December Economic Activity Around Idaho

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

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

STATEWIDE DEVELOPMENTS

  • Idaho compensates for its low ratio of physicians to population by providing opportunities for Idahoans to attend medical school at the University of Washington or the University of Utah. Idaho is 49th in the nation for both the number of physicians overall and for the number of physicians working in primary care. Taking steps to increase the number of physicians is a major legislative priority of the Idaho Medical Association for 2015. The association has made establishing residency opportunities its top priority, Executive Director Susie Pouliot told the Idaho Business Review. The Idaho State Board of Education has included funding for more residency program spots in its budget request to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for next year, Pouliot said.
  • By 2016, Idaho Power could add 461 megawatts of solar-generating capacity to its system. Developers have signed contracts to sell electricity to Idaho Power from the 16 projects in Idaho and Oregon under a federal law that requires the utility to buy power to encourage small and alternative energy producers. If all plants are built, Idaho Power would have a total of 1,253 megawatts of new green power on its grid, utility spokesman Brad Bowlin said, according to the Idaho Statesman. Last year, Idaho’s peak load was 3,407 megawatts in July, which would make green power 37 percent of its system. The share of alternative energy in Idaho Power’s portfolio tripled from 2010 to 2013, rising from 7 percent to 23 percent excluding hydroelectric power. Intermountain Energy Partners, the Idaho developer behind most of that solar projects, said its facilities will create 1,000 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs. Based in Ketchum with offices in Boise, the company is set to build solar plants with a combined $800 million in construction costs, according to Leif Elgethun, a partner with the company.

  • In 2013, per capita personal income rose 2.9 percent in Idaho according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nationally, per capita personal income grew 1.3 percent. Even with the growth, Idaho’s average per capita personal income of $36,146 remains nearly $9,000 below the national average. Blaine County, home of the Sun Valley resort, had Idaho’s highest per capita income in 2013. Here are the top five counties:
    • Blaine – $67,513
    • Clark – $53,416
    • Camas – $49,054
    • Gooding – $46,244
    • Lewis – $43,378
  • Per capita personal income in Ada County ranked sixth among Idaho’s 44 counties at $42,395. The county with the lowest 2013 per capita income was Madison County, where Brigham Young University-Idaho is located. Here are the bottom five:
    • Madison – $22,987
    • Canyon – $25,606
    • Boundary – $29,668
    • Gem – $30,597
    • Teton – $30,910
  • Idaho’s median household income dropped slightly between 2012 and 2013, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. Median household income declined in 25 of Idaho’s 44 counties. There was a statewide drop of five-tenths of a percent, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. National median household income was unchanged from 2012 to 2013 at $53,046. The median is the income point at which half the households have more and half have less. Blaine County, which includes the Sun Valley Resort, had Idaho’s highest median household income in 2013 at $64,042, up 6.5 percent from the year before. Madison County, which includes Brigham Young University-Idaho, had the state’s lowest median income of $32,059, down 5.1 percent from 2012, according to the Idaho Statesman.
  • Idaho compensates for its low ratio of physicians to population by providing opportunities for Idahoans to attend medical school at the University of Washington or the University of Utah, according to the Idaho Business Review. Idaho is 49th in the nation for both the number of physicians overall and for the number of physicians working in primary care. Taking steps to increase the number of physicians is a major legislative priority of the Idaho Medical Association for 2015. The association has made establishing residency opportunities its top priority, Executive Director Susie Pouliot said. The Idaho State Board of Education has included funding for more residency program spots in its budget request to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for next year, Pouliot said.
  • There are nine counties in Idaho where at least 25 percent of men are not working, according to American Community Survey data on men ages 25 to 54. Clearwater County had the lowest rate at 50 percent. The margin of error in that county is estimated at plus or minus 8 percentage points. Other counties with rates at or above 25 percent included Clearwater, Boundary, Butte, Lemhi, Payette, Adams, Idaho, Shoshone and Bonner. In Ada County, 17 percent of working-age men reported they were out of a job, according to Boise State Public Radio.
  • Idaho lags behind Utah in the number of bonding options and in the ease of passing bonds for economic development and construction projects, according to Tommy Ahlquist, chief operating officer with development firm Gardner Co. Ahlquist, speaking at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho’s annual conference, said it can be difficult for Idaho to receive public funding for infrastructure and other improvements. Using data from Zions Bank Public Finance, Ahlquist said projects in Utah, unlike in Idaho, can use bonds from excise tax revenues, lease revenues and special assessments. In addition, it is easier in Utah to issue general obligation or revenue bonds since they have lower or no requirement for voter approval. He said part of the problem is that elected officials and citizens in Idaho are often unwilling to approve public-sector borrowing. That difference in borrowing options means Gardner is working on many more large scale projects in Utah, and that state’s economy is outpacing Idaho’s, according to the Idaho Business Review.
  • Idaho’s unemployment insurance tax rates will be 16.8 percent lower in 2015, according to the Idaho Statesman. Economic recovery and job growth have eased pressure on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The rate reduction is the third in a row since rates were at their legal maximum in 2012 so the trust fund could be replenished after it went broke in 2009 and 2010 during the recession. The base tax rate will be 1.585 percent on the first $36,000 in wages paid to each worker covered by the unemployment insurance system. 

