January 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

  • A recent report from the finance website Wallet Hub says Idaho is the third most-generous state – tied with Kansas, according to Boise State Public Radio. Utah and South Dakota topped the list. Using IRS statistics and survey data for the report for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Wallet Hub looked at volunteer time and money donated. Idahoans’ high rate of giving was attributed in part to the state’s large Mormon population. About a quarter of Idahoans identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Giving money to a church counts as a charitable contribution in most studies. A University of Pennsylvania study found that 88 percent of active Mormons report giving 10 percent of their income to the church. That’s higher than any other religion in America.

  • Idaho credit unions continue to fare better than those in most other states, the Idaho Business Review reports. Between October 2013 and September 2014, Idaho-based credit unions increased their assets 3.1 percent and deposits 3.6 percent, both more than twice the national average, according to the National Credit Union Administration. Idaho ranked among the top 15 states in those categories. The state also had the highest median membership growth rate at 2.7 percent. Nationally, membership declined 0.4 percent. Idaho had the highest median growth rate in outstanding loans at 9.5 percent, well above the national rate of 1.8 percent.
  • After nine relatively strong months, Idaho ranked 44th nationally in personal income growth for the third quarter of 2014. Idahoans’ income grew 0.5 percent from July through September, half the national growth rate and the lowest among the western states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Strong migration from other states pushed Idaho’s total population up 1.3 percent in 2014, the ninth-highest increase in the nation and Idaho’s largest one-year gain since 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Idaho’s estimated mid-year population was 1.63 million, up more than 21,000 from the mid-point of 2013. Nationally, the population rose 0.7 percent to nearly 319 million. Nearly 9,400 people moved to Idaho from other states and countries.
  • Higher individual and business income tax revenues offset some shortfalls in sales, product and miscellaneous taxes to boost total revenue to the state, according to the Idaho Division of Financial Management. Businesses received far less money in tax refunds than expected, and individual tax revenues were significantly higher as Idaho employment surpassed prerecession levels.
  • A West Coast dockworkers slowdown has affected Idaho businesses shipping goods to international markets, according to the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Beef exports were off 70 percent, and potato processing by the J.R. Simplot Co. has been cut back.
  • Normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations after 54 years has Idaho producers hoping they have a new market, according to the Idaho Statesman. Cubans import more than 80 percent of their food, and officials estimate easing restrictions on Cuba and lifting the travel ban could result in $365 million in additional sales of U.S. agricultural products and boost the U.S. economy by $1.1 billion.
  • The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation invested $34 million in Idaho students, teachers and communities in 2014 with year-end gifts to the South YMCA project, Boise’s Rhodes Park, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County, Junior Achievement of Idaho and the Idaho Food Bank.
  • Grocery Outlet Inc. has big expansion plans. The 218-store West Coast discount grocery chain plans to open its fifth Idaho store in Caldwell in 2015. It has stores in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls and Lewiston. Chain officials also have their eyes on Sandpoint, Moscow, Mountain Home, Burley, Rexburg and Idaho Falls, according to the Idaho Business Review.

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

Region

  • Spokane Mayor David Condon has a plan to better prepare workers for construction careers by building on the apprenticeship ordinance the city council passed in December. With $500 million in public works improvements over the next five years, the city will be in a better position to accomplish the workload.
  • Frontier Airlines has ended flight service at Spokane International Airport. Spokane is one of three cities Frontier has left. The others are Fresno and Bakersfield, California. Minimal layoffs will occur since the airline had a limited amount of locally based staff. Other airlines will provide the daily service Frontier offered to Denver.
  • The Forest Service approved its most recent Idaho Panhandle National Forests Land Management Plan, replacing the one adopted in 1987. The Record of Decision, revised Forest Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement are now available to view on the Forest Service website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ipnf/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5436518
  • The Spokane Teaching Health Center is a consortium of Washington State University, Providence Health Care and Empire Health Foundation. The group came together to bring a health clinic to the Washington State Spokane campus in the University District. The clinic will serve as the teaching health center for graduate medical students, or residencies, in Spokane and provide primary health care services to the community at low or no cost. Construction is expected to begin this spring.

