Around Idaho: September 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.

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Southeastern
Eastern Idaho

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

Kootenai County

  • Construction work is proceeding to add two restaurants to Coeur d’Alene’s Riverstone complex. Anthony’s, an upscale fresh seafood restaurant based in Seattle, is adding a stand-alone location in the Riverstone shopping complex, and Ipanema, a popular Brazilian steakhouse, is relocating to Riverstone from its current Coeur d’Alene location. Both restaurants are expected to open in the spring. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press, September 2015
  • The city of Rathdrum purchased 30 acres of land to relocate city facilities. Rathdrum’s city hall, police station, parks and recreation department and public works department are all at or near the capacity of their current buildings. The land will be developed to house the city facilities over the next five to 10 years. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press, September 2015
  • A location on the campus of Coeur d’Alene’s Lakes Middles School was finalized as the site of a new Kootenai County Boys & Girls Club. The project is now in the pre-construction phase of a roughly 20,000-square-foot building. Source: Coeur D’Alene Press, September 2015
  • The EPA fined the Idaho Panhandle National Forest $15,000 for failing to promptly report a spill of anhydrous ammonia. IPNF did not report a 1,600 pound spill of the toxic chemical in Coeur d’Alene for over two weeks, leading to fine. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee, September 2015

Bonner County:

  • The Sagle Fire District released the official ballot question for a levy override. The levy would add $291,000 to budgets to maintain staffing levels and expand staffing in some district stations. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee, September 2015
  • The City of Sandpoint got the go-ahead from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to trap and kill a herd of deer that have been infringing on the Sandpoint Airport. The deer have become used to airplanes and humans in the area, and interfere with airport operations. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee, September 2015

Benewah County

  • Wildfire closures in the St. Joe Ranger District were finally lifted as continued efforts by firefighting crews and amicable weather conditions significantly reduced fire activity. Restricted areas have now been narrowed down to a handful of forest roads. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press, September 2015

Sam.Wolkenhauer@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 457-8789 ext 4451

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

Region

  • The biggest cloud on north central Idaho’s economic horizon is a possible decline in the forest product industry. A few mills and logging companies already have decreased their workforces or hours of work because lumber prices have fallen, the strong U.S. dollar has reduced American competitiveness and building in China and Europe has reduced U.S. exports. Another issue that could destabilize the lumber market is the Oct. 13 expiration of the U.S.-Canadian softwood lumber agreement that imposed 15 percent tariffs on Canadian lumber sold to the U.S. for the last nine agreements. With the Canadian dollar having fallen from nearly 96 U.S. cents in September 2014 to 78 cent this September, a flood of lumber from Canada could further depress lumber prices. According to Random Lengths, the composite price for a thousand board feet of framing lumber fell 25 percent from $394 in the third week of September 2014 to $297 in the third week of September 2015. About 1,430 people work in mills and logging operations in north central Idaho.

Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • CHS Primeland began using its new grain elevators near Nezperce in July. The nearly $4 million project, which began in April, included four steel elevators, almost 100 feet tall, each holding about 400,000 bushels. The main contractor, Tri-Builders of Nezperce, expects that all four elevators will be fully operational in October. Primeland will collect grain from the local area and ship it to the Lewis-Clark terminal in Lewiston where it will be sorted, graded and loaded onto trucks or barges for shipment to the coast and on to the end customer. The elevators created one full-time and several seasonal jobs.

