November 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 Idaho
Eastern Idaho

STATEWIDE DEVELOPMENTS

  • The Idaho Department of Labor expects 11,000 new jobs to be created statewide each year from 2012 through 2022, according to its latest jobs forecast. Much of the growth is tied to the aging baby boomer generation, analysts said. The department expects another 16,000 jobs a year to open due to turnover, advancement and other labor conditions. Food preparation and other service jobs are expected to account for 24 percent of the 109,000 new jobs created through 2022, according to the forecast. Such jobs earned a median wage of $18,820 in 2013, or about 60 percent of the Idaho median wage that year. Department analysts predict the construction industry will account for 27 percent of the new jobs.
  • Boise State University was the only four-year public institution in Idaho to see an increase in enrollment this fall. The state’s three private nonprofit universities all increased enrollment. Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg grew 3.9 percent, the largest increase in the state. It is the second-largest university in the state with 16,193 students. Boise State, which grew by 1.2 percent, had 22,259 students. Both Idaho State University and University of Idaho had small drops in enrollment this fall. Idaho State was down 0.3 percent to 13,804 students, and Idaho was off 2.9 percent to 11,534 students. Lewis-Clark State College had 4,304 students, which it said was unchanged from a year ago. Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa and the College of Idaho in Caldwell both grew by just over 20 students. The College of Idaho set an enrollment record with 1,144 students while Northwest Nazarene was six students shy of a record at 2,058 students.
  • Idaho’s workers’ compensation premium rates will go down by an average of 0.2 percent in 2015, the Idaho Department of Insurance recently announced. The drop was recommended by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a rating and advisory organization. Workers’ compensation premium rates differ for each worker classification so while there is an overall decrease, some classifications may increase. Rates are affected by frequency of claims, medical costs and other factors.

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

Region

  • Frontier Communications has added 2,500 new broadband customers in Idaho this year, residential and commercial, and rural service has grown 3 percent. Investment in northern Idaho was $4 million this year. Frontier also recently completed a $400,000 upgrade of the Post Falls Police Department’s 911 telecommunications equipment.
  • Grocery retailer Trader Joe’s plans to open a second store in Spokane in the second half of 2015 at the Franklin Park Mall on the north side.
  • Banner Bank is taking over Spokane-based AmericanWest Bank in a $702 million deal that will expand its regional banking brand to 190 branches across five states.
  • KeyTronic Corp., a Spokane Valley value-added electronic manufacturing service provider, reported a $1.5 million loss in the latest quarter. The company plans to lay off about 10 of its employees locally—the first loss since 2004. KeyTronic currently employs 200 workers in the Spokane Valley.
  • The Nut Factory is going online and closing its store along Interstate 90 in the Spokane Valley. The company has been around since 1953. Operations will be moving to a nearby wholesale commercial production facility to distribute more than 400 food items to retailers throughout the country.
  • Inland Imaging will take over X-ray and scanning services at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, resulting in about 90 employees being laid off with the hopes of being hired back after the acquisition.
  • A 60-unit student apartment complex on the west side of Gonzaga University is planned for spring, and a second student housing complex is on target for summer 2016. The five-story 60-unit building is estimated at $10 million. The second complex will be twice as big.

Benewah County

  • Hospice of Benewah County joined River City Hospice to offer additional services to local patients.

Bonner County

  • Tacoma-based Columbia Bank has acquired Sandpoint-based Intermountain Bancorp, the parent company of Panhandle State Bank. There are now 16 Columbia State Bank locations in Idaho including the former Panhandle State Bank branches in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum. With this transaction, Columbia’s total assets will hit $8.5 billion in more than 150 branches throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
  • Kochava, a Sandpoint technology firm, received the new Tax Reimbursement Incentive tax break. Kochava develops software dashboards for online game companies and advanced tools for analyzing the use of mobile apps. The company expects to hire at least 35 workers by 2017 with an average annual wage of $60,000 for development, account management and information technology operations. Just two years ago, the company had eight employees.

Boundary County

  • The Kootenai Tribe has opened its new Twin Rivers Sturgeon and Burbot Hatchery. The hatchery at the confluence of the Moyie and Kootenai rivers will enhance both species. White sturgeons have been a valuable social, economic and subsistence fishery for the Kootenai Tribe for generations.

Kootenai County

  • Kimball Office, also known as Flexcel, is moving its product line to its Indiana factories. Its 260 Idaho workers will be laid off over the next two years.
  • Fatbeam, a Coeur d’Alene company that delivers fiber optic bandwidth, has signed a multi-year agreement to lease out more than 60 miles of a fiber optic network in Yakima. Fatbeam currently operates fiber networks in more than 15 markets including Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and Oregon.
  • Advanced Thermoplastic Composites Manufacturing is moving its plant from the Spokane Valley to Post Falls, transferring 70 jobs. The company is building a $4.9 million, 65,000 square-foot facility and expects to add about 50 more jobs over the next several years. It is the first Washington company to take advantage of the new Idaho Tax Reimbursement Incentive tax credit – a 20 percent tax credit for eight years.
  • Lake City Development Corp. has approved an affordable housing project in midtown Coeur d’Alene. It has been working with The Housing Company from Boise. The three-story, mixed-use development will include retail space on the ground floor and two levels of affordable housing. The cost is estimated at $2.5 million for acquisition and renovation of the property.

