Thursday, May 30, 2013

Idaho Falls drive-in theaters open for summer; owners seek buyer

Right now the Sky-Vu and Motor-Vu drive-in theaters in Idaho Falls are only open on weekends, but that will change to a full-week schedule in a few weeks with the advent of summer.
Idaho Falls' two drive-in movie theaters, the Motor-Vu and the Sky-Vu, are still for sale, but if you think you're going to buy them for a peanuts you've got another thing coming.

The price for both is $2.4 million or $1.2 million apiece, said Marcia Leonard, who owns the properties with her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Page Dewsnup. "They make a lot of money," she said. "The people here love them."
It costs adults $7 for a double feature at the Sky-Vu.

The Sky-Vu sits on 9.1 acres on the south side of town, on land near the Snake River that could be very valuable for development. Anyone who wants to buy the property by itself has to promise not to operate the drive-in, because they don't want competing theaters, Leonard said.

The Motor-Vu is on 6.0 acres on the north side of Idaho Falls, with good canal frontage and water rights.

One can be forgiven for wondering how Idaho Falls, Pop. 57,000, hangs onto two "ozoners" while they are disappearing right and left all over America. In 1958, the United States had close to 4,000 drive-in movie theaters, said Jennifer Sherer Janisch, who operates the Web site Today, that number is less than 400.

Two things brought about their demise in the ’70s and ’80s -- rising land values and the advent of VCRs, DVDs and the Internet. That trend slowed down in the ’90s, and although she recognizes drive-ins will never be the mass market phenomenon they were in the Eisenhower era, Sherer said she’s hopeful about the future.

“In the last several years we've seen drive-in expansion, drive-in re-openings, and even brand new drive-ins,” she said. “Aside from the unique atmosphere and the fact that it's so affordable, people want good, clean fun, and drive-ins have it."

Leonard said people's love of the outdoors and family activity have made the local drive-ins successful. Although only open on the weekends at the moment, the Sky-Vu has a first-run double feature, "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and "Fast and Furious 6." The Motor-Vu's fare is a little older -- "Iron Man 3" and "Oz The Great and Powerful" -- but still fresh enough that some people may have not seen them.

Even if they have, "For $7, it's a good value," Leonard said.

Health Care Reform seminar scheduled June 12 at EITC

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Idaho Technical College and the law firm of Hawley Troxell are sponsoring a seminar June 12 called "What Employers Need to Know About Health Care Reform."

With 2014 only six months away, the clock is ticking for Idaho employers to bring themselves into compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Larger employers are looking at penalties if they do not provide minimum health coverage, but even before implementation employers are going to have to comply with new rules, fees and reporting requirements.

The program will be from 9 to 11 a.m. in the EITC Health Care Education Building, Rooms 6163 and 6164. Breakfast will be provided. To secure a seat, RSVP by 5 p.m. Friday using this link: Health Care Seminar Reservation.

The speakers will be Tom Mortell, Kara Heikkila and Bret Clark of Hawley Troxell, who will walk employers through a timeline for compliance and provide background information to make sense of the law. Topics will include compliance deadlines and how to properly classify employees and independent contractors to avoid or minimize penalties.

For more information, email or call (208) 388-4919.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

D is for "demolish"

It has been said that if anything stands long enough, however ugly it may be it will become a landmark. This was certainly the case for the old D Street Underpass, which became history on Wednesday. The city and the Union Pacific Railroad are engaged in replacing the ancient, crumbling subway with a much wider and safer structure, to be finished in 2014. Sentimentalists, take heart. The old stone tower, on the right, the last remnant of the railroad depot that was torn down in 1964, remains on the grassy knoll overlooking North Yellowstone Avenue.

Teton Cancer Institute readies for opening, plans June 20 open house

The entrance to the Teton Cancer Institute, which should be open in the next few weeks.
The push is on to have the Teton Cancer Institute open in the next two weeks, with an open house scheduled for June 20.

Located in the shell of the old Idaho Falls Recovery Center, the practice will offer a new place for Idaho Falls cancer patients to get chemotherapy and treatment in relative comfort. The new facility will have 20 infusion pods and a special pediatric room.

The new facility will have four doctors from two different practices: Drs. Christian T. Shull and Nathan D. Adams of Snake River Oncology and Drs. Jeffrey D. Hancock and Dane J. Dixon of Teton Oncology.

Overall, the project will cover 175,767 square feet, with parking for 98 vehicles. The practice is being given a new address, 1957 East 17th Street.

IFSC Partners, a Portland, Ore.-based company, had building permits issued late last year for remodels of both the Idaho Falls Surgical Center and the Idaho Falls Recovery Center. Valuation of the first remodel was estimated at $1.31 million and the second at $1.47 million. When finished the two buildings will be connected by a common corridor.

The architect on the project is Ankrom Moisan Associated, a Portland firm. The contractor is Bateman-Hall of Idaho Falls.

