Around Idaho: April 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

  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved genetically engineered foods as safe. The action covers six varieties of J.R. Simplot potatoes.
  • Idaho’s construction industry went on a hiring spree during what the National Weather Service recorded as the warmest February ever for Boise. The Idaho Business Review reported that 5,000 more construction jobs were created in Idaho in February compared with a year earlier. The 14.3 percent gain was the second highest in the country, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the growth at 3,700 jobs, and the Idaho Department of Labor estimate was 1,000.

  • Gov. Butch Otter has signed a $125.5 million career ladder teacher salary bill that will raise teacher pay over five years, starting with a $33.5 million boost in state funding in 2015-2016. If fully implemented in the 2019-20 school year, the plan will bump teacher pay levels to:
    • $37,000 to $39,000 for residency teachers in their first three years in the profession.
    • $42,500 to $50,000 for professional teachers with more than three years of experience.

The minimum teacher salary set by law for the current school year is $31,750. That jumps to $32,700 next year, a 2.9 percent increase, and $37,000 in 2019-20, a 16.5 percent increase from the current minimum.

From staff reports

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

Region

  • Forestry equipment manufacturers, loggers, sawmills, logging equipment distributors, pellet mills, biofuels, biomass industry and government agencies all participated in the Annual Small Log Conference in Coeur d’Alene in March. The conference addresses issues affecting the forest product industry worldwide.
  • Local ski areas ended their seasons early this year while golf courses were off to an early start. With the rain and warmer temperatures, local ski resorts have limited terrain since early February. Lookout Pass was the first to close and Silver Mountain and Schweitzer Mountain soon followed at the end of March. Despite the challenging conditions, Schweitzer was able to operate 120 days, one of the longest seasons in the region. The mountain’s winter season has ranged from 80 days in 2005 to 136 days in 2011. Spokane Mountain had an even earlier close. 49 Degrees North, which stayed open until April 12, is planning $25 million worth of improvements to the ski resort’s Sunrise Basin area over the next five years. Liberty Lake Golf Course just over the border in Washington opened on Valentine’s Day, the Coeur d’Alene Public Golf Course on Feb 13 and the Links Golf Club in Post Falls and Avondale Golf Course in Hayden Lake on March 1.
  • Avista launched its Energy Storage Project in early April as part of its investment in research to improve power system reliability by integrating power generation from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar. Avista is testing its new battery storage system using batteries manufactured by UniEnergy Technologies of Mukilteo, Wash., in a real-life setting at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. The project is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the state of Washington and $3.8 million in Avista matching funds.
  • Washington State University’s Carson College of Business has expanded its Hospitality Business Management program to its Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett campuses and to Brig, Switzerland. The school is assessing ways coursework in mega-event planning and conference and convention management can meet growing demand in the Spokane region. Each campus has a different focus. In Everett, the program specializes in senior living due to its proximity to several senior living communities. The Tri-Cities program specializes in wine business management. The Hospitality Business Management program will be offered online for the first time this fall and will include a hospitality and tourism emphasis for Washington State’s online MBA program.
  • Coeur Mining Inc. has invested $10 million in Paramount Gold Nevada Corp., a subsidiary of Paramount Gold & Silver Corp. The company expects to complete a mineral reserve and resource estimate for its Palmarejo mine in Mexico, which includes the newly acquired assets. Coeur Mining was based in Coeur d’Alene until it moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2013.

Benewah County

  • Centennial Renewable Energy plans to build a wood pellet mill later this year at the former Scott Paper plant between Fernwood and Santa. The company will ship the pellets to Asia where for power generation. According to the St. Maries Gazette, the company is a joint venture between Acquiro Global Limited owned by CHP Ventures in England and Clean Mountain Energy of Pocatello. The new mill site is expected to produce 160,000 metric tons of wood pellets with 30 employees once it begins operating in 2017.

