Here is a roundup of economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor in May:
North Idaho College has surpassed its $100,000 fundraising goals for a science wet laboratory at its new satellite campus in Sandpoint. The drive has raised $135,000 so far, enabling the school to set up the lab this summer in time for the fall semester. Students on the satellite campus can complete two-year programs and potentially earn bachelor’s degrees. With the new laboratory, students in Sandpoint will never have to leave that campus to get their associate degrees.
- Engineering and development work has been started as part of Potlatch Corp.’s capital improvement project at its St. Maries Complex this year. A new warehouse and equipment upgrades to improve efficiency are among the projects to help local mills remain competitive.
- The Idaho Land Board has approved a timber sale plan for 2014 that calls for 249 million board feet to be harvested from state endowment lands – the highest logging level in more than a decade. The plan increases the harvest of recent years by 2 million board feet. The economic downturn brought significant drops in prices starting in 2008. But rising demand and a shortage of private timber is improving prices.
- SQM Group, based in Vernon, B.C., has opened its first office in the United States, bringing at least 80 jobs to the Coeur d’Alene area. The company conducts customer satisfaction research surveys with people who have just used a call center. Its clients include Fortune 500 companies. SQM’s research and data analysis has helped them improve their call center customer service and reduce operating costs.
- The Nez Perce Tribe’s casino resort east of Lewiston is bringing in record revenue, and profit margins are expected to rise over the next two years. The Clearwater River Casino & Lodge brought in $26.5 million in 2012 while operation costs fell slightly. Further expansion is likely to occur after the casino’s new event center and expanded gaming area open. The $16 million addition is nearly complete.
- The U.S. Forest Service, on the recommendation of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, proposed a restoration project that could produce timber volumes not seen in decades. While restoring forests and streams in a 44,000-acre area five miles southeast of Kooskia, the project would allow harvest of 60 million to 85 million board feet of timber. A University of Idaho study says that for every million board feet of timber harvested about 15 living wage jobs are created or maintained so the collaborative argues the timber harvest would create or sustain 900 to 1,275 jobs.
- Washington State University dedicated a new research facility on its Pullman campus May 2. The $96 million Veterinary and Biomedical Research Building, whose construction began in the summer of 2010, houses the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience and faculty from psychology, bioengineering and animal sciences that use similar research tools.
- St. Luke’s Health System opened a new medical imaging center in Meridian in April. The 10,000-square-foot building is adjacent to St. Luke’s Meridian hospital and will provide medical imaging services in an outpatient setting. Nine employees were added to staff the center.
- Idaho Central Credit Union recently opened two new locations in Ada County. The Eagle Branch opened in March and the Ustick Branch opened this month. Together these two locations employ 15 individuals. Idaho Central now has a total of 21 branches throughout Idaho with more than 400 employees.
- Angell’s Bar and Grill has been sold and will reopen as Renato-Angell’s Bar and Grill. The new owners are remolding the inside of the long-time Boise restaurant and will be reopening it in late June. The new owners expect to hire 40 to 50 people.
- Norco announces plans to open a new Nampa location later this year that will employee 45. This will be the third store in Nampa.
- Wolf Pac Pellets is gearing up to open this June in Mountain Home. The company processes alfalfa into a high-protein animal feed that is easier to transport. The owners plan to hire six this summer and expand as their business grows.
South Central Idaho
- Redfish Technology was selected as one of the Best Places to Work in Idaho by the Idaho Business Review in the 10-to-19-employee category. Winners are companies that reflect exceptional performance in areas of compensation and benefits, employee growth and development, work-life balance, workplace environment and company management. The company also has offices in Silicon Valley.
- Ketchum city council has voted to prohibit smoking in enclosed public areas such as stores, restaurants, motel and hotel rooms, city government offices, city parks, areas of employment and within 20 feet of bus stops, school property and special event zones. There will be a year of education before fines will be enforced including a hefty fee should employers retaliate against whistle-blowing workers.
- SkyWest, a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, is increasing daily flights between Salt Lake City and Hailey from three to five and potentially seven during high-demand months. The expansion is the result of negotiations between Fly Sun Valley Alliance, Friedman Memorial Airport and the commercial airlines. Accessibility is critical to tourism, and remote areas like the Wood River Valley are dependent on a vibrant airport.
- The city of Twin Falls reported commercial new building permits were up 163 percent in year-to-date activity at $13.2 million.
- The declining cost of housing county prisoners elsewhere has convinced Franklin County commissioners to shelve their proposal to build a $4 million county jail. Last year the county spent $350,000 to house prisoners in the Caribou County jail in Soda Springs, but this year it looks like the bill will only be $200,000.
- The Pocatello chapter of the NAACP is planning to establish an entrepreneurial center for minorities. The association is concerned that there is a lack of Black-owned businesses in the community and hopes that the proposed new center can encourage the startup of minority-owned businesses.
- The Rigby Senior Citizen and Community Center will be remodeled with the help of a Community Development Block Grant. The $118,000 grant will be combined with $7,000 from the city of Rigby and Jefferson County to fund the building improvement. Work should begin this summer.
- Madison County commissioners rejected an increase in building permit penalties. The current penalty for building without a permit is one-third the cost of the permit. The new penalty would make the penalty three times the price of permits. Incidents of structures being built without permits have been increasing throughout the county.
- Idaho State University-Idaho Falls graduated 180 students at the satellite campus’ spring semester commencement.
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