Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Open houses, fly-tying demo set for I.F. downtown

Downtown Idaho Falls has some fun coming up, and since it’s not 10 below (remember folks, it’s February and very well could be) it might not be a bad idea to head down that way.

On Saturday morning, Jimmy’s All Season Angler, 275 A St., will be hosting a free fly-tying demo. These go through March 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A complete list of tiers can be found at http://www.jimmysflyshop.com/ 

In the afternoon, five downtown restaurants and one bar will be having an open house from 3 to 6 p.m.:
  • 3’s Co., 368 A St.
  • Il Castello, 445 A St.
  • Snakebite, 401 Park Ave.
  • Pachanga's, 501 Park Ave.
  • That One Place, 552 N. Capital Ave.
Also, Vino Rosso, 439 A St., will be open with a no-host bar and appetizers. Start at anyone of these restaurants, and go back and forth as much as you please.

On Saturday morning, Jimmy’s All Season Angler, 275 A St., will be hosting a free fly-tying demo. These go through March 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A complete list of tiers can be found at http://www.jimmysflyshop.com/

Scoresby Farms opens second Idaho Falls store

Produce at the Scoresby Farms Woodruff Avenue store
Scoresby Farms has opened its second store in Idaho Falls, at 1710 South Yellowstone, where the Shell station used to be.

Since they opened their first store, at 2045 North Woodruff, it's been a busy year for Justin Scoresby, his brother, Shawn, and dad, Eric. One or more of them travels to California every two weeks to pick up the freshest fruit and vegetables they can find. This week, they have oranges from the Los Angeles Wholesale Market at 39 cents a pound and avacados from Oxnard at 3 for $1.

"Because we buy from the farmers direct we skip the warehouses," Justin Scoresby said. "Our produce is fresher and better. We for sure have the best oranges in town, and all kinds of really good citrus."

The South Yellowstone store is 2,100 square feet, with about 1,600 square feet of retail space. The expansion will allow them to put a bakery into their North Yellowstone store.

While local produce isn't available this time of year, in the summer the family grows vegetables on 50 acres. "We try to do all Idaho stuff as us much as we can," Scoresby said.

The Scoresby Farms Web site is http://www.scoresbyfarms.com/

Monday, February 13, 2012

Direct Health starts operation in Idaho Falls

Perhaps you have not heard the term "Superior Benefit Option," but that is the term that Direct Health uses to describe itself.

The Idaho Falls company, which started Feb. 1, aims to give employers a health care option to offer employees, allowing them to put money away for health care expenses and make donations themselves to employees' accounts as well.

It's not health insurance or a cafeteria plan, which would be regulated more vigorously by the Idaho Department of Insurance. Nor is it a health reimbursement account or a health savings account.

"It's a way for people to take control of their health care history and future," said Julie Rae, human resources director for Channel Blend, an Idaho Falls call center company. "It's a very simple concept. Usually when we talk to people about it, they try to overthink it."

Direct Health came about because Channel Blend CEO Jeff Neiswanger wanted something he could offer his employees without getting into the expense and red tape of traditional health insurance.

It is not designed to cover catastrophic health care expenses. It is a program under which people can sock away money for everything from a eye exams to massages to health club memberships. Right now, there are 16 providers in the network and 85 participants with active balances. When it's time to pay, participants show their cards, transactions are done online and providers get their money almost immediately.

There are no co-pays and no premiums. Unlike a flex plan, participants can take their money if they leave a job (although they can't cash out). The money can be rolled over from year to year, so there are no "use it or lose it" deadlines. The downside is it can't be considered a pre-tax contribution.

Rae said they are hoping that as word gets out the numbers on both sides will grow. Providers are already providing deep discounts to Direct Health participants. For employers, it's an option for companies with small numbers of employees or high turnover. Even larger employers that offer health insurance can use it to supplement what they offer.

There is a big emphasis on preventive care and wellness. "We're trying to do a couple of things," she said. "We want to see people being judicious with their health care money. With this, they spend it on what they need."

The link to the Web site is http://www.directhealthofidaho.com/index.html

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New East Idaho Classifieds Web site debuts

As I am writing this, Sunday afternoon, there are six items listed on www.eastidahoclassifieds.net, Riverbend Communications' entry into the world of online want ads.

