About the Award

Photo of Pioneer in Industry AwardThe  Pioneer in Industry Award (PIIA) is awarded every two years to remarkable men and women with deep ties to the state of Montana. When MADE members developed the concept for the PIIA, they decided to differentiate UM's award from other entrepreneurship awards by making it reflective of Montana's culture.

MADE decided that the physical award itself should be something very special. Six Montana artists competed to have their design selected for this award. The work of Justin Michael, a sixth generation Montana saddle maker was selected. Justin's piece, "The Decision", was chosen because it reflects the difficult decisions and challenges that all entrepreneurs face.

The piece characterizes the milestone in the Lewis and Clark Expedition that took place in June 1805 at the fork of the Marias and Missouri Rivers in Central Montana. On that day, a major disagreement between the two leaders and their guides arose regarding which river to travel down and the party actually split up and went their separate ways. Later, they reunited on the Missouri and continued their historical expedition.

Similarly, the award recipients have faced difficult decisions in their careers. MADE members acknowledged that "The Decision" accurately depicted the organization's intent for the award.

The award has been hand-crafted from Montana cow hide, tanned and stained utilizing an authentic process from the 1800s, then hand-painted to highlight the colors of the time period.

Each piece represents over 100 hours of the artist's time. The frames were created from old bridge beams of Douglas Fir salvaged from a bridge that was removed from one of the spans across a tributary stream in Central Montana that feeds the Missouri around Great Falls.