The following is a roundup of regional economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor in March.
Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone counties
- Quest Aircraft Co., the Sandpoint-based manufacturer of the Kodiak light airplane, has selected Parkwater Aviation of Spokane to provide flight-training services for commercial buyers of the Kodiak. Parkwater Aviation, which has four employees, is a newly formed for-profit subsidiary of nonprofit Spokane Turbine Center, which is based at Felts Field in Spokane.
- Bonner General Hospital broke ground on a 400,000-square-foot building adjacent to the current hospital. The new medical office building is filling the steadily climbing demand for services in the diagnostic imaging and rehabilitation departments. Last summer, a doctor opened a psychiatric clinic, adding a service the hospital had not offered in the past. More recently there has been the addition of the Wound Care Center.
- State budget writers approved North Idaho College’s $302,300 budget request for expanding programs at its Sandpoint Outreach Center.
- Office Depot will close its Coeur d’Alene store May 3. The company bought smaller rival OfficeMax late last year for $976 million. The combined company is consolidating stores to cut costs. OfficeMax already operates a store in Coeur d’Alene.
- Hecla Mining Co. reported a net loss of $3 million in the fourth quarter. The Coeur d’Alene-based mining company was in the black a year earlier, recording net income of $605,000. The company had a significant increase in production and a reduction in operating costs at the Lucky Friday silver mine near Mullan and the Casa Berardi gold mine in western Quebec, Canada. For 2013, Hecla reported a net loss of $25.7 million compared with a net gain of $14.4 million in 2012.
- North Idaho Recycling received Shoshone County’s contract for recycling services. The company will pay the county 25 percent for each ton of metal. That percentage is based on the most current price of metal. The county will also be reimbursed for batteries. North Idaho Recycling will pay a quarter-cent per pound.
- Axia Home Loans in Ponderay
- Bee Fit Studio in Naples
- Bennett House adult day center in Coeur d’Alene
- Hayden Exchange in Hayden
- Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers in Coeur d’Alene
- Silver Valley Dialysis center in Smelterville
Alivia.Metts@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist (208) 769-1558, ext. 3486
NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO
Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties
- Legislation awaits a signature from the governor that guarantees the future of Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino. The bill will allow Clearwater County to extend the lease on the county-owned hospital for up to 35 years without a public auction. State law currently limits leases for county hospitals to 20 years. Essentia Health Services, which also operates St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood, leases and operates the facility. It wants to makes major renovations there and build a new $5 million clinic, but only if it can amortize the expenditure for longer than 20 years. More than 90 percent of Clearwater County voters supported extending Essentia’s lease in a ballot measure last May.
Idaho and Lewis Counties
- The Kamiah School District will be providing more professional-technical training through long-distance programs. In the 2012-13 school year, 10 of the 34 Kamiah High School students enrolled in health occupations preparation classes offered online by Lewis-Clark State College. All 10 earned technical certifications that allowed them to begin careers immediately after high school graduation. Five additional students earned Emergency Medical Technician certification. Kamiah students took EMT courses from Weiser High School through the Idaho Education Network and had 40 hours of clinical work with Lewis County Search & Rescue. The program helps supplement the district’s declining budget.
- Cottonwood’s Main Street turned into a river March 3 when heavy rains fell and warmer temperatures melted snow, overwhelming Cottonwood Creek and the city’s storm drains. Timely piling of sandbags — by the city, the Cottonwood Highway District and volunteers with assistance from North Idaho Correctional Institution inmates — prevented damage to downtown businesses. A 20- to 30-foot washout damaged the Maple Street culvert. The last time Cottonwood’s Main Street flooded was in 1996. Ferdinand, eight miles northwest of Cottonwood, also experienced mild flooding.
- The Clearwater Economic Development Association held meetings in Nezperce and Craigmont in February to discuss a perceived housing shortage for entry-level workers. Employers in the two towns and in the greater Cottonwood area say hiring new workers is hindered because rentals are difficult to find. It’s a concern for potential businesses, too. About 74 percent of the housing units in Lewis County were built before 1970 compared to 50 percent statewide, so a higher proportion of housing units require extensive repairs or expensive upgrades for energy efficiency. Craigmont or Nezperce may partner with the Idaho Housing Company, a not-for-profit group, to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build as many as 11 new residences. The private sector would do the construction and consumer lending, then sell the homes to citizens.
- The University of Idaho welcomed its 18th president, Chuck Staben, in early March. Staben spoke to students and faculty about the importance of the university’s partnerships with the K-12 system, sister universities and businesses around the state. Challenges the university faces, he said, include restricted budgets and the slip in salaries that makes it harder to attract and keep faculty. One of Staben’s priorities is to increase enrollment and keep students on the path to graduation. After rising during the recession, enrollment began to edge down this fall. Enrollment this spring is nearly 5 percent lower –100 fewer students—than last spring. Staben is the former provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota.
