Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Home2 Suites by Hilton coming to Snake River Landing

A picture of a Home2 Suites by Hilton layout, from the company's Web site.
Home2 Suites by Hilton will break ground this month at Snake River Landing directly south of Stockman's Restaurant, with an opening projected for next summer.

The extended-stay hotel will feature 91 suites for the business or leisure traveler. In Home2 hotels, each suite  features kitchen space with appliances and a flexible working area to allow travelers to get business done in a comfortable setting.

The brand also puts an emphasis sustainability, with recycling containers in every suite, Energy Star rated appliances and interiors created from pre-recycles and post-recycled materials. The bath fixtures are selected to reduce water waste, and the saline-based pool utilizes natural minerals rather than chemicals.

The Idaho Falls Home2 Suites will be owned by B&T Hospitality, a hospitality company based in Idaho Falls that also has the local Hilton Garden Inn in its portfolio. B&T selected Snake River Landing believing the development's "live, work, shop, play" credo complements the Home2 brand.

“Our guests will be staying several nights and are looking for an experience of a home away from home. Snake River Landing’s many walking trails, scenery and easy access to restaurants make it an ideal location for Home2 Suites. We know our guests will love it,” said B&T President and CEO Rusty Townsend in a press statement released today.

Hoopes receives distinguished lawyer award

D. Fredrick Hoopes
Longtime Idaho Falls attorney D. Fredrick Hoopes, an eastern Idaho native who has spent his entire career defending those who faced serious criminal charges, was honored July 16 with the Idaho State Bar’s highest honor, the Distinguished Lawyer Award. A partner in Hopkins Roden Crockett Hansen & Hoopes PLLC, he previously earned the ACLU’s Thurgood Marshall Liberty Award.

“With his common sense and country wisdom he was a very successful advocate for truth and justice,” the state bar news release said.

Hoopes represented Charles Fain, who spent almost 19 years in prison, 18 of them on death row, for a murder he didn't commit. Fain was sentenced to death in February 1984 for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a 9-year-old Nampa girl. The most critical evidence against him at trial was provided by an FBI specialist, who testified that pubic hair found on the dead girl's clothes was similar to Fain's, based on a microscopic comparison.

In late June 2001, after a protracted legal battle, sophisticated new DNA testing proved conclusively that the hairs -- one found in the victim's sock, the other two in her underwear -- did not come from Fain, who was freed that August.

On a personal note, having known Fred since the days reporters, lawyers and judges all had lunch every day in the Bonneville Restaurant and Lounge, I can say I have never met an attorney who believed more fervently in every person's right to the best defense available.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Square One organization begins recruiting

Being an American man in his 50s isn't what it used to be. My grandfather worked for Delaware Power & Light from 1932 to 1966. My father was a teacher for the State of Delaware from 1956 to 1988. My father-in-law worked for Westinghouse from 1948 to 1990. And yes, while I worked for the Post Register from 1981 to 2010, I am now putting a living together the 21st century way: freelance writing, a band, substitute teaching and now a business opportunity called Square One, a business networking program that I have started with Michelle Ziel-Dingman and Monica Bitrick.

If I seem to be backing into this story, it's because the old newsman in me still recoils at the idea running a press release in which I am quoted. The press release is out, the Facebook page is set up. BizMojo Idaho is part of the value equation.

OK, so what is Square One? It is a membership-based organization for networking and education, but not your typical pass-a-lead group. We are looking for owners of small- to mid-sized businesses and mid- to high-level decision makers from larger companies. Membership will be limited in each category, e.g., HVAC, telecommunications, office supplies, real estate, etc.

"We are the only networking group that offers integrated marketing opportunities for all of our members," said Ziel-Dingman. "All members will have regular promotion online via social media and our partnering Web sites at no additional cost."

Meetings will be held twice-a-month at The Grape Van Gogh, 2289 E. 17th Street. Every meeting will feature an educational segment. "We want to teach our members how to develop their leadership skills and improve their communication, no matter what their position is within the company," Bitrick said.

There will be preliminary kickoff meeting Aug. 20 at the Idaho Falls Country Club, with the first regular meeting Sept. 9.

