The Billings Outpost

Got those winter blahs? Give these ideas a try

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

“The party’s over ...” croon Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Doris Day, and several others. That could be the theme song for January in Montana.

Christmas, New Year and Epiphany are just memories. The sun goes down early and comes up late and it’s cold, cold, cold. But Ol’ Man Winter doesn’t have to call the shots. Here are some fun activities, both inside and out, to beat the blahs.

Almost for free

1. Reread your favorite childhood book. Mine is “The Secret Garden.” I read it every year when I was home from school with the flu. Or wend your way through a difficult book that you always promised yourself you’d read.

2. Fresh snowfall? Make a snow angel. Try to get up without destroying your creation. If the snow will pack, build a snowman and then paint it by squirting on water and food coloring.

Eat some fresh snow. It crunches and melts at the same time. Just make sure it’s not yellow. (A 9-year-old boy joke.)

3. Pop some popcorn and watch movies until your eyes won’t focus anymore. I’m a multi-tasker. I like to watch movies while also working a jigsaw puzzle and eating popcorn.

4. Create something. Whittling has always been a winter activity. All it takes is a piece of wood and a pocket knife. Crochet. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Play with clay from the dollar store. Buy a package of construction paper and a new box of crayons.

5. Gather friends and kids and go sledding or sliding at Pioneer Park or on the closest hill, then finish off with a bonfire and weenie roast with marshmallows.

6. The next Art Walk is Feb. 1 from 5-9 p.m. You don’t have to walk. You can take the trolley from gallery to gallery.

7. Take a spiritual holiday. Turn off your phone and enjoy the silence. If that’s too big a leap, play some gentle music. After quieting the inner chatter, try writing with your non-dominant hand and expect some surprises.

8. If you have a grill, invite your friends to a pot luck winter barbecue. You supply the drinks and a side dish or two and they bring their own steak, chop or burger.

9. For star gazing, Montana’s dark winter skies are the best. Take some old blankets, leave the city lights behind, find a safe place to park, and lie down on your back. Holding hands with your sweetie while you do this is even better. Add a hot drink and snacks.

10. Have a sleep-over with your girlfriends. Listen to oldies while you eat things that are really bad for your waistline. Share some scandalous secrets. Do men do this? I think that it’s called a stag party.

11. Plant some seeds. Marigolds, tomatoes, and petunias all are great choices. You’ll be able to watch the sprouts shoot up in just a few days.

Give yourself away

1. Bake some cookies for the workers at your favorite nonprofit: the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter; the closest fire station; your priest, minister, rabbi. You get the idea.

2. Be a good Samaritan. Help someone change a tire. Shovel a walk. Give someone a lift to the store. Pay for the meal of the person behind you at the drive-up.

3. Clean out closets and drawers, then don’t keep them for a spring garage sale. Instead, donate the bags and boxes of stuff to a thrift store and take the tax deduction.

For a small amount of money

1. Go to a museum. The Yellowstone Art Museum, Western Heritage Center, Moss Mansion, Yellowstone County Museum, Museum of Women’s History, and High Plains Women’s Museum. Admission fees vary. Visit one of these a week and you’ll arrive at Easter.

3. Go to Zoo Montana, a thriving venture where the exhibits are more and more interactive. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.

4. The Billings Symphony presents Trout Fishing in America on Jan. 26. In February, the Russian Ballet Company dances Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

Billings Studio Theater performs BST Encore: “On the Funny Side of the Street: A Broadway Riot” at Yellowstone Country Club Jan. 26 and 27. “On Golden Pond” plays weekends in February.

Venture Theatre plays “Red” and “A Steady Rain.” as part of The Fringe Festival.

5. Dine out! The choices, from the A&W to Z Pizza, will please your palate.

6. Bars, Saloons and Night Clubs. Billings has more live music (as opposed to dead music?) than even a skilled bar hopper can experience on a weekend. Cover charges are minimal to zero.

7. Movies! The Academy Awards are Feb. 24. See one of the nominated movies on the big screen. Or treat your inner child to “The Hobbit.”