Shoshone County

  • Revenue increased 27 percent for the Hecla Mining Co. due to improved production at the Casa Berardi gold mine in Quebec, which was acquired in June 2013, and greater production at Lucky Friday silver mine near Mullan. Excluding the impact of the Coeur d’Alene River Basin litigation settlement, the company had operating cash flow of $114 million in the first nine months of 2014, up from $5.1 million from a year earlier. Hecla President Phil Baker expects the company to end the year with about $200 million in available cash.
  • U.S. Silver and Gold Inc. has merged with another Canadian company, Scorpio Mining Corp. U.S. Silver owns and operates the Galena Mine complex in the Silver Valley’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District. The complex – which includes the Coeur, Galena and Caladay shafts – is about a mile south of Interstate 90 and just west of Wallace. Scorpio is a Toronto-based silver producer, which owns the Nuestra Senora Mine and the El Cajon development project in Mexico.
  • Ivy Court, a nursing home in Coeur d’Alene, has received the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living’s Silver Achievement in Quality award. The award is given to centers nationwide for high-quality long-term care. Officials said Ivy Court was one of only 77 long-term care centers nationwide to receive the award this year, according to the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Openings:

  • Java in Hayden
  • Chamira in the Plaza Shops in Coeur d’Alene
  • The BarberShop in Coeur d’Alene
  • Basic Family Healthcare in Coeur d’Alene
  • Two Knights Homebrew in Post Falls

Closures:

    • Becky’s Pendleton in Coeur d’Alene after 13 years

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

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

Region

  • Avista, the electric and natural gas utility that serves most of eastern Washington and northern Idaho, lowered natural gas rates 2.1 percent in November. The average residential customer will save $1.16 per month. Falling natural gas prices help commercial and industrial customers be more competitive.
  • Barbara Leachman, director of the Region II Idaho Small Business Development Center in Lewiston, was named the 2014 Idaho state star for her business development efforts. Located at Lewis-Clark State College, the center offers training courses and one-on-one assistance to businesses throughout north central Idaho. Last year, Leachman helped clients increase their sales by close to $2 million, add 20 jobs and open nine new businesses.

Nez Perce Tribe

  • The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $154,356 grant to the Nez Perce Tribe Veterans Program to help all homeless veterans or veterans at risk of becoming homeless in the area find employment. Focused on job-driven training developed through employer partnerships, the program offers job placement, career counseling, life skills, money management and housing referrals. The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program can provide reimbursement to the employer of up to 50 percent of the wage rate of the participant for on-the-job training including cost of training and additional supervision.
  • The Nez Perce Tribe has made affordable, reliable broadband connections accessible to people living on and near the reservation. The tribe’s efforts to improve broadband access began with a project with First Step Internet to expand middle mile infrastructure to Orofino. Its Department of Technology Services began offering Internet connections to elders and low-income residents in the Lapwai area in 2008 as part of its service to tribal members. Broadband expansion accelerated in 2010 when the tribe received $1.6 million through the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program. Matched with $413,700 of its own money, the tribe vastly expanded its middle mile infrastructure and ultimately offered last mile connections to Spalding, Lapwai, Culdesac, the rural Gifford/Reubens area, Myrtle, the Cottonwood Creek area, Peck, Sunnyside area, Ahsahka, Fraser, Kamiah, rural Nezperce County, rural Craigmont, rural Winchester, the eastern portion of the Lewiston Orchards and Orofino Riverside and downtown. Since completing the infrastructure in 2012, the tribe has deployed eight neighborhood solution sites to fill in service gaps in targeted communities.

Clearwater County

  • A new, larger Head Start opened in September on the grounds of Orofino Elementary School, which will allow special needs children from the school district to join children in the Head Start program. It also makes it easier for parents to access. The $260,000 project to prepare the ground, build the school and transport playground equipment was partially financed with $156,000 from the Northwest regional Head Start office in Seattle. The rest was raised locally with the Nez Perce Tribe donating $20,000.
  • A $269,000 terminal recently opened at the Orofino Airport. It will offer people flying into Orofino a restroom, a telephone, access to the Internet for upcoming flight plans and a place to rest. Use of the airport is rising. In the past two months, it has received two requests for new hangars. Over the past eight years, the airport has made approximately $4 million in improvements to the runway, taxiway and aprons.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • Prairie Elementary School in Cottonwood was the only school in Idaho to win a National Blue Ribbon School award for its academic achievements over five years. The award included $20,000 to enhance efforts to address the needs of academically at-risk students. Over the past five years the school maintained an average of 95 percent of students achieving Proficient or Advanced ratings on the Idaho Standards Achievement in reading and 93 percent on the statewide mathematics assessment. About 45 percent of the school’s students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Cottonwood administrators will share their successful strategies at the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Conference in Boise in April.
  • Fenn Pond, a popular fishing site directly across from the Fenn Ranger Station near Lowell, recently was deepened, and its boardwalks were refurbished by the Forest Service.
  • In the general election, White Bird voters approved the creation of a White Bird Area Recreation district that will allow Mountain View School District 244 to transfer its former elementary school to the recreation district. The school, built in 1963, closed five years ago. The property – which includes two classrooms, a small lunch area and bathrooms and three acres of lawn, playground and tennis and basketball courts – will become a community center. The newly formed district would levy $12.50 per $100,000 of assessed property valuation to finance its operations.

