Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some reading for the dreamers

Here are a few links I've run across lately in the "do what you love and the money will follow" department. The first one, from the New York Times, had the catchy headline of "Following Your Bliss, Right Off the Cliff."

The second is from the Onion, so it's satire, but like all good satire it has an element of truth: "Find the Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights and Weekends for the Rest of Your Life.",31742/

BTW, my band, Happyville, is playing at The Celt on Saturday night.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mayor's Business Day is Tuesday at Shilo Inn

Here's the schedule for the 4th Annual Mayor’s Business Day in Idaho Falls, Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at O’Callahan’s inside the Shilo Inn, 780 Lindsay

Job Fair: Sponsored by the Idaho Department of Labor, 8-11 a.m. Employers interested in participating in the job fair should contact Julie Buttars at or by phone, (208) 557-2500, ext. 3562.

Keynote Speaker & Luncheon: John Watts, Partner, Veritas Advisors and lobbyist for the Idaho
Chamber Alliance will present the “2013 Legislative Session Overview” at the luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per person. Seating is limited. RSVP’s are required at or by emailing

Business-to-Business Tradeshow: In conjunction with the keynote speaker and job fair, the Greater
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce will hold the business-to-business tradeshow from 1:30 to 5 p.m., with more than 40 business vendors displaying their products and services. The tradeshow is open to the public. For more information about the tradeshow, please contact Kerry McCullough, programs and events coordinator with chamber at or call (208)

Reception: The day will finish with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

For more information about this event, visit

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boot Barn plans to open in Ammon; recruiting in Idaho Falls this week

Boot Barn, a Western footwear chain based in Irvine, Calif., with stores in 11 states, is planning to open a store in Ammon in late May and is holding a job fair for managers Thursday and Friday.

The store will be in the Ammon Town Center, where Fashion Bug used to be. The job fair will be at the Idaho Falls Residence Inn by Marriott, 635 W. Broadway, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The company has more than 85 locations throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee and Idaho (Boise and Twin Falls). It carries such brands as Wolverine, Caterpillar, Timberland Pro, Chippewa, Doc Martens, Carhartt, Wrangler, Levis, Chippewa, Danner, Justin, American Worker, Georgia and Rocky.

Bill's Bike Shop opens in new location, sells first bike

A view of the sales floor at Bill's Bike Shop, which opened today at Snake River Landing.
Bill's Bike Shop's, an Idaho Falls institution since 1947, sold its first bike at its new location this morning, a carbon-fiber Cannondale Stumpjumper mountain bike to Jeff Hobbs.

The new store is at 930 Pier View Drive in Snake River Landing. "(It's) what I've been envisioning all along," said Gary Wight, who bought the business from longtime owner Stan Murdock in 2010. With 10,000 square feet store the store features massive tri-level displays, a large classroom and an expanded service area equipped with the latest gear, to help the staff keep up with the massive amount of repair work they do.

The future of the store on South Holmes Avenue, where Bill's has been since 1987, remains uncertain. The current lease goes through August, and they are using it as a warehouse and a place to build bikes.

Wight said that when it came to finding a bike-friendly location, Snake River Landing, with its miles of paved trails and access to the Idaho Falls Greenbelt, presented itself as an ideal place. "I wanted to be where it was bicycle friendly," he said.

The date for a grand opening will be announced later. To find out more about the business, visit the Web page at: On Facebook, they can be found at
Bill's Bike Shop owner Gary Wight in his new office.

Downtown Development Corp. seeks donors for new flower baskets on Memorial

It costs $85 to fund a flower basket in Downtown Idaho Falls this year.

The remodel of Memorial Drive took place last year in the late fall, which means no one has seen it in its summer splendor.

To maximize the effect, for tourist and townie alike, the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp. is looking this year for people or businesses to help fund 42 hanging baskets on the Greenbelt. This is in addition to the 76 baskets that will be hanging from light poles downtown.

Cost of sponsoring a basket is $85. Bob Everhart, DDC's executive director, said he is confident they will get the money they need for downtown baskets, but admitted that finding the money for 42 new ones represents a challenge ($3,570, to be precise).

Still, once summer arrives the results ought to be worth it. "Combined with the city planters on Memorial, we think the baskets will make the Greenbelt look amazing," he said.

Anyone who sponsors a basket gets a sign that hangs by it. "You can have your business name put on, your family name, or donate a basket as a ‘gift’ and have their name placed on the sign," said Mala Lyon, the contact person with DDC.

