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Gil Folleher, who built strong business-leader support for JA, remembered for his legacy

Junior Achievement, as an organization focused on enhancing young people's understanding of business and finances, has had a natural appeal to business executives and their companies. But Gil Folleher, who died over the weekend at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs at the age of 75, brought business-leader support for JA in the Seattle area to a near-evangelical level over his years guiding JA locally.

folleher
Gil Folleher 
Most importantly, perhaps, in the words of PEMCO CEO Stan McNaughton, he "left a legacy of footprints that will be followed for a long time. He was a king-maker-and the kids were the kings (and queens)."

The JA footprints in Washington state have left larger marks than the organization's impact in other states and that has been due to Folleher guiding involvement by executives at the highest levels of their companies.

In fact, he set a model for other non-profits to aspire to with a pattern from the late '80s through his retirement in 1998 of presidents or CEOs chairing, and being actively involved on, JA's board.

There are many important non-profit causes in this region, ranging from the needs of children or the sick or elderly to arts groups and causes to advance the community. And the most successful ones are blessed to have business executives supporting with time and dollars to help point them in successful directions.

And this is a time of the year when business people and others of means should pause to remember the cause or causes that are fortunate enough to have their attention and even affection.

But few organizations have been more successful over the years than JA in keeping focused on its cause: helping guide the understanding of the free enterprise system among young people and, recently even more vital in the view of many JA supporters, teach the importance of financial literacy.

Folleher, who moved from his Seattle leadership position to a role with the national JA organization in 1998 before retiring to Palm Springs, is being remembered by both active and retired business leaders who were closely involved with JA and who thus knew him best for the value he brought to the economic education of young people.

Folleher's strategy of creating close relationships among his board members included the Puget Sound JA chapter sending the largest delegation each year to the National Business Hall of Fame, an experience that he understood would contribute to the bonding strategy. Thus he made the trips an important part of each year's JA activities.

During his second tenure with JA in Seattle the number of students impacted by JA programs quadrupled to more than 60,000, deficits became surpluses and the annual budget grew to more than $2.4 million.

And in the manner of the best of non-profit executives, he groomed his successor well and thus David Moore, JA President for what has grown to be JA oversight for all of Washington state, says of Folleher, "he was my mentor, friend and inspiration." 

Under Moore, who spent a decade as Folleher's marketing director before succeeding him in 1998, JA programs have grown and come to reach a dramatically expanding number of students around the state each year. 
 
It was through involvement with JA as publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal to create a local Business Hall of Fame in a partnership between the newspaper and his organization that I came to be close friends with Folleher and eventually served as chair of the JA board.

Ken Kirkpatrick, retired president of U.S. Bank of Washington, knew Folleher the longest because it was Kirkpatrick, along with his future wife SaSa, who met Folleher at the airport when he arrived in Seattle in 1972 for for his first stint guiding JA's Seattle operations.

Kirkpatrick recalls that he was only 17 at the time, but was serving as JA's temporary executive director, "along with my janitor job there. He treated me like a king and he gave me my first ever Christmas gift from an employer-a very fancy shoeshine kit that I used just last week."

Woody Howse, then guiding Cable & Howse Ventures and now described as "the grandfather of Seattle's venture-capital community" was incoming board chair when Folleher arrived in 1987, returning to Seattle after serving as JA's Senior Vice President in charge of programs and marketing nationally. 

"Folleher's network through all of JA was unparalleled and as a result we got the benefit in Seattle of a world-class sponger of Best Practices," Howse said.

Lasting friendships was true for me, and this column is an unabashed good-memories reflection on a man who not only became a good friend, but who was responsible for many of my closest friendships formed over the mutual connection to JA and the work we all did together to build and promote the organization and its cause.
 
Scott Harrison, retired president of Barclay-Dean Interiors, who also served a term as JA board chair, praised Folleher for guiding board members to "embrace the vision that Gil and his team had for JA."

And John Fluke, of Fluke Venture Partners (another top executive who took his turn as JA board chair) and the son of the man described as "The Father of JA" in this region, said "I know Gil would want all of us to do our part to advance JA's mission to bring economic and personal financial literacy to all K-12 students."

Rather than merely recall Folleher after his death, friends from around the country were able to be on hand in Palm Springs last January for his 75th birthday celebration where, as Moore recalls with a smile, "we partied for three days."

Now those who were close to Folleher will gather again, despite his insisting there be no service or memorial, for a toast and sharing of memories January 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Marriott.
 
In what amounted to an appropriate summing up, Moore noted: "I have always said we are warming by a fire we did not build since what JA is today is a legacy for Folleher's passion and leadership."'
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Montana's 'angel' investor sees changing values boosting state's investor appeal

Those who have watched or experienced Liz Marchi's commitment to provide funding for Montana entrepreneurs and startups for a decade might suggest that the term "angel investor" was coined specifically to describe her.

Liz Marchi
Liz Marchi 
It was 2003 that Marchi, who had arrived in Montana with three daughters and her then husband and settled in the Flathead Valley, decided to create the state's first angel fund, Frontier Angel Fund I. The fund closed in 2006 at $1.7 million, $300,000 more than she had hoped.   
     
She eventually guided the Kalispell-based fund, which had attracted investors from around the country who were either fans of or summer residents in the Big Sky Country, to lead three deals and gather a total of 12 active investments and was soon also overseeing angel groups that had sprung up in Missoula and Bozeman.

