October Economic Activity Around Idaho

Information provided in this article has been gathered from various sources throughout the state, including local newspapers and other media.

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

STATEWIDE DEVELOPMENTS

  • The Wayne Brown Institute, a Salt Lake City venture capital accelerator focusing on technology companies, wants to increase its presence in Idaho. The accelerator wants to add up to 40 Idaho mentors to counsel new entrepreneurs and find more startups seeking venture capital funding. The institute is a nonprofit accelerator that has helped companies raise more than $8 billion including acquisitions and stock offerings since 1983. President Brad Bertoch said its model works because its mentoring program for startups is not just free consulting but a short-term, focused program to help companies appeal to venture capital investors.
  • Nowhere in the United States does it take less money to join the top 1 percent than in Idaho. Business Insider, which weighed household income data from the 2012 American Community Survey to estimate the income requirements necessary to reach the top 1 percent, found it takes just $274,000 a year to be in Idaho’s top 1 percent. Montana was next at $280,000 followed by New Mexico at $286,009 and Wyoming at $295,000. At the other end of the spectrum, it takes $688,000 a year in Washington, D.C., to make the District’s top 1 percent, $642,000 in Connecticut, $511,000 in New York and $504,000 in New Jersey. California ranked eighth at $433,000. Idahoans have a head start in reaching the Top 1 percent. According to calculations by the Business Insider, 14 states have a lower median household income.

Ethan.Mansfield@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455

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

Region

  • Five grain cooperatives in central and eastern Washington will build a major rail loading facility on the West Plains to ship wheat on Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway lines. The $26.4 million project near Interstate 90 will protect existing shipping rates for growers in the region. The facility will assemble 110-car trains for shipment. It will include off-loading and loading capabilities, using a large circular track for train assembly. In addition to the transfer and loading facility, the project is seeking government funding for 6.9 miles of short line track improvements to Cheney at a cost of $6 million. Those improvements include upgrading rail load ratings, better ballast and improved crossings.
  • Electric rates for Avista Utilities’ Idaho customers increased 4.2 percent through a surcharge that allows utilities to recover costs from the previous year that were not included in base rates. For a residential customer using Avista’s average of 930 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, the monthly bill would increase by $3.76, from $81.88 to $85.64. The increase allows Avista to recover $7.7 million in additional power supply expenses. An outage at the Colstrip coal plant in Montana last year was responsible for about half of the higher power supply costs. Avista, which is a part owner of Colstrip, was forced to buy replacement power for about seven months. A 19 percent increase in electrical demand and opening of the Palouse Wind Farm also added to the utility’s power costs.
  • The Washington Alliance of Teaching Physicians has supported a fully accredited medical school in Spokane. The group is meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators to move forward on the school. The group says a second medical school will address a physician shortage throughout Washington. Washington averages 1.48 doctors per 1,000 population, while the national average is around 2.7. Idaho averages only one doctor per 1,000 population.
  • According to the Spokane Journal of Business, Bouten Construction Co. of Spokane is handling the expansion and remodel of the adult cardiac intensive care unit at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital. The project will add 12 critical-care beds, bringing the total to 34. The unit will then be remodeled. The project should be completed in spring 2016.

Benewah County

  • UpRiver Elementary School in St. Maries has an enrollment of 79 students in kindergarten through sixth grade this year, 11 more than projected. The school board decided to hire another full-time teacher for the school, according to the St. Maries Gazette. The school runs combination classes of first and second, third and fourth and fifth and sixth grades. Because class sizes in the third and fourth grade classroom were larger than expected, the district decided to hire a full-time aide at about $20,000 to provide additional support. A full-time teacher costs between $45,000 and $52,000. The district has an enrollment of 931 students, which is 30 more than expected.

Bonner County

  • The city-owned Bonner Business Center will be renovated to ensure that Lead-Lok remains in Sandpoint while its parent company, New York-based Graphic Controls, implements an expansion plan.

 Kootenai County

  •  The U.S. Highway 95 project through Worley received $7.4 million in federal funding. The project was one of 72 in 46 states to be awarded a portion of the $600 million in TIGER grants issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The state is upgrading 2.75 miles of the highway – the last segment of the 15-year project, $190 million highway improvement project.
  • Former commercial pilot Murdo Cameron, an innovator in the field of advanced composite materials, has transformed how thunderboats are built by greatly reducing their weight and cost while making them stronger. He is working from North Idaho College’s new Aerospace Center of Excellence to improve his product.
  • North Idaho College held a one-hour workshop in early October showcasing a variety of resources, information and tools available to explore careers. Following the workshop, participants were helped finding accurate and reputable information needed to make good career choices.
  • Rick Rasmussen has been named the new chief executive for Northwest Specialty Hospital. According to news reports, Rasmussen joined the hospital in 2012 as chief financial officer and facility compliance officer. Before that, he spent 25 years at the Louisiana-Pacific Corp. working his way from staff accountant to financial planning and analysis manager at the Hayden Lake office.
  • A new teachers contract for the Coeur d’Alene School District has been approved by the school board. It includes a 0.5 percent base salary increase, no change to the health insurance co-payments or the co-insurance responsibility and a reduction of the district’s contribution to the family health insurance premium by 1 percentage point to 68 percent. It also includes raises for teachers and other certified employees eligible for additional compensation under the state’s “steps and lanes” system. The terms of the agreement will apply to all district employees, not just teachers.

