Today in New West news: women entrepreneurs lead way in Montana, Terry Tempest Williams leaving University of Utah, Laramie Plains Museum to honor nine historic Wyoming women Saturday, and mining the former Peter Guber estate.
Michelle Hertel, along with her husband Matt, are the founders of Pocket NC, a milling company based in Bozeman, Montana, which produces what’s called a Small CNC Mill, a machine that can carve well, with exactness and specificity. Michelle and Matt originally started the company in 2010 and just recently undertook a successful Kickstarter campaign to get their business up and running. And a part of getting that business up and running, as Michelle told KRTV, was locating the business in Montana.
Indeed, Michelle’s story is one of many that are working to define the Treasure State’s new business culture, which wants to draw in a new generation and type of entrepreneur and business through resources, to lead the charge into the future. From KRTV:
“That’s the great thing about Montana, people really want to see their own succeed. And it’s a great place to start a business, there’s so many resources,” said Hertel.
Resources like the Montana Women’s Business Center are available to connect women and men with business financing and education on how to run a business which makes it easier for entrepreneurs to get started.
“If people have moved here they have found that we don’t have a lot of bigger businesses and so a lot of individuals decide, ‘I’m going to start my own business and make my own way here in Montana,'” said Montana Women’s Business Center Program Director, Suzi Berget White.
A national index shows Montana is the number one state for business start-ups over the last three years and women business owners make up a large part of that statistic. Between 2007 and 2016 women owned businesses in Montana grew 32.6 percent. The Women’s Business Center has felt the influx.
“In 2009 the Women’s Business Center had about 30 clients that came in for counseling, now in 2016 we have around 300 per year come into the program,” said Prospera Business Network Program Director, Drew Little.
Real Deals on Home Decor owner Monique Eakman bought her store three years ago. She says Montana’s affordability helped make it possible and owning her own business allows her to have flexibility between a job and being a mom.
“Our two oldest, sometimes you can see them behind the cash register, they’ll both work here. And then the two youngest have helped with freight, if there’s any furniture that needs to be built my son loves to build things so that’s good for him,” said Eakman.
Berget White says the lower cost of living helps a firm’s bottom line, between 2007 and 2016 businesses saw a 41 percent growth in revenue. Established women entrepreneurs are also helping the new generation.
“A lot of communities really have some strong women entrepreneurs which help to mentor other women to start businesses so I think you’re seeing a lot more women entrepreneurs going out on their own and not just men doing it,” said Berget White.
Besides The Montana Women’s Business Center, the state is also trying to foster business through its Montana Business Navigator program, which walks entrepreneurs through all the steps necessary to starting and/or relocating to Montana.
Down in Utah, writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams is reportedly stepping down from her post at the University of Utah as the Annie Clark Tanner Fellow, where she spearheded the Environmental Humanities program. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Williams is bowing out after the university sought to renegotiate her contract:
Williams said she decided to leave after six weeks of “humiliating” contract negotiations in which new Humanities Dean Dianne Harris and Amy Wildermuth, associate vice president for faculty, pressured her to accept a phased retirement and pay concessions. Administrators made it clear her contributions were no longer valued, telling her she “was paid too much for too little,” she said.
Her compensation package, including health benefits, is worth $95,700, according to public salary database Utah’s Right to Know.
After a deal was reached and Williams agreed to sign a new contract, administrators added one more demand April 16. Her practice of taking students into the deserts of southern Utah and the Wyoming’s Tetons did not comply with university guidelines, exposing the school to liability and “engendering resentment” from students who might not want to travel.
“It was at that point, I realized what the university fears most is empowered students, students tutored by the land itself, especially in Utah’s erosional landscape of red rocks and rivers, and a bitten horizon that redefines time,” Williams said in an email to the Tribune.
The University of Utah denies they were making Williams retire early. The Tribune notes the university first sought to renegotiate Williams’ contract after she and her husband purchased an oil and gas lease intending to incorporate it into her curriculum. Administrators say the lease purchase, which angered Utah legislators and drilling enthusiasts alike, had no bearing on their decision to renegotiate. Wildermuth said the renegotiation was necessary in order to comply with university human resources. From the Tribune:
“It was something we require of all instructors,” Wildermuth said. “It’s paperwork, arranging a university van for things. It is going through that hurdle. You still have to make sure you are not going to do things that would expose us to liability. We’re tying to have students not travel in private cars to these far-off places. We are making sure we are doing thing as safely as we can.”
Administrators emphasized that the course could still have a field component, but Williams believes they are interfering with when, where and how she teaches. “A line was crossed” that made it impossible for her to sign the contact, she said.
Over in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Business Report, the Laramie Plains Museum board of directors is hosting a “proclamation reception” 4 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at the Alice Hardie Stevens Center (603 Ivinson Street, Laramie, WY) to honor nine women from Wyoming’s history:
A board member at the time, Kim Viner took on the task of reaching out to Wyoming lawmakers during the 2016 budget session to craft a proclamation recognizing the first women jurors, first woman bailiff and first female justice of the peace — the first official governmental acknowledgement. It also recognizes the first woman in the world to cast a ballot — Louisa Gardner Swain. Former Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyoming, introduced a bill which designated Sept. 6 as Louisa Swain Day.
“Eventually, I talked to Representative (Cathy) Connolly — who happens to be my representative — and she said, ‘Yes, (the proclamation) would be a good idea,’” Viner said. “Through her efforts, we were able to craft a resolution that honored these nine women. She took on the task of getting the proclamation signed by members of the Wyoming Legislature.”
Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, was one of the legislators to sign the proclamation. He was particularly intrigued, because he said his great-great uncle, John D. Fosher, was a territorial legislator from what would have been Sweetwater County in 1871.
After the territorial government passed the Suffrage Act in 1869, the 1871 lawmakers successfully voted to repeal the Act. Gov. John Campbell, who signed the 1869 bill into law, vetoed the repeal. When the Senate — then referred to as a council — was voting to override the veto, Fosher cast his vote against the override. Fosher’s vote saved suffrage for women in Wyoming.
Allen said he doesn’t know what led his relative to vote in favor of suffrage in Wyoming, but said the legacy affects his family to this day.
“Obviously, it’s all about individual rights and equality, but what’s really interesting is I have three daughters and no sons,” Allen said with a laugh. “I guess maybe that’s the legacy.”
Of the nine women the proclamation recognizes, Viner said eight resided in Laramie. For that reason, making the proclamation in Laramie is an appropriate venue, he said.
Finally, over in Colorado, according to the Aspen Times, Mandalay Ranch, the former estate of famed Hollywood producer Peter Guber is yielding a host of surprising treasures. Guber sold Mandalay to Dawn and Roland Arnall in 2004 for a whopping $46 million. Now, the Dawn Arnall has donated over 500 items of rare still movie set photos (such as the still above, courtesy of the Aspen Times—a picture of Jack Nicholson from the 1973 movie The Last Detail), Native American artifacts (also shown in part above), vintage chairs, western-themed furniture, and other items to Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork (140 Basalt Center Circle, Basalt, CO).