Will the site be embraced to the extent that it competes with Craigslist or KSL.com? I imagine a lot will depend on promotion and marketing. Dusty Bee's Facebook posting called my attention to it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I go on to Riverbend's NewsTalk program on Tuesday morning to chat with Tim Lewis about what I see going on in the community, in hopes of building readership for BizMojo Idaho. But I would have mentioned this if it had been one of Riverbend's competitors.

From my own point of view, I doubt there's anything that can match what Craigslist has been able to accomplish in the past 10 years, both good and bad. As someone who went into print media more than 30 years ago, I would list Craigslist as one of the big things that knocked the newspaper industry sideways and changed the game completely. Before Craigslist, classifieds were a significant revenue source for newspapers. While they may be still be a significant income stream (I have personal recent experience that tells me an ad in the paper will still get results), the big question remains: "How do you compete with free?"

You're not paying to read this, are you? If I asked you to, I shudder to think how many of you actually would.

Anyway, I may put a guitar up on east idaho classifieds to see what happens. And if something does, I'll put up more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

INL, Fujitsu announce smart grid collaboration

Fujitsu Laboratories of America announced Thursday a collaboration with the Idaho National Laboratory on smart grid energy management.

Under the project's auspices, Fujitsu's security and ad hoc communications technology will be deployed at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls to monitor building power consumption and generate vital data on energy utilization. The data they collect will be used as a baseline for measuring efficiency and security with regard to wider smart grid deployments.

Smart grids couple physical power distribution equipment with the IT systems that manage it. Security is essential, since compromise in one could affect the other. Fujitsu will contribute advanced security and cloud services technology from Fujitsu Laboratories of America and WisReed, an autonomous distributed network technology that enables the automatic construction of a network.

"The CAES facility is a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building, and we are trying to ensure we operate at maximum energy efficiency," said CAES Director J. W. Rogers. "Fujitsu's technology will provide us with real-time usage data to measure our efficiency and also supply our researchers with valuable information required for advanced energy system modeling."

"This collaboration will leverage INL's global leadership in industrial control and power system simulation test beds, and Fujitsu leadership in IT services," said Yasunori Kimura, President and CEO of Fujitsu Laboratories of America. "We are delighted to be part of this initiative by providing systems for real time data collection and cloud services for analysis and anomaly detection."

You and the mortgage settlement

Idaho borrowers will receive close to $100 million from the $26 billion agreement struck between government officials and five of the nation’s largest banks. That’s according to the Idaho Attorney General’s office. If you want the specifics, such as they are, go here: http://www.ag.idaho.gov/media/newsReleases/2012/nr_02092012.html

The question you're undoubtedly asking yourself is "will this help me?" Nobody knows at this point. There's been a lot of writing done about it. Here's a digest:

The New York Times: “(The) settlement money will be doled out under a complicated formula that gives banks varying degrees of credit for different kinds of help. As a result, banks are incentivized to help harder-hit borrowers with homes worth far less than what they owe."

The Wall Street Journal: "The settlement will 'remove one cloud of uncertainty that has depressed bank stocks,'' but may do less to help the housing market."
The Washington Post: “The deal is the largest of its kind since a multi-state agreement with the tobacco industry in 1998. But that deal was worth around $350 billion in today’s dollars. It’s also not a lot of money compared to the $700 billion in underwater mortgage debt, or the bailout of the banks that issued and bought the debt in the first place.”

The number of foreclosures dropped in 2011, nationwide and in Idaho, which has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the county since the start of the housing crisis. But that may be due to the feds putting the brakes on such abuses as "robo-signing," which this week's settlement also addresses. Now that the restraints are off, the foreclosure express could be rolling again.

The plain fact is in the last five years, home prices have fallen by nearly one-third, and the nation now has 11 million homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth, to the tune of $750 billion.

The most pessimistic assessment I've read comes from Dylan Ratigan, who offers this: "America simply has too much mortgage debt to pay back. Serious economic thinkers across the spectrum, from Democrat Alan Blinder to Republican Martin Feldstein to New York Fed President William Dudley, believe that there is only one solution -- writing down the enormous creaking mound of debt. This solution is currently off the table, because writing down these unsustainable debts could cost our fragile banks enormous sums of money and possibly lead to a restructuring of one or more of our major banks. Avoiding this clear policy choice has resulted in our economy falling into a Japan-style 'zombie bank' torpor, with debts carried on the books at full value which everyone knows will not be paid back at par."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Marketing Summit starts Feb. 21 at Idaho Falls Shilo Inn

Riverbend Communications and Lvate are holding a three-part Marketing Summit at the Shilo Inn, Idaho Falls, covering everything from branding and strategy to media buying to social networking.