Bonner County

  • L3M LLC, a group of local investors, acquired the 12-acre Coldwater Creek complex at auction in April for $2.5 million and will make it the Sandpoint Technology Center. The complex includes a 200,000-square-foot building with 120,000 square feet of warehouse space and 80,000 square feet of office space, a 3,500-square-foot office suite and a 16,500-square-foot building already leased by Thorne Research. According to the Idaho Business Review, other potential tenants include Percussionaire, the Bird Institute and Laughing Dog Brewing.
  • Kochava, a Sandpoint-based mobile ad optimization analytics company, continues to expand. The company moved to a larger space at the Sandpoint Center after acquiring Toronto-based ad tech company InferSystems in February. Kochava is using the newly acquired technology to build a product called the Kochava Optimization Beacon. The company has hired 13 more workers so far this year and expects to add 20 more by year’s end.
  • North Idaho Insurance in Sandpoint was acquired by California-based Alliant Insurance Services, the nation’s largest specialty insurance brokerage firm. North Idaho Insurance is one of the larger independent agencies in the region and provides a full line of personal and commercial insurance alternatives. North Idaho Insurance will continue to operate under its current name and brand.
  • Aerocet received preliminary federal approval of its 6650 amphibious aircraft floats for twin seaplane floats. The Aerocet 6650 model composite floats are made of strong but lightweight blends of carbon fiber materials. The company is now pursuing the next regulatory phase to allow the floats to be installed on an aircraft.

Boundary County

  • Selkirks-Pend Oreille Transit, a nonprofit venture through the city of Dover has launched service in Bonners Ferry. The group already provides free mass transit services for the Sandpoint, Dover, Kootenai, and Ponderay areas. While the southern busses in Bonner County run a fixed daily route, the Bonners Ferry bus is a free three-day-a-week on-call service. The bus takes people from their doorstep to their destination and back. There will be a limited service area the first year that includes the city limits and out to Tribal Headquarters west of the city. Wednesdays and Fridays are the local demand response days for in-town trips. Thursdays the bus will transport people to the Sandpoint area. Operating hours for the Bonners Ferry bus are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. The bus can be scheduled for special trips on Tuesdays for the Senior Center, Restorium residents or other groups. The service operates on grants from the Idaho Transportation Department, the Area Agency on Aging, Bonner County and the city of Bonners Ferry.

Kootenai County

  • Every summer Silverwood Theme Park boosts the region’s economy with more than 1,000 seasonal jobs. This year the park will hire up to 1,400 and held a two-day job fair in late March at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds for ride operators, lifeguards, food and beverage workers, landscapers, housekeepers, retail sales and games operators.
  • Alliance Data Retail Services, which manages more than 130 private label and co-brand credit card programs for many recognizable brands, is hiring 130 additional customer service employees. Alliance Data expanded in Coeur d’Alene a year ago and is boosting its payroll from 220 to 350 over the next three years. The Coeur d’Alene Press reported the average pay is $45,000 a year including incentives.
  • North Idaho College’s new Career Technical Education facility will open in summer 2016. The $15 million, 100,000-square-foot center will house welding, machining, industrial mechanics, outdoor recreational vehicle technology, diesel technology, computer-aided design, automotive technology and auto collision repair programs.

Shoshone County

  • Hecla Mining Co. has acquired Revett Mining Co. of Spokane Valley, Washington, and will eventually develop Revett’s Rock Creek Mine near Troy, Montana. The company considers Rock Creek one of the largest undeveloped silver and copper deposits in North America. Revett has reported inferred resources of 229 million ounces of silver and two billion pounds of copper. Hecla is the oldest precious metals mining company in North America and continues to be the largest U.S. silver producer. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary on the New York Stock Exchange by ringing the Closing Bell.
  • The Bunker Hill mine resumed production on March 30 after being idle for 24 years. Approximately $2 million was invested in a new on-site mill. Twenty people are working two shifts at the mine that will eventually employ 35. The 6,500-acre mine property encompasses 31 underground levels, but only about 15 percent will be mined for high-grade galena ore.

