International trade & investment are essential to Montana’s economy— from wheat to SaaS products and everything in between, Montanans are selling their products & services around the world, importing supply chain solutions, and receiving investment from global markets. Come join us to celebrate Montana’s successes on the global stage, learn about untapped opportunities, and gather together in celebration of world trade month.

The agenda included:

Gleaning insights on a dynamic global trade landscape, unveiling results of the MWTC Annual World Trade & Investment report, honoring the Montana Exporter of the Year as chosen by the Montana District Export Council, inviting Consuls General from our trading partner nations to share insights, meet with businesses and amass more granular detail about mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities between Montana and their home country, offering timely training for Montana’s exporting and importing firms.’

This event was held on May 22nd from 12:30pm to 7:00pm at Montana State University.


World Trade & Investment Day 2024
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

12:30PM                Event Check In
Location: Montana State University, Norm Asbjornson Bldg, Inspiration Hall

1:00PM                 Lunch Service Begins 

1:15PM                 Formal Program Begins Welcome
Speaker: Waded Cruzado, President, Montana State University 

1:20PM                 State of Montana’s World Trade & Investment Portfolio   

                                        Speaker: Brigitta Miranda-Freer, Executive Director, Montana World Trade Center

1:30PM                 DEC Exporter of the Year Award & Conversation
Speaker: Paul Green, Montana Department of Commerce Director & District Export Council award recipient for 2023

2:00PM                 Leveraging Tech Hubs to Grow Tech Trade & Investment for Montana
Critical insights from Montana tech industry leaders in photonics, quantum, SaaS, and biopharma.

                                       Moderator: Les Craig, General Partner, Next Frontier Capital.

                                       Panelists: Jason Yager, Executive Director of the Montana Photonics & Quantum Alliance, Emma Cantley, Operations and Communications Coordinator at Quantum Strategix, Andreas Scherer, President and CEO of Golden Helix, and Tim VanReken, Executive Director & Regional Innovation Officer for Headwaters Tech Hub

2:55PM             Break

3:10PM                 Global Trade Policy Considerations for Emerging Tech           

                                       Fireside chat featuring Molly Kocialski, Director, Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office and Angela Marshall Hofmann, Head of Government Affairs, JCPenney

3:50PM                 Trade Talk
Key leaders in diplomacy and international trade from East Asia, North America, and Europe share their perspectives regarding opportunities for cross-border commerce and investment with Montana and challenges impacting current and future global trade.
Consul General Micheál Smith, Ireland; Consul General Sylvain Fabi, Canada; and Chief Executive Director Yotetsu Hayashi, Japanese External Trade Organization

                                       Moderator: Brigitta Miranda-Freer

4:50PM                              Brief Remarks to Close Afternoon Session, Transition to Evening Reception

                                      Speaker: Brigitta Miranda-Freer, Executive Director, Montana World Trade Center

4:55PM                 Adjourn

5:30PM                 Reception Co-Hosted by the Baucus Institute
Location: Museum of the Rockies, 
600 West Kagy Blvd. Bozeman, MT 59717 

6:00PM                               Evening Program Commences
Speakers: Alison Harmon, Vice President of Research & Economic Development, Montana State University; Andrew Person, Executive Director, the Baucus Institute; Dave Ashby, Stockman Bank Wealth Management

6:10PM                 Comments from Governor Greg Gianforte 

6:25PM                 Audience Q&A
For Governor Gianforte & Trade Talk Panelists Consul General Fabi of Canada, Consul General Smith of Ireland, and Chief Executive Director Hayashi with JETRO

6:30PM                 End of Formal Program, Networking Continues
Speaker: Brigitta Miranda-Freer, Executive Director, Montana World Trade Center

7:00PM                 End of Reception


Greg Gianforte, Governor, State of Montana
Yotetsu Hayashi, Chief Executive Director, Japanese External Trade Organization
Molly Kocialski, Director, Rocky Mountain Regional US Patent and Trademark Office
Brigitta Miranda-Freer, Executive Director, Montana World Trade Center
Andrew Person, Executive Director, Max S. Baucus Institute
Tim VanReken, Executive Director and Regional Innovation Officer, Headwaters Technology Hub
Sylvain Fabi, Consul General, Canada
Paul Green, Director, Montana Department of Commerce
Angela Marshall Hofmann, Head of Government Affairs, JCPenney
Alison Harmon, Vice President of Research & Economic Development, Montana State University
Emma Cantley, Operations and Communications Coordinator, Quantum Strategix
Micheál Smith, Consul General, Ireland
Waded Cruzado, President, Montana State University
Jason Yager, President & Executive Director, Montana Photonics & Quantum Alliance
Les Craig, General Partner, Next Frontier Capital
Les Craig, General Partner, Next Frontier Capital
Andreas Scherer, President & CEO, Golden Helix


Dianne Burke is a cybersecurity faculty member at the University of Montana and serves as Director of CyberMontana. She has taught networking, security, data operations, and computer forensics courses in both the public and private sectors. She recently completed a career as a forensic analyst where she specialized in Electronically Stored Information (ESI) collection and analysis, assisting counsel in cases across the U. S.

Ms. Burke holds a B. A. from Rice University, and M. S. from the University of Houston, an M. Ed. From the University of Montana, and is a doctoral student at the University of Montana.

John W. Miller is Chief Economist Analyst at Trade Data Monitor, where he writes the TDM Insights column about trends and movements in global trade. Miller is a contributing writer at America Magazine and co-director of the PBS film Moundsville. Miller has written for Time, Newsweek and was a staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal from 2004 to 2016. He is currently working on his first book, for Simon&Schuster, about Earl Weaver and the role of the baseball manager.

