Around Idaho: May 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

SCHOOL BOND RECAP
As reported in idahoednews.org:

  • Bonneville County: More than 66 percent of voters said yes to a $56.1 million high school bond May 19, but fell shy of the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass a school bond. In all, 6,673 voters said yes, a 66.19 majority, while 3,408 voters said no. It is the third time since 2014 that Bonneville voters have rejected a bond issue.
  • Notus: School officials got the go-ahead to replace an 89-year-old elementary school, as patrons gave a $4.8 million bond issue a 70 percent supermajority. Another school bond issue had failed in November.
  • Preston: A five-year, $4.5 million plant facilities levy passed with 72 percent backing, the Idaho State Journal reported. The vote was 398-155.
  • Emmett: Patrons approved a two-year, $2.8 million supplemental levy, with a 63 percent majority.
  • Troy: Voters turned down a one-year, $1.2 million supplemental levy. The proposal received only 44 percent support. Voters rejected a $1.3 million proposal in March.
  • Sugar-Salem: A two-year, $900,000 supplemental levy barely received the simple majority required to pass. The tally was 275 in favor, 271 opposed.
  • Whitepine: A one-year, $850,000 supplemental levy passed with 60 percent support.
  • Marsing: Voters approved a two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy. It was the first supplemental levy sought by the district since at least 1974, the Owyhee Avalanche reported.
  • Ririe: A two-year, $770,000 supplemental levy passed with 71 percent support, the Post Register reported.
  • Parma: A two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy passed with 79 percent support.
  • Horseshoe Bend: A two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy passed with 70 percent support, KIVI TV reported. An identical levy narrowly failed in March.
  • Salmon River: Voters approved a one-year, $545,000 supplemental levy with 75 percent support.
  • Nezperce: A one-year, $475,000 supplemental levy passed with a 66 percent majority, the Lewiston Tribune reported.
  • Cottonwood: A one-year, $350,000 supplemental levy passed with 71 percent backing.
  • Butte County: Voters approved a one-year, $330,000 school bond extension with an 82 percent supermajority, according to the Post Register.
  • Kamiah: A one-year, $325,000 supplemental levy went down to an overwhelming defeat, receiving just 30 percent support.
  • South Lemhi: A 10-year, $200,000 plant facilities levy received a 93 percent landslide, the Post Register reported.
  • North Gem-Grace consolidation: Patrons in the two Southeast Idaho districts rejected a proposal to combine the districts, the Idaho State Journal reported.

STATEWIDE ECONOMIC HIGHLIGHTS

  • Idaho’s pre-K enrollment numbers rank among the nation’s lowest — and even lag in comparison to the handful of other states that have no state-funded pre-K. Those findings come from the National Institute for Early Education Research, a New Brunswick, N.J.-based organization focused on pre-K. In a new report, “The State of Preschool 2014,” the organization compares enrollment in Head Start, special education and state-funded pre-K. The group’s findings:
    • Only 1,569 – roughly 6.8 percent of Idaho’s 3-year-olds – were enrolled in federal- or state-funded Head Start or special education programs in 2013-14, the lowest percentage in the nation.
    • Idaho’s numbers improve for 4-year-olds. Statewide, 2013-14 enrollment in Head Start and special education increased to 3,081. This accounted for 12.9 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds — only Utah and Wyoming had a lower enrollment rate. Like Idaho, Utah and Wyoming were among 10 states that did not have pre-K programs in place in 2013-14.
  • Starting in July, Idaho companies will be able to register as benefit corporations, a new designation approved by lawmakers this year and already in place in 26 other states, reports the Idaho Business Review. Unlike traditional companies, benefit corporations can take actions that don’t necessarily increase shareholders’ values, but benefit their community, the environment; or their employees, subsidiaries and suppliers.
  • Idaho was the third-highest milk producing state last year, behind California and Wisconsin. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says last year, Idaho cows produced about 13.9 billion pounds of milk.
  • New research on unmanned aerial systems started in May at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, according to the Idaho Business Review. The Idaho Department of Commerce, CAES and its member universities, and the Idaho National Laboratory have formed a new program called the Idaho Autonomous Systems Center of Excellence. It is designed to help developers, researchers and users of UAS, often called drones.

From staff reports

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

Benewah County

  • St. Maries hosted the largest jet boat race in the United States since the early 2000s over Memorial Day weekend. Teams came from New Zealand, Canada and across the U.S. to race the St. Joe River. The 200-mile course stretched from Idaho Forest Industries Landing to Calder. Record crowds kept local inns, campgrounds and restaurants busy.
  • The 22nd Annual Resource Tour will be held July 15-16 with sixth-graders from St. Maries Middle School, UpRiver School, Kootenai Middle School, Calder School and home schools to learn the role natural resources play in the local economy.

