This March edition of “Around Idaho” was postponed due to unexpected delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article is being published to provide a record of the economic climate across the state during March 2020.
Information provided in these news updates is from professional sources, news releases, weekly and daily newspapers, television and other media.
NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone Counties
- Effective Monday, March 23, all restaurants and bars in Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Hayden were closed to dine-in customers for two weeks to improve social distancing measures in response to COVID-19. Drive-thru and pickup service is still allowed. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
- The Coeur d’Alene Public Library announced an indefinite closure due to COVID 19 on March 16. On March 21 they announced the suspension of curbside book pickup, out of concern that it was encouraging people to gather outside the library. Patrons were instructed to hold on to items currently on loan until the library reopens. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
- Mountain West Bank has closed the lobbies in all its Idaho facilities. Drive thru banking service will still be available. (Source: Coeur d’Alene Press)
- Area schools are closed to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Public school districts are closed until conditions improve, according to the State Board of Education criteria. CDA Charter Academy and North Idaho STEM Charter Academy have both transitioned completely to online learning. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
- Bi-Mart, Rathdrum
- Doggy Style Pet Grooming, Coeur d’Alene
Sam.Wolkenhauer@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 457-8789 ext. 4451
NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce Counties
In the last half of March, COVID-19 destroyed hundreds of jobs and posed enormous challenges for businesses throughout north central Idaho.
- Many restaurants closed, while others cut the hours worked by their employees, as demand fell. Others switched to providing delivery or take-out services.
- An enormous decrease in tourists also hurt hotels and recreation services.
- The University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College sent their students back to their hometowns, causing severe distress for businesses in the surrounding communities.
- Retail stores offering groceries and necessities were extremely busy, while other retail stores saw tremendous declines in customers, revenue and hours of work.
- As some businesses restricted access to their properties to their own employees, their contractors lost contracts and were forced to lay off employees.
- Some businesses that provide services requiring close physical contact such as dentists, beauty salons and barber shops, shut down for a number of weeks.
- With a global recession in the headlights, some businesses anticipated decreased demand and falling prices for their products and laid off workers.
- The job losses and the massive drop in the stock market will depress spending by consumers for months to come.
Nez Perce Tribe
- The Nez Perce Tribe closed its casinos and inn in Lewiston and Kamiah March 19 because of concerns over potential transmission of COVID-19. The closure will last until at least through April. The Lewiston casino resort is the largest tourism facility in the Lewiston-Clarkston area. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Patrons of the Orofino School District in the March election approved a two-year supplemental levy of about $2.69 million annually. Source: Lewiston Tribune
Idaho and Lewis Counties
- Concerns about COVID-19 led the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood to close its museum, bed and breakfast and Spirit Center to visitors for eight weeks starting March 17. Source: Idaho County Free Press
- The Kamiah School District will be able to reopen its middle school building after voters approved a two-year supplemental levy in the March election. The levy is expected to raise $647,000 each year. After a levy failed last year, the district closed the middle school to save money, leading to overcrowding in the elementary and high school buildings. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Voters in the Highland Joint School District, based in Craigmont, approved a one-year supplemental levy of $499,000 for maintenance and operations. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- In response to the threat of coronavirus, the University of Idaho switched to online coursework March 23, so thousands of students remained in their hometowns after spring break ended. University officials encouraged students to stay home. They also cancelled all conferences and meetings, including parents’ weekend and commencement. University-related events are the primary drivers of local tourism activity. Students are among the most active consumers in Moscow, and local restaurants, retail stores and service operations have experienced large drops in revenue and employment. The virtual closure of Washington State University — whose students often shop and play in Moscow — has further reduced retail and service activity in Moscow. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- New St. Andrews College, a small Christian liberal arts college in downtown Moscow, also moved to online instruction in late March. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport is closer to offering flights to Denver because of a $780,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. United Airline flights between Denver and Pullman may begin as early as fall 2021. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- Emsi’s new four-story, 70,000-square-foot building under construction on the north side of Moscow would not have been possible without federal support. The federal program helped keep Emsi’s expansion in Moscow, instead of moving to a metropolitan city outside Idaho. Emsi, a labor market analytics firm, currently employs more than 150 people in downtown Moscow. Its new headquarters, expected to open in October, will be able to accommodate up to 500. Emsi officials predict the company will employ 500 in about six years. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- Moscow’s public bus system will add a third fixed route this fall on the southeast side of Moscow if its federal grant is approved. The new route would cover an area with several new housing developments. Sustainable Moscow Area Regional Transportation, known as SMART, hopes to start the route at the beginning of October. The new route would operate in the same hours as the existing routes — from 6:40 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8:10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. SMART also offers dial-a-ride service, which primarily serves the elderly and people with disabilities who can schedule an appointment to be picked up and dropped off anywhere in Moscow. Altogether, SMART provided transportation for 155,000 riders in 2017, 174,000 in 2018 and 194,000 in 2019. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, based in Pullman, opened a $20 million facility for electric power research development and manufacturing near Purdue University in Indiana. The facility currently employs 35, but could eventually employ up to 300. Most of its employees came from SEL’s headquarter or its Lewiston plant. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News’