- Northwest River Supplies — the Moscow-based manufacturer of inflatable watercraft and distributor of kayaking and outdoor gear — began the year by becoming 100 percent employee owned. The 42-year-old business employs about 90 people in Moscow. The move to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan model will make NRS more competitive, since employee-owned companies receive substantial tax benefits, as well as making it an attractive place to work. The company plans to open a new distribution center in Europe this year. Having a constant supply of inventory there will make it easier to ship products to overseas customers. Last year, NRS expanded its operations in Canada when it revamped its website and acquired helmet manufacturer WRSI. NRS founder Bill Parks continues to act as president.
- The Moscow School District began a $2.1 million renovation of the Field House at Moscow Middle School in early March. Last May, voters approved a $10.8 million bond for renovations throughout the school district. The project includes two new varsity locker rooms, renovation of the wrestling and weight training rooms, and changes to the entrance and parking areas. Renovations should be completed by November.
- The Idaho State Board of Education approved $212,000 to design and plan the new president’s residence on the Moscow campus. These expenses, as well as the cost of demolition of the current house, will be paid from university funds. Private money from the UI Foundation will cover construction costs, expected to be around $1 million.
Nez Perce and Asotin Counties
- Lewiston is critical to Clearwater Paper’s future, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer Linda K. Massman told a crowd at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner in early February. Its commitment is reflected in the $21 million in capital improvements the company made last year at the Lewiston complex and the $26 million it plans to make this year. Recent federal expenditures on barging facilities on the Columbia and Snake rivers will ensure a steady stream of low-cost raw materials for papermaking. Workers express their commitment through longevity as well as high productivity. The average worker at the complex has 17 years of service. The company had its best safety record ever in 2013, with an incident rate less than half of the industry average. Clearwater Paper announced in February that it will close its tissue converting and distribution plant in Long Island, N.Y., later this year, putting 155 people out of work. After the Long Island closure, the company will employ about 3,850 nationwide including 1,370 in Lewiston.
- Seekins Precision plans to move from the Port of Lewiston’s incubator into a 25,000-square-foot building near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The maker of AR-15 rifles and rifle components has grown from 10 to 30 employees during the last two years. It expects to employ 60 or more 10 years from now.
- Sleep Country U.S.A. soon will break ground on a $600,000 store in Clarkston. The 5,000-square-foot mattress store is expected to open by September with three to four employees.
- The ammunition industry continues to expand in north central Idaho. Vector Bullets, a start-up in Lewiston, is producing 223-caliber bullets that are popular for target shooting because they are a less expensive round. The company employs two people and is hiring four more. Owner Dan Dorman expects to employ 12 by the end of the year.
Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984
Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley & Washington counties
- Home Depot plans to hire over 200 workers for its Treasure Valley locations. The hiring, part of a larger national effort to hire 80,000 workers, is in anticipation of increased business this spring.
- Weyerhaeuser will close its Boise Wood Products Technology Center this year. The company is moving the work to its Federal Way, Wash., headquarters. The plant employs 77.
- Boise-based Healthwise is merging with the Boston-based Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. The two nonprofit organizations will maintain their offices, and no positions should be eliminated in the merger.
- Saint Alphonsus Health System acquired the Oasis Medical Center in Eagle.
- Maximus Inc. announced it will lay off 1,600 call center workers in April. The call center, which helped people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, hired some 1,800 people last year.
- Construction on the Waterpark Townhomes in Garden City began last month. The nine upscale townhouses will range from 1,400 to 2,200 square feet and cost between $250,000 and $450,000. The first units are expected to be completed this fall.
- Delta announced it will add nonstop flights between Boise and L.A. this summer.
- Micron Technology Inc. agreed to pay almost $67 million for its part in settling an antitrust lawsuit. The suit was brought by Idaho and 34 other states against 11 makers of DRAM chips, alleging anticompetitive practices to inflate prices. Micron’s portion is the second largest. Samsung agreed to the largest amount of $113 million.
- The Boise School District announced plans to demolish Jackson Elementary School. The building, originally opened in 1960, has become too expensive to maintain. The school district does not have plans to sell the site.
- The Nampa Education Association and the Nampa School District gave their final approval to a new master contract for the 2013-2014 school year. The contract originally included 14 unpaid furlough days due to budget cuts, but one-time professional development funding from the state cut that to 13.
- Gayle Manufacturing is moving its headquarters to Nampa. The structural steel manufacturing company has an operation in the area but is proposing to build a new site on Cherry Lane. The company said roughly 70 jobs will be moved from California to the new building over the next two years.
- Middleton’s Civic Center is moving forward with its conversion to an historical museum this year. The upgrades will include disability-compliant restrooms and a small meeting room. Money for the project is coming from Canyon County and the city. Construction is slated to begin in spring and be completed by the fall.
