Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Allegiant Air to start Idaho Falls-Oakland flights in April

Allegiant Travel Co., which currently runs non-stop flights between Idaho Falls and Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles, has announced it will start service this spring between Idaho Falls and Oakland, Calif.

Company President Andrew Levy said Tuesday the flights will begin April 27. For the first few weeks, fares will start at $40.

“We're just thrilled to add another popular destination market with low-cost flights and inexpensive vacation package offerings to the residents of the Idaho Falls area,” Levy said.

Allegiant already offers service from Idaho Falls to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Nevada. It also offers deals on hotel rooms and rental cars.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Western Benefit Solutions opens office in Snake River Landing

Matt Hansen
Western Benefit Solutions is now in its permanent Idaho Falls office, at 950 Pier View Drive, Suite C, next to Liberty Mutual in Snake River Landing.

The Boise-based company is Idaho’s largest employee benefit consulting and brokerage firm, advising clients on how to manage health insurance costs.  The head of the Idaho Falls office is Matt Hansen, who before he joined WBS owned and managed Insight Financial, a company he helped found in 2003.

WBS is the state's largest broker in the public sector and the only brokerage firm with Idaho based, in-house legal and HR resources. Among the advantages it advertises are in-house health care reform experts, in-house underwriters, strong leverage in the marketplace and HIPAA compliance. For over five years, it has been ranked as one of the top 10 largest and most productive employee benefit brokerage firms in the United States by the trade publication Business Insurance.

The company's Web address is http://www.westben.com/. The phone number for the Idaho Falls office is (208) 542-1233

EIRMC officer receives appointment as ACHE regent

Sandee Moore
Sandee Moore, chief operations officer at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, has been appointed to the American College of Healthcare Executives' Council of Regents, its legislative body.

ACHE is an international professional society of more than 35,000 healthcare executives. As a member of the council, Moore represents Idaho healthcare organizations and their interests with the national ACHE organization. She was elected by her professional peers in the state.

Moore will take office March 17, during ACHE’s 55th Congress on Healthcare Leadership, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Moore has been at EIRMC since 2010. In addition to her duties as COO, she directly leads several departments, including medical imaging, pharmacy, laboratory, therapy services, plant operations, nutrition services and environmental services and EIRMC’s Behavioral Health Center. Before coming to Idaho Falls, she was associate administrator at Sunrise Medical Center, a 700-bed hospital in Las Vegas, Nev.

Born and raised in Caldwell, she earned her B.A. in 2003 from Idaho State University, where she still serves on the alumni board.  She later earned her M.A. from the University of Colorado, and was named the university’s Outstanding MBA Student and winner of the Health Programs Director’s Award.

She is also a board member of the Idaho Falls Domestic Violence Intervention Center.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jan. 17, 2012 radio interview

I've been meaning to post this all week, but here, finally, is the link to my Tuesday morning conversation with Tim Lewis on NewsTalk Radio, 690 and 1260 on the AM dial. I visit Tim every Tuesday during the 8 a.m. hour to talk about what I see going on around town. The point is to promote this blog.

This has been a big week for BizMojo Idaho. On Friday we had 323 pageviews, smashing the previous high, 210, by a wide margin. I was surprised by the reaction I got to the piece I posted Tuesday about Galen Bush, an agent with Keller-Williams East Idaho who died unexpectedly on Jan. 14. After less than a week, it turned out to be the secondmost viewed story in this blog's history. I had debated posting anything, but figured if it was worth doing if it had any chance of helping Galen's family. Obviously a lot of people knew Galen and cared about him.

I am becoming more and more fascinated by how blogging can serve the purposes of community journalism. I'm not doing much different with this than what I was doing 32 years ago when I was writing, editing and selling ads for the Jeffrey City News in Jeffrey City, Wyo. (a town that no longer exists). Whenever possible, I have always tried to reach out to readers and engage them in conversation, or at least make them feel like they had a relationship with me.

Anyroad, here's the link to my last radio interview, addressing such things as building permits, Dickey's Barbecue Pit and Costco. Give it a listen if you don't have anything better to do. http://www.eastidahonews.com/2012/01/business-expert-talks-about-potential-new-establishments-coming-to-idaho-falls/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Idaho jobless rate continues to drop

There's no need to print the full story here (the link is posted below), but the Idaho Department of Labor reported this morning that the state's unemployment rate dropped again in December. While 8.4 percent still leaves room for improvement, it's safe to say this counts as welcome news.

