July Economic Activity Around Idaho

 

regional economic updates header

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Southeastern & Eastern Idaho

NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and  Shoshone counties

Regional Developments

  • Former State Sen. Jim Hammond is the new executive director of Panhandle Area Council. As the mayor of Post Falls and in other capacities, Hammond has been on the council board of directors for more than 20 years.
  • My Place Hotels LLC of Aberdeen, S.D., is developing a $3.4 million, 30,000-square-foot extended-stay hotel in Washington’s Spokane Valley. The hotel is slated to be finished in September and will employ up to 15 people.
  • Two of the three megaload shipments of oil refinery equipment proposed to be trucked through northern Idaho will be shipped by rail instead. The third shipment will most likely move on U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200 through northern Idaho, requiring a temporary on-ramp to Interstate 90 from east Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. A National Environmental Policy Act review is pending.
  • The University of Idaho received a $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to provide students with real-world research in STEM fields. The five-year grant will finance a new curriculum with an initial focus on Idaho’s water quality. The university also received a $1 million grant from the Micron Foundation to attract more students in STEM fields.

Benewah County                                                                                                                              

  • The Coeur d’Alene Tribe was awarded $4.1 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior to identify tribal members who own reservation land and are willing to sell it to the tribe. The buyback program is part of an effort to consolidate reservation land ownership so the tribe can manage its resources more efficiently. The grant does not cover transactions with nontribal members or for land outside the reservation. The purchase program will end in 2022.
  • Federal grant changes will require one less daily Citylink run along its rural service route between the Coeur d’Alene Casino north of Worley and De Smet. With the changes, there will be eight daily trips between the casino and De Smet during the week and nine per day on weekends.

Bonner County

  • Sycamore Partners, a New York-based private-equity firm that owns Aeropostale, Hot Topic, Talbots, and a number of other retail chains, acquired the Coldwater Creek brand and related intellectual property. The firm intends to relaunch Coldwater Creek as an independent company. The Sycamore affiliate, CWC Direct LLC, bought the assets as part of Coldwater Creek’s ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Sandpoint company, which had 6,600 employees and 330 stores last fall, filed for bankruptcy protection on April 11 and disclosed plans to liquidate its inventory in early May.

Boundary County

  • MMG Ltd., an Australian mining company, has started conducting exploratory drilling on Forest Service land in Boundary County two miles south of the Canadian border and three miles east of Idaho Highway 1. The company is looking for lead, zinc and nickel deposits in the Hall Mountain area. Based on past geologic surveys, the area may also contain some rare earth minerals such as thorium. Company officials anticipate three to five years of exploratory drilling before they know if there could be a viable mining operation. If the company pursues a mine, it would be required to go through an extensive environmental review process.

Kootenai County

  • A new affordable housing project is being proposed in midtown Coeur d’Alene. The project will consist of 38 units in a three-story building of 12,000 square feet.
  • A $3.1 million wastewater system improvement project will serve about 200 properties in Carlin Bay on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The project includes constructing a new lagoon, improving the existing one and developing a land application program at a forest site. The project will cost each property owner about $15,000, which can be paid off in one lump sum or over 30 years at 0.25 percent interest. Rates will increase about $40 per month when the project is complete. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality provided a $2.8 million loan for the project and offered to forgive repayment of more than $300,000 based on the median income in the area and other factors. Construction could be completed by late 2015.
  • The Post Falls City Council applied for a $495,000 Idaho Community Development Block Grant to finance infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the possible relocation of Unitech Composites in Riverbend Commerce Park. According to the city, the company will increase its current payroll of 140 to 190 and could add another 100 workers over the next five years. Unitech, a division of AGC AeroComposites, is a joint venture between Unique Fiberglass in Post Falls and Fibertech in Kalispell, Mont. The company, set up in 1979, makes aerospace parts for about 30 customers including Boeing, Airbus and the military. Production and sales have increased 25 percent a year during the past three years.

