February 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 Economic Highlights

  • Idaho’s 50 wineries received $17 million in revenues in 2013 with a larger overall economic impact of $169 million, according to the Idaho Business Review’s report on a new study by Stonebridge Research Group for the Idaho Wine Commission. The study shows the number of wineries is increasing far faster than the bottles of wine produced, and more than a third of revenues come from direct-to-consumer sales rather than shipping to stores in Idaho and elsewhere. The state went from 11 wineries in 2002 to 50 in 2013. It now has 51.

  • Idaho had 25,033 state employees at the beginning of the year, the fourth straight year that the state’s headcount increased and the first time since 2009 it topped 25,000 employees, according to a new report from the Idaho State Controller’s Office. Wages have gone up along with employee numbers, the Idaho Business Review pointed out. State payroll costs, which also include retirement and benefits, reached a new high of $1.44 billion for the year ending last June 30. The report, which the Controller’s Office gives to state legislators at the start of every year, shows more state workers with salaries over $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 now than compared with any of the past four years. In addition, the number of employees earning less than $40,000 has been dropping for several years.
  • The Idaho Department of Finance saw a more than 5 percent increase in business filings, licenses and registrations in 2014, with more than 168,000 filings, according to the Idaho Business Review. The department’s securities bureau reported a record 113,084 securities filings and professionals licensing to do business in Idaho. Those filings involve people in every U.S. state and 23 other countries.
  • The federal grazing fee for 2015 will be $1.69 per animal unit month for public lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The 2014 fee was $1.35. This will impact the cost of ranchers using federal lands.
  • In early January, Advanced Aviation Solutions of Star became one of only 13 companies in the U.S. to secure federal approval to fly unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes. It has partnered with Hayden-based Empire Airlines and Blair Farms in Kendrick to use drone technology to inspect commercial crops, the first in the nation to receive such approval.
  • A lack of entertainment options tops the list of concerns for Idaho’s rural communities followed closely by limited job prospects and opportunities for vocational training, according to University of Idaho graduate student Josh Hightree. His findings came from 26 community surveys conducted across the state between 2000 and 2014. More than 7,000 individual responses were received. A lack of jobs and entertainment discourage teens from remaining in an area after high school. In a survey in Kamiah, more than 120 people said young people had to move away to find better employment options. The research identified various “population cliffs” where certain services or characteristics became a concern. Communities with fewer than 5,000 people expressed concern about the condition of available housing while communities with fewer than 4,000 worry about a lack of doctors and medical care, and those with fewer than 3,000 also perceive a lack of police protection. Rural communities viewed caring relationships, a strong social network and the willingness to volunteer to help the community as greater there than in more urban areas.

From staff reports

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

Region

  • New Jersey Mining Co. started producing ore from its Golden Chest Mine late last fall delivering the gold concentrate to its New Jersey Mill east of Kellogg. Since then, the mill processed 3,500 tons of ore, steadily building toward design capacity of 400 tons per day. The first concentrate shipments left the smelter in February. The company said gold recovery to concentrate has averaged about 94 percent.
  • InlandPacific Alliance has been formed between Cancer Care Northwest, Kootenai Health and Providence Health Care. Cancer Care Northwest started operating in 2013 and now handles all radiation oncology services for the alliance for a more comprehensive program.
  • Spokane Valley-based Horizon Credit Union and Spokane-based United Health Services Credit Union are merging under the Horizon name. Horizon Credit Union has 18 branches in Washington, Idaho and Montana and is completing a merger with EdTech Federal Credit Union of Butte, Montana. According to the Spokane Journal of Business, United Health Services Credit Union has 28 employees, who will be retained. Following the merger, the combined operations will employ nearly 250 people.
  • Spokane developer and contractor Brown Properties plans to build a $15 million office complex near the south bank of the Spokane River on the edge of the University District. According to the Spokane Journal of Business, the project, tentatively named Spokane River Properties Development, would have four three-story office buildings and one single-story retail building. Depending on the city’s plans and Washington State Department of Transportation approval, construction could begin in late summer and carry into 2016.
  • Red Lions Hotel Corp. of Spokane has formed a joint venture with Shelbourne Falcom RLHC Hotel Investors LLC. The Red Lions Hotel Corp. sold 12 of its hotels to the joint venture but maintains a 55 percent ownership. The corporation later sold its hotel in Wenatchee for $4.1 million to Edge Hospitality Corp.
  • Two Washington state representatives have introduced legislation to allow Washington State University to operate a medical school. At the same time the University of Washington School of Medicine has named a new assistant to lead its new medical school classroom curriculum in Spokane.