Latah County

  • Local entrepreneurs presented their new products to bankers and economic development specialists at the Palouse Knowledge Corridor’s semi-annual business showcase Oct. 9 in Moscow. Ed Robertson, a physical therapist from Colton, Washington, has developed a new brace to prevent ankle injuries, one of the most common in sports. Moscow residents Joe Harby and Jeremy Sauder created Wovax, an app program that lets companies with WordPress websites translate their websites to mobile apps on all devices.
  • The Greater Palouse Meat Producers held a conference Nov. 7 at Moscow’s 1912 Center to show local restaurant owners, butchers and ranchers how to become involved with the local artisan meat movement.
  • Two chains plan to open restaurants in Moscow in the next few months. Buffalo Wild Wings, a sports bar and eatery, will open in late January in the Palouse Mall. Jimmy John’s, which specializes in submarine sandwiches and fast service, will fill half of a 3,000-square-foot building under construction downtown. The other half is available for lease.

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • A $5.1 million, 81-room Marriott Fairfield Inn is expected to open in Lewiston this spring. It will include an indoor swimming pool, fitness area and breakfast bar but no conference rooms. The company chose Lewiston by looking at occupancy rates, room prices and the number of jobs being added by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and other manufacturers.
  • Movoto Real Estate recently ranked Lewiston fourth among the top 10 places to live in the Northwest. Lewiston claimed that spot for its weather, short commute times, high employment and low crime rate.
  • The former Wysup Hyundai dealership in Lewiston is being transformed into a Subaru dealership owned by Kendall Automotive Group. Currently, the Hyundai dealership is located with Kendall’s General Motors dealership in North Lewiston. The new dealership is expected to be operating by the beginning of 2015. Kendall owns 33 dealerships in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska. The company has acquired four dealerships in north central Idaho since 2004 when it purchased Lee Dinges Auto Center, Lewiston’s only Chrysler dealership. Seven years later it bought Vern Eide Motorcars – a Subaru and General Motors dealership in Lewiston. In 2013, it acquired Ambassador Auto, a Subaru dealership in Moscow, which it closed and expanded its Lewiston dealership. This year, it purchased Wysup Hyundai.
  • Valley Medical Center plans to double the size of its Clarkston clinic. The $500,000 project started in October and should be completed in February. It will allow the clinic, which provides pediatric and immediate care, to meet growing needs in the community.
  • Clearwater Paper netted $6.25 million in earnings in 2014’s third quarter, breaking a number of its own records. Paperboard production exceeded previous records in Lewiston. The consumer tissue sector, which makes private label products for retailers, had record net sales with 14.4 million cases shipped. But prices for traditional tissue have fallen while pulp prices have risen. The company’s Lewiston complex is its largest operation, employing about 1,370.

Port of Lewiston

  • Container cargo at the Port of Lewiston continued to decline in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, resulting in a loss of $445,497 on its day-to-day operations. The number of containers the port handled fell to 4,439 in 2013. Containers peaked at 17,611 in 1997 and hit their lowest at 3,653 in 2011. From January to September this year, the port handled 2,108 containers, compared with 3,205 in the same period in 2013. Problems at the Port of Portland, where containers move onto ocean-going barges, are one of the reasons for the decline. Delays and confusion at Portland have caused some of the port’s customers including Clearwater Paper to send cargo to Puget Sound.
  • The Port of Lewiston also plays a major role in economic development through its incubator, business parks and intermodal transportation efforts. The port estimates it added $3.5 million to economic development activities this year. It completed the construction of a 150-foot extension to its dock, increasing productivity and safety It had 10o percent occupancy in all buildings available for lease. It partnered with Great Northwest Railroad to pursue container-on-rail opportunities. It also completed a five-year strategic plan, a master plan for the Harry Wall Development and the Northport Transportation Study.

Openings

  • Idaho Gymnastics on Mt. Idaho near Grangeville after being closed for 15 years.
  • Quilt Treasures in Grangeville’s Main Street Square.
  • Vape Ninja, a retail store for vaping in the Lewiston Orchards.
  • Winco Foods in Lewiston.