On a personal note, I've known Michelle and Monica for four years and know how effective they are in the business community. I look forward to learning a lot from them, also from the people who join this group. And I think I have some good things to share myself. So if you want to find out more, check out the Square One Facebook page here.

Preliminary site plan for Sand Creek Commons shopping area

Click on this for a larger version.
While making the rounds today to see what might be going on, I found the preliminary site plan for the Sand Creek Commons development, on the southeast corner of Sunnyside Road and 25th East, otherwise known as Hitt Road.

Everyone who follows BizMojo Idaho even casually knows this development, by Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corp., will be home to Cabela's and a new D.L. Evans bank branch. There is a lot of dirt being moved there, and the cities of Idaho Falls and Ammon are on the same page over sharing the costs of widening Hitt Road south of Sunnyside. Credit for that should go to the respective City Council presidents, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said. That would be Bryan Powell for Ammon and Mike Lehto for Idaho Falls.

Click on the photo for a bigger version of the plan, which I laid on the floor and shot with my phone (feeling a lot like the Man From U.N.C.L.E.) If you find it hard to read, let me run down what's on it:

  • 4 anchor tenant stores (of which Cabela's is one) and a retail strip on the north side
  • Pads A through L
  • Acres of parking

Please be aware that preliminary site plans are exactly that, preliminary. Things need to be reviewed at every level and signed off on. But this is where it is right now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keep calm and work on: Tips for reducing workplace stress

Have you ever visited Portland, Oregon? Portland is a city full of beautiful scenery, with a laid back and fun downtown scene, and its own independent feeling.

Sadly, I can claim only one visit to this beautiful city. I can also sadly say that on that trip I almost missed experiencing this beautiful city because of work – and I wasn’t even on a business trip.

It’s quite simple to explain, to be honest. I was on a vacation with my entire family, but all it took was one phone call and text from a client to make me teleport mentally back to my office in Idaho Falls and become engulfed in their issue instead of enjoying my vacation with family and friends.

Luckily, my husband sternly reminded me we were on vacation and my fully staffed office was capable of assisting my client. I pleaded with him for a few minutes to just “take care of things,” but he refused. So away went my phone and my lifeline to work and workplace stress for five days ... and am I glad he interceded!

Looking back, I can say present work self would be pretty ticked off at my previous work self for letting workplace stress rob me of family vacation memories just to appease one client in their moment of need. I won’t lie, however, by saying I didn't check my web mail a few times to make sure everything in the office was fine.

My situation is not unique. In fact, work life and personal life intertwine so much nowadays that workplace stress has become a major issue in today’s society. There is not one person I can think of that can say they are exempt from workplace stress – and more than likely the same amount of professionals could probably attest to not being able to effectively deal with workplace stress.

In a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association, 36 percent of respondents said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help the manage stress. This means there are a lot of stressed-out professionals working in the same office as you for a company that doesn’t offer any assistance for managing workplace stress.

To play devil’s advocate for businesses, identifying successful stress management programs can be difficult to cater towards everyone’s individual needs, and often times most management professionals may not be able to identify the stress levels of those reporting to them. That means it’s up to us on the individual level to take a stand against workplace stress. But where do we even start?

Like any other problem – identifying the issues to resolve is the first step. Identifying your stressors is pretty important in step in reducing workplace stress and no different from any other problem resolution.

Keep in mind this step by itself takes some time and soul searching. If A causes B and I get upset/stressed out at point C, maybe the stressors are A or B or both. Stressor identification is crucial to eliminating workplace stress.

Next, it’s important to create healthy responses to your stressors. This can be a million things, from delegating workloads, talking to friends, exercising, quality rest and relaxation time.

Responses are based on personal preferences and recognition of what works from person to person. I personally have a date with a treadmill and weights once a day (schedule permitting, of course) to keep calm and working on.

We weren’t born to work – therefore it’s ludicrous to think we should live to work. Work and careers are an important part of each of our lives. However, it’s even more important to have work-life balance by establishing boundaries for work in your personal life. Life is short and so is our personal time.

It’s important to get some rest and relaxation every once in a while. You are not a machine. Our bodies are designed to take a break every once and a while to recharge. It’s important to take whatever time you can to recharge both mentally and physically. Trust me when I say that not sending that last email off at 2:30 a.m. won’t demolish your career (and this comes from a frequent late night emailer).

