Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Partnership for Science & Technology seeks award nominees for 2017

The Partnership for Science & Technology, an organization based in Idaho Falls, is taking nominations for its annual awards.

Nominees will be evaluated based on how closely their contributions align with PST’s mission, to independently examine and promote responsible energy technologies and environmental stewardship to benefit Idaho and the region. They may be an individual, agency or organization. Submissions should include the nominee’s name, affiliation, city of work or residence, nominator’s name and nominator’s contact information. In 100 to 500 words, explain the nominee’s contribution and how it meets the general and specific nomination criteria.

Specific criteria for each nomination category are as follows:

Science and Technology Educator Award
The Science and Technology Educator Award acknowledges outstanding efforts to educate and empower our future leaders and community members.

Science and Technology Innovator Award
The Science and Technology Innovator Award recognizes future leadership potential by celebrating an early-career contribution to energy, science or technology.

Regional Energy Advocate Award
The Regional Energy Advocate Award acknowledges an outstanding contribution to the region’s energy options or public energy discourse.

National Energy Advocate Award
The PST Board of Directors will select a National Energy Advocate Award winner to celebrate an outstanding national contribution that is consistent with PST’s mission to advocate for responsible advancement of energy, technology and/or environmental stewardship.

Recent awardees include Idaho National Laboratory’s Dr. Catherine Riddle, University of Idaho’s Dr. Robert Smith, INL’s Dr. Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Center for Advanced Energy Studies’ Dr. Ray Grosshans, NuScale Power’s Dr. Jose Reyes, former Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman, nuclear energy startup TerraPower, LLC, and Western Governors’ Association Executive Director James Ogsbury.

Nominations should be submitted by March 15 to info@p-s-t.org. For more information, visit http://www.p-s-t.org.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Specialty coffee roasters open in Idaho Innovation Center

Art Baker and Jenny Bueno have set up shop as specialty coffee roasters in the Idaho Innovation Center on North Yellowstone. Doing business as Chapolera Coffee, they are bringing a fair trade values and personal passion to the process, seeking to provide high quality coffee that has come from people who have received a fair price for their efforts.

From the Values and Mission Statement on their web page:

“(We) believe that high quality, great tasting coffee can only be achieved by having fair practices all around the supply chain and more importantly sustained by having fair practices all round the supply chain. …
Art Baker and the Diedrich IR12 roaster


“We expect the same kind of commitment in our partnerships with farmers or importers.  We pay special attention to making sure a fair price is paid for the coffee and to the farmers. …

“We believe this is the only way we can help ensure they can continue to produce and harvest the exceptional coffee beans we all love and enjoy.”

The couple recently moved to Idaho Falls. Baker, who has an engineering background, is a Michigan native and University of Michigan graduate. Bueno is a native of Colombia who grew up surrounded by coffee and its culture.

The name Chapolera Coffee pays homage to the people, and more specifically the women, who work on the coffee farms harvesting the coffee. For generations, Chapoleros and Chapoleras have harvested coffee from one farm or region to another, raising their families while on the road.

The company is in Bay No. 1 at the Innovation Center, at 2296 N. Yellowstone Highway, where they have their Diedrich IR12 roaster. Idaho Innovation Center is Bonneville County’s business incubator, offering facilities and help for startups.

For more information, visit their web page at https://www.chapoleracoffee.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Report highlights INL's economic impacts for 2016

INL Director Mark Peters
Idaho National Laboratory has released the “INL Fiscal Year 2016 Economic Impact Summary,” which breaks down the total economic impact that INL operations have on Idaho’s economy. Not surprisingly, the impact is huge.

The report says the lab contributes a positive value of $1.9 billion to Idaho’s total economic output. This represents an increase of 20.4 percent, or nearly $324 million, between 2015 and 2016.

“As Idaho’s sixth largest private employer, we take great pride in Idaho National Laboratory being a major economic driver for our state,” INL Lab Director Mark Peters said. “We value our relationship with the state of Idaho and believe our continued collaboration is critical to the success of the laboratory in the coming years.”

The report can be found online here: https://www.inl.gov/inl-initiatives/economic-and-workforce-development/.

It includes the following highlights:

  • INL employs nearly 4,100 people, making it Idaho’s sixth largest private employer and 10th largest employer when compared to all public and private businesses. INL hired more than 480 employees in 2016 and increased its average salary to $92,660 annually, up from $88,635.
  • Secondary impacts in Idaho accounted for an additional 7,199 jobs for a total of 11,276 jobs – a 21.3 percent increase from the previous year.
  • In addition to purchasing goods and services, INL hosted significantly more visitors and held more events in 2016, resulting in positive economic benefit to the local hotel and restaurant industry.  
  • More than $874 million in economic output was generated through INL suppliers and employee household spending.
  • INL increased personal income in the state by $795 million.
  • Day-to-day management and operation of INL is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), which subcontracted more than $136 million to Idaho businesses.
  • BEA corporate offices contributed $623,454 to charitable giving, and the majority of those funds in Idaho are focused on education needs.
  • INL posted job and business volume gains primarily in its national homeland security and nuclear energy research divisions. Specific areas of expanded research include critical infrastructure, high-performance computing, cybersecurity, and small modular reactors. 

“In the foreseeable future we continue to see a need to hire more engineers and scientists – not only to support replacing those who retire but to support the growth of our laboratory,” Peters said. “It is critical we strengthen our partnering with subcontractors, educators and industry.”

To support its future growth, INL hosted a partnering event in December in Idaho Falls and will host a second event Jan. 17 in Boise. The event will showcase subcontracting needs, highlight grant opportunities, and share details on how to partner with INL employees and technology to conduct research and development. For more information on this event, go to https://partner.inl.gov/.