Closings

  • Beck’s Cafe and Catering, which took over the Wheatberries space in downtown Moscow.
  • Moore’s Furniture, an independently owned store that had been in business 57 years in Lewiston by year’s end after its remaining inventory is sold.

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

Region

The Treasure Valley Education Partnership’s “Report to the Community” on student performance in southwestern Idaho schools shows little or no change in 11 indicators ranging from school readiness to obtaining a postsecondary degree. The partnership was organized three years ago and includes private Bishop Kelly High School and the Boise, Caldwell, Emmett, Kuna, Middleton, Mountain Home, Nampa, Vallivue and West Ada school districts. The second annual report’s key findings were:

  • No increase in the percentage of students ready to learn to read when they enter kindergarten.
  • One-third of high school juniors are ready for college based on SAT results.
  •  The demand for a college-educated workforce has outpaced the number of students who complete some form of postsecondary education.

 Ada County

  • The plan for developing the Harris Ranch neighborhood in Boise’s East End has always anticipated town homes. Now Tahoe Homes, which has built many of the new homes in Harris Ranch, is slated to begin building town homes next year. It will be the first multifamily residential buildings in the development. Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission has approved the preliminary plat for the 43 units and three common lots.
  • Two investors at an Idaho Technology Council health care technology investment forum in Boise said they are looking for companies that can deliver solid products and help change the payment model for the health care system. Rob Coppedge, senior vice president of strategic investment and corporate development with Cambria Health Solutions, said years of rising health care costs mean that new solutions, including from technology companies, will come into the health care system.
  • Saint Alphonsus Health System is building a new clinic with urgent care and primary care facilities in east Boise. The 13,200-square-foot building, which Saint Alphonsus calls a “health plaza,” will include room for adding specialty medical services later.
  • Bank deposits in southwestern Idaho declined over the past year while they increased slightly across the state, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The state also lost 11 bank branches, primarily due to bank mergers. The state’s three biggest banks all increased their deposits from mid-2013 to mid-2014. The FDIC data show that deposits in the Boise metropolitan area dropped 2 percent to $8.6 billion, the first decline since the economic recession in 2008 and only the second drop since the late 1990s. Statewide, deposits were up 1.6 percent to $20.5 billion at the end of June compared to the previous year. Idaho Department of Finance Director Gavin Gee said the drop in Boise may be due to merger activity and that the local and state economies are still doing well.
  • Boise-area employers say they want college graduates to have relevant work experience and be accountable for their actions, according to a new survey done for Boise State University by Michigan State University professor Phil Gardner. Gardner said companies are looking for graduates who come in with work experience and all the skills needed to do a job. They do not want to provide on-the-job training. He also said Boise-area employers find many graduates are not meeting their expectations and new graduates from most programs including business and engineering actually do not use their academic knowledge in their first jobs. They need to develop other work and life skills. Nursing and education students were the exception because they use the information they learned in college courses immediately after graduating.
  • Think Boise First, which promotes Boise businesses as part of the “Get It Local” marketing effort, launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 by Nov. 23 to eliminate membership fees and create merchandise to enhance brand recognition. Think Boise First was created in 2007 as “Local Boise First” and has 370 business members in Boise and Garden City.
  • Six years ago Boise attorney and developer Scot Ludwig received the city’s approval for a 160,000-square-foot office and parking building on the east side of downtown. When the recession took hold, Ludwig backed away from the project and let approval lapse. Now, with the surrounding Central Addition neighborhood’s rapid expansion, Ludwig is asking for permission to build virtually the same project. He’s negotiating a lease with Cradlepoint executives that would make the six-story building the tech firm’s new headquarters. The developer needs an exception from rules that restrict building heights in the area to 35 feet. The Cradlepoint building would be 98 feet tall. Boise already is reworking its Central Addition master plan, and less restrictive height limits are being considered. In addition to 80,000 square feet of office space, the Cradlepoint building will incorporate about 200 parking spaces. Ludwig said the project could be completed by late 2015.
