Friday, December 28, 2012

Deadline for comments on INL, nuclear energy, is Jan. 4

Spent fuel in wet storage
When it comes to the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Commerce Department Director Jeff Sayer sees a big disconnect between people on either side of the state.

In Idaho Falls, the chief concern is mainly the effect the lab has on the local economy. That's understandable. INL is one of Idaho's biggest payrolls, and it's hard to imagine what this part of the state would look like had the Atomic Energy Commission decided in 1949 to build its test reactors somewhere else.

Ask people in Boise, however, at least seven of 10 would say they wonder about having nuclear materials sitting atop the Snake River Aquifer, he said. The INL's economic benefits? More a matter of, "What has it done for me lately?"

Sayer was in eastern Idaho Thursday to invite anyone with a special insight or opinion about the INL to send their comments to the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, which he chairs. The deadline for comments is Jan. 4, and the commission will be giving its final report to Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Jan. 25.

The biggest issue is whether more nuclear waste from other parts of the country will be allowed into Idaho. A 1995 agreement between Idaho, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy curtailed shipments of spent fuel from government and commercial reactors and set a 2035 deadline for cleanup and the removal of high-level radioactive materials.

But a lot has changed since 1995, Sayer said. When the agreement went into place, the understanding was that Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be open and ready to receive waste from the lab. But now Yucca Mountain has been ruled out and there is currently no permanent repository designated for high-level waste.

Battelle Energy Alliance, whose president, John Grossenbacher, sits on the LINE Commission, has indicated that allowing greater amounts of spent fuel into Idaho would allow it to do expanded research work. In fact, in January 2011 the DOE and the state of Idaho signed a memorandum of agreement setting out conditions under which the INL may receive limited research quantities of used commercial fuels for examination and testing.

This has prompted the Snake River Alliance to invoke the 1995 Settlement Agreement as inviolable. "A consent-based interim storage facility might become a lifelong dump, invitation or not," it said in comments released Dec. 21. "The LINE Commission must not encourage the risk."

Sayer said the commission has no intention of recommending that INL become an interim storage facility. But there are challenges that have to be addressed. For example, the 1995 agreement says calcined waste at the lab -- liquid waste that was incinerated into a salt-like form, then put in double-lined stainless steel tanks -- must be re-characterized, put in new containers and shipped out of state. The cost of doing this has been estimated at around $400 million, and at the moment there is no place for it to go.

Idahoans must also consider that leaders in South Carolina and New Mexico are indicating a willingness to allow waste into their states. "If they agree to let waste in, they're going to want the research, too," he said.

Sayer said he believes, "There are ways to find solutions that will bring Idaho benefit and protect the environment. What we are seeking right now is a conversation in the spirit of respect and not of fear."

A summary of the 1995 Settlement Agreement: http://www.deq.idaho.gov/inl-oversight/oversight-agreements/1995-settlement-agreement.aspx
The Line Commission's Web page: http://line.idaho.gov/
The Snake River Alliance's press released in response to the LINE Commission's Dec. 3 progress report: http://snakeriveralliance.org/snake-river-alliance-responds-to-governors-nuclear-commission/
Web site of the Partnership for Science and Technology (leading eastern Idaho nuclear issues organization): http://www.p-s-t.org/index.php?section=23
A blog posting from Idaho Samzidat Nuke Notes on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future and its January 2012 report to Energy Secretary Steven Chu:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Longtime Bill's Cycle Shop mechanic starts own business

Ben Hawker of Ben's Quality Cycle LLC
A downtown mainstay for decades, Bill's Cycle Shop is no more, but the business carries on with Ben Hawker, who runs Ben's Quality Cycle around the corner, at 152 Park Avenue.

Hawker came to work as a mechanic for Bill's in 1981, at the age of 19. As owner Mike Murdock moved into retirement this fall, Hawker bought the service department and kept the loyal customers. The shop offers service and repair for most major bands, including Honda, KTM, Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris and Kawasaki.