Cortney Liddiard, CEO of Ball Ventures, and James Adamson, president and CEO of Mountain View Hospital, are listed on the building plans as the principals involved in IFSC Partners.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I.F. Power crews begin work on Northgate Mile

Idaho Falls Power crews will be replacing power poles and restringing overhead conductor cable along Northgate Mile over the coming weeks.

The work began Monday with replacement of a pole near the intersection of Northgate Mile and Elva Street and will continue south to Lomax Street.

Motorists are advised to take caution around the work sites. In most cases, the crews will be able to keep their vehicles off the road. On some days, though, vehicles could block a southbound lane of traffic. Signs and orange cones will be in place to alert motorists.

The work is needed to maintain the electrical infrastructure in this section of the city, some of which dates to the 1940s and '50s. The Northgate Mile project is expected to take at least a month and could continue into mid-July. Personnel will be on site daily from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Idaho ranks fourth in nation in housing price resurgence

Stock prices jumped sharply this morning on the news that U.S. home prices had jumped 10.9 percent in March compared to a year ago, the biggest surge since April 2006.

At the end of the first quarter, prices across the nation rose 6.7 percent, with Nevada, Arizona and California leading the charge, and Idaho coming in fourth, largely due to a big rebound in the Boise-Nampa Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported prices of existing single-family homes in Idaho rose 15 percent in the past year, the fourth-highest rate of appreciation from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.

While Boise/Nampa posted the state's biggest yearly upturn -- 10.17 percent -- ranking fifth in the nation, Idaho Falls was not so dramatic, showing an uptick of .57 percent, and Pocatello home prices rose a modest Pocatello, 1.23 percent.

Before anyone in this part of the state gets too jealous, consider this:
  • If you bought a $150,000 home in Boise in the first quarter of 2006, it would be worth $118,550 today.
    A line graph indexing Boise home prices from 2006 to 2013
  • If you bought a $150,000 home in Idaho Falls in the first quarter of 2006, it would be worth $150,705 today.
    A line graph indexing Idaho Falls home prices from 2006 to 2013
I learned this by using the FHFA's Housing Price Index calculator, which can be found here: Housing Price Index Calculator.

The FHFA House Price Index is calculated using the purchase prices of homes with mortgages that have been sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. "The FHFA index further reinforces that Idaho's economy and housing markets have stabilized and are improving," said Gerald M. Hunter, president of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, in a press release.

Entrepreneurs prepare to participate in TechLaunch 10.0

Up-and-coming Idaho entrepreneurs will soon compete for up to $50,000 in cash prizes as Idaho’s next Entrepreneurial Idol and Crowd Pitch crown this year's recipients.

Hosted June 13 at the WaterCooler and the Linen Building in Boise and June 14 in the Skaggs Hall of Learning at Boise State University, entrepreneurs and innovators around Idaho and the region are preparing to compete in TechLaunch 10.0. The two-day event will include two different competitions:
  • The Entrepreneurial Idol Competition is evaluated by a distinguished panel of judges who have all excelled in their particular fields and bring a wealth of knowledge regarding early stage financing to the event.  This year’s format will consist of semifinal and final rounds with prize money totaling $50,000.
  • The Crowd Pitch, TechLaunch’s second event, is an elevator pitch competition that provides an opportunity for individuals to deliver their innovative ideas to TechLaunch attendees and compete for prize money.
In its tenth year, TechLaunch is designed to educate and provide a stage for entrepreneurs and innovators to practice and hone their pitches in front of the business/investment community.  Over the past nine years, TechLaunch has introduced many great companies to the intricacies of early stage financing.  Of the 72 companies that have previously participated, 55 are still in business and continue to grow and receive research, development, and investment capital.

Students and aspiring entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend this event to learn the complexities of product commercialization, start-up financing, and networking with industry leaders. Attendees have the option of registering for the reception, the competitions, or both. For more information, please contact Rick Ritter at (208) 908-0625 or  Additional information is available at

Friday, May 24, 2013

Auditorium district files plat for events center

The 22 acres where the event center will be located is shaded in grey.
We've been getting questions now and then about the status of the Idaho Falls Events Center. The project moved one step closer to breaking ground this week when it submitted a plat to the city of Idaho Falls.

Once the plat is approved, the people behind the project can file site and building plans and begin work on the project, which Idaho Falls voters gave the go ahead to in May 2011. Last winter, when the Idaho Falls Auditorium District named Centennial Management Group to operate the center, CMG President Kevin Bruder said they expected to break ground in May. Obviously that hasn't happened, but when it does the construction is expected to take 18 months.

Plans for the center include a hockey area, shopping area, restaurants, conference center and concert venue. It will be located on 22 acres at Snake River Landing, south of Pancheri Drive, with a road that runs between Pioneer Road and Snake River Parkway serving as the main access.

Partial funding of the project comes from a 5 percent hotel and motel bed tax that voters approved in May 2011.

For more information, visit this link: Idaho Falls Event Center.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Swagger boutique plans move, expanded hours

Swagger, a women's boutique that opened last year in Idaho Falls at 537 West 20th Street, will be moving and opening June 6 at 2177 E. 17th Street.