  • Boise Cascade Co.’s latest quarterly earnings report showed $32.3 million in profit and $983.3 million in sales – both increases from the previous quarter and a year earlier. Sales increased 12 percent from the previous year, while profits increased 104 percent. The building materials company attributed its gains to rising housing starts, which increased 9 percent from the previous year, and total construction starts, which were up 15 percent. Wood product sales were particularly strong, increasing 26 percent.
  • U.S. Geothermal Inc. of Boise, a publicly traded geothermal power company, is buying privately held Earth Power Resources of Tulsa, Oklahoma. As payment, Earth Power shareholders will receive 692,769 shares of U.S. Geothermal stock valued around $360,240. Pending shareholder approval, the company will become a U.S. Geothermal subsidiary, likely before the end of the year.
  • Micron Technology Inc. plans to buy back $1 billion of its own stock. Micron has already eliminated about $389 million in convertible debt — debt that can be converted to shares of stock — during its first quarter, which began Aug. 29.
  • City Center Plaza developer Gardner Co. is looking for exceptions from the city’s Design Review Committee for larger signs for its four buildings. The company also wants more signs than city code allows. Gardner says the signs are needed to identify the buildings. One is a large ground-floor sign for a Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar that would occupy the first floor of one of the buildings.
  • Hewlett-Packard Co. will split into HP Inc. to focus on personal computers and printers and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to focus on software and services. The company has not offered any details about the split or future employment at its sites including the Idaho campus, but Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Meg Whitman said the company’s Boise campus will grow, not contract.
  • Local Construct plans to build a residential-commercial complex on a $1.5 million tract in Boise’s Central Addition neighborhood. The seven-story building will have 160 units with commercial, parking and live work space on the first two floors. Casey Lynch, one of the owners of Local Construct, said work will begin next summer with the project completed by the fall of 2016.
  • Terry Reilly Health Services is among five centers in Idaho to receive a share of $1.2 million mental health and substance abuse treatment grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Terry Reilly operates clinics around southwestern Idaho that primarily serve low-income and uninsured patients. It will use a $250,000 annual grant to hire new providers in Ada County. Terry Reilly plans to add a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a psychiatric registered nurse, a social worker / alcohol and drug counselor and a peer support specialist. They share full-time and part-time work.
  • Bodybuilding.com, the Boise-based online health and nutrition supplement retailer, has opened an office in Portland, Oregon, to tap into a high population of technology workers. Bodybuilding.com opened a temporary office in Portland in October and will move into a permanent facility with about 36 new hires in February.
  • The Idaho Office for Refugees and Mountain States Group has created a program to help highly skilled refugees – those with at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience – find professional-level jobs. The program, Global Talent Idaho, is recruiting Idaho professionals to serve as mentors, coaches and guides for the immigrants as they look for work and gain access to professional networks. Just under 4,000 refugees from foreign countries have arrived in Idaho in the past four years. Global Talent Idaho estimates about 20 percent of the adult refugees have professional degrees and experience.
  • 10 Barrel Brewing Co. is selling to Anheuser-Busch, but co-founder Garrett Wales said that does not mean fans of the downtown Boise brewpub should worry the beer served or the people working there will change anytime soon. The sale price was not disclosed.
  • In two years, there could be 13 large-scale solar plants spread across southern Idaho, generating enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes. State regulators are reviewing the contracts for all 13 projects, which could pay out $1.4 billion in energy sales to developers. Idaho Power Co., must buy that power, integrate it into its system and says the projects will end up increasing customers’ power bills, according to a news story by Brad Iverson Long in the Idaho Business Review.
  • A Utah group bought the Boise Hotel and Conference Center airport hotel near the Boise airport for $2.95 million, ending more than two years of bank ownership. Western Hospitality LLC bought the property at the end of a three-day online auction that concluded Sept. 4. The new ownership team took over operations Oct. 21.
  • Diversified Fluid Solutions is the fifth company to receive a new state tax reimbursement, receiving a 20 percent credit on taxes paid for eight years. The company manufactures fluid blending and distribution systems used in a variety of industries including production of semiconductors and solar power units, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages. The company has also announced it is expanding to a larger plant in west Boise and plans to hire another 50 to 60 employees. The new facility is a $1.2 million capital investment. The company also received support from the Idaho Department of Labor’s Workforce Development Training Fund, the City of Boise’s Project Management Program and Boise Valley Economic Partnership.