The showroom on Park Avenue is taking shape and should be open sometime in January, he said. It represents a homecoming of sorts. He still has three Honda minibikes, including his 1970 Z-50, all of which came out of the original Bill's showroom when he was a kid.

Things have changed a lot in three decades, Hawker said. "Agriculture used to be a huge part of our business, bit with center pivots there's less equipment and less people."

To have a look at his Web site, visit this link: http://www.bensqualitycycle.com/index.html. And of course you can "like" him on Facebook by going here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bens-Quality-Cycle/377558579001399.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Participants sought for Asian trade mission

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
Idaho businesses are invited to join Gov. Butch Otter's spring trade mission to South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam this spring.

The trade delegation will visit Seoul, Taipei and Ho Chi Minh City from April 19 to 27. Locations were chosen from a survey of Idaho companies' top export destinations, according to a press release from the Idaho Department of Commerce.

Taiwan is Idaho’s third largest trade partner, and Korea is a top-five export destination for Idaho companies. Vietnam is an emerging market for Idaho companies, with strong potential for a variety of Idaho’s key exports.

This will be Otter’s second visit to Vietnam since 2008. The goal of trade mission is to open international markets to Idaho businesses by helping them gain high-level access to private sector business leaders and government decision makers. Ideally, the result is expanded sales, distribution network growth, new strategic alliances and stronger customer relationships.

Participating companies will receive pre-qualified appointments, market briefings in each country,logistical arrangements for the trip, and business networking receptions in Seoul and Taipei.
Space is limited and will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration deadline is Feb. 1, 2013. More detailed information is available at http://www.commerce.idaho.gov.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Idaho Falls, South Fork Archers announce plans for public archery range

Erroll Flynn with bow and arrow in 'Robin Hood'
The Idaho Falls Division of Parks and Recreation is partnering with the non-profit South Fork Archers Club to develop the first public archery range in the city of Idaho Falls, open to archers, bow hunters, youth groups and others interested in perfecting their target skills.

The range will be on approximately 30 acres of city-owned property on the eastern edge of Sandy Downs. Plans call for a static range where archers can shoot into large targets secured onto freestanding target sheds. In addition, a second trail range, about half-a-mile long, will be built with 14 static targets set up at ranges up to 80 yards.

The club hopes to build an indoor range in the future.

“Public archery ranges are popular with hunters and recreational shooting sports enthusiasts,” said Greg A. Weitzel, Idaho Falls' Parks and Recreation director. “We’re looking forward to working with the South Fork Archers, and thanks to their cooperative effort, we’ll be able to build the range at a minimal cost”.

Funds to develop the site will be raised through grants, membership dues and individual donations. The South Fork Archers Club was established in 1982 and has more than 100 members. Club members have volunteered to manage and maintain the range for the city through a lease agreement.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I.F. company DocuTech looking to hire people, preferably homegrown talent

DocuTech CEO Ty Jenkins
DocuTech, an Idaho Falls company that develops software and applications for mortgage banking institutions, might be a great example of a local employer that seems to fly under the radar a lot of the time.

Founded in 1991, the company now employs 70 people and is likely to have 125 by the end of 2013. "We have 15 open positions for customer service reps," said CEO Ty Jenkins. "We're looking for IT people, computer programmers, people with XML skills. These are not $9-an-hour jobs."

A native of Idaho Falls himself, Jenkins prefers to hire locally. "We hope we can get homegrown because they stay," he said.

But little of its business is local, because it is geared toward big lenders. The company does business in all 50 states, with such clients as PNC Bank, Stearns Lending and Pinnacle Mortgage. "Our smallest customer does 300 to 500 mortgage loans a month," Jenkins said.

One of the company's biggest challenges is finding people who can address cyber-security issues. "We can't go down; we're a critical app," he said. "If we go down, PNC bank can't do any mortgage loans. All of that data sits on our servers."