For more information, call (208) 535-0399 or e-mail Lyon at

Lobbyist to give legislative overview at Mayor's Business Day

John Watts of Veritas Advisors
John Watts of Veritas Advisors will be the keynote and luncheon speaker April 2 at Mayor's Business Day.

Watts, who served under Idaho Govs. John Evans, Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt, will deliver a 2013 Idaho Legislative Session Overview. The luncheon is from noon to 1:30 p.m. at O'Callahan's, inside the Shilo Inn. Tickets are $25 and seating is limited. Tickets may be reserved online at

A partner at Veritas Advisors since 1999, Watts manages ballot issues and candidate campaigns and presents campaign seminars across the nation and in Canada. He specializes in campaign issue identification, message development, voter targeting and direct mail strategy. He has been lobbying since 1983, representing public and private clients in the Idaho Legislature, including AT&T, Shell, Nestle, Pacific Ethanol, Windland and Watco Railroads.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tower closure doesn't mean airport will close

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision to cut funding for the control tower at Idaho Falls Regional Airport doesn't mean the airport will be closing.

Airport Director Craig Davis said he has received word from United Express, Delta and Allegiant Air that they will continue to provide the same number of flights. In fact, more than a dozen commercial flight take off or land at IFRA each week durin hours when the tower is closed.

Idaho Falls and Pocatello were on a list released Friday of more than 100 airports where towers would be closed because of across-the-board federal spending cuts that went into effect Marxh 1.

Local pilot Mike Hart offered this take on what the effect is likely to be: "Imagine what traffic on 17th Street would be like if instead of traffic lights and turn arrows at each intersection you had four-way stops. Traffic would continue, it would just be slowed down and more frustrating."

Davis said the top consideration of the city and the airport management will continue to be safety.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Smith Group plans to move Chevy, Honda dealerships to Sunnyside Road

Excavation work on the land where the Smith Group plans to relocate its Chevrolet and Honda dealerships.
In an update from earlier this week, Stafford Smith, owner of the Smith Group, confirmed Thursday that he plans to move his Chevrolet and Honda dealerships to land he is developing on the south side of Sunnyside Road, near Interstate 15 Exit 116.

Smith has asked the Bonneville County Commission to change the zoning on 19 acres changed from agricultural to commercial. But crews are already digging trenches for the Porter Canal, which flows south from Snake River Landing and needs to be piped under the land before any surface work can start.

Smith said he is racing against the clock. What he is able to do this year depends on whether he can get the canal covered before the water starts flowing. If that happens, they will be able to start grading the land and paving the lots. Smith said he figures he has until around April 15.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tacoma Screw Products plans 10,000-square-foot store for Idaho Falls

Earlier this month we reported that Tacoma Screw Products, a 66-year-old company with 16 stores in the Pacific Northwest, had bought the old Plaza Lanes property at 1811 North Yellowstone Avenue.

John Wolfe, the company's former CEO and current "executive adviser," said the company plans to start building its new store in early May and that they hope to be open in the fall. It will be about 10,000 square feet and much like the company's stores in Boise and Twin Falls.

The biggest challenge was finding a buyer for the lanes inside the old Plaza Lanes building, which has to be torn down before any new construction can begin. The wood is being cut up and shipped to a business in the southeastern United States that fabricates old lanes into table and bar tops.

"I've learned a lot about bowling lanes on this job," Wolfe said. One thing he didn't know was that maple is used for the parts of the lane where people let go of the ball and where the pins are set up. That's because it has to stand up to more punishment. In the middle section where the balls simply rolls, the lane is made of softer wood, like pine or fir.

Wolfe said he knew very little about Idaho Falls before checking the market out as a possible store location, but that he has been "impressed a lot by the upscale nature of development in the area."

Tacoma Screw Products has a very diversified customer base that includes retail, manufacturing, construction, transportation, aerospace, maritime, agricultural, food processing, recreational, institutional operations, and city, county, state, and federal governmental agencies. When customers need custom or special fasteners that are oversized, require special threading or bending, the company has a machine shop to fabricate them.

The company typically employs three or four people to work in a store and three or four people to handle outside sales.

Here's a link to a story about the company that ran last fall in the Tacoma News Tribune:

And here's the link to their Facebook page:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hawk 105.5 FM names new program director

Don Jarrett
Don Jarrett is the new program director and morning host for KTHK-FM 105.5 The Hawk.

