Billings worked so well last year as a gathering place for entrepreneurs from all over Montana that state officials are doing it again this summer.

The Innovate Montana Symposium is coming back to downtown Billings July 11-13, with sessions at the Northern Hotel and the DoubleTree by Hilton.

Davey Madison, project manager in the governor’s office of economic development, said organizers are selling up to 600 tickets. For lunch, they’re sending attendees to the 18 restaurants and six food trucks downtown — a boost for the local economy, she said.

“Billings has one of the best downtowns in the state. For the way that we run the conference, it is the place that we can run it. We can fit that many people, we can feed that many people, and it’s just a beautiful place to be in July,” Madison said last week during a visit to Big Sky Economic Development, which is co-sponsoring the event.

The Innovate Montana Symposium is part of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Main Street Montana project, which aims to develop business and commerce in the heart of cities and towns statewide.

The conference will feature three keynote speakers, all of whom have Montana connections.

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  • Bethany Yellowtail, a Los Angeles-based fashion designer and member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe.
  • Dave Morin, the San Francisco-based CEO of Slow Ventures, former Facebook manager and Helena native.
  • Jason Williams, CEO of Blackfoot, a telecommunications firm in Missoula.

Additionally, it will feature breakout sessions and networking opportunities facilitated by Elation Inc. in Billings, Madison said.

“It is not your standard conference. It is a lot more than that. It is really open to anyone in any phase of the business life cycle … If you’re looking to make connections in the business world in this state, this would be the place to go,” she said.

Last year, about 450 people attended the conference, and Madison said state officials are planning for 600 this year.

Tickets are $99. Purchasing information is available at innovatemontana.com/symposium.

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