In the 22 years it has been in existence, DocuTech has always been profitable, even in the dark days of 2007-2008 when Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers went out of business and credit froze up worldwide. "We saw a six- to eight-month dip, but it's just been expanding since then."

Eyeing the future, Jenkins went to the People's Republic of China in May with a group of Idaho business people led by Commerce Director Jeff Sayer. "That's a long-term play for us," he said. "The older generation there is very credit averse, but the next generation, boy, they're just gearing up. I've been there four times and will continue to go back," he said.

Here is a link to the company's Web page: http://www.docutechcorp.com/

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wall Street Journal blog highlights INL's cyber-security role

In case anyone is interested, here's a link to a post on the Wall Street Journal's blog about the Idaho National Laboratory and its place in cyber-security research.


Melaleuca CEO to speak at Dec. 18 Idaho Falls Chamber luncheon

Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot
Melaleuca President and CEO Frank VanderSloot will be the guest speaker Tuesday at the Greater Idaho Fall Chamber of Commerce's weekly forum luncheon, to talk about the company's investment in eastern Idaho and its future plans.

At a press conference Dec. 11, Melaleuca announced it will be building a new 371,000-square-foot home office on the land it owns on 65th South, near I-15's Exit 113. The company is centralizing many of its Idaho operations, and the new home office will be three times larger than its current space. They expect the new office to be ready by spring of 2014.

The company is already awarding construction work to local contractors, with Bateman-Hall as the general contractor on the projects. VanderSloot on Tuesday plans to detail how the company's growth is causing the need for more administrative, manufacturing and distribution space

Melaleuca began in Idaho Falls in the mid-1980s. The company conducts its sales of vitamins, nutritional supplements, cosmetics and household products through people who sign on as "marketing executives," building networks of their own and getting paid for the people they bring in. Those networks are now worldwide, and in 2011 the company passed the $1 billion sales mark.

A Melaleuca news release said VanderSloot will also announce future plans for additional expansion.

The Chamber Forum luncheon is at noon at the Hotel on the Falls. Cost is $11. For more information, visit this link: http://www.idahofallschamber.com/.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Idaho ranks 31st in survey of entrepreneur-friendly states

Considering everything one hears about the Gem State's favorable climate for entrepreneurial endeavor, one would expect Idaho to have done better than 31st in a survey of states released this week by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

The Washington-based organization on Thursday released its report, titled “U.S. Business Policy Index 2012: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Small Business and Entrepreneurship.”

Idaho came in between West Virginia and Montana in the ranking, which lists the states from most favorable to least favorable. The rankings, which are derived after considering each state’s tax, regulatory and government spending measures, put South Dakota at the top. California was judged to be the least favorable.

Here’s the top 10:
1. South Dakota
2. Nevada
3. Texas
4. Wyoming
5. Florida
6. Washington
7. Alabama
8. Utah
9. Colorado
10. Arizona

The report, which can viewed here, http://www.sbecouncil.org/resources/publications/business-policy-index-2012/, lists the positives and negatives for each state.

For Idaho, the positives were:
  • Low property taxes.
  • Low consumption-based taxes.
  • Low wireless taxes.
  • Second lowest electricity costs.
  • Very low crime rate.
  • Right to work state.
  • Lowest level of government spending.
  • Lowest level of government debt.
  • Low level of government workers.
  • No death tax.
The negatives included:
  • High personal income, capital gains, and dividend and interest taxes.
  • High corporate income and capital gains taxes.
  • High unemployment taxes.
  • High workers’ compensation costs.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Idaho Tactical Games hosting end of the world raffle

Zombie apocalypses notwithstanding, Mike DeFord of Idaho Tactical Games in Idaho Falls is looking to the Mayan New Year as another opportunity for giving back to the community.

“Everyone is talking about the world ending or not ending in a few days, we are taking everyone’s fear and making fun of it” said DeFord, who runs the area’s only indoor airsoft and paintball field and pro shop, at 546 W. 21st Street.