Owner Shantell Goodenogh said the new store, next to Planet Beach, will give them more space and a more visible location. Instead of only Thursday, they will be open three days, Thursday and Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tucked away where they were they didn't have much visibility, and they got in trouble with the city of Idaho Falls when they put a freestanding sign on Rollandet. Nevertheless, they have built a loyal clientele that they expect to follow them to the new store.

Swagger offers affordable-but-chic dresses, tops, jewelry and accessories by smaller companies including L.A. Idol, Antique Rivet, Request and Judy Blue. Limited availability is part of the appeal, Goodenogh said.

"When you buy something from us, you're not going to see other women wearing it," she said. "I might order six items, and when they're gone they're gone."

Their Facebook page, an important part of their marketing, can be found at Swagger. For more information, call (208) 390-8527.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dad's plans to have new station open by August

The ground at Hitt and Yellowstone where the new Dad's Travel Center is to be built.
Dad's Travel Center will be moving across Hitt Road in August to a 47-acre site they have been planning for years to develop.

The 3,000-square-foot store will be a miniature version of what they have south of Idaho Falls at Exit 113, said Kevin Bird, the company's general manager. They were originally planning to develop the site in 2007, but when the economy went into recession they decided to hold off. But as they neared the expiration of the 10-year lease on the store at Hitt and Yellowstone, they decided this year was as good as any.

"We're very optimistic about the future and the expansion of Hitt Road to four lanes out to the freeway," Bird said. The contractor on the project is Bateman-Hall. "We're building fast," he said. "We hope to have this open by August.

The 11,000-square-foot Dad's south of Idaho Falls is home to Frontier Pies. Bird said they plan to have a food vendor in the new store, but said they haven't chosen yet.

Dad's is owned by Doug Andrus, who has been busy on both ends of town. The company has bought 100 acres near Exit 113 and is planning to build a 90,000-square-foot facility for Watkins Distributing, the regional Anheuser-Busch wholesaler.

Statistical changes in the works for Idaho Falls, eastern Idaho

Changes to the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area and Combined Statistical Area will take effect in January 2014. These changes were made based on demographic shifts revealed in 2010 Census data.
The Idaho Falls MSA will include Butte County in addition to Bonneville and Jefferson counties.
The Idaho Falls CSA, renamed the Idaho Falls-Blackfoot CSA, is to include Butte, Madison, and Fremont Counties in addition to Bonneville, Bingham, and Jefferson.
The changes are expected to more accurately reflect the local economic picture and the accuracy of labor market information.

Idaho ranks 26th in Bloomberg STEM survey

Doing a routine sweep for stories about Idaho (in the newspaper business this would be called "sorting the wire"), we ran across this May 14 story from Bloomberg ranking the states with the highest concentrations of professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Idaho tied for 26th in Bloomberg's STEM Index. The state has lost 0.41 percent of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs since 2001.

The ranking was based on STEM professionals as a percentage of:
  • Those nationwide (2012): 0.49%
  • The state's population (2011): 2.16%
  • The state's employed (2011): 4.75%
Separately, the average pay for STEM professionals in Idaho was $64,583 in 2011. Medical scientists, not including epidemiologists, were the highest-paid with an average salary of $154,990.

Here's the link to the story: Left Brainiest States of the Union: Red, White and Nerdy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Arts Council launches $241k drive to finish youth "ARTitorium"

Architect Keith Kennedy's rendering of the floor plan of the "ARTitorium on Broadway," once the Rio Theater. To learn more about the plans, follow this link: ARTitorium

The Idaho Falls Arts Council started a fund-raising drive this morning to raise $241,000, the amount it says it needs to reach its goal for remodeling the old Rio Theater into the "ARTitorium on Broadway."

A group of anonymous challenge grant donors have promised a matching amount but set a Sept. 30 deadline on the effort. If the money is raised, the combined $482,000 will allow the Arts Council to spend $1.53 million on the facility and have it open by late summer 2014.

The drive has been named the “Phantom 2.0 Challenge,” in reference to a similar challenge grant campaign in the 1990s to finish the Miles and Virginia Willard Arts Center

The plan is for a technology-driven arts center for youth, a tourist attraction, and a great step forward in downtown revitalization. The plans for the main floor include interactive art stations, including a lighted motion wall, virtual art gallery, gigantic magnetic wall, computerized animation kiosk and life-size green screen. Most of the interactive art stations are being developed by Protozone Interactives, whose clients include The National Museum of Art, The San Francisco Exploratorium and The National Museum of Science and Industry.

The second floor, once the Rio's balcony, is to be renovated into a 170-seat performing arts theater and recording studio.

The $241,000 gift is being donated by a small group of arts supporters who will reveal their identities once the matching funds are raised. While the deadline is Sept. 30, pledges can be paid over a multi-annual period.

