The following is a roundup of regional economic news compiled by the Idaho Department of Labor during April.
Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone counties
- Three of four school district levies in northern Idaho were approved in March. West Bonner School District was the one coming up short. Its $3.5 million one-year levy failed. Passing were the Wallace School District’s $4 million levy for two years, the Kellogg School District’s $5.56 million levy for two years and the Lakeland Joint School District’s $4.8 million-a-year levy for two years.
- Nebraska-based West Corp., which hired about 200 call center employees in Spokane last year, is moving forward with a smaller wave of additional call center hiring. Over the next several months, West Corp. will add 30 employees to its Spokane Valley location. The company currently has about 650 employees in downtown Spokane and 330 in Spokane Valley. A portion of the company’s hiring is seasonal – usually around the holidays.
- Rivercrossing LLC, an affiliate of Liberty Lake-based real estate development company Greenstone Corp., plans to build 282 homes in two new subdivisions. The combined value will be over $50 million in the city’s River District. The homes are likely to range in price from $200,000 to $280,000.
- Sportsman’s Warehouse, the Utah-based national outdoor recreation and sporting goods chain, plans to re-enter the Spokane market with a new North Side store. New Sportsman’s Warehouse stores hire an average of 50 employees.
- A New York company has paid $4 million to purchase the assets of ReliOn Inc. of Spokane, which produces fuel cell systems. The 45 jobs will remain in Spokane. ReliOn originally was a subsidiary of Avista Corp. It was launched in 1995 as Avista Laboratories before spinning off as a privately held startup.
- Federal bank regulators have approved the merger announced last year of Umpqua Bank and Spokane-based Sterling Financial Corp. Umpqua is paying about $1.9 billion in stock for Sterling, the largest financial institution headquartered in Spokane County. Sterling has around 660 area workers and more than 2,600 across the service area, which includes Idaho, Oregon and California. It has 176 branches in those states and Washington. As of Dec. 31 Sterling Financial Corporation had assets of $10.3 billion.
- Rockwood Clinic PS of Spokane plans to open a primary care clinic and has started renovating a 4,800-square-foot space in a strip mall in Spokane Valley.
- The Coeur d’Alene Tribe donated $1.2 million to 52 educational programs in northern Idaho. In 1992, tribal leaders agreed to return 5 percent of the tribe’s net gaming revenues to education as part of a gaming compact with the state. The Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council considered 150 requests totaling more than $4 million. The funds will be used to support a variety of educational efforts including reading, music, arts, science, vocational and GED preparation classes and college scholarship programs. Funds were primarily distributed to organizations in Kootenai and Benewah counties but also to schools as far away as Meridian, Sugar City and Wilder. The latest round of donations brings the tribe’s total contributions to education to $21.4 million. Among those receiving funding were the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Kellogg, Kootenai, Lakeland, Plummer-Worley and St. Maries school districts, Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County, Excel Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho, school backpack programs for weekend meals, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, Kootenai Technical Education Campus, North Idaho College Foundation, NIC Booster Club, St. Vincent de Paul of North Idaho, Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center and TESH.
- Sandpoint-based Unicep Packaging LLC acquired a new manufacturing line for sealed single-dose products with enclosed applicators. Unicep provides packaging and formulation mixing for gels, liquids, lotions and creams for the medical device, over-the-counter, veterinary, cosmetic and personal hygiene markets. The production line packages topical products in disposable containers called SwabDose, which are sealed tubes with built-in swabs. Unicep expects to produce hundreds of millions of SwabDose units annually.
