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New West Daily Roundup for June 6, 2016

Today in New West news: 2016’s Best and Worst state economies, Gray Capital in Boise, ID; coming together for the sage grouse in Wyoming, and an update on Colstrip.

WalletHub has a new study out, this time centered on 2016’s States with the Best & Worst Economies. The survey analyzed three categories: Economic Activity (GDP Growth, Business-Startup Activity, etc.), Economic Health (Unemployment Rate, Median Annual Household Income, Immigration of U.S. Knowledge Workers, etc.) and Innovation Potential (Percentage of Jobs in High-Tech Industries, Entrepreneurial Activity, etc.).

For New West states, the numbers were rather encouraging. Utah, for instance, ranked number one on the list, beating out both Washington and California, who came in second and third respectively. Colorado came in at fifth, beating out New York, Texas, and Oregon (eight, ninth, and tenth, respectively). And while those two states were the highest placed New West states, every other state had a respectable showing, as seen on the map below.

Source: WalletHub

Wyoming, for instance, ranked 23rd, boosted by a high “Economic Activity” ranking. Idaho trailed close behind at 24th, while Montana pulled in at 32nd. It’s worth noting, however, that Montana beat out places like Tennessee (33rd), Ohio (39th), Hawaii (42nd) and New Mexico (47th).

There are a few things other worth noting. For instance, while Wyoming pulled ahead of both Idaho and Montana in the rankings, it had one of the worst “Innovation Potential” ratings on the list (48th), with WalletHub citing a comparative lack of tech development. Idaho and Montana pulled in at 28th and 29th for Innovation potential, respectively. Another reason Montana fell behind was its slightly dismal “Economic Activity” ranking (41st), coupled with the fact that Montana has some of the fewest exports per capita (49th).

Over in Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman, a new venture capital firm, Gray Capital, is hoping to form a syndicate to boost the city’s startup potential and draw in other investors. Specifically, women investors, something founder Tatanya Gray (who also runs a biweekly Angel Investing Podcast) says is of the utmost importance to her, both from a personal and a business standpoint, as she related in an interview with the Statesman:

Gray is forming the first syndicate to invest in a Boise software startup she has not named. Eventually, she hopes to build syndicates large enough to pool more than $100,000 each into two or three startups a year. But for now, Gray says the pilot syndicate will invest more than $20,000.


Q: What brought you to Idaho and angel investing?

A: My husband is from Sun Valley, and he convinced me to move here. I explored different options, looking at how I could use my skill set. As a fan of the TV show “Shark Tank,” I’ve always been fascinated in how the sharks support growing companies. [I heard about] the Boise Angel Alliance. I went to a meeting in Boise and liked it, and I decided to join.

Q: What deals did you make with the Angel Alliance?

A: No fund was open at the time, so I invested on the side. I invested in Boise startups Healthfundr, GenZ Technologies, LeanLaw, Blac-Rac Manufacturing and Wevorce, and I invested alongside the angels in a Utah company, Covr Healthcare. I also invested in two companies, Kiban and Sow, on my own.

Q: Why start Gray Capital?

A: I kept hearing from entrepreneurs that we don’t have enough capital in Idaho. I started researching, and unfortunately, the statistics are very sad. About 9 million people legally have the means and sophistication to be accredited investors in the U.S., but only about 3 percent are active angel investors. I saw entrepreneurs struggling because of the lack of capital. I decided to do something.

Q: Why go with the syndicate model?

A: I don’t have or want the infrastructure to see a lot of startups pitch. Part of the model I envision is working with established organizations, like the Boise Angel Alliance, or micro venture-capital [funds]. If they’ve done due diligence and are prepared to invest a large chunk of money as lead investor, that’s where I make sure the startup aligns to educate the next generation of angel investors.

Over in Wyoming, we’ve been following news about the greater sage grouse ever since federal officials declined to list the animal on the Endangered Species List—but did decide to create special land-use plans for the bird, contingent on the cooperation of various stakeholders, from conservationists, federal officials and energy producers. According to the Billings Gazette, the collaboration seems to be bearing fruit… for now. As usual, there’s a push and pull, with some conservationists saying more protections are necessary, often to the detriment of energy companies. Meanwhile, said companies say they want proper recognition for accommodating the bird in their plans. From the Gazette:

“It’s going to be both a hurdle and also potentially an opportunity,” said Paul Ulrich, the regulatory director at Jonah Energy, a natural gas company, who also serves on the board of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “And that is going to depend how they are going to apply it.”

Dan Helig, senior conservation advocate at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, echoed that point, saying “I’m almost ready to call it a game-changer.”

A recently completed federal environmental analysis of a proposed 8,950-well natural gas development in southwestern Wyoming offers a first glimpse of how the new federal mitigation policy might work.

In the event one of the 18 companies involved in the Continental Divide Creston project cannot avoid or minimize their impacts, the BLM will calculate the potential damage of development and how many mitigation credits are needed elsewhere to compensate. They call this compensatory mitigation.

The specifics of how compensatory mitigation might be implemented in Continental Divide Creston remain unknown, however, because companies have largely stopped drilling in response to a steep downturn in natural gas prices. The BLM won’t start a mitigation analysis until companies begin filling permits to drill.

Finally, up in Montana, we previously reported Talen Energy had decided to step away from managing the Colstrip power plant, which has been the site of much debate over the future of energy development in Montana—and the New West as a whole. Now, according to the Billings Gazette, one firm (Riverstone Holdings LLC, of New York City) is buying the whole company. They previously had partial ownership of Talen. The deal won’t change Colstrip’s immediate future, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless.

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