Tester Announces Keynotes for his 17th Small Business Opportunity Workshop

Facebook Rep and COMMIT Foundation Director will Discuss How to Connect Veterans and Business

(Missoula, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester announced today that Major Jeff Gilmore, an Air Force Veteran and Emerging Services Operations Lead at Facebook, along with Anne Meree Craig, the Executive Director of the COMMIT Foundation will keynote his 17th Small Business Opportunity Workshop in Great Falls next week.

The event, held leading into Veterans’ Small Business Week, will focus specifically on connecting veterans and businesses and will feature veteran-owned businesses and businesses that employ veterans, while also connecting veterans with potential job opportunities.

“The work done by Anne Meree and Jeff both highlight how much our men and women in uniform can contribute to the private sector,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Their insight will encourage veterans to explore potential opportunities, engage in new ventures, and thrive in their chosen industries.”

As an Emerging Services Operations Lead at Facebook, Jeff and his team oversee the development of M, a cutting-edge artificial intelligence-powered Messenger assistant that can answer questions and complete tasks. Jeff is passionate about veteran causes and veteran employment. He leads the Veterans Employee Resource Group at Facebook. He is also a Major in the US Air Force Reserves as a C-17 pilot and liaison at DIUx. While on active duty, he served 10 years as a C-21 and C-17 instructor pilot. He deployed in support of OIF/OEF and Horn of Africa operations.

“As a former Air Force pilot, current Facebook Operations lead, and leader of the Veterans Employee Resource Group at Facebook, I am very passionate about veterans’ causes,” Gilmore said. “I am particularly interested and excited about helping veterans thrive in business, tech, entrepreneurship and beyond.”

Anne Meree Craig is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The COMMIT Foundation, which aims to create opportunities for veterans by fostering mentorship, extending and growing networks, promoting familiar camaraderie, and inspiring and accelerating veterans into leadership roles as they move from military service to the professional civilian world. Anne Meree is also the wife of a US Army Ranger veteran and served as a civil servant deploying around the world giving direct strategic and operational support to the Department of Defense and Intelligence Agencies. She has also served as the Chief Administrative Officer at McChrystal Group and as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Berico Technologies. The COMMIT Foundation has also spent this year on-site at Facebook headquarters, helping the company understand the massive value to recruiting veterans and helping it revamp its approach to hiring and managing employees who have served.

“Montana has a tremendous opportunity in front of them as more and more high performing veteran talent moves to our State to start their next career post-military service,” said Craig. “It is essential that we think smartly about how we reinvest this talent into the fabric of Montana so that it benefits the service members, their families and the communities in which they chose to live.”

Tester also announced the panelists participating in next week’s Small Business Opportunity Workshop:

Panel 1: How the Country You Served Can Serve You
Sara Hudson – Director, Veterans Business Outreach Center
Michelle Leshe – Procurement Analyst and Small Business Technical Advisor, Government Services Administration (GSA)
Rod Alne – President and CEO, The Peak, Inc.
Lillian Sunwall – Program Manager, The Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center

Panel 2: Hiring Our Nation’s Heroes
Elaine Stewart – Director of Staffing, The BNSF Railway
Daniel Bernhardt – Director, Veteran’s Employment & Training Service at the U.S. Dept. of Labor
Joe Fletcher – Employment Coordinator, Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve

Panel 3: Starting Your Own Venture as a Veteran
Paul Kanning – Owner, TomTilda Farm
Heidi Reiste – Owner, Electric City Coffee
Willie Blazer – Owner, Willie’s Distillery

The official agenda will be announced in coming days. The event is free and open to the public. You can register for the Senator’s 17th Small Business Opportunity Workshop HERE. And once you’ve registered, don’t forget to share the event on Facebook!