Benewah County

  • Weather has slowed cleanup at the St. Maries Creosote site – eight acres along the south bank of the St. Joe River. The site is contaminated from a pole treating plant that operated there more than 50 years ago. The city has paid more than $549,000 of the $24 million estimated cleanup cost. The project is expected to be completed later this year.
  • The 142-acre Stonegate development has been sold, and the new owners expect to begin selling lots in the spring, according to the St. Maries Gazette Record.
  • The Benewah Medical Center in Plummer received an $8,057 Affordable Care Act grant that recognizes a 10 percent improvement in clinical quality measures between 2012 and 2013. The center was one of 11 in the state that demonstrated improvements in chronic disease management, preventive care and the use of Electronic Health Records to report data.
  • The city of St. Maries received a $20,000 grant from the Inland Community Foundation and a $5,000 grant from Avista to help fund a community amphitheater. The St. Maries Rotary Club has raised more than $100,000 for the project.

Bonner County

  • xCraft, a Sandpoint-based startup, has raised more than $85,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter for its new drone. The X PlusOne is similar to other quadcopter drones but can travel at double the speed. xCraft was started by J.D. Claridge, an aerospace engineer who worked for Quest Aircraft but now also owns Aero Designworks, and Charles Manning, chief executive of Kochava. The X PlusOne has more than 140 pre-orders since Dec. 15.

Kootenai County

  • Jobs Plus President Steve Griffitts is leaving after 12 years of helping bring 45 companies and 3,100 workers to the area, according to the Coeur d’Alene Press. The Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Organization has been in existence since 1987 and is currently searching for a new leader.
  • Triple Play is expanding to include a laser tag arena and three-story rope course. The new areas are expected to open in late February.
  • Construction has started on a new shopping center in Post Falls near Walmart. The 17,000 square-foot retail space will house 14 new businesses.
  • NISHB LLC has broken ground on a new medical campus in Post Falls near Northwest Specialty Hospital. The Syringa Medical Campus will ultimately be a two-story building.

Shoshone County

  • The Lookout Pass Free Ski School is celebrating its 75th year of offering free winter sports for young people ages 6 to 17. Typically there are 750 children each year who join the program. According to the Shoshone News Press, the program was started in 1940 by mining families in the Silver Valley who wanted the opportunity to teach the community’s young people how to ski.
  • Heritage Health, a nonprofit community health clinic, plans to open a new clinic in Mullan and a new dental office in Wallace in March to meet community needs.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency made a final decision to expand the Pinehurst air quality nonattainment area to include Smelterville and Kellogg. This means the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will be working with the local communities to develop plans to reduce emissions in the west Silver Valley by the fall of 2016 to comply with EPA air quality standards.

Openings

  • Draft Badger Brewing in Coeur d’Alene
  • Spokane Teachers Credit Union branch in Coeur d’Alene
  • Orthopedic Specialty Institute in Coeur d’Alene
  • Melone’s Culinary Public House in Coeur d’Alene in February
  • Tacos Reynoso in Stateline
  • Senti Bella in Coeur d’Alene
  • Physzique Fitness in Coeur d’Alene
  • Gerber Collision & Glass in Coeur d’Alene
  • Timber Gastropub in Post Falls – will employ 40
  • Renovations underway at the Gauteraux hotel in Wallace
  • Tall Pine restaurant re-opens in Pinehurst after a sewer line accident flooded the building in early November
  • Willamette Valley Bank has taken over former Goldwater Bank in Coeur d’Alene
  • North Idaho Cider in Coeur d’Alene
  • Hayden Furniture Depot in Hayden
  • Always Grounded, a coffee shop, in St. Maries

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

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

Region

  • The North Central Idaho Small Business Development Center at Lewis-Clark State College helped 11 startup and existing businesses increase their sales by $6.9 million, providing one-on-one counseling in 2014. It also provided classes on running businesses in several communities. This spring, it will begin connecting the college’s marketing students with small businesses wanting marketing assistance. It recently hired a technology commercialization director to assist small businesses with technical processes and products.
  • The American Manufacturer Network in Lewiston and TechHelp were awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology to build a manufacturer “business-to-business” network for manufacturers in northern and north central Idaho by developing an enhanced supply chain directory. The online directory will include virtual business tours and provide information about manufacturers’ capabilities. It will facilitate business opportunity matching in two of Idaho’s growing industrial clusters — aerospace and the “metal manufacturing supercluster.” The American Manufacturer Network will develop, deploy and manage the B2B network. TechHelp will ensure the directory contains information valuable to the services. The project will use a virtual business tour prototype developed by the Clearwater Economic Development Association, using a grant from the Economic Development Administration.

