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New West Daily Roundup for Apr. 12, 2016

Today in New West news: virtual reality in Butte, Marathon Oil sells $950M in Colorado, Wyoming assets; and Nasdaq halts trading of Boulder biotech shares.

When you hear Butte, Montana you may think copper, or Anaconda, or Neversweat. Virtual reality is probably not at the forefront of your Butte thoughts. But one company is trying to change that. According to the Missoulian, production company InsideMt is working to bring Montana’s biggest attractions (Lewis and Clark Caverns, St. Helena Cathedral, Zoo Montana, the Orphan Girl mine) to smartphone users, curating 360-degree videos and virtual reality sessions that can be seen with just a headset and a smartphone:

Company founder Tim Lewis says he sees virtual-reality as being on the cutting-edge of advertising.

He pointed out that visual mediums have long been known for their ability to captivate an audience, and that using virtual reality seems like the logical next step to promote content.

“You see this on Facebook all the time: someone posts a nice picture, and it will get a hundred likes. Someone posts a nice article, and it will get 10,” Lewis said.

The viewer’s ability to interact with the virtual content, he said, makes it more engaging than a traditional flat image or video and tends to keep viewers on websites longer, resulting in better search engine rankings.

Two statewide organizations seem to share Lewis’ enthusiasm for virtual reality.

Last year, the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development gave InsideMt a $50,000 grant to create virtual tours of 22 tourist attractions across the state, including Lewis and Clark Caverns, the World Museum of Mining and the Clark Chateau.

InsideMt received a second $50,000 grant from the Montana Film Office to produce a virtual-reality application.

This year the company is a finalist for MOTBD’s Outstanding Tourism Campaign Award for creating the 22 virtual tours. The award winners will be announced Monday in Kalispell during a banquet for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation.

Lewis completed the project with the help of Angela Hammang, who described the process of creating the tours as time-consuming but a lot of fun.

“It’s like putting together a puzzle,” she said.

We’ve previously reported on Montana’s efforts to foster tech in the state, and InsideMt is just another example of this trend. From the Missoulian:

It’s difficult to find a term to describe InsideMt, but Lewis said his business could be called a “virtual-reality production company.”

And while the term may seem more fitting for an operation you’d find in a big city, Lewis said headquartering his business in Butte makes sense.

He said Butte works for his business because of the affordability of the real estate, the city’s high-speed fiber-optic network and it’s proximity to Montana Tech, where he said he’s been able to hire people with the right kind of talent and background to do this type of work.

“Here in Butte it’s just a different attitude,” said Lewis, explaining how he thought people in the Mining City seemed to have a good work ethic. “It’s just a different culture.”

Meanwhile, over in Wyoming and Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal and the Billings Gazette, Houston-based Marathon Oil is selling $950 million in non-core assets, with the bulk coming from Wyoming and Colorado. For context, Marathon is Wyoming’s number one oil producer, and the Cowboy State assets comprise $870 million of the $950. Over in Colorado, Marathon’s main presence is mining natural gas in the Piceance Basin. From the DBJ:

In the biggest transaction, the Houston-based exploration and production company (NYSE: MRO) will divest all of its Wyoming upstream and midstream assets, which produce an average of 16,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The sale includes the 570-mile-long Red Butte export pipeline.

[…]

“Ongoing portfolio management continues to drive the simplification and concentration of our portfolio to lower risk, higher return U.S. resource plays and support our 2016 objective of balance sheet protection,” Marathon President and CEO Lee Tillman said in a statement.

The Gazette adds that Marathon will be selling to Dallas-based Merit Energy. Specifically, according to the Gazette, Marathon is selling its holdings in the Big Horn and Wind River basins—after over 100 years of mining oil in the region. The deal is expected to close by the end of summer this year.

Finally, keeping with Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, citing a release from Business Wire, Nasdaq has halted trading of shares from Boulder-based Clovis Oncology Inc. According to the release, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee called in the biotech firm to discuss their Clovis rociletinib drug, which is used to treat lung cancer. This isn’t the first time the FDA has approached Clovis over rociletinib; they previously delayed potential approval in November 2015. Just last week, the FDA questioned how effective rociletinib is, compared to other lung drugs on the market currently.

Photo credit: Tracy, Flickr.com.

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