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New West Daily Roundup for July 12, 2016

Today in New West news: housing density in Bozeman, SLC-based Stratean Inc. acquires CleanSpark, Idaho Steel, and Rocky Mountain Makerspace Conference.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, housing (and specifically, housing density) is becoming a more and more pressing issue within the city, coming up regularly at commission meetings as city officials weigh building apartments, zoning changes, and the construction of smaller “cottage” homes to accommodate a growing population. Some residents fear the city will try and squeeze extra residents into their neighborhoods, while others bemoan the possibility of sprawl and, if it comes down to it, a rise in housing prices.

Not everyone is afraid of housing density, however, according to the Chronicle:

Density can have its downsides, admits Randy Carpenter, a smart-growth advocate with Bozeman think tank Future West. Concerns like blocked views, additional traffic and extra cars clogging on-street parking, routinely cited by residents as they fight to keep larger-scale development out of their backyards, are understandable, he said.

But the flip side, he said, is that more compact development patterns preserve agricultural land and wildlife habitat, help residents avoid lengthy commutes and keep down the cost of infrastructure like new streets, which tend to cost taxpayers a million dollars a mile.

“Density has all these benefits,” he said. “The more we get, the more benefits accrue to the community.”

And, Carpenter said, he’s bullish on the power of good design to mitigate the downsides of higher-intensity development. Practices like incorporating open space and avoiding cookie-cutter facades can make a big difference, he said.

“I just think that’s what people don’t like about denser development, is that it doesn’t have open space and it doesn’t have variation,” he said. “When you’ve got a block long of beige, the same color, I think people reject that.”

Bozeman mayor Carson Taylor agrees with Carpenter, adding he sees more issues with adjoining single-family homes than with the apartment complex—in terms of congestion and accommodation. Other density advocates cite Boulder, Colorado as an example Bozeman could follow—although Boulder’s density comes at a price to middle class homeowners and renters.

Over in Utah, according to Utah Business, Salt Lake City-based Stratean, Inc., a “stratified” gasifier that converts plastic, waste coal, sewage, and feedlot discharge into fuel, has acquired CleanSpark, which specializes in engineering, software, and controls for “energy resource management systems.” Stratean acquired CleanSpark for approximately $36 million. From Utah Business:

The acquisition provides Stratean with a revenue-generating platform and significantly expands the capabilities of Stratean in the rapidly growing renewable energy sector. The acquisition transfers ownership of CleanSpark’s operational subsidiaries, patent-pending fractal grid software technology, contracts, patents, other software and related assets to Stratean. CleanSpark has existing, executed contracts with a military base, a golf course, and other campuses to deploy and maintain solar microgrids, utilizing CleanSpark’s innovative software to manage energy consumption and production. Stratean’s gasifier is capable of providing a baseload energy source to augment CleanSpark’s energy management software and control platform technology, sold under the mPulse brand, enabling customers to gain further independence from the energy grid.

Matthew Schultz, Chief Executive Officer of Stratean, Inc., commented, “This acquisition combines the revolutionary, energy management software and technologies of CleanSpark with our innovative gasification technology to enable end-to-end, completely autonomous power to microgrid energy systems. By providing CleanSpark with an infusion of capital and complete access to a baseload source of renewable energy, we plan to integrate the technologies into a unified solution that will take both our patented gasifier and CleanSpark’s offerings to the next level.”

Up in Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman, Idaho Falls-based Idaho Steel, along with subsidiary Reyco Systems, is looking to keep manufacturing alive in the Gemstone State, with clients spread across the world. Indeed, the company has reaped the benefits of multiple partnerships with companies in the Neatherlands and in Vancouver, British Columbia. But Idaho Steel is hoping to expand their business with their latest partnership. From the Statesman:

The newest of those partnerships has brought the Dutch company Tolsma-Grisnich to Boise. Tolsma, which designs energy-efficient storage systems for potatoes and onions, opened its U.S. headquarters at 875 W. McGregor Court in Boise to be near Idaho Steel and its affiliates.

Dim-Jan de Visser, Tolsma’s commercial director, who moved to Boise six months ago, said his company hopes to expand its Idaho payroll from a dozen to 100 employees as it expands in the North American market.

Tolsma already claims about 500 customers in Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, and it sees potential for 12,000 more in the western U.S.

“We spent a great deal of time looking for the right location in North America to expand our operation, and Boise is ideal,” said Pieter Wesseling, CEO of the Tolsma-Grisnich Group, on July 1.

That is good news for Idaho Steel, owned by Shelley brothers Delynn and Alan Bradshaw and brother-in-law Davis Christensen. The company employs 200 workers in Idaho Falls and 61 in Caldwell.

Finally, down in Colorado, according to the Boulder Daily Camera, registration has opened for the Rocky Mountain Makerspace Conference, slated to run this weekend at the Longmont Museum in Longmont. The conference highlights the work of self-described “makers,” ranging from tinkerers to independent inventors who believe in DIY culture—all with an eye toward technology. This year marks the first Rocky Mountain Makerspace Conference. From the Camera:

“I started doing maker faires in Colorado in 2013, and from the minute I started, all the maker spaces were talking about getting together,” said Elise VanDyne, executive director of Colorado Maker Hub and conference organizer.

The event, being held July 16 and 17 at the Longmont Museum, is a chance for the folks who run maker spaces to get together and talk about the challenges presented by their rapidly growing organizations.

Maker spaces — alternatively called hacker spaces and innovation labs — have sprouted up quickly in the past decade. There are around 400 in the U.S. today, according to Popular Science, from just a handful in 2006.

California leads the pack with 56, followed by New York (31), Florida (24), Texas (20) and Michigan (17). Colorado isn’t far behind, VanDyne said, with 15 official maker spaces.

The largest is Longmont’s own TinkerMill, with 375 members and 13,000 square feet of space. Executive director Ron Thomas said he and other maker space organizers are dealing with many of the same problems regarding access, safety and cost.

“How do you control membership access? How do you track training? In a space where you’re trying to provide access to expensive tooling, how do you make sure it’s all treated safely without having to hire a full-time staff person?” Thomas said.

Solutions that exist for the commercial industry are too costly for a business model built entirely on membership dues. So maker spaces have had to get creative — something they’re good at.

The conference will be a chance to brainstorm more solutions, network and just have fun.

“We don’t get a lot of chances to meet with the guys in Montrose or Grand Junction,” VanDyne said. “It will be nice to get together and share.”

Although the Conference will be geared toward professional “makers,” it will include events for tinkerers of all ages. You can obtain more information and purchase tickets for the Conference here.

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