Shoshone County

  • Work at the Sunshine Mine was suspended during investigation of an accident on June 2. The Sunshine Mine is owned by Sunshine Silver Mines Corp. and last produced ore in 2008. The company has been in the process of reopening for commercial silver production. As of May 31, the Sunshine Mine employed 29 people.
  • Silver Mountain added beginner and intermediate trails to its mountain biking trails on Chair 3.
  • Heritage Health announced a partnership with Mountain Health in Kellogg.

Openings

  • Live the Lake, a souvenir shop, in Coeur d’Alene
  • Metanoia Hot Yoga Studio in Coeur d’Alene
  • The Bayview Mercantile in Bayview
  • Jack In The Box’s second location in Coeur d’Alene
  • Supercuts in the Crossroads complex in Coeur d’Alene
  • Mario’s Mexican Restaurant in Bayview
  • Crafted Tap House in Coeur d’Alene with 46 employees
  • One Good Thread, a girls’ boutique store, in Coeur d’Alene

Expansions

  • Keet Sweet Preschool and Kindergarten in Coeur d’Alene

Closures

  • Vivint Inc., a call center in Liberty Lake, Wash., on June 27, affecting 400 workers

Alivia.Metts@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 457-8789 ext. 3486

NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO  – Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties

 Regional Developments

  • The Clearwater Economic Development Association will receive $152,492 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative to launch a train-the-trainer program to teach community representatives how to take development projects from ideas to reality. The three-year program will train representatives from 14 rural communities in classrooms and online about how to transfer the skills they learn to others. Association trainers will help each participating community complete one project.
  • June rains evened out a very dry April and May and extremely wet February and March to leave north central fields in good condition. Year-to-date precipitation was near average by the end of June, and it is likely this year’s yields will be good for wheat, peas, lentils, garbanzos and canola.

Clearwater County

  • Orofino-based SJX Jet Boats was featured in an episode of Animal Planet’s “No Limits” that aired July 11. Its boats were used for action sequences on the Clearwater and Snake Rivers including Hells Canyon.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • The Monastery of St. Gertrude near Cottonwood recently opened a welcome center at its historical museum. Guests can learn about the history of the monastery and the Camas Prairie, take a tour and obtain a map of walking areas on the hillside. The gift shop has been moved from the main building to the welcome center and is open longer.

Latah County

  • The Clearwater Economic Development Association will receive a $15,000 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to support concept design for the Greater Palouse Slaughter Facility, a small-scale, shared slaughterhouse. The association wrote the grant application and will administer the grant on behalf of Greater Palouse Meat Producers, local people who want to establish a USDA-inspected plant to serve local producers and consumers.
  • The University of Idaho hopes to excite more interest among students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a new strategy for introductory laboratory classes in those fields. The strategy was developed with a $1.2 million grant to the school’s Biosciences Retention and Academic Innovation Network for Students. Trish Hartzell, a microbiology professor, says students fall out of STEM programs in the early years because they do not understand the big picture and lose interest. Introductory lab classes will feature local research and make connections that are engaging and interactive to keep more students involved in STEM fields. Students still will learn the standard tools and fundamentals, but they will actively engage in research. Funding will start in September and last for five years. The first project will focus on local water pollution issues.
  • A University of Idaho-led research network received a $16.3 million, five-year renewal grant from the National Institute of Health. The grant will finance biomedical research postdoctoral fellowships, graduate student funding, six separate undergraduate research programs and faculty development including mentoring, recruitment seminars, mini-sabbaticals and visiting scholars. All the state colleges and universities are part of the Idaho Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, created in 2001. The network helps undergraduate students become medical doctors and scientists by providing more research opportunities.