Bonner County

  • Employees at Litehouse Inc. in Sandpoint purchased all the company stock through an employee stock ownership plan. The 50-year-old company set up the plan in 2006. It employs 650 in Idaho, Utah and Michigan.
  • Sandpoint Planning Director Jeremy Grimm has resigned to join local mobile analytics firm Kochava as director of publisher development. Grimm has represented the city since 2007 and played a key role in defining areas and types of development that helped maintain the city’s character. The city council is deciding whether to fill Grimm’s position or hire a city administrator.
  • Sandpoint-based xCraft has raised more than $117,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter for its new drone, the X PlusOne, which can hover with stability and travel at up to 60 miles per hour. The X PlusOne is considered a quadcopter, which has four propellers allowing it to hover in place as well as land and take off vertically, turn on its side and fly at higher speeds. Other quadcopter drones typically have a top speed of 30 miles per hour. The new drone has more than 140 pre-orders from customers. The two owners are Charles Manning, chief executive of Kochava and J.D. Claridge, an aerospace engineer who worked for Sandpoint airplane maker Quest Aircraft and currently owns an aerospace consulting company Aero Designworks. As of Feb. 9, the company had raised $143,400 from 263 people on Kickstarter.
  • The Lake Pend Oreille School District is running a $15.77 million supplemental levy on March 10 to fund one-third of staffing, all academic, athletic and extracurricular activities and curriculum materials.
  • Kochava, a Sandpoint-based mobile attribution analytics and optimization company, held its second mobile summit in mid-February in Sandpoint. The summit was designed for qualified mobile advertising insiders, publishers and ad networks. Sponsored by Appia, the leading mobile user acquisition network, the summit included panelists and speakers from companies such as Pandora, Yahoo! and YouTube.

Boundary County

  • Sandpoint Pediatrics merged with Kaniksu Health to increase available pediatric medical services in the two most northern counties. Sandpoint Pediatric patients will see additional services and gain access to Medicaid’s pediatric dental and behavioral health services, which will keep operating at Kaniksu’s Ponderay Clinic. The biggest net effect of this merger, according the Bonners Ferry Herald, is the available days that families will have access to pediatricians in Bonners Ferry and Priest River.
  • The Idaho Transportation Department held an informational open house in early February for the upcoming Bonners Ferry South Hill project on U.S. Highway 95. Approximately $5.4 million has been slated for the project, and design and approval should be completed by early June.
  • The Bonners Ferry High School FIRST Robotics Team, 2130 Alpha+, will receive a 3D printer. 3D Systems Inc. in partnership with The Coca-Cola Co. challenged thousands of tech and robotics teams around the world to write essays outlining how they would best use a 3D printer. Alpha+ plans to construct parts for the team’s robot, prepare displays for the high school and have demonstrations for the community, highlighting the importance of advanced technology.
  • The Bonners Ferry Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests has gathered public comment on a forest management project being developed in collaboration with the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative as part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. The Deer Creek Project north of Moyie Springs would restore or improve the forest’s resilience to disturbances such as wildfire, drought and insect and disease outbreaks. It also will improve recreational opportunities, provide employment for local contractors and contribute to the local economy.

Kootenai County

  • The Jacklin family has donated 9.8 acres for a veterans home in Post Falls. The administrator for the Idaho Division of Veterans Services presented its findings on a state-funded feasibility study to legislative budget writers. The study concludes that the greatest need for a fourth Idaho veterans home is in the Panhandle. The Veterans Administration must still approve the northern Idaho home in Post Falls.
  • North Idaho Surgical Hospital Building LLC, a group of area medical professionals, has broken ground on a $2.1 million building at the Syringa Medical Campus. The two-story building is the first of three medical office buildings planned for the 4.2-acre site. The group currently owns 14 properties in the Mullan medical corridor.
  • The Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn received the Best Western’s Director’s Award for scoring in the top 20 percent of more than 2,100 properties in North America. Hotels must meet quality standards for cleanliness, maintenance, design and high customer service. The Coeur d’Alene Inn has recently renovated 122 guest rooms and added 13,000 square feet of meeting and conference space.
  • The Coeur d’Alene Resort was named the best hotel in Idaho by Business Insider and MSN.com.
  • Seven luxury townhomes are being built near downtown Coeur d’Alene.
  • Ironwood Square, a 30-tenant shopping area in Coeur d’Alene, has been sold to another San Diego owner, Tourmaline Capital.
  • Kootenai Lawn & Garden of Coeur d’Alene has merged with Adventure Outdoors of Coeur d’Alene.