Sources: Idaho Statesman, Idaho Business Review, Boise State Public Radio.

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

REGION

        • Deaconess Hospital is building a $5.2 million ambulatory health care center on Spokane’s north side. Deaconess is also remodeling and expanding the emergency department at its main hospital. The $3.7 million project should be completed next spring.
        • Jim McKierman has been named publisher of the Bonner County Daily Bee, Bonners Ferry Herald and the Priest River Times. McKierman is replacing David Keyes.
        • Trader Joe’s is planning a second store in Spokane. In addition to its store on the south hill, the chain plans to open a store on the city’s north side in the second half of 2015.
        • The University of Idaho’s annual Forest Health program in Coeur d’Alene provided updated forest owners, foresters and others on methods to improve forest health.

Benewah County

        • The city of St. Maries has paid $3,700 to the Kootenai Environmental Alliance to avoid a lawsuit over allegedly discharging wastewater into the St. Joe River without a permit, according to the St. Maries Gazette.
        • The St. Maries City Council awarded a timber sale to Idaho Forest Group for $274,682.

Bonner County

        • Rush-On, a website for adventure deals, was launched recently by a Sandpoint entrepreneur. The company connects adventure enthusiasts with outfitters via its website and mobile app. It already has 700 merchants in its database. Rush-On has four full-time employees including two former Coldwater Creek executives as its chief technology officer and marketing manager.
        • Sandpoint’s Quest Aircraft has reached a long-term deal to make its Kodiak aircraft in China for the Chinese market. The deal is with SkyView Aircraft Industry Co. – a Chinese company that covers exclusive sales, distribution and service of the Kodiak aircraft in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. The first few years SkyView will take delivery of a minimum of 10 Kodiak airplanes from Quest’s Sandpoint factory. By 2019, the company will purchase partially assembled aircraft kits which will undergo final assembly at a SkyView plant in China. According to the Spokane Journal of Business, under the agreement with Quest Aircraft, SkyView will sell Kodiak planes only in China and the surrounding countries, and it has the potential to overtake Latin America as the largest market for Kodiak airplanes outside of North America. Currently, the Kodiak is certified in 17 countries and employs over 175 people in Bonner County.

Boundary County

        • The Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative received the Sustaining Forests and Grasslands Regional Forester Honor Award. The initiative is a community-based, collaborative effort organized by the Kootenai Tribe to restore and enhance the resources in the Kootenai River Basin. It and the Bonners Ferry Ranger District are currently planning vegetation management projects in Deer Creek, Boulder and Trout-Ball Creek and the Westside Selkirks Burn.
        • Bonners Ferry turned 150 on Dec. 22. A brief history of the events are at http://newsbf.com/news/201412/11ferry150.html.

Kootenai County

        • Architects West of Coeur d’Alene has been selected to lead the design for North Idaho College’s $15 million Career Technical Education Facility. The building will nearly double enrollment capacity for automotive technology, diesel technology, machining, industrial mechanic/millwright training, outdoor power-vehicle technology and welding. Currently, the programs have a combined enrollment of 170. That will rise to 330 over the next 10 years. The building will be near the Kootenai Technical Education Campus along the Rathdrum Prairie and should be finished in fall 2016.
        • A Spokane real estate investment group is developing a two-building retail center in Post Falls near Walmart. One building will be 8,000 square feet and the other 9,000 square feet. Two retailers have already committed to leasing space in the $3 million development. The project has room for up to 14 tenants.
        • Pilgrim’s Market in Coeur d’Alene – a natural foods and health store – has completed a $300,000 renovation that includes a 2,000-square-foot kitchen and bakery. The store recently expanded the deli to include a hot buffet style bar. The market currently employs 70 people. The owner anticipates expanding the bakery’s wholesale department as well.
        • Timberline Adventures, a new zip line course on the side of Lake Coeur d’Alene at Beauty Bay, is set to open in June. The 117-acre parcel provides a 2.5 hour tour of 300 foot high zip lines up to 1,800 feet long.

Shoshone County

        • The American Institute of Mining Engineers held its December meeting in Kellogg. The program covered overcoming high-temperature water seepage in deep shaft mining.
        • Heritage Health, with the assistance of the Mullan Healthcare Clinic Committee, is seeking a permanent site for a clinic in Mullan. Heritage Health has been providing free health care since May through various health fairs. The committee is concerned about accessible health care in Mullan.
        • Wallace was named the second-most authentic small town in America, according to travel columnist Steve Winston in the World Property Journal. Google ranks World Property Journal as top global real estate site. Winston mentions one of the reason for the high ranking is that Wallace has the only downtown in America listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a Bordello Museum, Northern Pacific Railroad Depot and a ghost town nearby.