Statewide, employers hired just over 11,000 new employees, mainly to replace workers who retired or left their jobs for some other reason. Most significantly, it marked the first month since 2008 that employers reported hiring more new employees than they did then.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Idaho Falls company plans $125 million facility in New Mexico, seeks NRC license

Steve T. Laflin, International Isotopes
President and CEO
International Isotopes Inc. is a company I have followed with interest for years not because it's high profile but because I think it exemplifies the sort of business that keeps the local economy humming.

It has its roots in the Idaho National Laboratory, but left the reservation years ago. Located north of Idaho Falls off St. Leon Road, its focus today is on nuclear medicine calibration and reference standards, high purity fluoride gases and cobalt-60 products. The company also provides radioisotopes and radiochemicals for medical devices, calibration, clinical research, life sciences, and industrial applications. It provides analytical, measurement recycling, and processing services to clients.

This week the Nuclear Regulatory Commission started the public notification and comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the $125 million uranium deconversion facility International Isotopes is planning to build in New Mexico. As a part of the comment process, the NRC has scheduled a Feb. 2 meeting in Hobbs, N.M. Comments on the project will be taken until Feb. 27. The application and information about the NRC license review process are available on the NRC website at http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/inisfacility.html. 

Steve T. Laflin, International Isotopes'  president and CEO, said he anticipates a license for the facility sometime this summer.  "In the next few months, the exact timing of the NRC license issuance will become much clearer and allow the company to complete financing and start construction on this important project," he said.

Last year the company applied for a $97 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, which approved the first of a two-part application in June 2010. The loan comes from the department’s renewable-energy technology development program, which evaluates whether the technology might reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Our patented fluorine extraction process uses seven times less energy than conventional industrial
processes for making hydrofluoric acid," Laflin told blogger Dan Yurma of Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes. "This means we can show reductions of six million pounds of carbon dioxide a year over the life of the plant."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

INL's Whitney accepts post with State Board of Ed

Marilyn Whitney, former statewide community outreach coordinator for Idaho National Laboratory, has been named the new chief communications and legislative affairs officer for the Idaho State Board of Education.

Born and raised in Twin Falls, Whitney earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boise State University. Prior to joining INL in 2006, she spent nearly 15 years in corporate communications at Micron Technology Inc. and two years at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Job creation incentives vs. actual results -- a delicate matter

I've watched economic development for a long time. In 1996, when I began reporting on business for the Post Register, the big concern was job cutbacks at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (now just the Idaho National Laboratory.)

With outfits like Initiative 2000 (now Grow Idaho Falls), the Community Reuse Organization and the Regional Development Alliance leading the charge, a lot of money has been spent in the last 20 years on companies promising jobs to our area. Some have panned out and some have laid an egg. There's no need to go into names, but I attended a lot of groundbreakings and openings where officials were singing "Blue skies, shining on me ... " Likewise, I am personally acquainted with people who feel bitter at what they feel to be promises that were not kept.

It has always struck me that economic development is something that communities, states and nations must engage in, if only for the sake of self-protection, i.e. if you don't do it, somebody else is going to eat your lunch.

But putting public money down on what looks to be a great bet can't be for the faint of heart. It's one thing to score transportation funds to get a road widened or improved. But laying out incentives for a factory or power plant -- watch out.

Exit question: When an economic development deal goes sour, who ends up holding the bag?

What got me started this morning was a story that ran today on Bloomberg Businessweek about which states do best at keeping track of job creation incentives vs. actual results. In the study it cites, Idaho ranks 38th, tied with South Carolina.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keller-Williams seeks to aid family following agent's untimely passing

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Galen Bush, who died Saturday afternoon after suffering a heart attack while riding his bicycle.
Galen Bush

Galen was an agent with Keller-Williams Realty East Idaho, which has set up a fund at Scenic Falls Credit Union to help his family cover funeral and ongoing expenses. This Friday would have been his 45th birthday. He leaves behind a wife, Lisa, and four sons, ages 19 to 7.