Assuming the world has survived, on Dec 22 will be holding raffles all day for differentt guns and gear. Proceeds as well as half the profits from the day will be used to purchase Christmas gifts and candy for local needy families.

The crew from Idaho Tactical Games plans to head out on Christmas Eve and deliver those gifts in a Secret Santa sort of way.

Raffle tickets are $5 each; prizes being given away will range in value from $50 to $200. Raffle tickets will be on sale from today until 4 p.m. Dec. 22, when the drawing takes place. Entrants do not have to be present to win.

For further information visit www.idahotacticalgames.com, or visit them at their location, right off Rollandet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Melaleuca unveils plans for $50 million office complex

An artist's rendering of the new Melaleuca office building
Despite generous offers to relocate, Melaleuca is in eastern Idaho to stay, company president and CEO Frank VanderSloot said Tuesday.

VanderSloot announced the company is breaking ground on a $50 million, 371,000-square-foot corporate headquarters south of Idaho Falls, scheduled to be completed in spring 2014. Melaleuca, which sells vitamins, personal care and household items worldwide through a person-to-person network of "marketing executives," has been steadily growing for the past 12 years on land near Interstate 15 Exit 113. The new building will be triple in size the amount of office space the company has.

The company also has research and development, manufacturing and a large distribution warehouse in and around Idaho Falls, as well as a 600-person call center in Rexburg. While he conceded that distance and transportation expenses put eastern Idaho at a disadvantage for large scale manufacturing, VanderSloot said the region's business climate and work force are pluses that kept the company here.

Situated on 43 acres, the new office will be home to Melaleuca's international and domestic business offices. It will include a 500-person call center, a 17,000-square-foot events area and a state-of-the-art video production studio.

The stage for expansion was set in July with the announcement of a $399,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to Bonneville County for sewer line extensions, a lift station and roadway widening. Melaleuca contributed $1 million of its own money to the project, bringing its total infrastructure investment in the area to $2.3 million.

Bonneville County Commissioner Roger Christensen hailed the arrangement between the county and Melaleuca as "what a public-private partnership should look like. Other company a looking at coming in here. It's a bright spot for economic development in the county."

The general contractor on the new office project is Bateman-Hall and Harper-Leavitt is the engineering company. "We want to use local contractors whenever possible," VanderSloot said.

He said he expected new jobs to result from the new project, but declined to say how many. The company, which passed the $1 billion sales mark in 2011, comes up with seven or eight new products a year.


Manpower survey forecasts steady job market for Idaho in 2013

Employers in Idaho expect to hire at a solid pace during the first quarter of 2013, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

From January to March, 19 percent of the companies interviewed plan to hire more employees, while 7 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. Another 69 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels and 5 percent are not certain of their hiring plans. This yields a net employment outlook of 12 percent.

“Employers’ hiring expectations for Quarter 1 2013 are slightly stronger compared to Quarter 4 2012 when the net employment outlook was 10 percent,” said Manpower spokeswoman Sunny Ackerman. “Compared to one year ago when the net employment outlook was 7 percent, employers are more optimistic about their staffing plans.”

For the coming quarter, job prospects appear best in construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial activities, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. Employers in durable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities and education and health services plan to reduce staffing levels, while hiring in information, other services and government is expected to remain unchanged.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Melaleuca to announce expansion plans Tuesday

Melaleuca plans to announce Tuesday a new 371,000-square-foot home office on the land it owns near I-15 Exit 113 on 65th South.
The company is centralizing many of its Idaho operations there. The new home office will be three times larger than its current space. Melaleuca expects the new office to be ready by spring of 2014. The company is already awarding construction work to local contractors.

At a press conference Tuesday, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot plans to discuss how the company’s growth is causing the need for more administrative, manufacturing and distribution space. VanderSloot will also announce future plans for additional expansion.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Polaris Industries acquires Rigby-based KLIM

Snowmobile giant Polaris Industries announced Thursday it has bought Teton Outfitters, the privately owned, Rigby-based company that designs, develops and distributes KLIM Technical Riding Gear.