Openings

        • Shooters Supply & Pawn in Coeur d’Alene
        • Downdraft Brewing in Post Falls
        • Massage Envy in Coeur d’Alene
        • Physzique Fitness in Coeur d’Alene
        • North Idaho Cider at the incubator site in Hayden
        • Extension Addiction Salon in Coeur d’Alene
        • NanaMac’s Boutique in Coeur d’Alene
        • Zip Stop in Coeur d’Alene
        • Border Chiropractic in Coeur d’Alene
        • Dueling Irons Restaurant in Post Falls
        • Gentleman’s Quarters Barber in Coeur d’Alene
        • Blue Cedar Learning Center in Coeur d’Alene
        • Wilburn Custom Shop, a showcase for custom built electric guitars and music store, in Sandpoint
        • Dawn’s Therapeutic Massage in Sandpoint
        • A&P’s Bar & Grill in Sandpoint
        • Shibusa Studios in Sandpoint
        • Phones Plus’s second location in Sandpoint
        • Homestead Coffee in Bonners Ferry
        • Picturesque in Bonners Ferry
        • Something Blue Wedding Chapel and Boutique in Kellogg
        • Zapple property management in the Silver Valley

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

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

Clearwater County

        • Clearwater County commissioners urged the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert to increase timber harvests. The commissioners recommended the forest begin stepping up its annual harvest goal to 100 million board feet. Last year, the forest sold more than 60 million board feet, its highest harvest in several years. Increasing timber harvests would provide more funds for county schools, roads and special programs since the Forest Service gives a share of its timber sales for that purpose. It also would provide more jobs for loggers and truck drivers. The Forest Service plans to offer more trees for sale in the near future, partly because of the salvage at Johnson Bar near Lowell after last summer’s 13,000-acre fire. The commissioners also expressed concerns about the Forest Service limiting access to the national land by closing roads.
        • The Idaho Department of Correction held career fairs at the Idaho Department of Labor offices in Orofino and Lewiston in mid-November. The department is hiring correctional officers for its prisons in Orofino and Cottonwood. Correctional officers receive competitive benefits and start at a wage of $13.27 an hour with an increase to $14.05 after successful completion of entrance probation.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

        • Syringa Hospital in Grangeville is undergoing a $2.5 million renovation, the first major upgrade in its 75-year history. Construction on the front entrance, which will give patients better access, is nearly complete. The hospital recently finished the remodel of the physical therapy building, which now houses hospice, community relations and the events coordinator. The former LeBlanc building, renamed the Webb building, now houses financial and businesses services. Soon, the hospital will begin remodeling the reception area and shifting offices and services to more expedient locations on the hospital grounds. Crea Construction of Lewiston is the general contractor.
        • The hospital’s board of trustees has approved an engineering study to assess the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed helipad in the former Ernie’s Steakhouse parking lot across from the Grangeville hospital. Riedesel Engineering’s Lewiston office will do the study. Information gathering and public meetings are expected to occur throughout the winter and into early spring. If the hospital does build the helipad, site work could begin in May.
        • Lewis County commissioners authorized Primeland Cooperatives to build a new four-silo grain elevator near the new Avista electric substation about a mile north of Nezperce. Each of the corrugated steel silos will hold up to 100,000 bushels of grain. It will complement Primeland’s other two businesses in Nezperce – a fuel site and an agronomy plant.
        • Idaho County’s two ski hills – Snowhaven ’n Ski and Tubing Area near Grangeville and Cottonwood Butte Ski Area near Cottonwood – are open daily while area schools are on winter break but otherwise only on weekends and holiday Mondays. Both are run by volunteers but provide a few jobs for cooks, kitchen workers and lift operators. A mechanical problem with a T-bar tower ended Cottonwood Butte’s season early last winter. It was fixed this summer. Increased operating expenses made it necessary for the ski area to raise its prices this winter for the first time in seven years.

Latah County

        • The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded grants of $768,000 to the National Biodiesel Board and Regents and $192,000 to the University of Idaho in November. Working cooperatively, the two research, educate and raise awareness of biodiesel fuels among government and private entities to enhance commercialization. The project consists of converting 187 million gallons of manure from dairy operations to electricity that will help fuel and care for properties in Idaho. “This is about expanding the rural economy, using a number of different strategies to create jobs and to create stable markets for producers,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
        • Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. continues to grow rapidly as it increases its product lines and expands its markets. The company – which designs and makes product for managing, protecting and monitoring electric power systems – now employs 3,600 people worldwide, up over 40 percent from two years ago. Nearly 2,000 are based at the company’s 92-acre campus on the north edge of Pullman. The company currently has about 200 job openings, slightly more than half in Pullman and the rest around the world as it continues developing new products and services. When it started 30 years ago, Schweitzer’s product catalog fit on one page. Today, it’s 300 pages. Schweitzer employs more than 700 Idahoans in Pullman, as well as employing about 240 at its Lewiston manufacturing plant.