The two-hour sessions start Feb. 21 at 8 a.m. and continue March 6 and March 20. Session 1 will focus on the buying process, which includes market identification, primary vs. secondary marketing messages and strategic business "tone." Session 2 is devoted to branding, measuring marketing success and comparing yourself to your competition. Session 3 will be about creating market awareness, leveraging the Internet and search engine optimization.

Cost of all three sessions is $99. For more information, contact Mike Sutton at 208-535-8327.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tips on naming a business and branding

Are you at the fateful stage of naming a business? This is a big decision, one that could make a big difference in how well you do, say Jay Conrad Levinson, Jeannie Levinson and Seth Godin in an Entrepreneur.com story. What should you consider?

For starters, don’t listen to everyone. Names created by committee are usually losers, they say.

The first thing you want to do is list your attributes. Are you speedy, experienced, fun, daring, reliable, inexpensive, honest, unique or the best? This list is valuable when it comes to free associating a name that has straight-to-the-forehead memorability.

Consider Nike. What were they want to convey when they chose that name? In Greek mythology, Nike was the winged goddess of victory, in war and sport. Not everyone knows that, but they don't have to for a sense of what the company is about.

On the other hand, you've got generic names (General Foods) and descriptive names (Speedi-Mart). The thing is, whatever you choose, it's the product or the service that ultimately establish your brand. After all, John Lennon's friends thought "The Beatles" was the dumbest band name they'd ever heard.

Last of all, it is absolutely imperative that you do a legal name search to check your rights to the name. If there's anything worse than branding, it's re-branding.

For more on this topic, visit www.entrepreneur.com/article/222532

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

EITC Dollars for Scholars online auction starts today

If you want to look to the right of this post, you'll notice the Dollars for Scholars online auction has begun. Yes, we are making easy for you to bid on some fabulous stuff (including a month's worth of advertising on BizMojo Idaho), all to benefit students with scholarships at Eastern Idaho Technical College.
Go to the link and see over 100 items, including:
  • A signed Boise State University Football
  • Hotel Packages that can be utilized in Idaho Falls, Las Vegas, San Diego, Salt Lake City and more
  • Fashion accessories, including Miche Bag, iPhone skins and jewelry
  • Entertainment, including season tickets for the Idaho Falls Chukars and tickets to the Idaho Falls Symphony
  • Advertising opportunities including BizMojoIdaho.com and Social Eyes Marketing
  • Restaurant gift cards, including Pachangas, Texas Roadhouse and Chili's
  • Services, including oil changes, tire rotations and dry cleaning
Bidding ends Thursday at 7 p.m.

Nuclear Engineer named INL Fellow

Joy Rempe, a nuclear engineer with more than 25 years of research and development experience, has been selected as an Idaho National Laboratory Fellow. This is the labs's top scientific achievement designation, given in recognition of an individual's contributions to the scientific and engineering community. Only nine other people have been named INL Fellows.

 She holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  During her 23-year tenure at the INL, she has established an international reputation in severe accident analysis, high temperature testing and advanced in-pile instrumentation. She currently leads in-pile instrumentation development for the Advanced Test Reactor's National Scientific User Facility and Fuel Cycle Research and Development programs.

Since 2010, Rempe has been a member of the Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In 2005, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS). She is completing a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the ANS. She has held a variety of offices and been professionally active in ANS, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Rempe’s own work is documented in 45 peer-reviewed journal articles and over 80 peer-reviewed conference papers. She also has three patents or patents pending relating to her research.
INL nuclear engineer Joy Rempe at work with a High Temperature Irradiation Resistant Thermocouple

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bonneville County Realtors see better times in '12

It may be that Jana Merkley took the helm of the Greater Idaho Falls Association of Realtors at the low ebb of the local real estate market.

At least Merkley, who came on as the association's CEO in June 2011, hopes that's true. She sees it as her job to be optimistic, and she says there have been signs this year that her optimism is warranted.

"We're getting more calls from agents who want lockboxes, we seem to be consumer confidence coming back," she said.