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • The tourism bureau serving Nez Perce and Asotin counties recently changed its name from the Hells Canyon Visitor Bureau to “Visit Lewis Clark Valley, Gateway to Hells Canyon.” The new name better reflects the area’s full range of scenic, outdoor recreation, historical and cultural assets.
  • Traffic through the Lewiston city library is up since it moved downtown from the Lewiston Orchards a year ago. Programs for children and classes for adults are packed. As hoped, the library is bringing more visitors downtown, benefitting neighboring businesses. The library has begun fundraising for a planned $2.25 million expansion that would provide 15,000 additional square feet for a larger meeting room, smaller class and study rooms and more space to display books.
  • The Shops at Penney Lane in downtown Lewiston will begin taking shape next spring. The 25,000-square-foot building, which originally housed J.C. Penney and more recently Courtesy Rent-to-Own, is being converted into a complex of 11 boutique shops and 14 apartments. Construction is likely to take a year to complete.
  • The Port of Clarkston opened the first phase of its Turning Pointe Business Park on June 30. The 45-acre park has sewer, water, electricity and natural gas and will add high-speed Internet this fall. The port is recruiting manufacturers as tenants. Parcels can be purchased or leased. Wanda Keefer, the port’s manager, said the park will create more jobs for people and help keep money in the economy. A feasibility study is estimated to have up to a $10 million economic impact.
  • Centennial Elementary School in Lewiston and Lapwai Middle-High School are among 15 schools statewide receiving Idaho Technology Pilot Grants for the 2014-15 school year. Centennial will receive about $67,700 to implement an initiative focused on science, technology, research, engineering, arts and mathematics. The money will finance iPads, 3-D printers, high-definition camcorders, 12 GPS units and two Lego Robotic teams. The Lapwai school will use its $33,000 grant to install Mimio Interactive Projectors throughout the building. The projectors turn regular white boards into interactive learning surfaces. They allow people to use sensors and pens to navigate websites on a conventional dry-erase board surface.

Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 799-5000, ext. 3984

SOUTHWESTERN IDAHO –  Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley & Washington counties

Ada County

  • After less than a month, the Ada County Highway District’s experiment with special bike lanes was terminated. Members of the commission said they still favored bike lanes, but the initial experiment on downtown Boise sections of Capitol Boulevard, Main Street and Idaho Street resulted in perceptions of traffic congestion, unsafe design and inconvenience for motorists. The highway district staff is investigating other plans for bike lanes.
  • Two airlines started new nonstop flights from the Boise Airport in June. Delta Air Lines launched a nonstop flight to Los Angeles and Southwest Airlines began a nonstop flight to Chicago Midway.
  • The state’s largest school district will change its name from Meridian to West Ada. The district includes Meridian, Eagle, Star and portions of Kuna, Boise and Garden City along with a sliver of Canyon County. It covers 380 square miles. The changeover to West Ada School District will take several months.

Canyon County

  • Property values rose more than 30 percent from mid-2013 to mid-2014 in Caldwell, Middleton, Nampa and Wilder, and  were up 19 percent or more in the other cities in Canyon County.
  • Steve Fultz, who led the Caldwell Economic Development Council for the past 11 years, has become the director of economic development for the city. He will continue to work with basic sector employers to bring jobs and investment to the city through a comprehensive economic development strategy that does not concentrate on either the downtown area or industrial development.
  • Moody’s Investor Service has upgraded the Nampa School District’s financial outlook from negative to stable and held the district’s bond rating steady. Moody’s said it expects district finances to gradually recover as a result of management’s corrective actions. The district’s financial problems began in 2012 when it ended the fiscal year in a deficit that grew to $5.3 million by 2013. Moody’s said it expects an operating surplus and a slightly positive reserve balance this year.

Elmore County

  • The Mountain Home Youth Center has been closed indefinitely after asbestos was uncovered in the building during a renovation project. City officials are determining the cost of dealing with asbestos in the building and have not determined when, or if, it will be reopened.

 Gem County

  • A new hydroelectric generating unit will be added at the Black Canyon Diversion Dam on the Payette River during the second half of 2015. Installation is being delayed four months so federal cost estimates can be checked by an independent engineering firm. The new unit will more than double the generating capacity to 22.5 megawatts, enough to power over 9,000 homes a year.
  • Gem Forest Products has hired 18 workers, mostly by word of mouth, as it continues preparations to open the mill in Emmett. About 600 loads of logs have already been delivered to the site, and Operations Manager Tim Denton expects to obtain logs locally as much as possible.