Nez Perce Tribe

  • “Horse Tribe,” a film about the Nez Perce Tribe’s relationship with horses, was shown at the Lewiston Community Center in early January. The tribe was famous for its skills in breeding horses and has recently attempted to cross the Appaloosa with a rare Central Asian breed to create a horse similar to those historically preferred by the tribe. It also has tried to introduce its children to riding and caring for horses. Idaho Public Television stations showed the 56-minute film directed and produced by Janet Kern. It was named the Best Native American Film at the Equus Film Festival in New York City and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.

Clearwater County

  • The second class graduated from the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy in Pierce on Dec. 20. After living in Pierce for 5½ months, the cadets returned to their homes throughout Idaho, where they will follow their plans with help from the academy’s case managers and local mentors. Some will finish high schools while others will begin college, start jobs or join the military. The academy provides 40 jobs. In early January, the third class of 100 students arrived.
  • Bald Mountain Ski Area opened for the season on Jan. 11 and is open weekends, as long as there is enough snow. A free bus brings people from Orofino and other Clearwater County communities to the ski area near Pierce. Another bus run by Lewiston Parks and Recreation will bring skiers from Lewiston every Sunday.

Latah County

  • Inland Northwest Partners, an organization for economic development professionals in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, gave the city of Moscow a Hometown Award for its efforts to help keep Economics Modeling Specialists International in the community. The company, which provides Web-based economic modeling and workforce and occupational analysis for clients across the globe, was outgrowing its rented space at the Alturas Technology Park. The city and its urban renewal district made infrastructure developments required to make a former newspaper building in downtown Moscow into a corporate headquarters for the company, which now employs more than 100 people.
  • Latah County’s Tom Stroschein was inducted into the Inland Northwest Partners Hall of Fame for providing support to economic development efforts in the Inland Northwest region. Stroschein served as a county commissioner for 12 years until he retired in January. He worked closely with the Latah Economic Development Council, aided Potlatch’s efforts to build an industrial park for recreational technology companies, supported value-added agricultural strategies and helped build a strong collaborative partnership between the city of Moscow and the University of Idaho.
  • The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport is moving into the design phase of its planned runway extension and realignment. In December, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the environmental assessment for the runway realignment. A new law passed in December cut the matching requirement for funds for small airports serving interstate communities. It reduced the Palouse airport’s matching requirement from 10 percent to 8.125 percent, which will save it between $1.67 million and $2.23 million on the project estimated to cost between $89 million and $120 million.
  • Gritman Medical Center opened its new, larger clinic in Potlatch, allowing the hospital to expand its services there. It also provides better access and parking than the old clinic.

Nez Perce and Asotin, Washington, Counties

  • The former Myklebust’s Clothing store next to Brackenbury Square in downtown Lewiston soon will undergo major renovations, creating retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floor. The building is the most recent acquisition of Mark Alexander, who has purchased and renovated many spaces in downtown Lewiston during the past seven years. Currently, he is transforming a 25,000-square-foot building that used to house Courtesy Rent-to-Own into a two-story, pedestrian alleyway with boutiques and one-bedroom apartments to be called The Shops at Penney Lane.
  • North 40 Outfitters, formerly known as Big R Stores, plans to expand its Lewiston store by moving into the former Walmart building on Thain Grade in the next few months. The 10-store chain is based in Great Falls, Montana. The expanded store will allow the Lewiston operation to add sporting goods to its lineup. Gold’s Gym, which moved into the 116,892-square-foot Walmart building in January 2013, will relocate to Southgate Plaza. Before Gold’s moved there, the building had been empty since Walmart closed its Lewiston store in September 2009 and opened its Clarkston superstore. Two months ago, Zions Bank opened a financial center on a pad in front of the former Walmart building.
  • A federal judge on Jan. 5 refused a request from the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups to delay dredging on the Snake and Clearwater rivers until their lawsuit seeking to stop the work could be heard. American Construction Co. of Tacoma, a contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers, began to dredge the shipping channels near the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston on Jan. 12. It is operating three dredges around the clock so it can complete the work before the end of February, the end of the narrow window that begins in mid-December when salmon and steelhead are less likely to be in the rivers. The dredging will remove about 400,000 cubic years of sediment buildup that reduces the viable shipping channel and increases flooding risk. It has been nine years since the channels were last cleared. In the past two years, six barges have been grounded because of the sediment narrowing the channel. To reduce the dangers of grounding, barges have been “light-loading” – not filling to capacity.
  • The Asotin County Library in Clarkston, Washington, opened a Job and Career Catalyst Center in January to help people with job searches, résumés and cover letters and test preparation. It offers skills classes including a free one on Microsoft information technology and provides job seekers access to computers and printers.