Bonner County

  • The last commercial dairy operating in Bonner County recently closed and the farm owned by Randy Poelstra is now raising beef calves. In the early 1970s, more than 40 commercial dairies operated in the county. Farms slowly switched from dairy to other uses as government regulation and stricter environmental standards made operating more expensive.
  • In February, a Japanese company acquired Quest Aircraft, which employs more than 180 people making planes near the Sandpoint Airport. Quest will remain in Sandpoint with its current leadership team and use capital from its new owner, Setouchi Holdings, to expand production. Setouchi wants to make Quest the leading manufacturer of single-engine turboprops in the world. Quest’s 10-seat Kodiak is used for mission work, tourism, skydiving, corporate trips and government work. Quest turns out 30 of the $2 million planes annually. Both production and employment is expected to grow as a result of the acquisition.
  • Polaris recently purchased Timbersled, a Sandpoint company that makes kits for converting dirt bikes into snow bikes. Before the sale, Timbersled was building a new manufacturing plant and office in Sandpoint. Now the new plant will be larger to allow increased production and employment. In winter months, riders replace the wheels on their dirt bikes with Timbersled’s skis, then swap them back when the snow melts. The company started in 2002 with founder Allen Mangum selling aftermarket accessories for snowmobiles. At the time of the sale, Timbersled employed more than 40 employees, up from 15 two year ago.
  • Unicep Packaging LLC — a Sandpoint-based manufacturer that makes one-dose applicators for medicines, cosmetics and other liquids and gel — has seen its employment grow to more than 150 in the past two years. Founded by Sandpoint dentist John Sneeden in 1992, the company was purchased two years ago by two of its executives.
  • Litehouse — maker of salad dressings, dips and cider — employs more than 300 people in Sandpoint and 650 nationwide, including at plants in Michigan and Utah. Litehouse became 100 percent employee-owned earlier this year. Founded in 1997 by Doug and Edward Hawkins using their father’s blue cheese dressing, it now offers a wide range of salad dressings, dips and cider. This year, it introduced three Greek yogurt-based salad dressings. Last a year, it purchased a portion of the Coldwater Creek campus near Sandpoint to use as an administration building, relieving crowding at its production facility.
  • Valiant Idaho plans to open its golf course near Sandpoint early this summer. The company bought Idaho Club’s golf course and most of its undeveloped land when it was on the auction block for back taxes last summer. The golf course originally opened as the Hidden Lakes golf course in 1986. Around 2004, the golf courses and a growing housing development around it was sold to Pend Oreille Bonner Development. It extensively remodeled the golf course based on a plan developed by pro golfer Jack Nicklaus. The development fell on hard times after the crash of the high-end real estate market. In 2008, its multimillion-dollar clubhouse burnt to the ground.
  • The Idaho Transportation Board allocated $2.2 million to fund work in Sandpoint. The reconstruction of Fifth Avenue between Pine and Cedar streets will reconfigure the existing one-way road to two-way traffic. The move is a precursor to the reversion of downtown city streets currently owned by the Idaho Transportation Department to local control.
  • A Sandpoint company has a new model for a drone that uses a smartphone as its “brains and eyes.” Relying on a smartphone to control the drone and take photos reduces the drone’s cost. Currently xCraft is focused on research and development, employing four people. The PhoneDrone, developed by xCraft, has a sturdy case for phones and four foldable arms with propellers that can send a phone skyward. xCraft also has patents pending on platform designs for an unmanned aerial vehicle that can hover with stability, turn on its side, travel 60 miles per hour and land with precision.

Boundary County

  • Bonners Ferry native Abra Chouinard is helping develop her hometown after returning from California where she pursued acting and directing. Four years ago, she purchased the Rex Theater, the only movie theater in Boundary County that was going out of business because it was unable to switch from film to digital. She’s been working to re-open the 92-year-old theater with digital equipment. A new retractable screen will allow the use of the theater’s stage, which hasn’t been used since the 1930s. Chouinard plans to offer classes in film, digital media and online broadcasting while her husband Chris Robinson will teach children about art and play production. In addition to popcorn and other traditional concessions, the theater will offer a Spanish-style tapas bar. The Rex is slated to reopen this summer.
  • Chouinard is working on several other downtown improvement projects. She is paying North Idaho Ironworks, also based in Bonners Ferry, to build a sign on Main Street that will name the goods and services in the Bonnerport area of Bonners Ferry. Arrows on an LED neon sign will point to the various businesses. Last spring, Chouinard purchased the former Chevrolet dealership with plans to remodel the building into a full-fledged movie studio with 5,000 feet of retail space upstairs. She also is negotiating to purchase the former Mason First National Bank, where she plans to open a high-end retail clothing store and a suite of offices available for lease.
  • Answering Specialists, one of the largest private employers in Boundary County, is hiring people to work from home in addition to the workers at their center in Bonners Ferry. The company, which employs about 44, answers phones for small businesses across the U.S. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Using Internet protocol phones, Answering Specialists can answer phones for businesses anywhere. It provides administrative services for businesses such as scheduling, order processing and receptionist services on a contract basis. Businesses include everything from doctors’ and lawyers’ offices to plumbers, electricians and HVAC companies.
  • Elk Mountain Farms, north of Bonners Ferry and one of the largest hops farms in the world with 1,700 acres, began planting hops in 1987 when Anheuser-Busch started the farm. A few year ago, a global hop surplus led to stockpiles of hop pellets, making it too risky and expensive for the company to keep growing them. Elk Mountain was down to only 70 acres of hop, and was mostly growing canola and wheat by 2010. In 2012, Anheuser-Busch purchased Chicago craft brewery Goose Island, whose beers use a huge amount of hops and Elk Mountain went back to growing hops.