Because she successfully syndicated her deals with a number of other angel groups outside the state, she jokes that she has become "the grandmother of crowd funding." She's not referring to the formal definition of crowd funding but rather the syndication efforts she initiated that attracted a crowd of angels from numerous groups making small investments.

Now Marchi, who grew up near Jackson Hole, WY, but who had never been to Montana when she arrived here in 2000, says she is looking forward to making the investor-leader handoff to Will Price, whose roots in the state brought him back from Silicon Valley to create Next Frontier Capital, at $20 million the largest venture fund ever raised in the state.

Price, on the board of or a key executive with a number of Bay Area tech companies, did his due diligence on the attitudes of national venture and mergers & acquisitions firms toward Montana before making the move to Bozeman.

Price's fund, which closed last April a year following his decision to bring his family to the state where his father, Kent Price, is well known as Montana's first Rhodes Scholar and University of Montana board member, has already made two investments.

I've kidded Liz and her husband, Jon, who in 1978 founded Glacier Venture fund as the first venture fund in Montana and presided over it for 29 years, about being "Mr. and Mrs. Montana Money." To which she once responded: "We are more like Mr. and Mrs. Montana risk capital since we share a very high risk tolerance...and often share the consequences."

Although Marchi talks about making a handoff to Price, as well as "the next generation of angels, including some members of Fund II in their '30s, who slay me in terms of their abilities," she was completing the formation in August of $2.7 million Frontier Fund II, which has already invested $900,000 with syndication adding $300,000 for a total of $1.2 million already invested.

"We have 48 investors in 10 states and meet physically in Bozeman and the Flathead, alternating with a WebEx option," Marchi said, noting that investors met in Bozeman today, with investors from two continents and four states, including Montana investors from Bozeman and Kalispell to review three Bozeman companies.

That sounds less like "handing off" for the 62-year-old Marchi than welcoming the potential follow-on investment opportunity that venture capital can represent for angel. And she hopes Price's fund will provide.

She says she does have an agreement with Fund II to be the key administrator only for the next two years, but could opt to remain longer. And she is down to business cards representing her current five involvements.

But Marchi is genuinely pleased at the implications of the arrival in Montana of Price, who did his homework before deciding a venture fund could work in Montana.
Price shared with me the research he did with and his thoughts about how "changing values" will benefit Montana's ability to attract capital.

Montana was often dismissed as a "fly-over" state, meaning that the most viable potential investors on the east and west coasts usually just fly over on their way to the other coast.

But Price's SurveyMonkey sampling of both venture and merger & acquisitions firms and found that the appeal of the big sky to many increasingly disenchanted with urban challenges was strong but that direct air access is a challenge Montana must come to grips with.

Fully 70 percent of responding M&A firms said they would consider buying a company in Montana, even though 80 percent said they had never been to the state. And a third of the venture firms said they would consider doing a deal in Montana, although 47 percent said they had never been there.

The import of improved air access to a state that has no direct flights currently to the major markets was dramatically indicated with the response of M&A firms, 90 percent of whom said it was "important" or "Moderately important" to have direct air access to the market of their investment.

"That's something the state is going to have to address," Price said. "But I think it will be addressed."

Among venture firms, almost two thirds sad the quality of the local syndicate partner would determine their involvement.

Although Marchi herself has attracted investors from around the country, she observes that "Being away from the noise of the coasts keeps us grounded in an important way.

"The entire conversation and perception needs to move about rural America, what is going on here and its role in making our economy and our country work better," she said, expressing the principle that has guided her commitment to Montana entrepreneurs.
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A rural economic development strategy focused on entrepreneurs

 

If Global Entrepreneurship Week, the annual worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, had been a competition among nations, states and regions, Washington State could have laid claim to being the hands-down winner. And that would be appropriate recognition for the man who has guided much of this state's effort to advance entrepreneurship, particularly in rural areas and particularly with young people, for 25 years.

 

 

 

 

Maury Forman, senior manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce, is proud of the fact that in this state, GEW 2015 was actually Global Entrepreneurship Month and extended to every corner of the state with activities in all 39 counties. Four years ago, when Forman plugged the state into GEW activities, three counties participated.Forman says "we are changing the way communities look at economic development." That's an outgrowth of his effort, over much of his quarter century overseeing key economic-development sectors, to develop a culture of entrepreneurism in rural areas.

Global Entrepreneurship week was founded in 2008 by the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based 501c3 that is the nation's pre-eminent entrepreneur-focused organization, to create an annual celebration of innovators and job creators who launch the start-ups that drive economic growth.

 

Forman, who joined what was then the Department of Trade and Economic Development in 1991 in a career transition from healthcare at the age of 40, says "No other state can claim that every part of the state had at least one event that celebrated entrepreneurship."

 

 

"One of the exciting aspects of this year's celebration of entrepreneurship was the number of high school programs being held throughout the state," Forman said. "In many cases, college isn't the natural next step it was once for high school students so these programs expose them to the idea of starting their own business once they graduate. Or if they do go on to college, they can focus their education on skills that will allow them to start a business in the years to come."

 

 

Forman says he has kept his primary focus on rural economies because "they need the assistance much more than urban communities," as well as because he has become convinced that the strategies for growth of many rural areas that has been focused on recruiting companies from out of state is outdated.

 

 

"That has to change if rural communities are to survive," Forman said. "Communities have to be shingle ready and not just shovel ready."  

