Thursday, October 31, 2013

What a difference two days can make ... walls go up at Scientech project

Two days ago we stopped by Scientech's building site at Snake River Landing and it was nothing but a foundation. Since then, the walls have gone up to give everyone a better idea of how massive this project is. The building are scheduled to be finished by the middle of 2014. We'll keep you posted periodically.

Idaho Falls still pursuing round-trip air service to Boise

The terminal at Idaho Falls Regional Airport.
Last week at the League of Women Voters' forum for City Council candidates (I'm running for Seat 2, as if you didn't already know) I was asked about Idaho Falls' air service and what it might take to get more flights and carriers. Since the candidates' answers were limited to one minute, it was kind of hard to go into much detail.

My short answer was that getting consistent air service into a community like Idaho Falls is a never-ending challenge. There's more than passenger numbers to consider. There are fuel costs, the size of the planes a carrier has in service and the money the carrier has invested in its fleet. The profit margins are very thin. The most pressing need for Idaho Falls is regular, affordable round-trip air service to Boise, but nobody has planes the right size to make such a route profitable.

For those of you who are more interested, here is a more detailed story.

A lot of cities the size of Idaho Falls would envy its three carriers providing jet service to major hubs and a technology base that provides a sizable number of business travelers.

But the very thing that is driving expansion of service to markets like Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles has made it tough to keep regular, affordable air service going between Idaho Falls and Boise.

"That's still our number one priority -- regular service between Idaho Falls and Boise," said Craig Davis, manager of Idaho Falls Regional Airport. "The challenge is finding the company that has the right-sized aircraft."

Planes are getting bigger and the routes are getting longer. In the early 2000s, the average size of a regional commercial airplane was 37 seats. Today, it's 55, and those seats have to be paid for, said Jack Penning of Portland, Ore., director of market analysis for Sixel Consulting.

Horizon Air, which had an Idaho Fall-Boise route for years, pulled out in 2010. Seaport Air, a regional carrier, opened a route in July 2011 only to announce less than six months later they were leaving.

With a direct highway connection between the two cities, Seaport said there was a "tipping point" on price where potential passengers would opt to drive instead of fly. What is making the flight to Phoenix possible is the same thing that is making inland regional routes harder to maintain, Penning said. "Smaller regional markets have been squeezed out because of a lack of appropriate aircraft."

What would be ideal for an Idaho Falls-Boise route would be a plane like the 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 turboprops Silver Airways uses on its routes in Montana. But Penning is frank about the challenges. "Airlines are reluctant to move craft away from established routes," he said. "You've got to convince them you've got something that will be viable." Moreover, there are few long-term guarantees. Silver Airways, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., announced recently that it is dropping its service in Montana in December.

Idaho Falls loses a lot of potential passengers to Salt Lake City, estimating leakage of 35 percent. The closer a community is to a major hub, the smaller its airport is likely to be.

But the airport still has a few things working in its favor. A study by Sixell Consulting estimated there are 294,557 people within 60 minutes of Idaho Falls. Within two hours' drive time, that number expands to 665,359. Also there is the number of people traveling on government business, mainly for  the Idaho National Laboratory. Without the lab, the airport would be a lot smaller. As it stands, the business travel helps Idaho Falls get what it wants.

"If they call up Delta Airlines and say, 'We need this,' Delta is going to pay attention," said former IFRA director Len Nelson, who retired in 2012.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

As the skies darken, construction work continues at Snake River Landing

Concrete slabs being poured at Scientech's new headquarters, two buildings to be joined by an enclosed walkway.
I passed through Snake River Landing today just to take a look at what's been done so far this year. It has been a busy year, for sure. Here are three photos, snapped on the fly, to give you an idea of the scope of the work that's been happening. As you can see, the weather is turning and one has to wonder how much more is going to get done before things turn frigid.

Also, it looks like MacKenzie River Pizza, at 1490 Milligan Road, will be opening in January. If that proves to be too long a wait, the one in Pocatello, at 4510 Pole Line Road, is slated to open in December.

Galusha Higgins & Galusha's new home, to be open after the first of the year. The accounting firm will be leaving its longtime downtown Idaho Falls location on B Street.
Banyan River Apartments, independent living housing for seniors from the same people who developed Rosselare at 12 Street and Hoopes Avenue.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Farewell to a friend and inspiration

Peg Reeves (1917-2013)
Before the week is over, I'd like to note the passing of my friend Peg Reeves, who died Wednesday at age 96.