- In three school district — Genesee, Kendrick and Potlatch — voters approved one-year supplemental levies in March. Source: Lewiston Tribune
Nez Perce and Asotin, Washington, Counties
- Gov. Brad Little signed legislation in March authorizing Lewis-Clark State College to offer graduate programs and degrees with approval from the State Board of Education. That will help LCSC grow strategically and meet industry needs for years to come. The first graduate program the school plans to offer is for nursing. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Things have been looking up for Clearwater Paper in recent months. The corporation reported a net income of $2 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, posting its highest earnings in two years. “We had a strong finish to 2019 due to lower input pulp and fiber costs in the fourth quarter, and lower maintenance costs and expense timing,” said President and CEO Linda K. Massman. As a toilet paper shortage occurred as American consumers stocked up, Clearwater Paper’s tissue operations, including the one in Lewiston, became even busier. The next few months are likely to remain busy for its tissue division. With the U.S. on the brink of or already in a recession, demand for the company’s toilet paper is expected to grow, since shoppers start buying fewer name-brand products and more of the store-brand products made by Clearwater Paper. One way the company has motivated its 1,300 Lewiston employees to work hard to meet demand, is by offering them a novel bonus — 36 rolls of toilet paper each and up to 24 rolls of paper towels. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- One product many Americans stocked up on during the early days of the coronavirus crisis was ammunition. That’s created a surge in activity at Vista Outdoor’s ammunition plants in Lewiston, where more than 1,000 people work. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport began a $7 million reconstruction of one of two runways in March. The runway’s surface has deteriorated so much that it was rated as poor, one category above failure, which would require a closure. As the airport improves its infrastructure, it is expanding services for passengers and tenants. Shooting Star will open in the airport terminal in June, offering gifts and refreshments. Another new business, I-Wash Aircraft Detailing, will serve owners of private aircraft. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Washington Trust Bank moved a branch in March that had been temporarily located in a shopping complex on Thain Road into a new building on 21st Street in Lewiston. The branch employs five people, Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Tri-State Memorial Hospital in Clarkston this March closed the clinics it opened in Lewiston and Moscow less than a year ago. There were fewer patients than the hospital had projected. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- Voters in the March election approved a two-year supplemental levy of $250,000 annually for the Culdesac School District. Source: Lewiston Tribune
- The Sears Hometown store at Eastside Marketplace in Moscow will close at an unspecified time later this year. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
- Washington Trust Bank opened a branch on Troy Road in Moscow in March.
Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984
SOUTHWESTERN IDAHO – Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley & Washington Counties
- Treefort Music Fest, which was scheduled to take place March 25-29, was rescheduled for Sept. 23-27 due to concerns about the coronavirus. The announcement was made on March 11 when there still had not been any confirmed cases in Idaho. Source: Idaho Press
- Ada County cancelled all events at Expo Idaho through April 30 and restricted its employees from non-essential work travel for the next two months. The decision was made due to the rising number of COVID-19 in neighboring states. At that time, Ada County said it would take a case-by-case look at events planned for Barber Park’s Education and Event Center through May 31. Source: Idaho Press
- Concordia University School of Law in downtown Boise moved to holding online classes only through the spring semester and spring commencement has been postponed. No date has been determined. The law school has 190 students and 45 employees. The school’s library services will be available digitally, but all meetings, events and gatherings that were scheduled will be postponed, cancelled or moved online. The move was in response to COVID-19. Source: Idaho Press
- As concerns about coronavirus began to have a major impact in the last half of March, traffic from southern Idaho to northern Idaho and tourism in the greater McCall area dropped steeply. The Tamarack Ski Resort, its restaurants, lodging, Canoe Grill, Seven Devils Pub, closed March 17 in response to the coronavirus. The Village Market and Clearwater Coffee remained open for staff, homeowners and the community. The resort also cancelled all events scheduled for late March and early April. Construction of The Village at Tamarack and the commercial spaces in the plaza will continue through the spring and summer Source: McCall Star-News
- Meadows Valley School District based in New Meadows, closed March 18. The district has about 155 students 28 teachers and other staffers. Source: McCall Star-News
- West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell began screening visitors and patients for the COVID-19 virus and requested people with non-emergency illnesses visit a clinic and not the hospital. This protocol is used during all heavy flu outbreaks. The screening begin around March 11 prior to any known cases in Idaho. Source: Idaho Press
- In late March, coronavirus fears began to reduce jobs and business incomes in Valley County. The ski resorts at Brundage Mountain and Tamarack shut down on the evening of March 17, putting ski resort workers and employees of McCall restaurants, lodging and recreation business out of work. McCall, which normally invites visitors, announced that visitors should not come there because of limited services available at St. Luke’s McCall and Cascade Medical and limited EMS transport services. About 30 percent of the jobs in Valley County are in the leisure and hospitality sector-, which includes lodging, restaurants, bars and recreation. The McCall-Donnelly School District closed March 17, affecting 1,350 students and about 165 teachers and other district employees. On April 3, the school may reopen, or it may start offering classes on-line, depending on the course of the outbreak. Source: McCall Star-News; Inland 360
General economic updates
- Boise Parks and Recreation Department plans for two new city parks. A downtown park will be created at the corner of 11th and Bannock streets. The partners in the development are the Capital City Development Corporation, the city of Boise and Rafanelli & Nahas. Rafanelli & Nahas hold a 100-year lease on the property where the park will be built. The second park will be built just west of Surprise Valley on a 24-acre parcel that was donated to the city in 1995. Construction on the parks will begin this summer. Source: Idaho Business Review
- Concordia University School of Law in Boise was acquired by Concordia University St. Paul a week after Concordia University in Portland announced it was closing its schools, which included the Boise campus.