Openings

  •  The restaurant at the Side Bar at the Palouse Mall in Moscow, expanding into a neighboring space vacated by Quiznos
  • Tessa’s Powder Room, a cosmetic boutique, in downtown Moscow

Closing

  •  The Jack in the Box restaurant on Pullman Road in Moscow, which employed 16 people.

 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 housing vacancy rate in southwestern Idaho fell to 2.6 percent in September, according to the Southwest Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers. The average monthly rental price for apartments in Canyon County was up 23.4 percent from a year earlier, and the average cost of Canyon County single-family homes rose 13.2 percent. Ada County increases were smaller at 5.3 percent for apartments and no change for single-family houses.
  • The Capitol City Angel Fund has invested in GenZ Technology and Wevorce in Boise and Room Choice in Nampa. The $1.1 million fund is a group of local, accredited investors who help fund small, local startups and are affiliated with the Boise Angel Alliance, whose investments have spurred creation of more than 300 Idaho jobs.

Ada County

  • 10 Barrel Brewing could lose its operating license in downtown Boise because of its purchase by Anheuser-Busch. The Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association, which represents 18 distributors that employ 900 people, claim Idaho law grants special rights only to small breweries – not large ones like Anheuser-Busch.
  • Micron finished its 2014 fiscal year in August with a record $16.36 billion in revenue, up 80 percent from 2013 when it absorbed the Japanese memory chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc. Net earnings set a record at $3.05 billion, up 156 percent. The Elpida purchase gave Micron a boost in wireless products, a segment where Micron had lagged. Micron employs more than 6,000 workers, up from 5,000 five years ago.
  • Primary Health Medical Group will open two new clinics next fall in Boise and Meridian, providing walk-in urgent care and family medicine by appointment.
  • Saint Alphonsus Health System purchased the nearby Rodeway Inn of Boise for an undisclosed amount. The hospital has no plans to develop the property, spokesman Josh Schlaich told the Idaho Statesman.
  • Department heads at Boise State University have been asked to reduce spending by $7.5 million this fiscal year. Stacy Pearson, the university’s vice president of finance, asked academic divisions to cut 1.5 percent and non-academic divisions 3 percent, university spokesman Greg Hahn told the Idaho Business Review. The university had analyzed every program on campus for efficiency, quality, productivity and relevance. Departments are being asked to find permanent spending cuts or revenue enhancements for the 2016 fiscal year.
  • Haley & Aldrich, Boston-based environmental and geotechnical engineering company, is expanding staff from eight to 13 by the end of 2015, according to the Idaho Business Review.
  • The Seattle Times reports that RAM Restaurant and Brewery owners plan to make employees eligible for a 30 percent stake in the restaurant chain through an employee stock ownership plan. All employees who work at least 1,000 hours in a year would qualify – about half the company’s 2,000 employees. The RAM has locations in Boise and Meridian.
  • Boise’s top commercial real estate firms all reported increased transactions for 2014 with Thornton Oliver Keller completing a record 550 transactions and Colliers International tallying a property management portfolio exceeding 6.5 million square feet. According to the Idaho Business Reivew, Cushman & Wakefield/Commerce started the year with a new corporate parent, NorthMarq Companies, and made several deals at Treasure Valley’s most fertile feeding grounds – the Eighth & Main tower that opened in February, and The Village at Meridian that opened in October 2013.
  • The Linen Building events center in Boise has been sold by David Hale to undisclosed private investors. The new owners are now looking for retail, restaurant and office tenants, according to the Idaho Business Review. The building was originally built in 1910 and was originally known as the American Laundry Building.
  • The J.R. Simplot Company is partnering with Amarillo-based Cavinesss Beef Packers on a $100 million beef processing facility in Kuna. The 300,000-square-foot facility will create up to 600 new jobs and is expected to open in fall of 2016. Officials said that the plant could process up to 1,700 head of cattle each day.
  • Advanced Aviation Solutions is one of only 13 companies in the U.S. that can now fly unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes, the Idaho Business Review reports. The Star company received an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration on Jan. 5. The company applied for the exemption in late July, but president Steve Edgar said the company will not begin its commercial flights for several months until farming activity picks up.
  • Albertsons Company based in Boise expects to close a $9 billion merger with Safeway in January, the Idaho Statesman reports. The companies plan to sell off 168 stores in eight states as part of the deal, subject to approval by the Federal Trade Commission. None of the stores to be sold off are in Idaho.
  • Pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen is spending about $2.5 billion to acquire MWI Veterinary Supply in Boise. MWI Veterinary Supply has grown rapidly in recent years, mainly through acquiring other businesses in the animal health industry. MWI currently has 282 employees in Idaho, including 231 in its Boise office.