 

 

In a recent article in Governing, a national magazine covering state and local government news, Forman wrote about Washington's three-year-old program called Startup Washington that focuses on building local economies "organically" by serving the needs of local startups and entrepreneurs.  

 

 

Forman is likely among the national leaders in the conviction that programs to enhance local economic development "must nurture the belief that young people who grow up in rural communities can be guided to start businesses in their own community rather than moving to urban centers."

 

 

"Just as young people are looking at new ways to enter the work force other than working for someone else, so too are communities looking for ways other than recruitment of businesses from elsewhere to grow their economies," Forman said.

 

 

One of the ways he is seeking to do that "is by matching those students that are serious about being entrepreneurs with mentors, especially in rural communities."

 

 

Indeed matching students who hope to be entrepreneurs with mentors is becoming the model for successful communities, particularly rural ones, to pursue.

 

 

Some communities have long been employing that model, as chronicled in the oft-quoted book written by Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, a firm based in Effingham, IL, that specializes in industrial development in small towns.

 

 

It was in pondering why some small towns succeed where others fail that Schultz set out on the backroads to rural America to find out as he became the nation's guru of rural economic development and wrote of his travels in Boomtown USA: the 7 ½ keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

 

 

I emailed Schultz about entrepreneurism's role in small town success and a possibly emerging role for mentor programs.

 

 

"Embracing entrepreneurism in communities has been a key factor that differentiated great communities from also-rans," he emailed back. "Increasingly, we are seeing those great communities taking it a step up by tying their local entrepreneurs up with their young people, educating them on both entrepreneurship and also the great things happening in the private sector of their towns."

 

 

Schultz' successes in believing in small-town entrepreneurs and small-business lending is partly responsible for the fact the Effingham-based bank he helped found and now chairs the board, has grown eight fold to $2.9 billion in assets and gone public.

 

 

"At Midland States Bank, we have very much focused on small business lending and it has been a major factor in our growth over the last several years," Schultz said.

 

 

In an unusual and innovative commitment to the dozens of communities it serves, the bank has funded a not-for-profit institute to expand an entrepreneurship class that was started in Effingham eight years ago and has now expanded to 27 other towns.

 

 

Forman seemed intrigued by the details Schultz provided:  The class meets each day during the school year from 7:30 to 9 am; meets in local businesses; is totally funded by local businesses with a maximum contribution of $1,000 per business or individual.  Each class has a business and each student must also start a business.  

 

 

Meanwhile, Forman approaches his 25th anniversary with the department on January 1 having collected numerous regional and national awards for his work and successes. Those include last year winning the international Economic Development Leadership Award and recognitionby the Teens in Public Service Foundation with the Unsung Hero Award for his work with at risk kids.   

 

 

He has authored 14 books related to economic development, and has also designed and developed creative "game show' learning tools, including Economic Development Jeopardy, Economic Development Feud and two board games for the profession.

 

 

Forman credits the directors who have guided the department over his time there for allowing him "to be intrapreneurial," meaning behaving like an entrepreneur while working in a large organization, noting "not many government agencies allow the freedom to take risks in an effort to solve a given problem."

 

 

 

 

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Oregon ballot measure would dramatically boost business taxes

Just as the races for state and national offices in the November General Election may demonstrate that anger can trump reason, voters in Oregon will be faced with deciding a ballot measure that will test whether anger at big business over things like soaring executive compensation exceeds logic.

At issue is IP28 (Initiative Petition), which targets Oregon's biggest corporations — roughly 1,000 by the state's estimates, or about 4 percent of businesses. Those with $25 million in Oregon sales would pay a minimum $30,000 tax, plus 2.5 percent on anything above that threshold.

In essence, it would be a tax on gross receipts, like Washington’s business & occupation tax, generating an estimated $6 billion in new revenue. Except in Oregon it would be in addition to the tax on personal and corporate income and would boost corporate tax collections more than five-fold.

As my friend Don Brunell put it in his latest column, which alerted me to the fact the measure had been cleared for the November ballot by collecting the required 130,000 signatures, “Washington’s next economic development plan may be written by Oregon voters next November.”

His point was that “Oregon voters need to remember that Washington and California have heavy concentrations of large businesses and stand to benefit from passage of IP28 and that while all parts of Washington would gain, the corridor between Vancouver and Longview could be the biggest winner.”

Brunell, retired president of Association of Washington Business, in his more than a quarter century at the helm of the state’s largest business association saw all the off-the-wall ideas for taxing business. But it’s as a longtime observer that he shakes his head at this proposal, noting the tax scheme “would transform Oregon from one of the nation’s lowest business-tax-burden states to one of the nation’s highest.”

Organizations that purchase products and services from those major businesses would undoubtedly see their costs increase and thus would need to increase their price for items resold to Oregon consumers. In response to this, businesses purchasing goods in Oregon may opt to leave the state or relocate some or all of their facilities to avoid the increased cost of doing business in that state.

IP28 is sponsored by Better Oregon, a labor union coalition led by the Oregon Education Association, and targets “big business”.  Proponents claim it would tap a tiny portion of Oregon businesses while bringing a huge revenue boost to cash-strapped public education, health care and senior services.

The non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office, in evaluating similar proposals to IP28, has forecast job losses should a gross receipt tax pass.

Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry, who despite being perhaps Washington’s most liberal governor carried an understanding of the importance of nurturing big businesses as the creators of better-paying jobs, offered his classic belly laugh when I called him for his thoughts on the initiative.