- The Mountain Home City Council approved plans for a new animal shelter. Construction is slated to begin later this year, financed by an anonymous $600,000 contribution.
- Gordmans in Boise with 100 employees
- Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Boise
- Trader Joe’s in Boise
- Saint Alphonsus Express Care Clinic at Carrington College in Boise
- Starbucks in Nampa
- Axiom in Meridian
- Café Ole in downtown Boise
- Le Café De Paris in Boise
- Brewforia Beer Market and Grind Burger in Eagle, 25 employees
- Rolling in Dough in Boise
Andrew.Townsend@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist (208) 332-3570, ext. 3455
SOUTH CENTRAL IDAHO
Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties
- Idaho’s dairy herd declined more than in any other of the 22 major producing states in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Jan. 1 report showed Idaho’s herd dropping 14,000 to 565,000 head. The nation dropped 13,000 animals from production. The second biggest decline was in Minnesota, where the herd was cut 5,000 to 460,000 at a time when more dairy states were increasing herds due to high prices, lower feed costs in some areas and high export demand. Idaho’s count of licensed dairy herds dropped 15 between 2012 and 2013 to 550. The timing of the count could explain some of the lost herd size. Idaho has been No. 3 milk producer since 2009 trailing California and Wisconsin. The state dropped to No. 4 during 2013. According to Capital Press, the price for milk in March was 33 percent higher from a year earlier rising to record levels, and the surge will likely result in higher prices in the grocery store.
Minidoka – Cassia Counties
- Dot Foods is doubling the size of its dry goods warehouse and plans to expand its refrigerated warehouse in the next three to four years. Dot Foods redistributes more than 100,000 products from 650 food manufacturers and is 85th on the Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies with $5 billion in revenue in 2013.
- The Cassia County Planning & Zoning Commission has approved a conditional-use permit for a new beef slaughter plant. Alan Ward 7 Brothers Meat plans to build a 40,000-square-foot plant on 20 acres southwest of Burley. The company will employ 50 workers initially, processing 300 head of livestock daily with plans to expand to 500 head daily. In February, Dale T. Smith & Sons Meat Packing Co. said it was moving its plant from Draper, Utah, to Jerome, bringing 100 jobs with plans to add another 100 in a year. Idaho has not had a large, commercial-scale meat packing plant since XL Four Star Beef Co. closed its meat packing plant in Nampa in 2011.
- Pacific Ethanol will invest in new equipment at its Burley ethanol plant that also provides wet distiller’s grain to dairies and oil to the biofuel industry, all distributed locally.
- The Portuguese company Frulact and the city of Rupert have reached an agreement on annexing property where a new plant will be built this year. The city will extend its waste water treatment and water lines to accommodate the company. It will also update natural gas and electrical access to the site. Infrastructure improvements will be financed by a combination of grants and tax increment financing because the company will build within the revised Urban Renewal District. The company’s emissions were sufficiently low that the Department of Environmental Quality will not require a permit. The company is scheduled to start production before the end of the year, hiring approximately 100 workers.
- The city of Burley is planning its first transfer station in a campaign to reduce trips to the landfill by its garbage trucks and private individuals. The cost of diesel fuel along with wear and tear on the trucks was considered by the city manager and city council. The landfill is 45 minutes from Burley.
- Idaho Youth Ranch has announced plans to move its ranch operation to southwestern Idaho after 60 years in Rupert. The decision was driven by the fact that 60 percent of the young people and their families are in the Boise metropolitan area. The existing facility also needs major renovation, reinforcing the timing of a move over the next three years. The organization has not announced whether it will sell its Rupert property.
- Neuhoff Family Broadcasting will be airing a Fox Entertainment affiliate channel in the Wood River Valley with the call letters KSVT. The privately owned company intends to lease space and hire a reporter, reclaiming a previously aired channel that had been shut down the past three years.
- Sun Valley reported its local option tax receipts were up 3 percent in November 2013, totaling $42,700. Through the first two months of its fiscal year, receipts were up 4 percent with the tax on liquor the only underperformer.
- Major remodeling is planned at the iconic Sun Valley Lodge. An additional 20,000 square feet will be added in a three story design to create a more luxurious spa. The Lodge Dining Room will be lost in the remodel, but owner Carol Holding, widow of the late Earl Holding, said the formal dining room has lost some of its appeal to guests who enjoy a more casual atmosphere. The Lodge will also lose approximately 48 rooms as the smaller outdated rooms are consolidated to meet demands of families and current trends, reducing total rooms to 100. Five new hotels have been approved for the Sun Valley-Ketchum area over the last seven years, but none has been built. The Lodge will close for the remodel starting in September with a grand reopening in June 2015.