Kootenai County

  • The Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene provided social economic benefits worth nearly $20.6 million in 2014, almost three times the center’s annual budget of $7.4 million, according to a recent study commissioned by the Salvation Army. The center, administered by the Salvation Army, is one of the 20 community centers built nationwide with funds from the estate of Joan Kroc, whose husband Ray founded McDonalds. The 130,000 square-foot building — which opened in May 2009 — includes a center for worship and performance, an aquatics center with two swimming pools, a fitness and recreation center including an indoor playground and a recording center. The center is also equipped to provide food and beverages, host community meetings, art and culture classes and special events. The Kroc Center employs 43 full-time and 181 part-time staff.
  • Fifteen Post Falls High special needs students are enrolled in an American Legion program in which they learn life and work skills while volunteering at nonprofits such as the food bank, Real Life Ministries and American Legion Post 143 in Post Falls. The vocational training is not only preparing them for the workforce, but also counts toward graduation.
  • The Post Falls Senior Center received a $150,000 Idaho Community Development Block Grant in May, which will allow it to expand to meet future growth. Construction, which is expected to start July 1, will extend the front entry 18 feet with a covered area and add a computer resource room and activities area on the north side of the building. Completion is slated for late October.
  • The Coeur d’Alene casino near Worley has enjoyed growth in the past few years as tourism has grown and locals felt a little richer than during the recession. Today, the casino, entertainment venues, golf course and inn employs about 950 people, up from 840 in 2011.

Shoshone County

  • Shoshone County residents voted May 19 to dissolve the East Shoshone Hospital District, which had operated the Henry L. Day Hospital in Silverton. The hospital, which employed about 50 people, closed in 1996. It was located only 10 miles from Shoshone Medical Center in Kellogg. The $230,000 in funds controlled by the district will be transferred to Shoshone County’s general fund.
  • It’ll be another busy summer for the cleanup of mining waste in the Silver Valley. Federal agencies will spend $35 million this spring and summer in the Coeur d’Alene River Basin. Local contractors will employ more than 400 people. This summer, workers will finish removing about 50,000 cubic yards of Interstate-Callahan Mine waste material and placing it into the high and dry waste consolidation area built in Nine Mile Canyon last summer. They will expand the Big Creek Repository so it can provide about 400,000 more cubic yards of space. Work is also being done on the Lower Burke Canyon Repository, which will begin accepting material early this summer. Five “remedy protection projects” add infrastructure that protects previously cleaned areas from being re-contaminated during flooding events. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the cleanup of 75 residential or commercial properties in Mullan, Wallace, Osburn and outlying areas. In addition, 17 miles of roads will be demolished and re-paved this summer.
  • Kellogg residents voted 207 to 64 on in May to create a resort tax. It will place a 3.5 percent room occupancy tax on people staying in hotels, tourist homes and vacation condominium rentals. It will be used to fund street maintenance. The city plans to use $12 million from settlements from the Superfund project to put new pavement on roads. The resort tax will help pay the estimated $150,000 a year for street upkeep.
  • The Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail is now open seven days a week through Sept. 27. The 15-mile rails-to-trails biking and hiking trail uses an abandoned Milwaukee Railroad grade between the old town site of Taft, Montana and the North Fork of the St. Joe River near Avery.
  • The cities of Wallace and Kellogg both were awarded $500,000 community development block grants for wastewater systems improvement projects in May. Kellogg also will receive nearly $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the largest rural development grant ever in Idaho, for the wastewater project that recently began. Kellogg voters also approved a 40-year revenue bond for the project. Wallace residents passed a $19 million bond in November for wastewater collection improvements.
  • Residents voted 20-5 in favor of organizing a Calder Water and Sewer District. Administrators of water and sewer utility services in Calder asked to combine their efforts by forming the Calder Water and Sewer district.

 Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984

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

Region

  • Idaho County will receive about $6 million and Clearwater County $2 million this year and next from the reauthorized Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The funds support local schools and roads in communities that have large tracts of federal forests. Altogether, Idaho will receive a little more than $23 million for each of the next two years. Payments also are used to improve the health of forests, reimburse emergency services on national forests and develop community wildfire protection plans.
  • The Idaho Transportation Department recently selected Clearwater Economic Development Association to provide mobility support services in north central Idaho. It will offer a structured and coordinated outreach program to local groups, companies, entities and individuals who may be interested in public transportation.

Clearwater County

  • Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter made Pierce Capital for a Day on April 28, bringing cabinet members and other state agency representatives to answer questions from local residents. The last time the governor made Pierce the capital in August 2010, he announced the possibility of opening a National Guard boot-camp style school there for Idaho high school students at risk of dropping out. The Youth ChalleNGe academy opened in January 2014, and currently is preparing its third class of 100-plus cadets for graduation. It hosted this year’s capital for a day. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation presented an award to the academy for the cadets’ service to the community. Cadets donated 1,072 service hours to conservation projects at state parks at Hells Gate and Dworshak.
  • Orofino is celebrating the completion of three projects.
    • The city held an open house for its new membrane filtration water treatment plant on May 1. Visitors learned that the Clearwater is only river in the continental U.S. that freezes from the bottom up. That happens wherever basalt is exposed. Basalt acts like a wick for the cold temperatures, so the ice begins to form on the bottom. A dike was built around the city’s water intake system to prevent ice from blocking the intake.
    • The new $269,000 Orofino Airport Terminal also was open for tours May 1. It offers patrons a waiting area, restroom, telephone and access to the Internet.
    • Clearwater Valley Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its $2.2 million clinic in May. The 20,000-square-foot clinic, including 24 exam rooms, a laboratory, radiology, physical therapy gym and office space for hospital administration.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • Hundreds of fifth-graders from eight local schools came to Greencreek’s community hall in late April to learn about Idaho’s two biggest industries—agriculture and forest products. Idaho Forest Group demonstrated how logs are processed into lumber and the Idaho Department of Lands provided information about forest products and by-products, which include materials used in cosmetics and toothpaste. Members of the Nez Perce Tribe Bio-Control Center told how noxious weeds destroy the environment and food sources for animals. University of Idaho Extension Office provided information about the 4-H program and other studies available, including the robotics program. For the past 18 years, the Idaho County Extension Office and Idaho County Farm Bureau have sponsored the Farm and Forest Fair for students in Idaho and Lewis counties.
  • Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls & Supplies, formerly Bugling Bull Game Calls, moved the production facility into the former Northwest Feeds building in Kamiah earlier this year, outgrowing the original shop where it made hunting calls since 1992. Owners Rockie and Rena Jacobsen also opened a retail store there in April, selling hunting supplies and Rocky Mountain calls for elk, deer, turkey, wolf and other game. The Jacobsens employ five in addition to themselves. The company recently learned about a special order from Cabela’s that could double or triple last year’s business.
  • Attendance appeared high this year at the 66th annual Riggins Rodeo in May 2-3, though final numbers are not yet available. Local inns including the Salmon River Lodge report high interest for the entire summer and fall seasons. Local motels and restaurants are getting the word out about Riggins’ amenities – great scenery, boating, rafting, fishing and hunting opportunities. With the economy improving, Exodus Wilderness Adventures is booking larger and longer rafting and fishing trips this year. It expects to host 2,000 to 3,000 customers throughout the tourist season, which normally extends from March through November.

