Here is a roundup of economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor in June:
- Despite passenger totals down 4.5 percent from the first quarter 2012, cargo totals at the Spokane International Airport were up 3 percent in the first quarter of this year. The decline in passengers is a direct result of airlines continuing to reduce capacity, but there are plans for additional service. Southwest Airlines launched a daily service to Chicago-Midway on June 2 and it will run through mid-September. On June 10, Delta began offering direct daily service to Los Angeles and will be offering more capacity to Minneapolis. Rather than a single daily flight, there will be three flights on bigger planes.
- Hayden-based AllWest Testing & Engineering LLC has developed a welding school. The company hired an instructor in early 2012 to set up a fabrication welding curriculum and has been recognized as a proprietary school by the states of Washington and Idaho. The proprietary school designation means welders can earn qualifications for specific skills rather than broader three academic-quarter certification programs or two-year associate degrees offered through some vocation programs at schools like Spokane Community College. AllWest’s Post Falls shop has four welding booths and has so far instructed 33 students. It currently has about a month-long waiting list. The company plans to expand to 10 fully equipped welding booths as the backlog of students grows.
- Vivint Inc., a large, privately-held Provo, Utah-based home-automation system maker, plans to open a sales call center in Liberty Lake this summer and expects to employ 400 people within 18 months. The company plans to open the Liberty Lake operation on July 15. The company currently has about 2,500 year-round employees.
North Central Idaho
- A new business opened on Pierce’s Main Street, partly in anticipation of the new jobs and residents that the January opening of the National Guard ChalleNGe school will bring. Leia and Eric Vanhook opened Clearwater Fitness in May.
- ASE Manufacturing provides jobs opportunities in Orofino. The business opened as Architectural Signs & Engraving in a 700-square-foot building in Orofino in 1994, shortly after American with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for interior signage were published. The company currently employs 27 people making interior signs. It ships signs all over the United States.
- The Nez Perce County Commission unanimously approved Howell Machine’s plan to convert a horse arena into an ammunition storage and distribution facility. The three-acre property in an agricultural transitional zone will be used by Howell’s growing ammunition manufacturing operation. The company has created more than 150 jobs in Lewiston since it began manufacturing ammunition there in early 2012. Along with the new ammunition-making operation, Howell and sister company AmmoLoad Worldwide employ people who make equipment for ammunition makers – altogether employing about 250 people.
- Western Aircraft is beginning construction on two new buildings. A 14,000-square-foot warehouse and a 12,000-square-foot office and tools building are scheduled to be completed in November. This $2 million project is only the beginning of a five-year plan, which includes adding a new 40,000-square-foot hangar.
- CradlePoint, a Boise based technology company, plans to add 50 employees this year. The company makes networking routers and software. The positions will be in software developing, sales and customer support.
- Cafe Ole is adding a third restaurant in the area. The company plans to open in Meridian in mid-July and hire 40 to 50 people.
- The Caldwell Transportation Co. won the bid to bus students in the Mountain Home School District. The $1 million annual contract takes effect July 1, and the company is planning to hire the drivers of the previous contractor, First Student.
South Central Idaho
- The southern Bellevue site initially chosen by Mountain Rides as a transit hub but later rejected by the Planning and Zoning commission was purchased by Joe’s Backhoe Excavation. The Hailey company needs more room. Bellevue leaders believe this event reinforces their decision to keep the area on the tax rolls. Mountain Rides had suggested tax relief from the city as an in-kind contribution to public transportation.
- The Idaho Fish and Game Department updated a 2003 report on the economic impact of fishing. The 2011 update found that in Blaine County, on average, anglers spent $233 daily during trips lasting 1.9 days. There were a total of 98,527 trips. The Big Wood River brought in the most money in the county at $10 million. The reported estimated that anglers spent $22 million in the county during 2011 and $548 million statewide. Blaine County ranked ninth in angler spending in the state. The totals did not include the cost of licenses and permits.
- Mount Harrison Junior High in conjunction with Idaho Youth Ranch students has been awarded a $1.36 million grant for a mathematics and reading lab providing the Scholastic tutoring program. The grant will be administered by the Department of Education.
- The economic development publication Area Development ranked Pocatello’s local economy in the top 25 percent among 380 metropolitan areas in the nation. Editor Geraldine Gambale said that Pocatello and other communities in the top 25 percent “managed to thrive, emerging for the recession as economic leaders.” But despite the recognition, Pocatello still faces significant hurdles. Unemployment in the city is above the state average, and wages and per capita income are below state and national averages.
- Bear Lake County commissioners met with 6th District Administrative Judge Steven S. Dunn on a proposed drug court. Many county residents support the proposal. Bear Lake County Prosecutor Steven Wuthrich said the court would have a positive economic effect in the county. “If we lose eight to 10 jobs from people going to jail and losing their jobs from a felony DUI, it impacts the local economy. A lot of people can’t afford treatment so they don’t get it, and we have at least four or five who need long-term care and would do well on probation.” The county commission and a special committee will continue to study the feasibility of a drug court.
- Kiplinger’s magazine ranked Idaho Falls 10th among its “10 Cheapest U.S. Cites to Live In.” The city’s cost of living was reported to be 12 percent below average. Median household income was $45,900 compared to the national average of $52,762. Median home values in Idaho Falls were $146,900 compared to $186,200 nationwide.
- Following nine unsuccessful attempts to pass a school construction bond, the state Public School Repair Fund Committee began the process of certifying repair costs for the Salmon Pioneer and Middle schools. The committee’s findings will be forwarded to the state Department of Education. The next step for the committee is to appoint a project superintendent. Anticipated costs for repairing the roof and walls of the two schools is $3.6 million. If approved, the state will pay for the school improvements, which will then be reimbursed by Salmon residents.
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