Peg was a parishioner at my church, St. Luke's Episcopal, and one of my responsibilities as a vestryman was to make sure her hearing assistance device was always working. (I may make a motion at the next vestry meeting that her wireless receiver and earbud be retired and perhaps interred with her, if such things are allowed.)

The reason I mention her in BizMojo is she was one of my guiding lights in the mid-'90s when I was developing my style and tone for the weekly ShopTalk column in the Post Register, which I wrote for 12 years. Every Sunday at coffee hour Peg would have a question about some building she'd seen going up. I considered myself duty bound to find out -- how does one say no to a little old lady? -- but the dividend was that I would almost always have something to publish in ShopTalk.

After I left the paper a lot of people told me they missed my writing, which was why I started BizMojo Idaho two years ago. I missed the conversations with people like Peg that my writing afforded me.

Given her age, I don't think Peg ever read this blog or even looked at a computer, but that didn't matter because I could always talk to her in person on Sunday morning. I'll miss that, but will think of her anytime someone has a question about something they've seen around town.

Here is a link to her obituary:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bill Gates makes quick tour of INL's Materials and Fuels Complex

Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates made a two-hour visit Wednesday afternoon to Idaho Falls to tour the Idaho National Laboratory's Materials and Fuels Complex.

In addition to everything else he does, Gates is the chairman of TerraPower LLC, a nuclear reactor startup company that has engaged INL to support certain design aspects of its traveling wave reactor. The visit Wednesday was arranged to demonstrate the lab's expertise and capabilities.

The Web page for TerraPower LLC, which has engaged the Idaho National Laboratory in a cooperative research agreement.
“Getting to visit INL was really enlightening," Gates told INL employees after his tour. "It was amazing to see reactor fuel characterization and how it can be conducted safely in a hot cell environment.”

INL has signed several Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with TerraPower over the past few years. These agreements allow TerraPower to receive technical insight and use the lab's capabilities.

At MFC, Gates toured the Fuel Conditioning Facility and the Hot Fuel Examination Facility, met with some of the researchers involved with TerraPower-related projects, and learned about some of the other nuclear-related research and capabilities available at INL.

Gates also spent nearly an hour talking with 250 INL researchers and scientists. He shared some background on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was established in 2000, about the time he stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft. He said now he works full-time on the Gates Foundation and part-time at Microsoft.

“TerraPower has many cooperative projects, and there are lots of partnerships, but our work with INL is singularly important,” he said.

TerraPower has gained attention for both its traveling wave reactor design and the financial backing of clean technology investors. Several CRADAs established over the past few years enable the company to receive technical insight from the nation’s nuclear energy laboratories.

"We enjoyed showing off our experienced researchers and one-of-a-kind capabilities for Mr. Gates," said INL Director John Grossenbacher. "His interest in nuclear energy and INL's contributions helps the industry's future and reinforces the value of DOE's national laboratory complex."

"As the lead national laboratory for nuclear energy, INL focuses on challenging technologies that require long-term investigations by multi-disciplinary teams," said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, INL's associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology. "When private companies such as TerraPower show interest in what we do and are willing to use our assistance in their efforts, we know that we are doing our job and making a meaningful impact on nuclear energy development."

TerraPower is a privately funded company headquartered in Bellevue, Wash. Since it was founded in 2007, it has grown to nearly 70 full-time professionals who engage diverse technical consultants and partners to responsibly improve options for global access to clean, secure and affordable electricity.

For more information, visit TerraPower at

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A list of links for those interested in the city of Idaho Falls election

A few of you probably know I'm running for a seat on the Idaho Falls City Council. I've refrained from posting anything about this on BizMojo Idaho because I don't want to be seen to be using this site to promote my political aspirations.

Before I decided to run, which was around Labor Day, I'd written two stories about the city races, the first in February, when Mayor Jared Fuhriman's announced he was not seeking a third term. That story also reported Councilwoman Sharon Parry's announcement that she was seeking the office. The second was in June, when Rebecca Casper announced she was running for mayor and I covered her press conference.

In light of my decision to run and the interest of fairness, I've taken both those stories down and instead am posting links to all the mayoral and council candidates' Web pages. Here you can read about them in their own words:

Sharon Parry:
Rebecca Casper:
Brian LaPray:
Tim Downs:

Idaho Falls City Council Seat 2
Dee Whittier:
Jill Peterson:
Paul Menser:

Idaho Falls City Council Seat 4
Ed Marohn:
Evan Bastow:

Idaho Falls City Council Seat 6
Barbara Ehardt:
Karen Cornwell:

As far as I can tell, City Council candidates Alfred Higley (Seat 2), and Jillene Burger (Seat 4) haven't done anything online to promote their candidacies, Facebook or otherwise.

