October Economic Activity

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

Northern Idaho

  • Two of the bigger real estate players in the region’s residential market, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson and Century 21 Beutler & Associates, have consolidated some operations under a common ownership group. The offices collectively have roughly 400 real estate agents and support employees. The offices include two Coldwell Banker offices in Spokane, C21 offices in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane and two Sotheby’s International Realty offices in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.
  • Associated Painters Inc., a Spokane-based aircraft painting company, is building a second 32,000-square-foot hangar for approximately $5.5 million price tag at the Spokane International Airport and expects to grow its workforce by 30. The company currently employs 70, up from 52 one year ago.
  • Whiteman Lumber was named Idaho Small Business of the Month for September by Sen. Jim Risch. The Cataldo-based company has been a fixture in the region for 85 years and is now the oldest continuously operating sawmill in Idaho.

North Central Idaho

  • The Nez Perce Tribe is exploring several potential ventures to promote economic growth on the reservation. Among the products under consideration are agricultural goods, forest products and biofuels. The tribe may choose to quarry a rich deposit of limestone along Mission Creek near Culdesac. The tribe is considering distribution, manufacturing or retail ventures for 60 acres in Spalding that it acquired two years ago. The industrial property is between the Spalding Bridge and the Nez Perce National Historical Park along U.S. Highway 95.
  • Pine Tree Community Credit Union broke ground in September on additional office and lobby space at its Grangeville branch. The expansion, which will be completed in early 2014, will allow the credit union to provide additional services as well as support the increased demand for loans.
  •  Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, the manufacturing company that employs more than 1,900 people in Pullman, Wash., received a $9.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to research ways to increase security for energy delivery systems. The fast-growing company designs and manufactures products to monitor, control and protect power systems.
  • St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston unveiled plans to build 66,400-square-foot addition to the 400,000-square-foot hospital in September. The $42.7 million expansion will house outpatient services including an oncology center now on Idaho Street, new technology and physician offices. Construction on the hospital’s west side will take up to three years. The first phase is the $14 million construction of a central energy plant, which will replace aging heating and air-conditioning systems. The second phase will be construction of the building addition to allow the hospital to provide more procedures in an outpatient setting.

Southwestern Idaho

  • The Packaging Corporation of America has agreed to acquire Boise-based Boise Inc. for $1.99 billion and assume Boise Inc.’s outstanding debt. The Chicago-based company said the acquisition will support the company’s corrugated products growth and give them a presence in the Northwest. The acquisition should be complete late this year.
  • Gordmans has leased the former Kmart building on Parkcenter Boulevard. This will be the third Gordmans in the valley. Construction and improvements are expected to be completed in early 2014.
  • Balihoo received another round of venture capital funding. OpenView Venture Partners invested $5 million in the Boise-based firm. The money will be used by the company’s engineering, sales and marketing teams. This is the third investment in the company from the group.

South Central Idaho

  • Fruit processor Zentis announced on businesswire.com that it will build a 100,000-square-foot plant in Idaho. The company is headquartered in Aachen, Germany, and employs more than 500 people in the United States. Zentis also has plants in Germany, Poland, Hungary and Russia. It has not announced specifically where it will build although it has established business relationships with Dannon yogurt in Utah and Chobani Greek Yogurt in Twin Falls, according to Capital Press.
  • Frulact, a fruit processing company based out of Maia, Portugal, announced its first plant in the United States will be built in Rupert. The company plans to break ground before year end and open its doors toward the end of 2014, hiring 100 workers initially. The company plans to expand its workforce in the future. Fruit processing is a wet industry so the waste water treatment plant upgrade to the tune of $14.2 million, a bond approved by voters in 2012, contributed significantly to the selection of Rupert.
  • The Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization staged its second announcement in one week with the news that Clif Bar & Company, maker of energy bars and snacks, will open a plant in Twin Falls. The Jayco Industrial Park is the site developed utilizing Urban Renewal Agency money with the company planning to initially employ 250 workers to start with expansions planned in the future. Idaho Department of Labor’s Workforce Development Training Fund is providing training funds up to $4 million. The company is based out of California and plans to invest $90 million in the construction and equipment, commonly referred to as cap ex, culminating in a 300,000-square-foot plant.
  • Valiant Firearms & Ammunition recently opened the Gun Room in Twin Falls. The business started by making ammunition and selling custom-ordered tactical rifles and hand guns. The revamped space makes room for inventory and allows customers to take a defensive training course for shooting the guns. All guns are manufactured by Intacto Arms of Boise, and Valiant makes the precision ammunition at its 5-year old factory, selling to law enforcement agencies and retailers.

Southeastern Idaho

  • Hess Pumice located in Malad recently celebrated an expansion that increased its workforce to 105, and the addition of a nearly related business, Creative Stone. That group employs 20 with plans to add 10 more jobs in the coming months. Hess Pumice, which has manufactured products for abrasives since 1958, has developed a strengthening concrete additive for building material.
  • The Preston Police Department recently received a surplus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Personnel Carrier from the U.S. Army. The vehicle, an armor-plated 2007 Navistar that holds up to 10 people, was used in combat operations in the Middle East and is designed to handle shelling, bullets and damage from other explosive ordinance. It will be used in SWAT team operations. The department will loan out the vehicle when needed to other law enforcement departments in the area.
  • American Falls opened a skate park this past month after eight years in the planning, according to Mayor Marc Beitia. A group of private citizens called AM ImPact raised the funds that made the new attraction a reality. The skate park is 5,500 square feet and offers steps and grinding rails. City leaders hope the new skate park will attract more visitors to American Falls.

Eastern Idaho

  • Premier Technology and Westinghouse are teaming up to host the first small modular reactor conference in Idaho Falls Oct. 30 through Nov. 1. The conference will feature Idaho companies and nuclear resources. About 100 people are expected to attend. For more information about the event call Liza Scalf at (414) 221-1700 ext. 120 or lscalf@acius.net.
  • The Idaho Falls Regional Airport received a $500,000 grant to fund efforts establishing eastbound commercial flights. Airport officials are hopeful they can establish a new nonstop flight between Idaho Falls and the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho will undertake two major construction projects. The university is constructing new 868-bed single-student dormitories for male and female students. The complex is not coed. A new natural gas powered central heating facility is also under construction. The university is phasing out the current coal fired heating plant. The new facility will also generate about half of the university’s electrical power. The plant will also comply with newer federal environmental regulations.

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