- Five projects will be adding more than 700 apartments in downtown Boise. The Vanguard at Sixth and Front streets will have 75 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The Cartee Apartments broke ground in October on the eight-story apartment building at Fourth and Broad streets should be completed in two years. It will have one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Three of the eight floors will be dedicated to a 170-space parking garage. Third & Myrtle Apartments will offer 173 apartments with studios and one- and two-bedroom units. This complex will include parking for 400 vehicles and 192 bicycles. Anticipated opening is July 2021. Boise Myrtle Apartments are under construction across from WinCo should be completed in 2022. The building will have 249 apartments from studios to four-bedroom units. Source: Idaho Statesman
- Valor Global acquired Pro Service Boise and plans to create 1,000 new jobs and invest more than $44 million in the Meridian area over the next five years. Valor provides outsourced customer care services and solutions to for brands around the world. The acquisition allows the Valor to service customers globally from multiple locations in Idaho, Arizona, Philippines and Costa Rica. Source: KIVI
- Bella Brewing in Garden City is now Loose Screw Beer Co., a craft beer brewery Source: BoiseDev
- On March 6, Albertsons announced it would go pubic on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, as an IPO, would be a so-called “controlled company,” which would give more than 50 percent voting control to a portion of its current owners. Albertsons maintains its primary headquarters in Boise and employs hundreds of workers in finance, administration, marketing and other roles. It employs more than 2,500 Idahoans. Source: BoiseDev & Idaho Press
- Life’s Kitchen, the nonprofit that helps young adults who face barriers learn culinary skills, will move to the former Marie Callendar’s restaurant on Fairview Avenue in Boise. Currently it is located on Capitol Boulevard and hosts an open-to-the-public café. The organization helps teens get graduation equivalency diplomas, as well as mentorship and job placement. KIVI reported that the new Life’s Kitchen would open in the fall. Source: BoiseDev
- Voters in the Council School District approved a two-year, $170,000 supplemental levy in the March election. Source: Idaho Education News
- Saint Alphonsus Health System plans to build an outpatient clinic in Caldwell. The construction should be completed in 2022. The outpatient services will include primary care, urgent care and specialty services. Source: Idaho Press
- Amazon crews are converting the roundabout at Franklin and Star Roads into an intersection with a traffic signal. Work will begin in March and is expected to continue through early July. Experts predict when the fulfillment center opens nearly 7,000 vehicle trips per day would be generated during its peak season. Source: Idaho Press
- Supplemental levies were passed in three of the four school districts in Canyon County. Nampa’s two-year, $25.79 million levy passed with 57 percent support. The money will go to teachers and staffing, classroom curriculum and technology, and facilities upgrades. The two-year $9 million levy for Vallivue passed with 53 percent support. The district’s big ticket items included extracurricular programs, textbooks, curricular materials and classroom supplies. Caldwell’s two-year $8.2 million levy passed with 52 percent support. The money will be used for extracurricular programs, advanced placement courses and school resource officers. The supplemental levy for the Middleton school district failed with only a 44 percent yes vote. Source: Idaho Education News
- Mountain Homes City Council has approved theannexation of nearly 400 acres of land along the Mountain Home rail spur, and approved the land for industrial use. Last year, the city negotiated to acquire 4 miles of unused railway formerly owned by the Air Force base to take advantage of its connection with the Union Pacific Railroad. Source: Idaho Statesman
- The Emmett School District is piloting a Kindergarten Readiness Program next year when they register in the spring. The screener will assess the child’s age-appropriate, early-learning skill level. Every child who participates will receive a backpack with a toolkit of materials, activities and lessons that parents can use with their children 15-20 minutes a day over the spring/summer to reinforce skills such as identifying shapes, colors, number and counting to 10. The children will receive an early learning reading and language arts program adapted from the Lee Pesky Learning Center that was developed in part by Cindy Roberts, the Emmett director of curriculum. Source: Messenger Index
- Valor Health’s Primary Care Clinic began offering integrated behavioral health services that focus on behavioral change. These services are offered in primary care clinics to decrease barriers for patients so they get the care they need Valor Health and Cornerstone Whole Healthcare were awarded Cambia Health Foundation Healthy People Healthy Communities Award. The grant focuses on developing a model to better serve marginalized patients in rural communities. Source: Messenger Index
- Cascade, a city of 1,000 people 27 miles south of McCall, submitted an application to HGTV in in March in a bid for a complete makeover. Competing towns must have populations less than 40,000, historic or unique architecture and a classic Main Street in need of revitalization. The winning town will get a facelift on a six-episode series set to air in 2021 called “Home Town Takeover.” View the application video at com/watch?v=YhfHWZpi1Rc. Source: McCall Star-News