Latah County

  • The University of Idaho plans to increase enrollment at the university by reaching out to minorities, increasing scholarships and improving university programs, President Chuck Staben told the Idaho State Board of Education meeting at its April meeting in Moscow. American Indians are under-represented in the current student body of 11,500. The university has organized a Latino Advisory Council to enhance enrollment from the Hispanic community. School administrators also have met regularly with local tribes and created the Tribal Excellence Scholarship, which allows for members of those communities to pay tuition at the in-state rate. This year the university began awarding Go Idaho! scholarships to incoming students with a high school grade point average as low as 3.0. It also is working on a new educational program called Better Education About Money for Students to increase financial literacy of students dealing with debt. The average debt for a student graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho is $26,700, 6 percent below the national average of $28,400.
  • The State Board of Education approved tuition hikes for the 2015-16 school year. The highest increases will be 3.5 percent at the University of Idaho, Boise State University and Eastern Idaho Technical College, while Idaho State University will see 3.3 percent and Lewis-Clark State College 1.7 percent increases. UI tuition will rise $236 to $7,020 per year for full-time resident students and by the same amount for non-resident students to $14,004. Tuition increases, which soared from 2009 to 2012, have declined in the past few years. Tuition rose 8.4 percent in the 2011-12 school year, 6.1 percent for the following school year, 5 percent in 2013-14 and 4 percent in 2014-15.
  • The National Institute of Health has awarded the University of Idaho a $10.6 million grant to help fund its new Center for Modeling Complex Interactions. The center will focus on using mathematical, statistical and molecular models to address biomedical research questions. The award is the first phase of a new Institutional Development Award Center – IDeA – of Biomedical Research Excellence for the university. “This award will strengthen the institution’s biomedical research infrastructure, support research projects in a cutting-edge scientific area and provide mentoring and training activities to increase the ability of UI’s junior investigators to compete independently for NIH or other external, peer-reviewed support,” said W. Fred Taylor, director of the IDeA program at NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, in a news release issued by the university.

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • Problems at the Port of Portland, which processes all the barges sent from the Port of Lewiston and other ports on the Columbia-Snake river system, has resulted in the loss of containerized shipping on barges. The two shipping companies that handled containers at Portland have withdrawn their services because of ongoing disputes between the longshore union and the port’s operator, Philippines-based ICTSI. Hanjin Shipping, which handled 78 percent of Portland’s containers, announced in February it would no longer call on Portland. In April, the other carrier, Hapag-Lloyd, also stopped calling on Portland. That forced the Port of Lewiston to discontinue container service and lay off two employees. Barges carrying non-containerized items such as wheat will continue to carry goods from Lewiston to Portland. Containerized cargo accounted for approximately 15 percent of cargo tonnage shipped from the Port of Lewiston. Dried pea and lentil growers in the region have relied on containerized shipping on barges. Sending them by truck or rail to Puget Sound ports costs about $2,000 per load—twice as much as barging.
  • A deep pavement rehabilitation on the U.S. 95 Lewiston Hill began in mid-May and will continue into early September. The five-mile road section carries more than 10,000 vehicles per day and is deeply scarred by potholes. Knife River Corporation of Boise is the contractor on the $11.5 million project.
  • The Port of Lewiston plans to undertake a $950,000 project to build a fiber-optic network. Access on the network will be sold wholesale at a set rate to telecommunications companies. It will be capable of transmitting everything from Internet traffic to cell phone calls. It’s hoped that existing telecommunications providers will increase bandwidth, improving speeds and reliability while new businesses enter the market, increasing competition and driving down costs. The fiber-optic cable will connect with another section that is being constructed in North Lewiston. It will have branches that reach Clearwater Paper, Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Lewis-Clark State College and the port’s Business and Technology Park, where Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is located. The Port of Lewiston would initially pay the Port of Whitman County $30,000 as its share to connect to lines that now go to the Washington-Idaho border along State Route 128 on Down River Road. They would be extended through the Lewiston port district in North Lewiston to the Memorial Bridge that crosses the Clearwater River.