Mayor Jordan Hess moved to Missoula in 2005 to attend the University of Montana, where he studied Geography with emphases in Community & Environmental Planning and Cartography & GIS. He most recently worked for more than eight years as Director of Transportation at the University of Montana, where he led UM to be the first college campus in the nation to operate modern, fast-charging-battery electric buses.

During his service on the City Council, Mayor Hess held several leadership roles, including chair of the Public Works Committee, chair of the Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee, chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee and Vice President of the Council. He has been a champion of the City’s zero-waste and clean energy goals, expansion of Missoula’s trail network and conservation lands and growth in the diversity of the city’s transportation options. He was instrumental in the City’s acquisition of the citywide water system, now Missoula Water. He is steeped in the City of Missoula’s mission, strategic vision and culture. He is committed to promoting livability and equity in new development. He believes the best decisions are made in an atmosphere of collaboration with equity and sustainability in mind.

Mayor Hess believes the most critical issues facing Missoula and many other cities across Montana are housing, the climate crisis, tax reform, equity and people in crisis.

“It is an honor to be able to work every day to make our community a better, more equitable place to live and work,” he said. “I am proud of the work the City has accomplished during my nearly nine-year tenure on the City Council, but there is so much more to be done.”

Mirra Valdez is the Branch Manager of the IFT Utah office. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Weber State University.

Starting in Export Operations 8 years ago, she has proven her dedication to the company and IFT’s business partners while working her way up to Export Operations Manager and ultimately accepting the position of Branch Manager.

In addition to helping the company grow through relationships with our business partners, she is responsible for the development of operations and pricing personnel, training on the export and import process for FCL/LCL/Air/Breakbulk/RoRo shipments including title validation and hazmat compliance and providing quick resolution to the trials that can occur in the industry.

Outside of work she enjoys hiking, camping, and sailing. She also enjoys traveling as it inspires her to try new things.

Owen Haacke is the owner of Empress Brokers International LLC. In this role, Owen supports companies and inviduals with product sourcing, logistics management, and import compliance. Owen manages Empress’s business from his hometown in Billings, Montana.

Owen held a variety of positions in the public and private sector with work focused on international trade and business. In past roles, Owen served as the Director and Chief Representative of the US-China Business Council (USCBC) Shanghai office. In this role, he regularly worked with US multinational company leadership on their strategy and led targeted research on operational best practices, supply chain challenges, and regulatory changes that impact operations of US companies operating overseas. Owen also worked at the United States Senate Committee on Finance, working with the trade policy team on multilateral trade agreement policies and legislation impacting import tariffs.

Owen holds a B.A. from Dalian University of Foreign Languages in Chinese, International Economics and Trade. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and spent over 10 years living and working in China. Owen is an individually Licensed U.S. Customs Broker.

Sandro Gadilia is an Account Executive with 4 years of experience in International Logistics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from University of North Florida.

Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to developing and maintaining business partners for IFT, which has led to tremendous growth of our business network. He is known for his discipline and has a proven track record of dedication to IFT and our partners.

In business development, he is responsible for generating leads, acquiring new business partners, maintaining / growing relationships, and has successfully brought in many long-term partners. Prior to business development, he worked at ANSL where he was responsible for marketing and achieved highest level of community engagement and sponsor involvement.

Outside of work, he enjoys soccer, skiing and is actively involved in local semi-pro leagues. He is committed to being involved and strives to make a positive impact in his community.

Meet Sarah Massie: a globally recognized export compliance expert, national speaker, trusted consultant, future author, and adventurous entrepreneur who runs her company from the beautiful country of France. Sarah is the President of S Massie Consulting LLC, where she specializes in export consulting, creating written processes and protocols for export and ITAR compliance programs, and training companies to navigate the complicated laws and regulations for U.S. exports. With almost 20 years of experience in international business, Sarah has organized promotions at international trade shows and Governor-led trade missions in over 10 countries around the world.

Before starting her own consulting company, Sarah Massie worked as a Senior International Trade Specialist for the Idaho Department of Commerce. Additionally, Sarah has volunteered as an Aerospace Liaison for the Idaho Manufacturing Alliance and served on the boards of the Idaho Aerospace Alliance and the Boise Cricket Club. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Boise State University with a B.B.A. in International Business. Sarah is also the author of an upcoming book titled “The Two Lives I’ve Lived,” which uses her personal story to empower women to overcome their fears and pursue their dreams with confidence.

Steven Paget is the Sr. Vice President of Sales at International Freight Transport.

Steven is 0perationally trained in freight forwarding geared towards business development with over 25 years of experience.

Steven’s responsibilities include establishing, maintaining, and expanding relationships with key business partners. Attending various training sessions on new technology geared toward the industry. Overseeing the salesforce with training and growth development.

Steven’s hobbies outside of work include tennis, boxing, motorcycle riding, and long walks with his dog Elsa Belsa.

Dr. Thomas Gallagher is an innovative education leader with over thirty years of experience in secondary and higher education. He currently serves as Associate Vice Provost for Two-year and Workforce Education at the University of Montana and Dean at Missoula College. Tom is a full professor in the Department of Business & Technology and a content matter expert in cybersecurity and information technology. Dr. Gallagher has developed the Missoula College’s Cybersecurity Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) and CyberMontana, an initiative to construct a state hub for the cybersecurity workforce, community awareness, and economic development. Dr. Gallagher’s innovative activities are focused on serving the new-collar workforce.

Dr. Gallagher possesses the Ed.D and M.Ed degrees in Education Leadership from the University of Montana, the MS degree in Computer Science from Western Washington University, and the BA degree in Mathematics from Carroll College. He also holds industry and professional credentials including the Secure Infrastructure Specialist. His dissertation Baccalaureate Time-to-Degree for Montana University System Two-Year College Transfer Students examined the impact of student transfer on time-to-degree.


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