Recent tariffs imposed on Canadian softwood lumber should reduce the amount of lumber the U.S. imports from Canada and boost the Idaho lumber industry this year. Softwood lumber — made from pine, fir, cedar and spruce — is mostly used for framing new houses.
Last year, according to Wood Resources Quarterly, imports from Canada accounted for 32 percent of lumber used in the United States. Less competition from Canada should boost U.S. mills’ profits, production and employment.
The countervailing duties on Canadian lumber imported to the United States range from 3 percent to 24.12 percent, averaging 19.88 percent. The U.S. Commerce Department plans to impose additional fees that would mean some lumber importers would face duties as high as 30.88 percent. Commerce says Canada is unfairly selling lumber in the U.S. below production costs, aided in part by improper government subsidies.
The new tariff is the latest step in a 35-year-old trade dispute between the two nations. U.S. lumber producers argue that the Canadian government unfairly subsidizes its lumber industry, since most timber cut in Canada comes from provincial forests. Provincial governments set prices administratively and are lower than if they were set in a competitive market. Under U.S. trade remedy laws, foreign trade benefiting from subsidies can be subject to a countervailing duty tariff to offset the subsidy and bring the price of the commodity back up to market rates.
Intermax Networks is now serving Sandpoint’s new city-owned fiber optic cable service. Access to the city’s cable allows Intermax to nearly double its service in Sandpoint and supports the city’s goals of expanding the availability of fiber. Source: Idaho Business Review
Construction on The Crossings – a new 37-acre business complex in Athol – began in June with the first work on a new Super 1 Foods grocery store. The complex is designed to serve the significant rural population of northern Kootenai County and may eventually include medical and financial service providers. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce has curtailed its financial support of the CDA Ironman competitions. After 14 years of full Ironman races, the city will instead begin hosting half-Ironman competitions beginning in 2018. Source: Spokesman Review
Silverwood Theme Park has fully ramped up for the summer season after opening its Boulder Beach water park. A representative from the park noted that sales of both season passes and individual tickets are up significantly from the previous year, when Canadian traffic dropped due to a weaker Canadian dollar. Season pass sales are up 23 percent over 2016, while individual ticket sales are up 20 percent. Source: Idaho Business Review
The city of Coeur d’Alene will postpone its planned widening and reconstruction of Government Way. The city received only one bid for the project, which was 34 percent higher than the city’s initial estimate. A city spokesman indicated that the narrow timeframe associated with the project was contributing to high costs, as the project would have required significant overtime work. Source: Spokesman Review
The state of Washington’s high minimum wage puts pressure on wages in northern Idaho, especially in the communities closest to the border — Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and the Priest River area. With Washington’s jump from $9.47 to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017, wage pressures on the Idaho side increased.
In November 2015, the Washington Legislature approved Initiative 1433, which will increase its minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $13.50 an hour in 2020. After that, it will automatically increase with the cost of living. Three other states – Arizona, Colorado and Maine – also passed initiatives in November increasing their minimum wages. All three will raise their wages incrementally until they reach $12 in 2020. Prior to the election, California, New York and Oregon already established pathways to $12 an hour or more in the coming years. Altogether, 29 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, some cities impose minimum wages above their states’ minimum wages. For example, Seattle’s minimum wage for larger employers is set to increase to $15 by 2020.
The city of Coeur d’Alene entered into an agreement to purchase 47 acres of waterfront property, which was vacated when Stimson Lumber closed its operations there in 2005. Several private sector efforts to develop the property have fallen through over the years due to ambiguity regarding the lot’s zoning and environmental cleanup requirements. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The city of Post Falls plans to pursue an Idaho Community Development block grant to add additional parking in the city center. Inadequate public parking has led to a several cases of illegal parking and damage to private property. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Kootenai County Commissioners approved several changes to the Citylink bus system, including new fares and reduced hours of operation. The changes reflect the need to pursue a more sustainable and effective public transportation service. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Innovation Collective plans to turn the historic Elks Building in downtown Coeur d’Alene into the “Innovation Den,” which will include office space, a coffee shop, meeting space and a private bar. Among the tenants already lined up are a robotics company, a venture capital firm and an intellectual property law firm. Source: Spokane-Kootenai Journal of Business
North Idaho College received a $482,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Labor to train more than 200 workers in wood products manufacturing. The grant is a partnership with Lewis-Clark State College and a consortium of wood product manufacturers in northern Idaho. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Work has begun on a $5.44 million revitalization of the Seltice Way arterial. The project – which is expected to continue into 2018 – will provide a new streetscape, roundabouts and bike lanes, as well as upgraded water and waste utilities. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Kootenai County continues to have a banner year for building permits in 2017. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the cities of Hayden, Rathdrum and Post Falls were all at or near record paces for issued building permits. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
A large mudslide derailed a Union Pacific train near Moyie Springs on March 15. No injuries were reported, though 12 railroad cars loaded with grain were involved in the derailment. Due to the steep terrain in the area, it was not immediately possible to bring in equipment to move the derailed cars. Multiple mudslides and floods have been reported since then, leading to a state of emergency declared by Boundary County and the city of Bonners Ferry. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee
The city of Post Falls will use an Idaho Transportation Department grant to improve pedestrian pathways and trails and construct new pathways in the city center.
Kootenai County declared a state of emergency on March 16 in response to extensive flooding caused by heavy rain and melting snow pack. Areas affected by flooding include Cataldo, Fernan Lake Village, Hayden and Rathdrum.
School levies around Kootenai County were successful in March. Plummer-Worley, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts all passed their respective levies.
Though last spring’s labor market for college graduates was hot, the Class of 2017 will likely find the best job market in 10 years when they graduate this spring. Surveys suggest that employers are ramping up their recruitment efforts for this year. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Dec. 18 that college graduates are entering the strongest job market the country has seen in nearly a decade. New grads also are expected to find more job openings here in Idaho. Placement offices at Idaho universities report more employers are showing interest in their students graduating this spring.
Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends, released in September, projected hiring should be very strong for the Class of 2017. Company growth and employee turnover are expected to increase hiring of newly minted bachelor’s degree holders by 19 percent, according to 4,350 employers of all sizes across industries and in all states. Sectors experiencing heavy growth include hospitality and food services; arts and entertainment; finance; real estate and leasing; transportation; and retail and wholesale trade.