Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reader wants Dunkin' Donuts in Idaho Falls; who wants to help her out?

Lise Pinkham of Idaho Falls wants to know what it's going to take for Idaho Falls to get a Dunkin' Donuts. Having grown up with one within walking distance of my home, I would not mind this either.

More than 25 years ago, at my father's urging, I actually looked into what it would take to bring Dunkin' Donuts to Idaho. My dad, a teacher, had a colleague who'd taken out a second mortgage to buy the Dunkin' Donuts on Concord Pike, Brandywine Hundred's own 17th Street. It was a home run for him, although the downside was he was usually up at 2 a.m. getting things ready for the day. Still, you can't argue with success.

What I learned then was that for Idaho the company wanted a franchisee who would agree to take on three stores. I don't know if it's that way it still is.

Looking online, I see that there are four in Washington but none in Idaho. I can't understand why some investment company hasn't picked up on Dunkin', especially considering the aggressive job it has done marketing its coffee. The devil is in the details, I suppose.

Now that Carl's Jr. and Chick-fil-A are both open, what is going to be the first chain restaurant news of 2012? Let me assure you we will be watching the T.G.I. Friday's location on Hitt Road with an eagle eye.

Pocatello Hoku plant in jeopardy over power bill

Hoku Materials' Pocatello polysilicon plant, in a photo from 2010.
Hoku Materials' polysilicon plant in Pocatello, a great green energy hope for southeastern Idaho, is in trouble again. The Honolulu company is fighting a termination notice from Idaho Power Co., which is threatening to cut power to the plant next week unless a $1.9 million electricity bill from November is paid.

Hoku filed a protest with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission against the Dec. 27 final termination notice, saying that cutting electricity to the plant would cause Hoku to stop work on the plant and delay indefinitely the plant from becoming fully operational. Such delays would make it difficult for Hoku to fund its operations and keep its 160 employees, the company’s attorneys said in the protest.

In the past three years, Hoku has invested approximately $600 million in the construction of its facilities, including piping systems, pumps, motors and sensitive electronic equipment. "If service is terminated, these high-value systems may freeze, causing irreparable and material damage to Hoku’s plant assets,” the protest said.

Hoku is proposing that Idaho Power take the $1.9 million owed for the November invoice from a $4 million deposit the company made with the utility earlier this year. But in a response Friday, Idaho Power said it could not apply the deposit to the monthly charges because that would violate tariff rules. The electric utility called Hoku’s protest with the IPUC a stalling tactic.

China's Baoding Tianwei Group took a majority ownership in Hoku Materials in 2010 after the plant ran into financial difficulties. Economic development officials have said the plant, dedicated to making materials for solar panels, could create up to 200 green energy jobs in the region.

The city of Pocatello offered a number of incentives for Hoku to locate its site there. For a story about the agreement, follow this link: http://www.bannockdevelopment.org/content/city-hoku-reach-agreement.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Delta Dental names Smith-Putnam to board

Delta Dental of Idaho has named Cindy Smith-Putnam as the newest member of its board of directors.

Cindy Smith-Putnam
 Smith-Putnam, executive director of business development, marketing and community relations for Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, was appointed by Delta Dental’s 13-member board in November.

Smith-Putman brings more than 12 years experience in the health care industry to the position, as well as knowledge and experience in business, communications and strategic planning.

“Cindy’s background and expertise will help to expand our board’s collective knowledge and strategic vision for the company,” said Jean De Luca, Delta Dental of Idaho president and CEO.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Idaho Falls Sears, Ammon Kmart spared in first round

Sears Holdings Corp. has released a preliminary list of Sears and Kmart stores to be closed, and the only one in Idaho was a Sears store in Lewiston.

The list, released this afternoon, named 79 stores. The company announced Tuesday it would be closing 100 to 120 stores because of poor performance. Through Christmas, Kmart sales were reported down 4.4 percent and Sears sales were down 6 percent.

The press release said the stores being closed typcially employ 40 to 80 people. Here is a link:


Year-end tax tips for small businesses

Small-business owners really do have an advantage over average taxpayers, so even if it's late don’t let the opportunity to save money slip by.

Here are some to-do items to consider today or tomorrow, courtesy of Mark J. Kohler, author of What Your CPA Isn't Telling You from Entrepreneur Press.:

• Shift income and expenses. Most small-business owners use cash-based accounting. Simply put, that means you don’t pay taxes on income until you receive it, and you don’t get to claim tax write-offs until you spend the money. So if you can, tell your customers they don’t have to rush to pay you before January 1. And pay your January phone bill early. Run the numbers.

• Buy needed equipment now. Federal economic stimulus measures involving Section 179 and the related “bonus depreciation” can allow you to write off the entire purchase price of a smartphone or a copying machine. But the tax benefits will be greatly reduced after December 31, and then mostly go away after 2012. If you’ve been holding off on buying something for the business, do it now.

If you are in the market for a new business vehicle, there are some incredible tax incentives before December 31. Don’t think the vehicle has to be new, either. The federal depreciation deduction on an SUV could be up to $25,000, and even more for large trucks or RVs used for business purposes. If you are a little more “green” in your tastes, the tax credits for electric vehicles are fantastic, too, with a federal credit of up to $7,500.

• Pay your family members. Has Junior been sweeping the store this year for allowance money? You still have time to put your child or other family members on the payroll or issue them a 1099 as a general contractor. Then, you can count the money you gave them as a business expense. Better yet, maybe give your new worker a year-end bonus in the next week. Not only do you get to deduct what you paid your family member, but you also will pay less tax on the amount. Your child will owe a tiny amount of federal income tax, but far less than you would pay at your higher tax rate if you kept the money for yourself.

• Make your holiday vacation pay for itself. If you’re sitting on the beach in Hawaii reading this article on your iPad, something is wrong with you. But I’d say something is really wrong with you if you haven’t scheduled lunch with a client or a similar meeting that will allow you to write off some holiday trip costs as business expenses.

• Set up a 401(k). A 401(k) is far more powerful than an IRA. A person under 50 could save up to $49,000 in a 401(k) this year; the limit for an IRA was $5,000. A self-employed person still has plenty of time to shelter a great deal of retirement savings from taxes. As with an IRA, you can generally make 2011 deposits until the April tax-filing deadline. However, the 401(k) must be created by December 31.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Idaho Falls Carl's Jr.: The Final Countdown

The day is fast approaching. Mark your calendar for New Year's Eve.
Honestly, I am not working for these guys, but considering the intensity of interest -- no post in the history of BizMojo Idaho has gotten more pageviews -- here is a picture taken this morning of the new Carl's Jr. on 17th Street, due to open Dec. 31.