Openings

  • Coeur d’Alene Tap House.
  • Memory Lane Gems in Coeur d’Alene.
  • Remodeled Surf’s Up Touchless Car Wash in Coeur d’Alene.
  • Northern Nature Landscape in Coeur d’Alene.
  • Tractor Supply Co in early June in Coeur d’Alene.
  • Chomper Café in Hayden.
  • The Filling Station, a 20-tap craft growler fill station and tap house, 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

  • The early spring has advanced the growing season by weeks. Many farmers planted spring wheat two to three weeks earlier than normal. Despite a lack of snow in the mountains, precipitation in north central Idaho so far this year has been on par with long-term averages so soil moisture is adequate. Some wheat growers at higher elevations had to reseed because the normal blanket of snow did not insulate winter wheat.
  • Six north central Idaho school districts asked for one-year supplemental levies at elections in March, and only the Troy School District was turned down. Its $1.3 million supplemental levy received only 35 percent of the vote. The failure leaves Troy with a budget shortfall of more than $100,000 due to an $86,000 cut in state funding because of declining enrolment. The district needs an additional $13,000 for food service and $19,000 for special education transportation and more personnel. If the levy had been approved, it would have raised property taxes for homeowners by $2.53 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value bringing the total to $9.96 per $1,000 value. Voters approved levies of $1.39 million in Potlatch, $935,000 in Genesee, $850,000 in Kendrick, $499,000 in Craigmont’s Highland School District and $2.66 million in the Mountain View School District, serving Grangeville, Kooskia and Elk City.

Clearwater County

  • State Hospital North, the 55-bed mental health facility in Orofino, is trying to improve outcomes for its patients. The hospital’s medical director is developing an intensive inpatient trauma-focused therapy, a protocol developed by Veterans Affairs to help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Administrators also are developing a more holistic picture of patient health, putting more emphasis on exercise and normal activities to complement mental health care. The emphasis is on treating people and transitioning them back to their homes as soon as possible. Today, the median length of stay is 44 days. About 90 people work at the facility.
  • A lack of snow kept the ski season to just three weeks this year. Bald Mountain Ski Hill near Pierce now is preparing for summer projects including re-roofing the rental shop, painting the exteriors of the rental shop and patrol house, rebuilding the top lift shack deck and brush whacking.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its main building. The Sisters of St. Gertrude opened a four-bed hospital in 1930. They built an annex in 1939 that doubled the space and provided a modern surgery unit. That year, the hospital admitted 1,515 people and provided 577 surgeries. In the early 1960s, recognizing the need for a larger, state-of-the-art hospital, community members began a pledge drive and submitted an application for federal Hill-Burton construction funds. Construction of a 24-bed facility began in 1963. The hospital opened a clinic in Nezperce in 1979 and in Kamiah four years later. In 1982 the Lions Club laid a helipad for helicopter ambulance service. In 1995, the Craigmont clinic opened, and St. Mary’s began administering the Grangeville Physical Therapy Clinic. Soon after a physical therapy clinic opened on the Cottonwood campus. A third physical therapy clinic opened in 1998 in Kamiah. That same year, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino became an associate member of the Benedictine Health System so the two hospitals formed an equal partnership with a joint management team to form a regional health care system. In 2002, the hospital opened a 12,000-square-foot medical clinic with 12 exam rooms, a procedure room and physician offices on the Cottonwood campus. Today, the hospital and its clinics are the largest private-sector employer in Idaho County with 200 employees. The two hospitals now offer a higher level of care for patients experiencing stroke as part of a telemedicine program through Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Two other Idaho community hospitals – Bonner General in Sandpoint and Gritman in Moscow – are participating in the program that links specialists at Sacred Heart’s stroke center with physicians at participating hospitals 24 hours a day.
  • While the runway at the Idaho County Airport at Grangeville is reconstructed this summer, a portable hot mix asphalt plant will be brought to the area. That will allow the city of Grangeville, the Grangeville Highway District and Idaho Forest Group to undertake a few paving projects for less money. Not having to transport the asphalt saves an estimated 30 percent.
  • A new Verizon cell tower is under construction above Pine Ridge near Kamiah, which will bring high-speed cell data service to the area.