Keller-Williams broker/owner Jim Windmiller said the family has a history of heart disease, something Galen was doing everything he could do to guard against by eating right and exercising. "He will be missed," he said. "It was his sense of humor that always got to me."

Galen was a Dave Ramsey Preferred Realtor and had 13 listings at the time of his death. Keller-Williams agents are working to close the deals he had pending and will donate all commissions to the fund that has been set up for his family. "Anything that's in the works goes to them," Windmiller said.

As a footnote, I want to mention that Galen played drums and sang with me three years ago in a band called Obsidian. His talent and attitude were fantastic, and he was a pleasure to know. There may even still be a few videos of us on YouTube. He was reluctant to sing "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees, but he could do the falsetto part like nobody I've ever met. I'm really sorry to be writing this.

Here is a link to his obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/postregister/obituary.aspx?n=galen-bush&pid=155518944

Stores try to cope with rising tide of food assistance customers

The news this week is that a record number of Idahoans are using food stamps -- 235,000 people in December. Currently, federal food benefits totaling $30 million are distributed monthly.

On Monday, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Tom Shanahan went before legislative budget writers to suggest changing the program by staggering the day that benefits become available. Grocery store operators are backing the proposal, claiming the flood of food stamp users at the first of every month causes supply problems. But Shanahan estimated the change would cost an extra $220,000 a year, because four people would have to be added to field calls from recipients.

I've posted a link to a story from Bloomberg Businessweek that suggests how important the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is to the grocery business. Does anyone else find it significant that while they are administered at the state level by Health and Welfare, food stamps originate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Our nation's food policy affects not only the people who eat it, but farmers, agribusiness and grocery chains, i.e. a lot of people with jobs.


Monday, January 16, 2012

INL buoys Idaho Falls construction numbers for 2011

It's human nature to want more -- more jobs, more money, more security -- but the plain fact of existence is that adaptation is how the human race has survived.

Suppose the building boom of five years ago was an aberration, and that we are now living in normal times? On a national level, suppose the economy we have right now is how it's going to be for the foreseeable future? In either case, we have to adapt.

Looking at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department's report for 2011, two things stand out. First, building activity and valuation held steady from the previous year. Second, if it weren't for the Idaho National Laboratory, things would be a lot worse.

The multi-million dollar Idaho National Laboratory Testing & Demonstration Facility pushed construction valuation for Idaho Falls to over $30 million for the second straight year.

The overall total, $36.9 million, was down 4 percent from 2010, but was still almost twice the low of 2009, $19.7 million.

It should come as no surprise that residential building was down from 2010 and way down from 2006. The most encouraging news, such as it is, may be on the commercial renovation front. Even though there were fewer projects than 2010 (10 vs. 22) valuation was up nearly 74 percent: $12.7 million in 2011 compared to $7.3 million the previous year. 

The 2012 construction year has already got a jump start, thanks again to INL, which will break ground on its $30 million, 46,163-square-foot, Research & Education Laboratory complex, across the street from the INL Testing & Demonstration facility.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day of reckoning approaches. Am I nervous? What do you think?

Hey, I got my name in the Post Register Friday! It was the first time in a few years, and considering how many times it appeared in the paper as a byline between 1981 and 2008 I didn't expect it to be a big deal, but it was.

I was interviewed for a story about the Dancing With the Idaho Falls Stars benefit at the Civic Auditorium this Wednesday night from 7 to 9. I will be one of four men dancing with partners from Extreme Ballroom. I meet my partner at 2 this afternoon for a crash course. I don't expect to be asked to wear a tear-away tux or a puffy shirt and satin trousers. Rather, I anticipate my main focus will be to smile and stay upright.

As Lindsey Bush's article in the paper stated, the cause is the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. My personal connection is two-fold: my mother-in-law, Evelyn Juell, died of cancer in August; my wife, Karen Juell, is a cancer survivor (Hodgkin's disease, 1985) who is now looking at chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.

Yes, it's scary, but don't hang the crepe yet. We are determined to fight, for ourselves and for everyone who faces the challenges of cancer. As I said in a previous post, our purpose in this world is to live.

