Around Idaho: March Economic Activity

Information provided in this article has been gathered from various sources throughout the state, including professional sources, news releases, 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

  • North Central Idaho’s Clearwater Economic Development Association launched its “Dream It – Do It” at its annual meeting in February. Southeastern Washington is also part of the initiative which uses materials from the Manufacturing Institute to focus on developing the next generation of manufacturing employees by encouraging greater career awareness of manufacturing. The initiative is also supported by Idaho-Lewis County Technical Education Foundation, Lewis-Clark State College, the Northwest Intermountain Manufacturers Association, the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association and Valley Vision.
  • Idaho Power Co. reported 2014 net income of $189.4 million, up from $176.7 million in 2013. Last year’s high returns will allow Idaho Power to share earnings of approximately $25 million with Idaho customers under the Idaho regulatory settlement, according to Darrel Anderson, president of the utility’s parent company. Net income in the last quarter was $34.2 million, compared with $27.4 million a year earlier.

  • Building materials manufacturer and distributor Boise Cascade Co. increased sales 9 percent in 2014 to nearly $3.3 billion.  The company attributes the increased sales to housing starts. At the same time, Boise Cascade’s net income of $80 million was down 32 percent from 2013. Wood product sales increased 16 percent as housing starts rose 8 percent in 2014. The company’s Building Materials Distribution Division posted a 7 percent increase in sales. Adjusted net income per common share of stock rose from $1.20 in 2013 to $2.03 despite a 12.3 percent sales decline from the third to the fourth quarters. Quarter-to-quarter profits also fell 51 percent to $15.7 million.
  • A work slowdown on the West Coast’s 29 seaports that stalled shipping containers will probably cost the region’s onion growers about $100 million, a state agriculture official told the Idaho Business Review. A tentative agreement has ended the contract dispute, but a huge backlog of cargo must be cleared before normal shipping resumes. The ports handle about a quarter of the nation’s $1 trillion in international trade. Idaho ranks fourth in onion production, growing 11 percent of the nation’s onions.
  • BNSF Railway plans to invest $189 million of its $6 billion capital program in maintenance and rail improvement projects throughout Washington.
  • Keystone Automotive Operations is building a 250,000-square-foot warehouse distribution center on Spokane’s West Plains. The Pennsylvania-based company is a wholesale distributor of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories. The company plans to begin operations by the end of the year with a payroll of 60.
  • Funding for a $1.7 million mental health crisis center for northern Idaho has been approved by the Idaho House. The funding is part of the Department of Health and Welfare budget.
  • The St. Maries Gazette reports that the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane River Basin Adjudication court denied a federal motion to delay water right decrees to private property owners on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs acting on behalf of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe argued that the water rights should not be decreed.

From staff reports

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

Bonner County

  • Revett Mining Co. may have to pay up to $29 million in reclamation and monitoring costs for its idled Troy mine, according to 2013 Kootenai National Forest service records. Negotiations are still underway. In the meantime, the Rock Creek Alliance is challenging Revett’s proposed mine at Rock Creek.

Boundary County

  • The Agriculture Education program at Bonners Ferry High School has incorporated an advanced welding class thanks to welding expert and resident Joe Stockdale. He updated the curriculum and teaches students about fabrication and automation two days a week. Stockdale came back to Bonners Ferry to start his own business, Stockdale Steel. He also helps students learn how to use and earn certification for a computer numeric control plasma cutter that cuts CAD designs from steel stock.

Kootenai County

  • Fatbeam, a Coeur d’Alene-based fiber optic broadband provider, created a new construction division to help build fiber infrastructure for high-speed Internet across the Inland Northwest.
  • New Jersey Mining Co. entered a partnership with Juniper Resources to operate the Golden Chest Mine in Idaho’s Silver Valley. The mine recently started production and began shipping concentrates. According to New Jersey Mining, Gold Hill is the lessee of the Skookum Shoot portion of the Golden Chest Mine. Juniper Mining LLC operates the mine on behalf of Gold Hill.
  • The Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corp., Jobs Plus, has hired Gynii Abracosa Gilliam as president. Gilliam has more than 20 years of experience in economic development across Idaho and served as the chief economic development officer for Idaho Department of Commerce. Prior to joining Jobs Plus, she owned her own consulting firm.