Latah County

  • The 2016 appropriation for higher education by the Idaho Legislature includes $557,100 for the University of Idaho to add advisory staff and help improve student retention and graduation rates. There is $299,600 for Lewis-Clark State College to add faculty and help ease the bottleneck for key general education courses. The budget also includes $518,400 for six full-time positions in an Employment Readiness Program to improve career planning and placement services and $209,700 for a pilot program that will provide free tuition to 20 students in exchange for working about 10 hours per week.
  • A University of Idaho team developing a novel water treatment process has been granted $427,000 to perform a one-year feasibility study on its work. The funding comes from Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, which helps Idaho’s universities, business leaders and other stakeholders push new technology beyond laboratories into the private sector. N-E-W Tech uses biochar, a charcoal-like activated carbon, to remove organic and mineral contaminants in wastewater with high efficiency. The process generates energy, and the minerals stripped from the water are used to produce fertilizer.
  • A fire destroyed two of the eight buildings at the George F. Brocke & Sons International complex in Kendrick including a processing facility that was built in 2007. The other building was used for storage. The estimated lost was $3 million. The Brocke family has operated a legume-processing plant there since 1942. Originally, it processed green peas. Now it employs 40 to process lentils, dried peas, rapeseed and garbanzo beans. No layoffs occurred because of the blaze, and Brocke added an extra day to workers’ shifts to compensate for the machinery lost in the fire. Three processing lines remained functional.

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • Problems continue at the Port of Portland’s container terminal even after the labor dispute between the West Coast ports and the longshoremen union was resolved in late February. ICTSI, a Philippines-based company, signed a 25-year lease in 2010 to operate the Port of Portland’s container terminal. But Hanjin Shipping, which handled 78 percent of Portland’s containers, was dissatisfied with the work pace of longshore workers and announced in February it would no longer call on Portland. In April, the other major carrier, Hapag-Lloyd also appeared to be ending Portland service. The Port of Lewiston relies exclusively on the Port of Portland. All cargo barged from Idaho goes to Portland before being transferred to larger boats that take it overseas. About 90 percent of the containers shipped from Lewiston are handled by Hapag-Lloyd. Agricultural leaders in eastern Washington and northern Idaho worry that without competition from Portland, container shipping out of Puget Sound may become more expensive.
  • The Port of Lewiston’s newest tenant distills vodka and eventually plans to produce gin and whiskey. Printer’s Distillery hopes to have a tasting room open soon in its suite at the port building. It sells its product at Clarkston businesses including Rick’s Family Foods, the bars Rookies and Hogan’s Place and the Emerald Garden restaurant.
  • Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston was named Idaho Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest in Kennewick. Colter’s 2012 Merlot earned a double platinum award and its 2012 Carmenere a platinum award from Wine Press Northwest. Clearwater Canyon Cellars’ 2012 Estate Syrah and 2012 Renaissance Red earned gold medals at the Idaho Wine Competition and Great Northwest Invitational.

 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

  • Mountain America Credit Union, one of 30 largest credit unions in the country, merged with Les Boise Credit Union and has expanded with new offices in Meridian, Eagle and Nampa.