If you want to contribute money to the cause, here is a link: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY12GW?px=17013538&pg=personal&fr_id=38333. Contrary to what the page says, I have raised $125 so far, thanks to the kind folks at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

If you want to give, bring your checkbook or spare bills to the event Wednesday. Every dime counts. The women will be dolled up, I guarantee. As for me, I own a tux and people say I clean up nicely.

Oh yeah, here's the link to the local Relay for Life Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/idahofallsrelay.

Hope to see you Wednesaday night!

Friday, January 13, 2012

INL team recognized by DOE for energy saving work

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman has recognized a five-person team from Idaho National Laboratory with a DOE Sustainability Award for its work to save taxpayers money and reduce energy consumption at laboratory buildings.

The team -- Stephanie Austad, Kimberly Frerichs, Matthew Hammond, Christopher Ischay and Tad Pearson -- was recognized for the following work:

• Coordinating the installation of energy-efficient white roofs on several INL facilities.
• Securing INL's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification.
• Revising two building design and planning standards to include sustainability concepts.
• Moving from fuel oil to electricity for steam heating at the Materials and Fuels Complex.
• Increasing the availability and use of alternative fuels by more than 62 percent.

These and other activities resulted in annual cost and energy savings at INL of more than $1.6 million, more than one million kilowatt hours of electricity, nearly 600,000 gallons of fuel oil and about 190,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

President Obama in 2009 signed an executive order calling on the federal government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and implement aggressive energy and water efficiency programs. In response, DOE established its Sustainability Performance Office to implement the goals. In all, DOE Sustainability Awards have been given to 31 teams and individuals for outstanding contributions in managing pollution, waste, energy, water and vehicle fleets.

Sitting tight until word comes from Costco

Before Christmas we reported that Costco is looking at locations in the Idaho Falls area. That sort of news is BizMojo Idaho's stock in trade, the stuff that keeps people coming back and the kind of story we'd like to break every day.

With January nearly half over, we figured it was time to check in with Brent Wilson of Pentad Properties and ask whether he had any news that might cause mass Pavlovian salivation.

No such luck, but it doesn't mean nothing is happening. Bound by non-disclosure agreeements, Wilson was limited in what he could say except that there are a number of restaurant chains looking at the T.G.I.Friday's location on Hitt Road.

The big question remains Costco, however. Now that the news is out, any company that might be considering a location in Idaho Falls or Ammon is waiting to see what direction the membership warehouse chain makes first. Some sites that might be out of the question now could become very appealing if Costco decides to plop down in the neighborhood.

Such is the psychology of developers. We have no commitment from Costco, true, but the Magic 8 Ball is answering, "Signs point to yes," and that's good enough for them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Idaho foreclosure numbers down

As we've come to expect, there's good news and bad news. Yes, foreclosure filings are down, but it's because the brakes were put on robo-signing. The number could climb this year, but isn't expected to be as high as 2010.

Idaho foreclosure filings fell sharply in 2011 Idaho Economy Idaho Statesman

INL scientist receives international award

Donald M. McEligot
Donald M. McEligot, a longtime researcher at the Idaho National Laboratory, received an international leadership award at the recent International Conference on Engineering Education in Belfast, Ireland.

McEligot, a Ph.D. thermal scientist at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, also a Nuclear Science and Technology Division Fellow at INL, received the International Network for Engineering Education and Research's Leadership Award. He was cited "for visionary leadership in innovative research, consistent scholarship through international collaborations and pioneering contributions to engineering."

McEligot's current research for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science studies fundamental fluid physics and how they relate to energy efficiency and sustainability. Previously he received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Heat Transfer Memorial Award, the highest honor given for heat transfer work by that organization. He is the author of more than 60 archival publications and has completed research projects at institutes of higher education in the United States and Europe.

You should not be blogging if ...

If you're a small business person, at some point you've probably entertained the thought of starting a blog. There can be any number of reasons. You want your customers to be up to date on your latest services and products. You want to boost your online profile. You have interesting things to say.

Fair enough, but I can't tell you how many blogs I've been to where the latest entries are three or six months old. Blogs die because people lose interest, or because people discover how much work they are.

Here is an article that caught my attention this morning, by Jeff Haden of MoneyWatch. If you are a onetime blogger who groans at the thought of how your blog has died and now just sits there, you have my sympathy. If you are blogging only because you've been sold on the idea, here's what Haden has to say.