Take heart. The first day of spring is March 20, mere weeks away. In the meantime, keep your eye on the Outpost’s calendar for more ways to defeat the winter doldrums.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:37

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Safety unsettled of genetically modified salmon


By ARI LEVAUX @arilevaux

If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The Food and Drug Administration chose Dec. 21 to release its long awaited Environmental Assessment of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage” salmon.

This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment, beginning winter solstice, 2012, on a farmed salmon that salmon farmers won’t be allowed to raise in the U.S., but Americans would nonetheless be allowed to eat.

If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy regulatory price for trying to be first.

The slow and meandering path of the fish’s approval process owes more to agency machinations than any prevailing ideology. Four years is just enough time to settle into a new course before a new administration takes over and replaces your boss and, possibly, your agenda.

During the Bush II, FDA announced it would regulate AquAdvantage salmon as an animal drug rather than food, perhaps in hopes of expediting the process. More recently, according to a hypothesis espoused by Jon Entine in Slate, officials in President Obama’s inner circle conspired to delay the salmon’s approval for political gain.

Its application in bureaucratic purgatory for decades, AquaBounty leaked money, sold assets, was often without a clear idea of where the process was going, and flirted with bankruptcy. The tide began turning in November, 2012, when biotech giant Intrexon began acquiring AquaBounty shares (ABTX), triggering what has become a 400 percent run-up of the stock-most of the gain since the FDA’s solstice announcement.

Meanwhile, many are still wondering how a salmon steak could be considered a drug. According to FDA logic, the drug per se is AquaBounty’s patented genetic construct, made of genes from two other fish inserted into Atlantic salmon DNA. Inserted at the animal’s one-cell stage, the gene sequence exists in every cell of the adult fish’s body.

The company claims this cluster of genes, aka the drug, makes AquAdvantage salmon grow faster than its non-GM, farm-raised counterparts, and it hopes to sell that claim, and lots of AquAdvantage salmon eggs, to fish farmers around the world.

But unlike most other so-called animal drugs, this one inhabits an animal that can do very well for itself in the wild. It can swim across oceans, up rivers, mate with wild fish, and pass along its drugs to the next generation.

Given precedent that will be set in approving the first GM animal for human consumption, it’s understandable that the review process might take some time. Unfortunately, the FDA has spent most of its time figuring out how to avoid asking some tough but very important questions.

The Christmas EA predicts “an extremely low likelihood” that AquAdvantage salmon will affect “the environment of the United States.” This conclusion spares FDA and AquaBounty the significantly more-rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming process of conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which would include a comprehensive failure analysis investigating the possible outcomes of worst-case scenarios at every link in the process. Such hassle was largely avoided by simply stipulating that no AquAdvantage salmon shall be raised in the U.S., and no live AquAdvantage fish will even enter U.S. territory.

AquAdvantage eggs are to be produced in a facility on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and shipped to a facility in Panama to be raised in tanks to marketable size. In the future, AquaBounty hopes to ship eggs worldwide from Prince Edward Island-but not to the U.S., or any other country, apparently, with sturdy environmental laws.

A key step in the AquAdvantage approval process came in September 2010, when FDA held a public meeting of its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) to review what was then the draft EA. Jon Entine, of the Team Obama interference hypothesis, assumes the VMAC committee “unanimously endorsed the FDA’s findings that the salmon was safe.” But the meeting transcript paints a more nuanced picture.

VMAC member Dr. James McKean noted, in his final remarks, of AquAdvantage salmon, “It appears to be safe, but that loop has not, in my mind, been closed.” Purdue biologist Bill Muir commented at the VMAC, has looked extensively at risk associated with GM fish, and believes AquAdvantage salmon don’t pose much of an ecological threat. Nonetheless, as he explained to the New York Times, “Shit always happens. If shit happens and they end up somehow in the ocean ... maybe it’s hypothetical to the FDA, but people would like to know what happens.”

In fact, shit did happen at AquaBounty’s Panama location in 2008, when a storm swamped the facility. As AquaBounty reported to investors, the largest batch of salmon in company history was lost. According to the Christmas EA, meanwhile, “no serious damage was incurred by this event, and no problems of significance to aquaculture operations occurred.”