Payette County

  • St. Luke’s Fruitland Clinic opens its 24-hour emergency department in August, completing the first phase of its $55 million plan to improve health care access in western Idaho and eastern Oregon. The second phase involves relocating the Fruitland cancer clinic and other outpatient services to the Fruitland Clinic’s medical plaza. It is contingent on the community covering $2.5 million of the cost.

Valley County

  • The Valley County Commission is the first in the state to approve use of its groomed snowmobile trails by bicycles with fat tires. Cyclists will need a $25 permit to use the trails. The county snowmobile advisory group maintained the permits will attract more people to the area, increasing recreational spending in the county.
  • The city of McCall is considering its largest mixed-use development project in seven years. The Village on Lake Street would include 27 condominiums, 8,700 square feet of retail space and 5,300 square feet of office space.
  • Economic activity is picking up in Valley County but while employers want to expand payrolls, they have indicated they cannot find people for the jobs. Idaho Department of Labor McCall Manager Jim Thackeray said the demand for labor has been pushing wages higher while business operators are increasing hours for existing employees and working more themselves.
  • The Cascade Food Pantry has moved into its new location across from the airport. The building was purchased through the efforts of local churches, the city and Mark and Kristina Pickard, who developed the Kelly’s Whitewater Park in the city. The pantry opened in 2011 and was serving over 100 families twice a month at the end of 2013.

Washington County

  • Residential building permits so far this year have already exceeded the total for all of 2013 in Washington County. County Planning and Zoning Administrator Robert Dickerson says the value of those permits is also up in what he described as the busiest the agency has been since 2006.
  • Construction has begun on $6.8 million in improvements to the Weiser wastewater treatment plant. The city faced up to $10,000 a day in federal fines without the upgrades. The work should be finished in mid-2016.

Bob.Fick@labor.idaho.gov, communications manager
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3628

SOUTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties

Twin Falls County

  • The College of Southern Idaho’s Applied Technology and Innovation Center will be ready for students this fall. The college received a $4.4 million Economic Development Administration grant that covered just over half the construction cost. The building is being reviewed for Silver LEEDS certification and will draw some of its energy from a wind turbine and solar panels. Wind energy, drafting, manufacturing, HVAC, environmental technology and food processing technologies will be offered in the center, which is more than 40,000 square feet.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Chobani Greek yogurt as the supplier for a school lunch pilot program that will expand to 12 states this fall. Chobani, which has a plant in south central Idaho, got the first one-month contract to supply Greek yogurt to seven of the 12 states, beginning with the new school year. The federal test began last year in four states — New York, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee — where Greek yogurt was offered as a protein substitute in the federal school lunch program. Under the new contract, Chobani will be offered in New York, Arizona, Idaho, California, Iowa, Illinois and Mississippi.
  • Twin Falls School District teachers will receive a 1.5 percent salary increase and a $20 increase to $95 for each personal day they don’t use. Salary negotiations went smoothly, according to both sides of the issue. This is the first pay increase since the 2007-2008 academic year.

Cassia County

  • The city of Burley has agreed to a 10-year lease for development of a go-cart and motocross race track on 50 acres of city land. The track will include an area for spectators and a paintball course. The developer will invest $250,000 and the city will require a reclamation bond. Further details of the lease must still be worked out.
  • Former Gov. John Evans died July 8 at 89. Evans served in the military and then was a member of the Idaho Senate and lieutenant governor before becoming governor in 1976 when Cecil Andrus was named secretary of the Interior Department by President Jimmy Carter. Evans won two full terms before failing to unseat U.S. Sen. Steve Symms in 1986. He returned to the family business, the D.L. Evans Bank, where he was president.

Minidoka County

  • The Minidoka County Fire Protection District will build a new fire station to provide quicker response times for the eastern side of the county. The million-dollar project is being partially financed with a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gooding County

  • Clear Springs Foods donated $50,000 towards construction of Buhl’s Boys and Girls Club. A new facility has been part of its long-range plan after operating in Buhl for the past 10 years.