You should not be blogging if:
  • You cringe at the thought of writing another post.
  • Your page views are flat.
  • You can't quantify a return.
  • You don't even feel like trying to quantify a return.
  • Your readers are not customers or potential customers.
  • Your goal is to provide valuable resources to customers (high-value content should go on your Web site).
For the full article, click on this link: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505143_162-57349641/should-you-stop-blogging/?tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BizMojo Idaho on the air. Listen in

I went on the radio for nearly half an hour Tuesday with Tim Lewis. For those of you who may have missed it, here is a link: http://www.eastidahonews.com/2012/01/business-expert-on-idahos-morning-news-w-tim-lewis/

I would love to hear what you think, and if you have any questions we would love to hear them. It was actually a lot of fun, and good promotion for the blog. We will be doing it every Tuesday morning at the top half of the 8 o'clock hour.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dickey's BBQ shooting for Jan. 27 opening in Idaho Falls

Dickey's Barbecue Pit is shooting for a Jan. 27 opening in Idaho Falls, at 2090 East 17th Street (formerly the location of Taco John's).

The restaurant is being developed by B.J. McDougal, and the local franchisees are Bob and Deeanne Wilkins. McDougal said he chose to go with the Dallas-based Dickey's because "Idaho is a meat-and-potatoes kind of state" and because he believes people will respond well to the fast-casual style of service the chain offers.

If they don't make the Jan. 27 deadline, he said the latest they will open is Jan. 31.

Another Dickey's is opening in Nampa in early February, and McDougal and the Wilkinses are planning to open one in Pocatello. McDougal also said they are looking to open in Rexburg and Twin Falls, and that anyone interested in becoming a franchisee should call him at 208-318-6687.

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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Outdoor journalist Kris Millgate expands to talk radio

TV’s outdoor journalist Kris Millgate is taking on radio in 2012. Wake up with Millgate every Wednesday at 6:35 a.m. on Newstalk 690 & 1260. Idaho's Morning News host Tim Lewis will talk with Millgate about outdoor issues and the upcoming stories she’s working on for her weekly TV news segment Time OUT with Kris Millgate

“It’s important to me to add someone to the show that is qualified to present the outdoors as an expert in a way that is enticing to any of us who want to pick up a fishing rod or hop on a snowmobile,” said Lewis, Newstalk Radio program manager. “It’s a natural thing to have Kris talk about what she’s doing outside and then send people to her website to watch what she’s doing.”

Millgate, owner of Tight Line Media, has 15 years of experience in journalism. She holds honors with Outdoor Writers Association of America for Best Outdoor Ethics and President’s Choice. She also has awards from the Idaho Press Club for 1st place in general news, best documentary and environmental coverage.

She also produces several documentaries annually, and she’ll give radio listeners the inside scoop on what it's like to travel around the country filming wildlife in wild places with wild people.

For a direct link to Kris' work, click on the TIME OUT logo that's posted on the right side of this page.

Areva announces $500 million deal

Areva has made a $500 million deal with Xcel Energy to supply the utility's Monticello nuclear generating plant in Minnesota. This should be good news, right?

Not so fast. For Idaho Falls, the real news may be at the bottom of a story posted Sunday on http://www.coolhandnuke.com/ and written by Dan Yurman, formerly of Idaho Falls, who blogs Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes (http://djysrv.blogspot.com/).

In December, Areva announced that due to a cash crunch it was suspending construction on the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls. Now, the French-state owned nuclear company appears to be considering a stake in the Urenco enrichment plant in southern New Mexico. Urenco is a uranium enrichment firm owned by several German utilities and the governments of Great Britain and the Netherlands.

"This new development suggests the firm is taking a page out of the playbook of the beer brewing industry. The way some brewers have boosted production capacity is to simply buy other breweries with existing plants and swap out the product line. ...

"If that is the case, and this is only speculative, then it could be that Areva is thinking it would be a lot cheaper to take an equity stake in an existing uranium enrichment operation, like the one in New Mexico, than to spend $3 billion on a new plant in Idaho."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Of Google ads, Slurpees, Soupy Sacarl's jles and Richard Nixon

Wow, do I really want to be a 7-11 franchisee?