Dartmouth sustainability science professor Anne Kapuscinski addressed the committee as well. Like the rest of the public, Kapuscinski had barely two weeks to review the hundreds of pages of documents released Friday before Labor Day.

Dr. Kapuscinski recently led a team of 53 scientists in writing a book about how to conduct scientifically credible risk assessment of genetically modified fish, and her lab has done ecological-risk research with GM fish. Kapuscinski was one of the most qualified people in the room, VMAC members included, to comment on the ecological risks posed by AquAdvantage salmon. Her oral comments were cut short due to time; she submitted a written transcript of those comments, but I was not able to find it in the FDA website.

A copy of her oral comments that Kapuscinski forwarded to me stated: “The Environmental Assessment does not adequately consider the growing body of research on genetic and ecological risks of transgenic fish.”

The EA, she wrote, lacked the basic quantitative information necessary to verify its conclusions.

The statistical methods were outdated, and sample sizes too small or not reported. Kapuscinski called for “a transparent Environmental Impact Statement that completes genetic and ecological risk assessment.”

In person, according to the VMAC transcript, Kapuscinski advised the committee, “FDA should require a quantitative failure mode analysis for all the confinement methods. Failure mode analysis is standard practice for technology assessment.”

The Christmas EA, in explaining its decision to not follow Kapuscinski’s recommendations, cited her work 14 times.

An EIS would be a sensible if, less convenient alternative to approving an EA that depends on exporting fish farming to other people’s backyards, and sending U.S. agents to the ends of the earth to inspect the facilities of fish farms that want to raise AquAdvantage salmon and sell it to the U.S.

To claim that AquAdvantage salmon is safe to produce, while at the same time circumventing the process of regulating its production at home, sends a mixed message to consumers, environmentalists, and industry. It also reeks of colonialism, and serves as a reminder of why “animal drug” might not be the most productive way to describe this fish.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:42

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MSU’s Funk keeps busy composing


BOZEMAN – Eric Funk doesn’t have an iPod, but he’s pretty sure his head works like one.

“Composers are like iPods, only they are filled with their own music,” said the award-winning performer and composer, who recently also won one of Montana State University’s top teaching awards

“At any one time, there are three or four compositions in my head, fighting to get out. So, you need to take time to intentionally listen, really listen, to the music that’s playing (in order to get it out).”

Finding that time can be a problem for Funk, who might be one of Montana’s busiest people. The namesake, creative director and driving force behind the award-winning “11th & Grant with Eric Funk,” he is also a popular jazz musician, performer, recording artist, conductor, band director and church musical director.

He has six CDs featuring his original work and recorded by symphonies and orchestras around the world. His compositions have been performed twice at Carnegie Hall, and he has been featured on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times.

He also teaches some of MSU’s most popular classes and is so adept at it that he recently was named the recipient of the 2013 James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence.

In fact, Funk believes one of his biggest creative leaps as a composer came as a result of teaching. “For me it was education, interacting with young people and mentoring them,” said Funk, who has composed more than 121 major works – nine symphonies, four operas, 16 concertos, five string quartets and an extensive list of choral and chamber works.

Perhaps his most noted composition to date will be introduced to the general public in March when MontanaPBS releases its documentary, “The Violin Alone,” featuring Funk and Hungarian violin virtuoso Vilmos Olah and a complex piece that Funk composed in which Olah plays all parts of the concerto on one violin. The documentary follows a visit to Budapest that Funk made last year to see Olah debut the piece.

“Things are coming to fruition,” said Funk, who is 63 and says he is just in the middle of his career.

“With composers, it usually takes awhile,” he added with a chuckle.

That Funk practices his art in Bozeman, rather than Prague, Paris or even Portland is somewhat surprising. After all, Bozeman is known more for its western swing than its violin concertos.

Funk explains that he works in Montana because it is “where I make sense.”

“In Europe they tell me, ‘Your music is so big.’ I couldn’t compose the music I do if I didn’t live here.”