- Blue Room Portraits in Coeur d’Alene
- Golden Corral in Coeur d’Alene with 125 jobs
- Mountain Madness Soap in Coeur d’Alene
Alivia.Metts@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 769-1558, ext. 3486
NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO
Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties
- Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter proclaimed April 2 as Unmanned Aircraft Systems Day in recognition of the first statewide meeting for aerospace companies. AMN Solutions in Lewiston organized the Idaho – Advancing Aviation Expo and UAS Conference in Coeur d’Alene. In addition to aerospace companies and their suppliers, public officials and educators spent time learning about industry growth opportunities. Speakers included experts on 3-D printing, advanced composites and growing commercial applications for unmanned aircraft systems, a marketplace expected to approach $15 billion in five years. Exhibitors provided opportunities for the public to learn more about the individual businesses. Job seekers also attended an associated career fair.
- The Service Corps of Retired Executives, a national organization of individuals who provide advice to small businesses, recently began providing services in north central Idaho. Members of the Mid-Columbia Tri-Cities Chapter will provide free management and marketing consultation. The group regularly meets joins the Clearwater Economic Development Association in Lewiston to meet with business owners. In March, workshops were held in Moscow and Orofino. To schedule a meeting with a SCORE mentor, call the association at (208) 746-0015.
- Clearwater County extended the lease on the county owned Clearwater Valley Medical Center in Orofino after the governor signed legislation making it possible for counties to extend leases for up to 35 years without a public auction. The old limit was 20 years. With a longer period to amortize new projects, the hospital will now be able to undertake construction work. The hospital broke ground on a 20,000-square-foot clinic on April 7 and should be ready for business next March.
- With demand for wood products rising, Tri-Pro Cedar Products recently went from a 40-hour shift to a 60-hour shift at its sawmill near Orofino. The mill began operating in the late 1940s as Konkol Lumber and was purchased in 2007 by the Merritt family, which owns mills in Oldtown near Priest River and Athol north of Coeur d’Alene. The Orofino mill employs about 50.
- Patrons of Joint School District 171 passed both maintenance and operations levies totaling $4.57 million for two years and a plant facilities levy totaling $1 million over 10 years.
- State Hospital North, the 60-bed psychiatric facility in Orofino, plans to make several improvements in the next year or two including the repair of the retaining walls, a new water well and irrigation system, demolition of an obsolete smokestack, addition of a new sign, roof improvements and kitchen upgrades. The hospital budget is $7.5 million a year, down from $10 million before 2008. Like other psychiatric hospitals nationwide, the Orofino facility has reduced the length of the average stay. It provides short-term stabilization for adults during a mental health crisis and returns them to their communities as soon as possible. About 130 people work at the hospital.
Idaho and Lewis Counties
- Voters approved levies for three school districts in March. Highland School District in Craigmont approved a one-year, $499,000 supplemental levy. Kamiah School District got a one-year $650,000 supplemental levy. Nezperce School District secured an 11-year, $400,000 capital improvement bond.
- Latah County commissioners used $7,000 from the county’s fund for rural community development to finance a permit for construction of a new community center for Viola, an unincorporated community north of Moscow. The current center was declared unsafe for moderate to heavy foot traffic two years ago. Construction will cost $281,000. Five acres were donated for the new center, which should break ground in May. The new center will provide more space, a commercial kitchen and better parking.
- Hundreds of high school students from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska participate in the annual Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival every spring. Students meet renowned jazz performers, compete in vocal and instrumental performances and attend concerts and workshops. In addition, hundreds of jazz lovers enjoy the music at the festival, which has been held in Moscow since 1967. It is the largest jazz festival west of the Mississippi and Moscow’s largest tourism event.
- The Palouse Knowledge Corridor will hold a five day “boot camp” for entrepreneurs June 21 to 25 in Moscow and Pullman. Experts in value-added agriculture, animal health and technology and innovation will participate. Created by the University of Idaho and Washington State University, the corridor seeks to foster and attract high-technology companies that are developed by or benefit from work at the two research universities just eight miles apart. Learn more at pkcecamp.com.