Nez Perce and Asotin, Wash., Counties

        • Zions Bank opened its new financial center in Lewiston in mid-November. When the center opened on a pad in the parking lot of Lewiston’s former Walmart, Zions closed its downtown and Lewiston Orchards branches. One part looks like a traditional bank branch. The rest is a customer and business service center for financial advice and processing loans or credit card payments. Zions eliminated one position in the consolidation and now has 14 Lewiston employees.
        • Clearwater Paper is building a $4.5 million addition to the storage and loading facility its Lewiston plant. The project is expected to be completed by the end of December. Currently, Clearwater Paper’s Lewiston site has about 15,000 square feet of storage space for giant rolls of paperboard, which range from 60 to 72 inches in diameter. It stores rolls that need additional processing at a warehouse a mile and a half away at the Port of Lewiston. The new facility will provide 40,000 additional square feet and will cut costs by thousands of dollars a year by reducing the difficulties of finding truck drivers, time spent moving the rolls and potential damage. Some cost savings will hurt the port, which owns the warehouse Clearwater has been using. Clearwater Paper is the largest customer of the Terminal II warehouse, the biggest building the port owns. The company also is doubling the number of loading bays for trucks to 12 and adding three places to fill rail cars, bringing the total to 13.
        • Dredging required to maintain shipping channels in the lower Snake River may be prevented again this winter. After public hearings, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a plan in November to dredge a number of locations along the Snake River near Lewiston and Clarkston. The Nez Perce Tribe and environmental groups including Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and the Sierra Club asked a judge to delay the dredging pending the outcome of their recently filed lawsuit challenging the practice. Sediment builds up, increasing flood risk and reducing the viable shipping channel. Barges and the larger cruise boats need 14 feet of water. The corps awarded a contract for the $6.7 million project to American Construction Co. of Tacoma to remove about 400,000 cubic yards of sediment. Dredging can only occur in a narrow window between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28, when salmon and steelhead are less likely to be in the river. The port commissioners of Lewiston and Clarkston also plan to dredge the area immediately around the ports at the same time. The last time, the corps dredged the area was the winter of 2005-06.

Openings

        • Aloha Laundry, a Laundromat, in Grangeville
        • Backcountry Lark, a store selling outdoor clothing, in Moscow

