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New West Daily Roundup for Feb. 22, 2016

Today in New West news: Montana’s high-tech industry outstripping state economy, the best & worst metro areas for women-owned businesses, and Denver-based PDC Energy Inc. sees profits slide dangerously downward in fourth quarter.

According to the Missoulian, the Treasure State’s high-tech industry is far and away the biggest grower when it comes to employment and revenue. Using LMG Security (Montana’s largest cybersecurity firm) as an example, the Missoulian points out a trend that’s likely to continue not only at LMG but also across the industry as a whole. Last year, LMG Security hired five full time employees, bringing their total up to 20—and they expect to hire four to eight more this year alone. From the Missoulian:

Employment and revenues are growing at rates seven times faster than the statewide economy, according to a study released Thursday that was conducted by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The study was commissioned by the Montana High Tech Alliance, a statewide membership organization with more than 250 high-tech and manufacturing companies, and the BBER surveyed its members on everything from wages to projected employment growth.

Alliance member companies expect to add 940 jobs this year that pay average annual salaries of $56,800, more than twice the median salary of the average Montana worker of $25,594. Salaries at the companies are growing 30 percent faster than in other sectors.

“Growth projected in high-tech businesses significantly exceeds average statewide economic growth,” said BBER director Patrick Barkey. “Median annual wages are much higher than in other sectors, and since we completed the first survey a year ago, they have increased by 12 percent.”

For the second year in a row, tech businesses reported that Montana’s quality of life, the beauty of the natural landscape and the myriad recreation opportunities provide a significant advantage in business.

“Montana is a great place to start a small, high-tech business,” Davidoff said. “Here, we have affordable office space, a trained labor force and strong community support for high-tech initiatives. Thanks to the Internet, LMG’s staff can live in a gorgeous place and at the same time provide world-class cybersecurity services to an international market.”

The report also found MHTA companies can expect to see wages rise by five percent this year, substantially above the statewide average of three-and-a-half percent. Indeed, the report adds credence to the experiences of Christina Henderson, executive director of the MHTA. It also substantiates a prediction made earlier this year by Hagadone Digital Chief Operating Officer Doug Schust, who confidently declared Montana was becoming a hub for high-tech industry.

Stepping back a bit to look at the region as a whole, Wallethub recently published a new study outlining the nation’s “best & worst cities for women-owned businesses,” in anticipation of Women’s History Month. And for the New West, the results are mixed at best. Indeed, with the exception of Spokane, Washington, no metro area in Colorado, Idaho, or Utah had cities in the top 20. Further, with the exception of Salt Lake City, which came in at 23rd overall, most of the metros skewed toward the middle—or toward the absolute bottom. Provo, Utah ranked 94th on the list, making it the seventh worst metro area for women-owned businesses. No city in Montana or Wyoming made the list, although we suspect that has more to do with the study’s definition of metro area.

There were, however, some rankings where New West metro areas pulled ahead of their national counterparts. Colorado Springs had the highest percentage of women-owned businesses, with Denver pulling in at number five. Salt Lake City came in at first for “most industry variety for women-owned firms.” Even Provo, which had the poorest overall showing, scored big in one category: coming in at fifth for highest average percentage growth of women-owned businesses.

Finally, honing in on Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, Mile High City energy company PDC Energy Inc. saw a massive downturn in revenues last quarter. Indeed, at $168.6 million, it pales in comparison to profits reported at the same time last year: $407.7. Further, PDC’s commodity price risk management gain fell to $62 million, down substantively from last year’s $297.6 million finish. From the DBJ:

The company reported adjusted net income of $12 million, or adjusted earnings per share of 29 cents per share, compared with an adjusted loss of $39.9 million, or an adjusted loss of $1.18 per share.

For the latest quarter, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters First Call expected revenue of $174 million and earnings of 45 cents per share.

Company officials were somewhat upbeat in their earnings release: “PDC successfully navigated the significant challenges and great uncertainty faced by the industry in 2015,” said Bart Brookman, CEO and president.

In December, the company announced its 2016 budget that expected greater production and less spending.

On Monday, the company said “since we issued our 2016 budget in early December 2015, we have seen oil prices continue to deteriorate.”

Photo credit: Micah Sheldon,

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