According to a Twitter post from Monday, "We open New Year's Eve in IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, at 2310 E. 17th St.! Hours are 10am-11pm 12/31 & 1/1, then 6am-11pm daily. Come see us!"
No word on parking lot festivities, but my guess is that things are going to be more low key than the Chick-fil-A opening earlier this month.

Brands come, brands go, what's a person to do?

Here's some interesting reading from 24/7 Wall St., in line with the Sears/Kmart news from yesterday. (Still no word on whether the stores in Idaho Falls and Ammon are on the block, but we are keeping tabs.)

Ponder the fortunes of such former winners as American Apparel and Nokia. This article was posted in June, so there's some forward thinking going on here.

Do you still have a MySpace page out there gathering dust in the void? I do, but I wouldn't know how or where to begin to find it. Is there such a thing as an online janitorial service? It would be a lot of work, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's some genius out there coming up with an elegant solution even as I write this.

There's an interesting story about Bill Gates and a reporter who asked him in 1998 what he feared the most. Microsoft was at the peak of its profitability, and the reporter expected Gates to answer with the name of some big competitor -- Netscape, Cisco, IBM or whatever. Gates, a brilliant guy no matter what you think of him, replied he was most afraid of two guys in a garage somewhere with an idea that was going to turn everything on its head. At the time, very few people had heard about Google, which was being hatched by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a garage in Menlo Park, Calif.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sears, Kmart stores on chopping block

Sears Holdings Corp. announced this morning it will be closing 100 to 120 Sears and Kmart stores after poor sales during the holidays. No word on whether this will include the Sears store in the Grand Teton Mall or the Kmart on 17th Street, but we will be monitoring the news as it develops.

The Sears store in the Grand Teton Mall.
After booming holiday sales for many retailers, the parent company revealed Tuesday that Kmart sales were down 4.4 percent through Christmas Day.  Sears sales were down 6 percent.

In the past, Sears Holdings has attempted to prop up failing stores. This time, the focus will be on cutting weak stores loose and focusing on locations where sales are stronger.

In a news release, the Sears Holdings' CEO Lou D'Ambrosio said, "Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model.  These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail - at the store, online and in the home."

Sears expects to generate $140 to $170 million of cash as the net inventory in these stores is sold plus the sale or sublease of the related real estate. D'Ambrosio said the company plans better inventory management and more targeted pricing and promotion.

Here is a link to the Web page where the store closing list will be posted: http://www.searsmedia.com/

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A holiday message from the BizMojo Idaho pulpit

Has anyone seen the new game show called "You Deserve It"? I think it is about as emblematic of our present day as anything I've seen recently.

It involves people going on TV to compete for the sake of friends or relations who are facing ruin because of their medical bills. For my own part, I think all of us deserve a health care system that doesn't hold the prospect of bankruptcy over the head of anyone who has the bad form to get sick or hurt. But let's go down that road some other day.

Since it's Christmas, let's address instead the question of who deserves what, if anything. This seems to be such a big concern for lots of Americans.

Take for example the Post Register's Goodfellow Fund, which I applaud for setting a new record this year. Money goes directly to local charities, which is great. Yet for the longest time (and perhaps even now), it advertised itself as helping people who are "down on their luck through no fault of their own."

In other words, "Relax, your donation is not going to be used to help lowlifes." Did they really need to say that? Apparently they felt they did.

When Jesus, whose alleged birth we celebrate today, fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes, I don't recall him saying to anyone, "Take a hike. I know what you've been up to. You don't deserve this." The Beatitudes do not say, "Blessed are the deserving poor," and in Mark 10:18, he went as far as to say, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God."

Jesus came into the world to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and for the forgiveness of sins. He was not hung up on qualifications.

A lot of politicians have gotten themselves elected by appealing to Middle America's obsession with the notion that someone out there -- a welfare queen, an illegal alien, even a public school teacher -- is getting something he or she doesn't deserve, and that it's being paid for with tax dollars. The people who want us to focus on that have a lot of money to spread that message, way more than any church or organization that says our society should reflect ideals of equity and mercy.

This blessed day, enjoy your presents, your turkey or your tenderloin (which is on the menu at my house; I can't believe what it cost.) Be lavish with yourselves and each other, as God is lavish with grace and the peace that passes all understanding. None of us really deserve these things, which means all of us do.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Costco evaluating ground in Idaho Falls, Ammon

This might not be the big announcement everyone is waiting for, but Costoco Wholesale, the international chain of membership warehouses, is evaluating locations in Idaho Falls and Ammon.

"At this point it's a feasibility study, but there's a good chance it will happen," said Brent Wilson of Pentad Properties, who is showing Costco possible locations. The company typically hires someone local who has an understanding of traffic patterns, local trends and zoning regulations.

Any incentive that a community can offer is taken into account. "It's not front page news, but it's not a big secret," Wilson said. "They want people to know."

Wilson is also involved with finding a new tenant for the T.G.I. Friday's building on Hitt Road. And no, it won't be Red Lobster. "There was interest, but Red Lobster's prototype is 7,700 square feet and that building is 5,234 square feet," he said.

Right now, Darden Restaurants, Red Lobster's parent company, is more interested in the Far East than it is in small town America, but something could happen in the Idaho Falls-Ammon area. "They are looking," he said.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Commission OKs more wind turbines for eastern Idaho

Wind turbines dot the hills to the east of Idaho Falls. More could be on their way.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has done an about face on Cedar Creek Wind's proposal for more wind turbines in eastern Idaho, but they could end up in Bonneville rather than Bingham County. Here is a link to the Associated Press story:

Eastern Idaho to get more wind turbines after PUC deal capitalpress.com

And if you want all the details, here is the PUC's press release, written by Gene Fadness, formerly of the Post Register.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tucanos Grill for Idaho Falls? One can only hope

BizMojo Idaho reader William Waetje suggested this morning that Idaho Falls could use a Tucanos Brazilian Grill.

Since I learned last week that there are two restaurant developers looking at the old T.G.I. Friday's location on Hitt Road, and in the interest of keeping everyone up to date, I decided to investigate.