Openings/Expansions

  • ACES Community Health Services clinic expanded its space in St. Maries
  • Bright Futures Preschool in St. Maries
  • Anytime Fitness in Coeur d’Alene
  • Goat Mountain Pizzeria in Bonners Ferry
  • Sewinjeanius in Coeur d’Alene
  • Coeur de Breizh Crepes in Coeur d’Alene
  • Coeur d’Alene Souvenir & Sundry
  • LYHITM in Coeur d’Alene
  • Farmgirlfit, a fitness center designed for women, in Coeur d’Alene

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

Region

    • Helping high schools understand how to prepare students for jobs in manufacturing is a high economic development priority in north central Idaho. The Clearwater Economic Development Association invited professional-technical teachers, school administrators, school board members and career counselors to explore the region’s manufacturing sector Oct. 2-3 at the Clearwater River Casino & Event Center in Lewiston. “Fabricating Future Innovators: A Hands-On Experience for Educators” workshop showed the occupational opportunities provided by manufacturers and demonstrated the workforce skills they need. Participants also toured Nightforce Optics, SJX Boats and ASE Signs in Orofino; HillCo Technologies and Idaho Forest Group on the Camas Prairie; Clearwater Hydraulics and ATK in Lewiston; and Renaissance Marine Group and Jetco Machine & Fabrication in Asotin County, Wash. Educators could earn credit for professional development while meeting manufacturers. Raymond Dixon of the University of Idaho gave an overview of the metal supercluster curriculum development project where he will analyze the skills required to do the top five jobs in the supercluster and use that knowledge to create training programs. The cluster includes machine shops, firearm and ammunition manufacturers, metal fabricators, jet boat builders and equipment makers. Earlier this year, the association brought high school officials in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington together to see how they can improve technical education. The schools identified four projects – establishing an industry liaison to bridge communication between the major regional industries and education; developing career expos to expose students, their parents and educators to local careers in manufacturing; creating a community education foundation as a one-stop resource for funding for projects and grant matching opportunities; and developing a regional field trip to expose educators and school officials to local manufacturers. The association’s Workforce Development Council, which focuses on the workforce needs of the manufacturing sector, decided to start with the field trip project and will pursue the other projects in the future.
    • Washington’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents to $9.47 an hour on Jan. 1, reflecting the increase in consumer prices. The Washington Labor and Industries Department estimates the increase will affect more than 67,000 workers statewide. Washington currently has the highest minimum wage of the 50 states. Oregon will raise its minimum wage 15 cents to $9.25 in 2015. Idaho’s minimum wage remains the same as the federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour. The last time the Idaho and federal minimum wage rates rose was in July 2009. Employers in the Moscow and Lewiston areas compete for workers with employers in the Pullman and Clarkston areas, and many find they must pay above the Idaho minimum wage to attract and keep workers.
    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 11 Idaho counties as primary natural disaster areas due to crop production losses associated with excessive rain, flash flooding, high winds and hail that occurred between July 25 and Sept. 1. Clearwater County, where hail wiped out wheat fields around Fraser in August, was among them. Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties were among the 19 other Idaho counties listed as contiguous disaster counties. A disaster designation makes farmers eligible for emergency loans and other assistance from the Farm Service Agency.
    • Four flour millers from Japan visited wheat production and marketing operations in north central Idaho in September. They met with representatives of the Idaho Wheat Commission, Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative and the University of Idaho to gain understanding of how the soft white and club wheat are produced. Japan buys about 129 million bushels of U.S. wheat each year, making it the largest overseas consumer of American-grown wheat. Soft white wheat and club wheat, which are made into bakery products and noodles, make up about 20 percent of all Japanese wheat imports.
    • The Idaho Travel Council awarded nearly $3.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Idaho to promote cities, towns and regions as tourist destinations. The funding comes from a 2 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms and on private campgrounds. Organizations in north central Idaho received a total of $209,250.