Born in Deer Lodge to a musical family that also lived in Lewistown, Havre and Missoula, as well as Minnesota, Funk was considered a child prodigy in a family of musical prodigies.

“We were like the Von Trapp family,’ Funk said. “We had a ton of repertoire.”

Funk received his bachelor’s degree in music from Portland State University and studied for a doctoral degree from a tri-university program that included Portland State, University of Oregon and Oregon State University. He taught in colleges and community colleges in Oregon and Texas before returning to Montana in 1985. He has been teaching at MSU’s School of Music since 2002.

Funk is thought to be one of MSU’s most prolific faculty members in terms of numbers of students taught woven with creative pursuits. His music appreciation classes, which are part of the university’s core classes, are among MSU’s most popular. About a quarter of MSU’s students will take a class from Funk.

“Former students rave about his teaching, and due to the large number of students that have passed through his classes, I hear favorable comments very often,” said Greg Young, interim director of the MSU School of Music. “They feel he is knowledgeable, captivating, warm and talented.”

Funk has also served as the music director and conductor of the Helena Symphony Orchestra, the co-founder and conductor of the Gallatin Chamber. He received the 2011 Innovation in the Arts Award (through the National Endowment of the Arts) and most recently was named a Humanities Hero by Humanities Montana.

He is perhaps best known in his home state for the award-winning MontanaPBS series, “11th & Grant,” which he curates. Now in its eighth season, the series features Montana musicians. It is filmed in just one intense week in the summer, airing during the winter.

“I could already program 10 years ahead with the groups that have been submitted,” he said. “There’s always new and tremendous talent out there.”

The producers of the “11th & Grant” series traveled with Funk to Hungary to film Funk and Olah in Budapest for the documentary “The Violin Alone,” which not only features the music but the bond between the two men.

Curiously, the Funk/Olah friendship and partnership did not begin in Eastern Europe, where Funk has performed, conducted and studied frequently during his career, but in Bozeman.

Olah performed at a Mendelssohn Symposium in Bozeman two years ago. Olah, who is not well known outside of Budapest despite his talent, is able to play several parts of music at one time on his violin.

”When I heard (Olah) I had this spontaneous idea,” Funk said. He wrote “Concerto for the Violin Alone, Opus 109” in five days. He said that the music “is not impossible, but it’s not easy. Yet, when Vili saw the piece he understood it like he had written it himself.”

“We are kindred spirits,” Funk added. “We haven’t really known each other very long in real time, but our musical communication is like a life-long friendship.”

Olah practiced the piece for two years before premiering it in Budapest last spring.

Olah plays a Stradivarius violin, and Funk said that the “sound that comes out of that thing is so phenomenal. It actually sounds like an oboe a flute and a trumpet.”

The “Violin Alone” is far from Funk’s last work. About one-third of his compositions are commissioned, so there is “music that always has to get out the door.”

For instance, while recently grading final essay tests from his 635 students from the fall semester, Funk was putting the finishing touches on a piece that will premiere in 2015 in Prague celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Czech composer Jan Hanus.

He was also finishing a chamber opera. His composition “Montana Winter” was performed in December by the String Orchestra of the Rockies in Missoula as well as at Bozeman High School Orchestra.

“Generally composers are writing all the time,’ Funk said, tapping his head. “When we actually have time, we try to get it out in a final form.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:06

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Hemingway book is One Book Billings selection

“Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways,” by Valerie Hemingway. Ballantine Books. $16.

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

Valerie Danby-Smith lived most of the first 17 years of her life in St. Mary’s Dominican Convent, Cabra, in Dublin, where the days was largely silent and highly regimented. It was no surprise that after leaving the convent, followed by secretarial school, she longed for some excitement.

At a friend’s suggestion, she found a post tutoring the children of an affluent Spanish family, a family with connections in journalism. And Spain more than lived up to her expectations.

She attended her first bullfight on Easter Sunday 1959, and immediately loved it. “Here in the bullring was everything I sought, the parallel to my beloved Dublin theatre,” she wrote. “I determined whenever possible corrida would be my entertainment.”