Openings

  • Dave’s Valley Golf in Clarkston, offering a driving range and pro shop.
  • Happy Hooker Fishing, a fishing and hunting guide service, 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

Boise Metro Area

Source for the following news items are from the Idaho Business Review

  • U.S. and Boise home prices climbed at a faster pace in February than the previous month, driven by higher sales and a limited supply of available houses. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5 percent in February from 12 months earlier, S&P said April 28. That is up from a 4.5 percent pace in January. Ada County home prices soared at nearly twice the national rate. The median home price in January was $223,900, up 8 percent from the prior January, and the February-to-February home price rose 9.86 percent to $224,900, according to the Ada County Association of Realtors.
  • Twelve-year-old Hannah Dupay is expanding her line of golf accessories targeted at young girls. Goodie Girl Golf’s first product, launched in early 2014, is a ball marker that magnetically attaches to a headband, hair clip or pony tail holder. Some of the hair accessories include flowers or bows. Golfers use ball markers, coins or other small objects to mark where their ball is on the green. Last month, the company released its next line of products, reversible polyester spandex skorts and skirts for junior girl golfers.
  • Capital City Development Corporation Board of Commissioners selected The Owyhee owners – Los Angeles-based LocalConstruct  – to build a mixed-use apartment/retail complex at 14th and Idaho streets.
  • Interior demolition work has been going on since March to get the vacant Macy’s building in downtown Boise ready for a new owner. Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp., which has owned the 115,721-square-foot structure since 2011, has an unnamed buyer in a purchase and sale agreement expected to close by the end of the year, said Julie Marple, Northwest’s vice president of development.
  • Coyote Design and Rehab Systems, a Boise company that makes parts for prosthetics, is expanding and moving into a 10,000-square-foot space on Curtis Road. Coyote researches and designs components at its 6,000-square-foot plant on Cole Road. It ships the parts around the U.S., and has distributors in 12 countries. The company also operates patient care offices in Twin Falls and Boise where customers are fitted for prosthetics. The company, which was founded in 1999 and employs 19 people.
  • Primary Health Medical Group and Regence BlueShield of Idaho have started a partnership that will give Primary Health, which runs 14 medical clinics, access to some claims data from Regence, one of Idaho’s three large health insurance companies. A third Idaho health care company, medical data and analytics company Proskriptive, will partner with Primary Health in measuring and assessing the new data.
  • A 104-room boutique hotel proposal passed through its first round of preliminary city approvals in April. The City of Boise Planning & Zoning Commission’s Design Review Committee recommended approval of Obie Development Partners’ $25 million proposal for the Inn at 500 Capitol. The Eugene, Oregon-based developer tentatively plans a late summer 2015 groundbreaking with hopes to have the seven-story hotel finished by December 2016.
  • The developer planning to build a 10-story hotel on the Dunkley Music site has decided to bring a Marriott Residence Inn to the Capitol Boulevard block between Myrtle and Broad streets.
  • Ten years into his extensive one-man commercial redevelopment of downtown Boise’s West Side, David Hale is tackling housing. The man behind the Linen District now plans to build what he’s calling the Idaho Street Townhomes. The 15 units will line up on what is now a vacant lot on Idaho Street between 16th and 17th Street. Hale filed an application for a planned unit development and subdivision April 28 with the Boise Planning and Development Services Department. He hopes to break ground on his estimated $5 million project in the fall and be ready for residents in early 2016.
  • Dutch Bros. Coffee is building a new single-lane drive-through coffee stand with a connected seating area on State Street near downtown Boise. The new location, expected to open in August, will help serve downtown and North End customers.
  • After landing its largest contract to date, benefits administrator AmeriBen plans to add at least 100 new jobs at its Meridian headquarters within the next three months. Marketing supervisor Cathy Summers said most of the openings are in customer care, claims processing and medical management services – the latter will primarily be filled by registered nurses. AmeriBen recently signed a five-year, $66 million contract to administer benefits for Greeley, Colorado-based JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, which has 42,000 U.S. employees with benefits.
  • Gardner Companies’ City Center Plaza is heading skywards. A 310-foot crane was built at the site over May 7-8. It’s as much a structure as the building itself that will house Clearwater Analytics and the Boise State University Computer Science Program. Engineered Structures Inc. – ESI – has 40 to 45 people on site with that number expected to reach 150 between September and December, according to the project executive David Bowar.
  • MELT, a non-dairy buttery spread, is expanding. Its maker, Prosperity Organic Foods, moved in April from Boise’s Belgravia Building to larger quarters in the nearby Garro Building. The company hired five new employees between February and April.
  • Ivie & Associates has acquired Boise-based CLM Marketing and Advertising. Ivie is a marketing firm based in Flower Mound, Texas, that opened a Boise office in 2014. CLM was founded in 2003. CLM’s president Brad Surkamer will oversee day-to-day operations of current clients.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration has coordinated 90 more loans in Idaho since October 2014 to now compared with the previous year – a 46 percent increase. Bankers say it is due to improved economic and lending conditions. Lenders have made $95.6 million in government-backed loans to small and startup companies in the past seven months, a 21 percent jump for the same time period in the previous year.
  • Advanced CFO Solutions, a Salt Lake City-based fractional corporate financial officer provider, has opened an office in Boise – the first expansion outside Utah. Founding Partner Kent Thomas said there are many up-and-coming companies in the Boise market that could use a part-time chief financial officer and more investors, especially in the Salt Lake City market, looking to make investments in Idaho companies. Having McKinlay in Boise could help more capital flow from Utah to Boise.