Moscow Chamber of Commerce                        $43,000
Hells Canyon Visitor Bureau                               $40,000
North Central Idaho Travel Association             $37,000
Salmon River Chamber of Commerce                $35,000
Kamiah Chamber of Commerce                         $23,500
Orofino Chamber of Commerce                         $16,000
Grangeville Chamber                                          $12,500
City of Lapwai                                                     $2,250

Nez Perce Tribe

  • The Nez Perce Tribe’s enterprise division recently decided to shut down the construction management group it formed two years ago. The group worked on the casino expansion and then on the Camas Express convenience store near Winchester. Originally, it was intended to work on other tribal contracts for a couple of years and then begin seeking other projects. But there was not enough work to keep it going. The end of the construction business will delay work on the longhouse the tribe plans to build at Spalding. The longhouse will be dedicated to traditional spiritual beliefs. It will replace temporary dwellings used since a fire destroyed an older longhouse more than 20 years ago. Funding for the $2.7 million project comes from the Snake River Basin Adjudication water and fisheries fund, which is in part for cultural preservation.

Clearwater County

  • The Rex Theater in downtown Orofino closed for a few days in October while new digital equipment including a projector, screen and sound system were installed. The new equipment turns the 96-year-old building into a state-of-the-art theater, able to show the latest movies. The city used a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to install the equipment to show movies in the new digital format.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • Idaho County plans to spend $3.3 million on a major renovation of the Grangeville airport next year. Complete replacement of the aging runway could begin by next summer to handle growing private traffic and keep the airport a priority firefighting facility for the Forest Service for the foreseeable future. The federal agency is the airport’s largest customer. From its air center there, it sends aircraft and smokejumpers to hotspots across the Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests and other forests across the West. About 45 people work at the dispatch center and smokejumper base.
  • The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests recently installed a 60-foot bridge at Saddle Camp Road in the Lochsa Ranger District including a bottomless arch culvert to allow fish passage. The structures will handle 100-year flood flows. The Moose Creek Ranger District improved Road 319 on Fog Mountain and repaired damage caused by a slide on Indian Hill Road 290.

Latah County

  • Office Depot will close its Moscow store Nov. 15. The office supply retailer plans to close 165 stores by the end of this year and another 330 or so over the next few years, according to a public relations representative from the company. In recent years, office-supply retailers have faced tough competition from Amazon, Internet retailers and big-box discounters. At the same time demand for traditional office supplies has fallen as more and more work is “paperless” and information and reports are stored, shared and distributed digitally. The store employs more than a dozen people.
  • The 1912 Center, a historic school building that the city of Moscow turned into a community center 14 years ago, is receiving a $136,000 facelift. By the end of November windows and brick work will be replaced, paid for with private donations, a $10,000 grant from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and a $4,500 grant from the Idaho Heritage Trust.
  • Another mile of the Latah Trail will be repaired and paved with a $98,500 award from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. The Latah Trail Foundation will contribute $40,600 toward the project, which will add another mile of pavement south of Troy. Work probably will start next spring. The 22-mile trail section between Moscow and Troy was completed in 2008 and connects Paradise Path in Moscow and the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail between Pullman and Moscow. Two years ago, four more miles of trail were added between Troy and Kendrick. The county pays for landscaping and routine maintenance of the trail while donations, grants and other forms of assistance pay for the trail and its expansions.
  • The University of Idaho’s Counseling and Testing Center is the first in the state to earn test center certification from the National College Testing Association. The certification will make sure staff adhere to high standards when administering tests. The testing center isn’t just for university students. It’s also used for virtual education, GED testing and by government agencies including the federal Transportation Security Administration.
  • The National Science Foundation awarded Washington State University nearly half a million dollars to enhance its cyber infrastructure for research. The grant will expand bandwidth and provide a high-speed Internet network solely for the school’s research facilities.
  • A new coworking space opened Sept. 19 in downtown Moscow. MosCoWork allows entrepreneurs to rent desks and get access to wireless Internet and printing. The space is open to members around the clock.
  • At his inauguration as the University of Idaho’s 18th president on Sept. 19, Chuck Staben told the audience he expects the university’s enrollment to increase by 50 percent 10 years from now. He spoke about the importance of universities for economic development. By staying true to its land-grant mission, the university provides benefits to Idaho farmers and businesses, doing research that makes a difference. The ceremony was held on the 125th anniversary of the school’s opening.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx met with University of Idaho students and faculty Oct. 1, saying the university’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology is helping bring transportation technology into the 21st Century. Over the past nine years the federal transportation agency has invested $7 million in the institute, which is developing engineering solutions to transportation problems in Idaho and the U.S. and preparing students to be leaders in the design, deployment and operation of our nation’s complex transportation systems. The interdisciplinary institute has developed a comprehensive program of education, research and technology transfer. One group is developing and evaluating advanced traffic control systems while another is focusing on clean vehicles including recreational vehicles to reduce their impact on the environment.

