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New West Daily Roundup for Aug. 12, 2016

Today in New West news: Boise State receives $250K donation for computer science tutoring center, French cheese in Montana, SMA Solar closing Denver plant, and Chipotle offering happy hour.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Eileen Langan Barber, co-founder of Boise-based online fraud detection firm Keynetics, has donated $250,000 for a tutoring center at Boise State University, to help students in the computer science program. The Kount Tutoring Center (named after a company Barber helped get up and running in 2008) is slated to open in the fall in downtown Boise. From the Statesman:

Boise State’s computer science program will begin classes this fall in the Clearwater Building on The Grove, located on Main Street near Capitol Boulevard.

Money will go toward furnishing the center, including computers. said Tim Andersen, Boise State University computer science department chairman.

The tutoring center is aimed at helping students with difficult introductory classes in computer science, where they must learn computer language, Barber said. “You are learning a lot of new stuff all at once,” she said. “Learning a new language for anybody is intimidating.”

She also hopes her donation fosters more involvement in computer sciences among women and minorities.

“We are grateful for Eileen’s continued contributions and tireless dedication to underrepresented students in (science, technology, engineering and math) education and look forward to opening the new tutoring center for our growing community,” said Amy Moll, Boise State’s dean of engineering.

Barber’s donation comes as Boise State’s computer science department grows to meet demand from regional tech companies.

Up in Montana, for the past few years, Lark Gilmer and her crew have been crafting authentic French cheese—or, as they’d say, fromage—at Poor Orphan Creamery since 2014. Located in Laurin, just south of Sheridan, in the Ruby Valley, Poor Orphan is hoping to expand people’s minds (and palattes) when it comes to cheeses. To that effect, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Poor Orphan just opened a new tasting room earlier this month. But Gilmer want people to do more than eat the cheese. They want them to see the cheese. From the Chronicle:

In the back of the cafe, a large glass pane offers visitors a direct view into the processing side of the business — a shoulder-height pasteurizing vat and several aging rooms that smell like a damp forest floor.

The new tasting room is part of Gilmer’s continued effort to bring people closer to their food.

“You can really educate people about it, especially kids,” said Gilmer, sitting in the cream-colored room. “I can affect the way they look at food forever.”

Tasting room manager Andrew French plans to add homemade pizza to the menu and a movie night to the calendar. But the creamery’s focus is fromage. From croques, cheesy crepes, raclette and fondue, to the handful of imported French cheeses for sale, Gilmer and French are placing their bets on locals’ palettes.

“The Ruby Valley has the most well-educated, well-rounded people. They don’t want to be left out — they want to know and to be exposed,” Gilmer said.

The French connection runs strong, both in Laurin, which was established by a Frenchman, and in Gilmer, who lived and trained as a cheesemaker in the country’s Basque region for 13 years.

After spending more than two decades in Europe, the former photography director moved to Montana in 2003 and five years later purchased her first flock of sheep.

At first, Gilmer told the Chronicle, she did everything herself, from wrangling the sheep to “babysitting” cheese wheels as they aged, brushing them with brines to elicit certain flavors from the culture. And while the business has had to change to keep ahead—to include meat and wool sales—Gilmer says the first concern is cheese.

Over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, German solar power inverter manufacturer SMA has announced it’s closing its Denver plant, which will cut about 280 full-time employees loose. SMA reports it’s also closing its Cape Town, South Africa plant, saying it has to consolidate to counter competition from Chinese manufacturers. From the Journal:

“The acceleration of price pressure in the solar industry has been unexpectedly strong in recent weeks. We therefore immediately initiated measures to lower our break-even point even further,” SMA’s CEO Pierre-Pascal Urbon said in a statement. The announcement didn’t give a timeline for the closure.

The Denver plant made solar power inverters, critical components in the solar power system.

Inverters take direct current (DC) produced by solar panels and convert it into alternating current (AC), which is used by standard electrical equipment and can be sent across the electrical grid.

The Denver plant was announced in October 2009 at a press conference at the state Capitol attended by then-Gov. Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper, then Denver’s mayor and now Colorado’s governor.

[…]

“The closure of our production locations in Denver and Cape Town was extremely difficult for us. However, this step is unavoidable if we are to lastingly counteract the persistent price pressure and to achieve better production capacity utilization in China and Germany in the future,” Urbon said.

But, he added, “the American market remains highly important to us.”

The company will maintain a sales and service office in Rocklin, California.

Finally, keeping with Colorado, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has announced they are rolling out happy hour deals in multiple states, likely in an effort to draw back customers in light of 2015’s e. Coli and norovirus outbreaks. According to the Denver Business Journal, Chipotle locations in Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin, along with the city of Chicago, will start offering happy hour between 4-8 p.m. Interestingly, the deal does not include any Colorado locations—not even Denver, where Chipotle is headquartered.

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