- An improving economy, increasing enrollment at Washington State University and exceptionally low vacancy rates have fueled a construction boom in Pullman. Last year, Pullman broke its prior record for the value of new construction. When adjusted for inflation, 2013’s value of $75 million exceeded the 2005 peak by 3 percent. In 2013, the city issued about 300 permits for new apartments, a new $14 million delivery center for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, an $11 million Marriott Residence Inn Hotel and a $3.8 million addition to the Hilltop Inn. It appears construction activity will remain at a high level. Permits for new houses and apartments in the first three months of 2014 were higher than in the first three months of 2013. The university started building a 104,000-square-foot residence hall in March. The new 270-bed dorm with a café, fresh market, recreation area and outdoor courtyard is estimated to cost $40 million and is to be completed in June 2015. It will help accommodate record enrollment the past three years. Crews are also nearing completion on the $61 million football operations building that will house weight facilities, locker rooms, equipment and training rooms, coaches’ offices and a kitchen. Work started in March 2013 and is on schedule for completion in May. A 192-unit apartment complex is being reviewed by the city. Housing permits at 10 so far this year match 2013, but three preliminary subdivision applications have been submitted. The school district passed a $53 million bond last year to modernize Pullman High School and add six new classrooms to Franklin Elementary. In addition, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is planning a new child care center in the Industrial Park. Relay Application Innovation is going to be the first business in the Palouse Business Park development near the hospital, and Sherman Williams and Taco Bell are both opening new stores.
- Voters in the Genesee, Potlatch and Kendrick school districts approved maintenance and operations levies in March. Potlatch’s one-year levy was $1.39 million, $100,000 lower than the current year. Kendrick approved a one-year levy for $825,000, the same as this year’s. It makes up one-third of the district’s core funding. Genesee renewed its one-year $935,000 levy for the third straight year. The levy passed with a 72.7 yes vote in Latah County, where 121 ballots were cast.
- The Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center honored its founder George B. Hatley by naming a recent addition after the founder in March. Established in 1975 by the Appaloosa Horse Club to collect, preserve, study and exhibit objects and information that illustrate the history of the Appaloosa horse, the museum is one of Latah County’s biggest tourist attractions. The museum and the Appaloosa Horse Club are on the/Moscow-Pullman Highway near the state line, offering educational programs for local youth. Together the club and museum employ nearly 30 people.
- In March, the University of Idaho celebrated the completion of the $2.8 million renovation of the 62-year-old Niccolls Building that houses the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. The project included modernizing the foods and child development laboratories. It will allow the university to work with the Idaho State Department of Education and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to carry out the new pulse crop initiative that was included in the farm bill passed by Congress earlier this year.
Nez Perce and Asotin Counties
- Frozen MOTO, founded in Weiser in 2010, moved to Lewiston last year. The company makes building kits that replace the rear wheel of a dirt bike with a track and front wheel with a ski, turning it into a snow bike that is lighter and more nimble than a snowmobile. The kits cost about $5,500 and can be installed with ease on any model dirt bike. Now the company is gaining traction. Last year, it built about 100 kits. This year, it expects to build more than 1,000. Last fall, it signed a deal with a Russian distributor and may add a Japanese distributor this year. Being located near Idaho’s only seaport makes shipping easier.
- Lohman Helicopter in Lewiston appears in a recently released edition of My Ford magazine and soon will be featured in Ford commercials on TV. Ford filmed a Lohman crew spraying weeds in rugged central Idaho. The company uses super-duty trucks to bring its helicopters to remote locations for challenging jobs. Lohman specializes in aerial spraying of crops, timber and rangeland. It also does aerial seeding after fires, sets air conditioners on buildings, puts up power poles, flies salt blocks or fence posts out to remote locations for cattle and surveys game animals and power-line patrols.