The Lakewood, Colo.-based chain has four restaurants: one in Boise, two in Utah and one in Albuquerque, N.M. This geographical distribution would lead one to think Idaho Falls might be considered as a possible location, but the next one is to open in Colorado Springs in April 2012. Considering Tucanos has been in operation 12 years, one can surmise the company is taking its time with expansion.

Still ... Brazilian food, how good does that sound? Check out Tucanos Web site. We gotta get these guys here, if only for the music.


Areva US CEO: Investors want assurance that Idaho Falls plant will be finished

Areva US CEO Jacques Besnainou
When it comes to getting information on up-to-date developments in nuclear energy, there is no better resource than Dan Yurman, who used to work at the Idaho National Laboratory and now lives in Ohio.

Here is a link to a report he put up yesterday, an interview with Areva US CEO Jacques Besnainou, on what we might expect now that the French company has suspended construction of its $3 billion Eagle Rock enrichment facility near Idaho Falls.

Key points:
  • Asked what has to change for Areva to move forward with construction, Besnainou said, "Investors will want to know that once Areva starts building the plant that it will finish it." While $2 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy protects investors for the first two-thirds of the financing needed to build it, the remaining investors do not have the same protection.  A 4 percent contingency for cost overruns would amount to $120 million, which would have to be covered by Areva.
  • There are considerable competitive pressures bearing on Areva's decision. In New Mexico, Urenco's operating enrichment plant already has a license modification from the NRC to double its capacity from 3 million to 6 million SWU/year. It may begin to expand and move up its target date of 2018 for that capacity if it sees Areva isn't going ahead with the Idaho site.

Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes: Areva US CEO Jacques Besnainou talks with nuclear ...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Downtown Idaho Falls building gets facelift

MCS Advertising is restoring its building downtown to its original look.
Here's a new development in the de-uglification of downtown Idaho Falls.

MCS Advertising, which owns the building at the southwestern corner of Park Avenue and B Street, is removing the hideous siding, something we have to assume passed for modern in the '60s. When they bought the building in September, agency owner Lisa Fischbach said they planned to restore the building to what it looked like in the 1920s.

Fischbach said they’ve taken to calling their property “Block 22” after its legal description, which dates back to 1884. They have gotten lots of paperwork that dates back to then, including the original warranty deed. “I can’t believe this came all this way with all these owners,” she said.

MCS has its offices on the second floor. Fishbach and her real estate agent, Kevin Cutler, are looking for tenants at the street level.

Fischbach said they were determined to keep an actual address downtown. “We’d been to a seminar on advertising agency principles, and they really advocated owning your own place,” she said. “We love it downtown and want to be part of the community.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

T.G.I. Friday's on Hitt Road closes

The restaurant gods giveth and the restaurant gods taketh away.

We got a note Tuesday from BizMojo reader Andrea Villalpando Todd that T.G.I.Friday's, 2665 S. 25th East was closing and Tuesday would be its last day. Sure enough, trucks arrived this morning to strip the furnishings. Management was told it was for lack of profit, said Todd, who had friends working there and who attended "the last supper" herself.

The restaurant lasted six years and employed 37 people. Not much more to report, but we may note that Hitt Road seems to be a survival-of-the-fittest environment for restaurants, chain or local. Everybody is making a big fuss over Chick-fil-A, but it was Fazoli's before that and we saw how long that lasted.

Given the location, it's hard to imagine some operator won't want to jump on the site and put something else in. What do you think would do well? What would you like to see?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Areva suspends plans for Idaho uranium enrichment

This is not good news, considering that the $3 billion project was expected to create about 1,000 new jobs over the first two years and 400 permanent jobs. Nevertheless, given the reaction to Fukushima earlier this year and the present state of Europe's economy, only an incredibly optimistic person would be surprised by this.

The bad news for Idaho starts in the sixth paragraph. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Dickey's BBQ plans to open in Idaho Falls

Thanks to one of our faithful tipsters, BizMojo Idaho has learned that Dickey's BBQ Pit will be opening a store in Idaho Falls in 2012, at 2090 East 17th Street (the former location of Taco John's).

Our confirmation came too late Monday to place a call to the 70-year-old, Dallas-based chain's home office. The company's map of scheduled grand openings, http://locations.dickeys.com/grand_openings/default.aspx, only goes to Jan. 19, 2012, so we think it's logical to surmise it will be after that.

Dickey's was started in 1941 by Travis Dickey, Sr., whose mission statement (if such a thing existed then) was, "Serve the best tastin' barbecue imaginable, just the way people like it. And don't make 'em wait too long to get it."

In the past 10 years, the chain has been expanding aggressively across the United States. The Idaho Falls restaurant will bring Idaho's total to three. One is already open Meridian, and another is planned for Nampa.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You want publicity? Here's some advice

Having been inside the belly of the whale called journalism, plenty of people ask me how they can get publicity for their churches, theater companies, businesses, etc.

It can be done. The thing to remember is that a news editor is actually looking for stories. The same is true for bloggers. Coal needs to be shoveled into the furnace all the time for the Titanic to keep steaming toward the iceberg.

It all comes down to writing an effective press release. I've seen plenty, most of them pretty bad. If you want your story printed, there are a few things you can do. This applies to e-mail or snail mail.

Contact information:
Put your name, title and phone number at the top, so that the reporter or editor knows who to call.

Headline: Why should the reader be interested? It may be the most interesting thing in the world to you, but people (and editors are people, my friend) have lots of things competing for their attention. What makes you so newsworthy?

Copy: Spell out the who, what, when, where and why. Make it read as much like a news story as possible. Quote members of your organization, but do not quote yourself (big turn-off). Keep it short and simple. One page is better than two.

Avoid these phrases:

First Annual. If you're back for an encore you can say "second annual," but no self-respecting editor is going to allow "first annual" into print, and you're going to get demerits for using it.

Proudly Presents. As opposed to what, "reluctantly presents" or "half-heartedly presents"?

Breakthrough, Unique, State of the Art, etc. Let the editor be the judge of how epic your news is.

Don't be bashful about sending your news to me. Even if it's only a couple of sentences, I will give it my attention and if I think it's worth readers' attention you'll see it here. If you write long, don't be hurt if your golden prose gets reduced to three or four paragraphs. Most people read only three or four paragraphs before they move on. I suspect many already have with this piece.