“Despite having gone through the worst recession since the Depression, the Arts Council had already successfully raised over $1 million towards this project," said Carrie Getty Scheid, who is co-chairing the challenge grant fund-raising with Mary Lynn Hartwell. Anyone interested in making a pledge or donation should contact Scheid at or (208) 206-9506. Donations also can be mailed to the Idaho Falls Arts Council, 498 A Street, Idaho Falls, ID  83402.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I, Paul Menser, was the Phantom of the Colonial in the 1990s and was asked to reprise the role for this funding effort. Here are the parody lyrics that finally came to me around 3:45 this morning, which I sang from the balcony a few hours later to a warm if not exactly thunderous reception:
Me, as the Phantom. Pretty slick, huh?

(To the tune of "Music of the Night")

Everybody likes their children smart
That's why every kid needs lots of art
Painting, dance and song make the day a lot less long
Is it too much to be offering them some?
So dig deep for the ARTitorium.

This old place has been sitting vacant long enough
Don't you think we could show a little pride
If we did something nice with it inside?
('Course I'd have to find another place to hide.)

We're all crazy if we do not do this.
Don't make me think you're completely clueless.
Show me you've got taste; don't let this chance go to waste
I don't want to have to wait till kingdom come
So dig deep for the ARTitorium.

I asked the TV reporters who were there to send me video of this performance. If that happens, and I like what I see, I will post it. This is the age of YouTube and social media, after all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Millgate takes first place for Environment Reporting

Kris Millgate
Congratulations to Kris Millgate for taking first place in the Environment Reporting -- Daily Print category at the Idaho Press Club banquet, which was held Saturday night in Boise. Millgate took the honor for a story she wrote for the Post Register, "Return of the River."

Millgate started her multi-media company, Tight Line Media, in 2006 after leaving traditional TV journalism. In addition to the weekly "Time Out" segments that air on KPVI-TV, she is a documentary film-maker. Her film "Sanctuary," about recovering elk habitat in New Mexico, won best outdoor story from the Outdoor Writers Association of America and is on tour this year with the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

For a full rundown of all the awards she has won, visit this link: Tight Line Media Awards.

Work well underway on D Street Underpass

We don't know if you've wondered what's going on with the D Street Underpass, but to save you the trouble of getting out of your car we climbed up there and took a photo. Basically, a berm has been constructed and tracks are being laid for trains to use while the old, decrepit bridge is torn down and a new one built. It will be next year before this is finished, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone considering the bridge over the canal on John Adams Parkway has taken more than six months and still isn't done.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Smith Group submits plat; decision expected next week

The Porter Canal, covered so the land can be developed. The sign for Teton Toyota is in the background.
Here's a photo update from the ground on the south side of West Sunnyside Road, where the Smith Group plans to relocate. The canal has been capped with concrete, which will allow developers to pave the land in preparation for the Honda and Chevrolet dealerships.

On Wednesday morning, the Bonneville County Commission held a public hearing on platting the 19 acres. About six people testified, and a decision is expected next week, County Planner Steve Serr said.

Unlike Teton Toyota across the road, the ground is not in the city of Idaho Falls, nor is it contiguous to any ground within city limits, which would require it to be annexed and hooked up to city utilities. It will be hooked up to the regional wastewater system that terminates outside Shelley, and the water will come from Doug Andrus Trucking's development three miles to the south.

The ground is within the area of impact the city and county agreed on years ago, a document mandated by the state and intended to addres ground that might eventually be incorporated. That agreement did not come without a struggle -- I attended a lot of meetings and plenty of ink on the divergent views Idaho Falls and Bonneville County have with regard to the value of being incorporated into a municipality. Since this is a blog where I am at liberty to offer opinions now and then, I've noticed a fair amount of territorialism over the years.

INL co-hosting workshop for would-be contractors

The Idaho National Laboratory is co-hosting a free workshop for contractors who want to work with the lab. The training will explain how companies can position themselves to compete for federal contracts. More information is in this flier:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Play N Trade closing doors after six years

Screens at the Play N Trade store in Idaho Falls, which will be selling off its merchandise and closing.

I found this on Facebook at lunchtime -- a letter from Play N Trade owner Jeremy Hix to all his online customers and friends -- and thought it worth sharing:

Hey everyone this is Jeremy the store owner of Chubbuck and Idaho Falls. While I wish I could call every customer and let you know this personally there is no way I can. After over 6 great years of striving to give you the best game store experience around, we have decided to close our doors. It is not an easy or fun choice but as the market has changed dramatically from the glory days of gaming it has become necessary. We will be having clearance/liquidation sales starting today, through the end of month when we we close the doors. Please come in use your store credit up. More posts to come on the sales, but great deals are coming your way. Thanks everyone for your awesome support of Play N Trade, and your incredible loyalty to us. Myself and our current and former staff have life long friends from this adventure and are grateful for that. I have had some incredible employees over these 6 years and I know this is painful for them. As many have worked tirelessly to make Play N Trade a great place to be. I must say thanks to them as well.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Franz opens Idaho Falls outlet store

The Franz Bakery Outlet store on Anderson Street in Idaho Falls
Franz Family Bakery has taken over the old Hostess/Wonder Bread store at 365 Anderson Street.