 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

        • Delta Air Lines will be the second airline to offer daily flights from Boise to Seattle starting next May, according to the Idaho Business Review. The new flights are part of Delta’s expansion of service from Seattle, having recently announced new flights to Spokane and Salt Lake City. The airline also announced new Seattle flights to Denver, Sacramento, Ketchikan and Sitka. Alaska Airlines currently is the only airline that flies between Boise and Seattle. Southwest Airlines dropped service in 2011. Seattle is now one of the several direct routes served by multiple airlines – two airlines fly to Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
        • Online real estate brokerage Movoto has moved its virtual presence into southwestern Idaho. San Mateo, California-based Movoto became a member of the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service on Nov. 5 and has started listing Boise-area homes on its website, according to the Idaho Business Review.
        • Meridian will be getting a new YMCA, city park and elementary school. The Treasure Valley YMCA announced recently that it will build its first new facility since opening the Caldwell Y nine years ago, according to Boise State Public Radio. The new South Y in Meridian will be built on 22 acres of donated land. The J.A. and Katherine Albertson Foundation is donating $4 million to start the project, which is still being developed. No date for construction has been set.
        • Intermountain Energy Partners plan to build the Boise City Solar 40-megawatt project southeast of Kuna over the next year. The project using mono-crystalline solar modules is a dual-axis tracking system, which allows the tracker to follow the sun both vertically and horizontally. Intermountain Energy will lease the land from the city of Boise, which not only would get lease payments but also half of the revenue from the sale of Renewable Energy Credits created by the project, according to the Idaho Business Review.
        • Boiseans are more fiscally prudent and more upbeat about the economy than their peers in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, according to a survey by Banner Bank as reported in the Idaho Business Review. In response to the survey question, “Do you enjoy saving money more than spending it?” nearly 68 percent of Boise respondents said they prefer to save, Banner Bank said. That is higher than a 2014 U.S. Gallup Poll that shows 62 percent of Americans now prefer saving to spending. The habit of saving also ranked significantly higher in Boise than in other Northwest cities such as Portland at 51 percent and Seattle at 48 percent. Overall, the saving preferences in the Northwest ranked below the national averages, with 54 percent favoring saving to 40 percent who would prefer to spend. Northwesterners in general are confident about their saving habits, the survey found. In Boise, 64 percent of homeowners said they thought they were saving enough. Sixty-five percent in Seattle and 70 percent in Portland said they were confident they were saving enough.
        • The Idaho Department of Lands has set Jan. 31 to auction 35 state-owned lots that have privately owned homes at Payette Lake, according to the Idaho Business Review. The Payette Lake Voluntary Auction of Ownership will be held at the Riverside Hotel in Boise. This is the third auction of lots at Payette Lake, where the Lands Department wants to divest itself of cottage property. In the past, cottage owners have nearly always placed the winning bids for the land under their structures.
        • After 50 years of leasing office space, the Better Business Bureau has graduated to office ownership in Garden City. The bureau plans to move into its new home by the end of January, President Dale Dixon said, according to the Idaho Business Review.
        • After more than two years of bank ownership and no chain affiliation, Boise Hotel and Conference Center, the 116-room hotel near the Boise airport, will become the Wyndham Garden Boise Airport hotel, according to the Idaho Statesman. Its more than 60 employees will keep their jobs. Castle Ranch Steakhouse and the Sports Page Bar also will stay but with an increased emphasis on Idaho products, especially wines.
        • Treasure Valley Hospital, a Boise surgery center, has added 35 percent more capacity, according to the Idaho Statesman. Patient demand for advanced surgical procedures drove the design and construction of more surgery space, Administrator Nick Genna said. The expansion includes three new surgical suites, three remodeled suites, new private extended-recovery rooms and a renovated diagnostic imaging department. The hospital also has changed its food service, allowing patients to order from a menu.
        • The National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun listed Boise alongside Florida retirement hotbeds Sarasota, Orlando and Fort Myers plus Phoenix and Tucson in the Top 10 cities that can expect to see the largest influx of baby boomer homebuyers aged 60 to 69, according to the Idaho Business Review.
        • The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has announced a $1 million donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County to help build a new teen center and gym at the Meridian Boys & Girls Club, according to the Idaho Statesman. Half of the foundation’s gift is designated as a match to help expedite the Boys & Girls Clubs’ $3.5 million fundraising campaign. To date, the club has raised about $3 million. The Boys & Girls Club plans to start work on expanding its facility next spring.
        • The City Center Plaza in downtown Boise will not be completed until fall 2016, but food and restaurant space at the project is nearly booked, according to the Idaho Statesman. Dave Wali, executive vice president with developer Gardner Co., said four of the five retail spaces in the development for restaurants have been filled, and Wali said two potential tenants are interested in that last space.
        • Simplot plans to build a $50 million beef packing plant in Kuna, according to the recording of the Dec. 9 Kuna City Council meeting. The land, which is located within the Kuna School District, will employ 400 to 500 people, according to the Kuna Melba News.

Canyon County

        • A developer wants to put affordable apartments in downtown Caldwell, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. The developer and the Caldwell Housing Corp. are seeking the help of the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency on the projects. One proposal is for a four-story building and a parking garage on one level on three parcels, manager Greg Urrutia said. The city owns two and the other is privately held. There are two options on the table for the proposed apartment building. The first option is a strictly residential building with 27 units at a cost of $5.8 million. The second option would include two commercial spaces on the first floor and one additional apartment unit for a total of 28 at a cost of $6 million, Urrutia said.
        • A 100-year-old downtown Caldwell building is getting a makeover to attract new tenants and contribute to the revitalization of downtown, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. The 25,000-square-foot building was once the home of a seed company and later an auction center, but it has been vacant for years. It is near the Caldwell Train Depot.
        • The downtown building that housed Nafzigers menswear for nearly 70 years is getting a new owner and a new purpose, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. World of Nutrition opened in the Karcher Mall in 1977 and has been at its current location for 20 years. The owner, Allison Wear, hopes to have World of Nutrition moved into the new location by spring before the store’s lease ends in June. The retail space is slightly smaller than the current store, but the basement and second story provide opportunities for new ventures, Wear said.

Elmore County

        • The vacant field south of the St. Luke’s Elmore Medical Center has become a holding zone for 13 pieces of a modular building that will become a specialty clinic for the hospital. The 8,600-square-foot module was moved from Fruitland after St. Luke’s completed a new clinic there in May, according to the Mountain Home News.

Gem County

        • Gem County commissioners auctioned 47 properties the county acquired after taxes on them were not paid for three years, according to the Gem Messenger-Index.

Owyhee County

        • The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved contracts for two solar projects – one in Kuna and a second in Grand View – that would produce 120 megawatts, enough power to serve 83,000 average-sized homes, according to the Idaho Business Review. The projects are scheduled to be completed in 2016. Robert Paul of Boise would develop the Grand View Solar Two project, which could produce 80 megawatts from its 340,480 polysilicon photovoltaic panels installed on a single-axis tracking system.