Shoshone County

  • The Kellogg School Board voted to close Sunnyside Elementary School after this school year. The closure will cover $200,000 of the district’s forecast $850,000 deficit next year.
  • Hecla Mining Co. reported record silver reserves despite depressed metal prices. The Lucky Friday Mine saw a 2.1 percent increase in proven and probable silver reserves to 78.9 million ounces this year, according to the Shoshone News-Press. As part of a multiyear program, 3-D modeling, geologic reconnaissance and target identification on the Lucky Friday-Golconda Mineral Belt are being advanced, and that ultimately will maximize extraction potential.

Openings

  • Summit Cider Company in Coeur d’Alene
  • Philly Express, Aebleskivers and Barbara’s Homemade Fudge and Divinity at the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene
  • Panhandle Carports in Coeur d’Alene
  • Optimal Chiropractic in Post Falls

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

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

Nez Perce Tribe

  • Idaho’s five Indian tribes rank among the state’s 10 largest employers with 4,641 workers and another 2,720 contract workers, according to a study by University of Idaho research economist Steven Peterson. The tribes’ annual sales exceed $1 billion. Their casinos generate gaming revenues of more than $820 million before payouts and prizes. Peterson looked at employment in tribal government, casinos, retail operations and other business enterprises during 2013 for the Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute tribes. The Nez Perce Tribe employs more than 1,000 people at its Lapwai headquarters, fish hatcheries, medical clinic, casinos in Kamiah and near Lewiston, two convenience stores and other operations.
  • The Nez Perce Tribe recently expanded the signal from its Kamiah radio station into the Lapwai Valley and western communities of the reservation. The tribe acquired FM Translator K288EU that is now licensed to cover the Lapwai Valley and surrounding areas. The radio station KIYE 88.7 FM made its first broadcast in August 2010. In 2012, a second transmission facility was licensed near Craigmont to broaden the broadcast area to most of the rest of the reservation.