Canyon County

  • A membership campaign started in mid-December to launch a Canyon County Co-op in downtown Nampa. The food cooperative’s organizers want to create a store, the fourth in the state. It would belong to the National Cooperative Grocers Association. The others are the Boise Co-op, the Moscow Food Co-op and the Pocatello Co-op. For the Canyon County Co-op to get off the ground, organizers estimate they would need 300 members at $65 each by spring and 650 by the time to Co-op hopes to open sometime late next year. Organizers have secured a 5,000-square-foot downtown Nampa building.
  • A study commissioned by the Department of Health and Welfare proposes selling 607 acres of state-owned land in north Nampa for commercial and residential development that could eventually generate nearly $127 million from land sales for the state and $17 million annually in tax revenue for the city of Nampa, Canyon County and area schools. The land is occupied by the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center, job corps facilities, Nampa’s juvenile detention center and the Ridgecrest and Centennial golf courses, both owned by the city and operated on a state lease.
  • More than 1,000 building lots in subdivisions were given preliminary plat approval in Nampa in Fiscal Year 2014. Only 43 were approved in Fiscal Year 2013. The increase in building lots could signal a building boom after years of slow recovery from the housing collapse.
  • S&W Seed Company has acquired DuPont Pioneer’s alfalfa production and research assets including a Nampa facility. DuPont Pioneer, headquartered in Iowa, supplies advanced plant genetics and provides seeds to farmers in more than 90 countries. As part of the $42 million deal, S&W will acquire a seed cleaning and production facility in Nampa. It will also acquire 31 employees from the alfalfa group. More than 15 DuPont Pioneer alfalfa seed varieties are now on the market and 60 more in development.
  • A $4 million expansion planned for Hope Plaza in Caldwell will include a new Terry Reilly Health Services clinic and new services provided by Advocates Against Family Violence.
  • Gayle Manufacturing Co. has been approved for a Tax Reimbursement Incentive worth $496,000 for its Caldwell expansion project. The steel fabrication company, which has facilities in Nampa and California, plans to move its California operation to Caldwell. The new plant will be on 50 acres, and the company will bring 105 jobs with an average annual wage of $67,000 to the area. It will have a $24 million capital investment and total wages of $35.4 million.

Elmore County

  • Elmore County commissioners approved a conditional-use permit to allow the Mountain Home Country Music Festival to proceed. The four-day event, which will take place from July 31 to Aug. 2, is expected to draw 25,000 people in its first year. Idaho Country Concerts LLC, the festival organizer, is expected to spend $3 million in infrastructure to support the festival.

Gem County

  • The Emmett Public Library has completed its 2,400-square-foot Dale Cooper Memorial Wing. The addition was made possible by a $108,206 grant from Dale Cooper and a $155,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant among other sources of funding.

Payette County

  • Two appeals to the Payette County Commission to block Alta Mesa’s railway facility in New Plymouth have been denied. Alta Mesa is still obtaining regulatory approval and has not defined a date for construction to begin.

Valley County

  • New rules for existing and future vacation rental lodges for 20 or more people have been approved by the McCall City Council. The council will require any overnight lodge in a residential area that wants to house at least 20 people to apply for a special use permit for the city.
  • The Payette National Forest is in the final stages of allowing exploration for gold on mining claims in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The Golden Hand mining claims are on about 300 acres a mile inside the wilderness area 19 miles north of Yellow Pine. Under the proposal 11 pads will be built to collect core samples that would be tested for traces of gold. The claim was established in 1889, long before the area was designated as wilderness in 1980. Allowing mining claims to stay was one of the concessions agreed to by proponents of the wilderness designation in 1964.

