Monday, July 6, 2015

Museum of Idaho rolls out redesigned Web site

A screen shot of the Museum of Idaho's new, redesigned Web site
The Museum of Idaho has undergone a Web site remodel, making it easier find information about exhibits, classes and events and making it easier to donate online.

As a part of a capital campaign, the Museum has partnered with Kraupp Inc., a local Web design company, to provide long-term service, consulting and strategic support for the website.

The site, www.museumofidaho.org, offers an entirely redesigned user interface compatible with current browsers and responsive to mobile devices. It allows people and businesses to donate online and to allocate donations to specific aspects, including the Museum’s Sustainability Capital Campaign.

“We feel that this newly-designed website is vital in not only connecting with our patrons in southeast Idaho but also in drawing tourists to our area which will increase the economic impact to our region. We are thrilled with what Kraupp Inc. has accomplished and are proud to partner with them,” said David Pennock, the museum's executive director.

Idaho Falls hires economic development coordinator

Dana Briggs
Dana Briggs has been hired to be the city of Idaho Falls’ new economic development coordinator, a position Mayor Rebecca Casper indicated she wanted to create when she ran for office in 2013.

Briggs, who starts Aug. 3, comes to the city from the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, where she served as the programs and events director for three years. She received her MBA in management and corporate relations from Idaho State University and a bachelor’s degree in recreational leadership from BYU-Idaho. She was also a team leader/analyst for the Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center from April to July 2013, has worked with Bengal Solutions at ISU and is an adjunct faculty member at BYU-Idaho. Her areas of expertise include analytical and organizational skills, high-volume negotiations and projects, strategic/tactical planning, public relations and business communications.

A hiring committee of six, including Casper, City Council members, city officials and representatives of the Regional Economic Development Corp., interviewed a number of candidates last week. The panel voted unanimously to hire Briggs.

In her new role, Briggs will lead and oversee short- and long-term planning of economic development and policy formation activities, working in conjunction with organizations such as REDI. She will prepare and maintain information on utilities, taxes, zoning, community services and financing tools. She will also coordinate project and program activities and services between various departments, public and private agencies, organizations and individuals.

“Ms. Briggs is an eastern Idaho native and has a keen understanding of our current business climate— strengths and weaknesses — as well as a working knowledge and familiarity with many of the key players in local economic development circles,” said Casper, in a news release. “The city is fortunate to bring in another young professional who is full of promise, knowledge, skill and integrity to join our ranks.”

Idaho Falls contracts with Canadian company for financial management, billing

The city of Idaho Falls has contracted with the Canadian company Cayenta to upgrade its antiquated financial management and utility billing software.

The cost of the project, to be implemented over two years, has been estimated at $3 million. Over the past two years, city leaders have set aside money and studied potential vendors, looking for a system that will give citizens more billing and payment options and a more efficient system for administering payroll and work orders.

Based in Barnaby, British Columbia, Cayenta is a division of N. Harris Computer Corp. that has contracts with utilities and communities throughout North America.

Idaho Falls first started using computers in its billing in 1965, and has been relying on a system that was put in place when Jimmy Carter was still president. An update was long overdue.

The project with Cayenne involves software licensing, implementation services, travel expenses for company representatives, servers, network equipment and other material.

“We are excited about implementing this new, robust system that will replace our 35-year-old-plus, outdated system with an integrated solution,” said Idaho Falls City Controller Thane Sparks, who is managing the project from the city’s end.

“When the software conversion is completed, it will allow city personnel to do their jobs more efficiently and provide better, more expedited service to the citizens of Idaho Falls,” he said. “For example, service personnel will be equipped with mobile devices so they will no longer find it necessary to come into the office to pick up work orders. Real-time work orders will be sent directly to their devices, allowing them more time to be out in the field working.”

The project will be completed in two 15-month phases. The first phase will update utility billing and customer information system and integrate existing GIS data. The second will update the financial management system, payroll, work, asset and mobile management.

Idaho Falls services an area of 22 square miles with an estimated population of more than 58,000 and more than 26,000 Idaho Falls Power accounts. On the payroll end, the city employs between 625 to 1,100 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, depending on the time of year.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sandcreek Commons has come a long way in one year

Workers on the north wall of the Broulim's store at Sandcreek Commons.
It might not seem obvious, but it was a “his and hers” logic that put Cabela’s and Hobby Lobby next door to each other at the Sandcreek Commons shopping center on Hitt Road.

This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of women who are interested in outdoor and camping gear. But when putting together a 91-acre, $80 million shopping complex it’s all about finding the right mix, said Eric Isom, chief development officer for Ball Ventures, the company driving the project (in which Salt Lake-based Woodbury Corp. is a partner).
Eric Isom of Ball Ventures

On a basic level, Cabela’s is for dad, Hobby Lobby (which opens Aug. 3) is for mom, and both are stores that Idaho Falls and Ammon residents have been driving hundreds of miles to visit now in their back yards.