The election is Nov. 5, by the way. If you live in the city of Idaho Falls and are over the age of 18, you can vote for one candidate for mayor and one candidate in each of the council races. The city is not divided into districts. I have probably been asked that more than any other question.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Saving Center to be torn down, parking lot closed

Saving Center in downtown Idaho Falls is going to be town down and about 40 paid parking spaces will no longer be available after the end of the month.
Saving Center, on Memorial Drive between Broadway and A Street, is going to be demolished this winter.

The Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp. sent an e-mail this morning to downtown businesses informing them that the parking lot at the old grocery store will be closed at the end of October.

About 40 people pay $15 a month to use the lot, said Bob Everhart, Downtown Development's executive director.

The building is owned by Vern Kelsch, who operated the independent grocery store for years. Everhart said work is scheduled to begin inside the building next week. He said the property ought to be more appealing without the building on it. "People can look at an open lot and get a better idea of what they might want to do with it," he said.

Meanwhile, the challenge is to find new parking places for the people who've been using the Saving Center lot.

There is free, all-day parking at the following locations:
  • E Street and North Capital Avenue
  • D Street and North Park Avenue
  • Constitution Way between Yellowstone and Shoup Avenue
  • Between Shoup and Park south of Chesbro Music
  • North Eastern Avenue between Birch Street and Broadway
"We appreciate the opportunity we have had to provide parking for you at such a reasonable price for several years, knowing this day would come sooner or later," said Mala Lyon, Downtown Development's parking administrator.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tacoma Screw erecting walls to Idaho Falls store

It's been a busy week at the North Yellowstone site where Tacoma Screw Products is building its new 10,000-square-foot store. Sixteen of these concrete panels, the heaviest weighing 36.5 tons, are due to be erected before the roof goes on. John Wolfe, the company's former CEO and current executive adviser, said the store will be much like the ones the 66-year-old company built in Boise and Twin Falls. The company typically employs three or four people to work in a store and three or four people to handle outside sales.

Home sales, prices up in Bonneville County

Looking at the Snake River Multiple Listing Service's numbers through the end of September, one would surmise that the comeback in the Bonneville County real estate market is not only carrying on, it is picking up steam.

Sales in the first three quarters of 2013 were up 16.5 percent over 2012. Homes were on the market an average of 16 fewer days.

More strikingly, the median price jumped up by 19.1 percent while the number of new listings jumped by 13.5 percent.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Guitar auction at Museum of Idaho set for Oct. 24

Riverbend Communications and Chesbro Music are hosting the 105.5 The Hawk Star Guitar Charity Auction Oct. 24 at the Museum of Idaho, 200 N. Eastern Avenue.

Those who attend will have the opportunity to bid on acoustic guitars hand-signed by country music stars including Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Chris Young and Luke Bryan. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a pink guitar signed by George Strait, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Thompson Square, The Band Perry, Martina McBride and Justin Moore will also be auctioned.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit several local charities: Family Crisis Center; East Idaho Public Health District; Help, Inc., United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County; U.S. Marine/Toys for Tots; District 91 Education Foundation; District 93 Autism Program; and the Idaho Falls Arts Council.

The event begins at 6 p.m. and is open to the public, but RSVPs are required. Contact andrea@eiradio for an invitation. Or follow this link:

Here's a link 105.5 The Hawk's Facebook page, where you can read more:

Last of all, here's video of Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan, neither playing guitar but singing Luke's mega-smash hit "I Don't Want This Night to End." By the way, this goes out to my former guitar student Courtney Marsh, a huge fan of both Taylor and Luke:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New executive director named for EITC Foundation

Natalie Hebard
Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation has selected Natalie Hebard as its new executive director. Hebard has been working as a labor relations administrator for the Idaho National Laboratory.

With a passion for community service, Hebard is active in several non-profit organizations, including the Good Samaritan Society, Young Professionals Network of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho Falls Civitan Club.

“Natalie’s enthusiasm for higher education and helping others in the community is contagious,” said foundation chairwoman  Bobbe Crapo. “We are excited to see her utilize her relationship-building skills for the good of our organization.”

For more information about the Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation please visit

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Advertising Federation to host Lunch and Learn Thursday

Travis Powell
Travis Powell, sales manager of AlphaGraphics in Idaho Falls and Rexburg, will be the speaker Thursday at the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation's monthly "Lunch and Learn."

