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New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 26, 2016

Today in New West news: new terminal announced for Missoula International Airport, the economic impact of Colorado marijuana, and Auric Solar donates solar panel system to Utah’s largest women’s shelter.

Although Missoula is hailed as a city on the rise in Montana, when it comes to airline travel, it lags behind cities like Bozeman and Billings. Not in the amount of flights. Rather, Missoula lags because, on the whole, it costs more to fly out of there, frustrating tech companies that depend on steady airline travel for business.

Earlier this summer, we reported Missoula International Airport would receive a $600,000 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program through the U.S. Department of Transportation, which airport officials say will go toward attracting airlines like United. Now, according to the Missoulian, plans have been announced to build a new terminal, slated to open by 2021:

Plans for a new terminal have been in the works for several years to accommodate rapidly increasing passenger numbers, and airport officials are embarking on an ambitious project that could cost as much as $42 million. The funding will not come from taxpayers, but rather from the Federal Aviation Administration, airport user fees and other sources.

The preferred alternative plan laid out at the monthly meeting of the Missoula Airport Authority board of commissioners – which unanimously approved the plan – shows a building that would be three stories, including a basement level, for a total of 175,465 square feet.

The existing building is 128,921 square feet. The project would be built in phases so as not to disrupt passengers and concessionaires. By the time everything is finished, there would be a passenger screening area that is twice the size of the current one, with four lanes rather than three.

There would also be a new ticketing area, a new upstairs lobby with an atrium and large waiting rooms, more space for restaurants, and eight airplane gates. There are four airplane parking positions right now.

[…]

Cris Jensen, the airport’s director, also announced that he and senior management went on a business trip recently and met with leaders for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two carriers that don’t currently operate out of Missoula but serve a wide variety of destinations.

“Both meetings were positive and there’s certainly reason to be optimistic,” he said. “There is no impending announcement, but we’re going to continue those discussions.”

Jensen said that the airport board has had four work sessions to choose a plan that causes as little disruption to passengers and airlines as possible, but also allows the airport to grow without taking up too much parking or “airside” space that’s used for airline operations.

“It was a great concept that you all came up with and we’re excited about the path forward,” he told the architects. “We’re ready to take that next step.”

Down in Colorado, since Amendment 64 passed in 2012, and since legalization went into effect January 2014, marijuana has become big business, bringing in a ton in tax revenue. But how much, exactly? How big is Colorado marijuana? According to the Denver Post, it’s a “behemoth,” to put it mildly:

Colorado’s burgeoning legal marijuana industry has quickly made gains on the state’s largest industries — including the mighty oil-and-gas sector — and contributed an economic impact of $2.39 billion in 2015, according to research released Tuesday.

The cannabis industry, the fastest-growing business sector in the state, also is credited with funding 18,005 direct and ancillary full-time jobs in 2015, according to the report from the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based economic and market research firm that consults with businesses and governments on marijuana policy.

MPG, which was founded by researchers from BBC Research & Consulting and the University of Colorado but is unaffiliated with those entities, developed a “marijuana impact model” to show how legalization affects the state economy in the areas of output, tax revenue, GDP and employment.

Courtesy of Auric Solar
Courtesy of Auric Solar

Finally, over in Utah, Auric Solar has announced it is donating a $200,000 solar panel system to the state’s largest women’s shelter—the YWCA. The 53.6 kilowatt system will save the organization over $160,000 over the next 25 years, according to an Auric press release:

The YWCA is Utah’s oldest, largest, and most comprehensive provider of shelter, transitional housing, education, and supportive services for women and children who have experienced family violence. The new rooftop solar panel system will be on the organization’s Kathleen Robison Huntsman Residence, offsetting a third of the building’s electricity needs.

“Solar power really is the gift that keeps on giving,” YWCA Chief Development Officer Amberlie Phillips said. “By donating this solar power system, Auric Solar is helping the YWCA save money every month on our power bill, which will be used to provide life-saving services to women and children living at the YWCA.”

The donation is the first of Auric Solar’s Buy Solar. Give Solar program. For every 100 kilowatts (kW) installed commercially and residentially, Auric donates 1kW toward a free solar system to a deserving organization. The program is part of Echo, Auric’s corporate responsibility initiative committed to creating powerful solutions for the community, people, and the planet.

“YWCA Utah has a track record of success helping the community, and their inspiring commitment to serving people will have a ripple effect for generations,” said Auric Solar Co-Owner Jess Phillips. “That commitment aligns perfectly with what Auric Solar is about and who we strive to be.”

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