Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tru by Hilton scheduled to open June 11

This is what a Tru by Hilton looks like wherever one is built. The Idaho Falls Tru
is scheduled to open June 11.
Going by the website, it looks like the Tru by Hilton on Lindsay Boulevard will be opening June 11. “This hotel will soon be joining the Hilton Portfolio of Brands and is presently accepting reservations for June 11, 2019 and beyond” are the exact words.

Located at 680 Lindsay Boulevard, the hotel is owned by B&T Hotels IV LLC, which also own the Hilton Garden Inn next door and the Home2 by Hilton at Snake River Landing.

As a brand, Tru is aimed to appeal to a younger customer, in terms of both price and vibe. Hilton announced the Tru brand, its 14th, in January 2016, billing it as its re-entry into the midscale hotel segment. Its first-ever Tru property, in Oklahoma City, opened in 2017. ”I ultimately think this will be our biggest brand over time,” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said at the time of the brand’s announcement, pointing out that 40 percent of demand for hotel rooms is in the midscale segment, e.g. brands such as Comfort Inn by Choice Hotels and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.

Rates at Tru are in the $90 to $100 range. The brand is especially intended appeal to people in their 20s and early 30s who tend to favor modern design, public spaces where they can work and socialize, and advanced technology such as mobile check-in, according to the company’s webpage. Local snacks and drinks, including single-serving beer and wine, are available from a grab-and-go area. A build-your-own breakfast station is complimentary, and coffee and tea are free throughout the day. The play area features a large TV, and activities such as ping pong and foosball tables. Wi-Fi is free. Rooms come with either a king bed or double queen beds, in sizes of 231 or 275 square feet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Community Food Basket plans "Hunger Games" fund-raiser

Community Food Basket Idaho Falls (CFBIF) has announced a new fund-raiser, the Community Food Basket Hunger Games, inviting teams to put their brains to the test in a series of challenges that will require quick-thinking skills and an adventurous spirit.

Bank of Commerce is a title sponsor of the event, scheduled to take place Aug. 17 at Freeman Park as the kickoff of an area-wide campaign to raise funds to purchase their current food storage warehouse. The campaign will end in the winter of 2020 as the organization celebrates 40 years of service to the community.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to change warehouse locations several times over the past few years, which burdens our limited staff and doesn’t allow us to create consistent processes within the sorting and distributing of food,” Executive Director David Manson said. “We also have an extraordinary opportunity to apply for a matching grant to purchase the building if we can raise enough funds within the community. Our hope is that this facility is truly a legacy gift to the community and will eliminate the worry of where food may be stored next.” 


Idaho Falls City Councilmember and longtime CFBIF advocate Michelle Ziel-Dingman is chairing the event. “As someone who has personally experienced the devastation of food insecurity, I was honored for the opportunity to give back to an organization that has smartly leveraged resources to help those in-need. Community Food Basket Idaho Falls is a well-managed non-profit with strong leadership, dedicated partners and donors, and passionate employees who treat their clients as guests,” she said.
 
Sponsorship opportunities are available, as well as teams of four for a donation of $300. For more information, visit FeedIdahoFalls.org, call 208-709-3773 or email director@feedidahofalls.org.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Home prices show sharp gains in Idaho Falls metropolitan area

The line chart from the HPI Calculator for a $100,000 house in Idaho Falls
bought in Q4 2013. (Note: Your mileage may vary.)
I was told by an associate and a newcomer to town that the housing market in Idaho Falls is off the charts, so I thought it might be time to run some numbers with our old standby, the HPI Calculator from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

This is a page where you can plug in numbers and find out how what home values in your community have done. For starters, I wanted to see what a home purchased for $100,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003 would have done in 15 years. The disclaimer on the page states that the numbers it crunches are based on the average appreciation rate of all homes in the area. “The actual value of any house will depend on the local real estate market, house condition and age, home improvements made and needed, and many other factors,” it says.

