The Next Chapter: Billings' Emerging Business Leaders

July 1, 2024

by Elise Habel | Photos by Renata Haidle

“Because Billings is so diverse, it gives the Metra the opportunity to bring in unique shows that this community, and those from surrounding areas, can come enjoy.”

As Billings continues to expand and develop, so does the next generation of business leaders in our community. We were introduced to three outstanding young professionals who strive to improve Billings and build business relationships that connect our community. These individuals pour their energy into a purpose far bigger than themselves or their businesses; they look ahead at the future of our city with great optimism and anticipation. 

Meet Cody Reitz

Cody started working at the box office in 2016 and is now the Sales and Marketing Director for MetraPark. “I love the community and involvement and economic influence,” Cody says, “it’s the Metra’s mission to create the widest impact for Billings possible.” Last year's fiscal year, between July 2022 through June 2023, the Metra contributed $150 million in economic impact for Billings and the surrounding area. “The MontanaFair is a big part of that because it brings in lots of other communities; 38% of attendees come from outside a 50-mile radius.”

Now approaching his eighth year with MetraPark, Cody is passionate about making it a hub for the entire community to enjoy. One of his current goals is to diversify the calendar. Billings and the Metra have a symbiotic relationship. The second youngest member of the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs Board of Directors, Cody has high anticipation for the 2024 MontanaFair and the many years of growth to come for Billings and the Metra alike. 

“I feel like our generation is working on creating an environment that is uplifting and welcoming to those who are new to the Billings market by bringing awareness within our organizations.” 

Meet Erica Kimble

Also a Billings native, Erica got connected to the hospitality industry in college. “After I started working the front desk at La Quinta, I was quickly promoted and the rest is history.” From that day on, Erica moved throughout other hotels in Billings, making her way to her current position as the Hilton Garden Inn General Manager. Erica's passion for her career comes from her love of people. “I love when guests that stay with us feel like we are their home away from home.” Erica beamed. “Not to mention my staff, we really are an extended family to each other, and watching my team excel and be proud of their own accomplishments is my favorite part of my job.”

Erica has been awarded 40 Under 40, Customer Service Excellence by the Billings Chamber of Commerce, and the Lodging Person of the Year by the MLHA. She noted that 12 million non-residents visited Montana in 2021, and in 2023, tourists spent around $5.5 billion. Full of optimism and hope for the future of Billings, Erica declares, “If we continue to welcome out-of-towners, we will flourish.” 

Meet Bo Bruinsma

Bo became the Career Outreach Director for Billings Public Schools in 2019. He spends his days cultivating career awareness for junior high students, creating postsecondary exploration opportunities for high schoolers, and giving kids the tools they need to think about what’s next for them. Bo’s passion for his career stems from his grounded belief in the community. “We all exist to educate kids,” says Bo, “if we want a healthy community, youth is the foundation of that.”

Bo has a front-row seat to watch the growth of Gen Z while working to help prepare them for their futures. “I think they [Gen Z] are challenging us in ways that are super healthy,” he explains. “They want to know the purpose of things - they want to know why,” Bo observes students are more open to non-traditional careers and are interested in pioneering their own paths rather than following the crowd. He also sees the massive need for mentorship in Gen Z. “There are over 200 vacant mentorship opportunities in Billings. Have the courage to plant seeds without ever knowing if you’ll benefit from the shade.” 

 “I think as far as people my age, we want to make community, and we want to make Billings better. We’re willing to get involved, get kicked in the teeth, and then get back into it,” Bo chuckled.

These three exemplary leaders shape Billings’ future with passion and dedication. Their business, hospitality, and education efforts strengthen our community and inspire others to contribute meaningfully. As Billings continues to grow, the optimism and energy of these community leaders promise a prosperous and inclusive future for our city. Let's support their vision and work together to make Billings a thriving community for all. SLM

Elise is a born-and-raised Montana soul. She, her husband, and their adventure cat named Calli like to spend summer days digging as deep into the mountains as they can get with their travel trailer and Jeep. Considering herself a sort of tradeswoman, Elise picks up new skills from a small collection of occupations as she goes, such as video production and content creation. One day, she plans to homestead and raise a family full-time, and in the meantime, she loves to write and connect with the community. 

“I see a community that’s ready to take its next step; we just need the courage to do it.”

Originally printed in the July 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Check this article out in the digital issue of Simply Local here!

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