Ada County

  • The Utah Jazz has purchased the Idaho Stampede. The Jazz signed a one-year contract extension with CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise for 2015-16 season, and while expressing interest in keeping the team in Boise, the Jazz did not rule out a move. Former Stampede Managing partner Bill Ilett said he would fight any attempt to take the team out of Boise.
  • An 84-unit apartment building is planned for downtown Boise. The $11 million project is proposed by developer Clay Carley and others, who hope to have it open next year. Two developers, Gardner Companies and the California-based LocalConstruct, have responded to the Capital City Development Corp.’s request to develop a tract eight blocks away. The Watercooler, which provides affordable and flexible office and meeting space for emerging companies, currently occupies a building on that land.
  • The 14-story Hoff Building in downtown Boise has been offered for sale. The 85-year-old building went on the market in March for an undisclosed amount. It was Boise’s first skyscraper.
  • Diamond brokerage and jewelry design store Diamond Girls is expected to move from Garden City to a building in downtown Boise in June, according to the Idaho Business Review. The Diamond Girls will take 1,300 square feet. The owners are still looking for a tenant for the other 3,500 square feet.
  • Mustard Seed Financial & Insurance, Derek Todd Truck Insurance and Burks Wealth Management have consolidated as Mustard Seed Financial & Insurance. The company will be located in Meridian. Mustard Seed describes itself as a faith-based financial-services agency.
  • Downtown Boise’s Ben and Jerry’s has been sold to Andrew Moran, who wants to boost catering services and work with Boise State University, where he and his wife attended college. The store has five employees, and Moran wants to hire as many as 12 more for the summer.
  • New Zealand-based Claymark, which markets Radiate pine from New Zealand, plans to expand in downtown Boise, where its four employers are operating in temporary space. The pine boards are sold through independent wholesale distributors and retailers such as Home Depot.
  • Vacasa co-founder Eric Breon wants to expand his operations in Boise. Vacasa’s website lists private homes for short-stay rental like Airbnb or VRBO, but it also markets and manages the properties so homeowners do not have to worry about handling reservations or cleaning up between guests. The company is based in Portland with 100 employees. Vacasa wants to hire about 100 people in the Boise office over the coming year.
  • Boise Spectrum plans a $2 million facelift to regain some of the consumer traffic it has seen in the past. DD Dunlap Companies, which operates Boise Spectrum, wants to give the complex an urban but western look.
  • The Boise Airport has until next fall to take advantage of a $700,000 federal grant to get a Delta Airlines nonstop flight to Atlanta. Director Rebecca Hupp said Delta has no plans to start the Atlanta service this year because it can’t spare an airplane for the flight. Hupp said airport officials will resume talks with Delta in June. But Alaska Airlines will add twice-daily nonstop flights from Boise to Spokane starting Aug. 24.
  • Earl and Carrie Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co. plan to open a winery and tasting room next to the Riverside Hotel in Boise. Owner Earl Sullivan plans to break ground in June. He hopes to take advantage of the area’s growing reputation as a Craft Beverage Corridor.
  • Payette Brewing in Garden City plans a new operation in Boise, and has raised $1.255 million to finance it, according to the Idaho Business Review. At the same time Powderhaus Brewing plans to open a 7,500-square-foot production brewery and tasting room in Garden City. Construction should be completed by year’s end.
  • Denver-based Access2Care plans to triple its payroll in southwestern Idaho this spring. The company dispatches medical transportation in 26 states. It has 20 Idaho employees now and will move its operation from Meridian to west Boise.

Canyon County

  • St. Luke’s Health System plans to turn its Nampa facility into a 76-bed community hospital. The 120,000-square-foot facility currently has an emergency department, urgent care, St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute and clinic. The building also houses Saltzer Medical Group offices, which the hospital has tried to acquire.
  • Alcohol sales in Canyon County increased by more than $500,000 from mid-2013 to mid-2014, continuing a recent upward trend in sales. Sales topped $11 million for the first time in Canyon County in fiscal year 2013 to rank third among all Idaho counties. Liquor sales statewide were $169 million, up 2.8 percent from the previous year.
  • A new T.J. Maxx store planned for Nampa is the latest addition to the growing Treasure Valley Crossing shopping center. The building and site design for the 22,000-square-foot store was approved by the city’s Building and Site Design Standards Committee at a meeting in January, according to the Idaho Press Tribune. T.J. Maxx, a discount retailer, would join Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hobby Lobby and PetSmart, which all opened new stores in the shopping complex next to Interstate 84 last year. More restaurants are on the way in the Crossing, including Idaho’s first Panera Bread, which is expected to open in June next to Cracker Barrel, and a Chick-fil-A that’s planned to open at the end of this year or early next year, according to spokespeople from both companies. Chick-fil-A will be across from McDonald’s on Marketplace Boulevard, according to real estate listings. Work is also underway on a Paul Mitchell The School, a cosmetology school, that’s going in next to Stevens-Henager College.
  • A new Deseret Industries Store under construction in front of Lowe’s on Caldwell Boulevard, and a Chipotle is planned across the street.
  • The College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees approved a proposal to enter into a purchase agreement for 32.5 acres of land on the north boundary of the school’s Nampa campus. The land is between the Academic Building and Cherry Lane and will become part of the CWI’s Nampa Campus Master Plan designed to support growth through 2040.