Latah County

  • Enrollment on the Pullman campus of Washington State University rose to a record 20,043 this fall — up 16 percent from 10 years ago. A record 4,220 students enrolled as freshman, up 6.1 percent from last fall. Increased enrollment in Pullman means more people to shop and play in Moscow. Many WSU students also live in Moscow.
  • The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport plans to update its runway, which doesn’t meet federal design standards for modern commercial planes. The airport regularly is forced to cancel or delay flights due to the runway’s limitations. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories – Pullman’s largest private employer – pledged to donate $1 million to the project, as did its founder Edmund Schweitzer. Good air service is vital for the company, which hosts guests from all over the world who buy its product and whose employees need to get to customers or to the company’s other locations. Construction on the new runway, estimated to cost $89 to $119 million, will begin in early 2016 and end in late 2019.
  • Crews are busy constructing the 69,000-square-foot, three-story Integrated Research and Innovation Center at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Work should be completed next fall. Designed to be a state-of-the-art hub for interdisciplinary research, the center will create a collaborative space for students, faculty and even private researchers. Laboratories will take up about half the space, and other half will be multipurpose space with computers and conference rooms throughout the building.
  • Voters in the Troy School District approved a $995,000 levy Aug. 25 after rejecting two earlier supplemental levies this year. More than 20 positions and programs were cut following the failure of the second levy — including about one third of the district’s 27 certified staff members. After the levy passed, the school board approved the hire of teachers for kindergarten, agriculture education and music, a K-12 counselor, an agriculture adviser and a coach and assistant coach for cross country. One district problem is decreasing enrollment, which reduces state contributions towards the budget.

Nez Perce and Asotin, Washington, Counties

  • The most massive upgrade of Clearwater Paper’s Lewiston site in a quarter-century will start in October. The $160 million project is construction of a state-of-the-art continuous pulp digester. It’s expected to be finished by September 2017. As well as helping preserve the 1,370 jobs at the Lewiston facility, the construction and operation of the new digester will benefit local businesses. During the two-year construction project, 20 to 30 local businesses will receive contracts for goods or services, while hundreds of construction and equipment crew members will stay at local lodging places. The new digester process will greatly reduce the costs of paperboard production, decrease pollution emissions and get more fiber from each chip. With the new digester, pulp production should soar, generating more demand for chips and logs — increasing work for loggers and truckers throughout the region.
  • The Idaho Foodbank, which serves north central Idaho from a former meatpacking plant, broke ground Aug. 26 on a $3.1 million facility in the Lewiston Orchards that will help the food bank meet the area’s hunger needs. The new 18,000-square-foot building is nearly three times larger than the current building. With more warehouse, cooler and freezer space, the food bank will be able to meet the needs of more people and provide more healthy perishable food. The new facility also will contain a kitchen for cooking classes. Steed Construction, a Boise contractor, has been selected for the project expected to end in late March.
  • Pacific Cabinets, a cabinet manufacturer employing 50 people in Ferdinand, is opening a branch office in Lewiston, where it will house engineering employees to design products and program industry specific software for construction drawings, machine programming and job specific material ordering. With the Lewiston office, the cabinet maker hopes to take advantage of the skilled workforce generated by Lewis Clark State College, University of Idaho and Washington State University. Pacific Cabinets projects 40 percent growth for 2016 based on projects currently under contract and the growing health care market. The new office currently is hiring engineers, project managers and drafters.

Opening

  • Jan’s Paparazzi Boutique in Grangeville opened Sept. 19.

 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

Treasure Valley

  • Since the beginning of the year, six new hotels have been proposed to be built in downtown Boise: two across the street from the BoDo shopping district on Capitol Boulevard; two between Front and Myrtle streets off the I-84 connector; the Hyatt Place on 10th and Bannock streets; and a five-story, 106-room hotel between Whole Foods and Myrtle streets. Developers are responding to a need articulated not only by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Boise Centre and University of Idaho-Boise, but by the market itself. From June 2014 to June 2015, the occupancy rate of hotels in downtown Boise shot from 75 percent to 86 percent. The nightly average room cost increased 17 percent from $88.84 to $103.56. At the same time, a request for proposal for a hotel in downtown Meridian was left unanswered, indicating that while population growth in Meridian has outpaced growth in Boise three to one, the center for business and leisure travel remained firmly in downtown Boise. However, Nampa also has a proposed four-story, 81-room hotel next to the Nampa Civic Center that will be under the Best Western Plus brand. Source: Idaho Press-Tribune, Idaho Statesman, Idaho Business Review, Boise State Public Radio
  • ProService, a customer service center in Boise that handles incoming calls, emails, live chat and social monitoring support, as well as Web development and IT services for its clients, will hire 450 seasonal employees as it ramps up for the holidays. Currently the company employs 60 people. It typically hires a few hundred employees to handle the holiday surge, but this will be a record year, according to spokesman Dave Meine. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • Aecom Technology Corporation, the company that now owns what was once civil engineering and construction company Morrison-Knudsen, is laying off 75-85 employees and is moving to an office in Meridian. Terminations will begin Nov. 23. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • Hewlett-Packard Company has announced that it will shrink its global workforce by 30,000 jobs in the coming months. The layoffs will occur within the new consulting, software development and data analysis firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise that has split from the company’s PC and printer division. It is unclear how these layoffs will affect the company’s Boise campus, although CEO Meg Whitman indicated during a recent visit that the campus will not lose any jobs and may even grow. Source: Idaho Statesman