Lastly, it’s important to rally the support troops to help reduce those stress loads. Whether it be sharing with your manager some issues or struggles you are having in the workplace – or having a “venting”

session with your significant other after work – it’s is important to have a support system that helps you through stressful times. You would probably be surprised on how advice from a support system can help bring things into a new perspective or even help to see options you may have not considered.

So take it easy, why don’t you, and enjoy the rest of the summer stress free! Your boss and your friends will thank you!

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human relations company in Idaho Falls.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BBB hosting free BBQ picnic Wednesday

The Snake River Better Business Bureau is holding a free barbecue picnic at Freeman Park Shelter No. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"No strings attached," says the invitation. "No boring speakers. Just a chance for like-minded business owners to get together for lunch."

If you are interested, here is the link to follow: Free lunch.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Idaho Falls ranks No. 1 in wage growth study

The 24/7 Wall St Web site has ranked Idaho Falls No. 1 on its list of "10 Cities Where Wages Are Soaring."

The story, posted Wednesday, says wages rose 18.4 percent between the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013, "by far the most of any metro area in the nation."

To read the full story, follow this link. For those of you too lazy to manage a mouse click, here are the "vital stats":

  • 1-yr. wage growth: 18.4%

  • Average weekly wage: $806
1-yr. unemployment rate change: -0.6%
  • 1-yr. employment rate change: N/A
What's driving this is unemployment. "The Idaho Falls unemployment rate fell from an already-low 5.2 percent in May of 2013 to just 3.7 percent this May, lower than in the vast majority of U.S. metro areas. In two of the three counties in this metro area, professional and business services accounted for much of the wage growth overall."

The other communities in the top ten were:

2. The Villages, Fla. (avg. weekly wage $870)
3. Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (avg. weekly wage $791)
4. Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio (avg. weekly wage $802)
7. Boise (avg. weekly wage $839)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Workplace stress is a costly business

Have you ever just had the week from you know what? You know those weeks where nothing goes right at work, where everything goes wrong from the coffee spill on your white shirt on the way to work to the angry phone call to computers dying, workplace demands, and ... on the list goes. Those are the weeks we would rather take a trip to a sandy beach to watch the tide roll in -- and honestly, we would probably be doing ourselves and our employers a favor.

Stress in the workplace is hard to avoid. – but what exactly causes it? According to the American Institute of Stress the most common reasons for workplace stress include workload, people issues, juggling work and personal lives, and job security. Between deadlines, demands, managing/dealing with different personalities, ever-changing workplaces, and constant workplace interruptions, there is no escape from some form of workplace stress.

According to Forbes magazine, the average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate at one time. Additionally, Forbes reported that 40 percent of adults in a recent survey say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.

Workplace stress is a problem that plagues businesses both big and small and has a costly impact on employees and employers. One of the most crucial areas of impact intertwined within every aspect of an employee’s performance is decision making.

“Decision making is critical in the work environment,” says Zakery Warren, assistant executive director and counselor with southeast Idaho’s largest mental health practice Pearl Health Clinic. “The right amount of stress keeps a person alert, challenged, and striving for growth and improvement for their company, product or team. When stress becomes a detriment, when it is too high, anxiety and uncertainty clouds a person's judgment, which clouds decision making and thus prevents the growth and improvement a person seeks.”

The mental impact that workplace stress can impact employees well beyond the workplace leading to depression, substance abuse, problems within the homes, suicide, and violence (both in and out of the workplace) to name a few.

Workplace stress takes a toll on your body too. It can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, fatigue, and decreased immunity to common illnesses (e.g. cold, flu, etc).
On the business side workplace stress is costly. In fact, employers spend upwards o $200 billion for absenteeism, workers’ claims, turnover, and increased insurance rates – all related to stress related issues in the workplace. That doesn’t even touch the hidden costs of lower morale, productivity, efficiency, decrease in customer service.