One last thing. If you want your press release to look really old school and impressive, at the bottom of the last page use this:


Friday, December 9, 2011

Carl's Jr. plans to open in Idaho Falls by Dec. 31

A spokeswoman for the company that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., confirmed today that they hope to have the first Carl’s Jr. in Idaho Falls open by New Year’s Day.
“Our opening date has been shifting, but one should be opening by the end of this month,” said Kelly Grieve of CKE Enterprises, Inc.

Look at that juicy Carl's Jr. Burger.
There are two Carl’s Jr. locations planned for Idaho Falls, one on 17th Street, where Schlotsky’s Deli used to be, and the other at the corner of North Holmes and Yellowstone Avenue, near Wendy’s. Judging by the progress at both sites (the North Holmes restaurant is being built from the ground up), it’s safe to predict that the 17th Street location will open first.

Carl's Jr. has 11 locations in Idaho, most of them in the Boise area, the nearest one in Twin Falls. Its corporate office is located in Carpenteria, Calif. The chain dates back to 1941, when Carl N. Karcher and his wife, Margaret, borrowed $311 on their Plymouth and added their $15 in savings to buy a hot dog cart. Today, there are more than 1,200 Carl's Jr. restaurants, most in the West and Southwest.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Building a better blog

After three months, BizMojo Idaho had its biggest day Wednesday with nearly twice the number of visitors as our previous high. Drilling down, the numbers say it was the Chick-fil-A post and photo, which went straight to Facebook and got shared a lot from there. Always fun to have a scoop.

Of course the big challenge is keeping the momentum going. I could look at my analytics tomorrow and find out I had 17 visits. Twenty-five years in the newspaper business taught me that if you don't have something every day to get readers' attention you're going to be forgotten about very quickly. I think the Web is an even more extreme environment.

Here is a link sent to me by Jared Fowler of Novayx, talking about what it takes to build traffic. Whether or not you're a blogger, you might find it interesting.  I did.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Riverbend adds three new local talk radio shows

Riverbend Communications has added three new local talk shows to its daily lineup on Newstalk 690 and 1260. Idaho’s Morning News with Tim Lewis is now airing Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 a.m.

Hosted by News Program Director Tim Lewis, the show aims to cover anything relevant to eastern Idaho residents: news, weather, traffic and road conditions, sports and entertainment.

Riverbend Communications has brought in Carissa Coats, former managing editor of Local News 8, to host Idaho’s Midday News each day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mark Richardson, longtime host with his father, Mel Richardson, and a fixture in Idaho radio, anchors Idaho’s Afternoon News from 4 to 6 p.m. Additionally, he is hosting a weekend edition of  “Probing America” on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

All three hosts intend to be live, local and more than just politics, bringing an up-to-the moment feel and sound to east Idaho radio. Riverbend is also addding more in-depth coverage and local and community news to the Web, on http://www.eastidahonews.com/.

Riverbend Communications also owns Classy 97/KLCE-FM; Z103/KFTZ-FM; K-Bear 101/KCVI-FM; and 105-5 The Hawk/KTHK-FM.

Crowd assembles at Ammon Chick-fil-A

Your huddled masses, yearning to consume. ... the scene Wednesday morning at the Ammon Chick-fil-A on Hitt Road, which opens Thursday.
The doors of the Ammon Chick-fil-A, at 3003 S. 25th East, don't open until Thursday, but more than 75 people had already lined up by 6:30 a.m. today despite the single digit temperatures.

The first 100 adults in line when the restaurant opens around 6 a.m. Thursday will win free Chick-fil-A for a year -- 52 coupons, each good for a Chick-fil-A meal (sandwich, fries and drink). The coupons can be used at any Chick-fil-A in the country and can be given to anyone. Many who win the tickets share them with family, friends or donate them to little league teams, civic groups or others who could benefit from free meals, Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Cindy Chapman said.

Today's group includes several people who have participated across the country, including one man from Florida who has been to more than 70 grand openings and two teachers who are skipping school to participate.

Registration has begun and once it’s complete the parking lot will be transformed into an overnight celebration. Chick-fil-A will provide entertainment, security, restrooms and, of course, plenty of food during the countdown. A DJ will be on hand between 1 and 4 p.m. to provide games and music. Later, campers will enjoy Chick-fil-A for dinner and have a chance to watch “The Polar Express” on an outdoor screen before a late-night Chicken Soup party.

The restaurant, in the Teton Spectrum parking lot, is expected to bring with it more than 65 new jobs.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Airline to discontinue I.F. to Boise flight

SeaPort Airlines has announced that it plans to discontinue its flight service between Idaho Falls and Boise at the end of the year.

Apparently, the lagging economy and the company's aircraft financing problems are to blame for the decision, said Idaho Falls Regional Airport Director Len Nelson, in a press release issued Monday by the city of Idaho Falls. City and economic development officials will continue to seek another viable carrier to take over the route.

SeaPort began offering the route June 18, nearly a year after Horizon Airlines discontinued its nonstop Boise-Idaho Falls flights, which it had been offering for more than 20 years.

Anyone with a SeaPort ticket to Boise for after Dec. 31 should contact the airline directly at (888) 573-2767 or online at www.seaportair.com.

More press for Idaho Falls on The Daily Beast

Wow! After recently ranking No. 2 as the best place in the United States to start over, Idaho Falls now comes in at No. 18 on The Daily Beast's list of America's Top 25 Coldest Cities. In other words, Idaho Falls is a great place to start over if you don't mind freezing.

I can imagine many readers of The Daily Beast -- the Newsweek-sponsored blog put out by former New Yorker editor Tina Brown -- taking a look at many of the cities on this list and saying to themselves, "I wouldn't live there if you paid me to." Considering their chic, Bozeman, Mont., St. Albans, Vt. and Minneapolis might be obvious exceptions. But Fairbanks? Grand Forks?

Before posting the link, I want to add that my old Post Register colleague Ken Retallic once heard me complaining about subzero temperatures here and laughed me to scorn. Ken came to Idaho Falls from Grand Forks, and still feels this place is more like Belize.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buddy's to close Idaho Falls restaurant

We here at BizMojo Idaho would much rather write about a restaurant opening than one closing, but it is our sad duty to report that Buddy's on Channing Way will be shutting its doors at the end of the year.

Give them credit for trying. They opened in early August 2010, right about when Idaho Falls was beginning to feel the full effect of the economic downturn.

For those of you whose response is, "How could they? I love Buddy's!" ask yourself, when was the last time you ate there? The business hasn't been good enough, said the manager I talked to Thursday.