Clearwater County

  • The Army Corps of Engineers will no longer allow houseboats to moor in Dworshak Reservoir because of a poorly designed and failing moorage system. After Dworshak Dam was built on the North Fork of the Clearwater River to create the 54-mile-long reservoir that filled in 1971, recreational use grew every year, and several houseboats moored there. Since the early 1980s, the corps has dropped the reservoir level in July to provide more water for fish downstream and by August the water level is at least 80 feet below the boat ramps. In addition, reduced manpower and equipment investment have resulted in deteriorating camps, docks and other facilities, according to houseboat owners.
  • Just a year after the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy opened in Pierce, one of its teachers became the National Guard Challenge Teacher of the Year. Mathematics teacher Mike Brocke received the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in February. He began his career at Melba High School, then moved to Kamiah where he  taught mathematics for 23 years before joining the academy. The opportunity to help students who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks attracted Brocke to the boot camp school. Students come from all over Idaho to get their lives back on track. The program prepares cadets to return to school or find jobs. It includes a 22-week residential phase followed by a year of mentoring. Community service is an important part of the program in addition to classes and calisthenics.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • An $8 million construction project at the Idaho County Airport in Grangeville is likely to begin this summer. The existing runway and taxiway are nearing the end of their useful lives. In addition, the separation between the runway and taxiway does not meet current Federal Aviation Administration standards. A new runway north and east of the existing runway will be built and the taxiway reconstructed. Idaho County has hired Riedesel Engineering to design and oversee construction. A bid opening for the runway and associated work is scheduled for April. If a federal grant is authorized by July, runway construction could begin July 6 and run through October. Otherwise, construction will start in July 2016. During construction, the airport will be closed to all fixed wing aircraft. Helicopters will still operate at the airport. The parallel taxiway reconstruction is scheduled for 2016. A phased approach would allow the new runway and a portion of the parallel taxiway to remain open during the second phase of construction.
  • The U.S. Forest Service will shift its fixed-wing aerial firefighting resources during the project from the Grangeville Air Center to airports in Cottonwood and Lewiston. On average, 30 smokejumpers and six aircraft operate from Grangeville during the wildfire season. To mitigate possible slow response times for some fires, the agency plans to bring in more aircraft and personnel during the peak fire season and temporarily increase personnel at its dispatch center to coordinate aircraft operations spread across multiple locations.
  • The Cottonwood Airport will also be available for diversion of United Parcel Service next-day air deliveries. LifeFlight also plans to divert its fixed-wing aircraft traffic to Cottonwood, where it has regularly operated. Additional tie-down areas are planned as needed to handle more aircraft. Constructed in the 1920s, the Cottonwood Airport has a 3,400-foot-long, 50-foot-wide lighted runway within a completely fenced perimeter.
  • The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests released a draft of the first major landscape restoration project in the Selway-Middle Fork area to improve the long-term resilience of vegetation, reduce fire-fuel loads, improve habitat for elk and other species and reduce the amount of sediment reaching Clear Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. The work will turn a forest of aged, fire-prone trees into a mixture of both young and old stands with numerous openings. It would also modernize the road system in a 44,000-acre area on federal land halfway between Kooskia and Elk City. About 4,200 acres of timber will be harvested and another 6,000 thinned, providing an estimated 85 million board feet of timber for local mills. After decades of having smaller projects killed in courts, the agency is trying to introduce larger projects developed through collaboration with environmentalists, government officials, recreational groups and forest industry representatives. The Clearwater Basin Collaborative has provided input that fosters better projects and reduces the risk of litigation. If the Forest Service is allowed to implement the project, work will take up to 10 years.
  • Idaho County commissioners voted March 3 to sponsor a Clearwater Economic Development Association grant to remodel Syringa General Hospital in Grangeville. The $500,000 grant will be submitted to the Idaho Department of Commerce in November, and community development block grant awards will be announced in April 2016. Two years ago, the commissioners supported a $350,000 block grant that has been used to upgrade the outside of the hospital.
  • St. Mary’s and Clearwater Valley hospitals recently won the 23rd annual Monroe E. Trout Premier Cares Award for their efforts to improve mental health of a remote population of at-risk patients. Each hospital received $100,000. The hospitals in Cottonwood and Orofino learned local residents had great difficulty accessing psychiatric services. Some were driving to Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Boise for care. The hospitals partnered with Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center to deliver adult and child psychiatry specialty services using teleconferencing. Patients travel to their local doctor’s offices to see a psychiatrist hundreds of miles away. Psychiatrists treating patients as part of this program work closely with local doctors to ensure that care is coordinated. They are able to chart directly into the electronic medical records at local clinics, ensuring continuity of care despite the distance. Costs of care for patients enrolled in the program have decreased by more than half.
  • Several women recently formed Clearwater Valley Market Coop LLC to operate the Kamiah Mini Mall on Main Street. The health food store recently moved out, and that large space now will house several small businesses, including a bulk food store, coffee shop, sandwich/soup eatery, vitamins and supplements shop and farmers’ market offering fresh, local produce. An anchor tenant is The Creative Spirit of Idaho selling artwork and handcrafted items made by Idaho residents.

Latah County

  • The Moscow Urban Renewal Agency approved a proposed 19,000-square-foot mixed-use downtown development by Sangria Development. The project includes a restaurant and patio on the ground floor, micro-loft apartments on the second floor and a bar and garden on the rooftop. There will be 20 parking spaces for apartment residents. Sangria’s proposal fits well with the long-term plans for Legacy Crossing, a mixed-use development which would unite the campus and downtown.
  • Although Radio Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Moscow store has no plans to close or change its layout. About half of the chain’s more than 4,000 stores are expected to close while 1,750 are expected to be transformed into combined Sprint-RadioShack stores. The privately owned store in the Palouse Mall plans to remain open.
  • Kris Wallace, owner of Buy the Dozens in Moscow, took first place in the Donut Showdown on the Cooking Channel. Wallace’s business started out as a booth at the Moscow Farmers Market and now is a one-woman shop in downtown Moscow. Besides national attention, she received a $10,000 award. Two weeks later, she sold the bakery to her brother.
  • Moscow-based First Step Internet has been conditionally granted Eligible Telecommunications Carrier status by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission which allows it to qualify for federal funds through the Federal Communication Commission’s initiatives to expand broadband services in rural areas. The federal agency will allocate about $4.5 billion over five years to new advanced networks in rural communities. First Step Internet will offer a variety of services including dial-up, DSL, fiber, cable Internet, fixed wireless broadband and Voice Over Internet Protocol. First Internet would serve communities and surrounding rural areas in northern and central Idaho.