Adams County

  • Whole Foods has purchased a Council-area hot springs and is selling Starkey Spring Water in liter bottles at its Boise store. Dr. Richard Starkey, a local dentist and physician, opened a resort at the hot springs in Council in 1906. The resort is long gone, but Whole Foods last year bought 220 acres and some of rights to the springs, which discharges 650 million gallons of 132-degree geothermal water per year. Jeff Teter, who works on the Starkey project as president of Allegro Coffee Co., a subsidiary of Whole Foods, expects the Denver-based grocery giant will eventually take about 100,000 gallons per year of the water, which it bottles in a small leased building eight miles from the springs in Council. Whole Foods is building up an inventory at a Boise warehouse and will eventually ship the water to its 380 stores around the United States. The project is good economic news for Council, where the largest employers are Adams County, the local hospital and the Council School District. The Adams County unemployment rate hit almost 17 percent in 2011 before declining to 12 percent last year, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. Whole Foods has hired about 20 people to maintain the property, which includes three cabins and the stone remains of a 7,000-square-foot lodge, and to work at the bottling plant. The company’s workers in Council are paid $13 to $14 per hour with the same benefits such as health and dental insurance as Whole Foods’ other workers.

Canyon County

  • West Valley Medical Center is more than quadrupling the size of its catheterization laboratory to give Canyon County its first advanced Cardiac Electrophysiology Catheterization Lab. The $3 million project should be completed in April. The move will expand the existing catheterization suite from 1,500 square feet to 6.000 square feet and add upgraded X-ray and 3-D mapping equipment to provide highly accurate imaging of the heart and major vessels.
  • The Simplot potato processing plant in Nampa will stay open longer than anticipated. The plant was first expected to close in April as Simplot consolidated operations to its new plant in Caldwell. Unexpectedly high product demand has kept the plant open. At least one processing line will continue to run through 2014.
  • With seven fueling stations along Interstate 84 and farmers embracing liquefied natural gas for their fleets, Idaho has emerged as the strongest market in the country for the fuel provider Blu. Blu builds liquefied natural gas stations across the U.S. It opened a station in Nampa in December near I-84 and has more than 20 stations nationwide.
  • Students in Wilder schools will soon each have Apple equipment since the schools received part of a $100 million grant from ConnectED. Superintendent Jeff Dillon said Wilder Elementary School and Wilder Middle/High School were two of 114 schools across the country that were selected under the grant program. They were also the only two schools in Idaho to be selected, partially because of the high poverty rate in Wilder.
  • The Nampa Building Services Department saw its revenue fluctuate from almost $4.8 million to just $732,000 in a span of a few years, the result of a boom is followed by a bust. In the past few years, things have turned around, and business has picked up again. In July, the value of building permits filed in Nampa for calendar year 2014 had already surpassed the total value for all of 2013. Several new retail stores, the new Ridgevue High School, expansions in health care and the Materne North America facility all helped to bring that number up.
  • Voters in Melba will determine in March whether the school district can build a new elementary school with a $9.5 million bond. The Melba School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to put the bond on the ballot based on the recommendation of a committee that has been working on a proposal since September.

Owyhee County

  • Marsing’s Lizard Butte Library has been awarded a $700 grant from the Libri Foundation. The library will buy 70 new children’s books for its permanent collection.
  • The Marsing City Council has denied a special use permit for a Verizon cell tower. The vote came after a public hearing in which several community members objected to the tower because of perceived health risks to school children. Verizon representatives and the school district superintendent backed the project.
  • The city of Marsing hopes to save $5,000 a year in energy costs with a new storage dome that captures methane from its water wells. The methane will power a gas furnace that heats a nearby building and could also power generators that provide electricity.

Payette County

  •  Idaho’s Oil and Gas Commission approved the state’s proposed rules for handling oil and gas, which have undergone several changes since April. One of the more contentious issues within the regulations is the rule that forces non-consenting mineral interest owners to lease their mineral rights in the event that 55 percent of their neighbors in that section of land are willing to lease their rights.

Valley County

  • McCall voters narrowly defeated a measure to increase the local sales tax by 1 percentage point. The measure required a 60 percent majority to pass, but fell short at 59.3 percent. The 1 percent bump would have brought McCall’s sales tax to 7 percent for the next 10 years. City leaders estimate the tax increase would result in an extra $1 million in revenue. The city had planned to use that money to repair streets and sewer mains and build more paths and sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Renovations are nearly complete at the Timbercrest project in downtown McCall. The three story building was approved by the city in 2005 and construction was started by the original developer. However, the building was never completed and was taken over in a bank foreclosure. In 2009, Dan and Kylie Green of Kingston, Oklahoma, purchased the building.

Openings

  •  Corner Bakery Cafe in Meridian
  •  The Hive, a local musician’s non-profit, in Boise
  •  Moon’s Kitchen Café’s second location west of downtown Boise
  •  SolarTek Solutions, a large residential solar panel installation company based in Utah, in Meridian
  • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Nampa
  •  Buckle, a denim retailer, at The Village at Meridian

Closing

  • Mongo’s Grill in Meridian

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

Minidoka and Cassia Counties

  • Trucking company WillTran Inc. is relocating its corporate offices from Boise to Rupert, creating 10 new jobs in the move. It will maintain a satellite operation in Boise. The company transports agricultural liquids and commodities. WillTran Vice President Jerod Williams said relocating puts the company closer to its customers and vendors while expediting services and reducing transportation costs.
  • Idaho Youth Ranch has sold its property in Rupert for $1.6 million and will move to Canyon County within the next two years.
  • Georgia-based Americold is taking over the former Simplot Co. cold storage space in Heyburn. The 160,000-square-foot building will be retrofitted to fit the needs of Americold customers. The company was attracted by the adjacent rail and interstate highway access. The site has 10 trucking docks and seven rail docks. Americold anticipates hiring 35 workers at the site.

Jerome County

  • Idaho Milk Products of Jerome opened its new Tech Center this fall. The five-year-old company has become a leader in making milk protein isolate, milk protein concentrate, milk permeate and cream. The center houses quality control, marketing, sales, customer service and research and development. General Manager Kent Giddings said the company employs 118 people and contributes $13 million annually to the local economy. Idaho Milk Products is jointly owned by Aardema, Bettencourt and Big Sky dairies. The manufacturing plant is 17,000 square feet, processing 1.1 billion pounds of milk annually.

