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:

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:

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.