Merkley is also CEO of the Snake River Regional MLS, which is getting ready to post its annual statistics for 2011 on its Web site, www.snakerivermls.com.

Across the board, the numbers were down from 2010.
In light of what has been happening in the rest of the country, "I just think it hit us later," she said. Given the encouraging economic numbers that have been coming out lately, combined with record low interest rates, there is cause for hope this year.

She encourages anyone looking to buy a home for the first time to take Finally Home! class, which is sponsored by the Idaho Partners for Homebuyer Education. "There is a lot you can learn from it, and a lot of mistakes you can avoid," she said. "Most people I talk to say, 'I wish I had taken this earlier in the process."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Motherhood Maternity chain opening store in Idaho Falls

Motherhood Maternity, a Philadelphia-based chain of maternity stores, will be opening in the space on 17th Street between Toys R Us and Down East Outfitters.

Remodelers got to work Thursday on the 2,323-square-foot space. The store will open sometime this spring.

The chain is a subsidiary of  Destination Maternity Corp., a maternity apparel retailer with more than 1,000 locations. Founded in 1982 as a catalog business, the company went public in 1993 and has since grown with new stores, the acquisition of existing maternity stores and new brands. In 2008 its sales were reported at $581 million.

For more information on the company, visit the Web page at http://www.motherhood.com/

Friday, February 3, 2012

Employers sought for late March job fair in Idaho Falls

Eastern Idaho employers and businesses are invited to take part in the Mayor’s Business Day in Idaho Falls, scheduled for March 27 at Idaho Falls High School from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sponsors are the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the City of Idaho Falls, the Idaho Department of Labor and Grow Idaho Falls, Inc.

The day will begin with the Department of Labor Job Fair, in the small gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Employers interested in participating should contact Julie Buttars at the department's Idaho Falls
office, by e-mail at Julie.buttars@labor.idaho.gov or by phone at (208) 557-2500 ext. 3562.

In conjunction with the day's events, the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce will hold its 10th Annual Area Business Connection business-to-business tradeshow, with more than 50 business vendors participating in the large gymnasium from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Any interested vendors should contact Kerry McCullough, the chamber's programs & events coordinator, by email at kmccullough@idahofallschamber.com or by phone at (208) 523-1010.

The Grow Idaho Falls luncheon and presentation with take place in the small gym from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Seating is limited, so anyone interested should RSVP by e-mailing admin@growidahofalls.org or by calling Grow Idaho Falls at (208) 522-2014.

Developer plans May 25 opening for Idaho Falls Marriott Residence Inn

Work recommenced in January on the Idaho Falls Marriott Residence Inn.
 The Salt Lake development company that has taken over the Marriott Residence Inn by the Broadway Bridge in Idaho Falls is shooting for a May 25 opening.

“We feel like we are on track, although there are a lot of things that have to fall in place,” said John Brunt, the project manager for Woodbury Strategic Partners. “We want to have it open for Memorial Day and the summer tourism season.”

Work on the 98,700-square-foot hotel ground to a halt in 2008, when the original developers, McNeil Development, ran into financial trouble in connection with the failure of Arkansas National Bank. Brunt said one thing that made it easier for them to restart the project was the fact that McNeil had enclosed the building, which kept out water that might otherwise have gotten in and caused major damage.

Still, there were repairs to be made and Marriott’s standards had evolved in the time the project was in limbo. Once the six-story hotel is finished, Brunt said the estimated cost will top $20 million.

The hotel has 108 guest rooms, two meeting rooms, a large exercise room and pool. “There’s a lot more common area than a typical Marriott Residence Inn,” Brunt said. Although the exterior is in keeping with the other buildings of the Taylor Crossing development (a style Brunt described as “eclectic classical”), the interior will be more modern and streamlined.

Broulim's receives award for beef marketing efforts

Broulim's Fresh Foods, a seven-store grocery chain based in Rigby, was recognized Thursday with a  National Retail Beef Backer award at the 2012 Cattle Industry Annual Convention & NCBA Trade Show in Nashville.

Funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, the award is given in recognition of grocery establishments that do an outstanding job of marketing and merchandising beef in the meat case.

Broulim's received the award in the Independent Retailer category for the second year in a row. According to the notes in the announcement, "customers shopping at Broulim's can count on employees to have knowledgeable information on new beef cuts, recipes, safety, labeling and even the production process that goes into delivering a quality product."