Twin Falls County

  • Glanbia’s Chief Executive Jeff Williams will retire at the end of 2014. Williams has been responsible for much of Glanbia’s growth and development over the past decade in south central Idaho, and indicated there are many projects that will continue after his retirement. In recent years Williams has established programs that assisted employees with subsidies to commute during high fuel price times, handed out cheese blocks to those facing tough circumstances over the holidays, hired summer interns at $16 an hour to help offset college expenses and contributed $40,000 to Idaho Horse Therapy, a ReBoot program for veterans suffering from PTSD. The Ireland-based processor employs over 700 workers in its cheese and whey plants and on the trucking side. The Gooding cheese plant’s capacity is estimated at 9 million pounds daily and it is the largest barrel cheese producer in the world, according to the company’s website.
  • The College of Southern Idaho’s Alternative Energy building, dedicated in October, is handling many classes now. The LEED-certified building has much of the interior ductwork exposed for educational purposes. A new food processing program and the mechanical HVAC program and maintenance apprenticeship are all housed there.
  • The city of Twin Falls has seen an upswing in both single family and commercial construction in 2014. The value of single family home construction hit $30.6 million through Sept. 30, up 10 percent from $27.7 million a year earlier. New commercial construction rose to $35.2 from $25.3 in 2013, almost 40 percent.

Blaine County

  • Italian-based Safilo Group is moving its Ketchum subsidiary Smith Optics to Portland, and about 35 employees will be relocated to the new design center. Another 40 will move to Clearfield, Utah, to work in manufacturing or distribution. Some back office staff may decide to relocate to Parsippany, New York. The company started in Ketchum 50 years ago with Dr. Bob Smith’s innovative work on ski goggles. Workers will start moving in the second half of 2015 and the last employees will be out by 2018.
  • The Pioneers Alliance, a non-profit conservation group in Carey, was awarded Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s Award for External Partnerships. The group has worked with private landowners to sustain sage grouse habitat over 65,000 acres throughout the Pioneer Mountains and Craters of the Moon National Monument. There are over 25 ranches and farms that have enrolled in the voluntary conservation easement program.
  • Safe Haven, the Bellevue care facility that is replacing Blaine Manor in Hailey, expects to open its new long-term care center in January. The company expects to hire most of the Blaine Manor staff.

Dairy Industry

  • A new study by the University of Idaho indicates that dairy contributes 3.4 percent to Idaho’s gross state product in milk production and value-added food processing. As dairy production continues to grow, there is room for more processing capacity. About 15 percent of the region’s milk products are exported to other states, more than in other major dairy states that have more maturity in the food processing sector. The 2012 exports were estimated at $360 million. Prices remain high for Class III milk at $21 to $24 per hundred pounds the past year. In 2012, Idaho dairymen and milk processors contributed 23,000 jobs, $650 million in wages, $6.6 billion in gross sales and $72 million in tax revenue to the state’s economy, according to the study.

Potato Industry

  • The potato industry expects prices to remain low in 2014 because of reduced consumer demand due at least in part to national health campaigns targeting carbohydrates. Harvest was early and caused some dumping on the market. According to Paul Patterson, agricultural economist with the University of Idaho Extension Service, potato producers probably will not cover production costs of $8.50 to $9 per hundred pounds with prices at $4.50 to $4.75 per hundred pounds.

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

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

Regional

  • ALCO Stores Inc., which operates in American Falls, Montpelier, Preston and Soda Springs, has filed for protection from creditors under federal bankruptcy laws. In those southeastern Idaho communities ALCO serves is an important retailer. The Idaho stores remain open since the company secured bridge financing from Wells Fargo as it possibly looks for a buyer, according to the Preston Citizen. ALCO stores are generally in rural communities with populations under 5,000.

Bannock County

  • Amy’s Kitchen, the maker of frozen entrees and snacks, is taking over the old Heinz Foods plant in Pocatello and will begin manufacturing operations before year’s end, employing about 200. The California-based company hopes to boost the payroll to 1,000 over the coming years. The availability of the Heinz plant and a workforce skilled in food processing were key factors in the company’s decision to locate in Idaho. Amy’s Kitchen is also receiving financial Incentives from both the state and county.
  • An uptick in large commercial construction has prompted SME Steel Contractors Inc. to reopen the Pocatello plant it closed two years ago. The plant made structural materials for large construction projects. Jack Buchanan, the Utah company’s human resource officer, told the Idaho Department of Labor that SME would be hiring 140 workers. SME Steel has been involved in many large scale construction projects including the new San Francisco 49er stadium and several large hotel and casino complexes in the Las Vegas area.
  • Southeastern Idaho veterans received some tips on business during a workshop in Pocatello sponsored by the Idaho Department of Labor and the regional office of the Small Business Administration. Experts targeted their comments to veterans who have already started their own businesses or are considering doing so. Workshops exposed veterans to the services offered in southeastern Idaho to new businesses. The half-day workshop is part of the Idaho Department of Labor’s business services initiative.

Bear Lake County

  • Bear Lake County voters rejected a bond to replace their historic courthouse. The courthouse was built in 1885 and is oldest functioning courthouse in Idaho. Additions were made in 1909 and 1937, but the current courthouse does not meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and suffers from electrical system deficiencies. The $3 million bond received 58 percent of the vote but needed a two-thirds majority for approval.