Jarrett has spent the past 15 years of his radio career programming and hosting at stations in Idaho, Oregon and Utah, including KEGA-FM 101.5 The Eagle in Salt Lake City, and KAWO-FM WOW 104.3 in Boise. Most recently he was midday host on KUPI 99 and morning host on KQEO-FM 107.1 FM The Arrow.

He is the recipient of five Idaho State Broadcasters Association Radio Program of the Year awards and three Utah Metro Radio Personality of the Year awards.

To listen in, follow this link:

Riverbend Communications companies include, Classy 97, Z103 105.5 The Hawk, KBEAR 101, NewsTalk 97.7/690/1260, Riverbend Digital, Riverbend Outdoor and Riverbend Productions. The company is owned and operated by Frank and Belinda VanderSloot.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Idaho Falls spokesman resigns to take job as Lost Rivers Hospital CEO

Brad Huerta
Brad Huerta, the city of Idaho Falls' public information officer, announced Tuesday that he has resigned to take a job as chief executive officer of Lost Rivers Hospital in Arco. He will be starting there April 15.

Huerta came to work for Idaho Falls in May 2012. Prior to that, he was director of strategic planning and public information for Portneuf Medical Center, then the principal of his own company, Insight Communication Strategies. He also teaches health care administration for the Idaho State University adjunct faculty.

Smith Group owner seeks rezone of ground south of Sunnyside

Trenches are being dug on ground south of Sunnyside Road near Interstate 15. The owner Watts LLC, is seeking to have the zoning changed from agricultural to commercial.
The Bonneville County Commission has scheduled a public hearing Wednesday afternoon at 4 on two requests to have land south of Sunnyside Road rezoned from agricultural to commercial. Overall, the zone change requests cover 236.9 acres.

The first comes from Watts LLP, a company owned by Stafford Smith, owner of the Smith Group. The partnership is seeking to have 19.6 acres rezoned from A-1 to C-2. We struck out this morning trying to reach Smith to ask him about his plans for the land, but will keep trying. On the ground, crews are already engaged in excavation work.

Because the land is not contiguous to the city of Idaho Falls it can't be annexed or receive city services. The master plan at the county planning and zoning office shows water service coming from Andrus Distributing to the south and sewer lines hooking into the Eastern Idaho Regional Wastewater System, which hooks into a treatment plant in Shelley.

The other zone change request, from Melaleuca, is for 217.3 acres along the west bank of the Snake River. No details on what might be proposed for the ground were available from Melaleuca or Bonneville County at the time of this posting.

The hearing will be at the Bonneville County Courthouse, in the commissioners' office.

Monday, March 18, 2013

WinCo plans to opening new Pocatello store on Sunday

WinCo Foods' new store in Pocatello, which opens Sunday morning, is more than twice the size of the Pocatello Creek Road supermarket.

More news about WinCo Foods: The Boise-based chain is opening its new Pocatello store on Sunday morning. At close to 98,000 square feet, the store at 1030 Yellowstone Avenue is more than double the older 42,000-square-foot store on Pocatello Creek Road. It will employ approximately 210 individuals, 101 of whom are moving over from the old store.
WinCo's 85,000-square-foot store in Idaho Falls opened in 1999. 
Founded in 1967, WinCo Foods is an employee-owned discount food chain with 87 stores and four distribution centers in Idaho, Washington, Nevada, California, Oregon, Arizona and Utah. It employs more than 14,000 people.
More information can be found at its Web site,

Research Symposium attracts venture capitalists, entrepreneurs

Idaho Research Symposium participants examine biomass pellets during a tour of INL's new Energy Systems Laboratory. 
There's an interesting story today on the INL Portal about entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and their interest in the Idaho Research Symposium. The symposium is an energy-focused workshop sponsored every year by CAES, the Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho Technology Council. The story is by Kortny Rolston, my old colleague from the Post Register.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Self-checkout comes to WinCo Foods

WinCo Foods on Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls installed six self-checkout stands Thursday, part of a company-wide push.

Contrary to what you might think, this not a case of machines taking work away from people. Because it takes two staffers to monitor the machines (and the people using them) around the clock (WinCo is open 24 hours), "We actually get more hours," said a checkout clerk who asked that her name not be used.