Nez Perce and Asotin, Wash., Counties

  • Walla Walla Community College announced Sept. 29 it has received a $2.35 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create a professional-technical training center at its Clarkston campus. It will pay half the cost of constructing a $4.7 million Workforce and Business Development Center. The college already owns the land and the remaining costs will be covered by student building fees and fundraising. The 13,000-square-foot building east of the college’s north parking lot will house classrooms and laboratories where students will learn how to operate, troubleshoot, and repair machines that fabricate goods. The center will employ a full-time faculty coordinator and up to 10 part-time instructors. Subjects will include industrial maintenance, robotics, welding and fabrication, precision machining, electricity and energy systems and business programs. Graduates will be prepared for entry level jobs paying from $13 to $16 an hour at businesses such as Clearwater Paper, ATK, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and aluminum boat builders. Enrollment at the Clarkston campus, which currently is 650, is expected to grow by 90 students per quarter when the center opens in late 2016.
  • U.S. Sen. Jim Risch recognized Seekins Precision in Lewiston as the Idaho small business of the month in September, citing its high-quality products, commitment to customer service and ability to adapt in a rapidly changing market. Founded in 2004 by Glen and Katie Seekins, the business grew from making original scope rings with just a handful of employees to developing over 10 upper-end rifle lines and creating over 25 jobs. Seekins recently moved from an incubator space at the Port of Lewiston to a new building near the Lewiston airport.
  • The Andritz Group, a multinational company based in Austria, announced in early October plans to consolidate its Precision Machine operation in Lewiston with its Spokane plant next June. Most of the 29 Lewiston employees will be offered positions in Spokane. The majority owner of the Lewiston operation may reopen or sell the building and land to keep jobs in the area. Precision Machine, which was purchased by Andritz two years ago, repairs and replaces components for a wide variety of industrial applications. In recent years, about three-quarters of its business involved fabrication of equipment for hydroelectric dams including a large project currently underway at Hoover Dam.
  • Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter held his 78th Capital for a Day in Lenore. He and managers from several state agencies met with local citizens. Lenore is an unincorporated area on the north bank of the Clearwater River about 23 miles northeast of Lewiston. Nearly 1,000 people live in its zip code area. Most Lenore area residents work in Orofino, Lewiston, Lapwai, Peck and other communities in the Clearwater River valley. Hunting and fishing are the focus of many area businesses.
  • Together, the ports of Whitman County, Lewiston and Clarkston helped provide the infrastructure for businesses to employ 4,773 people, according to a study by University of Idaho economist Steven Peterson. A high number of those jobs are in manufacturing, a sector that grew by 39 percent in Nez Perce, Asotin, Latah and Whitman counties from 2001 to 2012. The study states an additional 2,994 people are employed in the region because of the goods and services purchased by port-linked businesses. Ports provide industrial space for entrepreneurs by making land and buildings available for lease or purchases.
  • The Salvation Army opened a hygiene center for homeless and low-income people in Lewiston in late September. The new building adjoins the west end of the Lewiston Salvation Army headquarters. It contains two shower rooms, two heavy-duty industrial washing machines, three dryers and a table for folding laundry. It will give Lewiston’s homeless and poor populations the chance to put their best foot forward for job interviews, work and other situations. The $185,000 construction was funded by a Community Development Block Grant of $133,000 and donations.
  • Shoppers in Nez Perce County now are paying slightly less at the check-out counter. A half-cent local option sales tax expired Oct. 1. Voters approved the tax 11 years ago to pay for property tax relief and to build a new county jail. Over the last 10 years, the tax brought in more than $28 million.
  • The Joe Hall automotive dealership in Lewiston will no longer sell Nissan products after Jan. 1. It will continue to sell Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. Nissan North America, headquartered in Tennessee, decided to pull the plug on the Lewiston franchise because of insufficient sales volume. The dealership does not plan to reduce staff.

