Economic Activity in Idaho in December

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

Northern Idaho

    • North Idaho College unveiled its new Aerospace Center of Excellence program in November. Classes at the Dakota Avenue facility, near the Coeur d’Alene Airport, began this fall with 40 students enrolled. NIC’s aerospace program is being funded with a $3 million federal grant awarded in September 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative.
    • Idaho Department of Labor hosted a U.S. Forest Service job fair in the 25 local offices. Nearly 680 job seekers attended with 94 seeking employment in northern Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest.
    • Spokane Valley-based Revett Minerals Inc., suspended mining at its Troy Mine in Montana last December due to safety concerns. The company reports that it won’t resume operations until late next year as it constructs a new underground route to copper and silver deposits. About 65 employees are working at the mine, down from 200 workers when the mine was in full production before the shutdown.

  • The Spokane Airport Board has agreed to acquire 844 acres of land west of Spokane International Airport for a possible third runway. The cost for the land, located south of Thorpe Road and east of Craig Road, is about $2.4 million. The transaction should be completed by the end of the year. Some of the cost could potentially be reimbursed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, as some of the land has partial eligibility related to future safety areas.
  • Ground Force Manufacturing recently received a contract from the largest mining company in Kazakhstan. Ground Force received a $5,436 State Trade and Export Promotion Grant distributed by the Idaho Department of Commerce and funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The grant gave Ground Force funds to take four trips overseas to the Kazakhstan market. The trips enabled the company to form new relationships with end-user customers as well as new Caterpillar dealers. A new product line, UnderGround Force, was launched in late 2012 and with recent growth, Ground Force Worldwide — parent company to Ground Force and UnderGround Force — now employs more than 200 people. The company’s business is currently 25 percent domestic and 75 percent international. Ground Force is a manufacturing company that builds the world’s largest fuel and lube trucks, largest water trucks and a diverse line of mine support equipment.

Openings & Expansions

  • WinCo opened in Coeur d’Alene (200 employees)
  • The Enaville Resort (Snakepit) reopened near Kingston along the north fork of the Coeur d’Alene River
  • EnVision Café opened in Hayden
  • Grandma Zulu’s Kitchen moved from Post Falls to Hayden
  • Touchstone Massage Therapies and Nutrition Plus! has expanded and moved within Sandpoint
  • Sandpoint Optometry takes over from a former optometric physician in Sandpoint
  • Mad Bomber Brewing Co. opened in Hayden
  • Affordable Insurance Solutions opened in Sandpoint
  • Apple Family Care opened in Coeur d’Alene
  • Coeur d’Alene Realty Investment and Property Management opened in Coeur d’Alene
  • Post Falls Hearing Aid Center opened in Post Falls
  • Two Knights Homebrew opened in Post Falls
  • Coeur d’Alene Primary Care opened in Coeur d’Alene
  • Re/Max Infinity Group opened a franchise in Coeur d’Alene

Closures

  • Silver Lake Masonry Supply closed in Coeur d’Alene
  • BiPlane Brewing closed in Post Falls
  • New York Bagels closed in Coeur d’Alene

North Central Idaho

  • Washington State’s minimum wage will increase by 13 cents to $9.32 an hour effective Jan. 1. The state’s minimum wage, which is adjusted each year for inflation, is the highest state minimum wage. Oregon’s rate will increase to $9.10 on Jan. 1, up from its current rate of $8.95. Idaho’s minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage — $7.25. Neither have changed since July 24, 2009. Employers must pay whichever is the higher of federal and state minimum wages. With north central Idaho’s largest counties — Latah and Nez Perce — bordering Washington, the Washington minimum wage affects workers’ wage expectations and therefore bolsters wage levels on the Idaho side of the border.
  • The former Forest Service complex on Grangeville’s Main Street, which had been on sale since 2009, sold in December. The seven-acre complex includes the supervisor’s office, the shop and the main building. Dentists Brad Schaff and Tyler Harrington purchased the supervisor’s office, where they plan to move their practice this spring. Gerad and Ang Poxleitner recently opened the shop as Extreme Auto. After Lance and Eve McCulloch purchased the main building, they began major renovations. The building will contain four businesses. The McCollochs’ Lighten Up/The Gym will expand from College Street. Wee Watch Child Care will provide full-time, part-time and drop-in care. Four massage therapists will offer all types of massage, detox treatments, reflexology and Reiki. Facials, waxing and spa treatments will be available at Let’s Face It. It also will include a smoothie bar. A grand opening will occur in late December or early January.
  • The Community Health Association of Spokane plans to devote a $650,000 federal grant it recently received to the clinic it opened on Moscow’s Main Street in June. The grant means Latah Community Health will become a federally qualified health center, allowing it to receive ongoing federal funding to help cover uncompensated care for low-income and other qualifying patients. The clinic will hire either a physician’s assistant or an advanced registered nurse practitioner in January. It also expects to start a reduced pricing system for pharmacy services.
  • Computers for industrial use are poised to become a fast-growing product line at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, based in Pullman. One of the computer’s innovative features is how it exhausts heat. Instead of fans that often break, leaving computers vulnerable to overheating, it uses hollow copper pipes that have wicking material and water vapor on the interior. Its 12th building at its Pullman campus was recently completed. The new building triples the company’s lab space. The company has nearly 150 offices and some 3,700 employees around the globe. Slightly more than half of them are in Pullman.