Stress in the workplace is serious and isn’t solved by a desktop stress ball. Businesses and employees alike need to create and find solutions to eliminating workplace stress. Check out next week’s feature for tips on managing workplace stress from an HR and mental health perspective to help eliminate those workday worries and stressors.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Idaho Falls Indian restaurant now open

Tandoori Oven owner Jatin Arora
Tandoori Oven, Idaho Falls' first Indian restaurant, is finally open for business. It is located at 3204 S. 25 East, where Play N Trade used to be.

Owner Jatin Arora only got the signs hung today, but had a few people in for lunch. The restaurant, which seats about 75 people, is looking for help.

This is the second Tandoori Oven. Arora has been doing business in Logan, Utah, for about 10 years. He said he was originally looking at Pocatello, but a longtime friend from Idaho Falls alerted him to the absence of Indian cuisine here.

"I've been to Idaho Falls quite a few times, and it seems like an ideal market for us," he said. "There is no real Indian restaurant, and there seems to be a demand for Indian cuisine."

Asked to guess how many locals have never had Indian food, he said, "I would think it's a high percentage." If you have never eaten Indian, he advised going with a chicken masala or coconut kurma the fist time.

Tandoori Oven's hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, Monday through Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for dinner and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Partnership for Science and Technology names new executive director

Leslie Jones-Huddleston
The Partnership for Science and Technology has named Leslie Jones-Huddleston its new executive director and chief executive officer. She replaces Lane Allgood, who retired in June.

A longtime resident of eastern Idaho, Jones-Huddleston most recently served as the regional director for U.S. Senator Mike Crapo.

“PST is extremely fortunate to have Leslie lead our organization,” said Mike Hart, president of the PST board. “She has a deep understanding of energy and environmental issues, knows the importance of science and technology, and brings a new vibrancy to the organization.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Budweiser Clydesdales to visit Snake River Landing on Saturday

The Budweiser Clydesdales are famous across the nation.
Watkins Distributing is bringing the famous Budweiser Clydesdale team to Snake River Landing this Saturday. The Clydesdales will begin at 1 p.m., will parade through the landing and will be available for photos until 3 p.m.

The team dates back to April 7, 1933, when August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III surprised their father, August A. Busch Sr, with the gift of a six-horse Clydesdale hitch to commemorate the repeal of Prohibition. The six-horse hitch shortly became an eight-horse hitch, which it remains today. 

The horses continue to be an enduring symbol of the Anheuser-Busch brand. The company currently owns approximately 250 Clydesdales, which are used for marketing and promotion at community and national events throughout the year.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Idaho National Lab wins two R&D 100 Awards

Idaho National Laboratory has won two R&D 100 Awards in the 2014 international competition hosted by R&D Magazine, bringing its total to an even 50 over the past 18 years. The annual competition recognizes the top 100 inventions of the past year. Both winning technologies relate to innovative modeling systems.

The Advanced Electrolyte Model analyzes and identifies potential electrolytes for battery systems. It offers significant resource savings by optimizing material combinations for new batteries. AEM predicts and reports key properties underlying electrolyte behavior in the electrochemical cell environment.

The Multiphysics Object Oriented Simulation Environment (MOOSE) makes it easier for scientists to predict phenomena ranging from nuclear fuel and reactor performance to groundwater and chemical movement. Such simulations can help speed the pace of scientific discovery but traditionally required more computing resources than most scientists and engineers could readily access. Here is a YouTube video explaining it:
"These awards recognize the tremendous value of our national labs," said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, in a news release. "Research and development at the national labs continues to help our nation address its energy challenges and pursue the scientific and technological innovations necessary to remain globally competitive."

INL nominated three technologies for the 2014 R&D 100 Award competition and now has earned a total of 50 R&D 100 Awards since 1986.

The banquet and awards presentation, honoring the 2014 winners will take place Nov. 7 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five ways to get fired from your job

Raise your hand if you love your job! Now raise your hand if you hate your job! Are any of you in between?

All of us can say we start our jobs with a sense of excitement and always with the best intentions, and most employees are never really gunning to get fired from a job. Whether you love it or hate it, getting fired from a job is no fun. Psychologically, it’s almost just as bad as being dumped when you thought you were in a long-term relationship with the love of your life (or at least someone you wanted to date for more than a couple months.)

I am fully aware there are really poor managers who don’t know how to manage employees, firing at will and fairly often at that. I have met them, I have worked with them, and there really and truly is no hope for them.