Although the Portland-based bakery has been in business for 107 years, it has only recently been making inroads into eastern Idaho. You might be interested to know that the Franz bread and baked goods sold at the outlet store, as well as in local stores and supermarkets, was made in Idaho using Pendleton Mills Flour from Blackfoot.

The store has a gluten-free section and an organic section. "There's a lot more variety," said Marilyn Mills, the manager, who also worked at the Hostess/Wonder Bread store before it closed in November. "We'd like all our old customers to know that the peppered gravy and cheese sauce are back in town," she said.

The store hopes to be set up to accept EBT and food stamps by the beginning of July.

Last of all, here's something you probably didn't know: Though others are credited with creating a bread product to use for the first hamburgers known to the world, E.E. Franz is credited for inventing the hamburger bun in its current worldwide accepted form.

Fair director to speak Thursday at 'Lunch and Learn'

Brandon Bird
Brandon Bird, general manager of the Eastern Idaho State Fair, will be the guest Thursday at the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation's monthly "Lunch and Learn," at Dixie's Diner.

The Fair lasts only eight days, but a full year of planning and implementation goes into the marketing and advertising of an event this size. Bird will share some of the marketing strategies and processes that help the fair draw nearly a quarter-million people.

Sign-in for lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation will run from noon to 1 p.m.

Cost is $12 for Ad Fed members and $15 for non-members. As always, Dixie's Diner will provide a menu with plenty of options.

RSVP to Lisa Fischbach at if you plan to attend.

United Way names new marketing coordinator

Tyler Kraupp

The United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County has named Tyler Kraupp to be its new marketing coordinator. Kraupp is the CEO of Kraupp Inc., a graphic design and advertising company in Idaho Falls. His goal for the United Way is to increase donations and community awareness, as well as event planning.

He is enrolled in the Technology Entrepreneurship Online Course from the University of Stanford. His website can be viewed here:

He replaces Dwight Whitaker, who has been called to serve on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, May 13, 2013

John Adam Parkway project has July 23 completion date

If you've been driving on John Adams Parkway the past six months the new bridge over the Idaho Canal has become a daily reality to you (although not nearly the reality I imagine it was to the people working on it when the temperatures were below zero.) Here's the latest: The project, which started Oct. 23, 2012, has a scheduled completion date of July 23. As of Friday, the city had been charged 78 working days. The construction bid cost was $827,000 for removal and replacement.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Federal funding for Idaho Falls airport tower now good through September

The terminal and tower at Idaho Falls Regional Airport
The Transportation Department announced today that the Idaho Falls and Pocatello airport control towers will continue to receive federal funding at least through Sept. 30.

The eastern Idaho towers were among 149 that had been marked for closure after across-the-board spending cuts went into effect in March. Last month, the White House announced the towers would remain open through June 15. A brief statement issued by the Federal Aviation Administration this morning said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has determined there is enough extra money, under a bill passed by Congress last month, to keep the towers open through the end of the budget year.

At lower-traffic airports, the control towers are operated by contractors for the FAA. Five people work in the tower at Idaho Falls Regional Airport.

In early April, Airport Director Craig Davis said he would be shifting money in the airport's budget from maintenance and other areas to keep the tower operating through Oct. 1. After that, it would be up to the City Council to decide whether to keep the tower in operation.

The annual cost of operating the tower is close to $425,000, he said.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Work begins on First Street Stinker station

The car wash is gone, the land is cleared and the footings are scheduled to be poured Friday for the new Stinker convenience store at First Street and Holmes Avenue. Once the store is built, the old store will be torn down to make way for parking. The pumps will remain where they have been all along.

Idaho Community Foundation names Catherine Smith to head development effort in I.F. office

Catherine Smith

The Idaho Community Foundation has hired Catherine Smith to be its first fund development/donor relations officer in the Idaho Falls office. Smith served as marketing director for the Idaho Falls Arts Council for seven years and also worked with the Idaho Commission on the Arts as a regional public art advisor. In addition to marketing and public relations, she has a strong background in graphic design.

Her hobbies include watercolor painting and graphite drawing as well as outdoor activities with her family, especially in Swan Valley. Smith married her high school sweetheart after they finished college and they have two young boys.

“Being an Idaho girl, I can’t wait to visit the incredible communities in east and southeast Idaho that are rich in history and tradition,” she said. “I am excited to explore the organizations and people that are doing notable work in our region. Idaho is a treasure and I am honored to be able to continue the work of ICF in the region and across the state I truly love.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tweets and notes from the tourism conference in Idaho Falls

Idaho Tourism is the first destination marketing organization to team up with PixFusion, a leader in personalized entertainment and composite imagery, to utilize its photo-personalized technology. The My ID campaign invites visitors to place themselves, family, and friends in any of seven Idaho online adventure videos. Check it out at
I did a mess of live tweeting today at the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism, which is being held this year in Idaho Falls at the Shilo Inn, ending Thursday.