The Beef Checkoff Program was written into the 1985 Farm Bill. It assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, and a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the program under USDA approval.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Energy Advocate Award winners announced for 2012

The Partnership for Science & Technology has announced its 2012 Energy Advocate Award winners. The award is given in honor of the winners' committment to energy initiatives, nationwide and in the community. They will be honored at an awards luncheon on Feb. 21 at the Red Lion hotel.

  • National Energy Advocate Award Winner : DOE Office for Nuclear Energy
  • Local Energy Advocate Award Winner : Teri Ehresman, INL Liaison for Nuclear Programs
  • Nuclear Energy Advocate Award Winner : Dr. Kathryn McCarthy, INL Deputy Assistant Laboratory Director for Nuclear Science and Technology
  • Energy Education Advocate Award Winner : Ken Erickson, Eastern Idaho Technicial College

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Idaho Falls seafood restaurant plans Feb. 6 opening

Captian's Cove, at 2040 Channing Way, announced today on its Facebook page that it plans to open Monday, Feb. 6.

Hours will be Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are advised. The phone number is (208) 552-0702, the same number the restaurant had when it was Buddy's.

General Manager Sherri Biorn and her head chef, Jon Wilson, have prepared a menu featuring hand-cut steaks and fresh seafood. All sauces, dressings, and desserts are all made fresh every day, in house.

To keep up with their latest postings, the restaurant's Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/buddy's-idaho-falls#!/profile.php?id=100001585400287.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Skyline students seek sponsor for Big Band Jazz Dance

Time to get your zoot suit out of mothballs. Skyline High School will be having a Big Band Dance on Feb. 18 at the Idaho Falls Elks Club, a benefit to help raise funds for the trip to Anaheim, Calif., that the Jazz and Symphonic Bands plan to take this spring.

As with any benefit, the less they have to spend on the event the more they get to keep for the trip, so they are looking for a sponsor in addition to American Fabrication, Inc., band director Bob Dunmire said.

There is no admission to the dance, but the recommended donation is $5 per person or $8 per couple. Music will be by the EITC Jazz House Big Band, directed by Doug Wareing, and the Skyline High School Jazz Band. Punch and desserts will be provided, and there will be a silent auction and raffle.

The dance begins at 7:30 p.m., but free dance lessons will be provided at 6:30 by Swing Junction (http://swingjunction.blogspot.com/)

If you would like to support the band, contact Dunmire at (208) 525-7770 or by email at

"Super credit" agencies ready to mine social media for the dirt on you

FreeCreditReport.com may have catchy commercials, but there's nothing cute about where the credit reporting industry is headed. This is a case of Big Brother watching not only you but all your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

It used to be that a credit reporting agency concerned itself with investigating the creditworthiness of a person who had applied for a loan. That may be part of the mission still, but there's a fair argument to be made that financial institutions are using credit scores to make money. Consider the news that Freddie Mac wants to keep collecting higher interest on your mortgage. How do they do this? By slapping down ordinary people anytime they put a foot wrong. And now they're not only going to be looking at you, but everyone connected to you.

An article last month on AmericanBanker.com titled "9 Trends Reshaping Risk Software" points to the growing use of the super credit score. "One idea banks are toying with is that of incorporating social media data into assessments of credit risk, for instance, by considering the credit scores of a person's friends in addition to that person's own score," it says.


I suppose there are people who might see this as an opportunity to rent themselves out online as "SuperFriends."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Yellowstone Warehouse plans expansion by summer

The Yellowstone Warehouse, in the old Grand Central/Fred Meyer building, will be doubling its size by this summer.
The Yellowstone Warehouse in Idaho Falls, at 1765 N. Yellowstone, will be doubling its size by this summer, expanding into the rest of what used to be the Yellowstone Mall and the old Albertson's at west end.

At the moment, they occupy 108,000 square feet in the old Grand Central/Fred Meyer store, storing materials for such clients as the Idaho National Laboratory, Restoration Hardware and Sam's Club, not to mention ordinary people who need a whole household's worth of furniture crated up and held between moves. It is the largest controlled environment commercial warehouse in Idaho.

Steven Keim, who started the business in 2004, said the business has grown steadily through the downturn of the past three-and-a-half years. The warehouse is the lynchpin for two companies: Gellings Moving and Storage, the Atlas Van Lines agent for eastern Idaho and western Wyoming, and WestOne Logistics, which handles the receiving and distribution for big industrial and commercial clients.