In May of that year, the young nanny cum reporter was asked to interview Ernest Hemingway. She had read several of his books but knew little else about him. They were an odd couple: a 19-year-old with little life experience and an eccentric, celebrated author approaching 60.

She expected an interview and nothing more. But that encounter with Ernest Hemingway changed her life forever.

Valerie Hemingway’s memoir of her 28 years attached to, married to, mother of and stepmother of Hemingways, is aptly titled, “Running with the Bulls.” She matured in just a few months from a somewhat naive girl to a woman able to deal with all the craziness associated with Ernest Hemingway’s last year on earth, his fourth wife, Mary, and finally, his third son, Gregory, whom she married.

Gregory Hemingway eventually brought his family to Bozeman on July 4, 1980. Bozeman is still her home.

I found especially poignant her inability to save her husband from his many self-destructive behaviors. “Yagottawanna” says a plaque I’ve read on many occasions, meaning you have to want to get better, to change. She desperately wanted recovery for her husband. He did not.

I salute Valerie Hemingway’s tenacity, her courage, and ultimately her survival. Her reflections aren’t for the faint hearted, but well worth the journey.

“Running with the Bulls” is the One Book Billings selection for January. To sign up for a discussion group and receive a free copy of the book, call the Parmly Billings Library at 657-8258.

Discussion groups will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at the Parmly Billings Library and at Castle Rock Middle School. On Tuesday, groups meet at 5 p.m. in the Community Library at City College and at 7 p.m. in the Rocky Mountain College Library. On Wednesday, a group meets at noon in Parmly Billings Library. On Thursday, groups meet at 7 p.m. at Huntington Learning Center and at the Billings Family YMCA.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 January 2013 11:46

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Silversmiths gets new look

Montana Silversmiths celebrates 40 years in business in 2013 by launching new products and collections inspired by the company’s history and heritage of the Old West.

Special product releases in 2013 include new design collections across all Montana Silversmiths product lines including western stock and trophy buckles, jewelry, Montana Lifestyles and silver trim.

To headline the new design collections, Montana Silversmiths is producing a square shaped buckle, engraved on front and back and sold in a wood display box etched with the 40th anniversary logo on the glass lid. Silver products produced during the year will be stamped with the 40th anniversary Montana Silversmiths identification on the back.

The 2013 Signature catalog, shipped to dealers in January, 2013, features new branding design and striking environmental, model and product photography. Special collections are displayed together for impact, in addition, company and product information is expanded to better aid retailers with customer service and sales.

New design collections will include products released throughout the year, including the annual Signature catalog publication as well as the Holiday catalog release in mid-summer.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 December 2012 15:31

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3 recognized at EBMS

Marilyn Bartlett, chief financial officer for EBMS and a member of the EBMS Executive Committee, is the inaugural recipient of the Montana Society of CPAs Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry Award.

The award recognizes the achievements of certified public accountants employed in business, industry, nonprofit and government.

According to a news release issued by the MSCPA, Bartlett is a past-president and “much-loved” member of MSCPA, and received the award “because of the professionalism she has shown, as well as her many contributions to the profession.” The news release also said, “Very few CPAs are as respected or well-known by their peers as is Marilyn Bartlett.”

Reidun Johnston, a CPA from Missoula and chairman of the MSCPA Industry Group, said, “Marilyn is an inspiration to me and many others. She has forged the way as a leader in a profession that, until recently, didn’t have women leaders. She has made a difference for us all.”

Also at EBMS, Cheryl Lewis, a registered nurse and case manager, and Lori Buxbaum, a registered nurse and CareLink intake/coordinated care supervisor, both in the Case Management Program of the EBMS CareLink Department, have earned the Commission for Case Manager Certification credential, a news release said.

