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root9B, Colorado Springs, cybersecurity
Photo courtesy of root9B

New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 26, 2016

Today in New West news: Colorado Springs-based root9B named world’s best cybersecurity company, Columbia Falls-based ViZn Energy Systems to produce battery for Idaho National Laboratory, MT Gov. announces interim Clean Power Plan council, and Montana’s unemployment fell to four percent in December.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, New York-based Cybersecurity Ventures, in its first-quarter list of the 500 best cybersecurity companies in the world, gave root9B first, citing the company as bringing “”a rare combination of extensive real-world cyber defense experience, senior level cyber experts with backgrounds protecting U.S. federal agencies and commercial enterprises, deep subject matter expertise in most cybersecurity disciplines.” Still headquartered in Colorado Springs, root9B operates offices in Hawaii, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and is reportedly planning on doubling its office presence. From the Gazette:

“We are humbled and proud to be recognized as the top cybersecurity firm, This results from our unique business model, our software capability and most important, our team,” root9B CEO Eric Hipkins said Friday.

No other Colorado Springs companies were included in the ranking, though nine Denver-area cybersecurity companies were included – with Optiv of Denver the highest at No. 58.

The ranking is based on feedback from chief information security officers, information technology security professionals and service providers on problems solved and also consider a company’s customer base and growth.

The Gazette notes Gov. John Hickenlooper recently announced plans for a national cybersecurity center in Colorado Springs, which would service businesses, nonprofits, and government agents, adding he hopes to make the city a cybersecurity hub. Indeed, the Cybersecurity Ventures endorsement of root9B undoubtedly lends credence to the governor’s ambition.

Up in Montana, ViZn Energy Systems announced the National Idaho Laboratory wants its new flow battery system (developed in the Flathead Valley) for use in energy grid research. According to the Flathead Beacon, ViZn developed a “128-kWh redox flow battery system,” which will installed at the Lab’s 890-square-mile complex for the purpose of microgrid research & development. From the Beacon:

“The characteristics of the ViZn battery are of significant interest for island grids and microgrids that support various services in heavy-use and challenging environments, especially for renewable energy integration challenges,” said Kurt Myers, clean energy market area lead for the Idaho National Laboratory. “We are interested in the potential for lower cost energy storage systems, with 20-plus year life terms and the ability to fulfill aggressive duty cycle requirements as well as long duration energy dispatch.”

The Columbia Falls company has ramped up production of its state-of-the-art battery technology in the last year and a half, growing to over 60 employees and maxing out its current space. The company has plans to expand its facility by the end of 2016 and add to its already growing workforce, according to Paul Siblerud, vice president of product marketing.

ViZn, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas, but operates its Columbia Falls facility as the core development site, was awarded a contract in August to build the largest flow battery in North America and Europe. The company is building a zinc-iron redox flow battery system for utility services in Ontario, Canada.

This latest contract expands ViZn’s scope of applications from utility to microgrid, which is a localized energy hub that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate independently.

The Idaho National Laboratory added their interest in flow battery systems goes hand in hand with pending energy infrastructure upgrades, in addition to the rise of wind and solar as viable energy providers. ViZn’s battery, in addition to its durability and longevity, attracted the Lab due to its structural makeup; the battery is non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-explosive.

Speaking of Montana energy, Governor Steve Bullock has announced an interim Clean Power Plan council, charged with advising the state on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and transition away from old coal plants. According to the Billings Gazette, the governor has said of establishing the council, “No matter what one’s opinion is of the Clean Power Plan is, we can’t afford to ignore it.” And although Montana is one of approximately two dozen states suing the federal government over the CPP (which survived a federal appeals panel last week) Bullock has said the state should take charge. From the Gazette:

The 27-member panel will make recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Quality and Bullock, who must submit a plan to the EPA by Sept. 6 that details how Montana will cut its CO2 emissions 47 percent by 2030. Bullock signed an executive order Nov. 12 establishing the council.

[…]

“We must not let the federal government ultimately dictate a plan for us, and that’s what’ll happen if we don’t come up with our own plan written by Montanans in a way that works for our state. The new standards did single out Montana and move the goalposts on us. I’ve said time and time again it’s not fair for Montana.”
Bullock, speaking at City Hall in Colstrip, made several references to this region’s long ties to and reliance on both coal mining and the four units at the coal-fired electric plant that looms large over the town.

“This is the house that coal built, so it’s very appropriate to have it here,” said state Sen. Duane Ankney, a member of the panel who lives in Colstrip.

Ankney, a 32-year veteran of coal mines, said he wishes it was 20 years ago, “when we worried about getting coal from point A to point B. … But today is a different day. … Personally, I hope they throw the whole thing out, but that being said we will have a plan.”

Kathy Hadley, the executive director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte and conservation advocate and a council member, said the effects of climate change already are harming Montana.

Bullock has said the council will comprise coal representatives, labor reps, conservationists, hunters, tribes, and small business owners. He added he expects the council to not get bogged down in philosophical differences, but hopes they can focus on reducing emissions without cutting out coal entirely.

Final bit of Montana news: according to a press release from the governor’s office, Montana’s unemployment rate dipped to four percent in December, a full percent below the national average. Indeed, total employment and payroll employment stayed relatively level, with small gains and even smaller losses. Job growth measured 2.1 percent, approximately one percent higher than the national average.

“More Montanans are working today than ever before and that’s a testament to the small business environment we’ve worked so hard to strengthen over the last three years,” said Governor Bullock in the release. “But our work isn’t done. My responsibility is to keep moving Montana in the right direction by holding the line on taxes, getting rid of red tape and making responsible financial decisions that keeps our budget balanced and keeping our rainy day fund intact.”

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