Payette County

        • The Payette Planning and Zoning Commission has approved converting Payette’s old courthouse into a mixed-use apartment complex, according to the Payette Independent-Enterprise. The permit allows two Parma-based real estate agents, Shawn and Mindy Rudkin, to convert the courthouse’s top level into four executive-style one bedroom apartments. The couple hopes to develop 10 apartments in the future.

Valley County

        • Midas Gold Corp. has formed an Idaho subsidiary to oversee its gold exploration project in Valley County and named mostly Valley County residents to the subsidiary’s board of directors, according to the Idaho Statesman. The Vancouver, B.C., company also announced it was changing the name of its Golden Meadows Project to the Stibnite Gold Project. It named former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred to the parent company’s board. Midas Gold Inc. is the name of Midas Gold Corp.’s wholly owned Idaho subsidiary that will manage activities at the Stibnite Gold Project, Midas Gold President Stephen Quin said.

Openings

        • Chick-fil-A in south central Boise
        • Materne North America manufacturing plant, which produces GoGo squeeZ applesauce, in Nampa
        • A DownEast Home & Clothing store in Meridian’s CentrePoint Marketplace
        • Prost German Pubs, which owns four German-themed concepts in Seattle and two in Portland, in downtown Boise
        • Longdrop Cider Co., a local craft cider producer, in Eagle
        • Li’s Chinese Kitchen in Council

Closings

        • Penny Wise Drug Store, a Caldwell institution since 1948
        • Raedean’s Family Restaurant, a stalwart in south Boise
        • The last Taco John’s in the Boise-Nampa metro area

Sources: Idaho Statesman, Idaho Business Review, Payette Independent Enterprise, Idaho Press-Tribune, Mountain Home News, Kuna Melba News

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

Blaine County

        • Craters of the Moon National Monument managers are seeking local government support for converting the monument to a national park,. The National Park Service has not backed the effort, but local officials are considering it. Park status would apply on to the 53,500 acres in the original monument, not the protected area of the national preserve, which is estimated at 465,000 acres, or the Bureau of Land Management’s 285,000 acres of grazing land.
        • The Valley View Section 8 apartment complex in Hailey has been converted to private rental properties. Tenants have been assured they can still continue to live there with valid vouchers for reduced rents. The terms of the original contract have not been renewed, according to the two owners of the 52-unit complex which is listed for sale at $3.95 million. The Blaine County Housing Authority believes the existing structure of subsidized housing will continue after the complex is sold.
        • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains sockeye salmon return from the ocean to inland lakes and rivers has been high enough to put the species on the path toward self-sufficiency. This is a big turnaround from 1992, when only one male sockeye, Lonesome Larry, returned to Redfish Lake. This year, 460 sockeye returned – the most since the restoration program started three years ago. The agency released a plan earlier this year, citing 1,000 naturally spawned sockeye returning to Redfish Lake and other lakes as the target for recovery. Other groups have cited lower returns over time and maintain downstream dams must still be removed.
        • Goode Motors acquired the Hailey franchise known as Wood River Motors, now called Goode Motor Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. Ownership is held by Garth Williams, Russell Bair and Matt Cook, who released employment estimates for auto dealerships at 125 workers in Blaine, Twin Falls and Cassia counties. The company believes it has the most employees in the region after this acquisition.
        • Ketchum’s local option tax was up 4 percent for the fiscal year 2013-2014 to $1.84 million. An additional $1.1 million was earmarked for minimum revenue guarantees for commercial airlines to generate new flights.
        • The city of Bellevue received a grant from the Seagraves Foundation for $58,275 to cover adding playground equipment, picnic tables and landscaping at both Memorial Park and O’Donnell Park.
        • Passengers flying in and out of Friedman Memorial increased 49 percent from 2013 so far. New flights and extended season for direct flights brought up capacity with the potential for 85,501 seats through October, up 27 percent.
        • Power Engineers was one of the private companies making the grade among Idaho’s Private 75, rising two spots to 17th. The engineering company is frequently recognized for its good workplace climate and its growth, working globally in a highly competitive industry.
        • Getting to and from Sun Valley this winter will be easier than ever with nonstop flights from five major cities—Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Seattle. Flights to Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey this winter will be on the following schedule:

Alaska Airlines

        • Seattle: Daily from Dec. 13 to March 29. Five flights per week, no Tuesday or Wednesday flights Jan. 12–25.
        • Los Angeles: Daily from Dec. 15 to March 29. Five flights per week, no Tuesday or Wednesday flights Jan. 12-25.

United Express

        •  San Francisco: Daily from Dec. 18 to March 29. Five flights per week, no Tuesday or Wednesday flights Jan. 6 to Feb. 10 (will operate Tuesday, Jan. 20).
        •  Denver: Daily from Dec. 18 to Jan. 5. Saturday only from Jan. 10 to Feb. 7. No Wednesday or Saturday flights from Feb. 11 to March 28.

