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Courtesy of NBC News

New West Roundup for April 20, 2017

Today in New West news: Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will not run in 2018, new report highlights Missoula/Bozeman entrepreneurship, overcrowding in Montana national parks, and Colorado wind power.

In a move that’s rocked politics in both Utah in Washington D.C., U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has announced he will not run for office again in 2018. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Chaffetz says he will “return to the private sector” come January 2019, with some speculating that Chaffetz is eying a run for the governorship.

However, in a late breaking development, according to USA Today, Chaffetz may not even finish out his current term in the House: “I will continue to weigh the options, but I may depart early,” Chaffetz told KSL Newsradio host Doug Wright in a text. “The state needs to figure out how this works.” From the Salt Lake Tribune:

“There’s an infinite array of possibilities, but I turned 50 [years old], I’m sleeping on a cot in my office, I’ve been away more than 1,500 nights, and it’s just time to recalibrate, to think about your life and what you’re doing,” Chaffetz said in an interview. “I always said I’d get in, serve and get out.”

The five-term Republican, who rose from a relatively unknown figure to the chairmanship of one of Congress’ most powerful committees, said he would return to the private sector after his term ends in January 2019 and that his decision is based solely on his promise to serve a short time and his yearning to spend more time with his family.

“I love the work, but I love my family more. People will try to come up with guesses and none of which will be true of why I’m leaving,” he said, adding that he may later opt for another bid for office, including Utah governor. Gov. Gary Herbert has said he’s not likely to seek another term.

“All the options are still on the table,” Chaffetz said. “I’m not opening or closing the door on anything.”

As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz has faced increasing criticism for his lack of investigation into President Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election. He was jeered at a recent town hall. And an unknown Democrat, Kathryn Allen, had amassed $500,000 — $100,000 more than Chaffetz — to challenge him.


[Utah Governor Gary] Herbert said he “was as stunned as anyone” to hear that Chaffetz would not seek re-election.

“His razor-sharp mind, expansive knowledge and gift for communicating will serve him well when he transitions into the private sector,” Herbert said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who Chaffetz said had pleaded with him to run again for his seat, praised the Utah congressman in a tweet, calling him a “great defender of liberty and limited government.” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus texted Chaffetz that he was “Shocked!” and then called to chat.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, lauded Chaffetz’s track record as Oversight chairman.

Looking north, a new report spearheaded by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance has found that Missoula and Bozeman exhibit some of the highest concentrations of entrepreneurship in the United States. According to a MHTBA press release, both cities show not only high initial startup success but also carry-over success from spinoff companies. From the press release:

Missoula and Bozeman rank 9th and 12th highest in startup rates among 394 areas in the U.S., and the proportion of high-growth firms is particularly high in Bozeman, higher than Denver (9th in the nation) and almost compatible with Washington, D.C. (1st in the nation), according to the report. Montana also demonstrates vibrant spinoff activities originated from RightNow Technologies and clusters of photonics companies in Bozeman, with former RightNow employees creating at least 15 companies and the photonics cluster generating a series of companies every decade since the 1980s.

“A New Frontier: Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in Bozeman and Missoula, Montana” is the first-ever study of the Montana ecosystem and is important because there have been few studies of entrepreneurship in small towns and rural areas. The report is a result of joint research by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, MonTEC, the Blackstone LaunchPads at the University of Montana and Montana State University, and Kansas researchers Yasuyuki Motoyama, Ph.D., Emily Fetsch and Sharah Davis and is based on 42 interviews of Montana entrepreneurs and support organizations and a survey of 178 companies in the region.

“This report overturns common assumptions about entrepreneurship in smaller metros and rural areas,” said Christina Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and a co-author of the study. “Montana’s recent startup boom shows that disruptive technology is bringing high-paying jobs to rural communities, that Montana’s high quality of life and beautiful landscape are a magnet for knowledge workers, and that it is possible – even common – for entrepreneurs to build global businesses in very small towns.”

The study found that Montana’s high level of entrepreneurship is leveraged by dense networks of active local support organizations – non-profits, university-related organizations, government and successful entrepreneurs serving as mentors to a younger cohort of entrepreneurs.

Active non-profit business support resources ranged from universities (University of Montana and Montana State University), industry networks (Montana High Tech Business Alliance and Montana Photonics Industry Alliance), publicly funded organizations (Montana Manufacturing Extension Center) and other organizations such as Montana Code School or 1 Million Cups.

Keeping with Montana, according to the Missoulian, a new report out from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research raises questions about how Montana’s national parks (and more broadly, the national park system) will be able to weather increased visitation—expected in the coming years. Written by Norma Nickerson, director of UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research in the College of Forestry and Conservation, the report (“Montana’s Crowded Parks,” available here) hones in on Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, two of the most popular parks in the whole system. From the Missoulian:

“Many say the parks are crowded,” Nickerson wrote. “There are lines to get through the entrance gates, lines at the bathrooms, campgrounds full by mid-morning and traffic is rush-hour-like on park roads. With duties similar to those of a mayor and city council, Glacier and Yellowstone managers have responsibility for public services such as police, fire, sanitation, water, gas, roads and so on to provide a healthy living environment and keep people safe.”

Not only that, but park managers have a federally mandated duty to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife in the parks in a manner that will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

In Glacier, it’s not uncommon for the Logan Pass parking lot to fill up by 11 a.m. every day in July and August. Apgar, the largest campground in Glacier with 194 sites, only had six total days in July and August with sites available. The other three large campgrounds did not have a single July day with a vacancy, and only two days in August. The Avalanche Lake trail has gone from about 30,000 hikers in the 1988 season to 90,000 in the 2011 season, and it has undoubtedly increased since then.

In Yellowstone, search and rescue incidents were up 61 percent in 2015 and motor vehicle accidents with injuries were up 167 percent. Emergency medical responses were up 37 percent and Life Flight evacuations were up 25 percent.

Nickerson notes that, more often that, quality trumps quantity in terms of the complaints visitors levy against each other. In other words, they don’t mind the number of people as much as the ones who are acting rude or putting themselves in harm’s way.

Finally, a quick look at Colorado. According to the Denver Post, the Centennial State has come in at fourth in the nation for wind-power jobs as well as electricity generation:

The Rocky Mountain state held its No. 4 ranking for wind employment with more than 6,000 jobs, which were driven by manufacturing from the likes of Creative Foam, O’Neal Steel and Vestas, according to the report.

Across the country, the wind industry added 15,000 jobs, growing the total number of wind jobs to 102,000.

Colorado clinched the No.7 spot for the nation’s fastest growing states when its wind generation jumped by 26.1 percent, according to AWEA. The state generated 9,425 MWh, which is enough to power 871,000 homes and is the eighth most in the country.

Wind provided 17.3 percent of Colorado’s energy — the seventh highest percentage in the country, according to the report.

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