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • American Construction Co. of Tacoma finished dredging shipping channels in the Snake River near the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston in late February. Under contract to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it removed more than 400,000 cubic yards of sediment, reducing the risk of floods and widening and deepening the viable shipping channel. Prior to dredging, the navigation channel was as shallow as 7 feet in some places. Twice as much depth is required for barges to move freely. That resulted in some grounding of barges. Grain barges could only be partially filled before departing downriver. Narrowing channels also prevented the largest tour boats from using the Port of Clarkston’s cruise ship dock.
  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February a large timber sale in Oregon’s Blue Mountains will proceed. The Umatilla National Forest will produce an estimated 23 million board feet of timber. Two of the project’s three portions already have been sold to the Guy Bennett Lumber Co., and to Idaho Forest Group, which operates mills in Lewiston and Grangeville.
  • ATK’s ammunition-making operations in Lewiston became part of Vista Outdoor in early February. The new company is made up of ATK’s sporting group that make ammunition, rifles, scopes and holsters. ATK’s aerospace and defense groups have merged with Orbital Sciences Corp. ATK purchased the Blount ammunition plant in Lewiston in 2001 and invested millions in Lewiston, while employment rose from 700 to 1,100. Vista Outdoor, which is headquartered in Utah, plans to expand from guns and ammunition into general outdoor recreation.

Openings

  • Ampersand Oil & Vinegar Tap House, a gourmet food shop carrying more than 40 varieties of olive oil and vinegar and a host of other products from around the world, in downtown Moscow.
  • Guide to a Bride selling and renting wedding dresses and formal gowns in downtown 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

Ada County

  • Developer Shane Felker told the Idaho Business Review that Boise architecture firm CSHQA will design his One Nineteen condo project in Boise. The project will have two levels of parking and four levels of 26 condos each. Each level will have a different floor plan, ranging from long and narrow to more square. Floor plans for most condos fall between 1,176 and 1,504 square feet with prices running from $384,750 to $516,000, according to the One Nineteen website.
  • Two new hotels will be built across the street from each other in downtown Boise. Investment company Pennbridge Capital has proposed a 10-story franchise hotel for both short- and long-term guests. Obie Companies of Eugene, Oregon, has plans for the Inn at 500 Capitol, a seven-story boutique hotel.
  • Construction will start this summer on The Afton, a downtown Boise condominium project with up to 27 units, retail space and a pedestrian walkway. Developer Michael Hormaechea told the Idaho Business Review that the project is still in the final design stage.
  • The vacant Macy’s building in downtown Boise could become home to Athlos Academies, an Idaho charter school company. President David Jeppson said the Boise-based builder and curriculum provider for charter schools has a tentative deal to buy the building from partners Brad Elg, Jeff Shneider and David Wali for an undisclosed price to be used as its headquarters. The company operates charter schools in Texas, Arizona and Minnesota.
  • Life’s Kitchen, a Boise nonprofit that offers jobs and life skills training to at-risk youth, plans to build a $2.5 million job training and food production center in Garden City. Life’s Kitchen has started a capital campaign to raise money for the project.
  • D.L. Evans Bank will move its downtown Boise branch one block to a larger building that will allow expansion to include a bigger commercial lending team. The new location is about four times the size of the existing branch.
  • George’s Cycles and Fitness will move two blocks closer to Boise’s downtown core next year. The business will take over a former car parts warehouse it bought last fall. George’s started demolition work on the building after Christmas.
  • The city of Boise and Capital City Development Corp. agreed to each pay an average of about $65,000 annually over the next five years to cover the rent for The Trailhead, a center for entrepreneurs. Local entrepreneurs Faisal Shah, Karen Meyer and Jason Crawforth proposed the center to give business people a place to vet ideas and put them in motion.
  • Low-cost airline Allegiant will offer a nonstop flight from Boise to Los Angeles beginning June 5.
  • The opening of the Simplot family’s JUMP project in downtown Boise has been delayed to next spring. Project spokeswoman Kathy O’Neill said that street lane closures around the project will continue through spring or even summer of 2016. Work started in January 2012.
  • Ocean Beauty Seafoods of Seattle is selling its Reel Foods Fish Market in Boise for $125,000. There have been two expressions of interest in the business.