- Lewis-Clark State College held a STEM showcase in March where high school students demonstrated their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics learned through workforce training developed by the college. Using a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the college developed a model for STEM training including Solid Works three-dimensional modeling software, which responds to the needs of manufacturers. It’s also providing professional development for high school teachers. Working with the Clearwater Economic Development Association, which conceived the program, and Valley Vision, the college also created mentoring and job shadowing programs with local manufacturers. The school also held a daylong camp for girls to encourage careers in STEM occupations. Students from north central Idaho and southeastern Washington attended workshops ranging from solar engineering and wind energy to video editing and math. The annual camp welcomes kindergarteners to high school seniors.
- Lewis-Clark State College dedicated its business division building in late March after a $1.9 million renovation turned the 102-year-old Fine Arts Building into Thomas Jefferson Hall. Architecture firm Castellaw Kom and general contractor Kenaston Corp., both of Lewiston, preserved the building’s historic feel while updating office spaces and classrooms with modern technology.
- Voters in the Culdesac School District approved a two-year, $250,000 supplemental levy on March 12.
- Happy Bento, a restaurant serving Japanese and other Asian cuisine including sushi, in Kamiah.
- Imprint Graphics, a store offering personalization by an embroidery machine and selling gift items, in Grangeville.
- Northwest Handmade Goods in downtown Lewiston, selling work by skilled crafts people in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist
(208) 799-5000, ext. 3984
Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley & Washington counties
- Verizon Wireless announced plans to hire 25 more full-time and part-time workers for its various Treasure Valley stores.
- White Water Surgery Group began work on its future headquarters in March in Boise’s West End. The company plans to only occupy 8,000 square feet of the 21,000-square-foot building and lease the rest as office space.
- Albertsons will merge with Safeway later this year. The $9 billion deal will create the second largest grocer in the country. No word yet on how the merger will effect employment levels at Albertsons corporate offices in Boise.
- Credit Suisse gained control of most of the failed Tamarack Resort’s assets in March. Using $80 million in credit bids, the bank gained various properties at the resort including the ski area.
- Pioneer Federal Credit Union will open its first branch in Boise later this year. The Mountain Home-based credit union has 12 branches in southern Idaho.
- Boise U.S. Employees Federal Credit Union approved a plan to merge with Icon Credit Union. Boise U.S will adopt Icon’s name and the merger takes effect June 1.
- The first phase of the Idaho Highway 16 extension project should be completed this summer. The $39 million dollar project will connect State Street to Chinden Boulevard. Eventually the Transportation Department would like to extend Highway 16 to Interstate 84.
- Rafanelli & Nahas has purchased the Key Financial Center building and parking garage in downtown Boise. The Boise-based developer plans to remodel the entry way and parking garage and move its offices there from southeastern Boise.
- Ferguson Technologies and Agilefront are merging into Royal Jay. The combined technology company will specialize in custom product and application development.
- Boise-based ECCO group is buying Public Safety Equipment Group of England. Both companies specialize in lighting for emergency vehicles.
- Capital Educators Credit Union will break ground on a new Meridian branch. Construction is planned to be completed this fall.
- U.S. Ecology of Boise is buying the environmental services and waste management company, The Environmental Quality Co. The $465 million stock deal is expected to be completed by the third quarter, pending regulatory approval.
- The University of Idaho will rebuild and expand its McCall Field Campus for $40 million. The university will tear down all but one of the main buildings on campus. The project will take up to 15 years. Funds would be donated.
- Gordman’s third Idaho store in Boise
- Window Genie of Boise, a window cleaning and tinting franchise
- Lit & Company, a candle store in Boise
- Idaho Bourbon Distillery in Boise
- Charros, a Mexican restaurant in Homedale
- Trinity Home Care and Resources in Fruitland
- IT’SUGAR, a candy and gift store in Meridian
- Sunwest Bank in downtown Boise
- ZoomCare in Meridian and Boise
- Guardian College 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
- The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced Sun Valley Resort will host the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships in 2016 and 2018. It will be the first time in 65 years that the Idaho resort has hosted the national championships.