Shoshone County

  • Athenaia LLC and Columbia Bank offered to match donations to the North Idaho College Foundation to help fund Silver Valley Economic Development student scholarships. The program was started to help dual enrollment students in the Silver Valley who need financial aid. The foundation coordinated efforts and raised more than $10,000 for the dual credit scholarship from the two companies and from individual residents of Shoshone County.
  • After 86 years of family ownership, Stein’s Family Foods grocery chain has been sold to Spokane-based Riverside CenterPlace Market. The new owners have no plans to change the five stores in Osburn, Kellogg, Rathdrum and in Eureka and Troy, Montana.
  • Thirteen workers at the Sunshine Mine, more than half, were laid off in January.
  • Richard Shaffer, general manager of the Wallace Inn, was appointed by the Idaho governor to be a representative for the Idaho Travel Council.
  • The Silver Valley Christian Academy has added 12 new laptops for use in its new computer science program.

Openings

  • Crandall Law Group in Hayden
  • Extension Addiction in Coeur d’Alene
  • Bonners Ferry Eye Clinic in Bonners Ferry
  • Earth Rhythms Natural Market in Ponderay
  • Sand Creek Custom Wear in Sandpoint
  • Blue Cedar Learning Center in Coeur d’Alene
  • Gerber Collision & Glass in Coeur d’Alene, employing 12
  • Consignment Furniture in Coeur d’Alene
  • StandOut!, a printing, apparel signs and graphics business, in Hayden
  • Trademark Mechanical in Hayden
  • STCU branch in Coeur d’Alene at the Crossroads-Winco Center
  • Hayden Furniture Depot in Hayden
  • Andrea Jensen Photography in Coeur d’Alene
  • Frank’s Custom, providing products and services for handicap mobility, in Hayden
  • Idaho Fence in Post Falls

Closure

  • Galaxy Gaming Northwest in Coeur d’Alene

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

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

Region

  • Idaho, Clearwater and Lewis counties – and their school and highway districts – face severe reductions in revenue if Congress fails to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act. When the Forest Service was established in 1908, the law required it pay 25 percent of its timber receipts to timber-producing counties. When the Forest Service severely limited timber harvests in the 1990s, Congress passed a law that provided additional payments to those counties. Those payments were reauthorized under the Secure Rural Schools Act but were set to phase out. The act expired Sept. 30, 2014, and so far attempts to renew it have not gained traction. Forest Service payments to Idaho counties and schools will drop from $28 million to $2 million. Last year, Idaho County’s road and bridge department received $1.3 million in timber payments or 41 percent of its total revenues. This year, without Secure Rural Schools funds, it will receive $100,000. Clearwater County will lose about $500,000 from its $1.4 million road and bridge budget. Mountain View School District in Grangeville will receive $200,000 of the $1.2 million it received last year. Concerned highway districts met Jan. 31 at the Cottonwood Community Hall to discuss the difficulties they face because of the loss.
  • COAST vans and buses are up and running again after a shutdown from June to November, Suzanne Seigneur, the mobility manager for rural transportation in north central Idaho, told Clearwater and Lewis county commissioners in January. The shutdown stranded many local citizens who rely on the service to get to medical appointments, meetings and shopping. In addition to operating vehicles, COAST arranges for local volunteers to provide transportation for elderly and disabled individuals. The federal grants that fund COAST have been terminated and the replacement grant has been cut in half from about $73,000 a year ago. The existing operating grant is expected to be exhausted by the end of June with no supplemental coverage in sight. The replacement grant now funding the service is for the elderly and disabled only – cutting out a large section of people who used the service in the past.
  • After a low steelhead return in the 2013-2014 season, anglers this year are finding the number of “B-run” steelhead is up this winter. Creel surveys and angler reports for the week ending Jan. 25 showed 265 people caught 277 steelhead. Numerous anglers reported catching their daily limit of three hatchery steelhead in January. Not only are the steelhead numerous, some are as long as 37 inches. Fishery managers expect angler success to remain high throughout the Clearwater drainage over the next three months. Anglers are also finding steelhead in the Salmon and Snake rivers, and catch rates are likely to improve as water temperatures rise with the approach of spring.