- McCall-Donnelly School District is projecting a decrease of 109 students for the 2020-21 school year, the first decrease since 2011. The school district’s current enrollment of 1,314 students is an all-time high. The district partially based its projection on a drop in the birth rate a few years ago that is reducing the number of kids entering school and those who are graduating. The district currently has 87 seniors enrolled and projects only 70 incoming kindergartners. The birth rate five years ago was the lowest since 2001. The other reason for the projected decrease are the efforts to open the McCall Community School, a public charter school. Source: McCall Star-News
- While Valley County’s population grew 11 percent between 2010 and 2018, children under 15 years old grew only 3 percent. During that period, the population 65 years and over grew 67 percent. The number of children under 5 years old fell 1 percent from 512 to 507, while children 10 to 14 years grew 5 percent from 528 to 555. Source: Census data analyzed by Idaho Department of Labor
- The median price of a home sold in the McCall area was about $406,000 in 2019, according to the Mountain Central Association of Realtors. That was 9 percent higher than $371,000 in 2018. By comparison, home prices in Ada County, which includes Boise, hit a new record high median of $363,000 in January, according to Boise Regional Realtors. In the Donnelly area, which includes Tamarack Resort, the median price of a home sold was about $322,000 last year, up 16 percent from $278,000 in 2018. In Cascade, the median home sales price was about $267,000 in 2019, 72 percent higher than $155,000 two years earlier. Source: McCall Star-News
- A total of 483 homes were sold in 2019 in the region monitored by the Mountain Central Association of Realtors. That is about 12 percent fewer than the 548 homes sold in 2018 and just under the 490 homes sold in the region in 2017. The realtors’ board said the reason for the sales decline was a lack of inventory. There were plenty of eager buyers, but too few houses available for sale. Source: McCall Star-News
- Building permits issued by McCall surged in 2019. The city approved 290 building permits in 2019, compared to 248 in 2018. The value of those permits increased 72 percent from $49 million in 2018 to $84 million in 2019. That is the highest number seen since the banner year of 2005. The 2019 values were buoyed by several large commercial projects, including about $26 million associated with the expansion of St. Luke’s McCall and $3.7 million for a 39-unit storage unit condominium. The city issued permits for 78 single-family homes and 11 multi-family developments last year. Of the 44 commercial permits in 2019, nine were for new businesses and 35 were for remodels or additions to existing businesses. Source: McCall Star-News
- The city of Cascade issued about the same number of permits granted last year as the year before. Permits issued in 2019 included four homes, three remodels, three additions and five manufactured homes. Building permits issued by the city of Donnelly rose from three in 2018 to five in 2019. All of the permits in 2018 were for commercial projects, while all of the permits for 2019 were for residential projects. Commercial projects included a cell tower west of Idaho 55 on the north end of town, an outdoor pavilion at Donnelly Elementary School and a new well house for the city’s water system. Source: McCall Star-News
- The largest increases in permits issued by Valley County in 2019 came from commercial developments, with 27 issued in 2019 compared to eight in 2018. Permits for new homes increased from 81 to 90, while permits for manufactured homes increased from 15 new in 2018 to 18 new in 2019. The permits were issued in areas outside of the city limits of McCall, Cascade and Donnelly, but not in the McCall Area of Impact, where the City of McCall issues building permits. The increased value from all permits issued in 2019 year was about $78 million, the most in a single year since the $99 million that was added in 2006. Source: McCall Star-News
- Weiser School District’s supplemental levy request for $350,000 per year for two years received voter approval in the March election. Source: KTVB
- Source: Weiser American Signal
- SALT by Pepper opened in early March 5 in the Owyhee building in downtown Boise. It is a high-end contemporary women’s fashion boutique.
- Clean Juice, the first and only USDA-certified organic juice bar in the United States, opened at The Village at Meridian.
- Modern Sounds Vinyl & Music opened in the Vista Plaza in Boise.
- Maverik, the convenience store chain, has opened a new store on West Fairview Avenue in Boise.
- Good Burger opened its newest restaurant on State Street in Boise. This is the seventh Good Burger in the chain.
- Shawn and Hallie Tierney opened their second Taziki’s in the Gibson Building in downtown Boise. The first Taziki’s opened in Eagle in May 2018.
- VetIQ, a subsidiary of Eagle-based PetIQ, opened in the Walmart Supercenter on Fairview in Boise. The new center offers preventive veterinary and wellness services for cats and dogs.
- Dennis Dillon RV, Marine & Powersports opened on Targee Street off Interstate 84 in Boise.
- Ashwood Recovery, a clinic that specializes in treating addiction and mental health issues, opened a new facility to provide day treatment for teens ages 12 to 17 in Nampa.
- Meridian’s Fire Station No. 6 on West Overland Road opened in March. The station with one fire engine and a battalion chief. It is the first station in south Meridian.
- Tiffanee’s Small Batch Bakery opened in Weiser, serving breakfast. It is located inside Ruszoni’s Pizzeria, but is operated as a separate business.