Running a restaurant is a tough business, and for locally owned places it can be hard to compete with chains like Olive Garden, which, as we know, have deep pockets and a devoted following.

But the commonly held notion that 90 percent of restaurants fail in their first year is a myth. I've posted a link below to an article that was published earlier this year by Randy White, CEO of White Hutchison Leisure & Learning Group, a consulting group based in Kansas City, Mo. Here are some key points from a three-year study they did:

  • During the first year of operation, slightly over one-quarter of all restaurants closed or changed ownership. By the end of their third year, just short of 60% of all restaurants closed or changed ownership. The turnover rate varied little between independent and chain restaurants.
  • Restaurant turnover was highest in areas with higher concentrations of restaurants. In other words, the greater the number of restaurants for a given population, the greater the failure rate.
  • A successful restaurant requires focus on a clear concept that drives all activities, an operating philosophy that encompasses business operations as well as employee and customer relations. "Failed restaurant owners, when asked about their concept, discussed only the food product," White wrote. "The researchers concluded it was obvious from the interviews that food quality does not guarantee success; the concept must be well defined beyond the type of food served."
Buddy's in Pocatello, an institution there, will remain open, so anyone hankering for "Buddy's Breath" will still have that option.

Friday, December 2, 2011

That One Place opening Monday in downtown I.F.

After more than a half-year of vacancy, the space at 552 North Capital Avenue, where Pachanga's used to be, is going to be opening Monday as That One Place.

The restaurant, which has been at 569 Third Street since opening in April, is moving downtown for better traffic and because owner Trent Walker says he wants to be part of the downtown scene. The menu focuses on sandwiches, soups, wraps and rice bowls, all fresh from scratch.

A native of Salt Lake City, Walker has been in Idaho Falls since 2001, when he came to work for Dole Fruit and Vegetable. From there, he went to work for Nicholas Foods, supplying restaurants in Idaho Falls, Driggs, Victor and Jackson, Wyo. Visiting all the restaurants that he did, he had plenty of inspiration and ideas once he started planning to open his own.

He said he is under no illusions about going into the restaurant field. "It's a tough market, but if you can find your own niche I think you can do well," he said.

The name "That One Place" came from his 16-year-old son, who'd heard his grandparents talking all the time about places they'd eaten around the world, e.g. "Remember that one place we went to in Italy?"

"He said, 'You ought to call it that,' and we liked the idea," Walker said.

The restaurant manager is Ashley Mueller. They provide catering, carryout and delivery. For more information, call 529-9804.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chick-fil-A: The Final Countdown

Thought you've seen enough of people camping out for a business opening? Get ready for Chick-fil-A's first stand-alone restaurant in Idaho, which is opening Dec. 8 at 3003 S. 25th East (Hitt Road).

The first 100 adults in line at the new restaurant will win free Chick-fil-A for a year, said Cindy Chapman, spokeswoman for CP Communications. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast.

Here are the rules: The first 100 adults in line by 6 a.m. Dec. 8, each will receive 52 free Chick-fil-A meal certificates for a year -- a total of more than $26,000 in free food being given away. But participants 18 years and older with identification can line up no earlier than 24 hours prior to the opening. In the event that there are more than 100 people lined up at 6 a.m. Dec. 7, all 100 spots will be determined by a raffle.

See http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Locations/First-100 for complete rules.

Chick-fil-A has been doing a First 100 promotion at all grand openings for eight years, since opening a restaurant in Arizona and noticing people showing up 15 hours early. Since then, raving fans have been arriving more than 24 hours in advance, packing tents, lawn chairs, computers, TVs, couches and all kinds of gear to make their wait more comfortable and entertaining.

While it has no control over the weather, Chick-fil-A provides security, entertainment, games, and, of course, plenty of fresh Chick-fil-A.

The new Chick-fil-A restaurant, one of 90 opening this year, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Operator Lauren Mosteller anticipates the restaurant will bring 65 new jobs to the community.
The scene outside a recent Chick-fil-A opening.

Hobby Lobby eyes opening in I.F. market

One of our readers, Annette Barber Hall, asked earlier this month whether Hobby Lobby has any plans to open a store in the Idaho Falls area.

They do, said Scott Nelson, assistant vice president of real estate. The issue is, as is common with real estate, location.

Based in Oklahoma City, Okla., Hobby Lobby’s stores are typically 55,000 square feet, Nelson said. They look for busy retail areas with a lot of traffic, and have focused their attention on the Ammon side of Hitt Road.

“There are potential opportunities on the bookends, but we like to be in the middle,” he said.

Founded in 1972, Hobby Lobby recently started construction on its 500th store, in Las Vegas, Nev. The first store there, in Henderson, has done very well. “We’re a little bit on the recession-proof side,” Nelson said. “We offer inexpensive entertainment.”

Nelson said a stand-alone market like Idaho Falls-Ammon is right up their alley. “It’s got a good population and it’s Middle America,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I.F. ranks No. 2 in national survey of places to start over

It looks like Idaho Falls has once again made it onto one of those lists that name the best places in the United States to live. This one is from www.thedailybeast.com, which lists the 30 Best Cities for Starting Over. One question, though: What if you've lived here for 30 years already?

We're ranked second, behind Austin, Texas. Impressive, yes? I can think of places more different, but who here wouldn't mind having a little more of what Austin has when it comes to music, food and culture?

Nevertheless, this is great press and a good piece to help promote the area.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

10%: A Pittance or a Fortune?

I have to give a talk next week at my church, St. Luke's Episcopal, about how people ought to shoot for pledging 10% of their income. In light of the shopping frenzy of the past few days, I'd like to raise a question.

If I owned a store and advertised 10% off all merchandise, how would most people take it? You and I both know it would be considered it a joke. I would have wasted my advertising dollar.

Yet when you ask people to give up 10% for the Lord in whom they profess to believe, they squeal like Justin Bieber. (I'm not letting my atheist and agnostic friends off the hook either. How many of you consider 10 percent more than enough when it comes to tipping a waiter or waitress?)

There are times when I'm dickering with someone over the price of a guitar and I feel like saying, "How 'bout if I just sell it to you at 10 percent over cost? I don't need a stupid commission. I know you don't need money, and neither do I. Better yet, how 'bout if I just give it to you? Your happiness is important to me."

God's grace, of course, is free. Unfortunately, it's a lot more abstract than a wide-screen TV.