Clearwater County

  • The Idaho Department of Commerce booth at the January Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas featured a complete and functioning Idaho-made firearm display. Tactical Export Strategies organized 13 Idaho recreation-technology companies – including Orofino’s Nightforce – to show the rest of the country what types of products Idaho makes and its level of manufacturing. Nightforce employs more than 100 people in Orofino, making high-quality riflescopes.
  • Deb Brown purchased the former Woodlot Tavern and Café, an Ahsahka landmark that closed last February. After renovation, it opened as the Northfork Café last month. The decor reflects the history of the Northfork. Fishing remains a dominant theme. Many anglers make their way to Ahsahka, hoping to catch that big steelhead or salmon.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • Grangeville High School recently acquired a 3-D printer for its graphic design and technology students. The students also participated in a pilot program developed by Lewis-Clark State College to learn SolidWorks – a solid modeling computer-aided design software used by local manufacturers including Gem Chain Bar/Aquajet in Grangeville, Hillco Technologies in Nezperce, Militech in Cottonwood and ATK in Lewiston. The MakerBot Replicator Desktop three-dimensional printer now allows students to make some of the products they design.
  • Salmon River Transit began offering free bus rides to McCall every Friday on Feb. 6, allowing local residents to shop and access additional diagnostic services and medical specialists at St. Luke’s McCall Medical Center.
  • When Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter made Kamiah the Capital for a Day Jan. 16, he and state agency heads heard questions about dredging, logging, education, mental health, drug houses and other issues. More than 100 people attended the all-day meeting at Kamiah Middle School. Otter told the crowd that the state is working on stewardship programs and attempting to get more land managed in a better way to protect against wildfire.
  • The Ida-Lew Economic Development Council sees availability of affordable housing, workforce and suitable commercial real estate for businesses considering relocation as major issues. Ida-Lew is working on several projects to expand housing availability. Idaho County‘s workforce is shrinking, and unemployment fell to 5.1 percent in December. More than 25 percent of workers there are age 55 or older. Workforce training could help more local youth stay in the community and make it easier for businesses to find skilled workers. The council also is talking about low wage issues, which make it difficult to attract and retain qualified workers. Two additional goals include working with local school districts to help tailor professional-technical programs to local needs and opening a professional-technical training center in Cottonwood to serve the seven school districts in Idaho and Lewis counties and the minimum-security prison in Cottonwood. Executive Director Melissa Bryant said over the past year, Idaho County has drawn quite a bit of attention from site selectors and companies looking to expand. “Following up with the companies on their progress to expand into the county, all cited either the lack of suitable empty buildings or affordable vacant land as reasons to continue looking for a more appropriate location,” she said. Ida-Lew’s 3rd annual Warbird Weekend in Grangeville last July hosted up to 3,000 people.

Latah County

  • Kirk Cameron, best known for his role in the TV show “Growing Pains,” was in Moscow in December filming a fictional movie, “Kill the Dragon Get the Girl,” set in northern Idaho. Director Darren Doane and producers David Shannon and Cheston Hervey moved their families from California to Moscow last year to make the film and hired local actors for several parts, with the possibility of making more films in the area.

