Serving Southeastern Montana Counties of Custer, Powder River, Rosebud & Treasure

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is focusing on women in business during his eighth Small Business Opportunity Workshop in Billings on Friday.

“We wanted to get a women’s perspective of what’s going on in the business world,” he said. “I think we’ve got a pretty top-notch group of Montana success stories.”

Four female business leaders, three of them from Billings, will discuss how they launched and built their business: Becky Reno, who heads up City Brew; Kris Carpenter, who owns Sanctuary Salon and Spas and other local businesses; Jolene Rieck, principal landscape architect at Peaks to Plains Design; and Sarah Calhoun of White Sulphur Springs, who founded Red Ant Pants

for women.

Another theme of the conference is how to access money involving six Montana lending experts, from traditional bankers to angel capital experts.

“Access to capital is critically important in rural America,” Tester said.

Karen Puckett, chief operating officer of CenturyLink, which recently purchased Qwest Communications, is the keynote speaker.

Puckett, who has 28 years of telecommunications experience and helped lead the merger with Qwest, will discuss tips on marketing and developing products that can become a recognizable brand.

She was unavailable for comment Monday, but Jeremy Ferkin, CenturyLink vice president and general manager in Montana, said his company plans on investing $5 million improving broadband services in Wyoming and twice as much in Montana.

“We anticipate spending at least $10 million of minimal broadband capital spending in Montana over a five-year period,” he said.

The $18.6 billion telecommunications company based in Monroe, La., operates in 37 states and is the third largest in the United States. CenturyLink will use Denver, Qwest’s former headquarters, as one of its six regional offices. Through mid-2012, the Qwest name will gradually be changed to CenturyLink.

Tester said he expects about 100 business leaders to attend his July 22 small business workshop.

The conference is free and will be held at the downtown campus of Montana State University-Billings at 2804 Third Ave. N., from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.