September’s Economic Activity

Here is a roundup of economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor in September:

Northern Idaho

  • After two years of negotiations, Petco will open next year in Ponderay’s Bonner Mall.
  • Trindera Engineering Inc. of Coeur d’Alene, specializing in electrical and consulting services, opened a second office in Spokane. The company has hired seven employees in the past six months to boost its payroll to 30 with 10 employees working full time in Spokane. The firm plans to continue expanding.
  • Gonzaga University in Spokane launched its first new school in nearly 40 years – the School of Nursing and Human Physiology.
  • Harbor Freight Tools is opening in Coeur d’Alene with  45 employees.
  • The Lodge at Fairway Forest, a 16-unit assisted-living facility is opening in Coeur d’Alene with 12 employees.

North Central Idaho

  • With the help of a $2.4 million Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program grant, Moscow-based First Step Internet has added middle-mile infrastructure in north central Idaho over the past three years. For many rural communities, the project has provided their first access to high-speed Internet. The Nez Perce Tribe secured its own grant and has worked with First Step to create middle-mile infrastructure on and around the reservation. First Step currently is creating a last-mile connection to the National Guard Youth Challenge, which will open in Pierce this January.
  • The Idaho Travel Council distributed nearly $3.4 million in tourism marketing money to nonprofit organizations including $218,993 in north central Idaho. Those included $72,329 for the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, $36,749 for the North Central Idaho Travel Association, $22,495 for the Kamiah Chamber of Commerce, $33,000 for the Hells Canyon Visitor Bureau, $29,720 for the Salmon River Chamber of Commerce in Riggins, $9,900 for the Orofino Chamber of Commerce, $7,000 for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, $4,000 for the Idaho Bed and Breakfast Association, $2,800 for the Idaho RV Campground Association and $1,000 for the Idaho Ski Area Association. The grants are funded by a 2 percent tax on the lodging receipts, which totaled $26.5 million in north central Idaho last year.
  • Kendall Auto Group announced in early September that it is acquiring Moscow’s Subaru dealership and will move its operations to Lewiston. Ambassador Auto in Moscow, which employs about 20 people, will close at the end of September. Employees who are willing to make the commute will work at Kendall Subaru. Kendall will open a new Subaru dealership in 2015 next door to its Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram dealership on Main Street in Lewiston.
  • Another Moscow dealership closed in June. Gilbert Auto Ford just off Idaho Highway 8 shut its doors after a bankruptcy judge lifted a stay that temporarily protected the Gilbert Auto Group from creditors. About 20 people lost their jobs. The financially stressed company also owned four dealerships in Washington State.
  • Regence BlueShield downsized for a third time this year, cutting 47 claims positions including eight in Lewiston in August. New technology is allowing faster claims processing. In January, the medical insurance company cut 56 jobs including 10 in Lewiston. It announced in May that it would outsource 55 jobs in its four-state territory to New Jersey-based Cognizant, which sent some of the jobs to India. Thirteen of the cuts were in Lewiston. Regence employs about 700 in Lewiston.

Southwestern Idaho

  • Micron announced that it will cut 5 percent of its worldwide employment over the next 14 months. The cuts should total around 1,500, and the company said they will come from a mix of attrition, voluntary buyouts and layoffs. No word yet how many at the Boise campus will be affected.
  • Several organizations in Boise have pledged more than $160,000 to help the Boise Airport get a $700,000 grant to improve service. The goal is to help the airport attract a direct flight to the East Coast.
  • The College of Western Idaho has been approved for initial accreditation with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The new designation gives the school five years to further develop the program. An evaluation visit will be scheduled for spring 2018.
  • Coleman Homes is building a new headquarters in Meridian. The 12,000-square-foot building will include a design gallery.

South Central Idaho

  • The Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization highlighted five projects that added new jobs and vitality to the area at its Economic Development Summit. These included: the Calva/Brewster Partnership in Rupert, announced last November; the Chobani Greek Yogurt plant in Twin Falls, which opened in December; the Monsanto Wheat Technology Center in Filer, which was announced in June; the Glanbia corporate headquarters and Cheese Innovation Center in Twin Falls, which opened in August; and the McCain Foods expansion in Burley, which was announced in August.
  • Idaho Central Credit Union will be the first tenant in the new Canyon Rim West strip mall with a drive-through and 5,800 square feet of space. This is in addition to a 4,800-square-foot new branch slated to open next spring across town. The current branch will close once both new branches are operational.
  • The College of Southern Idaho will launch its Physical Therapist Assistant program in January with admission limited to 10 students every two years. The course is a partnership of Idaho’s three community colleges. North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene will provide interactive lectures, and laboratories will be held on the campuses of the College of Western Idaho in Nampa and the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. The new Health Sciences and Human Services building in Twin Falls is being renovated to provide space for the laboratory.

Southeastern Idaho

  • The American Hospital Association honored Caribou Memorial Hospital for its 50 years of membership in the hospital association. Caribou Memorial Hospital Chief Executive John Hoopes used the announcement to discuss the hospital’s federal designation as a critical access hospital 13 years ago even though it was within 35 miles of another hospital – in Montpelier. Hoopes feels that the federal government’s plan to re-evaluate the critical access hospital program may cause Caribou Memorial to lose its federal designation. The critical access program provides funding to small rural hospitals, which allows them to provide the same quality of care found in urban areas.
  • Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little praised the efforts of economic development officials in southeastern Idaho at Bannock Development’s 22nd annual symposium. “There are a lot of great things happening here,” Little said, because of the cooperation between cities and counties in the region to support the attraction of new business. Little also credited Idaho State University as a major asset to economic development, citing the success of the College of Technology as an example of excellent workforce training.

Eastern Idaho

  • The East Central Idaho Planning and Development Association of Rexburg received a $1.5 million grant to develop the Teton County Professional Technical Education and Business Center in Driggs. A former Ford automobile dealership will be repurposed to house the center, which is expected to create 100 jobs and contribute $850,000 in private investment. The building will support professional technical education classes, light manufacturing and other industries.
  • Scientech recently broke ground on its new facility at Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls. The 112,300-square-foot facility on 8.6 acres of land will be finished next summer. Scientech is a unit of Curtis-Wright Flow Control Co.

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