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

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,, 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

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

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 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, 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.