Payette County

  • Alta Mesa’s pipeline project is complete and its natural gas dehydration facility is complete and will be online soon, according to the Payette Independent-Enterprise. The dehydration facility is made up of eight 30,000 gallon bullet tanks and will draw out condensate from the natural gas that has traveled from wells via the pipeline.

Valley County

  • Ninety-one acres in Cascade where an old sawmill once operated might be converted into green space under plans by Mark and Kristina Pickard, developers of Kelly’s Whitewater Park. They are in the process of buying the land from Hans Borbonus and his Cloverdale Nursery of Boise. If the sale goes through, the Pickards hope to convert the site into a landscape with possible uses including a dog park, community garden, a new Cascade High School football field and an outdoor skating rink, according to the McCall Star-News.
  • The Tamarack Municipal Association, the homeowners association at Tamarack Resort, has turned over operations of the Osprey Meadows Golf Course to Jeanne Bryant of Receivership Management Inc., the course’s creditor, according to the McCall Star-News. This follows a lawsuit from the creditor, which made it financially impossible for the homeowners association from continuing the course’s management.
  • This season, NewTRAC, an acquisition firm will take over Tamarack Resort from the Tamarack Municipal Homeowners Association and turn over management of daily operations to Replay Resorts, a Vancouver B.C. company that specializes in managing resorts that have gone through financial turmoil.

Openings

  • The Valencia, a 47,148-square-foot affordable housing complex for seniors, in Fruitland.
  • Cracker Barrel in the Treasure Valley Crossing shopping center in Nampa.
  • County Line Brewing in Garden City.
  • A new animal shelter in Mountain Home.
  • Lazy J Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Council.

Closings

  • Hyde Park Books in the North End of Boise.
  • The Sandbar Riverhouse Restaurant in Marsing.

 Ethan.Mansfield@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455

SOUTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties

Blaine County

  • Ketchum’s Scottevest firm and founder Scott Jordan is putting together a team to develop a successor to the bankrupt SkyMall airline magazine. Jordan is working with each airline magazine to design insert pages on relevant travel products with links to each retailer’s website – essentially an online duty-free shop providing discounts if purchases are made in flight. But he has competition. C&A Marketing of New Jersey has purchased SkyMall’s assets.
  • The Sun Valley Band of Angels and Mentors is assisting WinUru in its quest for seed capital. WinUru is a Ketchum startup technology company that combines online retailing and gaming. Band of Angels and Mentors is led by former Apple executive Rick LaFaivre, who has hosted two pitch nights so far and WinUru participated. The company has almost raised its goal of $750,000 from Band of Angels and Mentors investors.

Mini-Cassia Area

  • Oakley High School’s agriculture class is learning some innovative practices that may benefit them in their future careers. Recently they took on an aquaponics project, which combines the water used to raise fish, sell fish and snails with waste residual from the fish to fertilize plants. They also raised and 25 broiler chickens from hatchlings. Future workshops will include planting a full garden, fattening a pig, designing a trailer and building bookshelves.
  • The new Family Health Services clinic in Burley offers dental, medical, behavioral and social health services all under one roof. The nonprofit clinic uses an income-based fee scale for its services. Cassia Regional Medical Center has leased three acres near its campus for the clinic at a dollar a year. A $2.8 million federal grant financed construction and equipping of the 15,000-square-foot building.
  • The Seagraves Foundation has awarded $91,000 to the city of Heyburn for Riverside Park playground equipment. The purchase will include a climbing rock wall with slide and netting.

Twin Falls County

  • The Times-News Job Fair drew 500 job seekers to meet with representatives from participating businesses about jobs.
  • The new Twin Falls Visitors Center has opened with windows framing the Perrine Bridge. The center’s common areas can be used by base jumpers to rest, to organize gear and fraternize The bridge is one of the few legal base jumping sites in the nation.
  • The College of Southern Idaho trustees voted to hike student fees $5 a credit hour starting this fall. This will cover $500,000 of a $658,000 shortfall caused by declining enrollment. The board also hired auditing firm France, Basturrechea, Wagner and Bunn of Gooding to replace Ware and Associates of Twin Falls and approved CTA Architects of Boise to design a 10-year Master Plan for the campus. The college is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
  • ULTA Beauty, a cosmetics, hair and skin products retailer that provides day spa services, is building a 10,000-square-foot store in the new West Canyon strip mall. The Times News reported the company will hire approximately 20 workers.