Adams County

  • The Jim Tunnison Fund has awarded the Economic Development Committee of the Council Chamber of Commerce a $10,000 grant. Pending city council approval, the money will be used to create the Council Commons Native Plant Preserve. It is one project of many envisioned for the creation of what will be the Council Commons.

Canyon County

  • Nature’s Indulgence Granola is moving from Ogden, Utah, to Caldwell adjacent to the University of Idaho Food Technology Center. The initial staff of four could double in a year. The company, which makes eight varieties of granola including three gluten-free, plans to launch two new varieties of oatmeal and other oat-based products in the new plant.
  • The College of Western Idaho is accepting applications for a new law enforcement program, which has been approved by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. The program, part of the school’s Professional-Technical Education Division, starts this fall.
  • West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell is building a $6.25 million expansion of its surgery department, quadrupling the existing space.
  • The Downtown Caldwell Organization plans to develop a plaza in downtown Caldwell. If the city council approves, it could take as little as two years to complete the plaza.
  • Caldwell is launching a new branding campaign “Destination Caldwell” to increase economic activity around a proposed downtown plaza.

Elmore County

  • The Mountain Home Office of Economic Development has fielded information requests from 19 companies over the past year. The city hosted six site visits from companies looking to locate in Mountain Home.
  • A $36 million project to replace the runway and adjoining taxiway at Mountain Home Air Force Base is one of more than a dozen major construction projects slated to begin over the next several months. In mid-January, work began on the taxiway.

Owyhee County

  • The Marsing Senior Center has undergone a renovation that includes room for refrigerators and freezers. The Rimrock Senior Center received an Idaho Power grant – also for a new refrigerator and freezer.

Payette County

  • The Bureau of Land Management will hold an oil and gas lease sale for five parcels of land six miles east of Payette on May 28. Bids on the 6,500 acres will begin at $2 an acre, but the bureau will not allow surface or sub-surface occupancy until its Four Rivers Resource Management Plan is completed, which should be next year.

Valley County

  • Replay Resorts will take over operations at Tamarack Resort. The Tamarack Municipal Association, the resort’s homeowners association, has operated the ski area since 2010 after the development went into foreclosure. A Credit Suisse subsidiary, New TR Acquisitions Co. LLC, or NEWTRAC, currently owns the resort.

Washington County

  • Maverik Corp. handed out two checks for $2,200 each to Park and Pioneer Elementary Schools in Weiser. The funds will be used for new athletic equipment.

Openings:

  • A new Nampa Public Library downtown
  • Johnson Thermal Systems new plant in Caldwell
  • Involta, a managed information technology and cloud computing and data center services company, in southwest Boise
  • United Heritage Insurance’s new office in Meridian
  • 4c Financial Group in Eagle
  • The Main Street Deli in downtown Boise
  • The Boise Urban Garden School education center featuring a commercial kitchen, classroom space and administrative office in West Boise

Closings:

  • Brewforia, one of the original bottle shops that brought craft beer to the Treasure Valley, in Meridian
  • Post Holdings Inc.’s Powerbar manufacturing plant in southeast Boise
  • Buster’s sports pub in Boise
  • Maximus, a call center that provided customer support during the Affordable Care Act enrollment periods, in Boise

 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 several awards presented by Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould during the annual Larry Branen Idaho Agriculture Summit. Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield received the Pat Takasugi Leadership Award for growth and development of Idaho agriculture. Duane Grant of Rupert received the Governor’s Award for Education and Advocacy.  Former Rep. Bert Stevenson of Rupert received the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement and Jared Brackett, president of the Idaho Cattle Association, received the Governor’s Award for Technical Innovation.