- Doug’s Burger Den closed 27 years to the day when it opened. The restaurant served breakfast and lunch to Eagle residents.
- Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom in Boise’s historic Union Block building closed in March. The Old Chicago at Boise Towne Square Mall will remain open.
- After 10 years in downtown Boise, Ben & Jerry’s closed.
Janell.Hyer@labor.idaho.gov, research analyst, senior
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 332-3570 ext 3914
SOUTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties
COVID-19 Update for South Central Idaho as of late March 2020
- Confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Idaho jumped from an initial case on Friday, March 13 to 23 cases on Thursday, March 19 then 47 on Monday, March 23. Blaine County has 21 confirmed cases, the most statewide, while Twin Falls County is the only other county in south central Idaho with a confirmed case. Source: http://coronavirus.idaho.gov/
- Idaho Department of Health & Welfare issued a ‘shelter-in-place’ order when the state cases doubled primarily in Blaine County. Shelter in place indicates that residents of Blaine County must stay home except for essential activities or essential work services. While going to the grocery store or to pick up food at a delivery/pickup restaurant is allowed, people must maintain the six-foot distance. Similar bubble with recreating outdoors, which is encouraged in this mountain town that thrives on the outdoors year-round. Parks have been closed in the area. Most restaurants are offering pick-up to-go service or are closed until further notice. Source: Times-News
- Neil Bradshaw, Mayor of Ketchum, and Peter Hendricks, Mayor of Sun Valley, composed a joint letter to Governor Brad Little on Sunday, March 22. The two communicated that their hospitals are already feeling the pinch –there are more individuals with symptoms than the 21 confirmed cases. Blaine County has a higher average age and many travelers among its populace. In order the curb the spread that is already highly concentrated in Blaine County, the mayors requested additional resources in general but particularly for additional testing capacity and expedited results. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
- Twin Falls City and County declared a States of Emergency in response to the threat of COVID-19 on March 23rd. Source: Times-News
- Secondary and postsecondary educational institutions have mostly moved to online delivery of curriculum. The timing of spring break provided a planned cushion of time with most institutions adding a week or two onto the calendared event. Some school districts have a ‘to be determined’ status on websites to allow time for school boards and administration to decide how best to deliver educational services when extended breaks expire. Schools in the region include College of Southern Idaho and almost 30 public school districts. Sporting events, testing and graduations are canceled until further notice. However, breakfast and lunch are prepared by school staff and distributed in varying methods across the school districts to those students depending on this source for meals. Source: Times-News, Idaho Department of Education [see spreadsheet]
- Hailey, Ketchum and Twin Falls have closed its offices and recreational facilities to the public. Municipal and county services have been disrupted including the closing of libraries, city pools, recreation centers, senior centers, YMCAs, city hall and DMV offices. Some local government services can be accessed online, such as paying utility bills and applying for jobs. Source: Idaho Mountain Express/Times-News
- Most ski resorts, with about a month remaining of skiing season and spring break crowds, opted to close down operations early to curtail spread of the COVID-19. This includes Sun Valley Resort, Pomerelle Mountain and Magic Mountain. This impacts an estimated 600-900 seasonal jobs, the lion’s share in Blaine with ski hills also in County Camas, Cassia, and Twin Falls counties.
- Blaine County has established a drive-through screening and testing station.
- The Sun Valley Film Festival was canceled this year due to COVID-19.
- Argyros Performing Arts Center in Blaine County canceled imminent events that included Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal. It will close its doors for the remainder of March. It is Ketchum’s newest arts venue opening in 2019.
- Gordman’s planned a grand opening in Burley, in collaboration with the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce, only to postpone its opening due to COVID-19. Source: Times-News
- The Social Security Administration offices across the country are closed to the public due to the age and vulnerability of those they serve — most are over 60 years old and have a higher likelihood of contracting and then spiraling into respiratory failure with COVID-19. Twin Falls has an office that going forward will offer customer service by phone, while also directing recipients to its website https://www.ssa.gov/. Source: Times-News
- Magic Valley Cinema 13 in Twin Falls, Century Stadium 5 and Burley Theatre have all closed temporarily due to health concerns for employees and moviegoers. Source: company websites
All but one of the eight school districts asked voters to approve supplemental levies while one is asking for a plant levy.
