ZooMontana will work with MSUB students on business plan

2011-05-06T20:30:00Z 2011-05-18T07:34:54Z ZooMontana will work with MSUB students on business planBy CHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

ZooMontana's Board of Directors agreed Thursday to work with Montana State University Billings business students on a strategic plan for the financially troubled zoo this summer.

On Friday, Daniel Lundquist, zoo marketing director, sent a press release to Billings media Friday criticizing the board's actions.

"After attending another board of directors meeting at the zoo and still not hearing a viable short- and long-term plan for maintaining and improving the conditions of the animals, keeping staff and my family, I am making plans to leave the zoo. As stated months ago, I issued a conditional letter of resignation based on the short- and long-term plans and support of the board. Like the past 15 years of the zoo's history, no substantial action has taken place in 2011 addressing this matter."'

Board President Ian McDonald responded by saying changes will take time.

"It is not going to turn around on a dime," McDonald said. "It's a long, difficult problem to figure out. It's going to take a long time to fix this and turn it around. Patience is running thin with time, but it's the way it has to be."

Lundquist is one of several zoo staffers who turned in resignation letters shortly before the zoo's financial problems became public.

Included in those resignations were two educators and Director Jackie Worstell.

Lundquist said he plans to leave by early June.

The zoo board is awaiting word from the MSUB College of Business to finalize details on formulating a business strategy.

At Thursday's meeting they voted to ask MSUB to:

— Detail the steps the board would pursue with an investor who is interested in building a theater complex similar to an IMAX theater at the zoo.

— Detail a plan for the zoo to fully fund a project to create extra revenue on its own.

— Look into the option of public finding.

— Look at what the best possible outcome is for the zoo if it continues day-to-day operations.

McDonald said he would also ask the students to come up with an exit strategy for the zoo, should it ever have to shut down.

The MSUB business plan would cost the zoo $250 to cover the costs of materials.

He said other companies have enlisted MSUB's help with success, including Stillwater Mining Co.

"They are well-known and have good business plans," McDonald said.

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