Based in Boise, WinCo is an employee-owned company with 87 stores in seven western states.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Idahoan shows up on Forbes list of world's billionaires

Robert Earl Holding
Forbes Magazine's list of the world's billionaires came out this week. Being naturally curious, I wanted to see if there were any Idahoans on it. There was one, Robert Holding, 86, of Sun Valley, founder of Little America and owner of the Sun Valley and Snowbasin resorts, as well as Sinclair Oil and lots and lots of land.

You can read the Forbes profile here: Or I can save you the time and list a few bullet points:
  • Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, University of Utah
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Children: 3
  • Known by his middle name, Earl
  • Net worth: $3.2 billion

Victoria's Secret moving to new mall location

NOT YOUR AVERAGE MALL WALKERS. All right, this photo has obviously been doctored, but it got your attention, didn't it? It's our way of telling you that the space at the Grand Teton Mall where The Gap used to be is being remodeled into the new home of Victoria's Secret (which has been at the mall's west end for years). Plans are on file at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department office, but they're boring. So would be a picture of a wall, which is why we opted for a photo illustration of questionable taste.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First Street Stinker station slated for demolition

Nobody is going to argue this Stinker Station at First Street and Holmes Avenue is a thing of beauty, but if you have a sentimental feeling for it -- say you bought a winning lottery ticket there or met the love of your life while buying a pack of smokes -- be prepared to say good-bye. According to documents at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department, the building and adjoining car wash are going to be torn down this spring and replaced by a new 2,832-square-foot convenience store. The gas pumps will remain where they are.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Grow Idaho Falls lists arguments for keeping airport tower staffed

Grow Idaho Falls, the city's economic development agency, is leading a write-in effort to keep the Idaho Falls Regional Airport control tower open.

Because of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, IFRA is one of nearly 200 airports that have been told they have until Wednesday to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration that closing the tower would not be in the national interest.

Grow  Idaho  Falls says Idaho Falls Regional fell just short of the FAA's cutoff in 2012, hosting 9,435 commercial aircraft operations. The FAA minimum was 10,000.

Idaho Falls Regional is currently served by Delta  Airlines, United Express, and Allegiant Air, with  non-­stop service to Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Airport Manager Craig Davis said he has been assured by all the airlines that service will continue regardless of what happens with the tower.

Here is a rundown of Grow Idaho Falls' arguments for keeping the tower in operation:
  • The  airport is the only CDC-approved pharmaceutical stockpile  drop-­off point for eastern  Idaho,  western  Wyoming and southern Montana. The airport is also directly in the service area for Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and the Trauma II Center, which serves a 250-­mile radius, and a population  of  about 400,000 people.
  • Idaho National Laboratory is the Department of  Energy's lead  nuclear lab. With 77 percent of  INL  employees  living  in  Idaho  Falls,  this  is  closest air  travel  connection  to  the  rest  of the  United States.  Since  the  start  of  the  current  fiscal  year in October 2012,  Battele  Energy  Alliance/Idaho  National Laboratory  employees  have  flown  more than 2,000  trips. The INL is also the site of several Department of Homeland Security and  Cyber-­Security missions, with international importance and implications.
  • The  airport  serves  as  diversionary  landing  strip  for  multiple  commercial  airlines,  corporate  business,  and  general  aviation  aircraft that divert due to weather conditions from surrounding airports, including Salt Lake City; Jackson, Wyo.; Boise; Billings, Mont.; and even Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  • Hill  and  Mountain  Home  Air  Force  Bases  utilize  the  airport  for  safety  training  operations.
  • The city of Idaho Falls has maintained an aggressive capital improvement and maintenance schedule. At a length of 9,002 feet, IFRA has the longest runway in the multi-­state region. The airport has Full Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) capabilities for Index B operations with new ARFF trucks; there is a multi-­million dollar snow and ice control program, with a new fleet of vehicles. A new passenger terminal project is under construction.
  • IFRA  is  located  in  the  geographic center of a relatively isolated multi-­state area with a 120-­minute passenger catchment area that is home  to  665,359  people. The  nearest comparable airport in Idaho is in Boise, a four-and-a-half-hour drive west.
  • In  2012, IFRA processed more than 2 million pounds of air cargo through four companies: Federal Express, UPS, Western Air, and Empire  Airlines. In  addition,  many  banking  and  financial  documents utilize these services for specific business documents.

Anyone who wishes to comment can e-mail

Memo: Over 100 Employees to be Laid Off at INL

According to an internal memo obtained and reprinted by KPVI News 6, involuntary separations will begin today at the Idaho National Laboratory and affect 101 employees.

