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New West Daily Roundup for May 23, 2016

Today in New West news: Missoula-based EduLog booming, decade-plus lawsuit involving Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company resolved, Boise City Council to consider composting proposal, and is Chipotle’s menu stagnant?

According to the Missoulian, business is booming for Missoula-based EduLog Logistics Inc., a software company specializing in making school transportation safe and efficient, with the company boasting international clientele and a spate of new hires. Indeed, EduLog President Jason Corbally has likened the company’s rise as akin to a baseball transitioning to the “major leagues.” From the Missoulian:

“But I tell people all the time that we’re a startup, even though we’ve been around since 1978,” Corbally explains.

What he means is that it’s a high-tech software company nimble enough to react to technological advancements, and they are always creating new products and new avenues of growth – meaning they expect to expand at an accelerated rate in the coming years.

Recently, the firm used a national corporate headhunting company to hire eight senior managers with diverse backgrounds in Fortune 500 companies such as Intel, Nike, Panasonic, United Airlines and General Electric. EduLog is also looking to add up to 30 more employees to expand its presence into international markets. Because technology is changing rapidly and more people are transitioning to mobile devices, people expect data at their fingertips.

“EduLog understands the power of technology and has brought in a top team of technology experts from outside the school bus industry to streamline our processes and ramp up our development efforts,” Corbally said. “We’re the leader in school bus transportation technology, but we want to bring to our industry the newest advances in technology in other fields. We need to deliver information in useful ways to our clients in school systems.”

Corbally understands that every employee is valuable, not just the high-powered executive talent he’s brought on board recently.

“We have to first look at the infrastructure of our company and hire all those executives and management so they can scale underneath them,” he said. “At the end of the day the most important employees are the people doing the work. The managers are the managers, and they need to be there, but making sure there’s a good environment for everyone who’s not a manager, which are always your most important employees, right? That’s what we want to do.”

The firm has developed eight or nine applications for tablets that can be used by bus drivers, for example, to track which students need to be picked up at which stop and if any didn’t get on at the right time. Districts can use the software to eliminate costly buses and save money.

With developing nations, especially those in Africa, beginning to invest more in education, the potential for growth in the industry is astronomical. And EduLog is positioning itself to take advantage of that.

“Historically it was really only Canada and the U.S. that had the dedicated school bus,” Corbally explained. “In other countries you found your own way or used public transportation. But developing countries are really focusing on education. They’re trying to build what is over a 100-year industry here in the U.S. So Africa is going to be a huge area of growth for us.”

Over in Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the state Supreme Court has concluded an 11-and-a-half yearlong lawsuit brought against Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company by a Texas power company alleging the former stole trade secrets to build the Currant Creek plant near Mona. The Tribune reports RMP’s parent company will pay more than $122 million—with the judgment calling for it to come out of shareholders’ pockets, not customers. From the Tribune:

“For my clients, it means vindication,” Salt Lake City attorney Peggy Tomsic said of F. David Graeber and Theodore Banasiewicz, whose company USA Power was “destroyed” when Rocky Mountain Power cut it out of plans to build the natural-gas-fired plant.

“It puts an end to an injustice and allows them to have the proceeds they would have earned without the theft of their trade secrets,” she said. “Now they can get on with their lives.”

Unfortunately, Tomsic noted, it’s too late for Banasiewicz, who died of cancer while the case worked its way up and down Utah’s court system.

Rocky Mountain Power was disheartened but accepted the legal setback, said spokesman Dave Eskelsen.

“The events surrounding this case took place in the 2002-04 time frame, prior to the ownership of Berkshire Hathaway Energy,” he said, referring to the holding company that includes Rocky Mountain Power and its parent company, PacifiCorp.

“The company is disappointed, but we respect the rule of law and will abide by the court’s ruling,” Eskelsen added, saying the payment would come from “noncustomer sources. … Judgments like that usually don’t come out of rates.”

Up in Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman, the Boise City Council is poised to hear a proposal for a new composting program, which would regulate and incentivize compost pickup around the city. If approved, carts for food waste and yard debris could appear in homes across by city by next March. Of course, the Council first has to approve the measure. Then they have to create a plan compliant with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, followed by a public comment period in the summer. From the Statesman:

This process would help ensure the program’s success, if it indeed does take shape, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

“Because of the success of the recycling program and what we know about Boiseans, we think this is something that they would be drawn to,” Journee said. “If we don’t do something like this at the local level, it doesn’t get done.”

The city would also have to renew its franchise agreement with Republic Services, which handles Boise’s trash and recycling system.

The new agreement with Republic would include a per-home monthly charge of $3.40 for about 80 percent of customers. Other households would pay more for additional carts. The additional charge would start showing up on residential utility bills starting in October.

That would bring most customers’ total monthly bill for collection of garbage, recycling and compostable organic material to $17.77.

That’s a little bit more than residents pay in Meridian and Nampa, but those cities don’t offer composting services.

Finally, in Colorado business news, we’ve followed Chipotle’s fall from grace after e. Coli/norovirus outbreaks across the nation rocked customer confidence in the institution. Compared to the heights they soared pre-crisis, it’s fair to say Chipotle is hurting. And a food-bourne illness outbreak may not be the company’s only woe. According to the Denver Business Journal, Chipotle’s biggest challenge, besides a lack of trust, is its menu:

Customers may be getting tired of the menu at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.

That’s what Business Insider reported Sunday, saying Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) is suffering from “menu fatigue.”

The Denver chain’s menu is pretty much unchanged since the company’s founding 23 years ago.

And Chipotle’s woes are affecting the entire restaurant industry.

In the meantime, Chipotle has vowed to woo back old customers and win new ones through new menu items and a customer loyalty program, alongside more stringent food quality controls.

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