How do third party logistics work? To give an example, INL is going to break ground this year on a $30 million, 46,163-square-foot, Research & Education Laboratory complex. The slate for that building is already being stored at the Yellowstone Warehouse, and will be available when it's needed.

Suppose Costco decides to build a store in Idaho Falls or Ammon? There has to be a place where all the materials and furnishings can be held as the project moves forward. Keim said he is hopeful that WestOne can get the business. In the case of a company like Restoration Hardware, most of the jobs WestOne does are "last mile" deliveries to custom home projects in Jackson, Wyo., or Idaho's Wood River Valley.

Although thousands of people drive by every day, Keim said he is sure most of them have no idea what is going on in the Yellowstone Warehouse.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You won't have to fly your Lear Jet to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun

I suppose I could try to give this a business spin -- "Utah, Nevada, expect tourism $ from May eclipse" -- but on Sunday afternoon I'd rather just write about something that fascinates me.

If you're thinking about a road trip to Las Vegas, Mesquite, St. George or even Reno, mid-May might be a good time. On May 20, Nevada and southern Utah are going to experience an annular solar eclipse. They don’t happen very often, and when they do they’re usually over the ocean or someplace far from home.

You undoubtedly know that a solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and casts a shadow. An annular eclipse is when the moon is farther away from the Earth and therefore smaller in the sky and a ring of light from the sun shines on the outside.

Thanks to Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, eclipses are easy to predict, so astronomers have known for years this has been coming. Nevada and Utah are on the tail end, which means the sun will be low in the sky when the moon creeps in front of it. Given the locale -- Zion National Park, anyone? -- there could be some epic sunset pictures. If you've got people in Reno or northern California, the eclipse will be in view as well. Near Reno, the eclipse will be in its full glory along southern shore of Pyramid Lake.

After this one, the next time a solar eclipse occurs in North America will be Aug. 21, 2017. And guess what? The path will run right over central and eastern Idaho. Looking at the map, I've come to the conclusion that either Redfish Lake or Menan Butte will be the best places to see it. Mark your calendars. You read it first here.
With an annular eclipse, there's a burning ring of fire around the Moon.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Operation Juicy Burger has begun

Looking at the stats for BizMojo Idaho this past week, I'm kind of curious that the leading pageview is an item I put up Dec. 9, Carl's Jr. plans to open in Idaho Falls by Dec. 31.

Mmm ... look at that juicy burger!
Surely this is old news, yet 97 people looked at that post in the past seven days. Mystifying? Perhaps, if you don't drill down. But looking at the search information, we found that "Carl's Jr." and "juicy burger" were the leading keywords driving traffic to the blog from Google.

It's a Google world. I'm watching AdSense every day, and I'm happy to report that we're inching closer to the $100 threshold that will prompt the Google Gods to send a check directly to the BizMojo Idaho bank account.

I'd be the last person to encourage anyone to engage in an orgy of indiscriminate ad-clicking to get us there faster. But if you should you decide to do it of your own free will, there might be a juicy burger in it for you. Think about it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Odds and ends from the Idaho Falls development front

It's pretty quiet on the building front, but there are signs that things could be on the uptick, said Brad Cramer of the Idaho Falls Planning Department.

The city planning and zoning commission and City Council  have approved a plat for a 16-lot subdivision called Bristol Heights, located south of Sunnyside Road, on land belonging to Lee Gagner. "We haven't seen a plat that size for years," Cramer said.
Likewise, the City Council on Thursday night approved 22 townhomes at John Adams and St. Clair. "I'm not sure yet if it means a lot," Cramer said. "There must be a decent market for those townhome type properties."

On the commercial front, Cramer echoed what Pentad Properties' Brent Wilson said last week, that everything seems to be on hold as developers wait to see what sort of action might be coming from Costco, which has been eyeballing ground in the Idaho Falls-Ammon area.