Here is the text of the memo, from Human Resources and Diversity Director Mark Holubar:

Today we will begin the involuntary separation program. The separations will begin today and will affect 101 employees. Managers will be contacting the impacted employees, and the termination process will be completed the same day individual employees are notified.

There were 114 employees who chose to voluntarily self-select to leave INL. This was a higher number than originally anticipated and it helped lessen the impact of this particular involuntary separation. In addition, since the beginning of the fiscal year nearly 60 employees have left the lab through normal attrition and those positions have not been back-filled. Between the voluntary separations, attrition and the involuntary separations, approximately 7 percent of the workforce has been reduced.

We will be watching the budget situation closely in the coming months and hope to have a clearer picture of any additional actions that will be necessary. As Laboratory Director John Grossenbacher said in the recent budget update, we anticipate additional workforce restructuring before the end of this fiscal year. We will update you in that regard on a regular basis. 

Actions such as these are not easy, but they are ultimately necessary. Please give your full support to those individuals who will be affected.

Mario Hernandez joins Bank of Idaho board of directors

Mario Hernandez
Mario Hernandez, owner and general manager of Teton Toyota and Teton Volkswagen in Idaho Falls, has been elected to the Bank of Idaho board of directors.

In a press release, board chairman and CEO Park Price said he expects the bank to benefit from Hernandez's expertise as the owner of a successful retail business, and from his involvement in the community.

Hernandez bought the Idaho Falls Toyota dealership in 2005 when it was located on East Anderson Street and supervised its move to Snake River Landing on Sunnyside Road in 2009. Construction of the Teton Volkswagen dealership next door will begin this spring.

A graduate of Pocatello High School and American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Hernandez and his wife, Glenda, are involved in many community organizations, including the Idaho Falls Arts Council, Idaho Falls Symphony, Snake River Animal Shelter, School Districts 91 and 93 and Holy Rosary School, Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They have three children, Crystal, Anthony and Connor; and two dogs, Buddy (Teton Toyota's longtime mascot) and Bindi.

Bank of Idaho has branches in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, St. Anthony, Ashton and Island Park.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Former Texas Roadhouse employee files gender discrimination suit

A former employee of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Ammon has filed suit against the Kentucky-based chain in the U.S. District Court of Idaho, claiming he was discriminated against because of his gender.

Tim Fenton, who was employed as a trainer, bartender and server until October 2012, has claimed the restaurant's service manager, Scott Baird, told him the chain’s regional director “only wanted girls working in the bar.” The complaint, filed March 4, also alleges that Baird told women employees to wear tank tops and shorts to work and to “flirt with every guy that sits at the bar top.”

Fenton’s attorney, Sam Angell of Idaho Falls, said his client made a formal complaint to the chain’s human resources department but heard nothing back.

According to the Texas Roadhouse in Ammon, Baird is no longer employed at the restaurant. A spokesman at the chain's corporate headquarters in Louisville told the Idaho Business Review he hadn’t seen the lawsuit so he could not comment.

In order to pursue a job discrimination lawsuit in federal court, plaintiffs must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to Angell, the EEOC determined it would not be able to complete its investigation in the required 180 days so it issued a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

According to the complaint, Texas Roadhouse managers officially fired Fenton because he used a swear word.  But the document claims other employees used similar language and kept their jobs.
Inquiring minds want to know about the foundation that has been poured at 2680 North Holmes, across from Vicker's Westen Wear. It is the new location of The Gun Shop, which is currently just north (and on the right side of this photo).  Owner Casey Wheeler is planning to open an 8,000-square-foot store. According to the permit at the Idaho Falls Building Department Office, the valuation of the project has been estimated at $330,000.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Scientech plans move to Snake River Landing

Idaho Falls-based Scientech, a global provider of commercial nuclear power safety and risk analyses and instrumentation, plans to move to Snake River Landing.

Horrrocks Engineering of Boise filed site plans Thursday with the city of Idaho Falls showing the company plans two buildings on 10 acres at the corner of Bluff Street and Whitewater Drive. One building will be 39,500 square feet, the other will be 36,900 square feet, and the two will be joined by a breezeway. The land is near the offices of Potandon Produce and the future site of the Idaho Falls Event Center.

A site plan is the first step in any new development. People from different departments examine the plans to make sure the details are in compliance with the city's codes and regulations. Once the plan is approved, a developer goes before the city planning and zoning commission, which makes a recommendation to the City Council. Once the City Council approves the plat, a building permit is issued and construction can begin.