Why live tweeting? Because this is the 21st century, for heaven's sake, and the speakers were experts on social media. Also, I'd only done it once before and figured I could use the practice.

I have no idea whether my tweets reached a lot of people, or whether I was just making a nuisance of myself on Facebook where they appeared one after the other. You'll have to pardon me if it was the latter, but for everyone who might have missed out on the fun, here's a compilation. Let's see if there's any cohesion when compiled in one place.

The first take comes from William Bakker and Ben Vadasz of Think! Social Media:

  • "The whole point of social media is to get people talking."
  • Five levels of social media sophistication.
  • Level 1: Listen first, then respond.
  • Level 2: Somebody is doing something, but I'm not sure what. (Share remarkable content).
  • Level 3: Social media supports our marketing campaigns. User generated content benefits both parties.
  • Passionate communities share content. Work with them & they'll do the marketing for you
  • Level 4: Before you do any marketing, ask will it be shared?
  • Level 5: Set up a dialogue instead of doing a monologue.

And here are a few of Bakker's observations scribbled in my notebook and not posted online (until now):

  • "A brand is not a logo and a slogan. A brand lives in somebody's heart."
  • "If you get people talking, they'll do the marketing for you. The whole point of social media is to get people talking."

For destination marketing organizations, Vadasz offered the example of Vulcan, a small farming community in Alberta, Canada, that put itself on the map by embracing Mr. Spock (a logical thing to do.)

"It's become a Disneyland for 'Star Trek' fans," he said. "They made their destination remarkable."

"Be remarkable" when you post on the Web, he said. It's not enough to say "Like us on Facebook."
"Why should I join your page?" Vadasz said. "Am I going to get cool information? Am I going to be able to post content? Take the person to a call to action or a value add."

The lunchtime speaker was John Thornton of Google. Here are my tweets from his talk.

  • People are 1. Online 2. Hyper-informed 3. Constantly connected
  • On average, people visit 18.2 unique online sources before buying a car, 7.0 before buying dish soap.
  • Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): Google-ese for research period before buying decision
  • Mobile devices have become our "second brain"
  • Every day, 8 years of content is uploaded on YouTube. Richest source of content for your brand
  • 24 percent of time spent online is spent watching video. Video ad spending is only 7 percent of online ad spending
  • Social is the new water cooler. Be a part of the conversation
  • Your brand is defined by the people who are interacting with it. You don't own your brand. 77% of brand content is created by consumers

I also learned from Thornton that if I hope to regain Google's good graces I need to call 1-866-2GOOGLE and repent for suggesting (in a roundabout, satirical way, but apparently they don't have my sense of humor in Palo Alto) that people do online that which ought not to be done. I will provide no more detail, because obviously they look at everything I write and are quite willing to administer a smack-down if I get too smart-alecky.

Live Tweeting the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism

In case you're wondering about all these items coming up on Facebook, I am live Tweeting the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism, which is being held today at the Shilo Inn. The last two speakers, William Bakker and Ben Vadasz of Think! Social Media, had very interesting things to say. Next up: John Thornton of Google. Stay tuned.

Breakfast is served

WinCo has Entenmann's now. Not an endorsement or anything, but if you're from the East Coast you have may have developed a taste for their pastries (and added a few inches to your waistline.) Has anyone seen Entenmann's in a local store before? I don't believe I have. Anyway ...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

McCullough named interim CEO of Greater Idaho Falls Chamber

Kerry McCullough

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is has named Kerry McCullough as its interim chief executive officer.

McCullough has served as the programs and events coordinator for the chamber for the past three-and-a-half years. She replaces Robb Chiles, who resigned two weeks ago. While the board looks for someone to fill the position beyond interim status, McCullough will remain involved in the planning of upcoming events including, the annual golf tournament, the Independence Day parade, the Liberty Festival on the Falls and Taste of Idaho.  

Google tourism specialist to speak Wednesday in Idaho Falls

John Thornton, destination marketing specialist for Google, who will speak this morning at the Idaho Falls Shilo Inn as part of the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism.
The Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism began today at the Idaho Falls Shilo Inn, but most of the day was taken up with meetings and presentations. The main attraction is Wednesday with an impressive slate of speakers, many of whom will be offering knowledge and advice about social media.

Having never dealt with an actual person from Google, I am particularly interested to hear the presentation from John Thornton, a destination marketing specialist for the company who advises on strategy, new media and digital advertising. Before joining Google, Thornton worked at RKG, a large search engine marketing agency in Virginia. He has extensive experience in digital marketing for the travel industry, working for resorts, airlines and travel agencies, as well as local, state and national tourism boards.

Eager to hear what he might have to say, I found this link -- -- from the Social Media Tourism Symposium last fall. A lot of what he had to say could be applied to social media in general.