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

  • SkyWest Airlines is bringing a maintenance operation to the Boise Airport, creating up to 100 jobs that are expected to pay nearly $50,000 a year. The St. George, Utah-based company broke ground in October. McAlvain Design Build Inc. of Boise is designing and building the center.
  • Maximus, a customer support center for the Affordable Care Act, is hiring 2,000 workers to assist customers during the open enrollment period for health insurance coverage, which begins Nov. 15, according to the Messenger Index in Emmett.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods is hiring for its new store in Nampa. Dick’s usually hires about 50 full-time and part-time employees including management and sales positions for its single-level stores.
  • CradlePoint is adding workers and looking for more space to expand. Customer security concerns and expanded software offerings helped the Boise technology firm grow. The company, which makes networking routers and software, has topped its previous hiring estimates and added 100 employees in the past 15 months with plans to continue hiring so it is looking for a larger space in downtown Boise. CradlePoint now has 260 employees, 200 of them in southwestern Idaho. That surpassed the estimated 50 new hires company officials predicted in a May 2013 interview with the Idaho Business Review.
  • Amberjack Publishing opened a satellite office in Eagle last summer to meet the demand of new and emerging authors in the Northwest. Amberjack Publishing is a global company that strives to make publishing more accessible to new authors while offering assistance in social media management, advertising and marketing.
  • The Boise City Council has annexed almost 600 acres on the northwestern side of the city. Dozens of residents opposed the move, concerned about rising taxes with no improvement in services.
  • A vacant lot on the east side of the Boise Towne Square mall has come alive with construction activity. Site owner RGJ Cole Road LLC has divided the 2.77 acres into four parcels. A Sleep Country store is being built on one. RGJ’s Gary Wiener said completion of the infrastructure work on the land is contingent on getting an anchor tenant for what is being called Cole Train Plaza.
  • Ataraxis, a Boise company offering employee services for small and mid-sized businesses, has been named the 112th-fastest growing company in America by Inc. 500 magazine and is the fastest growing company in the human resources category. Ataraxis, has 15 employees, , reporting 3,278 percent growth and $40.8 million in revenue in 2013.is Idaho’s fastest-growing company on the Inc. 500 list
  • National restaurant chain Freddy’s Custard & Steakburgers opened in Meridian, featuring cooked-to-order burgers, Chicago hot dogs and frozen custard. It is Freddy’s first franchise in Idaho, but others are planned in Nampa and Idaho Falls later this year.
  • WinCo plans to remodel the front of its downtown Boise store to include a beer growler fill station, pizza eatery and new checkout stands. Beer lovers will be able to choose from 12 local and regional craft beers to fill their growlers. Kegs also will be available. The project is estimated at $700,000 and should be completed this year.
  • The League of American Bicyclists added six Boise organizations to its Bicycle Friendly Businesses list this fall. In all, Boise has 36 businesses, organizations or governments on the list.
  • The Uber driving service that has caught on as an alternative to taxis in cities around the world is operating in Boise. Uber is a mobile app that connects people looking for rides with drivers looking for fares. It has no dispatch or employees supporting pickups. Instead, drivers who have completed the screening process — including criminal background checks — log into their Uber app when they want to provide rides.
  • The Terraces of Boise retirement community should open in June next year in northeastern Ada County. Terraces will offer 270 residential units in a variety of configurations. Greystone Communities is the developer. The Terraces is sponsored by Cornerstone Affiliates, an affiliate of American Baptist Homes of the West.
  • High-end hamburger haven Grind Modern Burger has opened in the former TableRock Brewpub location in downtown Boise. Grind’s in-house brewery, PostModern Brewers, will pour two beers at first, featuring guest handles elsewhere until other varieties are available.
  • Haff Brewing will open a craft brewery in Garden City near five wineries. The brewery has finished remodeling a 1,900-square-foot space for $30,000. Wright Brothers designed the brewery and John Day at Radix Construction did the work.
  • The Boise Airport has received a $700,000 grant to help add a nonstop flight to Atlanta or another East Coast city. There was no immediate timeline for the start of the new flight, which was supported with cash pledges from dozens of local companies.
  • Colorado Springs-based Griffis / Blessing Inc. is opening a property management office in the newly renovated Owyhee Plaza Hotel, now The Owyhee, and will manage the historic 1910 downtown Boise landmark.
  • Allied Orthopedics Group has opened Direct Orthopedic Care to treat minor to serious orthopedic injuries in adults and children. Dr. David Hassinger with Allied Orthopedics, said patients will be offered expedited but less costly care.
  • The Boise Zoo is spending $160,000 for a 1,000-square-foot, heated metal building to hold animals such as ocelots, coatis porcupines and servals. The building is not in the main exhibit area.
  • Albertson’s LLC will spend almost $500,000 to remodel its corporate headquarters lobby and update the atrium that connects the north and south buildings. The project will replace selected walls, doors, fixtures, casework and finishes.
  • J.R. Simplot Co. is building a $364 million ammonia plant in Rock Springs, Wyo., to supply the adjacent Simplot phosphate fertilizer complex. This ammonia plant will be one of the largest construction projects in Simplot history, company spokesman Ken Dey said.
  • The Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore home improvement thrift store has opened in west Boise’s Collister Shopping Center. Sales at the store — like Boise’s other ReStore in south Boise — will support affordable housing in Ada County.
  • Idaho’s first Skechers store is opening in the Boise Towne Square in November. Skechers will be in the space that opened up when Coldwater Creek closed.