Gem County

  • The Gem County Economic Development Association has dissolved after decades of operation.
  • Work on Idaho 52 and Idaho 16 near Emmett to place a chipseal has begun. The chipseal will extend the life of the existing pavement.
  • Emmett has completed its first leg of a five-year program to bring all city buildings and other facilities onto a common network platform. City Hall, Emmett Public Works and the city park bandshell are now connected with fiber optics.

Payette County

  • Reconstruction of the 5 miles of U.S. 95 that links Fruitland to Interstate 84 is beginning in mid-May. The work will reduce a highway with two lanes in each direction to opposing traffic in single lanes during the construction period, said Jennifer Gonzalez, an Idaho Transportation Department spokeswoman.Contractors are building a Dutch Brothers coffee shop and a gym in Payette. Some Payette businesses are also getting renovations, including the Maverik gas station and the Portia Club downtown.

Valley County

  • A proposal to build a cellphone tower disguised as a pine tree on the McCall Golf Course has been withdrawn by the city of McCall after strong public opposition and the recommendation by the McCall Area Planning and Zoning Commission that the City Council reject the proposal. Verizon, the company who asked to build the tower, will continue to look for suitable sites in the McCall area. (McCall Star-News)
  • The McCall developer whose idea for affordable housing in downtown McCall was rejected has moved his plan to Donnelly. Chance Hobbs told the Donnelly City Council that he plans to build 36 townhomes and apartments priced for lower-income families on 3-1/2 acres on the east side of Idaho 55 just north of downtown. (McCall Star-News)
  • The minimum wage paid to workers in McCall would rise from $7.25 an hour now to $10.25 by 2017 under a citizen’s initiative that appears bound for the Nov. 3 general election. Representatives of a citizens group called FairWageMcCall turned in petitions with more than 450 signatures to the Valley County Clerk’s office. (McCall Star-News)
  • The Housing Company of Boise received the tax credits that will allow it to double the number of the current 36 apartments for lower-income workers located at the end of Jacob Street called The Springs. Before construction begins, the Valley County Recycling Center will be forced to move for the second time in five years. (McCall Star-News)
  • Valley County commissioners took $68,000 from a trust fund established by two Finnish-American sisters to allow the purchase of the Roseberry General Store in Rosebury. The money will allow the Long Valley Preservation Society to purchase the store and two adjacent parcels of land in historic Roseberry from society founder Frank Eld. Eld is retiring and moving to Boise, where he hopes to move and restore a 120-year-old home near downtown. (McCall Star-News)

Openings

  • Starbucks Coffee at Vista Village Shopping Center in Boise.
  • Northpoint Recovery, a private drug detox center, in Boise.
  • A new Joint Preservation and Reconstruction Clinic on the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center campus in Boise.
  • Raymond Handling Concepts, a forklift sales and services company, in Boise.
  • A clubhouse at RedHawk golf course in Nampa.
  • Morgan & Sampson, a national broker of a broad array of retail products, at Sonoma Square in Meridian.
  • Tractor Supply Co. in Emmett.
  • Tabatha’s Cupboard, a clothing store, in Mountain Home.
  • K&N Repair in Weiser.

Expansions

  •  Bookkeeping and property management company QB Solutions is moving to a larger space at 14th and Jefferson streets.
  • Rediscovered Books is increasing its footprint by 50 percent in downtown Boise, taking over the space of Lux Fashion Lounge, which is moving a block west, and is adding a second entrance.

Closings

  • The Broadmore Golf Club, at 103 Shannon Drive in Nampa.
  • Lane’s Appliance in Mountain Home.

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

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

Regional

  • The Idaho Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Community Grants awarded Minidoka Memorial Hospital $12,500 toward its program, “Minidoka County’s first defense against breast cancer.” Funds will be used to provide free mammogram services for underserved, culturally diverse and limited English speaking women. Another $17,000 was bestowed to Magic Valley organizations to lessen the occurrence of breast cancer in each community: North Canyon Medical Center, St. Luke’s Magic Valley’s Treasure Chest and St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.
  • Warm weather sped the planting of corn this year with 66 percent in the ground compared to 40 percent in an average year. The demand for forage crops such as hay, corn and green chop are projected to be higher this year due to more livestock being fattened, spurred by higher prices last year for beef cattle. The average national farm gate price for 2015/2016 corn ranges from $3. 20 to $3. 80 per bushel, compared to $3. 55 to $3. 75 per bushel in the current marketing year. Most dairy cows are fed a recipe of forage, grain, protein and vitamins and minerals. There are times when a local product that is not garnering a great return on investment in its normal market is bought by dairies including potatoes, barley and the residual from ethanol plants—dry brewers grains. Feed ratios can make or break a dairy’s bottom line by impacting the quality of the milk which can also impact the price point. Even keeping cows grouped together based on production or feed ratios can be a plus as the socializing is said to positively impact production.
  • Speaker of the House Scott Bedke pulled together people on both sides of the water call issue after groundwater users received a mitigation order in April. The groundwater users agreed to a 13 percent reduction in water claims in order to meet the order. The Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer is at its lowest level since 1912, according to the Idaho Department of Water Resources, and is over-allocated.

