By Martin Kidston

The vice president of the Missoula Economic Partnership is leaving the organization to help a Milwaukee-based law firm open a new Missoula office, she announced on Tuesday.

Jenn Ewan, who spent the last two years with MEP and was promoted to vice president in March, will begin with the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm starting next week.

“They approached me a month-and-a-half ago to ask me to be senior counsel,” Ewan said. “This firm is opening offices in communities with a lot of entrepreneurial and startup activity.”

Ewan said Best & Friedrich chose Missoula in part due to the latest Kauffman Report, which placed Montana at the top of its national list for startup activity.

It was the fourth year in a row the state has received high rankings in the category, and Missoula has emerged as the state epicenter for entrepreneurial growth.

Ewan, who earned her law degree from the University of Montana in 2007, said her experience working with entrepreneurs, angel investors and startup businesses fits well with the law firm's mission.

“They specialize in intellectual property, along with employment law, corporate law and education,” Ewan said. “They also have a 'Venture Best' team. That's a group of legal experts who help structure deals in the venture capital and angel investment realm.”

During her tenure at MEP, Ewan helped spearhead the city's efforts to generate a revenue guarantee to help grow local air service. She also helped connect entrepreneurs with the University of Montana and helped guide the school's educational offerings to meet local business needs.

Ewan also traveled to national pitch sessions to sell Missoula to businesses looking to expand. She believes the city's startup realm is strong and vibrant, even if it often goes unrecognized.

“At MEP, I really learned about what's happening in the Missoula community,” Ewan said. “When you're not working in economic development, you miss out on the small and large economic activity going on. There's so much happening in Missoula and it's not slowing down at all.”

Joel Henry, a former UM professor who founded and serves as president of Agile Data Solutions in Missoula, will also be joining the law firm's local office.

Ewan is the fourth high-ranking member of MEP to leave the firm over the last two years. In November 2014, Brigitta Miranda-Freer left MEP to take a job as the executive director of the Montana World Trade Center at the University of Montana. Rachel Anderson, who served as director of operations and business development at MEP, left in April. Mel Brock also left the organization two years ago.

Jenni Graff will handle economic development for MEP. Ewan said she doesn't know when or if her position within MEP will be filled.

“While at MEP, I learned how well connected this community is in terms of helping each other out,” Ewan said. “Just the innovation that exists in this town is amazing.”

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