Adams County

  • The Meadows Valley Benefit Golf Tournament raised $30,000 for 12 Meadows Valley-area nonprofits. A few of the recipients include New Meadows Senior Citizens Inc., the Fosdick Scholarship Committee, Meadows Valley Public Library and the Adams County Historical Society.
  • The Lick Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration project includes improving habitat, timber harvest and thinning, controlled burns, road decommissioning, off-highway vehicle trail building, creating dispersed campsites, road maintenance and trailhead parking and facilities expansion on 80,000 acres in Adams County. Timber harvest revenues from recent similar projects have generated $8.6 million towards restoration and road maintenance.
  • Officials at Brundage Mountain say the $500,000 construction project they have been working on for three years will be ready for the upcoming ski season. The resort is adding 3,200 square feet to its lodge. The project, designed by the McCall firm Alpine Design Solutions, includes new ticket windows and guest service facilities. It also doubles the size of the rental shop and retail areas to ease congestion during busy periods.

Boise County

  • Boise County commissioners are discussing legalized limited gambling in certain areas of the county. In May, a citizens committee was formed to research the possibility. The commissioners recently voted unanimously to put an advisory vote on the Nov. 4 ballot to determine if county residents want to allow gambling in the county’s cities.

Canyon County

  • A new BioLife Plasma Services center is expected to open in Nampa in fall 2015 in a 16,700-square-foot building valued at $5 million. It will employ between 50 and 70 people.
  • A new fuel center at the Nampa Fred Meyer has opened – a $2.2 million investment that created six new jobs.
  • A new Pita Pit has opened in Caldwell across from the College of Idaho campus. The restaurant is the second local Pita Pit owned by Zach Kiebel of Boise, according to a press release. Kiebel opened a Pita Pit in Nampa eight months ago and plans to open more locations in the region. Pita Pit is a franchise company based in Coeur d’Alene.

Elmore County

  • The Mountain Home Municipal Airport runway has reopened after $2.4 million in improvements financed by a Federal Aviation Administration grant matched by the city. Work has also been completed on the taxiway paralleling the runway.

Owyhee County

  • Grandview received a $27,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to explore geothermal uses in the area. The grant requires a 5 percent match from the city.

Payette County

  • The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved lease of two 640-acre parcels to Alta Mesa, a Texas-based natural gas company. The land is on the border between Payette and Gem counties. The state will receive royalties on any production from the leases.

Valley County

  • The largest mixed use project proposed in McCall in seven years was approved by the City Council. The Village on Lake Street will cover 1.73 acres just west downtown on Idaho Highway 55. The development will include 27 condos, up to 8,700 square feet of retail space and up to 5,300 square feet of office space. Construction will start in 2018, according to current plans.
  • Tamarack will resume ski operations seven days a week, something that has not happened since 2008. The state Land Board recently approved the transfer of Tamarack Resort’s lease to NEWTRAC, the subsidiary of Credit Suisse Bank which took over most of the resort’s holdings from its original owners through foreclosures to make continued operation possible. The resort plans to hire 40 additional people, bringing the total payroll to about 150, and will invest $2.6 million this fall.
  • Midas Gold Inc. has increase by 29 percent the estimated amount of gold at the company’s Golden Meadows Project at Stibnite Mine. The Vancouver, B.C., company now estimates as much as 5.4 million ounces of gold in three claims near Yellow Pine in Valley County worth about $5.5 billion.

Washington County

  • Washington County was recently named the second safest county in the United States to avoid Natural Disasters, according to Time magazine.

Openings

  • Pizza Hut and iMaster Repair opened on U.S. Highway 95 in Payette.

Closures

  • Smith’s Chevron, which has been run by three generations of Smiths in Boise’s North End has closed.
  • The Starlight Motel – Council’s only hotel – has closed. The building is slated to be demolished next summer.
  • Three Mamas, a restaurant in downtown Council, has closed only a few months after opening, citing the economy.

Ethan.Mansfield@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455

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

Twin Falls County

  • Chobani is collaborating with Green America on nonGMO status for its milk and feed producers – and ultimately its own Greek yogurt. Chobani’s brand emphasis on ‘natural’ created some pushback from Whole Foods Market which expressed a preference at the end of 2013 for nonGMO yogurt and dropped the Chobani brand. Producers indicated they were open to discussing the idea but suggested their costs might double to go to nonGMO feed.
  • The College of Southern Idaho enrollment this fall was 7,543, up 1 percent from a year earlier. The full-time equivalent count is down 4 percent while dual enrollment of high school students taking classes for college credit has increased 19 percent to 1,928. The new Fast Forward program provides dual credit juniors with up to $200 to cover courses and examination costs. Seniors can get up to $400. The school’s technical programs enrollment fell 4 percent to 950, while academic enrollment was up 1.6 percent to 6,600.
  • The Canyon Rim West development says Petco will seek a building permit for the complex. It joins the list of other national retailers such as Ross Dress for Less, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Famous Shoes and Ulta.
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis toured restoration efforts over the 900 square miles burned in the Murphy Complex fire in 2007. The federal land has undergone major replanting of native plants.
  • Kimberly’s University of Idaho Research Farm received a $57,000, two-year grant to research the nightshade weed, which can cause millions of dollars in damage to dry beans. The farm will research different planting and watering systems that could mitigate the damage when nightshade’s fluid stains beans or reduces the quality rating. The weed is also known to clog harvesting equipment.

