TC’s only publicly-traded company now employs 50

TRAVERSE CITY – For Aurora Oil & Gas Corporation, the lone publicly-traded Traverse City-based company, headquartering in northern Michigan simply is smart business.

"It is really a mini oil and gas Mecca of the Midwest," said Jeff Deneau, who heads up the company's investor relations. "It's funny how many oil and gas-affiliated companies are here; many of them have been here for years."

Deneau's father William Deneau started Aurora Energy Limited in Traverse City in 1997. The company, which focuses on northern Michigan's Antrim Shale with its more than 8,000 natural gas wells, went public last fall following a merger with West Coast oil and gas company Cadence Resources Corp. of Walla Walla, Wash.

Aurora Oil & Gas Corporation-ticker symbol AOG on the American Stock Exchange-has recently traded at $3.75 per share. It's at the midpoint of its 52-week range, according to Jeff Pasche, Chartered Financial Analyst and Senior Vice President, Investments at Raymond James & Associates Inc.

"I'm hopeful that the environment for natural gas prices improves as we move toward the winter months, and that the company is successful in its current and future projects. If those two things develop, it could help the price of the stock."

As an investor in Aurora, as well, Pasche has found that Aurora has an "interesting exposure to unconventional gas projects, and a history of success in these ventures."

Aurora may be the only Traverse City-based company that is traded publicly, but that wasn't always the case. Another company, Miller Exploration, was headquartered here and was publicly traded until 2003, when Edge Petroleum Corp., a Houston-based independent oil and gas exploration and production company, acquired it in a stock merger valued at $12.7 million.

Traverse City-based Versus Technology, which develops real-time locating systems based on patented dual infrared and radio frequency technology, is a company whose common stock is traded over the counter by several market makers through pink sheets.

"They're what are called thinly traded," said Briant Sikorski, investment advisor with Edward Jones Investments in Traverse City. "It is publicly traded per se, but it's not traded in the vehicle most people are knowledgeable about. You can buy it, and in the last year it's traded for as little as one penny and as high as 15 cents per share."

Going public is behind much of Aurora's growth.

"Being a public company puts a lot of strain on the resources you have in the company," said Deneau.

Additional staff was needed to ensure oversight of SCC regulations and other requirements. Aurora has grown from 10 employees in the late 1990s to its current 50.

Having its corporate offices anywhere other than Traverse City was never a consideration, Deneau said.

"We love the Traverse City area," he said. "Being in northern Michigan is nice because part of our work is right in our backyard. And the quality of life we can afford here in Traverse City is very, very nice."

Area investors appreciate the company's ties to the area as well, Deneau said.

"We've gotten contacted by a lot of folks, both investment advisers in the area and investors who like the idea of investing in a company that is here in town. It's kind of neat," he said.

People do often put their money into companies they feel strong about or understand well, which sometimes may mean selecting those close to home, area investment advisers say.

"We do get requests from individuals that want to buy into a company that has a local presence," said Craig Rosenberg of GT Asset Management in Traverse City.

For some investors, knowing their hard-earned dollars are going toward a company that makes its decisions with the area in mind is of particular interest, Sikorski said.

"It does offer a certain amount of pride to have a headquartered publicly-traded company here. It's kind of cool," he said. "Companies that have a location here but aren't headquartered here may also cause people to invest in the company."

While he said it's "pure speculation" what current Traverse City-based companies could go public in the near future, Rosenberg expects a greater number of companies, particularly technology-related ones, to choose the region for its headquarters.

"I think you'll see more companies ultimately have their headquarters in Traverse City. Lifestyle-wise, geographically, it's a beautiful place to live. It's a desirable place to live," he said.

Aurora Oil & Gas Corporation is located at 4110 Copper Ridge Drive, Suite 100. Reach them at 231-941-0073 or see www.auroraogc.com.

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