Openings

  • Bear Island Brewing Co. distributing its first beer to select bars in Boise
  • The new CNBC Smartshop on Concourse C in the Boise Airport and the CNBC Kiosk near the east end of Concourse B
  • Renaissance Ranch Addiction Treatment Centers’ outpatient substance abuse treatment center in Meridian
  • The Sola Salon Studios chain in the Owyhee Hotel building in downtown Boise
  • Henriksen/Butler in the 1939 Art Deco/Art Moderne building in downtown Boise
  • Intermountain 3D Inc. in Boise
  • Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe candy store in downtown Boise
  • A new dollar store in New Meadows is under construction

Closings

  • Kilted Dragon Brewing in Boise
  • The Mountain Home Youth Center in Mountain Home

 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

Agriculture

  • Winter wheat acreage throughout Idaho was 4 percent below 2013 and 2014 acreage. The trend nationally was down 5 percent although Oregon farmers increased acreage 4 percent and Washington growers 6 percent.
  • Idaho ranked second among the 11 western states for total net farm income in 2013 followed by Washington. California remained unchallenged at No. 1. “We’re growing some crops and livestock commodities that have higher margins than what they are growing in Washington,” University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor told the Capital Press. The big difference between the two states was a stellar performance by Idaho’s livestEvents - janock sector, which accounted for well over half of the state’s total farm receipts, Taylor said. Crops accounted for the vast majority of Washington’s farm receipts. Milk and beef are Idaho’s top two farm commodities, and both had high prices in 2013, Taylor said. “Those are the hot commodities in the U.S. right now, and we are expressing our comparative advantage,” he said.

Blaine County

  •  Syringa Mountain School has asked to be absorbed by the Blaine County School District. After completing its first year as a charter school under the supervision of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, the administration decided it was underfunded because by law it can’t receive any money that the local school district generates through its property tax levy.
  • Aspen Skiing Co. plans to build a hotel in Ketchum modeled on its Limelight Hotel in Aspen, Colorado. The hotel near Sun Valley’s River Run base at Bald Mountain will also be called the Limelight. Aspen Skiing bought the land from a Bellevue, Washington, construction company. The price was not disclosed. According to the Idaho Mountain Express, the site is approved for 119 rooms and suites and 11 residential units.
  • Lodging occupancy rates were up for the 2014 winter season even though the Sun Valley Lodge had reduced available rooms for a spa remodel. For the holiday week, the Idaho Mountain Express reported Ketchum and Sun Valley recorded 86 percent occupancy, up six percentage points, while Hailey had 52 percent occupancy, up eight points. The report is compiled by Visit Sun Valley.
  • Planning Director Craig Eckles reported 24 new businesses from construction and landscaping to retail, medical and cleaning services opened in Bellevue during the final 11 months of 2014. The High Country Motel reopened eight months ago after several years. Thirteen of its 21 rooms were booked for New Year’s Eve. “We’re running at about 80 to 85 percent occupancy,” Manager Sam Evans told the Idaho Mountain Express. “We get people from all over the world.”
  • Newly constructed Bell Mountain Village and Care Center recently hosted its grand opening in Bellevue. The facility, owned by Safe Haven Health Care, includes 48 beds, skilled nursing services and assisted living. Much of the staff worked at the former Blaine Manor in Hailey, which the county closed last year.

Camas County

  • The Soldier Mountain ski area north of Fairfield opened Dec. 27 and remains open on weekends. Three lifts serve the area, which first opened in 1971. Soldier Mountain has 1,150 acres of variable alpine terrain including a terrain park, glades, bowls and tree-skiing. Soldier Mountain also operates cat-skiing for skiers in pursuit of fresh tracks.

Cassia County

  • After three previous defeats, the Cassia County Joint School District is campaigning for a $37 million bond on the March 10 ballot. The bond would finance improvements to current buildings and construction of some new schools. A group of citizens called the Patrons’ Facility Committee is urging voters to go to schools in Burley, Declo and Raft River to see the adverse conditions students deal with. The committee narrowed the projects to be covered by the bond in hopes of easing opposition. By August 2016, a previous top 10 cities - janconstruction bond will be paid off, and the owner of a $200,000 home will be paying $20.28 a year more than currently.
  • Burley has been cited along with Miami, Florida, and Boulder, Colorado, as a leader in small business startups. Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kae Cameron said 33 new small businesses had opened in Burley, where three-quarters of all business are considered small.

Jerome County

  • LCA Architects of Boise was chosen to design the Jerome County Jail that will be built on the southeast side of Jerome. Scott Hedrick Construction won the bid over 19 other contractors to build the jail. Both companies have experience with correctional facilities. The project calls for the new jail to eventually be expanded from 135 to 195 beds with the extra space open to house inmates from other counties. It will be four times the size of the current jail and provide space for the sheriff’s office and the driver’s license office. The $10.8 million project should break ground this spring.
  • Jerome’s Hilex Poly is operating under its new parent company name, Novolex. Its corporate headquarters are in Hartsville, South Carolina.