What the graph shows is that over 15 years that house would now sell for $173,443. An annual appreciation of 4.9 percent. Not bad, eh? The line graph shows a leveling off in the $116K to $120K range between 2011 and 2014, but incredible acceleration from the first quarter of 2015.

If you’d bought a $100,000 house in the fourth quarter of 2008, you’d see a lot less appreciation, 25.8 percent or nearly 2.6 percent a year. You would have been underwater from Q2 2009 to Q3 2016. Ouch!

Lastly, let’s look at what $100k would do over five years: Q4 2013 to Q3 2018. You’d be looking at a gain of $46,052, or an annual rate of appreciation of 9.2 percent.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

INL wins Federal Laboratory Consortium National Award

Dr. Peter Kong, chief technology officer at Cogent Energy Systems, developed the
background modular plasma technology at Idaho National Laboratory.
Idaho National Laboratory has been honored with a 2019 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) National Award in the Technology Focus category for the successful transfer of small-scale waste-to-energy technologies to Cogent Energy Systems. The FLC is a formally chartered organization mandated by Congress to promote, educate and facilitate technology transfer among more than 300 federal laboratories, research centers and agencies nationwide. Honorees are recognized in eight categories.

The Technology Focus award recognizes technologies that have demonstrated innovation or creativity in the transfer of an energy product, technology or service. The award was presented at the FLC National Meeting in Orlando, held April 23 through 25.

The story starts at INL with research being conducted on the creation of nanoparticles. The modular hybrid plasma reactor that originated from this research evolved into a gasification system for Waste to Energy (WTE) applications. The resulting proprietary ionic gasification process—embodied in Cogent’s HelioStorm Gasifier—involves the direct-contact processing of combustible feedstock waste, such as biomass and municipal solid waste, inside an active plasma field at temperatures of 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Celsius. The result is a clean, high-energy synthesis gas (or syngas) that can be used to generate electricity or converted into many valuable end products, including hydrogen, liquid fuels, and chemical precursors.

Founded in 2012, Cogent Energy Systems of Merrifield, Virginia, was the recipient of the transferred technology. The company’s technology development takes place in Idaho Falls, Idaho, near INL, where the modular hybrid plasma technology at the heart of its HelioStorm Gasifier originated. In partnership with other organizations, Cogent has developed and demonstrated two full-scale waste-to-energy gasifiers, with plans for a complete end-to-end commercial demonstration system scheduled to come on line during 2020.

Cogent executed a license option agreement with INL in 2012 and exercised the option to license the technology two years later. INL stands ready to help Cogent leverage DOE programs and assets to achieve commercial success. In the relationship with Cogent, INL has taken the approach that a successful technology transfer requires a sustained effort that does not end with execution of the license agreement. INL Commercialization Manager Ryan Bills, along with Cogent’s Dr. Abraham Haspel and Dr. Peter Kong, were recognized for this accomplishment through the FLC Award.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Smart Foodservice Warehouse Store planned for Lindsay Boulevard near Motel 6

An interior view of a Smart Foodservice Warehouse Store
A few loyal BizMojo Idaho readers have asked what’s happening on Lindsay Boulevard near the Motel 6 and the offramp from U.S. Highway 20.

The property, at 1240 Lindsay Boulevard, is being developed into a 20,265-square-foot Smart Foodservice Warehouse Store. Until recently the chain was known as Cash&Carry Smart Foodservice. The site plan was approved in December 2018. Permits for foundation, plumbing, mechanical and electrical have been submitted. The job value is estimated at $2.4 million.

Headquartered in the Portland, Ore., area, the company has been operating throughout the Northwest for more than 60 years. As a wholesale food distributor and food service warehouse, it stocks food products, chef supplies, wholesale restaurant supplies, and catering supplies.