Full disclosure: Like most people, I have thus far lacked the nerve to tithe. My church is not a place where you hear the word "should" all the time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's vitaminized? Oh, good!

I was doing an online search Wednesday, really just looking up an address, when I came across this link and this jpeg of an old beer label.

Long before the days of craft brewing, and before the great homogenization of the brewing industry in the 1970s, it was common for Anytown, U.S.A., to have its own brewery, as Idaho Falls appears to have had in the '30s, following the repeal of Prohibition.

Does anyone have any more information about the Pilsener Brewing Co. of Idaho Falls? From the sketchy information on the link, it appears to have been related to the Pilsener Brewing Co. of Seattle, but I wonder how so?

Second, can anyone decipher the signature on the label? The first name looks like Oskar and the surname looks German, starting with an L and ending with a z. Beyond that, I think it's anyone's guess, but maybe your eyes are better than mine.

I know we have a big beer community here, and it seems there's always one or two people who are into the history. Anything you can contribute would be appreciated. Speculation, as you probably know, is always welcome here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Boise produce dealer expands to I.F.

Grasmick Produce, a Boise vegetable dealer since 1955, has expanded into eastern Idaho with the purchase of a 16,000-square-foot warehouse at 1935 Enterprise, off South Yellowstone Highway, south of Sunnyside Road.

The sale was handled by Steven Frei and Brent Butikofer of Idaho Business Properties.

One of the leading produce wholesalers in the state of Idaho, Grasmick is a family-owned and operated company, with day-to-day operations overseen by the father-son team of Dutch and Mike Grasmick. From a 36,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse in Boise, they service hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, government installations and retail stores.

According to information on http://www.manta.com/, the company employs more than 100 people and has annual sales of over $10 million. Grasmick purchases from vendors like Tanimura & Antle, Taylor Farms, Mann Packing, and TDI. They offer the freshest local produce as well as specialty items.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

INL plutonium powers newest Mars probe


Here's a link to the latest big news from the Idaho National Laboratory, which has been involved in creating the power supply for the Mars rover scheduled to be launched this weekend.

Steve Johnson, director of INL's Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division, led the team that fueled and tested the Mars Science Laboratory's power system.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Museum of Clean opens in Pocatello

I find this more than a little ironic.

Last month, Pocatello was voted the “dirtiest city in America” by a Web site called Alice.com. The ranking was based on nationally compiled sales figures for stuff like Lysol, Tide, Tidy Bowl or whatever.

I questioned it then and on Friday, as if by magic, Pocatello’s Museum of Clean opened to the public.

Located in the old six-story Salt Lake Hardware building at 702 South First Avenue, in Pocatello's old warehouse district, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the history of housework, even back to Ancient Egypt. (It seems that neat freaks have always been with us, just not at my house.) The very first vacuums are on display, as well as an exhibit of toilet seats through the ages.

Five years in the making, the museum comes from the mind of Don Aslett, founder of Varsity Contractors, a veteran of more than 50 years in the cleaning business and the author of 40 books.

A self-described urinal colonel, porcelain preacher and king of the toilet ring, Aslett told local news reporters that the point of museum is “selling the value of clean."

"I think the word clean is more important than any word except for probably faith," he said. "And we're talking about the scope of it: clean water, clean air, clean sheets, clean floors; everything clean is beautiful.”


INL parent company gets airtime on NPR

Battelle Technology, parent company of Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory, got a nice shout-out on National Public Radio this morning. For those of you who didn't hear it, here's a link:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mangini's Take and Bake marks birthday, plans move

Saturday marks the second anniversary of Mangini's Take and Bake Pizza, with big changes planned in the next few months.
Mangini's Take and Bake owner Leo O'Ryan

Even though the price of cheese has been skyrocketing, Owner Leo O'Ryan said business has been good enough since they opened Nov. 19, 2009, that they are moving from 525 Second Street to a bigger location at 531 Lomax Avenue.

A sign is already at the new location, but O'Ryan said it could be late December before they move. "There are a lot of details that need to be taken care of," he said.

The new store will be almost double the size, and O'Ryan plans to gradually expand the menu to include pasta dishes. The biggest advantage of moving will be the traffic. Going by the city's traffic count, 6,500 cars will pass by on Lomax every day, and on North Holmes Avenue, where they will have a sign, the count is 7,000.

How many cars drive by the Second Street store? "Sixty, probably. I've never counted and don't think the city ever would," O'Ryan said.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ammon retail center moving forward

Work is proceeding on Comfort Construction's 11,000-square-foot retail strip center at 3379 E. 17th Street, next door to Ace Hardware. Developer Dean Mortimer has three tenants lined up, Domino’s Pizza, Subway and Salon Suites. The project is slated to be finished in May 2012.

Domino’s will own its own part of the building, while Subway will lease. Salon Suites, another one of Mortimer’s companies, leases beauty salon and massage therapy spaces to contractors who want to operate on their own.

By the numbers

In the interest of posting content on this blog every day, here's something that might be of interest to BizMojo Idaho readers.

We can speculate, opine, whine or whatever, but when it comes to development, numbers tell the story. These are the city of Idaho Falls' Jan.-Oct. building permit numbers for the past six years:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Trader Joe's anytime soon

A quick update on the "specialty grocery" news from yesterday, which hit like lightning and elicited quite a few comments on Facebook. We all love to ponder possibilities, and the most excitement seemed to be over whether Trader Joe's might be interested in locating here.

Before we go on, let me say that easy access to Two Buck Chuck would probably not be a good thing for me (although in its absence I have embraced Foxhorn Cabernet Sauvignon, which sells for $5.85 a 1.5 liter bottle at WinCo. It's Australian, with a screwtop, but I swear if you decanted it and served it at dinner your guests would rave about it. I recommend it highly for a "house red," if you're looking for one.)

Anyway, in the service of enquiring minds I called Trader Joe's headquarters in Monrovia, Calif., and spoke to Amy in customer service. She would not tell me her last name (company policy), but she did they me they eventually plan to come Idaho. Now for the bad news. It won't be anytime soon. "We're expanding into several states, but we do it a year-and-a-half at a time and (Idaho's) not on the list right now," she said.

Another possibility mentioned yesterday, at the other end of the spectrum, is Sav-a-Lot, more of a WinCo style store. One reader asked, "Why would they come when WinCo and Sam's Club are already here?" To which I answer, why do Lowe's and Home Depot more often than not build right next to each other?