Bingham County

  • The city of Blackfoot is improving its airport. The Idaho State Journal reports workers are installing new LED lights along the runway to improve safety and the old beacon tower is being replaced with a newer state of the art tower. The project will cost $414,178, and 90 percent is being paid by a Federal Aviation Administration grant.
  • Rail traffic has essentially cut Blackfoot in two. The Idaho State Journal reports Mayor Paul Loomis contends the 10 trains passing through the city each day have blocked traffic to the point that the city is separated. The city tried but failed to receive a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build either an overpass or underpass to keep traffic moving. Loomis and the city are now looking at installing a system of electronic signs that will let drivers know which crossings in town are open.

Franklin County

  • Valley Wide Cooperative officials have outlined for the Preston City Council their plans to build a fertilizer plant on 10 acres in the city’s industrial park. According to the Preston Citizen, city regulations would require some property improvements including water and sewer hook ups and a new roadway before the plant could be approved.

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

  • The city of Ammon was recently invited to join a Next Century Cities conference in Santa Monica, California. The invitation was prompted by the city’s efforts to develop an ultra-high-speed Internet infrastructure. Ammon has buried 30 miles of fiber optic line without borrowing any money.
  • Idaho Falls has taken significant steps towards the construction of an Idaho Falls Event Center. Bob Everhart, recently appointed board member for the event center, said the stronger than usual summer tourist season generated more than $200,000 a month from the tourism tax on hotel rooms. The official date for breaking ground on the event center has not been set.
  • Hobby Lobby expects to open its new store in the Sandcreek Commons shopping center in Ammon next summer. The store will employ up to 50 full- and part-time employees and will be the company’s third outlet in Idaho and first in eastern Idaho.

Butte County

  • Craters of the Moon National Monument is considering a fee increase as part of a nationwide effort by the National Park Service to standardize fees. The National Park Service wants to create a three-tier system for all parks. Craters of the Moon falls into tier 1, which will have the lowest cost of the three. The last fee increase was in 2006. If approved, fees will increase from $8 to $15 per vehicle, probably next spring. All revenue will stay in the park and help add or improve several of the park’s amenities including a mountain bike trail and a hiking trail that goes all the way around the park.

Clark County

  • Recent tours were held at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station to help raise awareness of its role in the community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to close the facility. However, community, state and federal leaders were able to block immediate closure. A final decision is still up in the air. The Sheep Station maintains 28,000 acres of land for research. It has one of the oldest databases on grazing lands and sagebrush-grouse habitat in the country.

Custer County

  • Protecting the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains has moved from an Idaho issue to the national stage. The White House has expressed interest in declaring the area a national monument. President Obama has said if Congress does not act, he will use an executive order to declare the area a national monument. Rep. Mike Simpson is asking the president to delay for about six to eight months so he can work with Congress to get something passed. Simpson, however, faces an uphill battle as there is a significant amount of public opposition to a monument designation.

Fremont County

  • HK Contractors Inc. will be buying land outside Teton. The company has been fighting to turn the land into a gravel pit, and the Fremont County Planning and Zoning Commission has approved its application for a zoning change. The final decision rests with the county commissioners.
  • St. Anthony is exploring options to expand its greenway trails. The city is looking at using a more than century-old railroad bridge across the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River to connect two large trail systems. The bridge could safely link popular cycling and walking trails on the north and south sides of the Henry’s Fork Greenway. The city applied for a $10,000 grant for technical assistance in designing a trail over the old bridge. Alternative plans are also being considered.

Jefferson County

  • Jefferson County will auction off excess equipment, such as vehicles and industrial lawnmowers. The auction is expected to raise $300,000 to $350,000.

Lemhi County

  • A popular bridge in Salmon has been deemed unusable and closed. The bridge provided the only access to a popular park and launch point for fisherman. An underwater inspection of the footings found them so deteriorated that it was no longer a question of “if” the bridge will collapse but “when.” A new bridge would cost over $250,000, which is not in the city budget.

Madison County

  • Monkey Bar Storage broke ground on its new 12,000-square-foot corporate office building in Rexburg. The building will facilitate the distribution in the western United States. The company sells industry grade garage shelves, racks, cabinets and flooring through more than 120 dealers nationwide.
  • Construction of new apartments and a new Science and Technology Building is underway to better accommodate the exploding student population at Brigham Young University-Idaho. The university recently received approval to enroll up to 18,000 students by 2016. Building expansion on the Rexburg campus had stopped after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age at which members could go on missions. The initial wave of younger missionaries is now returning and the school is ramping up for a surge in enrollment.

Teton County

  • Sego Skis Co. now calls Victor home. The company is a startup ski manufacturer from Portland, Oregon. It opened its new eastern Idaho facility near Grand Targhee Ski Resort in November and will employ four or five people initially.

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