Blaine County

  • Ketchum’s second hotel project has announced it will break ground this fall. The Auberge Sun Valley is a five-star hotel that will provide high end amenities to visitors. Conrad Brothers of Hailey and Swinterton Builders of Los Angeles will be general contractors for the project that is estimated to have 65 rooms, 14 residences, a spa, fitness gym, restaurant and bar, large meeting space and heated outdoor swimming pool. It is scheduled to open September 2017 hiring an estimated 80-90 staff.
  • The Warsfield Distillery and Brewery is currently under construction and when built, will manufacture on-site whiskey, apple brandy and gin. Two home-brewed beers will be on tap and the opening is reportedly slated for this summer. The remodeling involves internal gutting including moving plumbing fixtures and designing the layout of the distillery so it is separated from the restaurant and bar area.
  • Zions Bank has moved into the location formerly leased by Washington Federal Bank, which moved to another location in Ketchum. Zions is remodeling the interior and exterior of the leased space and, according to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, Salt Lake City-based Magleby Construction is the contractor for the remodel and Ketchum architect Michael Doty is the designer. Scheduled completion date is mid-June.
  • Ketchum voters approved a water bond to replace an aging water system with 91 percent of the voters backing it. New lines and water meters will be provided in this $450,000 revenue bond with citizens’ bills based on water usage versus a flat fee.
  • Sun Valley Resort is due to reopen after elaborate remodeling that included a new spa, addition of several 950-square-foot suites named after celebrities, a revamped bowling alley with food and drink offerings, updated pool design – keeping the traditional circular pool but adding a Jacuzzi and grill and bar along with an all-inclusive Duchin Lounge. The move toward more family-friendly offerings is part of the rebranding that most of this tourism-oriented valley agree is needed going forward.
  • Ketchum Local Option Tax receipts increased by 11 percent from March 2014 to March 2015 with much of the growth from building materials that increased 40 percent and room nights that doubled over the same period the previous year. Even those building materials purchased out of state are taxed when delivered to a Ketchum address so construction activity as Ketchum is experiencing is reflected in the LOT receipts.

Cassia County

  • Idaho Gov. CL “Butch” Otter joined a group of agricultural producers and manufacturers on a trade mission to Mexico and Peru. Mexico has a long-standing relationship with Idaho, ranking seventh in dollar imports from Idaho during the first quarter of 2015. Mexico imported roughly $6. 5 million worth of goods while Peru is a trading partner with room to grow having imported $5. 4 million from Idaho over the same time period. Partners from the eight-county south central Idaho region include High Desert Milk which currently trades with both Mexico and Peru. According to the Capitol Press, Mexico is the company’s largest importer of powdered milk but the company would like to get a larger share of the butter market. In Peru, the company currently sells both powdered milk and butter but would like to develop more market scope.
  • Fabri-kal has broken ground on its $50 million plant in Burley. Founded in 1950 it is a privately-held company with corporate offices in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Initial hiring is projected at 50 but future plans include doubling employment.
  • Construction has started on replacing the Twin Bridges crossing the Snake River on I-84 near Declo and east of Rupert and Burley. The Idaho Department of Transportation estimates the project will take one year to complete including razing of the old bridge after the new construction is complete. Travel both east and west on I-84 will be reduced to one lane for the duration of the project. Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction of Draper, Utah, is the contractor for the $17. 88 million project.

Minidoka County

  • PerforMix is a liquid and dry supplement and nutrition company that announced plans to build a $4 million-$5 million plant in Rupert. It produces product for beef and dairy cattle, operating as a subsidiary of Agri-Beef. The company has existing facilities in Fruitland, Oregon, Nampa and Moses Lake, Washington. The company intends to be in production mode by the end of the year hiring at least 10 workers initially.

Jerome County

  • WOW Logistics is expanding its current operations by adding a 193,000-square-foot warehouse, contiguous to its existing 350,000 square feet of dry ambient warehousing space. Cheese product will be stored for the former Davisco Jerome Cheese Company recently purchased by Canadian company Agropur. The completion date is projected to be January 2016.

Gooding County

  • Glanbia has purchased the warehouse space previously occupied by WEL Companies in the city of Gooding. There is a 120,000-square-foot building and 24. 42 adjacent acres with a third of the facility dedicated to refrigerated storage.

Twin Falls County

  • The College of Southern Idaho is introducing a new scheduling concept that will be more convenient for working students or students with families. The class size will remain at 15 students per instructor or below while all students must pass a Compass test demonstrating they are ‘college ready. ’ The core classes offered in the afternoon block from 2 to 5 p. m. Monday through Thursday include four weeks of English, math, communications and anthropology totaling a 16-week term. The evening courses run from 6 to 9 p. m. and offer the same three classes exchanging out anthropology for political science. Students are allowed one additional three-credit class free with the block scheduling.
  • Both Buhl and Kimberly voted down recreation taxing districts by margins of 60 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
  • Jayco RV disputed its property tax assessment with Twin Falls County. Both entities compromised with Twin Falls County agreeing to accept $6. 5 million as the market value, a decline of over 30 percent from the County’s $8. 6 million assessment. In turn, Jayco agreed to the figure which was 23 percent higher than its original overture of $5. 3 million.

Openings

  • Breathe Day Spa and Salon in Wendell.

Closings

  • Kings Variety Store in Twin Falls and Burley.
  • The White House event and catering business in Twin Falls will close in June. Soon after, Freedom Auto Finders will relocate in that location to expand its staff.

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 Pocatello Idaho Department of Labor hosted an after-hours evening job search workshop May 12 for customers who can’t attend during standard business hours. The workshop covered information about how to search for a job, create a resume and interviewing skills.

Bear Lake County

  • By a narrow margin, voters rejected a $3 million bond which would have paid to build a new courthouse to replace the current structure built in 1885. The current courthouse has been found to have serious electrical issues and does not comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Repairs and upgrade to the current courthouse to bring it up standard will cost an estimated $3.5 million.