Valley County

  • The Whitetail Club and Shore Lodge, a 77-room hotel in McCall, has added to its dormitory-style housing and apartments for seasonal employees. The housing is part of a construction project that includes a new 14,000-square-foot headquarters for Shore Lodge Whitetail LLC; a 4,500-square-foot, 50-person employee cafeteria where lunch and dinner are available every day, a gym and 5,500 square feet of dormitory space. The project added 13 dorm units with 28 beds, bringing the total number of beds for workers to 100, said Shore Lodge and Whitetail Club general manager Dan Scott. Source: Idaho Business Review

Expansions

  • Village Charter School moved into a new building on Fairview Avenue in Boise
  • St. Luke’s, into the former URS/AECOM building (Washington Group Plaza) on Broadway Avenue in Boise
  • Macys.com, moving from Eagle and expanding from 30 to 60 workers in the U.S. Bank building in downtown Boise
  • Caldwell Airport, adding four new private airplane hangars in Caldwell

Openings and Expected Openings

  • Canyon County Co-op in Nampa
  • Vic’s Family Pharmacy on 12th Avenue in Nampa
  • Boise Rescue Mission’s first thrift store in Nampa
  • Bread of Life Community Deli, a pay-what-you-can deli, on Franklin Road in Meridian
  • Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen on Broadway Avenue in Boise
  • Dutch Bros. coffee shop, on State and 15th streets in Boise
  • Three new Primary Health medical clinics in Meridian, Garden City and Boise
  • Raymond James and Associates, a wealth management and investment firm, in downtown Boise
  • Regus, a provider of fully-furnished workspaces for small businesses, in the Nampa Library Square
  • Collabortank, a business incubator, on Main Street in Boise
  • Hearthside Food Solutions, a non-branded nutritional supplement bar manufacturer, in the former PowerBar plant on Eisenman Road in Boise
  • Sky West Maintenance Facility at the Boise Airport
  • Heartland Recreational Vehicles, an RV manufacturer that will initially employ 120, in Nampa
  • Alta Mesa’s natural gas processing facility in New Plymouth

Closings

  • Mountain Gem Credit Union in Weiser
  • MickeyRay’s BBQ in Eagle

  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

  • Sun Valley Resort was ranked No. 2 by Ski Magazine in its assessment of Western ski resorts. It has moved up from No.13 in 2012 to No.4 in 2013 to No.3 in 2014. Among the 18 equally weighted categories, it was ranked No.1 in overall satisfaction, grooming, lifts, character and kid-friendly categories. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
  • Ketchum’s Local Option Tax collections hit a six-year peak in July bringing in almost a quarter of a million dollars. The additional 1 percent LOT to support commercial air services yielded another $210,000 – 96 percent of those dollars go toward Sun Valley Alliance marketing and subsidizing air service. Fiscal year October 2013-September 2014 brought in $1.9 million to the city from the regular LOT collection. This fiscal year’s total after the August and September tallies may exceed the $1.9 million mark. Source: Times-News

Cassia County

  • Albion was the site of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Capital for a Day in September. The governor answered questions about the sage grouse and why it did not get listed on the federal government’s endangered species list. He also toured some of the historic landmarks in the area. Education was another top priority with the crowd of 300 citizens. Source: Times-News
  • The Burley Motocross track held its inaugural sprint boat race at the end of September. The racetrack was recently designated as the only U.S. Sprint Boat Association-sanctioned track. There were 26 boats signed up to race in the waterways filled from wells specifically drilled for this purpose.