In an industry hit hard by the recession, online competition and increasing reliance on digital communications, AlphaGraphics has enjoyed consistent yearly double-digit growth since opening in April 2010, increasing its workforce 300 percent in that time.

There is research to show that consumers will spend up to 15 percent more to do business with someone they trust. With simple small steps, a business can make itself the vendor of choice for its clients. Powell will talk about techniques that can be used to add value to the customer experience, eliminating the all-too-easy crutch of being the lowest price in town.

Powell serves on the Board of Directors of Help Inc. and the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation, and was a recent winner of a Distinguished Under 40 Award from the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

The luncheon will be Dixie's Diner, 2150 Channing Way. Sign-in is at 11:30 a.m.

For more information, contact Lisa Fischbach at

Monday, October 14, 2013

Montana company buys Exit 116 Sleep Inn

The Sleep Inn at Idaho Falls Exit 116 has been bought by Town Pump, a company in Butte, Mont., that has been in business since 1953.

This is one of Town Pump's first ventures outside Montana, where it owns hotels, franchise restaurants and casinos.

The company was founded by Tom Kenneally Sr. According to the company's Web site,, Kenneally was known for handing customers his wristwatch to time his oil change. If it took him more than three minutes, the oil change was free.

In the '60s, the company brought self-service to Montana, viewing it as an opportunity to sell more gas at a lower price to make up for lower margins. It was a controversial decision, the history on the Web site says: "Many were convinced that there would be explosions due to untrained individuals handling this combustible product."

Business diversification came in the '90s, including truck stops, car washes, laundromats, motels, quick serves, delis and gaming establishments.

The company started a charitable foundation in 1999, with a goal of supporting or helping education and 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Some of the organizations the foundation has assisted include the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, CASA of Montana, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Montana Food Banks, the American Red Cross, Montana Special Olympics and Newspapers in Education programs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Artcore Visual Studio announces CEO appointment

Artcore Visual Studio, a full-service marketing and graphic design firm,, announced today the appointment of Michelle Ziel-Dingman as chief executive officer.

Currently the Executive Director of Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation, Ziel-Dingman previously held marketing management positions with Snake River Landing and Grand Teton Mall (General Growth Properties).

She currently serves as the vice chair of programs and events on the executive eommittee of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the Idaho Falls Chamber Ambassadors. She founded the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event Dancing with the Idaho Falls Stars.

Other past service includes board appointments by the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho and EITC Foundation. Ziel-Dingman has received several accolades in her career, including the Idaho Aspen Award from the Small Business Development Center, the “Accomplished Under 40” award from the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and has been nominated twice for the Idaho Business Review’s ‘Women of the Year’ award.

Ziel-Dingman will be responsible for the organization’s management along with social media, corporate fund-raising and marketing strategy.

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to partner with our clients to create a focused plan for their business or non-profit organization,” she said. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing a company harness the power of dynamic graphic design and photography within a purposeful marketing plan.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cardon's files site plan for car wash at North Holmes and Yellowstone

The land at Yellowstone and Holmes that Matt Cardon is eyeing for a new car wash.
Matt Cardon, owner of Cardon's Car Wash and Lube on First Street, has filed a site plan with the city of Idaho Falls to develop on the corner of Holmes Avenue and North Yellowstone, where the Bank of Commerce used to have its offices.

After going before the city board of adjustments, Cardon received variances on July 25 that reduced the width of landscaping strips and setbacks on the Northgate and Holmes sides of the lot (which is also bordered by Poulson and Payne Streets).

Ordinarily, the city requires 20 feet of landscaping and 30-foot setbacks on all sides, but the size of the lot -- .82 acres -- and its uneven shape would have made development difficult if not impossible, said Assistant City Planner Brad Cramer.

Cardon filed a site development plan in late June for a 3,380-square-foot building. No zoning change is required (the lot is zone Highway/Commercial-1), so now that he has received the variance he can proceed with a formal site plan, building plans and a permit, Cramer said.