Regardless of who's coming and when, the purpose of this blog is to stay on top of these things and build readership by encouraging endless speculation. So hang in there, readers.

Albiston named new EITC president

Steve Albiston will take over as president of Eastern Idaho Technical College at the beginning of 2012, replacing Burton Waite, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

The announcement came Wednesday afternoon, slightly more than a month after Albiston, EITC’s vice-president for instruction and student affairs, was named as one of five finalists for the job.

“We had a strong pool of applicants,” said EITC Presidential Search Committee Chair Emma Atchley of Ashton.

Other members of the search committee included:
Christian Godfrey -- faculty representative, EITC
Ken Erickson -- workforce development/staff representative EITC
Sharon Parry -- Idaho Falls City Council, former school board member District 91
Lyle Castle -- Dean, Idaho State University, University Place, Idaho Falls
Bobbi Crosser -- Director, Professional-Technical Education Programs, District 93
Daniel Turner -- Student Body President, EITC
Jeff Thompson -- Idaho State Legislature, District 33
Michael Clark -- EITC Advisory Board, INL
Vera McCrink -- Deputy Administrator, State of Idaho Division of Professional-Technical Education

All I Want for Christmas ...

Great article about the late Steve Jobs featuring some amusing and appalling anecdotes from the new biography by Walter Isaacson. I would like to read this, and I would like to read it as a book, not on an iPad, Kindle or Nook. I would like a New Yorker subscription, too, come to think of it.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'Specialty grocery' store eyeing Idaho Falls

Brad Cramer of the Idaho Falls Planning Department wishes he had more to tell, but the most interesting call he has received recently was concerning a “specialty grocery” looking for a site to build a store upwards of 60,000 square feet. No names was given, so go ahead and speculate to your heart’s content.

In terms of valuation, commercial building permits in Idaho Falls through the end of October were roughly the same this year as they were the first 10 months of 2010, said Cramer, the city’s assistant planner. In fact, this year there was $24.41 million on the books compared to $24.16 in 2010. But the numbers this year reflect the big INL projects going up on the north side. Without them, things would be anemic indeed.

Cramer will be speaking Monday to the Mortgage Bankers Association, people who, for obvious reasons, have a keen interest in seeing new development. In his position, he is often the first to know what may be in the works. “(Developers) want to meet with me to figure out what they need to submit to get something started,” he said.

Other than the cryptic grocery call, the big news remains Carl’s Jr. on 17th Street and North Yellowstone and the Marriott on the river. Regarding the latter, “They’re saying it will be done the first part of April, but I think May is more realistic,” Cramer said.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turkey Box drive grows each year

When it comes helping out people in need this time of year, I don't think anyone can accuse Idaho Falls of being stingy.

Whether it's the Goodfellow Fund, which has been around since the 1930s, or Coats for Kids, the community has an admirable record of coming through.

With Thanksgiving a week from Thursday, this is the week for people to put together Turkey Boxes. Kelly Marshall, who has been managing the drive for the past seven years, estimated Sunday that 373 boxes would be going out to families next week, but there could be more.

Still based out of St. Luke's Episcopal Church (which also sponsors the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen), the Turkey Box drive, in its 12th year, now has a score of churches, schools and businesses involved.

"I think it's something people can relate to because everyone needs food," Marshall said. "The Angel Tree is wonderful, but it's hard sometimes to figure out what presents to buy for kids. But if a family needs Thanksgiving dinner, it's easy to put a box together for them."

She estimated that more than 200 boxes will be going to families identified by counselors in Idaho Falls School District 91. In Bonneville School District 93, her count on Sunday was 118. More boxes are being reserved for call-ins -- people who call the St. Luke's office to give the names of people in need, sometimes themselves.

Those who have taken boxes to fill themselves need to bring them to St. Luke's this week. Anyone who wants to make a cash donation is welcome, because there are always boxes to be filled.

For the second time, the distribution will be Monday night (Nov. 21), with drivers picking up boxes in the alley behind St. Luke's. Last year this turned out to be a godsend, because a storm early Tuesday made the roads impassable and Wednesday would have been too late.

Businesses helping out with the Turkey Box Drive include Ball Packing (cold storage), Boise Cascade (boxes) and Blacker's (which for several years has donated freezers for the turkeys and pies.

If you need a box or know someone, call St. Luke's, 522-8465.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

EITC seeks donations of pasta, sauce for food bank

Who doesn't get tired of turkey, ham and green bean casserole? How about some spaghetti carbonara to bring some variety to the season?

Joining the effort to eliminate hunger in the community, the Student Senate of Eastern Idaho Technical College kicked off “Pedro’s Pasta Push” on Nov. 4.
Pedro, EITC's falcon mascot (and you are excused for not knowing EITC has a mascot; I didn't), and his friends are asking members of the community to help provide a warm meal to those in need by donating boxes of spaghetti noodles and cans of pasta sauce. All items will be donated to the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank for distribution throughout the area.

Those who would like to donate may bring their items to the John E. Christofferson building at EITC before Nov. 23rd. If you are a business that would like to assist by becoming a drop-off location, please contact Michelle Ziel at 524-0464 or michelle.ziel@my.eitc.edu.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Old church becomes center for weddings, receptions, events

The historic Annis Church House on the Menan-Lorenzo Highway has received a major renovation and a new lease on life as the Sereno Event Center.

Owner Anna Ball chose the property as a restoration opportunity where she could present guests a place that evokes the warm and inviting elegance of old-world Tuscany. She is offering Sereno for weddings, receptions, company parties and recitals. There are both indoor and outdoor options for year-round events.

A grand opening this month will include an open house with full access to the restored building and grounds. All are invited, Nov. 18 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Nov. 19 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The facility has the capacity to seat 295 people. There has been extensive renovation work done to the building and grounds, including updated lighting, walls, flooring, and furnishings.

“We wanted to preserve the historical feel of the building while improving overall accessibility and efficiency,“ Ball said. “We had an opportunity to adapt the church in a way that retains its original beauty, but makes it useful for the long term.”

The chapel’s new walls and floor are lighted with updated, wrought-iron fixtures and a built-in walkway that creates an intimate setting for the most special of days. The cultural hall received new, stained tongue-and-groove pine walls and draperies for both visual appeal and sound control. The stage was also saved, allowing for productions and concerts.

The old Annis Church Building on the Lorenzo-Menan Highway
has been renovated to become the Sereno Event Center.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Building a bridge to the 20th century

I talk about simplifying my life and cutting back on expenses, telling myself how easy it would be, but when put to the test I am as big a wimp as anyone.