“We always looked to Oregon for progressive ideas but this would represent the total opposite,” Lowry said. “The gross-receipts tax is about the worst tax there is.”

Amusingly, Lowry understood how to use the tax as a whip. In his first year in office he sought to have the Democrat-controlled legislature extend Washington’s sales tax to service businesses like law and accounting firms, which used their lobbying clout to beat back the effort.

But they paid a price by having the lawmakers impose the highest b&o tax rate on services, a payback in the form of a 2.5 percent rate, which though now reduced to 1.5 percent remains the state’s highest rate, reserved for service businesses and professional gambling.

Most gross receipts tax rates around the country are relatively low when compared with the Oregon proposal’s 2.5 percent rate. In Washington, it ranges from 0.138 percent to the aforementioned 1.5 percent. Thus if the measure were to pass, the tax burden of operating in Oregon would increase dramatically when compared with other states.

Proponents argue that “IP28 would modestly raise the effective tax rate of large corporations and use the added revenue to fund Oregon's crippled public school system, provide services to seniors, and extend health care coverage to 18,000-plus children.”

Problem is if it comes to be marketed to voters as “the big-business tax,” the result could be that anger overrides common sense for voters, among whom would be many that would face loss of their jobs if the analysis of business reaction proves true.

The ballot proposal comes as raising taxes on wealthy individuals and large corporations is at the forefront of a national debate — especially among Democratic progressives, including much of Oregon's electorate— about how to close the gap of economic disparities between rich and poor in the post-Great Recession era.

And if there is a doubt that anger at big business underlies the measure, and leaves concern about the logic voters will bring when they mark their ballots, supporters point to the current difference between growth in corporate profits vs. growth in family income in Oregon. They say it’s time big business takes on its fair share of the tax burden to help pay for education and social services.

Business people in Southwest Washington are not only looking to gain business if the measure is approved, they are having some amusement thinking about it.

When I talked with longtime Vancouver businessman Michael Worthy about it, he chuckled and offered that the two-state effort to agree on financing a new I-5 bridge across the Columbia could be solved by letting firms that would want to move operations out of Oregon might want to pay for improved transportation they’d need.

And when I asked Brunell why he thinks intelligent voters would go for a tax that would likely impact them, and perhaps their jobs, he replied: “I suspect, knowing Oregon a little better by living down here in Vancouver, there is a reason for the bumper sticker: ‘Keep Portland Weird.’” 

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Seattle investor friends focus on 'The Holy Grail of Energy' train project

The six-year-long commitment by two successful Seattle-area businessmen to sustain the alternative-energy breakthrough technology that one of them describes as "the holy grail of energy" is close to paying off. The story of their commitment to develop the technology owned by their company named Advanced Rail Energy Storage LLC (ARES) is as intriguing as that of the business itself.

ARES' launch project is a rock-laden train of special electric cars that would run up and down a long hill in the Nevada desert near Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas, to demonstrate on-demand delivery of electricity. The $55 million, 50 megawatt project is gathering interest from utilities across the county as it moves into final funding phase, fulfilling the vision of investor friends Art Harrigan, a respected attorney, and Spike Anderson, successful businessman who describes himself as a serial investor.

The two have partnered since 2010 to provide the majority of the funding for planning and preparation for ARES and its ARES Nevada project's launch, which is planned for spring of 2017 with completion expected by spring or early summer of 2018.

Now they are in the final fund-raising push for the last $15 million of equity and $15 million of debt necessary to cap the $25 million already committed and begin construction on a six-mile long track with 7.5 percent grade on 43 leased acres of BLM land

ARES Nevada will be the prototype for future projects elsewhere in the country. The Nevada project is smaller (able to fully discharge for a period of 15 minutes at 50 megawatts) than future projects are likely to be, though William Peitzke, the company's director of technology development, notes it will be "the largest energy regulation management project ever in the West."

As word of the planned Nevada project has spread, a number of utilities have reached out to the leaders of ARES, who invited about 30 representatives of utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to a March 1 demonstration of a functioning scale model.

The gathering at the quarter-scale, proof-of-concept project in Tehachapi, in the mountains east of Bakersfield, CA. prompted EPRI representatives to announce to the assembled utilities people that they would develop an EPRI demonstration project and seek funding from member companies.

Since then, the ARES project has attracted media attention from the likes of Forbes and Fortune and, in recent days, from a newspaper in Finland.

Part of the interest generated in ARES, which is a company headquartered in Santa Barbara with its initial project incorporated as ARES Nevada, is due partly to the quality of the management team Anderson and Harrigan have attracted. The CEO is James Kelly, who for almost four decades was a key executive at Southern California Edison, and the executive vice president is Steve Sullivan, who worked with Kelly at Southern Cal Edison and guided many of his projects there.

But given that the two principal funders of ARES have not sought to put themselves in the limelight on this project, despite the fact they were largely responsible for generating the $15 million necessary to reach this point and attract this management team, ARES has not gotten the extended visibility it might need for the closing rush to funding.

But that will likely change as media, both nationally and locally in Washington State, begin to focus on the principal investors because their past successes in business amount, in the minds of many potential investors, to an imprimatur of likely success of their projects.