“Discover your story, build your audience, deepen enagement, make better videos. Try and make … snackable content. Don’t just educate and push – listen – YouTube is actually a two-way medium. Show that you’re paying attention to the comments and reply to videos posted by the community and your credibility and view counts will rise. Be timely. Don’t respond two months later after the community has moved on.”

“Your brand is only whatever I [or others] decide your brand is. Your brand is not whatever you want it to be.”

He also offered tips for what destination marketing organizations need to do on Google+:

  • Create and verify your Google + page – put your URL in the about section, contact your Google rep to verify the page
Enable social extensions in Adwords – extend endorsements to Search and realize an average 5-10% search ad CTR uplift.
Add the Google+ badge to your site – For top sites, the G+ badge increased follwers by 38%

  • Comments are not conversations – be sure to nurture interactions and conversation as you would on other channels.

Here is a link to the full schedule:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Idaho Gives raises $578,000 for non-profits

More than 500 nonprofits and charities across the state raked in more than $578,000 May 2 as part of “Idaho Gives,” the 24-hour, online fund-raising blitz.

Organizers estimate nearly 6,200 people made donations to help the cause of hundreds of nonprofits taking part in the inaugural statewide fund-raiser.

Borrowing from an idea in place in many other states, the Idaho Nonprofit Center teamed up with nonprofits across the state to encourage Idahoans to take a moment May 2 to pledge support for the cause of their choice. The fundraising — for groups ranging from Big Brothers Big Sisters to Idaho Youth Ranch and the Boise Bicycle Project — unfolded almost entirely on the web.

In our part of the state, Eastern Idaho Technical Foundation raised $3,043.89.

Lynn Hoffmann, executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center, said the final tally and total number of first-time donors helped meet first-year expectations.

“I really felt that if we got a couple hundred thousand dollars I would have thought we were pretty successful,” she said. “So to almost reach $600,000 is amazing.”

The Idaho Humane Society raked in $13,123, taking the top spot among large nonprofits, while both the Idaho Foodbank and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest also received more than $13,000.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Stopping for lunch in Missoula

Had to stop at MacKenzie River Pizza in Missoula (on our way to St. Maries) because we are reportedly getting one in I.F. later this year. This is a large Thai Pie, with cheese removed from half (damn lactose intolerance!)

Texas physicist proposes solution to nuclear waste problem

Peter McIntyre
We found this on PR Newswire today and thought it might be of local interest, considering the local interest among some with regard to all things nuclear and the mention of Idaho National Laboratory.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- In the mind of Texas A&M University physicist Peter McIntyre, two of America's most pressing energy challenges — what to do with radiotoxic spent nuclear fuel and dwindling energy resources — can be solved in one scientific swipe. He is developing the technology that is capable of destroying the dangerous waste and, at the same time, potentially providing safe nuclear power for thousands of years into the future.

In his high-energy physics laboratory east of the Texas A&M campus, McIntyre and his research team are developing a new form of green nuclear power that would extract 10 times more energy out of spent nuclear fuel rods than currently obtained in the first use, as well as destroy the transuranics — the chemical elements beyond uranium in the periodic table — lurking within the hazardous toxic soup of used nuclear fuel

Buoyed by seed funding from Texas A&M University ($750,000) and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation ($500,000), McIntyre is preparing a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking the large-scale funding that would enable him to take the next steps.

Although viewed as a major national issue, McIntyre says the nuclear waste problem is a multifaceted one for which no viable solution yet has emerged, despite decades of discussion. Most recently in 2010, federal authorities scrapped a plan to create a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nev., to store the nationwide spent nuclear fuel capacity that now stands at 65,000 tons.

"In my opinion, the only way to properly deal with transuranics is to destroy them," McIntyre said. "They are an unthinkable hazard if they ever get into the biosphere. There has long been discussion that we could find a site like Yucca Mountain that's so isolated from groundwater and so stable geologically that we could say with confidence it will be the same 100,000 years from now as it is today, and that burying fuel there, closing the door and forgetting it is something we can responsibly do. I don't buy those arguments."

Each of the nation's 104 reactors is fueled with about 90 tons of enriched uranium fuel, packaged in sealed metal tubes called fuel pins. As the uranium fissions, the byproducts are trapped inside these pins, where they accumulate and begin to take on neutrons that would otherwise be driving the continuing fission process. The ongoing build-up, which includes the heavier transuranic elements, renders the reactor non-operational after about five years once the fission process stops. At this point, the pins are replaced with a new set, and the spent fuel typically is stored in a pool of water at the reactor site.

McIntyre, a professor since 1980 in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell-Heep Chair in Experimental High-Energy Physics within the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, describes his team's technology as a "win-win."

"It destroys the bad stuff — the transuranics — and recovers the good stuff — the fuel," he said.
To destroy the transuranics, McIntyre's team has developed a conceptual design for accelerator-driven subcritical fission in a molten salt core (ADSMS). With this technology, the transuranics are extracted into molten salt using a process called pyroprocessing, in which the spent fuel pins are chopped up and loaded into a basket, which is placed in a pot of molten salt. The oxide fuel inside the pins dissolves in the molten salt so that all of the remaining fuel — along with all of the transuranics — is extracted into the molten salt. The transuranics could then be destroyed through subcritical nuclear fission, which is driven by a beam of energetic protons within the custom-built, high-efficiency accelerator he envisions. 