Jerome County

  • Novolex, the parent company of Hilex Poly, plans to expand its operation in Jerome after reviewing several sites, according to CEO Ben Mascarello. Ground has already been broken and the expansion is scheduled to be completed in April 2016, creating 45 new jobs with wages estimated around $20 an hour.
  • Jerome High School has received federal grant money to hire two Jerome High alumnae with college degrees to assist students with the application process for postsecondary training and education. The workers will help students with career planning and finding sources for financial aid. The “Go-On” rate 16 months after graduation for Jerome High students is 43 percent compared with Kimberly at 69 percent. “It’s an effort to create a college-going culture,” Jerome High School principal Keelie Campbell said.

Twin Falls County

  • Amalgamated Sugar reported that its controlled harvest, which runs from Sept. 8 to Oct. 6 this year is conducted in an effort to extend the sugar campaign due to record yields, anticipated to be 40 tons per acre. Much of this higher yield is attributed to Roundup Ready seed. “When I started with the company 17 years ago, 30 tons per acre was an extremely good crop,” said Dave Scantlin, agriculture manager of the sugar company’s Twin Falls district. Source: Times News
  • Starting next summer, Twin Falls will be the site of the Idaho Special Olympics Summer Games. Usually the games rotate to different venues with games held this year in Moscow and the previous year in Payette. Twin Falls will play host for three years drawing approximately 1,200 athletes and their families and coaches. This is the first time in its 45-year history that Twin Falls will host the Games that initially started at Idaho State University in Pocatello. Sports include track and field, aquatics, basketball, cycling and flag football, which was added last year. Canyon Ridge High School will be the main venue with aquatics held at the YMCA city pool. Most hotels will be rented out for the event held June 10-11, 2016.
  • Buhl School District trustees passed a $150,000 emergency levy when enrollment rose 5 percent from the previous year. The growth was unexpected but aligns with the surging enrollment the Twin Falls School District experienced.

Under Construction

  • Cajun-style fast food restaurant Popeye’s has started construction in Twin Falls, part of an aggressive expansion across Idaho.
  • Taco John’s has broken ground on a new fast food restaurant, returning to Twin Falls after a hiatus of more than 10 years.

Openings

  • Redoux Furniture and Décor opened in downtown Twin Falls.
  • Fashion Nails and Spa expanded, opening a second location outside of the mall in Twin Falls.

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

  • Idaho State University raised more than $212,500 in scholarships during September’s I Love ISU campaign. More than 150 volunteers cold called local businesses and alumni seeking donations. The money will go to four-year scholarships for incoming freshmen. Source: Idaho Sate Review, 2015
  • Pocatello City Council approved a commercial re-zone to allow construction of a new event center. If built, the proposed center would be about 40,000 square feet and would be surrounded by local restaurants and hotels. While the estimated cost for the project has not yet been announced, the project will be funded by a local hotel bed tax. Source: Idaho Sate Review, 2015

Bingham County

  • Partners for Prosperity has received a $25,000 workforce training grant from the Idaho Department of Labor to increase soft skills and job readiness by offering financial education and life /soft skills training to the Blackfoot community. Up to 200 people are expected to participate, with an estimated average starting hourly wage of $11 an hour for people entering employment after training. Community partners are putting up $41,600 as an in-kind match. Other partner organizations include Shoshone-Bannock Senior High School, the Idaho Department of Labor, Center for New Directions, Idaho State University’s START program, J&J Chemical, NeighborWorks Pocatello and Pocatello, Blackfoot and Snake River high schools.