Mini-Cassia Area

  • The city of Rupert will increase power rates 3 percent. The city is part of a cooperative that buys power from Bonneville Power Administration. Rupert’s average monthly bill of $74.23 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of power compares to $95.06 in Boise – unusually low for a smaller community.
  • The Oregon Trail Recreation District has opened its new $1.3 million recreation center. The project was paid for with a $36-per-year per household tax that generates about $275,000 annually. It took nearly two years to complete the center. About 1,500 young people will participate in sports activities at the center through the rest of 2014.
  • The Minidoka Regional Hospital is taking advantage of a low-interest loan from D.L. Evans Bank to complete an office building it had originally expected to delay for another three to five years. Acceleration of the $2.4 million project will enable the hospital to avoid rising construction costs.

Jerome County

  • Jerome Cheese has agreed to pay an $88,000 fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for mismanagement of anhydrous ammonia regulations, which is used in industrial refrigeration. No health problems occurred but the gas can be very dangerous to humans.

Blaine County

  • The city of Ketchum has parted with the state on wolf management, underscoring the ideological differences between people in the Wood River Valley and more agriculturally dominated parts of the state. The city council is stressing nonlethal methods to keep wolves at bay. Some of the large sheep producers in the area including Flat Top Sheep Co. and Lava Land and Livestock have all participated in studies and pilots to move the bands of sheep or to keep the wolves at bay.
  • The Wood River Valley YMCA has achieved efficiencies in the past by replacing 800 light bulbs with LED lighting. The savings totaled $25,000 annually. Power bills were further reduced by $673 a month or $8,076 annually by replacing an oversized electric transformer. The changes were facilitated by grants from Idaho Power Co. and the Chichester DuPont Foundation. Its latest project is a Greenhouse Learning Lab funded by PECO Foundation that will be open year around for people to learn about seeding, growing and harvesting crops and plants. Other collaborations include the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, the Hunger Coalition and local schools.
  • Budgets have been adopted by city councils throughout Blaine County. Hailey passed a $17 million budget while the city of Ketchum’s budget is $15.9 million.

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

SOUTHEASTERN IDAHO – Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin,  Oneida  & Power counties

Region

  • Heavy rains during August and September caused significant crop losses in southeastern Idaho. Wheat, barley and alfalfa were damaged by the excessive moisture. Some farmers will recoup a percentage of their losses through crop insurance. Total losses in the region will be in the tens of millions of dollars and will have a negative impact on the local economies of many communities.

Bannock County

  • Pocatello lost a link to its past in mid-September when the Monarch Hotel was gutted by fire. All 15 residents of the building escaped. The hotel was an historic landmark in Pocatello, dating back to 1909 and the city’s early history as a railway hub. Plans to save the building are being considered.
  • C-A-L Ranch has opened a store at Chubbuck’s Pine Ridge Mall in the space once occupied by Macy’s, which closed several years ago. The mall store replaces the C-A-L Ranch store in Pocatello. The new store will employ more than the 40 who worked at the Pocatello location. C-A-L Ranch sells farm supplies, hardware, and western appeal.

Bear Lake County

  • The city of Montpelier is exploring ways to upgrade lighting on the landmark large “M” on the hillside next to town. One option is low energy LED lights. City officials are also considering lighting colors.

Bingham County

  •  Eastern Idaho State Fair manager Brandon Bird told the Idaho Falls Post Register this year’s fair was a “rock-solid success.” Last year 215,000 attended the eight-day fair. This year just fewer than 220,000 attended. All-time record fair attendance was 224,000 in 2012. Bird credited not only the quality attractions the fair offers but good weather.
  • Blackfoot School District officials say an audit found that the 2014-2015 budget will leave the district $1 million in the red, in part because of an overestimation of federal money the district would receive. The deficit represents about 5 percent of the district’s annual budget.

Oneida County

  • In mid-September, staff from the Idaho Department of Labor’s Pocatello office met with Malad High School seniors about career planning and job search skills. During each of three class students were provided with labor market information, tips on how to look for work, create a résumé, best practices for a job interview and discussed soft job skills.