Jerome County

  • Jerome County has begun construction of an $11.2 million jail to open in mid-2016. Scott Hedrick Construction of Boise is building the 132-bed jail. It took the county five tries to win voter support of the bond to finance the new jail.

Openings

  • Purple Moose Basics, which sells fine photography, vintage national park posters, maps and art décor, in Albion.
  • Sonia’s Linens-N-More in Burley
  • Kick’n Bass Kayak Fish’n, a nonprofit that organizes derbies and promotes fishing from kayaks, in Burley.
  • Wood River Saddlery, which makes and sells saddles, in Gooding.
  • Straight Forward Computer Services, a computer repair and servicing company, in Hagerman.
  • J and L Livestock in Hagerman.
  • Silver Spur Livestock Transportation in Wendell.
  • Pina Fence, a fence construction business, in Heyburn.

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

  • The U.S. Postal Service will close its Pocatello mail processing center this spring, despite the efforts of local business and government leaders in and around Pocatello. Fifty-six people work at the facility, but the American Postal Workers Union claims many more indirect jobs will be lost in the area. Others in the community have expressed concerns that daily delivery will be slowed. The Pocatello center is one of 82 nationwide being closed to reduce costs.
  • The Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center of Portneuf Medical Center has been recognized with a national award for clinical excellence. The medical center received the Center of Distinction Award for the quality of clinical outcomes during 2014, posting a 92 percent patient satisfaction rating, a 91 percent wound healing rate and a 30-day average wound healing time.

Bingham County

  • The Blackfoot City Council has agreed to spend $20,000 on a structural and mechanical evaluation of the city’s 40-year-old indoor pool. Recently, a committee appointed by the mayor and city council recommended that the pool undergo significant renovations. The evaluation will determine whether the committee’s recommendation should be accepted or a new aquatic center built.
  • After several months of discussion, Bingham Economic Development Corp. and Grow Idaho Falls Inc. announced they will merge. The new organization will be called the Regional Economic Development Corporation for Eastern Idaho. Darlene Gerry, the former director of Innovation at Idaho State University will serve as the interim executive director while a national search is made for a permanent director. Gerry said the new organization will strengthen eastern Idaho’s voice in economic development.
  • Officials announced Agspring has acquired Moreland Grain and Seed in Moreland and will consolidate the existing storage, merchandising, seed sales and grain handling operations in eastern Idaho. Moreland Grain and Seed has become an important resource to Bingham County farmers with its 25-car rail spur and storage capacity for 1.8 million bushels of grain.

Caribou County

  • Monsanto Co. will pay $600,000 in fines for several uncontrolled releases of dangerous chemicals at its phosphate plant near Soda Springs. Federal officials say the releases occurred between 2006 and 2009 and contained hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. Each poses a public health risk.

Power County

  • Officials with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes claim radioactive dust from the now-closed FMC plant west of Pocatello is blowing into nearby communities, posing a significant health risk. The site contains slag, which KIVI-TV quoted a tribal environmental consultant as calling “a waste byproduct from the elemental phosphorus,” and added that dust from the site could increase risk of cancer and asthma.

Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov,
regional economist (208) 236-6710 ext. 3713

EASTERN IDAHO – Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison & Teton Counties

Bonneville County

  • The city of Ammon is assessing the feasibility of providing fiber optic Internet to residents. The city has already delivered high-speed Internet to city utilities and businesses. Sixteen households near existing lines have been asked to participate in a pilot project. Should it prove feasible, the city will issue a bond to run municipal fiber citywide.
  • Idaho Falls’ District 93 school bond fell short of the required two-thirds supermajority by less than one percentage point. The district proposed a $56.1 million bond to build a new school to alleviate overcrowding. District officials will resubmit the proposal to voters in May in a third attempt to secure approval.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has closed the Idaho Falls Temple for $26 million in renovations. The work should be done by October 2016.
  • The Idaho Falls Mayor’s scholarship fund has awarded $50,000 to local students. The fund was started in 2006 and has since provided nearly 300 scholarships worth over $290,000.
  • Since the opening of the new Idaho Falls Mental Health Center, the state’s first behavioral health crisis center has been in high demand. The Post Register quoted center officials as saying they have treated 293 “episodes” and served 243 patients in the first four months of operation.