- Syringa Mountain School has found a home in Hailey, at least temporarily, after plans to locate near a subdivision encountered stiff local opposition. The new location is an existing storage facility that should not infringe on a residential area. The charter school will open this fall.
- Chobani plans to add new filling and packaging lines. The equipment cost has not been announced, but adding another 28,000 square feet to the plant will cost $3.5 million. About 10,000 square feet for administrative personnel now housed in modular buildings will cost another $250,000.
- Rock Creek Food Pantry, partnering with the Idaho Food Bank, in Kimberly
- A new Spanish radio station in Jerome – KXTA 99.1 FM owned by Lee Family Broadcasting – serving an area from Burley to Mountain Home
- Genghis Khan offering Mongolian-style stir fry in Twin Falls
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist (208) 735-2500, ext. 3639
Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida & Power counties
- Idaho State University freshmen women, high school girls throughout southeastern Idaho and professional women from the area participated in the Women in the Workforce Conference, learning about occupations in science, technology, engineering, the trades and others areas that are in demand and often provide significant salaries, employee benefits and job satisfaction. Workshops covered criminal forensics, engineering; soft skills to get and keep a job, self-esteem and careers that use applied mathematics. Participants worked with robotic equipment, learned about energy technology and explored the many career options Idaho State offers in science and technology.
Bear Lake County
- Bear Lake Memorial Hospital will be equipping a mammography suite using $25,000 from February’s Snowball Dance fundraiser, which attracted over 400 guests. More than 300 door prizes for the event were donated by local residents and businesses.
- Employers from all over the region participated in the two-day job fair at the Fort Hall Hotel and Events Center sponsored by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes last month. The fair gave the tribes an opportunity to tap into southeastern Idaho’s workforce to meet growing human resource needs.
- While unemployment in Franklin County has consistently been among the lowest in the state, retail businesses seem to be struggling. The closure of the True-Value Hardware store in Preston was another sign. At one time the store, which was once one of the largest retail businesses in Preston, employed 12 people. It had five when it closed because of slumping sales, likely the result of online competition and shoppers going to larger retail outlets in the Logan, Utah, area.
- The planned closure of the J.R. Simplot plant in Aberdeen this spring is expected to have a major economic impact. The plant employs about 250 workers. But the Latino Economic and Development Center in Blackfoot has stepped up to help those workers. The center began offering computer classes in January to help workers and community members enhance their job skills. Besides computer skills, the center is also offering classes in conversational English and Spanish, résumé writing and job interviewing skills. The classes at American Falls High School are open to the community and are free because of a donation from the J.R. Simplot Corp.
Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist (208) 236-6710, ext. 3713
Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison & Teton counties
- Research released by the National Park Service shows visitors spent nearly $900 million in 2012 in the region that includes eastern Idaho, southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming. Eastern Idaho is centrally located between Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument. The research also shows Yellowstone National Park sustained 5,619 jobs in the region while Grand Teton sustained 6,925 jobs.
- Huntington Ingalls Industries and Newport News Shipbuilding recently purchased S.M. Stoller, an environmental remediation contractor with an office in Idaho Falls. Company officials say the merger will give them a better chance at landing cleanup contracts at the Idaho National Laboratory. The INL and waste cleanup contracts held by the Idaho Cleanup Project and CH2M-WG Idaho will expire in 2014 and 2015.
- Cabela’s announced it will open a store in Idaho Falls in spring 2015. Construction of the 42,000-square-foot store will begin this year. Once completed, the store will have 90 full- and part-time employees. It will be the company’s third store in Idaho. The others are in Boise and Post Falls.
- Thompson Creek Metals announced that the Thompson Creek Mine near Challis will suspend mining and milling operations sometime during the fourth quarter of this year. The mine will be placed on “care and maintenance” with only 20 employees remaining. Exact dates for the mine’s closure are not currently set. But some layoffs will occur as early as this summer, according to mine manager Greg Hurless. The mine currently employs around 240.
- The Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce announced it will close after over 50 years. The decision is the result of the chamber’s financial hardship. Chamber President Cindy Olson said how outstanding bills will be paid must still be determined. The chamber was the major force behind Salmon River Days, the yearly Christmas event and the annual marathon run.
- Brigham Young University-Idaho plans to open a new Pathway distance learning site in Rexburg. The university created the Pathway distance learning program, targeting individuals who otherwise would not attend college. No fees, high school diploma or standardized test scores are required to apply. Pathway students take classes for a year to prepare them for college-level courses. Over 7,000 students worldwide are currently enrolled in BYU-I’s Pathway program. Other Idaho sites include Boise with 126 students; Burley with 79 students; Nampa with 71 students and Coeur d’Alene with 58 students.
Will.Jenson@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist (208) 557-2500, ext. 3077