Every time I see a 7-11, I have to go in and get a Slurpee. I would never go out of my way for an Icee, but the Slurpee is a whole different animal. I would go five miles for one.

I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, "Idiot! They're the same thing -- ice and syrup! And even if there is a difference, what difference does it make?"

You're absolutely right, but you were not the 10-year-old kid in 1966 who rode his Columbia bike (not a Schwinn Stingray, alas) to the 7-11 on Foulk Road practically every day to get a Slurpee. They had just been introduced, and buying one would get you an "I Have Slurped" button, which was very, very cool. To keep things from getting old -- and to keep kids like me coming back -- 7-11 frequently introduced a new button. If you want to see them all, here is a link: http://sites.google.com/site/slurpeebuttons/home/button-gallery.

(Note to self: Does the Internet have a mind of its own, or has it assimilated mine? As I was writing this, I thought to myself, "What would happen if I Googled "I have slurped button"? Look what I got. This is so cool!)

Slurpees, the Polaroid Swinger, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass ... of such things are Baby Boomer memories made.

Soupy Sales (1926-2009)
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)
You probably want to know what this has to do with anything, so here's the pitch. The reason I started thinking about 7-11 was because Google put this ad at the top of BizMojo Idaho today:

7 11 Franchise Great Franchise Opportunities From 7-Eleven! Invest & Be Your Own Boss Franchise.7-Eleven.com

Yes, Google looked at the content of this blog and decided this belonged at the top, "above the fold." Was it because I have been reporting so much on franchise restaurants? That would be my guess, but I don't suppose it's important.

No matter how much I might want to be a 7-11 franchisee (I don't, really), because of the agreement I made with Google Adsense I am bound by my sacred honor not to click on this ad. That's because anytime someone clicks on a BizMojo Idaho Google ad, a little bit of the pay-per-click money goes to my account. My grand total for December was $6.03, and I'm already on track to beat that this month.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I would never encourage BizMojo readers to indiscriminately click on the Google ads that are conveniently placed all over this blog.

That would be too much like the late Soupy Sales (another icon of my youth), who on New Year's Day 1965 told his young viewers to go into their hungover parents' bedrooms, find the green pieces of paper with pictures of bearded guys on them, and mail them to Ol' Uncle Soup.

He only collected a few dollars, and he got reprimanded by his television station, but the notoriety was priceless.

Anyway, I would never try anything that brazen to enrich myself. No, I would not encourage anyone to take five minutes out of their day to click on every Google ad on my page, holding out perhaps the promise of a epic party sometime this summer.

In the words of former President Richard Milhous Nixon, "Yes, we could do that -- but it would be wrong."

If, however, you find any Google ads on BizMojo Idaho even remotely interesting ("Wind Generators Generate Your Own Power And Save Money. Learn How It's Done Today. DailyLife.com"), I would hardly discourage you from clicking on them. And if you become a 7-11 franchisee, I will be the first customer to buy a Slurpee from you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Carl's Jr. eyes spring opening; Dickey's taking applications

Dickey's Barbecue Pit food, artfully arranged.
 Here's the latest on new restaurants: It’s most likely going to be spring before the second Carl’s Jr., at North Yellowstone and Holmes, opens its doors. Meanwhile, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, on 17th Street, is taking job applications.

On Thursday we called Kelly Grieve, spokeswoman for CKE Restaurants, Inc., to find out if an opening date has been set for Carl’s Jr. Driving by earlier in the day, we noticed the framing was well under way. Grieve said the calendar they keep goes out three months, and the second Idaho Falls location isn’t on it yet.

That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be sooner, and I said, “I’ll be checking in with you periodically. People here are very interested in restaurant openings.”

“I know!” she said. “I was ordering flowers for the opening (on 17th Street) and the lady was telling me how excited she was.”

So there you have it, Idaho Falls. Your enthusiasm for chain restaurants is being noted all over the country. Whether it brings Red Lobster, In-n-Out Burger, etc. here any faster remains an open question, but it can't hurt, can it?

Idaho farmers harvest record income in 2011

The Associated Press reports this morning that farmers and ranchers in Idaho cleaned up in 2011.

The basis for the story is a report released Thursday by the University of Idaho projecting farm cash receipts for 2011 at $7.4 billion, a 29 percent increase compared with 2010 (which wasn't too shabby itself -- farm cash receipts increased that year by 12 percent.)