Nez Perce and Asotin, Washington, Counties

  •  Nez Perce tribal Chairman Silas Whitman kicked off a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Nez Perce National Historical Park. His presentation on Jan. 17 was the first in a series of monthly talks at the Spalding Visitor Center this year. The topics will stress the many roles the park has played in cultural, historic, educational and recreational roles over the years. A National Park Service report estimates that the 286,000 visitors to the Nez Perce National Historical Park spent $10.6 million in the communities surrounding the park in 2011. The park is a collection of 38 sites in four states focusing on the history and culture of the Nez Perce Tribe. Idaho sites include the Spalding mission, Fort Lapwai, Weippe where the Nez Perce first encountered the Lewis and Clark expedition, Kamiah where the expedition wintered, White Bird and other areas that featured in the Nez Perce War and geographical formations including the Heart of the Monster in Kamiah.
  • Valley Medical Center in Lewiston – a physician-owned, multi-specialty clinic with more than 30 providers and 200 employees – is using technology and new trends to improve health care. Patients at its two urgent care clinics and its physicians’ offices can use the Internet to make appointments, pay bills and find answers to their health questions from their medical provider and soon will be able to check in online, reducing wait time. In the last year and a half, recruiting has changed dramatically; physicians are approaching the medical center as its one of the last independent medical groups of its size in the state. Across the region, hospitals and health systems have taken over many similar groups. The physicians who are attracted to Valley Medical want to be owners and help drive the strategy of the organization. Valley Medical Center just completed construction that nearly doubled the size of its urgent care clinic in Clarkston.
  • Walmart began a $435,000 renovation of its five-year-old supercenter in Clarkston in February. Engineered Construction is the main contractor. About 500 people work in the supercenter.
  • Lewis-Clark State College’s top priority for the coming year is increasing pay. Faculty salaries are almost $8,000 below the median for its peer institutions. That ranges from about $3,500 for instructors to $15,000 for full professors. President Anthony Fernandez told a legislative budget committee in January turnover spiked to 26 percent last year. That compared to a state average of 14 percent. The governor is recommending a 3 percent salary increase for state employees in fiscal 2016 which would only cover about half the cost of the raise because many positions are supported through student tuition and fees. The Lewiston college has always asked for the lowest annual tuition increases of any of the state’s four-year institutions. The school’s other priorities include the Complete College Idaho program, professional-technical education, infrastructure needs and a “Work College” pilot program to provide free tuition and work experience for 20 students based on financial need. Under Complete College Idaho, the four state institutions are implementing initiatives to reach the goal that 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 have college degrees or postsecondary certificates by 2020.
  • Clearwater Paper, which employs about 1,370 people in Lewiston, posted a loss of $2.3 million in 2014, the first loss since its creation in 2008. The fourth quarter loss came from its tissue division. A competitive bidding process with its largest customers, while other tissue makers increased brand promotion, led to lower product prices at a time that input costs rose. The company is eliminating some of its tissue products to offer only those that are most popular with consumers. Clearwater Paper is considering an upgrade at Lewiston’s pulp operation to improve output and quality, which would lower costs and eliminate the cost volatility involved in purchasing pulp from outside venders. Other initiatives involve robotics for warehouse automation, high-speed converting for toilet paper and paper towels and paper machine upgrades. The outlook for Clearwater Paper’s other major sector – paperboard – is good as the U.S. economy grows and more businesses and institutions shift from Styrofoam to more eco-friendly alternatives such as paperboard for cups and containers. Fourth quarter sales of paperboard dropped 12 percent, about twice as much as they normally do between the third and fourth quarters, because the slowdown at the West Coast ports temporarily hindered overseas shipments.
  • Mark Alexander, a New York investor who has focused on developing downtown Lewiston, is preparing to renovate the Southgate Plaza in the Lewiston Orchards. The multimillion dollar project is expected to start in late summer. Currently, the 90,000-square-foot retail center is mostly empty. Existing tenants – a smoke shop, beauty salon, day care center and pizza restaurant – will remain. Alexander said finding tenants for the rest will be relatively easy because the plaza is on a busy street in the heart of a densely populated residential area.

Closings

  • Cannon’s Building Materials Center in downtown Lewiston.
  • Gold’s Gym in the former Walmart in Lewiston

 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 commercial real estate market in Treasure Valley ended the year with decreases in office and retail vacancies compared with November, the Idaho Business Review reported, and industrial vacancies were less than a third the rate of four years ago. Overall office vacancies fell for the ninth consecutive month in December to 11.4 percent. The downtown Boise vacancy rate was 7.4 percent, the lowest submarket rate in the region. The office vacancy rate across the metropolitan area has remained below the 10-year average of 12.6 percent for nearly two years. The highest vacancy rates were 15.9 percent in Caldwell and 15.3 percent in the central Boise area.
  • The Boise metro area had two venture capital deals worth $1.87 million in 2014, the National Venture Capital Association reported. Idaho also had two venture capital deals in 2013, though those were worth $6 million. Idaho ranked 45th among U.S. states and Washington, D.C., in dollars raised from venture capital funds in 2013. The Boise metro area ranked 137th, slightly below cities such as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Killeen, Texas, according to the Idaho Business Review.