In July, when my Droid phone was on the fritz (which is to say about a month after the warranty expired), I discovered I had the opportunity to exchange it at the store. I had a choice: a new Samsung smart phone with all the latest apps or a $39 flip phone that would allow me to call and text. In addition to costing less, the flip phone would have saved me $30 a month and marked me as an old school iconoclast. I chose the Samsung, loathing myself as I signed the contract yet feeling helpless to do anything about it.

If I can't do something as simple as trade down on a cell phone, do I have the guts to get my house in order? And if I don't, what does that say about my generation and the future of this country?

I think back to the lifestyle my parents had when I was growing up in the 1960s. We lived in the suburbs, in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. We had one car. We had one TV, a black-and-white GE set that was in my bedroom the day John Kennedy was killed (I was home sick from school).

My dad, a teacher, carpooled to work three days a week. On the days he drove, my mom stayed home. My mom packed his lunch, as well as my sister's and my own. If my folks had a charge card, it was probably for John Wanamaker or Strawbridge & Clothier, and I would guess the credit limit was with $100. I have no doubt it was paid off in full anytime there might have been a balance at the end of the month.

Although we got the paper, we didn't get Time, Life, Look or Newsweek. I read those at the neighbor's house down the street or at my grandparents'.

We hold those times times up as idyllic, but I wonder how many of us would choose to live that way today? I have considered the notion of dialing my lifestyle and expectations back to 1968 and keeping a diary. It might be an interesting blog, but I'd have to type my posts on my old manual Olympia typewriter and mail them to the 21st century.

Given my smart phone experience, I doubt I have the nerve.

Dave Menser, a teacher who carpooled and brown-bagged his lunch every workday for more than 30 years.

Brothers join I.F. Wells Fargo Private Client office

David and Dale Green have joined the Idaho Falls office of Wells Fargo Private Client Services. The brothers come from Key Investment Services, and have a combined experience of 30-plus years as financial advisers.

They have brought with them their registered sales associate, Lorraine Day, and their financial adviser partner, Melissa Browning.

They can be reached at (208) 533-6112.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What is to become of the small ski hills?

What is to become of "mom-and-pop" ski hills like Kelly Canyon? Everybody is scratching their heads over the owners' decision this year to close the hill on Sunday. I haven't talked to them, but I thought about this while reading a story today in the New York Times on Snow King in Jackson, Wyo. (A link is posted below.)

Once again, we seem to be in the position of losing something we love but don't have enough desire to save. I think about where so many people of my generation, including my wife, learned to ski -- Pine Basin -- and the KIFI Ski School, which sent buses there. Started by men who'd learned to ski in World War II, the ski school gave thousands of kids the opportunity to learn a lifetime sport at very little cost.


Nine or 10 years ago, I'd been to Kelly Canyon with my son, Bill, on a Sunday afternoon after church. I'd noticed on the map that the vertical relief at Kelly was 975 feet. No great shakes compared to Jackson Hole, Sun Valley or even Grand Targhee, right?

Everything is relative. I grew up in Delaware, the second flattest state in the nation (Florida is first), and remember going to the Poconos to ski. Of all the resorts in eastern Pennsylvania, there was one revered above all others: Camelback.

Out of curiosity, the day after our Kelly trip I called Camelback  to ask how tall their mountain is. The answer was 800 feet. Yes, the hill that students from Brandywine High School would ride four-and-a-half hours on a bus to ski is smaller than one a half-hour from my home in Idaho Falls.

The economics of ski resorts today are more about real estate than they are about recreation, which for all its glamor is essentially an expensive add-on. I was interested to see the Times article put Grand Targhee in the same class as Jackson Hole, because I think it occupies a no-man's land between hills like Kelly and the bigger resorts.

It's easy to say we need to put our money where our mouth is if we want to save one of the things that has made living in the West such a great thing. But the day could be coming, and soon.

Jackson, Wyo., with Snow King in the background (Photo
David Swift for The New York Times)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

INL Space Center chief travels to NYC

The Idaho National Laboratory's Dr. Steven D. Howe went to New York City in late October as one of five finalists for the World Technology Awards in the Space category.

The award went to Gwynne Shotwell, president of a company called Space X, but Howe, director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research, wasn't going with inflated expectations. He told KPVI-TV earlier in October that he was honored to be going at all. "(The) co-finalists are pretty big names and have major accomplishments. So I think I'm the runt of the litter on this group," he said.

Howe has been director of the center since 2005. Before that, he part of the Thermonuclear Applications group of the Applied Physics Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His research interests include antiproton physics and applications, nuclear rocket propulsion, hyper-velocity aerodynamics and thermodynamics, and non-equilibrium X-ray emission. He also writes fiction. His novella "Wrench and Claw" appeared in Analog Magazine and his novel "Honor Bound Honor Born" is about the possible development of the first commercial base on the Moon.

Howe has appeared on numerous television programs about space and rocketry. He holds five patents involving the storage and application of anti-protons, and he is the co-founder of Hbar Technologies.

If you would like to view his presentation at the World Technology Awards, this is the link:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pocatello the dirtiest?

I heard on the Today Show this morning that Pocatello had been rated "the dirtiest city in America." Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda were yukking it up, reporting the name as "Pocatello, Indiana" (which ought to tell you a lot).

Though I've lived in Idaho Falls for nearly 30 years, I'm partial enough to Pocatello to have taken umbrage at this. Turns out the rating comes for a site called www.alice.com, and the numbers were based on the amount of money spent on cleaning products such as Tide, Lysol, Cascade, etc.

Knoxville, Tenn., came in first with a grand total of $66.95. Pocatello came in last with a measly $9.88.

It doesn't take an M.B.A. to spot the hole in this. The only numbers registering in such a survey are the brand name products being scanned at the supermarket, with the information going straight to the national database that keeps track of every Slim Jim and roll of toilet paper you buy.

But Pocatello, dirty? This is the home of Don Aslett, who has made a fortune selling cleaning products and telling people how to keep their homes clean. I tried to reach Aslett on Thursday but couldn't (no surprise), but I managed to speak to Jared Sampson, a customer service rep at Don Aslett's Cleaning Center.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," he said. Upon reflection, we both decided the number might have been skewed for any number of reasons.  "Everyone I know around here does not buy name brand cleaning products," he said.