I've written recently about Harrigan, who is chairman of the ARES board, relating to his legal involvement setting the stage for Seattle's two major league sports teams to be saved and brought under local ownership. But he was also closely involved with Craig McCaw's Eagle River, formed after the sale of McCaw Cellular to AT&T. And he provided the legal guidance that gave birth to Nextel Partners, one of the nation/s largest cellular companies in the late 1990s, was involved in setting up Nextel's IPO and served on its board.

Anderson, whose career in sales and marketing included building one of the most successful reps firms on the West Coast then co-owning and eventually merging his firm, by then Anderson-Daymon, and building Costco's largest supplier of goods and services. Recently he founded, is funding and acting aa CEO for Clean Global Energy, a Bakersfield-based firm developing a process its website describes as "redefining oil separation in a better, cleaner way."

Part of the emerging visibility for Harrigan and Anderson was a letter Anderson recently sent to prospective investors explaining the project in detail and soliciting investors for the final $15 million of equity needed to get ARES Nevada project underway.

Anderson explained, in the extensive narrative on the project to the audience of more-than-qualified investors, that he would take the investing lead in the project with $10 million of the amount needed to complete it.

"We believe we can raise $15 million in debt, and will offer the remaining balance on the exact terms of my personal investment," Anderson explained, adding that "we believe that we can achieve close to a 25 per cent return on equity with ARES Nevada over the next few years "

"By running a train up and down a hill, ARES can help utilities add and subtract power from their grid on demand," Anderson explained in his letter. "A 19th century solution for a 21st century problem, assisted by that abundant natural resource called gravity."

And inevitably, the image of a train loaded with boulders running up a hill has spurred the metaphor of Sisyphus, the king from Greek mythology who was punished by the gods by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity.

Of course the Sisyphus image is flawed because the boulder being forced back downhill highlighted Sisyphus's forever failure whereas the trains loaded with boulders imbedded in sand rolling down the hill will exemplify the success of the ARES project.

Anderson explained that Shuttle trains, referred to as modules that are each made up of two electric locomotives and multiple weighted cars, will go up or down the track to either take electricity off the grid on the ascent or supply electricity to the grid by descending.

An example of the fact the Nevada project is on the small side of possible ARES projects, Harrigan and Anderson note that ARES can scale up to 3,000 megawatt, which would be a project as big as some hydroelectric projects. And Anderson noted that "the scope of the Nevada permit also allows for construction of a much larger system for an energy storage facility as well, essentially expanding the 50 MW system to add a 300 MW storage."

Said Anderson is his letter to prospective investors: The real problem we are addressing is providing an answer to the question of how do we generate more power since we can't build more dams, states are not permitting for fossil-fuel power generation and nuclear is enormously expensive."

Kelly suggests that a large part of the likely ARES appeal to investors and potential utility customers is that "ARES can be deployed at around half the cost of other available storage technologies and produces no emissions, burns no fuel, requires no water, does not use environmentally troubling materials. And it sits lightly on the land."

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Stuart Anderson, cowboy-country icon, dies at 93

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Stuart Anderson, with his 2,400-acre cattle ranch abutting the freeway in Central Washington and his signature mustache and cowboy hat, was the icon of cowboy country as he built what was regarded, in the 1980s, as the nation's most successful chain of affordable steakhouses. (It was actually dinner house chains but probably doesn't matter.)

Anderson, 93, passed away peacefully Monday at his Rancho Mirage home., surrounded by his family, including his beloved wife Helen, who was his partner for more than 40 years. He had been a diabetic for years but it was lung cancer that caused his death, though he had quit smoking in 1980.

Stuart Anderson founded his Black Angus/Cattle Company Restaurants chain in Seattle in the 1960s and from its corporate headquarters there he grew it into a chain of 122 restaurants spread across 19 states, with more than 10,000 employees and $230 million in annual revenue.

I felt compelled to come and talk to Stuart about his knowing he was in the final stages of life and that he was reconciled to that fact because he had led such a special life. It was filled with family, success, travel and, as Helen said, "lots of love." He had agreed to have me come down on Saturday to his home and work on his obituary together but that was not to be.

That became clear with the email Monday from Helen: "My wonderful, sweet, best friend Stuart has gone to that Mansion in the sky. He will be missed more than words can tell. He was larger than life and loved by so many. He was so pleased with the 93 wonderful years he had but said he was ready to go. Thanks for all the prayers and good wishes."

I first met Stuart four years ago when Betsy and I were vacationing in the desert. I had contracted with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership to arrange a wine-and-cheese gathering of Northwest snowbirds to learn some business facts about their second home. The local Palm Springs Desert Sun publicized the event and as people visited, someone pointed out to me "there's Stuart Anderson," to which I responded: "I don't think so. I thought he was long gone."

So I went over to introduce myself to Stuart and Helen and learned that the guy with a weathered face and wearing a cowboy hat was much alive and provided an enjoyable get-to-know visit.

A couple of days later, I learned that he was actually going back into the restaurant business, reopening one of his first Black Angus restaurants, located in Rancho Mirage, (that had been forced to close and go out of business during the downturn) This is not really true. Someone came along to buy our lease which we gladly sold because of the downturn of the economy at that time. We were not forced to close.

So I produced a column about Helen and Stuart re-opening and running the restaurant, both of them visiting with customers and making the rounds each day for a number of months before it became clear that the challenge was too much for a man then nearly 90 who had been out of the business too long so gladly sold the lease.