- The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation hosted the International Ski Federation Western Region Spring Series of alpine racing. The race’s corporate sponsor was Bentley Motors. About 240 world-class athletes hit the slopes in Sun Valley.
- Jason Miller, executive director of Mountain Rides in Ketchum was awarded two 2014 I-way Leadership awards from the Community Transportation Association of Idaho and the Idaho Transportation Department, Division of Transportation Performance. According to CTAI, his was instrumental in consolidating four different transportation organizations into one multi-modal agency, acquiring and placing 20 new bus shelters, organizing a new vanpool program that has grown to the second largest in the state, securing grants resulting in $3.3 million in new capital funding and $2.4 million in operating funding, increasing ridership by 51 percent, and establishing the first bike share program in the state.
- Friedman Memorial Airport will use a $18 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to move and repave some runways, reconfigure and expand the terminal, and construct new hangars demolished for new runways. This renovation should be completed by the summer of 2015. The airport will match about $1.5 million, through funds raised from an additional ticket charge of $4.50. Other projects are in planning and design stage continuing through the second half of 2015, with another $16 million to be released by the FAA.
- Cox Communication submitted remodeling plans for its transmission building in the Warm Springs Industrial Park. The company plans to remove satellite dishes from the rooftop, move parking spots to flow better with the bike and pedestrian route and enhance curb appeal.
Minidoka and Cassia Counties
- Burley Western Stockmen’s, an animal feed and farm implement store, will close after 70 years in business. J.R. Simplot Co., long-time owner, cited lack of efficiency as a factor in the closure, which idles eight workers.
- Aguacaliente will start construction of a $150 million geothermal energy plant in Malta that will put out 25 megawatts of electricity in 2016. The plant will be on the Walker Ranch near the existing U.S. Geothermal plant, originally built in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Energy. Both plants will draw geothermal water from the Raft River Aquifer, a pool up to 6,000 feet underground with temperatures ranging from 275 degrees to 300 degrees. The company’s test wells found fractures in the surface that provide access to the water. Aguacaliente plans to drill 18 wells – half for reinjecting used water back into the aquifer. The company estimates 800 jobs will be created during construction of the plant. Manufacturing the equipment will take place at locations inside and outside Idaho. Workers running the plant must have electrical, water chemistry, mechanical and technical skills.
Twin Falls County
- A group of Ketchum-based investors plans to open a $10 million multilevel care center in Twin Falls in late 2015. TanaBell Health Services of Chubbuck will operate the center, which will offer cottages and patio homes, assisted living apartments and dedicated care for customers with higher needs like Alzheimer’s, dementia and other physical limitations. TanaBell will hire about 50 employees including housekeepers, cooks, servers, maintenance and repair workers, certified nursing assistants and a limited number of registered and licensed practical nurses. The center will not accept Medicare or Medicaid patients.
- Chobani announced it is exporting yogurt to Malaysia, Singapore and Panama sending product from its plants in Twin Falls and New Berlin, N.Y. Singapore is the fifth largest importer of Idaho goods at $433 million in 2013 with a population of approximately 5.4 million. Malaysia with a population of 30 million, is 8th importing $242 million from Idaho, while Panama is almost double the size of Idaho at 3.7 million and imported $4.3 million in 2013. Idaho is ranked 40th in export values while the state of New York is third in the nation.
- The College of Southern Idaho Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition to offset declining enrollment. The cost per credit hour will increase from $110 to $115, raising approximately $500,000 to cover 80 percent of the budget shortfall anticipated next fall.
- Rustic Pear, a downtown salon in Twin Falls
- Maverik Convenience store and gas station in Twin Falls.
- Culver’s, a fast food restaurant, opening May 12
- Kimberly’s River Coffee has changed its name to Scoot’s Brew HaHa and moved to Kimberly’s Red Cap Corner, carrying locally manufactured items from Chobani, Clif Bar and the Twin Beans Coffee Co.
