Jon Tester hosting small business workshop Wednesday in Missoula


by Jenna Cederberg

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is hosting a Small Business Opportunity Workshop on Wednesday at the University Center Theater on the University of Montana campus.

He's bringing with him a top Microsoft executive who will deliver a keynote address on his experience working with the software giant, and several social media gurus who will give a presentation on how websites like Facebook and Google can help grow businesses.

It will be the sixth small business workshop Tester has hosted in the state, and the first to be held in Missoula.

Butte native Sean Thompson, whom Tester calls a "top boy at Microsoft," will give a keynote address, "Big Sky and the Clouds."

"He's somebody who was raised in Montana and who has rocked and rolled (with Microsoft) for a while and is now coming back to talk about it," Tester said.

The social media portion of the workshop will show attendees just how important a tool the medium can be for small businesses.

"It's really important in that (social media) is a resource out there most people don't think about," Tester said. "It connects businesses with a customer base, and a lot of it's just flat free. We want to start the conversation on that. We're just presenting the information and (attendees) can use what they want and disregard the rest."

The workshop also includes a keynote address, "Entrepreneurship: Nature or Nurture," by Dr. Michael Braun of UM.

Two panels, "Resources in Your Back Yard" and "Montana Small Business Success Stories," will be held as well. The panels will include Montana Bank president Tom Swenson, Montana Community Development Corp. president Dave Glaser and five area business owners.

Tester says the workshop will help arm small business owners with information and tools that will help them move forward to increase profit margins and create jobs.

"Small businesses drive the economy. Entrepreneurs can help drive the economy. Quite frankly, if we can give them more information they can start getting out there. There's going to be an awful lot of opportunity to interact and to network with a lot of people," Tester said.

The networking opportunities provided by previous workshops have spurred many success stories across the state. Having business owners talk and make connections is "very, very important," Tester said.

The workshop begins at 8 a.m. with welcoming remarks from Tester, Mayor John Engen and UM President Royce Engstrom.

The event is free. People interested in attending can RSVP by clicking here.