Delta Air Lines

        •  Salt Lake City: Daily year-round, three flights daily during peak winter periods, two flights daily during other periods.

Cassia County

        • The College of Southern Idaho’s Mini-Cassia Center in Burley enrolled 20 students in its first food processing class under a partnership with the Burley School District, using classroom space at the new Burley High School Ag Center. The partnership intends to draw attention to the science involved in food processing and to show those not involved in agriculture its importance. A Food Science Expo occurred partway through the course with projects made by the students. The class will be offered again in the spring.

Minidoka County

        • Land View Inc., a provider of inputs to agricultural producers, was recognized by Idaho Private 75 as ranking 28th, down two spots from 2013. The company is based in Rupert.

Twin Falls County

        • Glanbia plans an $88 million expansion at both its Gooding and Twin Falls plants. There will be approximately $65 million invested in the Gooding area, generating about 40 new jobs to produce whey protein isotope – a popular protein for sports enthusiasts. It is estimated that $17 million will be invested in the Twin Falls plant, adding 10 new jobs. The company says it processes 12 million pounds of milk daily – a third of the milk produced in Idaho. It is the eighth business to employ the new tax reimbursement incentive and will receive 23 percent of its state payroll and sales taxes returned. Gooding County has also offered tax relief because of the quality and number of new jobs and the sizeable investment Glanbia is making.
        • A contest to name three new schools scheduled for construction in March drew 200 entries. The Twin Falls School Board picked Pillar Falls Elementary School with the falcons as mascot, Twin Falls South Hills Middle School with cougars as mascot and Rock Creek Elementary with raptors as mascot.
        • Ridley’s Family Markets with corporate headquarters in Twin Falls was ranked 20th in the Idaho Private 75, up from 22nd in 2013. The list is compiled by the Idaho Statesman. The company has retail super markets, pharmacies and Ace Hardware stores throughout Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.
        • Independent Food Corp., ranked 66th in the Idaho Private 75, plans to add another facility to meet growing demand. The 100-year-old company processes and sells thick sliced bacon, hams, hot dogs and sausage under the Falls Brand logo and fresh pork roasts, ribs and chops under Salmon Creek Farms labeling.

Openings

        • GCAM, a plasma collection center, in Twin Falls
        • The Windermere Real Estate Co.’s second location in Ketchum
        • The Lift, a transitional low-income housing complex in Ketchum in the old Lift Tower Lodge

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

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

REGION

        • The ALCO discount store chain, which has filed for bankruptcy, is closing all its stores included those in Preston, American Falls and Soda Springs. The closure will idle about 30 workers – 10 at each store.

Bannock County

        • Amy’s Kitchen wasted no time recruiting the 200 workers it needed for its Pocatello plant, the former Heinz Food plant it acquired in October. Over 600 people attended its mid-November hiring event, and many of the workers it hired previously worked for Heinz. The availability of so many workers with experience in food manufacturing was a major reason why Amy’s Kitchen came to Pocatello. The company hopes to expand operations to more than 1,000 workers over the next few years.
        • Wildfires are a major problem in the West, claiming lives and property every year. Working together under a three-year grant, Idaho State University and NASA are developing software to help firefighters understand how to best manage wildfires. The new software will provide important data to firefighters in a matter of minutes that now takes several days to collect and process.

Bear Lake County

        • The Idaho Department of Water Resources met with residents in Bear Lake County to discuss Bear River water rights. Many of those rights have not been evaluated for over 100 years, and communities using water from the river have not had their rights assessed since the 1920s. The purpose of the evaluation is to ensure that individuals, businesses and communities are able to equitably access water in the coming years.
        • The Bear Lake High School Student Council worked with Broulim’s grocery just before Thanksgiving to bring turkeys and other holiday fare to 253 needy Bear Lake County residents. The students raised the money to pay for the food during their homecoming celebration.

Bingham County

        • The city of Blackfoot is pondering the future of the community’s 41-year-old indoor swimming pool. In early December a special committee recommended the pool undergo $2 million in repairs and upgrades, which includes replacing the insulation on the dome and installing new handlers. The City Council postponed action on the recommendation until January.
        • Melissa Hunt, a teacher at Blackfoot’s Stoddard Elementary School, led the campaign to secure a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance for new technology for the students to use. The school was one of five winners in the Farmers Insurance Thank a Million Teachers Program.