Caribou County

    • A 440-acre open pit mine would unearth phosphate ore 18 miles northeast of Soda Springs in southeastern Idaho, according to a news report published in the Boise Weekly. The proposed Rasmussen Valley Mine would include six open pits, external overburden piles, a haul road, a water management plan and other ancillary facilities. According to a news released from the Bureau of Land Management, a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) has been completed on the proposed mine. Collaborators included the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army of Engineers, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Idaho Department of Lands, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Water Resources. The phosphate ore reserves are contained within a federal mineral lease currently held by Agrium Conda Phosphate Operations. The ore is proposed to be processed off-site at Agrium’s fertilizer plant in Soda Springs.

Openings

            • Tractor Supply Company – Pocatello
            • The Ribbon Retreat – Shelly

Closures

            • C-A-L Ranch – Pocatello
            • Green Triangle – Pocatello

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

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

Bonneville County

        • Fin Fun, a mermaid tail manufacturing company based in Idaho Falls, has quietly become one of the region’s fastest growing companies. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that since 2012, the company has grown from shipping around 200 suits per month, to shipping 50,000 in June of this year alone and exporting to 102 countries. In peak seasons the company employs around 200 people throughout the region. Source: Wall Street Journal, 2015
        • Cable One recently donated 50 Chromebook computers to Hawthorne Elementary School in Idaho Falls. According to the press release the computers will be used across all grade levels to improve students’ math, reading and language arts skills. The donation was part of the Cable One Cares initiative that is designed to improve student access to technology for Title I schools. Source: Post Register, 2015
        • Idaho Falls Community Family Clinic has receive a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build a new facility in Idaho Falls. The clinic offers health care to all people but focuses on those in poverty and without health insurance. The new facility will hold 16 exam rooms, six administrative offices and a lobby and conference room according to the press release. Groundbreaking is scheduled for early 2016. Source: Post Register, 2015

Butte County

                  • The Idaho National Laboratory will be under new leadership for the first time in a decade. The Battelle Energy Alliance announced late last month that Mark Peters of Argonne National Laboratory will replace John Grossenbacher as the INL’s new director. Peters will officially take over as the new director on Oct. 1. Source: Post Register, 2015
                  • The Idaho National Laboratory, which employs around 4,000 people, recently told the Post Register in an interview that the lab is preparing to undergo a major transition in its workforce as the “Baby Boomer” generation rapidly approaches retirement. In preparation for the turnover, the INL has already hired more than 650 new workers this fiscal year – the most since Battelle took over the contract in 2005 – with approximately 360 position still open. Source: Post Register, 2015

Custer County

            • Challis Mayor Mark Lupher unexpectedly resigned from his position effective Sept. 1. The position will be temporarily filled by City Council President Ike Funkhouser. A mayoral election has been scheduled for Nov. 3. Source: Challis Messenger, 2015

Fremont County

            • Newsweek recently identified Sugar-Salem High School as one of the best schools in the country for low-income students. The magazine ranked the school in their top 500 “Beating the Odds” for 2015, which identifies schools that do an excellent job of preparing students for college despite obstacles posed economic disadvantage. The magazine reported that despite the school having 37.6 percent of its students living in poverty, the school still has 98.3 percent graduation rate, with 80 percent of its student’s college-bound. Source: Post Register, 2015

Jefferson County

              • Jefferson County is considering installing fiber-optic cable in the courthouse to address high phone bills. As reported by the Jefferson Star, the county’s current contract doubled to more than $3,000 per month after the county didn’t extend its contract in June. Silver Star bid the installation at $50,000 with a monthly rate of $1,100. Source: Post Register, 2015

Openings

              • CBI Offroad – Idaho Falls
              • Westmark Credit Union – Idaho Falls
              • Tradehome Shoes – Idaho Falls
              • NAPA Auto Parts – Idaho Falls
              • Camping World – Ammon

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