Butte County

  • Supporters are renewing their effort to turn the Craters of the Moon National Monument into a national park. While a small portion of Yellowstone National Park is in Idaho, Idaho is the only western state without its own national park. Advocates hope the name change will enhance Idaho as a tourist destination and provide a significant boost to the state and regional economy.
  • The federal ban of Idaho driver’s licenses as a valid form of identification at the Idaho National Laboratory and other federal facilities has been lifted. Homeland Security placed the ban on Idaho licenses after the state failed to comply with the federal Real ID Act. Idaho is one of a few states that has not complied with the 2005 federal law placing stricter requirements on state-issued IDs following the 2001 terror attacks on the East Coast. The state got a temporary extension to use its driver’s licenses while it considers making the changes to the licenses to meet the law.

Clark County

  • Clark County officials will be hiring a new economic developer after previous developer Kerri Ellis was appointed as the new county clerk.

Custer County

  • The Idaho Transportation Department says travelers should expect delays along U.S. Highway 75. Repairs are being made between Stanley and Challis through August.

Fremont County

  • Members of the Fremont County Historical Society and the city of Ashton are opening a museum dedicated to the county’s history. Fremont County is the only county in the state without its own historical museum. The museum should open this summer.
  • Fremont County officials are considering a fee increase for the county landfill to raise $11 million for multiple landfill closures and other projects. The proposed $10.10 increase would boost the monthly fee to $25. The county must close its St. Anthony landfill in the next two years at a cost of more than $2 million.
  • The Bureau of Land Management is building a $130,000 Emergency Services Building at its Egin Lakes Access to the local sand dunes. The project will house Fremont County’s emergency response equipment for the dunes.

Jefferson County

  • The second phase of an urban renewal project is underway in Rigby. Rodeo grounds parking is being expanded, and improvements are being made downtown. The city also plans to add lighting to the rodeo grounds parking, increase parking at the Jefferson County Veterans Memorial and pave two walking paths around the rodeo grounds and baseball diamonds. Total cost is estimated at $1.3 million.

Lemhi County

  • The Salmon City Council approved the sale of a bond to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to cover a loan from the agency to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The project will cost $2.5 million.
  • Excavation for a multipurpose building has begun in Salmon, largely financed through donations from local businesses and residents. The building will house a variety of school and community events.
  • After years of planning, the Salmon Library Association is ready to break ground on a new public library. The 13,500-square-foot, two-story building will include computer bays and wireless service inside and out that were not available in the previous building. Construction is expected to cost around $1.9 million.

Madison County

  • Rexburg is assessing the feasibility of a public transportation system. Rexburg is home to one of the largest university in the state – Brigham Young University-Idaho – yet has limited public transit. The city has partnered with the school on a feasibility study and hopes to have the results by September.
  • Madison County School District 321 has opted out of the state’s standardized “Smarter Balanced Assessment” test. The federal government has tied a significant amount of funding to the test. If less than 95 percent of the state eligible students take the test, the federal government could withhold up to 20 percent, or $10 million, of Title 1 funds, which finance targeted education programs. Madison accounts for approximately 1.8 percent of the state’s student population.

Teton County

  • Driggs-based Grand Teton Distillery plans to expand into Jackson, Wyoming. The company has experienced tremendous success since opening in 2012 – selling a variety of spirits including the #1 ranked potato vodka in the world. By the end of June, the company plans to open a second tasting room and a satellite distillery south of Jackson. The company is hoping to better tap Jackson’s national draw of tourism.

Openings

  • Thrifty Nickel in Idaho Falls

Closings

  • CD World in Idaho Falls
  • Natures Path in Ammon
  • Frontier Pies in Idaho Falls

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