- The Bellevue Country Store closed to undergo a major remodel reopening midsummer.
- Crossroads Point Business Center in Jerome has three new businesses, two in the construction stage while a third will start construction this summer. Rush Truck Center is constructing a facility to service International trucks. Later this year, the center will move into a 40,000-square-foot building, hiring 35 to 40 workers.
- Intermountain Gas Company is building an office and shop, relocating from their existing office in Twin Falls. There will be approximately 25 employees working out of this space.
- Animal Health International has plans to build a distribution center for food animal and companion this summer.
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500, ext. 3639
Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida & Power counties
- Pocatello will lose over 400 jobs in the coming weeks due to the closure of the Heinz processing plant. To refocus on economic development efforts, the city will more intensely market its airport business park to potential new employers. Officials believe the airport business park has a great deal of economic development potential with its access to air transportation and the interstate highway. Additional infrastructure is likely needed for the 700-acre site that Airport Manager David Allen said is well suited for industrial use, distribution, even office and commercial retail. Mayor Brian Blad estimates it will take about $10 million to bring companies and industry into the airport. According to city officials, one company has already committed to the park if the upgrades are made.
- Idaho State University’s Accelerator Center and Michigan-based Niowave Inc. received three Small Business Innovation Research grants to create new, compact accelerators for commercial use. Niowave builds superconducting electron accelerators, using the element Niobium to solve challenges in health care, national security and energy development. It uses superconductivity to efficiently accelerate electrons to high velocity where the electrons can then be used as a tool for a number of purposes. Howard Grimes, Idaho State vice president for research and economic development, said partnership such as the one with Niowave allows continuity between research and economic development that could lead to investment-grade opportunities.
- Students from Idaho State University’s Society of Physics held court with some of Idaho’s young people at Pine Ridge Mall in Chubbuck recently to talk about physics. Their goals were to fuel curiosity about science and encourage careers in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. The event included various displays including one that allowed young people to experiment with positive harmless static electricity and another using liquid oxygen to freeze ice cream. The Society of Physics plans to take its demonstrations to classrooms throughout eastern Idaho.
Bear Lake County
- Bear Lake Memorial Hospital broke ground on a new wing in April. It will include 11 new patient rooms, two labor-delivery rooms, an intensive care unit and a coronary care unit. The expansion has been planned for five years. Most of the funding came from employee donations totaling $200,000 and a $500,000 donation from Liz and Ted Schmidt. The expansion should be completed in fall 2015.
- J.R. Simplot Co.’s Aberdeen processing plant will close April 30. The plant is one of three in Idaho being closed by Simplot in favor of a more automated plant being completed in Caldwell. The Aberdeen plant employed more than 250 workers.
Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 236-6710, ext. 3713
Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison & Teton counties
- The ARTitorium in downtown Idaho Falls is on schedule for a late-summer opening. The original building was constructed in the 1930s and is currently being remodeled to meet technology needs. The ARTitorium will be a digital museum for children as they create art in a variety of mediums like recording audio, film and animation.
- Battelle Energy Alliance received a five-year extension on its contract to manage the Idaho National Laboratory. The new contact allows Battelle to continue operations management through Sept. 30, 2019. Battelle Energy Alliance is composed of Battelle Memorial Institute, URS Corp., The Babcock & Wilcox Co., Electric Power Research Institute, National University Consortium and the Idaho University Consortium.
- A site plan was filed for Home2 Suites in Idaho Falls. Home2 Suites is a Hilton brand name. The hotel is slated for construction in the Snake River Landing development and will cover 94,425 square feet with parking for 112 vehicles.
- Kmart announced the closure of its Rexburg location. The store currently employs 63 – mostly part-time workers. The closure is expected to take place in mid-July. The company hopes to transfer some of the employees affected by the closure to other Kmart and Sears locations in the area.
Bob.Fick@labor.idaho.gov, communications manager
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3628