I visited again four months ago with the Andersons at their Rancho Mirage condo, and found Stuart, who was speaking softly and slowly but retained the firm gaze he usually offered from beneath his cowboy hat. He wanted to talk about the book and the challenge of selling copies, compared to his first book. It is the story of how he built the restaurant empire that became a best-recognized national company. The book actually has a longer official title: "Corporate Cowboy. Stuart Anderson: How a maverick entrepreneur built Black Angus, America's #1 restaurant chain of the 1980s."

He first tried his hand as an author when in 1997 he produced "Here's the Beef! My Story of Beef," a book he described to me as "fun and informative," but most importantly to him, thousands of copies were sold in the Black Angus restaurants. The book was meant to be an answer to the highly popular Wendy's commercial of the time in which an elderly lady asks: "Where's the Beef?"

At that point it had been a decade since he had retired after five consecutive years of his restaurants being named the top steakhouse chain in the nation by USA Today in a poll by industry publication Restaurants & Institutions. He admitted candidly, in an interview we did a few years ago, that he decided to retire because the new owners took the fun out of his job.

At the time of his first book, he was still well-remembered, in Washington State in particular. He was often seen as a spokesperson for a series of television commercials he did in the Seattle area for a senior housing organization.

After retiring, he and Helen enjoyed their (You mentioned this in the 1st paragraph: 2,400 acre) ranch sprawled along Interstate 90 west of Ellensburg. He had bought the ranch in 1966 with the intent of raising the Black Angus cattle that would be served at his restaurants. But it turned out to be too great a challenge, for various reasons, so he continued to raise the cattle while buying his beef elsewhere, until he sold the ranch to Taiwanese interests, though to many travelers going past, it remains the Stuart Anderson ranch.

A private family gathering is being planned in Seattle but the celebration of life will be held in Rancho Mirage in November, which would have been his 94th birthday.

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Entrepreneur of the Year event has become community entrepreneurship celebration

In the quarter century since national accounting firm Ernst & Young (now rebranded as EY) brought its Entrepreneur of the Year event to Seattle and the Northwest, the annual black tie gala has represented a community celebration of entrepreneurship. And with that has come a growing awareness of the importance of recognition for those struggling to build businesses and create jobs.

That increased awareness of the role visibility plays has brought with it an array of events, created by firms, organizations and media entities who want to own a piece of visibility value of their own for creating visibility for and thus developing relationships with young companies and the entrepreneurs who guide them.

Indeed all of those other recognition events have brought value to the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem by allowing individual firms to attract the attention of potential investors and potential new talent.

But the EY event has remained the most prestigious gathering for entrepreneurs, as this year's select group of honorees preparing for the June 17 event at the Sheraton Hotel are coming to learn. Among other things, Northwest winner get to move forward to compete for recognition at the EoY national and world events later in the year with winning entrepreneurs from the 145 cities and 60 countries in which the EoY event is held.

As Dan Smith, managing partner of the Seattle EY office, put it:"We've recognized many remarkable leaders who have disrupted industries, created new product categories, and successfully brought new innovation and technology to traditional industries."

In fact three winners in the local event have gone on to win at the national level. They are David Giuliani, who as founder and CEO of Optiva, won in the manufacturing category in 1997; Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff, who won in the "services" category in 2013, and Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens, who won in the "emerging" category in 2014.

Smith notes that this year's finalists include 21 entrepreneurs from the life sciences, retail and technology industries, adding "we've definitely seen a lot of growth in these sectors compared to 30 years ago when the program started."

This annual Entrepreneur of the Year event has held a special attraction for me because of personal involvement, both before and since the event came to Seattle five years after Ernst & Young launched it in 1986 in Milwaukee.

Part of my regard for the event is having close connection to entrepreneurial honorees for this special recognition. The first was Kathryn Kelly, the president of a young Seattle firm ­­­called Environmental Toxicology, who was among those honored as finalists at the second event in Seattle in 1992.

Then came Pete Chase, CEO of Spokane-based Purcell Systems, who won in the communications category in 2006 and became a judge in the following three years, before guiding the sale or his company and launching a new company, Columbia International Finance, for whom I am doing some consulting.

And Leen Kawas, Ph.D., president and CEO of the promising young life science company M3 Biotechnology Inc., is a 30-year-old Jordanian woman who is among this year's honorees and whom I tout as changing the face of life sciences in this state. I have had the satisfaction of being an investor and providing introductions and visibility since she arrived at the helm of the fast-growing company in January of 2014.

The impact of the honor on the entrepreneurs nominated was evidenced by Kelly's reaction back then when I expressed my regret, having nominated her, for the fact she had been one of three finalists but had not won in her category.

"You have to be kidding! Just being here (including the video vignettes of each finalist shown before the envelope is opened and the winner disclosed) was the satisfaction of a lifetime," she said.

There is also a bit of amusement for me when I think of the Entrepreneur of the Year event in that as publisher of the Business Journal I was involved in two entrepreneur of the year events before Ernst & Young brought its event to Seattle.

That came about because Woody Howse, then a partner in the venture capital firm Cable & Howse Ventures, approached me about partnering in an event we named Entrepreneur of the Year, which we promoted and held in the mid-'80s to honor a single entrepreneur each year. It would be hard to top either of our honorees.

The first was W. Hunter Simpson, who had taken over defibrillator-manufacturer Physio-Control 20 years earlier and guided it into a global-leadership role in its industry. The next year we honored Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates, whose company was just then gathering momentum, having gone public a year earlier.