Twin Falls County

  • Clif Bar has broken ground on a new 275,000-square-foot plant. The company plans to begin operating in a clif bar signyear with 250 workers. This is Clif Bar’s first venture into commercial baking.
  • Voters approved supplemental levies in Twin Falls, Buhl and Hansen school.
  • SkyWest Airlines, a regional connector for Delta Airlines, will add a daily flight from Twin Falls to Salt Lake City to meet increased demand from new and expanding businesses in Jerome, Twin Falls, Cassia and Minidoka counties. This fourth roundtrip daily flight begins June 3.
  • Gray Television Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, bought KMVT-TV and its sister Fox-affiliate KSVT-TV from Neuhoff Communications for $17.5 million. Gray plans to make future investments in technology.

Cassia County

  • Fabri-kal of Kalamazoo, Michigan, plans to build a plant in Burley. The company is a supplier to Chobani, providing containers for both Idaho and New York yogurt plants. The company has existing factories in Kalamazoo, Greenville, South Carolina and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The new $50 million, 100,000-square-foot plant is expected to be operational by fall and employ approximately 50 workers at $14.50 an hour or more with incentives. Fabri-kal plans to expand to 100 workers over the next couple of years and was approved for Department of Commerce’s Tax Reimbursement Incentive program that allows a 22 percent credit on all payroll, sales and income taxes for nine years. The company is building in an Urban Renewal District so it will receive support for site development and infrastructure.
  • Cassia County School District’s bond vote was passed with supermajority. Forty percent of registered voters turned out.

Blaine County Area

  • Docks at Redfish Lake were damaged by moving ice over the winter. The cost to rebuild is estimated at $200,000, and the family that owns the lodge hopes to repair the damage by Memorial Day when the summer season officially starts.

Under Construction

  • Mountain America Credit Union is building its first branch in Twin Falls.
  • Freedom Auto Finders is building a new facility in Twin Falls.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond and Ross’s Dress for Less have stores under construction in the Canyon West strip mall near the Perrine Bridge. Future building requests include Men’s Warehouse and Noodles Restaurant.
  • A middle school and two elementary schools are being built in the Twin Falls School District.

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

  • Former Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase has been re-elected chairman of the Idaho Water Resource Board. Chase has served as chairman since January of 2013. The board is instrumental in helping to manage water resources in Idaho.
  • Chubbuck city leaders are working to promote more business activity in the southeastern Idaho community. Its population grew 46 percent between 2000 and 2010, but it was it almost all residential rather than commercial.
  • The Geosciences Department at Idaho State University has received a $400,000 grant to study rocks with researchers from NASA. They will be looking at lava rocks for evidence of life. The research will help NASA identify possible sources of life on other planets.
  • Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad is among several mayors across the United States who accepted a challenge to provide housing to homeless veterans. The city of Pocatello worked with local organizations to find homes for all veterans who were identified as homeless. Sunny Shaw of the Pocatello Housing Authority said the effort helped local agencies become better aware of each other’s services to better serve those in need.

Bear Lake County

  • Recently the Montpelier City Council agreed to adopt the International Building Code covering construction, relocation, alteration, repair and demolition of buildings. The code places requirements on the type of equipment used in building, remodeling and repair work and provides directives on location of buildings and occupancy standards. Buildings that follow the code may have a higher resale value, better quality and lower maintenance costs. The International Building Codec puts Montpelier on the same footing as many larger communities that have already adopted the code.

Bingham County

  • BiologiQ of Blackfoot hopes to break ground on a 60,000-square-foot plant soon. The company uses potato starch to make plastic resin pellets used in a wide variety of products. The expansion is expected to increase BiologiQ’s employment from 12 to about 100.

Franklin County

  • The Idaho Rural Partnership’s Community Review program has made Preston its first review city of 2015. Two more communities will likely undergo reviews that help local citizens and leaders identify common goals and chart a course for their city. Many of the review team’s members were impressed by Preston’s opportunity for growth and the overall community spirit.