Still, the majority of managers loathe the days they have to terminate employees, and many will go through disciplinary processes or just take the “see no evil/hear no evil” approach and ignore bad situations for long stretches of time.

Most of the time, people who get fired are fired for common sense reasons. My HR colleagues and I even considered at one time compiling all of our “Here’s Your Sign...” employment termination moments for a book to provide comic relief in the workplace. Luckily for some of the people I have had to let go I have not done that yet.

I have, however, compiled my top five reasons for how to ensure that your career path is about to change. If you are looking to strike out, take note of the following. They are more than likely to lead to immediate termination very soon.

1. Insubordination. Not doing your job or failing to follow through on what management asks you to do. Failing to comply with policies and procedures is a sure way to make sure management will send you on your way to a new workplace and manager. If management is asking you to do something unethical or illegal, go ahead and be insubordinate (think Enron scandal). Otherwise, do what you're told.

2. Sleeping on the Job. Sleep is awesome and necessary, just not at work. Unless you are being paid as a sleep study subject, keep awake and alert. There are a few people who have sleep disorders. If you are one I hope you have at least given management a heads up so when you are caught drooling over your sales report you won’t be woken up and escorted out of the building with a paper stuck to your face.

3. Theft. From timecard fraud to stealing company supplies or petty cash, theft is costly and stealing is wrong. If you are teaching your kids not to grab a pack of gum at the store without paying for it, don’t grab a garbage bag filled with office supplies and walk out (something that actually happened with one of my clients, who tried to justify her theft by saying she needed it for camping and didn’t have time to go to the store.)

4. Dishonesty. Not telling the truth leads to distrust. Distrust leads to damaged workplace relationships. Damaged workplace relationships lead to termination. No matter what the little white lie may be, keep in mind that if you can’t be trusted to tell the truth on any level how can management trust you are doing your job right?

5. Being Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Maybe it has been a bad Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it's OK to head to the bar to grab a few beers on your lunch break. Being under the influence can and will impair your ability to work. It can also create legal liabilities for your employer. Drug-free workplaces are common now, as are zero tolerance policies, so hold the drinks until after work.

You could easily add to any of the above with:

  • Inappropriate comments
  • Careless social media behavior, e.g., posting about your job and/or company
  • Sharing confidential information
  • Violence or horseplay in the workplace
  • Failing drug tests
  • Tardiness, leaving early and unexcused absences

If your goal is to be fired, I would recommend trying any of the above.

Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Consumer Reports releases new fast food survey

I'm aware that a lot of BizMojo Idaho readers cannot resist any story that is about fast food, so today I am posting this link to Consumer Reports and its story rating the nation's fast food chains.

This is the first survey Consumer Reports has published since August 2011, and is based on the responses of 53,745 readers, who rated food, value, staff, and speed at 65 chains. As was the case three years ago, Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and Taco Bell all took a drubbing, posting the lowest scores.

The good news for folks who like to dine out here -- and who doesn't? -- is that some of the top-scoring chains have an eastern Idaho presence, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and Papa Muphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza in particular. Others are on their way: Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Firehouse Subs (which announced last year it was planning 12 locations in southern Idaho, including one in Idaho Falls, but seems to be moving slower than expected), not to mention Noodles & Company.

Take a look at the chart above and once you stop salivating ask yourselves which of these chains you'd like to see here. In-N-Out? Don't hold your breath, but take a look at The Habit Burger Grill, which beat it out. There are three in Utah, so maybe you want to check them out next time you're headed south to visit The Temple.

Happy eating, everybody! Watch your waistlines.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Investigation Discovery filming show about Paul Ezra Rhodes murders

If I seem a little distracted and erratic today, it's because I am going to be interviewed by Investigation Discovery, which is doing a show about the Paul Ezra Rhodes case of 1987 and the effect it had on eastern Idaho. Because I was in the Post Register newsroom at the time, my name was given to the show's producers, who are in town today.

I wasn't on the police beat at the time, I was assistant city editor. I had gotten married the year before, and Karen and I had just bought our first house, on Ninth Street. It was a freaky time.