March opening planned for indoor trampoline park

Trampoline enthusiasts will soon have a new place to jump yearround in the Idaho Falls area. Eyeballing a March opening, iJump Idaho aims to be southeast Idaho's first indoor trampoline park. The address is 2670 E. 14 North, off Hitt Road, near Majestic Auto Body.
The business is currently taking applications, and looking for people college-age or older who are trustworthy, honest and fun. Here is a link to the online application form: http://fs9.formsite.com/ijump/form2/index.html.
In addition to wall-to-wall trampolines, the complex will also include a dodge ball court, open jump area, a three-trampoline foam pit and a separate area for younger-aged children.
We will have a more detailed report as the date draws nearer. Here is iJump Idaho's Facebook listing: http://www.facebook.com/ijumpidaho

INL engineer named to '40 Under 40' list

Jorge Navarro, 31, of the Idaho National Laboratory, has been named one of the "40 Under 40" by Hispanic Engineer Information and Technology magazine.

Navarro was born in Mexico. After high school he worked as a computer data capture analyst then enrolled in the University of Guanajuato mining engineering school. After switching his major to chemical engineering, he transferred to the University of Utah, where he received his bachelor's degree. He is now pursuing a Ph.D in the nuclear engineering graduate program.

He came to the INL in 2008 as a space nuclear research summer fellow. He has since worked on upgrading methods and codes for the Advanced Test Reactor, developing non-destructive gamma spectroscopy techniques to support the fuel management process.

In 2009, he became a United States citizen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A good joke could pay off when asking for a raise

When it comes to asking for a raise, it could pay to have a sense of humor.

As unlikely as it sounds, a recent study from the University of Idaho suggests that when asking for a raise the best approach is to shoot the moon -- but do it with a wink. Psychology professor Todd Thorsteinson found that people requesting implausibly high raises ended up with 9 to 10 percent more on average than those who didn't.

Thorsteinson took 206 college students and asked them to determine the starting salary of a hypothetical administrative assistant who was well qualified and had previously earned $29,000.

Candidates who facetiously asked for $100,000 were given $35,523 on average. Those who simply asked for what they thought was reasonable got an average of $32,463, the Harvard Business Review reports.

Thorsteinson suggested that “mentioning an extreme figure in jest can set a high ‘anchor’ for the final offer while minimizing negative reactions from the employer.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dickey's Barbecue Pit opening Friday in Idaho Falls

Dickey's Barbecue Pit on 17th Street will be opening Friday at 11 a.m., and in observance of the occasion will be giving the first 100 customers free pulled pork big barbecue sandwiches.

"We are happy to be in Idaho Falls and the community is extremely excited for us to open," said local franchise owner Deanne Wilkins, who operates the restaurant with her husband, Bob. The new location is 2,000 square feet and located at 2090 East 17th Street, just west of the Grand Teton Mall and next door to Fiesta Ole.

Bob Wilkins is a business partner of the Dickey's in St. George, Utah. He and DeAnne are currently looking for a site for another location in Pocatello.

Customers are encouraged to check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/DickeysIdahoFalls. On Feb. 6, one lucky Facebook fan will win a $100 Dickey's gift card.

Texas-based Dickey's Barbecue Pit opened in 1941 and began franchising in 1994. It currently has 206 locations in 36 states nationwide.

INL offers virtual tours through mobile app

In concert with National Nuclear Science Week, the Idaho National Laboratory has launched a mobile app that allows smart phone and tablet users to see what goes on at the lab without investing all the time and expense it would take for an on-site tour.

The idea is to give university and industry representatives, government leaders, and members of the public a new, visually compelling means of finding out what kind of nuclear energy research goes on at the INL.

"Time is a precious resource for all of us," said Harold McFarlane, interim associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology. "By making this comprehensive app available, we're able to save time and money for our own staff and more importantly, that of prospective research partners and industry representatives who need to know in real time if we've got the assets and abilities they're looking for to develop, test and prove their theses and technologies."

Taking the virtual tour is as simple as loading the free mobile app onto your smartphone or tablet from one of several locations. Currently, the app can be viewed from http://nuclearapp.inl.gov using a browser like Apple Safari or Google Chrome. The Google Chrome frame plug-in makes the app viewable on Internet Explorer as well.

A native Android app for tablets is available on the Android Market, while efforts continue on development of native Android smartphone and Apple iOS apps. A condensed version of the app is available in flipbook form at http://www.inl.gov/publications/the-national-nuclear-laboratory.

The company that was instrumental in the development of this was ComDesigns of Idaho Falls. For company president Mike Hart's account of the work they did (and the work that goes on), go to http://www.comdesigns.com/blog/2012/1/13/publishing-our-first-app.html.

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.