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New West Daily Roundup for July 27, 2016

Today in New West news: Bozeman officials map new path for city’s economy, affordable flying at DIA, solar in Idaho, and vandal sentenced after carving initials into Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman leaders are mapping an update of the city’s economic development plan—the first revision proposed since 2009. Spearheaded by Economic Development Council Director Britt Brit Fontenot and Portland, Oregon-based Leland Consulting Group, the project will draw from interviews with government officials and industry leaders, to get a feel for where people feel the city is going and where they want it to go.

Fontenot and the EDC have identified three points they hope the new plan will address: supporting existing businesses while nurturing/encouraging new ones, maintaining infrastructure, and boosting workforce education efforts. From the Chronicle:

A large portion of the responsibility for fostering local business growth falls on the shoulders of economic development agencies like Prospera Business Network and the Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District, which act as liaisons between businesses and state grant programs.

In 2015, Prospera leveraged more than $4.75 million in grants, loans and matching funds to companies in Park and Gallatin counties, creating at least 50 jobs in the process. And demand for the nonprofit’s services has only increased, said Executive Director Paul Reichert.

“Prospera sees steady demand for our services for people to start and grow their businesses, and the significant majority are people that already live and work here,” Reichert said.

The organization has a month-long waiting list for its counseling services, the director added.

“There will be natural limits, but I don’t see it slowing down that much.”

[…]

“What we need to do is garden locally rather than chase big dreams elsewhere,” added Mayor Carson Taylor. “There may be some really big things that happen in the city that come from the outside, but we could spend years and a lot of money chasing rainbows.”

The proposed economic plan mentions several initiatives it hopes to get off the ground in order to meet the three aforementioned goals. One initiative is Startup Bozeman, a “local business incubator” businesses can use to obtain financial/educational resources. Another initiative aims to collaborate with Montana State University and Gallatin College. Then there’s the ongoing fiber optic development of downtown, which is slated to finish up by the end of the summer.

Fontenot told the Chronicle while Montana lacks the amenities of other business hubs (like metropolitan Texas or California, for instance), but Fontenot is confident in the state’s ability to attract and maintain businesses. “Montana is not an incentive rich state; we’re limited in our tools in offering things of that nature, so we have to sell other things like workforce or infrastructure,” he told the Chronicle. “There are other things to sell; we don’t have to sell our souls to get businesses to come here.”

Over in Colorado, according to the Denver Post, citing a survey from Cheapflights, airfares at Denver International Airport have hit a five-year low, making DIA the sixth most affordable airport in the nation:

The survey compared the base-ticket price — not including added fees — for a set of destinations from the 101 most-searched U.S. airports. Cheapflights has conducted the study every July since 2010.

Denver’s average base airfare is $242, more expensive than the $202 base at Long Beach, Calif., the cheapest airport, and yet far less costly than the $641 average base airfare at Honolulu International, the most expensive.

Denver has been moving up in the list of affordability since 2012, when it ranked No. 81 with an average base price of $582. Prices have also dropped across the nation — even the average fares at the most expensive airports on the list are $150 cheaper than last year.

“This is just further proof that prices to get from here to there are practically at historic lows,” said Emily Fisher, travel expert with Cheapflights. “Can’t say 100 percent historic lows, but certainly in recent memory.”

Over in Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman, after years of negotiations and location changes, the Idaho Solar 1 Project (the state’s first commercial solar farm) is almost online. Built on a 360-acre stretch of land south of Boise, slated to deliver electricity to Idaho Power for the next twenty years, the project was completed in April. From the Statesman:

Idaho Power has contracts with eight solar projects in Idaho, including Idaho Solar 1, with a combined total capacity of 240 megawatts, said spokesman Brad Bowlin.

Six of the projects are in Southwest Idaho — two in Ada County, three in Elmore County and one in Owyhee County. Two are in Eastern Idaho’s Power County. All are scheduled to be online by the end of 2016, Bowlin said.

The 360-acre, 40-megawatt Idaho Solar 1 project will be the first to go online, but it will not be the largest. Construction is now underway on the 600-acre, 80-megawatt Grand View PV Solar Two project in Elmore County.

After this year, the solar boom may slow a bit.

“Idaho Power does not need any additional energy resources at this time, so we are not actively pursuing new solar contracts,” Bowlin said.

In related news, Idaho Power hopes to get a “community solar pilot program” off the ground, to encourage customers who can’t install panels on their rooftops to buy into an array proposed at the Boise Bench substation (at Amity and Holcomb roads). If successful, the program could be up and running by next summer.

Finally, according to Yellowstone Insider, a Texas resident was found guilty of scratching his initials into the Roosevelt Arch—an immense construction of basalt that acts as the Park’s North Entrance. For the act of vandalism, Dakota D. Tipton of Joshua was sentenced to three days in jail, along with $290 in fines and court fees. The Arch has stood outside Yellowstone since 1903; it was named for President Theodore Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone.

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