- Ketchum was the venue for a Farmer-Buyer Meet and Greet organized by the Local Food Alliance and the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. Local food producers networked with chefs, buyers and food service managers. Some of the farms attending were: Harmony Hens in Twin Falls County, producing free range eggs; Red Star Ranch of Hazelton raising beef cattle, pigs and chickens in an anti-biotic, no hormone, free-range environment; Castle Rock Ranch south of Bellevue, which is starting its bison production this year; Tubbs Berry Farms of Twin Falls selling garlic seeds and pitching its Bee Day 2020 in April — a tradeshow for “wannabe” beekeepers; and the Itty Bitty Farms of Carey, promoting its organic produce to be sold on Main Street in Carey throughout the summer. Source: Times-News
- Hailey will ask its voters May 19 to extend the life of its local option tax (LOT) that started back in 2006 bringing in about $6 million to the city coffers. Almost $600,000 was collected last year. The ballot will extend its sunset clause from 2030 from 2050. Current Idaho legislation only allows resort towns with populations of less than 10,000 the opportunity to impose a LOT. Hailey’s population for 2018 is 8,501 meaning the next two years would need to see aggregated growth of almost 18 percent. This vote is a safety net to ensure the added revenue from tourism is sustained into the future. The measure will need 60 percent approval from those voting. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
- Blaine County School District Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes announced she will finish out the next academic year, resigning in 2021. The superintendent has been in the middle of some contentious disagreements, but still is a strong advocate of education in Blaine County since 2014. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
- Carey Planning and Zoning approved a preliminary plat for a 35-unit subdivision, offering affordable new construction options. Its plan includes both single-family homes and duplexes, possibly for rent, to be called Silver Pine subdivision. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
- Baldy Mountain will have a new ski lift for next year’s ski season. A new Cold Springs chairlift will add another 4,200 linear feet of novice skiing and expand Baldy’s area of skiing by 20 percent. The old Cold Springs lift installed in 1970 and the oldest lift currently at the resort, was purchased by Dodge Ridge Ski Resort of California. The new high-speed quad will take the skier a mile in distance and 1,600 vertical feet in about six minutes. This will be Sun Valley’s longest run at 3.5 miles from top to bottom. The area has been widened in previous years and new snow guns added to ensure the Sun Valley experience. Source: Idaho Mountain Express and KMVT News
- Oakley’s former Searle’s Gas & Grub was purchased, renovated and newly named Farmer’s Corner. It has 14 employees and the restaurant and convenience store has only expanded its offerings to the community. It is now an Associated Foods store and will carry more produce and grocery items than in the past. Source: Times-News
- Idaho Power awarded $1.594 million to McCain Foods to recognize its design and implementation of energy efficiency to its new processing line. Automation and technology reduced the line’s operating time in turn reducing energy. Over the past 10 years, McCain Foods has saved sufficient energy to power 16,000 average-size homes for a year. Source: Times-News
- Niagara Springs Fish Hatchery will close to the public as it carries out construction projects. A new sturgeon hatchery is already under construction. Another project starts soon to cover the runways over millions of steelhead, protecting them from predators and disease. The hatchery is expected to reopen to the public in 2021. It is a joint operation between Idaho Power, which owns and finances the hatchery, while Idaho Department of Fish and Game operates and staffs the facility. Source: Times-News
- Potentially, the largest wind farm in the world is proposed for Lincoln County. Production is estimated at 1,000 megawatts for Lava Ridge Wind Project, and the company driving the project is Magic Valley Energy. The parent company is LS Power with national generation and transmission projects. The turbines can coexist with other usage such as recreational and grazing, as much of the project is on Bureau of Land Management ground. An estimated 20 full-time, permanent employees would be hired after construction is complete with groundbreaking scheduled for 2022. The last wind farm in southern Idaho was constructed in 2012. Source: Times-News
- John Wright, a former dairyman in Wendell, will be the Idaho center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment research dairy manager. The ground for the dairy was purchased in 2019, and the dairy is expected to begin milking in 2024. It is part of a larger project that includes a Discovery Complex in Jerome and the College of Southern Idaho’s food processing and research program in Twin Falls. The entire project is expected to total $45 million. Source: Times-News
- Minidoka elementary students, grades 3-5, have an opportunity to participate in an enrichment program. It is designed to cultivate their interests and develop relationships with other teachers. Students are selected based on qualifying for gifted and talented programs or a recommendation from their teacher. The topics include dog training, engineering, basic drawing, cooking or dance lessons, to name a few. The six-week courses are held weekly for a half an hour after school with bus schedules adjusted to drop off the participating students at their homes afterward. The classes should shore up a love of learning, allow a rotation every six weeks, and develop talent while fostering critical thinking. Source: Times-News
Twin Falls County
- The Twin Falls School District is reducing its number of classified positions by 22 for the next academic year. It is unclear if people will actually lose their jobs or if there will be enough separations, retirements or internal movement to get the budget back in the black. The school district announced it had a deficit in its classified budget and would make adjustments that should be undetectable to students. Source: KMVT News
- Twin Falls School District is freezing its budget due to a $1.4 million shortfall caused by an attendance dip creating a lower allocation from the state of Idaho. It has an enrollment-based model that also takes into consideration average teachers’ salaries. With fewer students showing up for school and more teachers retiring over the summer, this situation made for a smaller check from the state. The school district has money set aside for instances when there is a needed injection of funds. Source: Times-News