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

  • An unusually warm winter has led to an early spring for golf enthusiasts in Idaho Falls. For the first time in over 30 years, golf courses have opened in mid-February, and people responded. Sand Creek golf course in Idaho Falls reported up to 150 golfers on the weekdays and nearly 200 on the weekend during its first week. The course will remain open as long as the weather permits.
  • Idaho Falls School District 91 held a job fair on Feb. 28. The district is hiring several elementary teachers and a counselor, speech pathologist and literacy coach.

Butte County

  • The U.S. Department of Energy and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality reached an agreement over handling 900,000 gallons of untreated liquid radioactive waste at the Idaho National Laboratory. The state will fine the federal agency $648,000 for missing a court-enforced deadline for moving the waste out of Idaho. The federal government suffered several setbacks with a new state-of-the-art facility to transform the waste into a more manageable powder. A new deadline was set for 2018 and if the waste is not removed, the federal government could be fined up to $6,000 per day.

Clark County

  • Kerri Ellis has been appointed Clark County clerk. The position opened following the unexpected resignation of the former clerk, sworn in only days before. Kerri has previously served on the county’s economic development and planning and zoning boards.

Custer County

  • A new telepharmacy is expected to open later this spring in Challis, allowing patients to use a live video connection to a full-time pharmacist at Idaho State University. It is the second full-service telepharmacy in Idaho. The telepharmacy is expected to replace Challis’ current Village Pharmacy, which is expected to close this spring.

Fremont County

  • Sugar City has a new mayor following an unexpected resignation by Glen Dalling for health reasons. Lamont Merrill was unanimously chosen as the interim mayor by the city council and will serve the final year of Dalling’s four-year term.
  • The Bureau of Land Management secured a conservation easement on another 565 acres of land on Henry’s Lake. The land was purchased for $525,000 from the Land and Water Conservation fund. In total, the BLM has obtained 5,400 acres of protected land around the lake.
  • Record high February temperatures in eastern Idaho forced cancelation of the 98th annual American Dog Derby in Ashton. This was only the second time since 1993 the dog sled race has been canceled due to warm weather.

Jefferson County

  • With the snowpack melting in unseasonably warm weather, Kelly Canyon ski area hosted its first fat bike race. The increasingly popular fat bikes travel over dirt, ice and snow. Kelly canyon hosted two races, a cross-country hill climb with one- and two-loop options and a downhill race. For those without a fat bike, rentals are available.
  • The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office received county commission approval to purchase four new patrol vehicles as part of the county’s vehicle rotation plan. The vehicles should cost around $102,000 and are expected to be in service in April.

Lemhi County

  • County commissioners are considering expansion of Salmon’s air base facilities, where 42 seasonal firefighters are based each year. The air base also hosts two national training sessions that bring in 100 firefighters during the fire season each year. The proposed expansion would include additional bathroom, storage and maintenance facilities. Cost estimates are still being developed.
  • Last year, the Lemhi County Economic Development Association was recognized by the Community Transportation Association of America as one of only four rural communities in the nation to participate in a unique program to promote economic development through enhanced public transit services. To ensure that the project identifies and addresses all potential transit needs in the region, the association held a Mobility Visioning Workshop in March.

Madison County

  • Brigham Young University-Idaho had a record winter semester enrollment of 16,738, a 7.1 percent increase over the same semester last year. The school has seen steady increases in enrollment since it became a four-year institution in 2001.
  • Windsor Manor recently opened in Rexburg. The 100,000-square-foot apartment complex offers housing for both single men and women students at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Teton County

  • A 180-acre easement has been secured by the Teton Regional Land Trust. The tract, including 40 acres of wetlands will be permanently restricted from residential development.
  • Teton County celebrated its centennial anniversary in January. The county has set aside around $10,000 to be spent on events throughout the year. The Idaho Legislature voted to split Teton from Madison County, and the legislation was officially signed Jan. 26, 1915.

Openings

  • Togo’s restaurant in Ammon
  • Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Idaho Falls
  • Cabela’s in Ammon
  • Maverik in Rexburg
  • Papa John’s Pizza in Rexburg
  • ShopKo in Salmon
  • Idaho Central Credit Union in Rexburg
  • Supercuts in Rexburg

 Closings

  • Alco variety store in Salmon

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