Power County

  • The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has approved a request by Magnida Magnolia Nitrogen to build a $1.5 billion plant outside of American Falls. Environmental concerns were express by a ConAgra, which has a nearby food manufacturing plant.

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

EASTERN IDAHO – Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison & Teton counties

Bonneville County

  • Hobby Lobby will open a store in the Sand Creek Commons shopping center in Ammon next summer, employing up to 50 full- and part-time workers. Wages will range anywhere from $10 to $15 per hour. The national chain has over 600 stores, and the new Ammon location will be the third in Idaho.
  • The University of Idaho wrapped up its 125th anniversary celebration with an event at its Idaho Falls center Sept. 24. School officials have held celebrations around the state starting in January.
  • The Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center held its annual startup weekend in October in Idaho Falls. The event brings people from all walks of life together for 54 hours to create new ideas, products and startup businesses.

Butte County

  • Arco and Mackay recently hosted the Idaho Rural Partnership in a joint Lost River Valley community review. Industry partners from around the state came together to tour the communities and identify strengths and weaknesses. The review focused on ways to improve economic development, community identity and design and civic life and community involvement. Key findings and suggestions were provided at the end of the review, outlining how each community can approach issues and what steps should be taken.

Custer County

  • County commissioners are submitting the question of making the Boulder-White Clouds Mountains a national monument for an advisory vote in November. While several local residents oppose the issue, recent studies show the monument could be quite lucrative to the local community. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Idaho supports 37,000 jobs, generates $154 million in annual tax revenue and results in $2.2 billion in retail sales and service industry income. An economic study commissioned by the Idaho Outdoor Business Council shows the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds Monument could generate up to 155 new jobs, increase visitor spending by 10 percent and add anywhere from $3.7 million to $12.3 million into the local economy. While the decision ultimately rests with the President of the United States, residents will vote on the issue in November’s upcoming ballot to express their opinions on the matter.

Fremont County

  • Parker-Egin Elementary School was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Idaho Commission for Libraries’ Read to Me program. The program focuses on increasing the amount of reading done at home for students in preschool through first grade, access to age-appropriate quality literature and the number of children reading at grade level.
  • Fremont officials will consider a proposal to open a gravel pit in Teton city limits. The site is currently classified as farm land and will have to be rezoned for industrial purposes. Should the rezoning application be successful, an existing gravel pit owned by HK Contractors can be expanded.

Jefferson County

  • The Rigby Urban Renewal Agency is looking to expand its downtown revitalization project to add street lighting and lighting along the path to the fairgrounds and install drinking water lines to the community baseball fields. A much lower bid than expected will allow the agency to include other items. The improvements are estimated at $1.2 million.
  • The annual two-week harvest break was extended two days for school districts in Jefferson County. Historically poor weather prohibited potato farmers from harvesting crops at the usual time. Potato farmers heavily rely on the high school students to harvest their crop, and the extended break prevented further crop losses.
  • Jefferson Joint School District 251 announced it is cutting substitute teacher hours to avoid the mandate under the Affordable Care Act to provide teachers health insurance. The district is requiring substitute teachers to check out during lunch breaks and prep time. District officials said they do not have the budget to cover the additional costs of insurance, but some substitute teachers are concerned the pay cut will require them to find work elsewhere.

Lemhi County

  • Local ranchers are helping the salmon population rebound in the Lemhi River. Ranchers have made significant changes in their irrigation practices so river levels remain higher. As a result, the fish population is the highest since 1978. The changes not only benefitted the fish but also increased the ranchers’ business and land values.

Madison County

  • Monkey Bar Storage system broke ground on a 12,000-square-foot corporate office in Rexburg. Founded in 1999, the company has become an industry leader in high quality garage storage systems. With over 130 dealers internationally, the new building will house corporate staff and facilitate the distribution office for the western United States.
  • Mountain America Credit Union opened its first modular bank in Rexburg. The facility is temporary until the bank finishes construction of its permanent facility on Main Street sometime next year.
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho enrollment is at 16,200 for the new semester. By 2018, university expects the number to increase to 20,000 as students who postponed college to serve missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints return home. In 2013 the LDS church announced young men could begin serving missions at age 18 and young women at age 19, causing an influx of missionaries at a younger age and dropping enrollment at the LDS church-sponsored university.

Teton County

  • Teton County School District 401 hired a new kindergarten teacher for Driggs Elementary School to deal with large class sizes in Driggs and Victor. Kindergarten enrollment is usually 26 to 28, but this year it reached 61. The district will use money from a recently approved emergency levy.

Christopher.StJeor@labor.idaho.gov,
Regional Economist (208) 557-2500 ext. 3077