Phase One, which covers about 40 acres, has room for four anchor tenants. Cabala’s opened in May, Hobby Lobby is scheduled to open its doors Aug. 3 and Broulim’s, the Rigby-based supermarket chain, is on track to have its store open by the end of the year.

As for the last 50,000-square-foot anchor box, “We’re really trying to find the right tenant,” Isom said. “We will be pretty selective.”

Isom said they knew Sandcreek Commons was going to take off in 2015. In early June 2014, at the groundbreaking for D.L. Evans Bank, Cabela’s had already been announced. Once that was public knowledge, the other pieces fell into place. The news about Hobby Lobby and Broulim’s broke in September.

Right now, the nearest Hobby Lobby is in Logan, Utah. “People are excited it’s coming here,” Isom said. When they posted the opening date on Facebook, the news got more than 800 likes in less than an hour.

In addition to the anchor stores, several leases have been signed for space in the 18,639-square-foot retail center, next to the Broulim’s store. Isom said they are careful to let the tenants make the announcements themselves, but said the center will feature what one typically expects in a grocery anchored retail center: fast food, haircut places, etc. 

Eventually, they anticipate developing 320,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and service space.
All this is happening in addition to the development Ball Ventures is doing at Snake River Landing, where the Home2 Suites by Hilton is scheduled to open in late summer and a deal has been made with a residential developer for upmarket condos south of the Curtis-Wright ScienTech offices.

Isom said he is cautiously optimistic about the local economy. Snake River Landing got started in 2007 and had the advantage of leases that had been signed before the recession hit. They also had the advantage of being in a location where people wanted to be.

But with projects in 14 states, as far away as Florida, Isom said he sees what goes on with economic development all over the country and what Idaho could be doing that it isn’t — local option taxes, increment financing on sales taxes, property tax rebates, to name a few.

“In general, we need to continue to find ways to incentivize and encourage economic development,” he said. “We don’t have nearly the tools here in Idaho that there are in other places.”

As it stands, Phase One of Sandcreek Commons — everything happening north of Judy Street — will add nearly $80 million to the local tax base and 1,200 new jobs.
The line outside Cabela's when it opened.



 

Alpha Graphics eyes late summer for new building opening

Alpha Graphics Sales Manager Travis Powell in front of the company's soon-to-be new home on Woodruff Avenue
For Alpha Graphics of Idaho Falls, a new, larger building can’t be finished a moment too soon, said Sales Manager Travis Powell.

Right now, they have approximately 6,000 square feet divided between two buildings. When they move into the new building off Woodruff Avenue — probably in August — they will have 12,000 square feet under one roof, with an efficient floor plan and room to grow.

The Idaho Falls Alpha Graphics is a franchise operation owned by Lynn Nelson. There are about 300 stores in the United States and various countries.

The company offers traditional printing and signs as well as digital and offset printing and promotional items. Since opening in late September 2010, the Idaho Falls store has seen growth of about 30 percent each year, Powell said.

That growth made a larger facility critical, he said. The project is being financed by D.L Evans Bank and managed by Construction Solutions Company.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A little bit on the history of Idaho Falls and the Pioneer League

I will be speaking pre-game tomorrow night at Melaleuca Field for five or 10 minutes about baseball in Idaho Falls. This is something I prepared for anyone who is interested.

One of the things that impressed me about Idaho Falls when I first came here 35 years ago this week was the presence of minor league baseball. I was best man in a wedding in which the father of the bride was Gene Bush, president of the Idaho Falls Baseball Club. As part of the fun, the wedding party went to an afternoon Angels game July 3 at McDermott Field. I thought, "How cool is this?" It was a good first impression -- an look where I am now.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ziel-Dingman declares candidacy for I.F. City Council

Ziel-Dingman
City Council elections are this November and the first person to announce a candidacy is Michelle Ziel-Dingman, a local business owner and longtime non-profit advocate. Ziel-Dingman put out a press release Wednesday announcing she is running for Seat 1, currently occupied by Sharon Parry.

For the sake of full disclosure, more than five years ago she and I started the band Happyville. It has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and to say that I am fond of her would be an extreme understatement. At a regular news organization I would have to recuse myself from writing about her, but this is my blog and I can write whatever I want.

Currently the CEO of Artcore Visual Studio in Idaho Falls, Ziel-Dingman's past professional experience includes her time as the executive director of Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation. Before that, she was the marketing director for Snake River Landing/Ball Ventures and Grand Teton Mall (General Growth Properties).

She currently serves as chairwoman of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber Ambassadors and is involved with a variety of non-profit organizations including The Soup Kitchen and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. She was a key player behind two of the area’s major fund-raisers, The Great Race for Education and Dancing With the Idaho Falls Stars.

Ziel-Dingman has served on the boards of the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, EITC Foundation, Idaho Falls Advertising Federation and the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce. She has also served on the Mayor's Business Day planning committee, Mayor's Scholarship Committee, and most recently, Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal. Professional honors include the Idaho Aspen Award from the Small Business Development Center and the “Accomplished Under 40” award from the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Her campaign treasurer is Darin Dallimore.