UI economist Garth Taylor says nearly every crop and livestock sector posted strong gains in 2011. The report shows farm net income, or the money farmers and ranchers kept, fared even better and rose 88 percent last year to $2.6 billion.

The familiar calls for ending farmers' subsidies are bound to start erupting right about now. But in our focus on high tech, retail and home construction, it would be unwise to underestimate multiplier effect of agriculture in a state like Idaho. Farmers and their spouses buy trucks and cars, groceries and clothing, ATVs and DVDs, etc. Imagine what the local economy would be like without agriculture.

The other thing to bear in mind is that while commodity prices have been high, they are cyclical. A strong dollar can dampen exports, and the Euro's problems are driving people to the dollar. Let's hope the rest of Idaho's economy has recovered by the time farm prices crater, as they inevitably do.

Here is a link to the report, called The Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture: http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/aers/PDF/outlooks/financialcond2011.pdf

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Covering the media bases: BizMojo on the air soon

I recently got an email from Tim Lewis, Riverbend Communications' news program director, asking if I'd like to go on the air with him to talk about local business.

Naturally my answer was yes, for promotional reasons and for the fun of it. Expanding to radio adds another medium to the BizMojo Idaho profile, which already has Web (blog, Facebook and Twitter) and print (Idaho Falls Magazine) in tow. I'm to report for duty Tuesday morning at 8:05. We will be on Newstalk 690 and 1260, on the a.m. dial.

What I'd like in advance is some questions you'd like me to answer or address. Like Shoptalk before it, my approach to this blog is to tell people what they want to know, give it to them short and sweet and make them feel like they're part of the conversation.

Also, please show some understanding if I say "uh" or "y'know" too much as I try to get my thoughts together on the air. I'm glad my mother won't be listening, y'know, because she's been on my case about it for more than 40 years. And for my dear wife's sake, I must remember to irrigate my sinuses.

We're looking at 15 minutes, people. I wonder how long it's going to seem as it happens.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Buddy's gone; Captain's Cove coming

Although we knew in December that Buddy's on Channing Way would be replaced by a seafood restaurant (information courtesy of Linda Jensen Hill of Voigt Davis Realtors), today was the first day we got a look at the new name and logo:

We will keep you posted as more information comes out.

A real professional's guide to goofing off

I recently read an article about humor in the workplace and my thoughts turned to Rick Davis, my former camp counselor and author of the book "Totally Useless Office Skills."

After several years as a clown with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, Rick became a speaker and presenter on the subject he knows best, goofing off. He and his wife, Jackie, also run the Silver Lining Circus Camp in Temple, N.H. http://www.schoolshows.com/silverlining/index.html

Googling his name didn't give me much, but Googling "Rick Davis useless" took me right to him and his videos on YouTube. Check out his channel when you've got nothing better to do. Rick would be the first to tell you that you undoubtedly have something better to do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pocatello Hoku plant gets temporary reprieve

Hoku Corp.'s $390 million plant in Pocatello has received a temporary reprieve.

Idaho Power Co. threatened to shut off electricity after the Honolulu-based polysilicon maker missed a $1.9 million payment in November because of cash problems. But on Tuesday the Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced it will hear the dispute, with arguments set for next week. As long as the case is pending, regulators say Idaho Power can't shut off electricity.

Hoku has warned that losing power in the middle of a freezing winter could jeopardize just-completed facilities. Idaho Power says allowing Hoku to continue to receive electricity without paying its bills puts the utility at risk of losing millions in the deal.

Can this marriage be saved? We'll see. In the meantime, here is some background, found at www.greentechmedia.com

Hoku is a subsidiary of Tianwei New Energy Holdings, an affiliate of China South Industries Group Corp., a mammoth firm with 191,000 employees. Tianwei manufactures polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. Hoku started out as a fuel cell company, went public in 2005, and in 2011 pivoted into being a solar manufacturer with $2 million in "service and license revenue."

According to its most recent 10-K filing, as of Sept. 30, 2011, Hoku had cash and cash equivalents on hand of $3.2 million and current liabilities of $241.8 million.