The CCM is the largest nationally accredited organization that certifies case managers, and is considered to be the most prestigious certification organization supporting the case management industry. Case managers at EBMS are CareLink nurses who act as patient advocates through an individualized program of care by providing advocacy services, such as: 1. Working with members and their physicians to assist in achieving treatment goals, thus ensuring that members receive the highest possible level of care;

2. Helping members navigate through the oftentimes complex and confusing maze of the healthcare system; and, 3) providing information needed to make prudent healthcare decisions. Both Lewis and Buxbaum have been with EBMS for more than two years.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 December 2012 15:30

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Vice president named

Jeremiah Rouane has been named vice president for commercial banking at Rocky Mountain Bank.

Mr. Rouane will work with businesses, providing them with capital needed to grow their operations, invest in new equipment and create jobs to spur local economic development.

“We are excited to welcome Jeremiah to Rocky Mountain Bank,” said Stephen Casher, the bank’s market president. “His extensive banking background, with notable successes in commercial banking and other areas, make him a perfect fit for this vital role with us.”

Rouane brings 14 years of experience in commercial and business banking. Previously, he served as assistant vice president, commercial loan officer at First Interstate Bank.

He holds a degree in business administration from Montana State University Billings.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Billings, the Society of CPAs and Family Service Inc. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 15:29

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Study: Mine expansion aids growth

University of Montana...

MISSOULA – Montana’s economy could be significantly impacted by expansion at its existing coal mines and development of new mines, according to a study recently completed by The University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Expansion of the Spring Creek coal mine near Decker would boost Montana jobs, household income and tax revenues, according to an economic impact study conducted by BBER economist Patrick Barkey.

According to the report, “The Economic Impact of Increased Production at the Spring Creek Mine,” commissioned by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, a proposed increase of coal production by 20 million tons at the mine owned by Cloud Peak Energy would more than double output at the facility and require expansion in capital and equipment, labor force and new purchases of resources such as electricity and work uniforms.

The study found that with a status-quo, no-expansion scenario, by 2018 the project is expected to create 1,421 permanent jobs across a wide range of industries and occupations in all regions of the state. Income for Montana households would collectively increase by more than $58 million.

Projected state government tax revenues on coal production and growth in Montana’s tax base were estimated to reach more than $55 million per year.

BBER’s study found that the Spring Creek expansion also would generate higher rail volume across Montana. Rail and coal jobs pay significantly more in wages and benefits than the state average, and the spending by those workers combined with additional purchases by vendors and suppliers would support hundreds of additional jobs in industries such as construction, retail, health care services and public schools.

BBER director and study author Barkey notes that while a number of coal projects in the state propose new mines, Spring Creek is unique in that it represents growth of an existing operation.

“This is the first study we’ve done that measures growth as a result of coal expansion,” Barkey said. “The results demonstrate that whether we measure jobs, income or output, the economy of the state of Montana stands to benefit significantly from the project.”

BBER is a research center producing economic and industry data for Montana. For more information visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 15:23

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MSU Billings student places in global competition

MSU Billings News Services...

Anyone who is a gamer or a natural competitor knows what it means to “level up” in a challenging environment. It comes with tougher encounters, harsher competition and — for those who succeed — a richer feeling of accomplishment.

Last month, a College of Business student at Montana State University Billings found all three when he found himself among the top five competitors in a global simulated business competition.

Tanner Lambert, a finance major from Columbus, participated in this semester’s International CapSim Business Simulations Challenge in the Capstone division, the top level. Of the nearly 1,000 participants worldwide, Lambert finished fifth, putting the MSU Billings student among some of the best business colleges in the world and cementing Lambert’s reputation as a star academic performer in the College of Business. 

Just this past spring, Lambert won the CapSim Foundation Challenge, the precursor to the Capstone challenge.

“I was the only undergraduate to make the finals,” he said in a recent interview. “It was a great experience.”

For Lambert, who turns 26 in January and is set to graduate in the spring of 2013, the Capstone challenge proved to him that he has the work ethic and determination to succeed in the business world. The online simulation had him managing a multimillion-dollar enterprise with multiple markets, labor challenges and financial issues. Decisions are made under deadline pressures, and one wrong assumption can sink an otherwise solid plan.

“How you allocate your resources is very important and your strategy has to be focused and spot on,” he said.