The annual summary was prepared by the Rexburg-based Research & Business Development Center.
The economic impacts identified in the report only include operations managed by BEA and do not include the impacts of the U.S. Department of Energy cleanup contractor, the DOE itself or the Naval Reactors Facility (which recently announced it was building a new, $1.6 Expanded Core Facility.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bonneville County home sales skyrocketed in 2016

With 2016 well behind us now, we figured it was time to look at how real estate fared in Bonneville County. Crunching the numbers, we think it's fair to say it was the best year ever, surge well ahead of 2015 and even 2007, the last year home sales were in triple digits for all 12 months.

Home sales in 2016 rose 17 percent over 2015. Homes sold faster, while at the same time the median price rose 9.8 percent.

I think it's fair to say we have a seller's market on our hands, but I'd be interested in hearing what others have to offer.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Idaho National Laboratory named 2017 Digital Edge 50 Award winner

The 3D Computer Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE) in the Applied Visualization Laboratory at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies
Idaho National Laboratory has been named a 2017 Digital Edge 50 Award winner by IDG Enterprise in recognition of its High Performance Computing immersive 3D visualization capabilities.

Selected by a panel of industry experts and business and technology executives, the annual Digital Edge Awards recognize innovations in technology used to transform traditional methods of solving complex problems challenging the effectiveness of industries such as energy, health care and agriculture.

The 50 winners will be honored onsite at the AGENDA17 conference, March 20-22, at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“From the creative minds of researchers, INL is taking scientific experimentation to the next level — virtual reality,” said INL Chief Information Officer Denise Stephens. ”The research possibilities are almost unlimited, including designing nuclear facilities capable of withstanding the impacts of earthquakes and other natural disasters, or developing new and secure energy technologies.”

A team composed of INL researchers, data scientists and technology specialists designed and developed the capability to fully immerse a scientist into a highly interactive virtual environment capable of generating complex scientific models and simulated scenarios. The team’s goals included delivering a visually immersive and robust virtual experience enabling scientists to interact with their environmental surroundings while experiencing and simulating events. The immersive experience improves access and mobility through the use of consumer technology, keeping costs at a minimum.

INL possesses a four-sided 3D Computer Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE) in the Applied Visualization Laboratory at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. It allows scientists and engineers to probe, analyze and predict trends while standing in the midst of computer-generated renderings of their designs. Scientists also desired access to 3D modeling and simulation capability within their unique research environments, including use in the field.

In order to develop a solution that researchers could adopt to perform modeling and simulation analysis outside of specialized facilities, such as the CAVE, they evaluated standard game engines, modeling applications and consumer technology.

As they selected technology, scientists and technology experts collaborated closely to model facilities and simulate events measuring outcomes with scientific precision. Once they cleansed and layered INL’s Big Data, it was transformed using gaming platforms and modeling software and ultimately delivered into the hands of scientists and staff through Samsung’s Gear VR®headsets using several platforms, including PCs, Macs and standard smartphone technologies.

“They are taking advantage of new capabilities to enhance their mobile and analytics practices worldwide,” said Digital Edge Program Chairwoman Anne McCrory, adding that innovations in technology produce dramatic results and allow quicker and more efficient customer service.

“Completely reworked business processes show how even the most traditional businesses can go big with the right vision and leadership.”

Co-sponsored by CIO and Computerworld, the Digital Edge Awards recognize 50 organizations for digital transformation initiatives with significant, measurable business impact. Through digital technologies such as mobile, analytics, AI, the Internet of Things and cloud, award winners see business results that indicate a true “digital edge.” Winning entries span more than 15 industries and seven countries outside the U.S.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Some help on searching Idaho Falls building permits

I don't think I've figured out anything anyone else can't, so I don't think I'm shooting myself in the foot here. Since the Idaho Falls Building Department went all computerized last year this is how I keep tabs on building permits being applied for and being issued. The good news is you can too!

Go to this link: https://trakit.idahofallsidaho.gov/etrakit3/Search/permit.aspx. In the boxes up top, search like I've laid it out. As the year goes by, advance from COM17-0001 to -0002, etc. In 2016, the last commercial building permit was COM16-0183 (pictured below; it wasn't anything too exciting).

So far this year, only a test permit has been filed.

This isn't as much fun as stopping in at the Building Department office on Park Avenue and visiting friends Reggie, Bryan, Ken, et al. Nor is it as thrilling as stumbling across actual site plans for something like Home2 Suites. But it will have to do. We're all so much busier now, aren't we?

Happy 2017 to all of you. Send me an email if you have any questions.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

WestBank Convention Center plans grand reopening New Year's Eve

The newly remodeled WestBank Lounge
After nearly two-and-a-half years in limbo, the WestBank Restaurant, Lounge & Convention Center is planning its grand opening Saturday with a New Year’s Eve bash.

The property at 525 River Parkway was padlocked in August 2014. That was when the tower next door went into foreclosure after the owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million. Om Shiv Ganesh also had been managing the motel and convention center, but when the tower went into receivership convention center owner Dane Watkins decided he would shut it down while he looked for a new operator.

The tower was sold at auction in 2015 and is now run as a Rodeway Inn by Idaho Falls Lodge LLC, a subsidiary of Choice Hotels International, which franchises more than 6,300 hotels in more than 35 countries and territories. Since late November or early December, the remodeled lounge and restaurant, now called the WestBank Restaurant, Lounge & Convention Center, have been managed by the same company.

A few events have been held since November, when remodeling was finished and the lounge reopened. The dining room has been serving complimentary continental breakfasts to hotel guests.

For the grand opening Saturday night, doors will be opened at 7:30 and dinner will begin at 8. Tickets are $55 a couple for dinner and dancing or $120 for dinner, dancing and a hotel room.

For information, call 523-8000. The Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/westbank.idahofalls/.