Minidoka County

  • WillTran has started construction on its operational facility. Some operations will be in the exterior shell that is already up while others will run out of temporary office space in Rupert. The project should be completed later this year. Hiring has started.

Twin Falls County

  • Chobani plans to install reverse osmosis equipment at its $450 million yogurt plant to recycle water from the residual whey so it can be used for cleaning purposes, eventually reducing reliance on city water by 20 percent. This new process will also reduce the water in the residual whey so it can be used as feed by area livestock operations. The city of Holister has complained about the odor from ‘acid whey’ spread on nearby fields as soil amendments.
  • The Twin Falls City Council approved zoning for an urban village near the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints’ Temple. Developer Northeast Investments LLC said the project will be similar to a planned unit development with tiered housing, retail and office space in a pedestrian-oriented atmosphere and will include a facility to distribute commodities to members of the Mormon Church who need assistance. Northeast Investments is comprised of G. Kent Taylor, Gary Storrer and Gordo Investments, which is owned by Taylor and his wife Nancy. Concerns have been raised about the density of the project and the existing traffic congestion in the area.

Openings

  • Dutch Bros Coffee in Twin Falls
  • Retailer Acadia Music in Rupert

Closing

  • Red Cross of Idaho in Twin Falls this spring as part of a national reorganization

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

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

Bannock County

  • Royal Laundry, Mario’s Pizza and Orange Julius will all be leaving Chubbuck’s Pine Ridge Mall. The mall’s recent high vacancy rate has been increasing since the loss of anchor tenants such as Sears and Macy’s. The mall was acquired by Farmer’s Holding Co., which has tried to attract new tenants. One success was CAL Ranch, which opened a store in the past year. Farmer’s Holding also reports that several tenants have experienced an increase in sales during the past few months.
  • The Pocatello Airport has seen traffic pick up in recent months. Starting in January, all flights by Skywest Airlines, the only airline flying in and out of Pocatello, are by Bombardier/Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft. The jets are larger, seating 20 more passengers than the turboprop planes used previously. The jets are also faster, cutting flight time between Salt Lake City and Pocatello to only 22 minutes.

Bear Lake County

  • Southeastern Idaho farmers have a new tool to track the weather. The AgriMet System installed at the Bear Lake County Airport at the end of December track wind, precipitation, humidity, temperature and sunlight. This weather-related data will let farmers plan more effectively to deal with the variances in the weather that can occur in Bear Lake County.

Bingham County

  • The Blackfoot Senior Citizens Center has been temporarily closed after pipes burst in early January, causing extensive damage estimated at over $30,000. Officials have not determined how long the center will be closed. Rupe’s, a nearby restaurant, has offered to provide meals for the seniors who usually come to the center for lunch and for the over 100 Meals on Wheels recipients served by the center.

Caribou County

  • The Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust has been given two parcels of land in the Blackfoot River watershed. The parcels total 650 acres near the Blackfoot Reservoir and the headwaters of the Little Blackfoot River. Donors Ronn and Roberta Rich gave the land to the trust to promote conservation of the area and to protect an important part of the Blackfoot River watershed. Recently, a report cited the Blackfoot River as having high levels of pollution.

Oneida County

  • The Malad City Council has appointed city council member Joan Hawkins as the new mayor. Hawkins replaced Spence Horsley, who recently resigned. Hawkins had been serving as council president.

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

  • Citing safety issues, the Idaho Falls City Council has voted unanimously to purchase an auto-load system for sanitation pickup. The decision came after a report showed that from 2009 to 2013, the city spent $576,704 on workers’ compensation for injuries sustained on the job. The move is to be phased in over the next three years. The new sanitation trucks and system are expected to save the city over $250,000 a year.
  • The Bureau of Land Management is accepting applications for seasonal firefighters in the Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Salmon areas, to work on wildland fire engine crews to suppress wildfires on public lands. The BLM Idaho Falls District manages 3.9 million acres of land, averaging 30 fires on 40,000 acres a year. No former experience is required and the application will be accepted through March 31.
  • The Idaho Falls Food Bank served record numbers through 2014. In November, the Food Bank helped a record 965 people with 108 coming the Monday before Thanksgiving. By the end of November, it had served 10,734 people since the start of the year – a 20 percent increase from all of the 2013 and the highest total since 1980. The Food Bank is operating with $100,000 less than it had a year ago.
  • Intel Security, ranked 53rd among Fortune 500 companies, is the newest company to call Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls home. At the new location the company develops high-level cyber security technology known as SIEM – Security Information and Event Management. The company serves larger conglomerates like Walmart and Sony. The new office currently employs 90 people but is expected to house 120 by the end of the year.
  • A Behavioral Health Crisis Center recently opened in Idaho Falls. The eastern Idaho Center is the first of its kind in the state. The facility, serving as a pilot, will receive $1.5 million annually in state funding. Similar facilities have been proposed for other regions of the state. The center helps people with acute mental health or substance abuse problems.