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

        • Efforts are underway to combine economic development organizations in several counties to create a regional approach that provides a unified voice and single point of contact for site selectors and companies looking to relocate or expand to eastern Idaho. The merger is patterned after a similar effort in south central Idaho, but Bannock County recently announced plans to keep its own county economic development group.
        • Broulim’s grocer will build a new store in the Sandcreek Commons development in Ammon. Broulim’s is the third retailer to announce construction in the past two months. Hobby Lobby and Cabela’s have also begun construction in the downtown shopping center.
        • Tautphaus Zoo in Idaho Falls held minicamps for kids over the Thanksgiving holiday. Each camp had a different emphasis, teaching kids about various aspects of the animal kingdom.
        • Melaleuca paid $1.6 million in bonuses to local employees as part of an aggressive incentive program to retain employees. The incentive program pays $5,000 to workers on the payroll for five years and adds another $5,000 to the bonus total each subsequent five years of service. The largest bonus paid this time was $30,000 to an employee celebrating 30 years with the company.

Butte County

        • Two additional lawsuits have been filed against Battelle Energy Alliance over the Idaho National Laboratory’s radioactive material spill that occurred three years ago. The spill exposed 16 employees to radioactive material. The lawsuits allege Battelle delayed and mishandled tests following the accident that would have determined the degree of radiation doses workers received. The incident occurred when a fuel plate was accidentally cut open and radioactive material spilled on the plaintiffs’ shoulders, hands, hair and faces.

Clark County

        • The closure of the Dubois Experimental Sheep Station has been temporarily halted by speedy and swift reaction from both local community members and state legislators. In June U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sent a letter to senators and congressmen outlining his intention to pull the annual $1.9 million funding from the location. The letter outlined plans to relocate the station and employees to Nebraska. Idaho opposition put the plan on hold. The fate of the station now rests with the White House and U.S. Senate. Should either decide to provide funds, the station will remain open.

Custer County

        • Stretches of the Salmon River received a much needed facelift from various volunteers from the Sawtooth Society and several Stanley residents. The group has completed a number of projects dating back to June, ranging from removing trash from river banks and closing unauthorized vehicle crossings along the river to removing unnecessary barbwire fences. The Sawtooth Society is a nonprofit advocacy group formed in 1997.

Fremont County

        • Yellowstone National Park announced record-breaking attendance through September and October. The park had 571,764 tourists visit the park in September and 198,804 in October. Park spokesman Al Nash said the back-to-back record breaking months are part of a year that has seen great attendance. From January to October, Yellowstone had 3.48 million visitors, up more than 10 percent from the previous year. Along with the improving economy, Nash cited extraordinary fall weather for the increase.
        • Yellowstone National Park may be home to a new state-of-the-art ecological observatory. The park has been selected as a possible destination for the observatory, which will gather data on the impacts of climate change. The observatory will be in place for the next 30 years. Construction and maintenance will be funded by the National Science Foundation.
        • The Fremont County Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a zoning change to allow the construction of a gravel pit near the city of Teton. The commission must determine whether the pit is in the best interest of the community. Comments have been taken from both residents and business. Should the changes be accepted, HK Contractors Inc. will develop the pit.
        • St. Anthony will use a federal grant to improve its business district through the National Main Street Center program. The city has received several federal and state grants in recent months and has raised enough money to resurface every road in the city limits. The projects are estimated to be completed by the end of 2015.

Jefferson County

        • The Jefferson School District is revisiting its substitute teacher pay scale. Currently, all substitute teachers are paid the same, regardless of length of service, but several teachers filed complaints earlier this fall when the district released a new pay schedule that cut pay. That move is being reconsidered.
        • Ducks Unlimited met twice with the city of Roberts, the Idaho Fish and Game Department and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to discuss a new state park on 825 acres outside of Roberts. The city’s mayor said the park could potentially house an RV park and camping area, a lodge, trout farm, skeet shooting area and an archery range.

Lemhi County

        • The Bureau of Land Management rescinded a special recreation permit for a predator derby on BLM land near Salmon. Several conservation groups had sued to stop the derby. Despite the pulled permit, derby organizers held the derby.
        • The city of Salmon has closed a bridge that provided the only access to a popular park and river access. Reports indicate the bridge could collapse at any time. Replacement could cost as much as $300,000. The city estimates construction could take more than two years. The city does not have the money in its budget for the project and is currently looking into alternative funding sources. Along with access to the city park and river access, the bridge provided the only access to the city’s supplemental water pumping station. Should the station go out, the city may have a difficult time getting the necessary gear to the small island for repairs.

Madison County

        • Madison Memorial Hospital has received county approval to buy Seasons Medical LLC in Rexburg for $1.8 million. Seasons is a small health care practice. The hospital, however, did not purchase the new building Seasons recently completed. The building will stay in private hands and remain on the property tax rolls.

Teton County

        • The Teton County School District is back to the drawing board after voters again rejected a $19 million bond proposal. The school board needed a two-thirds majority, but the bond only received a 55 percent approval in both elections. The district is facing growing enrollment, and the bond would have funded replacement for two aging elementary schools, and additions and upgrades for at least two other elementary schools.

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