Ada County

  • St. Luke’s submitted its final plans for expansion to the city of Boise on Dec. 19. The expansion includes a new pediatric facility connected to the children’s hospital by a sky bridge; a children’s hospital expansion; a new central plant; and expansion and remodeling of the existing hospital, according to the Idaho Statesman. Plans also call for closing one block on a main downtown street. Boise Planning and Zoning commissioners say they want to accommodate the medical center but not at the cost of making the city harder to travel in without a car. The commissioners have recommended that the City Council — who ultimately makes the call on whether St. Luke’s can continue — deny the request to close the block. The expansion would cost up to $400 million, according to St. Luke’s, which plans to finance the project through bonds, cash and donations.
  • A federal appeals court upheld U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s antitrust ruling in St. Luke’s Health System’s acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group in 2012. The ruling means that St. Luke’s will have to divest the Saltzer Group unless it successfully appeals to the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Meridian information technology company ArmgaSys has acquired agricultural technology software Envio and the company staff that made the software, according to the Idaho Business Review. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Envio is used for food produce inventory management, typically by produce shippers to track produce from shippers through sorting to packaging and delivery to retailers.
  • Boise State University President Bob Kustra asked legislative budget writers for at least 63 new faculty if Idaho is going to meet its goal to graduate more people from college. Kustra said his school receives nearly 40 percent less in per-student funding than the University of Idaho with less than a fifth of the Boise State budget coming from the state. U of I receives nearly a third.
  • Albertsons and Safeway completed an $8 billion merger underway for nearly a year. Albertsons’ headquarters in Boise will be one of three regional corporate offices the merged company will maintain.
  • Boise State University’s Computer Science Department could receive another $690,000 from the state, the latest in a series of financial infusions designed to produce more computer science graduates, according to the Idaho Business Review. Efforts to substantially increase the Computer Science Department have been underway for several years, and the number of graduates has increased from just over 20 in 2012 to an expected 70 in 2016. In addition to adding university faculty, the department is also using a federal grant to train more high school teachers to teach computer science.
  • Boise construction company McAlvain Group of Companies has spun off its concrete division into a separate company called McAlvain Concrete Inc., the Idaho Business Review reported.

Canyon County

  • The intersection of Karcher and Middleton roads in Nampa is undergoing $3.8 million in improvements. The project includes new lanes and traffic signal along with sidewalks, curbs and gutters to improve safety at the intersection used by about 30,000 vehicles each day.
  • Deseret Industries is building a $4 million, 39,887-square-foot thrift store and training center across the street from Karcher Mall in Nampa. The new store will open in spring 2016, replacing an existing Deseret Industries store in Nampa.

Valley County

  • A Midas Gold Inc. Vice President Anne Labelle is optimistic work can start in a little more than three years on a central Idaho mine containing as much as 4 million ounces of recoverable gold and 2 million ounces of silver, according to the Idaho Statesman. The Stibnite Mine Project near Yellow Pine still needs permits from the U.S. Forest Service because some work will be on public land. She says that process takes three to five years.
  • The Shore Lodge has purchased the former Payette National Forest headquarters in McCall and plans to use part of it for employee housing. About 20 percent of the 24,000-square-foot building would be converted into a dormitory to house 26 employees. The remainder would become Shore Lodge’s corporate offices.

Washington County

  • Fry Foods in Weiser purchased the Select Onion plant in Ontario, Oregon. It was unclear whether Fry Foods is planning to expand operations into the Ontario facility or move its operations entirely to Oregon.

Openings

  • Welcyon, Fitness After 50, a new gym tailored to people 50 and older, in Boise
  • Togo’s Sandwiches in Meridian
  • A new McDonald’s restaurant in Kuna
  • Charlotte Russe, a women’s clothing retailer, in the Boise Towne Square Mall
  • The Walking Co., a footwear retailer, in the Boise Towne Square Mall
  • Walmart’s third store in Meridian
  • Saint Alphonsus Health System’s $13.5 million medical office building in Nampa
  • A daycare center at Bennett Mountain Alternative High School in Mountain Home

Closings

  • Ennis Fine Furniture’s Thomasville store in Meridian
  • Casanova Pizzeria, a neo-Neapolitan pizza restaurant, in Boise
  • Plum Creek Timber Co.’s lumber manufacturing mill in Meridian, idling 61 employees
  • King’s Discount Store in Weiser
  • Agri-Service, an agricultural equipment dealer, in Weiser

 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

Region

South Central Idaho took home many of the awards presented by Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, also of South Central Idaho, during the annual Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit, according to the Capital Press.

  • Representative Steve Miller of Camas County received the Pat Takasugi Leadership Award for growth and development of Idaho agriculture. Miller has served on many boards advising and governing soil districts, organic production and county commissions.
  • Duane Grant of Rupert received the governor’s award for education and advocacy. Grant is the chairman of the Snake River Sugar Company and a proponent of biotechnology, serving on the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council.
  • John “Bert” Stevenson of Rupert received the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. Stevenson served eight terms in the Idaho House of Representatives.
  • Jared Brackett, President of the Idaho Cattle Association received the Governor’s Award for Technical Innovation for his efforts to protect sage grouse habitat and other wildlife on his ranch in Twin Falls.