Cable & Howse, then the area's premier vemture capital, had a vested interest in creating visibility for entrepreneurs, as did the Business Journal. We were among many organizations then casting about to determine how best to serve those individuals who held the keys to our future.

In fact, some edginess on the part of the Ernst & Young Seattle leadership would have been appropriate at our having pre-empted Simpson and Gates as the two most impressive names in the local entrepreneur community at the time.

PSBJ and Cable & Howse partnered for several years thereafter with another accounting firm to stage a High Tech Entrepreneur of the Year event, before Ernst & Young Managing Partner Karl Guelich called me to let me know our party was over because the real thing was coming to Seattle.

Guelich had allowed us to go ahead without comment with a Seattle event using the E&Y copyrighted name, partly out of friendship and partly because he likely figured, as it turned out accurately, that our event might even lay visibility groundwork for the arrival of the official awards event of that name.

For perhaps a decade, the Business Journal was part of a process that represented a win for the firm, for the newspaper, and for the entrepreneurs as well. Ermst & Young always scheduled its event for a Thursday evening and provided all the advance detail needed for PSBJ to produce a special supplement with stories on the event and all the honorees, passed out to all attendees as a keepsake as they left the event and then it was inserted in the PSBJ copies that arrived in subscribers' mail the following day.

Since then some of the biggest names among regional entrepreneurs have been in the winners' limelight at the Northwest EoY. They included Mark Britton of Avvo, Jim Weber of Brooks Sports, Inc., Dara Khosrowshahi of Expedia, Inc., Gertrude and Timothy P. Boyle of Columbia Sportswear Company, Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.com, Inc. and Howard Schultz of Starbucks Coffee Company.

So perhaps I'm prejudiced, but it seems clear that EY Managing partner Smith is accurate in suggesting that "the award has acquired a great deal of prestige, and is recognized around the world as an emblem of entrepreneurial success."

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Art Harrigan played legal role that helped save Seattle Mariners, Seahawks

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The community thank you last week to former Sen. Slade Gorton for his instrumental role in saving major league baseball in Seattle was an appropriate reminder of his signal accomplishment for the community. But without detracting from Gorton's role, it may also be appropriate at some point to recognize the Seattle attorney whose legal victory set the stage for the search for a local owner.

That would seem particularly appropriate since the Seattle attorney, Arthur Harrigan Jr., had key legal roles in saving two of the Seattle professional sports franchises

Art Harrigan not only succeeded in forcing Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan to give business and community leaders four months to find a local buyer, but five years later he paved the way for a local sale of the Seattle Seahawks by preventing owner Ken Behring from moving the team to Los Angeles.

The legal confrontations with the owners of two of Seattle's professional sports teams came about because Harrigan's law firm, Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes, long represented King County on an array of issues. And both owners came into conflict with the county because they sought to abandon the county-owned Kingdome and their leases there.

The venue for resolving the future of the Seattle Mariners franchise was what amounted to an arbitration hearing before Arthur Andersen, the national accounting firm agreed to by both sides to decide some key issues relating to the lease.

Since it wasn't a court process, which would have gotten large visibility for the battle between attorneys, Harrigan's maneuvering over the meaning of wording in Smulyan's contract regarding an attendance clause that was key to the final outcome was little noted, thus little remembered.

Harrigan's argued interpretation of the lease-requirement wording was accepted by the Andersen firm, so Smulyan was required to give an opportunity for a local buyer to be sought.

Of perhaps equal importance, Harrigan successfully argued that there should be a local value lower than the open-market value. The accounting firm agreed and set a "stay-in-Seattle" valuation at $100 million, rather than the national open-market value of $135 million that it had determined.

That created the opportunity for Gorton and others leading the effort to keep the team in Seattle to find a local buyer for $100 million, rather than $135 million, within four months.

No one knows if, at $135 million, Ninetendo's owner would have opted to pick up the cost of saving the Mariners for Seattle.

With respect to the effort to block the Seahawks' move, King County hired Harrigan's firm to keep Behring from fulfilling his widely publicized intent in the winter of 1996 to leave Seattle and move the team to Los Angeles.

Behring made the argument, after some tiles had fallen from the Kingdome roof, that he had concerns about seismic security of the facility as he announced that he was moving the team to Los Angeles.

Harrigan recalled the February meeting at the Woodmark Hotel at Carillon point at which he, King County Executive Gary Locke, Gary Locke, his assistant, and chief civil deputy Dick Holmquist with Behring's attorney, Ron Olson (who he noted was also Warren Buffet's attorney).

"Olson read from a yellow pad, explaining that the team, fearing earthquakes might impact the Kingdome, had to be moved to the comparative safety of Southern California and the Rose Bowl," Harrigan said. "Holmqust and I were trying not to laugh."

"We were poised to file a temporary restraining order the moment the trucks began rolling up to the team's offices in Kirkland," Harrigan said.

"So when Behring and Olson left the room, I made the call and the restraining order was filed," he added. "Had that not happened, we would have had to go to California and ask a California judge to send them back."

Behring had quickly, after the restraining order, filed suit in Kittitas County, so as part of the legal process, Harrigan also had to get the state Supreme Court to toss out that suit.

A few weeks later he and Behring attorneys met with NFL owners who were considering whether to allow the team to move, in the event Behring could escape the Kingdome lease, and made their presentations.