Hoku has received $280 million in prepayments from PV panel manufacturers such as Hanwa SolarOne, Tianwei New Energy, Jinko Solar, and a small prepayment from Suntech for polysilicon to be delivered between 2012 and 2016. The SEC 10-K form shows amendments made to the prepayment purchase agreements as the price of polysilicon dropped.

On the last day of 2011, Hoku's stock was trading at $0.57 with a market cap of $31.3 million.

Hoku Corp.'s CFO, Darryl Nakamoto, resigned last week.

Idaho TechLaunch looking for students, entrepreneurs

Are you a student or entrepreneur with a great business idea? You might want to start making plans for Boise in mid-May and Idaho TechLaunch.

It's an annual business pitch contest designed to educate and provide a stage for entrepreneurs and students to practice and hone their pitches in front of the business/investment community. One of its sponsors is the Idaho National Laboratory.

Last year, more than $20,000 in prizes was handed out. Competition is in four categories:

  • Entrepreneurial Idol - A pitch competition including regional businesses and start-ups on innovative products or services. Participating companies from all Idaho regions give 15 minute pitches with Q&A to a panel of judges that rate both the business viability and presentation.
  • Next Gen - A pitch contest between participants of regional college and university business plan competitions. Student teams give 10 minute pitches with Q&A to a panel of judges that rate both the business viability and presentation.
  • Idaho Ideas to Market (I2M) - Market assessments of patented technologies developed at the Idaho National Laboratory. Participating student teams from the region's colleges and universities give 10 minute semester project findings with Q&A to a panel of judges that rate the completenesss of their assessments.
  • Crowd Pitch - Elevator pitch competition that provides an opportunity for individuals to pitch their idea to TechLaunch participants. In partnership with the Boise State Student Entrepreneur Club, individual entrepreneurs from the public will be selected to give a 1 minute elevator pitch with Q&A to the TechLaunch crowd, which will vote for its favorite pitch.

Here is a link to more information: http://www.idahotechconnect.com/home/techlaunch/

Dancing With the Idaho Falls Stars

Never say that BizMojo Idaho is afraid to plunge into the new year. Two weeks from tomorrow night, at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium, I will be participating in "Dancing With the Idaho Falls Stars," a benefit event for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

The drill is familiar enough. Rank amateurs are paired up with partners who know what they're doing. I hope mine is patient, but with all due modesty I do not expect to be hopeless either. My parents enrolled me in dance lessons when I was in seventh grade, back in the day when it was a suburban custom, and I have watched my share of Fred Astaire movies.

I will remember to smile, and I have been assured that no one has ever humiliated themselves by doing this.

Even if I do make a spectacle of myself, it will be for a cause all of us can get behind. In my case it's particularly close to home, as my wife, Karen Juell, had surgery last month to remove a tumor from her abdomen. It was diagnosed malignant, so we're looking at chemotherapy this spring, not to mention some horrific medical expenses. (Does anyone find it ironic that even with insurance it costs a fortune to get sick in the land of the free?)

Karen has been to the rodeo before. She was treated for Hodgkin's disease in 1985. Next Tuesday we will be celebrating our 26th anniversary, so our message to you is one of hope. Cancer stinks, but we were put on this earth to live, and that is what we intend to do.

If you want to make a donation, here is the link. It would mean a great deal to us to have your support. http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY12GW?px=17013538&pg=personal&fr_id=38333

Monday, January 2, 2012

A new computer and a bright future in sales

I would like to wish an especially happy new year to all the salespeople reading BizMojo Idaho. Nobody faces a greater challenge in this economy.

Here are some bullet points from a book review of "Up Your Sales in a Down Market," by Ron Volper. I found them interesting, and maybe you will, too.
  • “Top performing salespeople ask four times as many questions as their less-successful colleagues.”
  • “If you call prospects cold there is only a 2 percent chance you will speak to them, if you have a referral your odds jump to 20 percent, but if you have an introduction they jump up to 60 percent.”
  • “Top salespeople write out and practice their sales presentations three times more often than less successful salespeople.”
  • “Seventy percent of salespeople said they failed to close business because of price, whereas only 45 percent of their customers said price was their main objection.”
    That last point sounds particularly intriguing. Here's a link to the full review: http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/01/review-up-your-sales-in-a-down-market.html.

    Don't say I never did anything for you.

    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.