Blaine County

  • The Idaho Department of Commerce has approved its first Tax Reimbursement Incentive project in Blaine County, awarding a three-year, 16 percent tax credit to the Aspen Skiing Co. The company plans to build a replica of its Limelight Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, on land purchased from Bald Mountain LLC. The project will have an employee and community housing waiver if construction starts by Nov. 30.
  • Mountain Rides started free Night Owl bus service for late night revelers in Ketchum and Sun Valley during the ski season. The service, contingent on funding from the city of Ketchum, will cost $15,000 this season and has been widely accepted by the public.
  • The Safe Haven facility in Hailey was cited by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare after residents suffered significant weight loss. A staff member was identified as stealing food intended for residents. Safe Haven, which will soon open a new facility in Bellevue, maintained the food problem as an isolated incident. Currently neither facility can accept new residents.
  • Warfield Distillery and Alehouse is going into the former Roosevelt Grille. The new owners are negotiating design with the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission and hope to open in July. Liquor and craft beer will be made and sold onsite.
  • Carey School District says all its high school seniors will graduate in four years this spring, meeting the state Department of Education standard. One student will not meet the four-year graduation standard in 2016, dropping the district’s graduation rate to 95 percent. The high school typically graduates 20 seniors a year, but last year there were only 10 graduates.

Camas County

  • Soldier Mountain Ski Resort ended its ski season on Valentine’s Day with a torch parade. The ski hill is managed by a local nonprofit board that came together when the resort was sold by actor Bruce Willis.

Cassia County

  • Castle Rock State Park in Almo will have a new fishing pond and archery range by the end of the summer. The fishing pond has been planned since 2006, but there was no money to build it. The Idaho departments of Parks and Recreation and Fish and Game are partnering on the project; Parks & Rec is constructing the pond and F&G is stocking the pond with hatchery trout. The archery range, laid out with the advice of a local professional, will be one of few in the state with 24 potential 3-D targets.
  • Brent Stoker, who leads the Cassia County Gateway West Task Force, says the utilities involved in the Gateway West transmission line project have not accepted any of the alternative routes the task force has proposed in an effort to retain productive agricultural land. Gateway West is a joint project of Idaho Power Co. and Rocky Mountain Power Co. covering 1,000 miles from Glenrock, Wyoming, to Melba, Idaho. Eight years after proposing the project, the utilities are still awaiting the outcome of environmental impact studies. The utilities have rejected proposals to bury the line because of cost. An underground line would cost over $2,000 a foot. Overland transmission runs $500 a foot.

Jerome County

  • Idaho Department of Water Quality awarded a $22.2 million loan to the city of Jerome for wastewater treatment system improvements. The loan carries a 1.5 percent interest rate. The city has a high concentration of industrial companies, especially food processing, with estimated employment of over 1,400.

Minidoka County

  • The annual Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium has been moved from the College of Southern Idaho to Boise State University. The symposium is traditionally followed by ’pilgrimage’ and tour of the Minidoka Relocation Center. The event began after the camp was declared a national monument in 2001. From August 1942 to October 1945, there were 13,000 Japanese Americans held against their will at the camp, a 33,000-acre-site with over 600 buildings. The occupants produced 7.2 million pounds of produce in 1944, making the camp self-sustaining.

Twin Falls County

  • The Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency is requesting proposals to develop a downtown plot near the warehouse district. Some encouraged a recreation facility for the site, but the agency will consider all proposals for developing the tract that is just under a quarter acre.
  • Titlefact razed its original building and is constructing a new 5,000-square-foot building on a site once occupied by a church, according to the owner Richard Stivers. The new office is expected to be completed by late summer.
  • The College of Southern Idaho has lost another of its deans to an Idaho university. Scott Scholes, dean of Student Affairs, has taken a position as an administrator at Idaho State University. Scholes had replaced Graydon Stanley at the college after Stanley became vice president of student services at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene.