McIntyre's design builds on work at Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory as well as the PRIDE facility in South Korea which demonstrated the process for extracting the fuel and separating the transuranic elements and fission products in molten salt. Scientists from those teams are collaborating with McIntyre in the new development.

"In the same process by which we extract the transuranics from the spent fuel, we also extract the uranium so it can be re-used as an ongoing energy resource to provide nuclear energy for the next several thousand years," McIntyre said.

The idea isn't new. But earlier proposals for accelerator-driven subcritical fission faced the problem that there was no known way to deliver the necessary proton beam power to a core. The ADSMS design uses a novel invention of McIntyre's called the strong-focusing cyclotron. In the strong-focusing cyclotron, bunches of protons are accelerated through superconducting radio-frequency (RF) cavities and focused using superconducting beam transport channels. These proton bunches are continually re-focused to contain high-beam current within the accelerator aperture — an approach that McIntyre says makes it possible to deliver 10 times more fission-driving beam power than previously achievable, and to do it with high-energy efficiency.

"We are preparing a proposal to the DOE to build and put into operation a first model of this strong-focusing cyclotron," McIntyre said. "It would be quite an advance in the field of accelerator physics unto itself. But most particularly, for the first time, it will make it feasible to drive a subcritical fission core capable of destroying transuranics at the same rate they are made in a power reactor."

McIntyre knows the hurdles ahead for his project, including convincing federal officials to make a major scientific investment during an age of cutbacks, and proposing a new and better way for nuclear power at a time when Fukushima is fresh in the public mind. (McIntyre notes that the Fukushima explosions in 2011 involved spent fuel storage pools, a problem his technology would eliminate.)

But the road the 65-year-old scientist treks has a familiarity to it. He zigzagged the state and nation in the 1980s — also a time of fiscal restraint — to make the scientific and political cases for another major project, the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), which would have accelerated particles to nearly the speed of light and maintained American supremacy in high-energy physics. Congress killed the SSC 20 years ago, and the prospect of big discoveries at the frontier of high-energy physics gravitated to CERN in Switzerland, which celebrated the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson on July 4 last year.

Physicists, including Stephen Hawking, have lamented the loss to American science represented by the failure of the SSC, but McIntyre sees a silver lining to that effort: It gave him invaluable experience at figuring out how to connect science with the political leaders who could bring it to fruition, skills the grayer and wiser McIntyre is using now. Back in the 1980s, he ended up making a presentation about the SSC in the West Wing of the White House to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who subsequently asked for a two-pager to carry to President Ronald Reagan .

"That moment was the birth of the SSC," McIntyre said. "That's how things can happen, and that's how they do happen in this world. It takes persistence and ingenuity in trying to find a way."

To learn more about McIntyre and his research, go to

Thursday, May 2, 2013

EITC to rename building in honor of former president

Eastern Idaho Technical College and the Idaho State Board of Education will be holding a ceremony Monday to rename the Technical Building in honor of former president and administrator Bill Robertson.

The official naming of the William A. Robertson Building will take place at 1 p.m. Robertson, 67, who retired in 2008, will attend the ceremony.

Completed in 1979, when EITC was still Eastern Idaho Vocational Technical School, the building currently houses the Business, Office, and Technology division; Information Technology department; Media Services; Energy Systems Technology program; and other Workforce Training programs including the INL Training Partnership (which was established during Robertson’s tenure.)

Overall, Robertson served EITC for 37 years. He began in 1972 when, fresh out of college, he was hired as an admissions counselor. In 1978, he was promoted to assistant director of student services, where he presided for the next 18 years. In 1996, he was named the dean of administration, focusing on securing EITC’s financial stability. Also during this time, he served as interim director/president of the college three times – in 1990, 1995-96 and in 2003. In 2004, Robertson was appointed EITC president by the Idaho State Board of Education.

During his tenure at EITC, Robertson oversaw the improvement and expansion ofcampus facilities, including the construction of the Health Care Education building. He was instrumental in developing partnerships with both the Development Company in Rexburg and the Idaho National Laboratory, both of which resulted in substantial contracts and grants for facilities and training. In 2008, Bill led an institutional self-study and successful renewal of EITC’s accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Robertson was a participating member of ECIPDA, Grow Idaho Falls, and served on the board of directors of the Partnership for Science and Technology.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Robo calls asking for credit card numbers should be reported

This was posted today on Facebook by the Bank of Idaho and I thought it worth sharing: Automated robo-calls for several local banks are going out to customers telling them their card has been locked, and instructing them to enter their card number after pressing "1" to release the hold. THESE CALLS ARE NOT FROM BANK OF IDAHO. If you receive a call like this, do not provide any information. Hang up and report the incident to a bank representative immediately.