No other MSU Billings student has ever competed in the Capstone level. Lambert said while he was pleased with his overall performance, he especially proud of what the results showed about the level of support and expertise of the MSU Billings faculty.

“Since this was a higher level, it kind of motivated me to show others that we’ve got a good school here,” he said. “This really put MSUB on the map, especially in the business college world. No school our size is in the top 10.”

Lambert graduated from Columbus High School in 2005 and entered the Merchant Marine Academy. After an injury left him unable to complete the academy, he ventured in to the higher education arena, starting first at Montana State University in Bozeman and then transferring to MSU Billings for his business education.

He said he knew he finally found a college home his first semester in the College of Business.

“The faculty and the types of skills they have given me in four years are unbelievable,” Lambert said. “The education is practical and useful and this (the competition) shows the faculty are doing all the right things.”

The energetic and focused Lambert said when he decided to move up a level to the Capstone challenge this fall, he found overwhelming support from his peers and the College of Business faculty. Practice took place during the semester and the final, two-day online competition took place in late November. Lambert said his faculty mentors were with him the whole way. 

“They bend over backwards to help you succeed here,” he said.

The CapSim Challenge is broken into two groups: Capstone and Foundation. While similar in scope, the Capstone Challenge requires students to run a $100 million business whereas the size of the company in the Foundation Challenge is $40 million.

Both competitions require participants to manage the business’s product development and finances, including selecting a strategy for their company, redesigning its product lines or creating new ones, as well as figuring out the company’s marketing and sales plans. In the Capstone challenge, developers throw in labor negotiations as well.

And just like the “real world,” during the competition, students have investors to answer to, sales goals to meet and competition to monitor.

The CapSim Challenge is also an opportunity for students to compete with other aspiring business leaders from around the world and to prove their own skills as a potential CEO or successful entrepreneur. This year’s event included over 1,600 students from several countries including Australia, Taiwan, India, Canada as well as the United States.

For more information on the MSU Billings College of Business and its programs, go to or call 657-2812.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 15:20

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Job growth top priority, Chamber survey finds

Montana Chamber of Commerce...

HELENA – Creating good jobs remains the top priority for Montanans, according to a new survey.

The Power Base (P-base) is an annual scientific survey of 600 Montana voters on a variety of business and political issues with a margin of error of 4.1 percent. The poll is commissioned by the Montana Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to determine what Montanans think about important economic issues facing our state. Here are some of the results:

Economic development

Without a doubt, creating good-paying jobs is the top priority for Montanans. A full 31 percent listed it as the top issue the Legislature should address this coming session, with lower taxes and a balanced budget a distant second at 16 percent.

For top pocketbook concern, healthcare costs continue to dominate with a plurality of 25 percent, and taxes coming in at 17 percent.

As in prior surveys, the P-base shows Montanans want to see more business growth, especially in high wage businesses like the natural resource industries.

For example, 83 percent of Montana voters want the state to encourage more timber, 77 percent want more oil and gas development, 71 percent want more coal development, and 71 percent want more mining.

In fact, the support comes from majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents polled on every industry category.

Montanans are still pessimistic about the national economy, but there are signs of improved attitudes. Half of voters believe the U.S. economy is on the wrong track (down from 66 percent last year) as opposed to 34 percent who think we are on the right track. A majority of voters believe the state’s

economy is better off with 52 percent saying we’re on the right track vs. 23 percent saying wrong track.

 State issues

Respondents in the poll stated they hope the Legislature rejects bills that force employers to have guns on company property or to allow concealed weapons in bars and banks. Both ideas were presented in bills last session and are expected to be introduced again.

Montanans are split on whether school funding levels are adequate with 43 percent saying they are adequate, 43 percent inadequate. A plurality of respondents favored a complete repeal of the business equipment tax – 38 percent support repeal while 25 percent oppose.

Federal issues

A majority of voters would like Congress to rein in or stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing new regulations that affect new coal mines with 52 percent opposed to additional regulations and 36 percent supportive.

In addition, 81 percent of voters support free trade agreements with other countries that allow Montana commodities and products to get exported.

To see the results of the full poll, go to

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 15:18

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