Blaine County

  • The Flying Hat Ranch, owned by the Spencer Eccles family of Salt Lake City, has petitioned for annexation by the city of Bellevue. An annexation request covering a portion of the 700-acre ranch was denied in 2000. The current request for 227-acres has 1.5 miles of highway frontage, which is currently in irrigated fields. There were indications the owners want to develop the land.
  • The city of Ketchum has used an early out clause to end its relationship with the Idaho State Tax Commission, which signed a five-year contract in 2013 to administer the city’s local option tax. The council believes the terms of the contract were misunderstood and the costs were too high in a declining tax environment.
  • Construction will start in September on the Mountain Rides transportation hub in downtown Ketchum. It’s estimated to take about two months to build bus shelters, add curb extensions, create colored and artist-stamped concrete crosswalks and plant trees. The hub will include 30 bicycle parking spaces and benches in the public area. The cost of the project is $461,000 and is jointly funded by the Federal Transit Authority, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, Mountain Rides and the city of Ketchum.
  • The Friedman Memorial Airport hosted a champagne and cake celebration to welcome the inaugural United Airlines direct flight from Denver. The flight depends on minimum revenue guarantees that are funded by a $500,000 federal grant. The daily flight is operating from July 2 through Aug. 25 and then drops to five times a week through Sept. 23 while new contract negotiations determine whether the service continues through the winter.

Openings

  • Slice, a brick oven pizza restaurant in downtown Twin Falls

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639

SOUTHEASTERN & EASTERN IDAHO – Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Butte, Caribou, Clark, Custer, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, Oneida,  & Teton counties

Bannock County

  • The Idaho Museum of Natural History on Idaho State University’s campus in Pocatello is celebrating 80 years of operation. Opened in 1934 during the Great Depression by a group of faculty members, the museum has featured items of the area’s natural history that are up to 16 million years old. It has gained a reputation for showcasing the fauna of Idaho’s ancient past – long-extinct mammals such as saber tooth tigers and dinosaurs.
  • The Pocatello Regional Airport is seeing an increase in air traffic, and officials expect continued growth. Airport Security Coordinator Kristy Heinz said the airport has seen a steady increase in travel since 2012, spurred by the recent addition of SkyWest flights, which now number 27 a week. The Pocatello Airport offers flights to and from Salt Lake City, but Heinz said that could change if customers demand it.

Bonneville County

  • Travelers in and out of Idaho Falls Regional Airport will now find themselves in a larger facility. A 5,000-foot expansion opened in early June, providing room for new ticket counters and a more efficient baggage system. Most of the project was financed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Caribou County

  • A new Environmental Protection Agency report says emissions of phosphine, carbonyl sulfide and hydrogen cyanide from the Monsanto plant have been substantially reduced. The company installed a $60 million thermal oxidizer pollution control system in late 2012 to improve air quality in and around Soda Springs, and the system has worked while still enhancing the production of elemental phosphorus.

Franklin County

  • Radio talk show host Glenn Beck was in Dayton in early July, the featured guest at a fundraiser for the Dahle Performing Arts Center. Several hundred paid $40 to hear the conservative personality.

Madison County

  • Several Rexburg residents are developing a strategy to save the Spanish-colonial style building that was a former seminary building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Last fall the Madison School District Board, which acquired the building and was using it for administrative offices, voted to demolish it for addition parking. Currently, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers are working on the proposal to save the historic structure and use the building for the community’s benefit.

Power County

  • Power County commissioners and the county prosecutor, responding to concerns about the proposed Magnida fertilizer plant, agreed that existing and new businesses must be protected but that agreements are in place to protect local residents and the environment. They said that over the past year Magnida has demonstrated its willingness to be good neighbors and the company has provided complete information about the proposed plant. Corporate officials pledged to comply with all environmental regulations.
  • Former Idaho state legislator Ralph “Moon” Wheeler at age 81. Wheeler, who served in both the House and Senate, was best known for sponsoring legislation to establish kindergarten statewide. Most recently he  worked with the Citizens’ Advisory Council in American Falls to upgrade the community’s sewer and water systems.

 Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 236-6710 ext. 3713