A business unit of Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Co., Scientech has operated for several years out of offices on South Woodruff Avenue. The company employs more than 150 people in Idaho Falls.

Tolman selected by Waddell & Reed for career development conference

Shawn Tolman

Shawn Tolman has been named one of Waddell & Reed’s financial advisers qualifying for the firm’s Career Development Conference. The company holds this conference several times each year for financial advisers that have exhibited initial success in the industry based on an analysis of investment, insurance and financial planning sales. In order to help its advisers, Waddell & Reed hosts the weeklong conference to emphasize business and marketing planning, the financial planning process, asset allocation, retirement planning, values and client relationships.

Tolman has been a professional in the financial services industry 10 years. He joined Waddell & Reed in 2011. Tolman earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and an MBA from WGU.

Groping toward an online business model

"It's nice to be liked, but it's better by far to get paid," indie music legend Liz Phair once sang. In this spirit, on Thursday I launched a voluntary subscription experiment, asking people to pay $2.50 a month if they like BizMojo Idaho and the service it provides them.

Looking at my numbers for the past 30 days, I surmised that I could make decent money -- not a fortune, but not a pittance either -- if the people who visit this blog for more than 30 seconds a stretch were to pay what amounts to less than 10 cents a day.

BizMojo Idaho's average visit duration was 1:03. Considering that 30 seconds is an eternity online, I'm encouraged to believe that this blog is engaging visitors with its content. Likewise, returning visitors outnumbered new visitors 60 to 40 percent, suggesting that a lot of people have gotten in the habit of checking in. (The ideal, of course, is to snag more new visitors and convert them into returning visitors.)

I found it intriguing that 40 percent of the visits to BizMojo Idaho these past 30 days were on mobile devices, more than half of them iPhones and iPads. A year ago it was 25 percent. This is right in keeping with the national trends.

It's an uphill climb asking people to pay for online content. People can read stuff for free all day long. I can watch old Rolling Stones clips on YouTube for hours and not pay a dime. So it would be pointless for me to claim I deserve to be paid. Nor am I thinking of quitting, because I like the connection to the community that my writing gives me. So if you want it, here it is, come and get it.

Still, one thing I have learned about social media over the last 18 months is that success depends on a lot on the relationships you create. On his national blog, Andrew Sullivan recently decided to quit chasing advertisers and page views, asking his readers to subscribe instead. He made $625,000 in two months.

I would be foolish to put myself in the same league with him, but on a local level I'm saying that if you think I'm worth reading you're welcome to support me. The PayPal button is on the right side of the blog. Now it's time to go find out what the foundation out by the Eagles Lodge is going to be. In the snow.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

St. Clair Road work may bring temporary detours

Sections of St. Clair Road may be closed to traffic this month as Idaho Falls Power crews replace power poles between 17th and 25th Streets. Work is set to begin Monday.

St. Clair will not be closed to traffic the entire time, but there may be days when the safety of the crews will necessitate brief shutdowns along certain stretches.

The project is part of the city-owned utility’s effort to replace deteriorated poles, some of which are more than 60 years old.

Idaho-made vodka takes another prize

American Harvest Organic Spirit, the Idaho-made vodka last seen at the Obama inauguration gala, has received a gold medal at the Spirits of the Americas competition in Florida.

In the brand's short time on the market, American Harvest has already been awarded a gold medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute, a double gold medal from the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Tasting Panel Seal of Excellence award for outstanding quality.

American Harvest is made for Sidney Frank Importing Co. by Silver Creek Distillers, a company that took over a closed-down ethanol plant in Jefferson County near the Snake River in 1988. Unlike Blue Ice and Teton Glacier, also made there, American Harvest is distilled from organic winter wheat, not potatoes. It is available locally, and will be available nationwide later this month.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Air service will continue if Idaho Falls Regional Airport tower closes

The tower at Idaho Falls Regional Airport is one of hundreds that could be closed in early April due to across-the-board cuts in federal spending.
Although there is growing alarm in the local aviation community that the control tower could be shut down in early April because of federal cuts to spending, planes will continue to take off and land at Idaho Falls Regional Airport, Manager Craig Davis said.

"We don't want to lose the safety the tower provides," said Davis. "But the airport is not going to shut down."

