Economic Activity in Idaho in August

Here is a roundup of economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor in August:

Northern Idaho

    • Sandpoint’s Tamarack Aerospace Group broke ground in early August for its production plant and flight school. Tamarack is building its future on patented active winglet technology, which dramatically increases the fuel efficiency and range of a winged aircraft. The $250,000 winglet kit can be used to upgrade a smaller jet for increased range rather than purchasing a more expensive model. Within a few years, the company plans to have around 140 employees. Its expansion will begin once its products are certified and ready to ship, a process officials aim to accomplish by September 2014.

  •  US Silver and Gold laid off 126 employees at its Galena Mine Complex near Wallace, according to news reports. The reduction comes on the heels of falling silver prices. Producing an ounce of silver at the mine costs about $16, and silver prices have dropped from a high of about $31 in the past six months to a low of approximately $19 an ounce, which cuts into profitability. The hourly staff was reduced from 283 to roughly 180 employees while the staff on salary will be cut from 68 to 45 employees.
  • The decision on a grant to establish a health care clinic in Mullan was postponed until September by the Primary Healthcare Bureau. If the grant is approved, the funds would be used to employ medical, dental and mental health professionals to serve residents whether they have insurance or not. Sliding scale fees for the uninsured would be based on household income. If the grant is funded, the clinic must be operational within 120 days, which means the clinic could be up and running as early as December.
  • The Automotive Training Institute’s Sandpoint-owned West Coast Center is adding five inside sales people and a sales manager.

North Central Idaho

  • A plan to reopen a lime quarry near Orofino and provide 35 to 50 new jobs has temporarily been suspended by the Idaho Department of Lands. The mine, located six miles east of Orofino on state land, operated from the 1940s into the 1980s. About 20 people attended an Aug. 1 meeting about the proposed mine. Klepfer Mining Co., a Hayden Lake company that provides services to the mining industry including help with the planning and permitting projects, said the state has terminated the lease extension to the 25-acre Lime Mountain site and ordered reclamation of the site by Dec. 31.
  • Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories plans to construct and operate a childcare facility near its campus in Pullman. The facility is a response to “years of feedback” from employees who want a childcare option with flexible hours and close proximity to the company’s campus. The company has no set timeline for construction. Child care is a major work-related concern of many parents, especially those who work night and weekend shifts. Idahoans make up more than 700 of the 2,000 jobs on the company’s Pullman campus.
  • The Port of Whitman County received a $500,000 loan and a $100,000 grant in July from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board to build two rail spur segments. The spurs are specifically for the McGregor Co., which intends to build a plant in the Port of Wilma across the Snake River from Clarkston, and to ease congestion at its facility and others at the Port of Central Ferry 50 miles downriver. The Wilma spur should be completed by the end of September. The company will invest up to $10 million in a facility to manufacture and warehouse fertilizer products. The facility is expected to create five to 10 jobs.

Southwestern Idaho

  • Meridian-based Commercial Tire will open a new $3 million fleet center in August in east Boise. It will replace a closing fleet center in southwest Boise and have close to 30 employees. The new facility will have a retail store and a tire retread shop.
  • Boise-based CradlePoint has added 25 employees since the beginning of the year and has plans to add 20 or more before 2013 ends. The new positions range from engineers to sales workers. CradlePoint designs 3G and 4G networking routers and systems.
  • Saint Alphonsus Health System has opened a new diabetes care and education center in Meridian. The center is staffed by certified diabetes educators and nursing staff.

South Central Idaho

  • Sun Valley Air Club is expanding its membership and its fleet, hoping to acquire an additional aircraft or two for on-demand charter flights. The declining access to commercial airline flights has impacted businesses and second homeowners when flying in and out of the valley. The club wants to acquire another seven-seat plane if 80 to 100 more members join. However, if 400 new members join, a 30-seat plane could be purchased. The price to join the club is $15,000 with annual fees of $3,000.
  • McCain Foods announced a $100 million expansion of its existing potato processing plant in Burley. The addition of a third production line will create approximately 130 new jobs on more automated equipment. Idaho Department of Labor has committed an estimated $4.5 million towards training of new and existing workers from the Workforce Development Training Fund.

Southeastern Idaho

  • A federal grant will finance a cadre of AmeriCorps members at the Blackfoot Community Center to help improve the achievement of seventh- and eighth-grade students at Snake River Junior High School over the next three years. The Blackfoot initiative is one of 13 across the nation to share $15 million in support from the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service through their School Turnaround AmeriCorps program.

Eastern Idaho

  • The city of Rexburg dismissed plans to join the Targhee Regional Public Transit Authority in starting a mass transit system in Rexburg. The authority’s proposal included the use of two 12 to 18 passenger busses that would run on fixed routes. The city suggested the buses would be insufficient in size and the 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. schedule would not meet student needs.
  • Lemhi County commissioners agreed to a three-year commitment of $10,000 a year toward a Small Community Air Development Program grant. If awarded, the grant would provide up to $750,000 to help establish commuter air service in the county. The grant would be used to establish flights between Boise and Salmon.

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