- The Magic Valley Construction Expo held its second annual event where high school students partake in hands-on construction trade tasks. It is an opportunity for the construction industry to connect with future employees and for the students to make good impressions when later when seeking jobs. The shortage of construction tradesman is acute with a low unemployment rate and high numbers of retirees giving up their hard hats. There were 51 single-family building permits pulled in the city of Twin Falls for February 2020, many were townhouses. Source: Times-News and City of Twin Falls
- It was ‘Drive a Tractor to School’ day at Castleford High School Feb. 28, when Future Farmers of America students organized a parade of implements and provided a breakfast for the community. This is the sixth year for the event that highlights the importance of agriculture to the economy of rural communities in south central Idaho. Source: KMVT News
- The Twin Falls Canal Company (TFCC) opened the Murtaugh Lake head gates, starting the process of bringing irrigation to over 3,000 water users and 202,000 acres of farm ground. This is the 116th year of opening the head gates in preparation for three weeks of maintenance toward the April 15 start of irrigation season. Brian Olmstead, executive director of TFCC said, “Reservoirs are clear full and water levels are at about 8 percent above average.” He attributes part of it to good snowfalls in the mountain ranges of southern Idaho, but also to Idaho Power that seeds the clouds with silver iodide to produce snowflakes, building up snowpack. Source: Times-News
- The 5.7 magnitude earthquake epi-centered in Magna, Utah, impacted a 100-mile radius and was felt in parts of Idaho. Joslin Field welcomed four planes that could not land at Salt Lake City International Airport due to evacuations. The planes landed and departed that same day. Source: Times-News
- Canyon Ridge High School students are making a handle for NASA this semester. The automated manufacturing class is participating in NASA’s HUNCH program where it provides 30 of the handles for NASA astronauts to pull and move around in zero gravity. The part had to be non-flight essential and gave the students an opportunity to see the precision required by a professional organization such as NASA. Source: Times-News
- Crumbl Cookies held its grand opening in Twin Falls. Customers can watch cookies made in the store while social media posts divulge the weekly rotation of cookie selections. Source: KMVT News
- The Ketchum Innovation Center closed April 3 when its lease expired. Over the past 18 months, the organization hosted more than 60 free events, and staff members held 270 one-on-one meetings with entrepreneurs. The KIC has been operating for six years. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639
SOUTHEASTERN IDAHO – Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida & Power counties
- Due to the coronavirus pandemic, several cities and local governments in the region have declared a state of emergency including the city of Pocatello, city of Chubbuck, Bingham County, Power County and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
- Several local school districts and businesses have announced temporary closures amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25, the largest in the region, announced school closures from March 17, possibly for the rest of the school year.
- Idaho State University campus locations remain open, though the university is delivering all spring 2020 courses through distance-based instruction. In addition, Idaho State University is canceling or postponing all events, including commencement and graduation-related activities, at all of campus locations, through May 15.
- Gymnasiums, hot springs, restaurants and hotels have been largely impacted by multiple closure or reduced hours. The leisure and hospitality industry accounts for about 9 percent of total covered employment in the region.
- While several businesses are experiencing closures and reduced staffing, others are ramping up amidst the crises. Local grocery stores are looking to hire more workers to accommodate increased deman. Hux Customs, a Chubbuck gun shop, is experiencing higher-than-usual sales volume due to consumer fears over the coronavirus.
Voters took to the polls in early march and all southeastern Idaho school district supplemental and plant facility levies were passed. Some key results include:
- Pocatello-Chubbuck: 10-year, $80.6 million plant facilities levy: Passed. The largest ballot measure of the night received 62 percent support, clearing the 55 percent threshold to pass. Voters renewed a levy that has been on the books since 1961. Districts use plant facilities levies for building maintenance, renovation and construction, security upgrades and equipment for buildings.
- Preston: Five-year, $4.5 million plant facilities levy: Passed, with 65 percent support. The renewed levy will cover a variety of projects, including remodeling old high school classrooms, resurfacing busing areas, repairing and resurfacing a track, and acquiring land for new school sites.
- American Falls: Six-year, $3.88 million plant facilities levy: Passed, with 61 percent support. Plant facilities levy would generate $600,000 in the first year and increase by 5 percent in each subsequent year
- Aberdeen: Two-year, $1.9 million supplemental levy: Passed, with 62 percent support.
- Shelley: Two-year, $1.15 million supplemental levy: Passed, with 66 percent support.
- North Gem: Two-year, $700,000 supplemental levy: Passed, with 73 percent support.
- Soda Springs: One-year, $698,000 supplemental levy: Passed, with 65 percent support.
- Oneida: Two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy: Passed, with 70 percent support.
- Grace: One year, $300,000 supplemental levy and a one-year $150,000 plant facility levy: Passed, both with more than 70 percent support.
- West Side: One-year, $90,000 supplemental levy: Passed, with 79 percent support.
Source: Idaho Ed News, Idaho State Journal, East Idaho News
- Construction crews broke ground in late March on Idaho State University’s $7.1 million Davis Field renovation project. The project, which was announced in April 2019, will restore and improve the facility’s soccer field, track and surrounding amenities. Construction is expected to be completed by November. Source: Idaho State Journal
- Retailer Gordman’s was scheduled to open two new stores in Idaho at the end of March, one in Burley and the other in Blackfoot. The new Gordman’s store in Blackfoot will be located in the Riverside Plaza at 1350 Parkway Drive. The grand opening has been postponed due to the coronavirus. Source: KPVI
- Franklin County Medical Center was listed in the 2020 list of the top 100 critical access hospitals (CAH) in the country for the fourth year in a row. There are just over 1,300 CAH facilities in the United States. Idaho has 27 CAHs according to the state’s Department of Health and Welfare. Source: Preston Citizen
- The American Falls school district levy will generate $600,000 in the first year and will rise by 3 percent in each subsequent year. The estimated cost to the taxpayer will be $68 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value in the initial year and will rise by 3 percent in each subsequent year.
Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331
EASTERN IDAHO – Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison & Teton counties
- Public school districts and charter schools across the region have announced temporary closures due to COVID-19. This would impact close to 44,000 enrolled students in the area.
- College of Eastern Idaho has closed the physical campus with no announced reopening, though classes online continue. (Update as of May 4, 2020.) Source: CEI website
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks closed to visitors, taking another step in the effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Yellowstone and Grand Teton joined a growing list of national park closures and restrictions due to the virus. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee also announced it would close to visitors. Source: Post Register
- Mountain View Hospital and ExpressLab have opened a drive-through testing location for the coronavirus. The location at 2060 S. Woodruff Ave. will only be available for testing patients who already have a referral from their doctor for the test. Source: Post Register
- Melaleuca Inc. is hiring at least 50 employees to meet an increased demand of orders the company has experienced since the outbreak of COVID-19. Source: East Idaho News
- Grocery store chains are looking to recruit additional staff to join their team after COVID-19 panic sent customers flooding its stores. Albertson’s currently is looking to hire part-time and full-time employees. Open positions include clerks, cashiers and stockers, among others. Fred Meyer needs people at checkout, to refill shelves and help fill online orders. Source KIDK
- The pharmacy staff for Idaho Falls Community Hospital and Mountain View Hospital have begun making their own hand sanitizers. The hospitals have partnered with two local distilleries, Grand Teton Distillery in Driggs and Distilled Resources in Rigby, as a source of ethanol. Elevation Labs provided the hospitals with glycerin, which it usually use for its own sanitizers and skin products, and a machine to help produce it. Source: Post Register
- Grand Teton Distillery and New West KnifeWorks have partnered to make hand sanitizer. The product is made with 65 percent alcohol and is being distributed for free throughout the Teton Valley. Source: Teton Valley News
- Abracadabra’s, a local restaurant normally known for its breakfast and lunch menu, has turned its eatery into a temporary store. It is selling items that the restaurant is able to buy in bulk from suppliers. This change has allowed the restaurant to both help the community and keep its employees on payroll. Source: Post Register
- Oklo Inc., a California-based company, will soon be attempting to develop the first commercial reactor to generate power while reducing nuclear waste. This microreactor, known as the Oklo Aurora, will run on recovered material from used nuclear fuel. That used fuel will be given to Oklo by the Idaho National Laboratory. The 1.5-megawatt experimental plant, one of the smallest in history if successful, will be built on the INL site. The average large reactor is about 1,000 megawatts. INL granted Oklo a permit to begin building in December. Source: Post Register
- Voters took to the polls in early march to weigh in on school district supplemental and plant facility levies. Some key results for the region include:
- Salmon: Two-year, $900,000 supplemental levy: Passed, with 71 percent support.
- Swan Valley: Six-year, $480,000 plant facilities levy: Failed. The levy received 49 percent support, falling short of the 55 percent majority needed to pass.
- Challis: Five-year, $250,000 plant facilities levy: Passed, with 69 percent support.
Source: Idaho Ed News
- Construction is underway for the Staybridge Suites, an extended-stay hotel within the InterContinental Hotels Group. The 74,000-square-foot project in Idaho Falls will include 92 guest rooms with fully equipped kitchens. Construction is expected to last 14-15 months with an estimated completion time for early summer 2021. Source: East Idaho News
- The Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatre joins more than 30 other businesses and restaurants at Snake River Landing, along with 400 residential units, three new office buildings planned or under construction and the planned Heritage Park and Mountain America Center. The new theatre will be built at the corner of Sunnyside Road and Snake River Parkway. Initial work on the site will begin in mid-March, with construction on the building starting in late spring. Estimated completion of the project is early 2021. Source: East Idaho News
- Smith’s Food and Drug closed its Idaho Falls grocery store. Its sister store, Fred Meyer, is less than three miles away and the grocery chain hopes customers will transition there. All 99 Smith’s associates have been offered jobs at Fred Meyer. Source: East Idaho News
- The former Shopko building at 800 E. 17th St. in Idaho Falls will soon be the home of iNdorStor Storage Solutions, providing indoor storage units. The first phase of construction is slated for completion later this spring. Source: East Idaho News
- Teton County, Idaho, school officials cut two ribbons over two nights to open new elementary schools in Driggs and Victor. The schools were built using a $37.2 million construction bond approved by 79 percent of voters in November 2017. In addition to the new schools, the bond paid for renovations at four other buildings in the district. Source: KIDK
- Driggs and Victor both received good news when the Idaho Transportation Department approved funding for some big Teton Valley infrastructure: pathways on Highway 33 north of Driggs, on LeGrand Pierre to Driggs Elementary and on Baseline to Victor Elementary. Both projects will cost a little under $500,000 and each requires a local match of around $36,000. Source: Teton Valley News
- Redd’s Grill in Idaho Falls
- Teton’s Healthy Hub in Idaho Falls
- Pie Hole, a pizza restaurant, in Idaho Falls
- AC Moore in Rexburg
Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331