Oneida County

  • The Oneida County Library in Malad marked its 100th year of service to the public on May 14. The library has grown from operating in a single room within the Malad Co-op building to the current 3,844-square-foot building which opened in April 1977. The library is a community resource, supporting education and community gatherings in the Malad area.

Power County

  • The city of American Falls hosted a meeting May 18 to discuss projected water operations and irrigation impacts at the American Falls Dam. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the American Falls Reservoir was at 91 percent capacity when the irrigation season started April 1. By May 18 it had dropped to 75 percent. Michael Beus of the Bureau of Reclamation said the drawdown through April was unprecedented, according to KPVI in Pocatello. Recent rain in the region has helped the situation and was recorded at 85 percent capacity on May 27. However, the lack of rain during an extended period this spring has forced a greater demand on the reservoir. Currently, the American Falls Reservoir provides water reserves and irrigation water for 1.1 million acres of farm land in southern and southeast Idaho. A prolonged shortfall of water in the reservoir could have serious negative consequences for area farmers. Besides irrigation, the reservoir also is an important recreational resource and is nationally noted for its birding opportunities.
  • The Power County Planning and Zoning Commission in early May approved SunEdison’s proposal to build a 400-acre solar panel complex. SunEdison manufactures, develops, installs and operates solar power systems for residential, commercial, utility and government customers across the world.

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

  • Melaleuca celebrated the grand opening of its new 350,000-square-foot-facility. The new global office sits on 195 acres south of Idaho Falls and was built to house the approximately 1,700 local employees with plenty of room to grow. The four-story building has a restaurant, fitness center, events center, six productions studios, seven research labs, 38 conference rooms and a 500-person call center. The company paid cash for the $44 million building, leaving the company debt free from the entire project.

Butte County

  • The Idaho National Laboratory is exploring the possibility of building a new field lab for research in geothermal energy. Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California and Oregon will share $2 million in grant money to fund five geothermal research teams that will further refine their plans and gather local support for a geothermal lab. The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to further narrow the field to three teams by next year. Should Idaho be selected as one of the three, the state will share an additional $29 million to further their research efforts. The DOE is expected to select the final team to host the new geothermal research laboratory in time for construction to begin by 2018.

Clark County

  • Students received an unexpected week-long vacation after a ruptured water line caused severe flooding in Clark County High School. The school suffered damages to the floors, ceilings and walls. Total cost of the repairs has not yet been released. The school board will decide how students will make up the missed days.
  • The city of Dubois recently held its annual Dubois Grouse Days. The event was founded in 2003 as an effort to increase education and awareness of issues surrounding the Sage Grouse ecosystem. The one-day event featured wildlife presentations, guided bus tours and guest speaker Lara Fondow with the Sage Grouse Initiative. Proceeds from the event help support local conservation projects and other education activities.

Fremont County

  • A rezoning request in Fremont County that would permit gravel extraction is on hold pending an appeal. In March, Fremont County amended the county’s comprehensive plan to grant a landowner’s request to rezone an 80-acre parcel of land from agriculture to industrial to allow sale of the land for gravel extraction. The city of Teton filed an appeal and a motion of stay, arguing that the proposed parcel of land is within the city’s impact area and should not be permitted. A stay was issued, preventing the county from granting any gravel extraction and manufacturing permits on the land until a ruling is determined on the pending appeal.

Jefferson County

  • Chief Deputy Steve Anderson has been appointed interim sheriff for Jefferson County until the county’s Board of Commissioners hire a permanent replacement. Former sheriff Blair Olsen was terminated.
  • Jefferson County Joint School District 251 is seeking bids to replace the roof at the Jefferson Alternative High School. The Jefferson Star reported the projected costs for the project to be somewhere between $40,000 and $70,000.

Lemhi County

  • After struggling to find a new superintendent, the county’s school board has decided to hire two long-time teachers at the Salmon Junior-Senior High School to co-fill the position. Chris Born, social studies teacher, will have the title of superintendent and Eileen Holden, math teacher, will be named director of finance, program evaluation and curriculum. The educators will teach half-time and split the estimated $80,000 salary of the superintendent position. As reported by the Idaho Falls Post Register, the selection of the teachers came after two rounds of interviews of 15 candidates failed to identify a suitable candidate for the position.
  • After six years of planning, work will finally begin to replace the Allen Bridge and abutment located just west of Steel & Ranch. The project will be 93 percent federally funded and 7 percent county funded. Idaho Transportation Department will conduct the bid process for the project. Total cost for the bridge is projected around $1.15 million.

Madison County

  • Construction has begun for a new Mountain America Credit Union in Rexburg. The new location will replace the current mobile branch that opened October 2014.
  • Walmart broke ground on a new Walmart Supercenter in Rexburg. The company announced plans to replace the current location in 2013 but has been unable to move forward with the project until recently. The new location is anticipated to be open fall of 2016 and will offer full-service grocery, vision center, tire and lube-express center, drive-through pharmacy, bakery and traditional general merchandise.

Teton County

  • The city of Victor was nominated to Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” contest. This year’s contest highlighted the best 64 towns throughout the U.S. under the criteria of “places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods, and…a good beer scene.” Victor was Idaho’s only nominee in this year’s contest.

Openings

  • Noodles & Company – Idaho Falls
  • Ultra – Ammon
  • Cabela’s – Ammon
  • Fuji Japanese Grill – Ammon
  • Kool Beanz Café – Idaho Falls
  • State Farm office – Rigby

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