Davis said he has received word from the three commercial carriers, United Express, SkyWest and Allegiant Air, all stating they do not plan to change their service regardless of whether the tower is open or closed. Even now, 12 to 14 commercial flights a week land in Idaho Falls when the tower is closed.

Nevertheless, Davis is leading an effort to persuade the FAA and lawmakers to keep the tower open. In an e-mail to local pilots and service operators, he said, "I have been working with the airport’s lobbyist organizations (American Association of Airport Executives-AAAE and United States Contract Tower Association-USCTA), the media (local and national) and key airport tenants to communicate our objection to this decision and to urge our legislators to negotiate a plan between now and April 1 to keep the towers in operation."

"It's a balancing act," he said. "But whatever happens we want (people) to know that air service will continue and that they will be safe."

In February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the sequestration that went into effect March 1 could require trimming $600 million this year from the Federal Aviation Administration's budget. That will mean furloughing air traffic controllers at larger airports and shutting down towers at smaller ones. Idaho Falls is on a list of airports that can be found here:

Tuesday afternoon Davis said he received a letter from the FAA telling him he had until March 13 to provide justification why the Idaho Falls tower shouldn't be closed. The justification has to be at a national level. "They won't take local matters into consideration," he said.

In his e-mail, Davis urged local pilots and anyone connected with aviation to contact Rep. Mike Simpson and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, providing this link:

Taleesha Hillman, the air traffic manager in Idaho Falls for Serco, the company that contracts with the FAA, is also looking for e-mails and letters to pass on to Washington, D.C. In charge of a four-person staff in Idaho Falls, she said it is "unimaginable and unacceptable" that the tower be closed down. "I have been at IDA for 16 years now and have diligently tried every day to keep people in the air and on the ground safe," she said.

In 2012, 159,976 people boarded flights in Idaho Falls, up from 149,194 in 2011 and 143,194 in 2010. Three carriers -- SkyWest, United Express and Allegiant -- serve Idaho Falls with direct flights to Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Los Angeles.

Tacoma Screw Products plans store in Idaho Falls

Demolition of the old Plaza Lanes bowling alley should begin sometime this spring to make way for Tacoma Screw Products' store and distribution center.
Tacoma Screw Products, a 66-year-old company with 15 stores in the Pacific Northwest, has bought the old Plaza Lanes property at 1811 North Yellowstone Avenue in Idaho Falls.

A cyclone fence has been set up around the lot, at the corner of North Yellowstone and Hemmert Drive. After the contents have been salvaged the old buildings will be razed.

Founded in 1946 in Tacoma, Wash., Tacoma Screw Products specializes in the distribution of fasteners, tools and maintenance, shop and industrial supplies.With an inventory of more than 45,000 products, it provides service to more than 40,000 business customers. These include retail, manufacturing, construction, transportation, aerospace, maritime, agricultural, food processing, recreational, institutional operations, and city, county, state, and federal governmental agencies. When customers need custom or special fasteners that are oversized, require special threading or bending, the company has a machine shop to fabricate them.

In Idaho, the company has two branch locations, in Boise and Twin Falls.

More information can be found at the company's Web site,

Monday, March 4, 2013

Downtown I.F. pastry shop eyes opening Monday, March 11

La Vanilla Bean Patisserie owner Kay Lynn Broadhead, right, and baker Jessica Carson. 
La Vanilla Bean Patisserie in downtown Idaho Falls has set next Monday as the date for a soft opening.

Owner Kay Lynn Broadhead said they are testing the two gas convection ovens and getting staff trained this week at the corner bakery, which is at 489 Park Avenue, across B Street from Pachanga's.

Although she had hoped to open earlier, time has been her friend, she said. "It took a little longer than I though it would, but that has turned out to be good. We've been able to learn about food service and build relationships."

Broadhead and her baker, Jessica Carson, will be focusing on European style pastries (tarts, torts, Napoleons, eclairs, scones), and will also provide coffee, specialty cakes and lunch. On bread they are being joined by Jackie Cook, whom Broadhead met at culinary school.

Store hours will be 7 a.m to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Hours on Friday and Saturday will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Telephone is (208) 881-5176. Here's the link to their Facebook page:

Broadhead was a communications professor at Idaho State University for 20 years before she took early retirement in 2010 to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. When she returned to Idaho her plan was to do business in Boise. But the storefront she thought she had lined up went to someone else, and when she started looking at other Idaho locations she was approached by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Corp.

"I've got a very good feeling about what's happening with the downtown here," she said.