Finalists selected for Idaho Innovation Awards

Finalists have been selected in the eighth annual Idaho Innovation Awards and will be recognized at a special awards presentation during the Idaho Technology Council's fourth annual Hall of Fame Celebration Oct. 23 at the Boise Centre. Registration is available online at

As the state's only innovation awards program, the Idaho Innovation Awards recognizes innovative accomplishments in four categories. The categories and 2013 finalists are listed below (finalists are listed in alphabetical order):

Commercialized Innovation of the Year
• Automated Recall Process Management System by Recall InfoLink
• CradlePoint Enterprise Cloud Manager by CradlePoint
• KLIM Stealth Series by KLIM

Early-Stage Innovation of the Year
• ReadyLight Pistol Light by William Squires
• Switchable Polarity Solvents Forward Osmosis by Idaho National Laboratory
• Syphon Soundwrap by Syphon Sound

Innovative Company of the Year
• CradlePoint
• Kount
• MetaGeek, LLC

Innovator of the Year
• Nancy Caspersen, President and CEO, Quit and Live Global, Inc.
• David Cohen, CEO, FieldSync Mobile Solutions LLC
• Patrick Lawless, Executive Director, StartupBoise

The nominations were judged by a selection committee consisting of leaders from Idaho's business, technology and academic communities. Votes were tallied by accountants at Deloitte.

As for the ITC Hall of Fame Celebration, it recognizes innovative technology leaders who have made a significant contribution to Idaho's technology community. The 2013 inductees are prolific inventor Tim Barber and entrepreneur-philanthropist Greg Carr.

Before the Hall of Fame and Innovation Awards presentations, members of Idaho's business and technology communities will display their innovative products and technologies during an Innovation Showcase from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Click here to register to exhibit at the Innovation Showcase. The evening's schedule is as follows:
5:15 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Networking Reception and Innovation Showcase
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Dinner, Networking, Awards Presentation

Hall of Fame registration is available online. Individual seats are $85 for ITC and Kickstand members, and $125 for non-members. A table of ten is $750 for members and $900 for non-members. The Hall of Fame is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, Micron and Zions Bank.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Registration open for Kern Memorial 5k

The third annual Kern Memorial Twilight 5K will take place Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m., beginning and ending on the Eastern Idaho Technical College campus, the college community of Michelle and Malinda Kern.

Participants are welcome to walk or run the 5K route. Registration is $35 and will be available at the event.

Michelle Kern was a 2011 graduate from EITC’s Business Technologies Marketing & Management Associate of Applied Science degree program and an officer in Collegiate DECA. Three days after graduating, Michelle, her sister Malinda (who was an enrolled EITC student), and Michelle’s two young sons, Jack and Gage were murdered in Michelle’s parents’ home. This tragedy was a great loss to family and friends, Eastern Idaho Technical College, and the entire Ammon/Idaho Falls community.

Proceeds from the Twilight 5K will be used to support the Kern Memorial Scholarship for an EITC student.

Food and craft booth space is available at this event.

For more information on the Twilight 5K, please contact Michelle Ziel-Dingman at 208-524-0464. Information about the EITC Foundation can be found at

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New specialty gift boutique, San Michele, opening on A Street

Mickey Thiel at her new store, San Michele, which she plans to open Tuesday.
For Mickey Thiel, her new business, San Michele, 357 A Street, represents a family homecoming of sorts. In the 1920s and '30s, Thiel's grandfather, Claude J. Slifer was projectionist and manager of the Colonial Theater down the street, showing silent films and booking vaudeville acts.

"We go way back in this town," she said.

Thiel is planning to her store Tuesday. Located where Paper Bag Princess was for years and years, it features sells jewelry made by Thiel and her friends, picture frames, clothes, cards, "irreverent magnets" and assorted other items.

Having worked 10 years around the corner at Lemon Meringue, Thiel has lots of experience in this sort of business, but has never done it for herself. "It's an itch I had to scratch," she said. "It's a wonderful creative outlet for me and my creative pals."

For more information, call 419-8730.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rigby, Ammon named 'Best Cities for Young Families'

Rigby and Ammon have been identified on a list of “The Best Cities for Young Families” in Idaho by, a financial resources website.

Rigby came in second and Ammon was ranked fourth on a list of ten cities. A total of sixty-three Idaho cities were analyzed by the website in the process of creating the rankings.

The website analyzed three factors in determining which cities to add to the list:
1) Does the city have good public schools?
2) Can you afford to live there?
3) Is the city growing and prospering?

Nerd Wallet noted that Rigby county saw significant growth, with civilian employment increasing by 10.8 percent from 1996 to 2006. With regard to Ammon, the report said the city's population doubled between 2000 and 2010, with growth coming “so quickly because of its relatively low housing prices and proximity to Idaho Falls, the state’s largest city outside the Boise metro area.”

According to the website, Rigby has a median home value of $132,200, with a median household income of $45,089. Ammon has a median home value of $173,900, with a median household income of $55,617. Ammon received a high rating for the quality of its schools, and also showed an economic growth rate of 16.3 percent over the past decade.

For more information, see