Butte County

  • Twin Buttes Enterprises, a local investment group, recently announced the city of Howe as a potential development site for a commercial nuclear power plant. The announcement came after a three-year study of environmental, water, land and regulatory issues. The 1,840-acre site is near the Idaho National Laboratory’s desert site. The announcement is just the first step in an attempt to attract companies such as Nu Scale that has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a small modular reactor.

Fremont County

  • Kelson Bikes, a family owned business that specializes in custom made bicycles, is anticipating hiring more employees as business has been picking up rapidly. The 10-year-old business in Sugar City customizes each bike based on the customer’s body measurements and the customer’s expected use for the bicycle. Clients come from all over the country and as far away as Israel.
  • 2014 marked the second highest attendance recorded in Yellowstone National Park. In 2014, 3,513,486 tourist entered the park. The highest recorded attendance occurred in 2010, when 3,640,184 tourists entered the park. 2014 was the eighth consecutive year for the park exceeding 3 million attendances.

Jefferson County

  • Heavy December snow fall enabled Kelly Canyon to open in time for the Christmas season. The resort offers private three-hour ski lessons for $45 per hour. Kelly Canyon also offers 20 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The loop offers a combination of groomed and non-groomed runs that begin near trail head 208. Trail loops are free, but donations are accepted.
  • Payroll for substitute teachers has been re-evaluated in Jefferson County. After receiving a considerable amount of scrutiny, Jefferson County School District 251 has approved changes that favor long-term substitute teachers. Previously, a new substitute received the same compensation as someone that had been with the district for 10 years. Under the new structure, non-degree substitute pay increases from $8 to $8.40 per hour. Substitutes with training will receive hourly pay ranging from $8.50 to $11.03, depending on hours worked and education level.

Lemhi County

  • Shopko has begun construction of a store in Salmon that will open this spring. The location is Idaho’s first Shopko Homeland store, which is a smaller version of the typical Shopko. The company launched the new line of stores in 2010. ALCO recently announced it will be closing because the low-price retail chain is liquidating all its stores. Shopko should help fill the void.
  • The Bureau of Land Management is seeking information on vandalism at Sharkey Hot Springs, a popular recreation site. Damage was sustained to cement pillars and the privacy fence surrounding the hot springs. The hot springs draws roughly 12,000 visitors per year and the BLM spends about $16,000 a year on maintenance and repair. The most recent repairs are estimated to have cost close to $1,200.

Madison County

  • Madison County commissioners recently rejected a “build at your own risk” clause in county ordinances. The change would have eliminated county fees for inspections and the need for county inspections for new constructions. The decision came after some local banks stated they would stop giving mortgage loans on homes that lacked proper inspections.
  • Rexburg is home to a new 3-D printer manufacturing company, Print Space. The company recently won the Rexburg Business Competition for its innovative designs and business strategy. Print Space builds light weight 3-D printers that allow more people access to 3-D printers. The company hopes to become a leader in 3-D printing and is developing 3-D printing technology not currently available on the market.

Teton County

  • Silver Star Communications announced Teton Valley will now be part of its “Gigabiz Community.” The Internet service provider offers fiber optic with speeds up to one gigabit per second. The company’s “Gigabiz” initiative is oriented toward businesses.  Since 2005, Silver Star has invested over $20 million in Teton Valley’s fiber optic infrastructure.

Openings

  • Progrexion Marketing in Idaho Falls
  • Guns & Gear in Idaho Falls
  • Togo’s in Rexburg
  • Papa Johns in Rexburg
  • Maverik in Rexburg
  • Freddy’s Steakburgers in Idaho Falls
  • Intel Security (MacAfee) in Idaho Falls

Closings

  • Press a Print in Idaho Falls
  • ALCO in Salmon
  • Opinion Center in Rexburg
  • Thompson Creek in Challis

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