With 66 wholesale locations, the chain has stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and Utah. In addition to Idaho Falls, stores are scheduled to open this year in Meridian, and Kalispell, Mont. Stores have already opened this year in Salt Lake City, Portland, Ore., Carson City, Nev., and Sacramento, Calif.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Idaho Falls City Council approves site plan for new Costco store

Costco plans to open a store in Idaho Falls in summer 2020
at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Hitt roads.
Costco plans to open a store in Idaho Falls the summer of 2020, as plans were unveiled Thursday night at the Idaho Falls City Council meeting. The council voted unanimously to approve the retail giant's plan to build in the city as part of Idaho Falls’ Economic Development Incentive Program.

Along with their application, a preliminary site plan was previewed for the northwest corner of Lincoln Road and 25th East (Hitt Road) in Idaho Falls.  The site plan includes a 150,000-square-foot retail facility as well as a 15 to 30 position fueling station.

According to a city press release, the Idaho Falls Costco is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the city with full medical and dental benefits and salaries in excess of $15 per hour.  Construction is expected to begin in September of 2019 with an anticipated opening date of August 2020.

“Costco’s decision to locate in Idaho Falls was based on several factors, including the city’s ability to offer the Economic Development Incentive Program. Companies can qualify for this incentive primarily through creating a large quantity of new jobs in the community. Costco will do so, generating a substantial overall economic impact and spurring additional economic development in the northeast area of the city,” said Dana Briggs, economic development coordinator. “It has been a pleasure working with Costco Wholesale Corporation. The integrity of the company is evident in all coordination and communication. We look forward to continually working together as the Idaho Falls facility becomes a reality.”

The city’s Economic Development Incentive Program is designed to provide incentives to existing business expansion or new business location within Idaho Falls.

“Tonight’s announcement is terrific news for our community. 'When is Costco coming?' has been one of the most frequently asked economic development questions we’ve heard for years,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper.  “I am very confident that Costco executives will find a very professional and competent group of city planning, building, inspection and permitting officials to help them through this process, as well as a more than enthusiastic customer base when they arrive.”

Casper praised city staff for their hard work and efforts to help bring Costco to the city.  “I am very pleased with the behind-the-scenes preparation that Dana Briggs, our city’s Economic Development Coordinator, and her City colleagues have been able to make with this project so far. The best is yet to come."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Idaho Falls Auditorium District hires Rob Spear as new executive director

Rob Spear
The Idaho Falls Auditorium District has hired a new executive director, Rob Spear.

"After a three-month search, the board agreed that Rob is the right person for this position and we are excited to see him onboard with this project,” said Terri Gazdik, the board's chairwoman. Spear replaces Chip Scott who resigned earlier this year.

Spear comes from University of Idaho, where he served as the director of athletics. He holds a doctorate from the University of Idaho, an MBA from the University of Montana and undergraduate degree in business from the College of Great Falls (now the University of Providence).

According to the IFAD press release: "(Spear) is a proven fund-raiser who was responsible for several multi-million-dollar gifts to the University of Idaho; managed over $50 million in construction projects, ranging from athletic facilities to bio-engineering buildings; and has a history of developing and establishing positive relationships with community, state, federal and corporate organizations. Spear and his wife, Sandy, have always immersed themselves into community activities."

Spear was deeply involved in the plan to bring an events center to the UI campus and other facilities improvements, but was fired by the Idaho State Board of Education in August 2018 after a months-long probe into his handling  in 2013 of a sexual-assault complaint against a football player. The Idaho Statesman reported that two female students had spoken to police about the same player previously. According to the Statesman story, the student senate requested Spear resign his position, and several other former female student-athletes criticized Spear’s leadership. He was fired for convenience, so he is due a $181,958-per-year salary through Feb. 17, 2020. That amount will be offset by any income he receives from the auditorium district. The IFAD job pays $100,000 per year, according to reporting in the Post Register.

“I want to commend the IFAD Board for doing its due diligence and thoroughly understanding the facts surrounding my departure from the University of Idaho,” Spear said in the IFAD press release.