Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Experts agree ... If you care about local business, wear a mask

Bonneville County's 7-day moving average incidence rate this morning was 97.7, one of the highest in the state. Excluding sparsely populated Clearwater County, Madison County leads Idaho with a rate of 151.1.

The following is a column submitted by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America, it devastated our economy. Millions of jobs were lost. Small businesses closed their doors. Domestic retail spending dropped. Industrial production declined. Many of our friends, family members, and neighbors struggled to pay their bills and put food on the table.

Things improved this summer, but we now find ourselves experiencing a spike in cases, locally and across the country. And, once again, the economy is suffering the consequences.

On the day America saw its biggest spike in cases, the Dow dropped hundreds of points. The correlation between the coronavirus and the economy is undeniable.

That is why we are urging all eastern Idahoans to practice COVID-19 safe behaviors: staying home if you are sick, washing your hands, physical distancing from those outside your household, and wearing masks in public places.

Public health experts say wearing a mask is one of the best things we can do to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It’s important to take these same precautions in the workplace as well as when gathering with extended family and friends, where we tend to let our guards down.

And yet, too many in our communities choose not to wear masks, even as infection rates increase, local hospitals run short on resources to care for all patients needing care, and businesses struggle. As a Chamber board, we’ve heard that many visitors from other states bypass Idaho, customers stay home, and employees in greater numbers are forced to quarantine.

All of us care about our fellow citizens. All of us want a strong economy that allows everyone to prosper. All of us want to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Wearing a mask is easy. It is effective. And it is good business.

That is why the leaders of two of eastern Idaho’s biggest employers have been such vocal advocates for mask wearing. And it’s why so many other local business owners are encouraging citizens to wear masks.

In a recent interview with East Idaho News, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot talked about how preventive measures, including masks, have helped his company limit the spread of COVID-19.

And VanderSloot emphasized that masking up will help us avoid the worst-case scenario, even wider spread and a lockdown on local businesses.

“Let’s wear masks so we don’t have to close businesses,” VanderSloot said. “Let’s be safe so we can keep the economy running.”

Mark Peters, director of Idaho National Laboratory, has consistently delivered a similar message, telling his employees that INL’s ability to perform its vital national security and clean energy research depends on limiting the spread of COVID-19, in part by adhering to company policies, including wearing masks in INL facilities.

And, as he wrote in a column published earlier this year by the Post Register, all of us can do so much good with a simple gesture of goodwill to those we interact with, including employees at the businesses we frequent.

“If all of us, including INL’s 5,000 employees and their families, committed to wearing a mask when we go out, we would show respect to essential workers and do our part in preventing a new wave of COVID-19, which carries devastating health and economic implications,” Peters wrote.

Unfortunately, a new wave has arrived. It is here. And how we handle it may determine the state of our economy as 2020 turns into 2021.

A mask is a small inconvenience that helps protect our businesses and the people who depend upon them to support their families.

We know this virus is deadly. We know how it spreads. We know that masks are effective in slowing transmission. We know that when COVID-19 cases spike, our economy suffers.

So please, if you care about the local businesses that drive our economy, wear your mask.

Let us all resolve to do the right thing. This is about keeping Idaho open for business.

Signed, Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors including:

Sara Prentice, Idaho National Laboratory

Chip Schwartz, CEO, Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce

Adam Frugoli, Leavitt Group

Frank VanderSloot and Tony Lima, Melaleuca

Chris Sheetz, Harris Publishing

Staci Matheson, The Hartwell Corporation

Elsje R. Johnson, Blue Cross of Idaho

Robert Couch, Parsons Behle & Latimer

Mike Walker, College of Eastern Idaho

Marvin K. Smith, Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley

Geri Rackow, Eastern Idaho Public Health

Catherine Smith, Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation

Rebecca Casper, Mayor of Idaho Falls

Ray Gordon, Apple Athletic Club

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Chamber kicks off 'Hope Lunches' campaign

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and Elevation Labs have announced a new initiative for supporting underserved families this holiday season, “Hope Lunches.” They are asking businesses and individuals to support the Community Food Basket by donating the cost of a Hope Lunch.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has doubled the number of families the Community Food Basket is serving this year. Realizing that many have had to cancel lunches and meetings, this year, the idea was that canceled lunches could be sent to hungry people.

The Chamber recently cancelled its “Out of the Box” lunches. "We asked our sponsoring businesses and prepaid attendees if they would donate the cost of their lunch or sponsorship to the Community Food Basket and were overwhelmed by the positive responsem" said Chamber CEO Chip Schwarze. "So much so that we decided to reach out to all businesses to support the Community Food Basket."

Michael Hughes, president and CEO of Elevation Labs, volunteered with a $3,000 donation on behalf of his company. "Our hope is that other businesses and individuals will join in and help," he said.

Cash, not cans

By asking for cash donations instead of canned goods, the Community Food Basket can purchase $5 of food for every $1 donated. In other words, a $12 Hope Lunch donation can be turned into $60 worth of groceries. "By giving dollars instead of cans, we can maximize the number of families served," Schwarze said.

All donations will be given directly to the Community Food Basket. Businesses can collect donations from their employees and then call, bring in their donations, or mail a check to the chamber office.  Individuals also can go to this link -- “Hope Lunches” -- to make an online donation.

For more information please contact Schwarze at ceo@idahofallschamber.com or call (208) 589-8888.

Monday, November 16, 2020

For the Love of Powersports | Brandon & Brittany Quinton, H2O Industries

Brandon and Brittany Quinton of H20 Industries
Brandon Quinton got into free-standing jet skis after having a 4-wheeler accident. With a wife and new baby he felt the sport was too risky, so he sold his 4-wheelers. He needed an outlet for his energy, however, so he turned it toward stand-up jet skiing, much like motocross freestyle.

