montana (Missoula, MT)Kaia is passionate about creating opportunities for Montanans to have safe, quality homes where they can thrive. She uses that passion to guide NeighborWorks Montana and advance financing, education and counseling, and collaborative housing solutions across the state. Kaia has a BA from Bates College and an MBA from the University of Washington. She is a member of the Missoula Housing Authority and the Providence St. Patrick Hospital Western Montana Community Ministry Boards. She lives in Missoula, Montana where she enjoys spending time with her family outdoors in all seasons.
Grace DeckerMissoula County Collaborative Coordinator, Zero to Five Montana (Missoula, MT)Grace Decker has been an early childhood educator and advocate in Missoula for over 25 years. She was the founding director of the Missoula Community School (now in its 22nd year) and trained, coached, and mentored early childhood educators with Child Care Resources. As coordinator for the multisector initiative, Zero to Five Missoula County, based at United Way of Missoula County, she brings people and organizations together to put the needs of young children and families first, and to create innovative and collaborative solutions.
Nicole RushBusiness Initiatives Director, Missoula Economic Partnership (Missoula, MT)Nicole writes grant proposals and is responsible for the administration of state and federal grants awarded to assist local businesses through Missoula Economic Partnership. Nicole joined MEP in 2016, bringing ten years’ experience in grant writing, fundraising and non-profit administration to the team. Nicole has worked for a variety of organizations in Montana’s philanthropic sector, including the University of Montana Foundation, where she served as Associate Director of Gift Planning, and the Montana Community Foundation. A Helena native, Nicole is a graduate of the University of Montana with a B.A. in English.