"I had brought Jon Magnusson and two other renowned structural engineers with West Coast seismic design expertise who explained that the idea that Southern California was safer than the Kingdome in case of earthquake was ludicrous," Harrigan said.

The legal maneuvering all came to an end when it was announced that Paul Allen had purchased the Seahawks.

While Harrigan, 72, is ranked as Seattle's top commercial trial lawyer by Chambers & Partners, which ranks the world's best lawyers and law firms, his legal activities have ranged well beyond the courtroom.

He worked with Craig McCaw in his early Eagle River Investments days, helped create the wireless company Nextel, which became a $7 billion public company, is a member of the boards of several public companies. His is chair, and was a principal fund raiser, for an interesting new company that will generate energy by storing electricity on trains.

Harrigan, a Harvard graduate with his law degree from Columbia, served as Senior Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, worked on an investigation of CIA intelligence activities related to Vietnam.

Most intriguingly, and perhaps as important as his later pro sports involvements in Seattle, he headed the committee's investigation of IRS intelligence operations, discovering that the agency was giving individuals' tax returns, under the claim of national security, to other intelligence agencies who were then misusing the information in sting operations.

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Attracting investors to Montana's Big Sky Country and its entrepreneurs

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Those who have watched or experienced Liz Marchi's commitment to provide funding for Montana entrepreneurs and startups for a decade might suggest that the term "angel investor" was coined specifically to describe her.

It was 2003 that Marchi, who had arrived in Montana with three daughters and her then husband and settled in the Flathead Valley, decided to create the state's first angel fund, Frontier Angel Fund I. The fund closed in 2006 at $1.7 million, $300,000 more than she had hoped.

She eventually guided the Kalispell-based fund, which had attracted investors from around the country who were either fans of or summer residents in the Big Sky Country, to lead three deals and gather a total of 12 active investments and was soon also overseeing angel groups that had sprung up in Missoula and Bozeman.

Because she successfully syndicated her deals with a number of other angel groups outside the state, she jokes that she has become "the grandmother of crowd funding." She's not referring to the formal definition of crowd funding but rather the syndication efforts she initiated that attracted a crowd of angels from numerous groups making small investments.

Now Marchi, who grew up near Jackson Hole, WY, but who had never been to Montana when she arrived here in 2000, says she is looking forward to making the investor-leader handoff to Will Price, whose roots in the state brought him back from Silicon Valley to create Next Frontier Capital, at $20 million the largest venture fund ever raised in the state.

Price, on the board of or a key executive with a number of Bay Area tech companies, did his due diligence on the attitudes of national venture and mergers & acquisitions firms toward Montana before making the move to Bozeman.

Price's fund, which closed last April a year following his decision to bring his family to the state where his father, Kent Price, is well known as Montana's first Rhodes Scholar and University of Montana board member, has already made two investments.

I've kidded Liz and her husband, Jon, who in 1978 founded Glacier Venture fund as the first venture fund in Montana and presided over it for 29 years, about being "Mr. and Mrs. Montana Money." To which she once responded: "We are more like Mr. and Mrs. Montana risk capital since we share a very high risk tolerance...and often share the consequences."

Although Marchi talks about making a handoff to Price, as well as "the next generation of angels, including some members of Fund II in their '30s, who slay me in terms of their abilities," she was completing the formation in August of $2.7 million Frontier Fund II, which has already invested $900,000 with syndication adding $300,000 for a total of $1.2 million already invested.

"We have 48 investors in 10 states and meet physically in Bozeman and the Flathead, alternating with a WebEx option," Marchi said, noting that investors met in Bozeman today, with investors from two continents and four states, including Montana investors from Bozeman and Kalispell to review three Bozeman companies.

That sounds less like "handing off" for the 62-year-old Marchi than welcoming the potential follow-on investment opportunity that venture capital can represent for angel. And she hopes Price's fund will provide.

She says she does have an agreement with Fund II to be the key administrator only for the next two years, but could opt to remain longer. And she is down to business cards representing her current five involvements.

But Marchi is genuinely pleased at the implications of the arrival in Montana of Price, who did his homework before deciding a venture fund could work in Montana.

Price shared with me the research he did with and his thoughts about how "changing values" will benefit Montana's ability to attract capital.

Montana was often dismissed as a "fly-over" state, meaning that the most viable potential investors on the east and west coasts usually just fly over on their way to the other coast.

But Price's SurveyMonkey sampling of both venture and merger & acquisitions firms and found that the appeal of the big sky to many increasingly disenchanted with urban challenges was strong but that direct air access is a challenge Montana must come to grips with.

Fully 70 percent of responding M&A firms said they would consider buying a company in Montana, even though 80 percent said they had never been to the state. And a third of the venture firms said they would consider doing a deal in Montana, although 47 percent said they had never been there.

The import of improved air access to a state that has no direct flights currently to the major markets was dramatically indicated with the response of M&A firms, 90 percent of whom said it was "important" or "Moderately important" to have direct air access to the market of their investment.

"That's something the state is going to have to address," Price said. "But I think it will be addressed."

Among venture firms, almost two thirds sad the quality of the local syndicate partner would determine their involvement.

Although Marchi herself has attracted investors from around the country, she observes that "Being away from the noise of the coasts keeps us grounded in an important way.

"The entire conversation and perception needs to move about rural America, what is going on here and its role in making our economy and our country work better," she said, expressing the principle that has guided her commitment to Montana entrepreneurs.

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