After falling in love with the sport, he saw there was room for improvement with some of the aftermarket products. “Initially I was just riding and it wasn't enough adrenaline, so I moved into the aftermarket jet skis and wanted to do more aerial tricks and stuff which then introduced me to the idea that there's no cover options for these guys,” he said.

One idea for improvement was an electric conversion for the jet ski to increase instant power. It was an expensive venture, so he decided to start with something smaller and build up. That's when he began making covers. “Let's take business plan A and change it to business plan B and do the covers,” he said.

Starting out, he took his idea to a local canvas shop where they made the first cover and also created a pattern for him to make one on his own. Once they got it right, his wife, Brittany. encouraged him to make the cover and take it to market. She has turned out to be a perfect partner, taking care of the finances and acting as a sounding board. Quinton admits that she has brought forward good ideas that he wouldn't have thought of on his own. They do all this with three small kids, each just about one year apart in age.

“The market in Idaho is budding. You're starting to see more stand up jet skis,” he said. It plays naturally into the backcountry snow machine riders, since they can ride the jet ski in the summer when their sleds are put away.

Brandon admits he has no problem talking to people and the collaborations he has made have been from reaching out. “I want to see the sport grow. I'm all about helping the sport grow. I've pushed locally, getting people to ride jet skis,” he said. As a result of developing his knowledge base, people now come to him when they have questions.

In stand up jet skiing, there are competitions where money and prizes are won and there are all ages that compete. H2O Industries even sponsors professional riders that are from Idaho.

Earlier this year they partnered with a company that made the covers, but due to COVID-19 that business shut down. Brandon got word while he was driving home from a vacation with his family.

“By the time I got home, I'd made the decision I was taking my engine out of my jet ski, selling it, selling the rest of the covers, and buying an industrial sewing machine,” he said. He now owns two, and just moved into a new space where he sews the covers himself.

“I have a tendency to overcome whatever issues come my way,” he said.

Quinton's personal life has presented him with challenges over the years and demonstrated his level of tenacity. Growing up, he had to navigate his parents' divorce and the challenge of ADHD, which caused him challenges in school. To cope, it helped to find work where he's able to focus. “If I set tiny goals for myself, I work until that goal is done and then move on. It's the most efficient way for me to go through life,” he said. Still, learning that came only with time.

When he was 18 he was homeless from November through February, living in his vehicle. Some days he had to retreat to a public bathroom hand-dryer for heat. Wrong choices led to him being incarcerated over the course of seven years.

“It was awful," he said. "I finished (my) parole term and then worked. Work is what really got me through it all. While I was in there I had a lot of time for self-introspection.”

The time he served was a catalyst for him to change his core beliefs from failure to success. “It taught me a lot about myself -- when I got out I was different,” he said.

The future for H2O Industries has expanded to include snowmachine covers, with covers for high-end exotic cars to follow. When asked what advice he has for others interested in self-employment, Quinton says do market research and go for it. “Do it better and show people you can do it better," he said. "Just because you're small town doesn't mean you have to stay small town with your ambitions. It's not a small town anymore, because everyone's connected.”


To learn more about High Octane Industries (H2O) visit their website at https://h2oindustries.com/. You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cupbop Korean Barbecue to open location in Idaho Falls

The Cup Bob Combo

Broulim's customers may already be familiar with its fare, but Cupbop Korean Barbecue is scheduled to open its first standalone location Thursday at 3460 South 25th East, formerly the home of Soda Tsunami.

“It’s a unique offering. It’s a great flavor profile,” said Michael Bevans, one of the owners, in an interview with EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s going to be a great place for anyone looking for something that’s out of the normal offering of sandwiches and that kind of stuff.” Bevans said a grand opening is in the works for the first week of December.

He described Cupbop (Korean for "steamed rice") as a “Korean barbecue spin on a fast-food concept.” The menu includes kimchi and a variety of cup combo meals with a rice/cabbage mixture and sweet potato noodles. It also includes a choice of meat, ranging from barbecue chicken, Korean-style beef, spicy pork, or a tangy, deep-fried or regular deep-fried chicken, and it’s topped off with a sweet or spicy sauce.

Business growth throughout eastern Idaho is what prompted him to open a location in Idaho Falls. Cupbop got its start as a food truck in 2013 when Junghun Song and two of his friends attended a food convention in Salt Lake City. The first storefront opened two years later and has since grown to include locations throughout the west, including locations inside Broulim’s in Ammon and Rexburg.

Bevans says he’s planning to open another location on the west side of Idaho Falls soon and a store in Rexburg. Cu[bop Korean Barbecue will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Salt Lake Tribune: Cupbop serves up a winning combo for success in Utah and beyond 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

INL offering tech-based economic development grants

Idaho National Laboratory is taking applications from non-profit organizations for its 2021 technology-based economic development grants.

INL’s Economic Development mission is to stimulate economic development, support new business growth, recruit new talent and support entrepreneurship throughout Idaho. To achieve these goals, grants are offered to support economic development efforts. Proposals will be evaluated based on:

• Their ability to support the growth of businesses in our region, especially those related to energy, the environment and national security.
• Expected return on investment and impact to the community.
• Level of innovation and outreach to impact underserved areas or populations.

Organizations must be 501(c)(3) non-profit entities. Successful applicants must provide a copy of their IRS tax-exempt letter to receive funding.
The deadline for grant requests is Nov. 30, 2020. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be included in the review process. Decisions will be made by Jan. 15, 2021. Notifications will be sent to requesting organizations informing them of funding awards. Funds are for projects for the period of Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021.
For full details on all programs, visit www.inl.gov. Links can be found by clicking on Partner With INL in the top right corner of the page, then choosing Economic and Workforce Development.