Calendar year 2012 sales for KLIM are anticipated at nearly $30 million. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"The KLIM acquisition provides yet another growth opportunity for our (parts, garments and accessories) business, a key contributor to Polaris' top-line growth and profitability," said Steve Eastman, Polaris' vice president of PG&A. "KLIM is an established leader in the powersports apparel market with a strong track record of providing innovative, premium technical riding gear to a broad range of consumers."

Polaris will maintain the KLIM brand positioning and name while continuing to drive its existing apparel brands. KLIM will continue operations in Rigby with its current staff. Polaris has plans to establish the Rigby facility as its new apparel Center of Excellence, bringing the unmatched capabilities, expertise and knowledge housed in Rigby to all Polaris branded apparel.

"I built KLIM with a passion for the category and a commitment to the world's adventure snowmobile and motorcycle riders," said Justin Summers, KLIM founder, president and CEO. "KLIM will now have the resources to reach the next level as we continue to innovate and lead into the future."

For a profile of KLIM's facility and business culture, here is its YouTube video:

Photos of select KLIM products are available at this link: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=50499525&lang=en

Bonneville County home sales, prices rise in 2012

Click to enlarge
The latest home sales numbers for Bonneville County show improvement over last year. More homes are selling and the median price has gone up.

The number of homes sold through the end of October this year was up almost 18.3 percent from the same period in 2011. Median home prices were also up significantly, over 6.6 percent.

But it's going to be some time before the numbers climb back to where they were before the economic collapse of 2007-2008. Historic figures show that sales through the end of October this year were two-thirds of what they were in the same period of 2007. The median home price this year was nearly 10 percent lower than what it was in 2007. Likewise, homes were selling faster in 2007 by an average of 39 days.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I.F. Chamber plans open house Thursday

There wills be a ribbon cutting and open house Thursday at 5 p.m. for the new Idaho Falls Business Development Center and Visitor Information Center at 420 Memorial Drive.

This project came about after community and economic development agencies decided they would benefit from all being under the same roof. At that same time, the Moffatt Thomas law firm was moving to Snake River Landing, opening up a prime piece of real estate right on the newly remodeled Memorial Drive.

Tenants of the Visitor Information Center include the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Falls Convention & Visitor's Bureau and the Idaho Falls Auditorium District.

Tenants of the Business Development Center include the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, the Partnership for Science & Technology and the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp.

The open house will be catered by Applebee's.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bedtime stories for the digital interactive age

The dot patterns on Smart PJ's can be scanned for all sorts of fun when it's time to go nite-nite. (Photo by Melissa Bristol)
In the past year a lot of people have been learning about QR tags -- coded images that can be scanned with a smart phone to bring information to the phone's screen.
Juan Murdoch

But while many said, "Wow," Juan Murdoch said, "What if?"

"What if you put these on kids' pajamas so that they could bring up pictures and bedtime stories?" he wondered. Murdoch, an Idaho Falls real estate agent with Keller Williams, said he got so excited by the idea he had to leave the meeting. "I was just shaking," he said. "I had to find out whether anyone had thought of this before me."

With the due diligence done, today he has a patent and 3,000 pair of Smart PJs he's confident he can sell as soon as the word gets out.

Murdoch learned early that QR codes were difficult to scan off fabric. Luckily, he also learned that a simpler pattern would scan just as well, if not better, for his purposes.

Every pair of Smart PJs has 47 dot patterns on it. Each one brings up a picture of a different animal and information about it.

With the app working and easy enough for a 6-year-old to use (it can be loaded for free onto an iPhone, and iPad and Android apps are close), his plan is to expand the content to stories and cartoons and develop the Web page, www.smartpjs.com.

Locally, Murdoch is planning to roll his Smart PJs out Saturday at the Christmas Craft Fair at Bonneville High School. "This is our first big event," he said. "We should have our platform ready with other stories, cartoons, etc., by then."