Openings

  • Ground Force Hobbies, selling and renting supplies for a wide variety of hobbies, on Jackson Street in Moscow
  • Model Home Furnishings, a furniture store on North and South Highway in Lewiston
  • Sauced, a restaurant serving lunch six days a week and open from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, at Sixth and Jackson in Moscow

Closing

  • The Quizno’s sandwich restaurant on Thain Grade in Lewiston closed in early December.

Southwestern Idaho

  • ATK Sporting Group announced it will lay off 64 workers at its Meridian plant between now and early 2104. The workers are in its cut and sew division.
  • Boise-based BMC announced they have purchased Western Building Specialties of Sacramento, Calif. The company said the purchase will allow BMC to expand its customer base to northern California.
  • Boise State University is launching a new program geared at helping entrepreneurs. The StartUp Shop will be a free program for both students and nonstudents that will connect entrepreneurs with industry leaders. The new program will be coordinated through the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the TECenter.

Expansion

  • St. Luke’s in Meridian new outpatient surgery center opened this month. The hospital expects 16 new hires.

Openings

  • Cherry Lane Family Clinic and Diabetes Care and Education Center in Meridian
  • Bodovino, wine tasting room and retail store, in Boise
  • West Valley Medical Group – Wilder Clinic
  • Hello Diner, which prepare and delivers ready-to-eat family style meals, in Meridian
  • Intersection BBQ Bar & Grill in New Meadows

Closing

  • Bueno Cheapo Vino in Boise

South Central Idaho

  • ARCH Community Housing Trust is moving forward on Quail Creek Community Complex, a low-income housing complex located along Highway 75 situated on two acres of donated land. Approval of the plan by Blaine County is still pending. Lower rental prices will be provided to those earning no more than 60 percent of median income at the time of completion, planned for 2015. It was estimated the project needed $6 million combined loan funding and tax credits to move forward.
  • Skywest reported it will reduce the number of flights into and out of the Wood River Valley, but will change the fleet to include larger regional jets. The extra airplane capacity will add about 100 seats daily to the net influx of air travelers. United Airlines will offer direct flights between San Francisco and Sun Valley using minimum revenue guarantees, which are locally funded program that ensures the commercial airline will at least cover its costs for maintaining flights to Hailey, which can experience seasonal fluctuations. In addition, Sugar Bowl, a Northern California ski resort, will offer a reciprocal pass program with Sun Valley.
  • Construction of the new Canyon Park West pedestrian mall has been delayed until next spring due to lack of tenant commitment. The only definite tenant is Idaho Central Credit Union. The mall will be built on the Snake River Canyon Rim and received early criticism from a grassroots group regarding its placement and design. City leadership approved the project.
  • Building permits in the city of Twin Falls are on the uptick with 14 single family home permits issued in November compared with five in each of the two preceding years. The highest volume of November building over the past 16 years occurred in November 2006 with 60 permits. Total permits are creeping back to pre-recession levels, currently at 187 for November year-to-date.

Openings

  • Scooters Bar and Grill opened at the former Beacon Burger ‘N Brew in Twin Falls
  • Finders Keepers, a consignment store in Kimberly

Closures

  • Woody’s Bar in Old Towne Twin Falls closed when they couldn’t buy the liquor license they had been leasing for three years.
  • A Promise of Hope Hospice closed in Twin Falls citing complicated billing procedures that slowed cash flow.

Under Construction

  • An Idaho Central Credit Union branch is in mid-construction planning to serve the southeastern quadrant of Twin Falls’ population.
  • A 5,000-square-foot strip mall in Burley will house four retailers. One space is owner-occupied while the second will be occupied by an existing business with plans to relocate. The remaining two spaces are in lease negotiation

Southeastern Idaho

  • Heinz Frozen Foods announced in November that it would be closing its operation in Pocatello within the next eight months along with facilities in the U.S. and Canada. The closures are part of an effort by Heinz to streamline operations. All 410 employees at the Pocatello facility can expect to lose their jobs over the next eight months. Currently, staff from the Idaho Department of Labor’s Pocatello office are working with Heinz’s management to help make the transition easier for employees. Heinz purchased the Pocatello facility in the 1980s. At its peak, the Pocatello Heinz plant employed about 800 workers.
  • On Nov. 14 staff from the Idaho Department of Labor and Southeastern Idaho Technical Charter High School set up a soft jobs skills workshop for local high school students. Soft jobs skills are basic qualities and habits which help an employee succeed at their job such as proper dress and grooming; being on time for work; working well with others; communication skills; and a positive attitude while on the job. Students at the seminar listened to Preston employers explain why soft job skills are critical. Other soft job skills seminars have been presented in Malad, Blackfoot and Pocatello.

Eastern Idaho

  • Contractors and officials are discussing possible changes for Idaho’s nuclear cleanup contracts. Department of Energy officials are looking into breaking the two main contracts into smaller pieces for smaller businesses. The current contracts expire at the end of fiscal year 2015. One contract is held by the Idaho Treatment Group, which employs around 600 people. The other contract is held by CH2M-WG, also known as CWI, and employs around 1,100 people.
  • Battelle Energy Alliance received an A- from the Department of Energy on its 2013 report card. The Department of Energy adjusts the contractor’s fee according to its performance evaluation. Battelle received 91.4 percent or $17.1 million of the total $18.5 million available. In 2012 Battelle earned 86.6 percent of the available fee.
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho teamed up with Lincoln Elementary School in Rexburg to fund a STEM-related club. College students and professors instruct and mentor the elementary school students. BYU-Idaho science majors have the opportunity to test their teaching skills while the younger students learn about science, technology, engineering and math. There are only 20 spots in the club but organizers hope to expand the opportunity to other schools in the district.

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