Openings

  • Cathy’s Closet, which sells vintage items, in Richfield
  • K & C Sweet Treats, a bakery, in Richfield
  • Yellow Belly Ice Cream moving from catering status to a physical ice cream shop in Hailey

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

  • Chubbuck’s Auditorium District is still working on plans for an events center, but is waiting for a new feasibility study to be completed. This study will address possible changes in the business and economic climate since the last study in 2010. If the new study again confirms the feasibility of the project, construction on the center will begin this spring, according to Auditorium District Executive Director Raul Cano. The center would seat 2,000 people with a 28,000-square-foot gymnasium.
  • Phil Meador plans to open a Volkswagen dealership in Pocatello, based on the success of his existing Ford, Toyota and Subaru dealerships.
  • ATCO Logistics, a manufacturer of modular buildings for the oil exploration industry, is laying off 49 workers at its Pocatello plant as part of 170 layoffs in the U.S. and Canada. The recent drop in oil prices has hurt demand for ATCO’s modular buildings.
  • About 120 job seekers turned out for an early February health care hiring event at the Department of Labor’s Pocatello office. Twenty employers were hiring up to 100 registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, home health aides and rehabilitation therapists.

Bear Lake County

  • A recent fundraising drive by the Bear Lake Education Foundation drew over 200 donors. The money will support two new college scholarships for graduating high school seniors.

Bingham County

  • The Shoshone-Bannock Business Council hired John Phillips to oversee the operations of the tribes’ hotel and casino in Fort Hall. Phillips has 30 years of experience in running tribal casinos. He takes over at a time when the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are trying to expand features and services at their hotel and casino.

Caribou County

  • After seeing attendance slip in the past year, the Soda Springs Chamber of Commerce is trying to recruit more business members to rebuild its community involvement. The chamber is reorganizing to improve how it functions in the community.

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

  • A new wayfinding project has been approved in Idaho Falls. The city hired Hunt Design of California to identify ways the city could improve its current sign usage. After the firm identified multiple issues with the current system, the city council approved a comprehensive sign and wayfinding project that should be completed later this summer. Dozens of new signs will be strategically placed throughout the city to better guide travelers and tourists to various locations such as the Museum of Idaho, the public library, the zoo and a future trail system. The project is expected to cost the city around $750,000.
  • River Bend Ranch ranks among the largest bull suppliers in the United States. Beef Magazine listed the Idaho Falls ranch as the 18th largest supplier nationally in magazine’s “Seedstock Top 100” list. According to the release, the ranch is expected to have 550 bulls in 2015. Five ranches in Idaho made the top 100 with River Bend ranking the highest in the state.
  • Visiting Angels opened its newest eastern Idaho location in Idaho Falls. A nationwide provider of non-medical senior home-care services, the company provides help with basic chores, bathing, dressing, meal preparation and shopping. It was founded in 1998 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Butte County

  • Battelle Energy Alliance will provide free bus passes to its employees. Bus fare is currently $35 a week. According to a press release, the Idaho National Laboratory has roughly 1,600 employees who will benefit from the free transit system, which should reduce traffic through the desert, especially during the hazardous winter months. The transit system has stops in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Blackfoot, Rigby and Mackay.

Fremont County

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide later this year whether to lift protection of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas. An estimated 1,000 grizzlies live within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Lifting federal protection would place the bears in the states’ control and allow state-sponsored trophy hunts. The protections were temporarily lifted in 2007 but quickly reinstated by a federal judge.

Jefferson County

  • Jefferson County sold off several pieces of equipment in a recent auction that raised over $300,000. The auction money will be used to help pay off some of the $2.1 million in debt the county debt has accrued in recent years.

Lemhi County

  • The Salmon City Council plans to seek a grant to improve the entrance of the Sacajawea Center. The city will be expected to match the estimated $8,000 through services should it successfully receive the grant.

Madison County

  • The Life Flight Network, the largest nonprofit air medical transport service in the United States, is opening a base at the Rexburg-Madison County Airport. The base will operate around the clock. According to the organization’s news release, having a helicopter based in Rexburg will not only serve the local hospitals in Rexburg, Driggs and Jackson, it will benefit any sick or injured tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park.
  • Premier Performance Products, a distributor of diesel parts and accessories in Rexburg, was sold to a private equity firm in Connecticut. Along with the sale of the company, under new management, the company is expected to move into new segments of the aftermarket automotive industry. Premier Performance was founded in 1999 and has seven warehouse distribution locations including the one in Rexburg. The company employs around 200 people in the U.S. and Canada with 80 in Rexburg.

Teton County

  • Several “Fat Bike” races have been held around Teton County recently. Fat Bikes, which are oversized mountain bikes with extra wide tires, are becoming increasingly popular throughout the U.S. Since Jan. 1, Teton County has already held two Fat Bike races with additional races held in neighboring Jackson and Island Park. The most recent race was Feb. 1 in Driggs during the Teton Valley Great Snow Fest. The event was cosponsored by Mountain Bike the Tetons and Fitzgerald’s Bicycles from Victor.

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