Having reviewed the material the producers sent me ahead of time, especially the interview with Deputy Victor Rodriguez, the lead investigator for the Sheriff's Department, I can say this was a watershed moment for Idaho Falls. There had been homicides before, but nothing that engendered fear the way Rhodes' crimes did those few weeks in February and March.

Talking about this the other day with Mel Brown of Mel's Lock and Key, he told me their business went through the roof when Rhodes was on his spree. "We went from doing one or two houses a week to doing 10 or 20," he said. I find it interesting, however, and perhaps ironic that as soon as Rhodes was taken into custody business returned pretty much to normal. I know it's not possible to live at a constant fever pitch of fear, but I sometimes wonder if we're any more alert or vigilant than we were then

Anyway, I'll share more with you after this is done. It promises to be interesting.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Broadway Ford eyes early November opening for new dealership

Construction is moving along at Broadway Ford's new dealership on West Broadway. (Photo courtesy Dennis Sutton)
With steel going up, the owners of Broadway Ford are hoping to have their new dealership on West Broadway open by Nov. 1. Things are happening faster than expected, which is fine with the sales and service people at the 30-year-old dealership, said Ann-Michelle Jones, social media and e-commerce director.

Broadway Ford first opened in 1984. Owner Mont Crnkovich and his management team had been talking for several years about a new showroom and service department, with a more efficient layout out and up-to-date amenities. The new facility will be 46,737 square feet, including an 8,196 square foot showroom and a parts and service department of 21,429 square feet. The building permit valuation from city of Idaho Falls is $4.8 million.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Holiday Pay

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us! I am sure I am not alone in trying to stay focused on work today and not on all of the fun, food, and fireworks that are in the very near future.

Does this mean an extra day off for the week? Sure does! Does this also mean that if I were employed with ABC Company that I may not be paid for my Friday off during my fun-filled holiday weekend since the office was closed for the holiday? Unfortunately it does.

I think we can all be realistic in saying that when the workplace closes for an observed holiday, regardless of the time off from work being paid or unpaid, there are very few employees that will complain about having an extra day off from work, especially if it creates a three day-weekend.

However, as personal budgets have tightened over the years and today’s employees try to make every dollar count, one day off unpaid from work doesn’t exactly make employees want to high-five their boss when returning to work after a holiday closing. Employees count on the fact that if the business is closed for an observed holiday they in turn should be paid by their employer to cover their time away from work. Holiday pay has become a pretty commonplace policy for businesses of all sizes. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management in 2009, 97 percent of employers paid holidays to their full-time employees.

Does this mean an employer has to offer holiday pay? The the Fair Labor Standards Act says no. As a business you are not required, at least by federal law, to offer holiday pay.

Of course if your business is a 24/7 operation and someone has to be on staff at all times this doesn’t mean because it may be an observed holiday by the company and others are off – you do not have to pay the employees working on the observed holiday. Regardless of observed holiday status or not, if an employee is working on an “observed” company holiday they have to be paid in accordance to the Fair Labor Standards Act. In fact it’s typical to see businesses actually offer incentive holiday pay for those willing to work on observed holidays (think double pay or time-and-a-half for these people sacrificing their hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks so their co-workers can enjoy their holiday.)

I were to give you any great Independence Day advice it would be that offering holiday pay will help dissipate any workplace fireworks that may be set off by trying to save a few dollars wages. Trust me when I say if you don’t pay your employees holiday pay for observed holidays there are likely to be discussions among your employees about how financially frugal your business is.

Since federal law does not dictate what an employer does or doesn’t have to pay in regards to holiday pay, businesses have the opportunity and flexibility to create a holiday pay policy that works for them and their employees. Employers are able to determine eligibility requirements (probationary status, full-time/part-time), what holidays are observed, what happens if a holiday falls on a weekend, exclusions for holiday pay (bonus, commissions, etc), shifts required to be worked before/after the holiday, and other specifics. Of course all of these have to be uniformly implemented and maintained by management, but I can promise you it’s not that hard.

Also, another great unknown benefit about holiday pay for employers (not so much for employees looking for some extra holiday cash) is any holiday pay paid to employees cannot be counted towards overtime calculations.

Holiday pay is an inexpensive way to show employees a business cares by offering employees time off with pay to enjoy the holiday celebrating with family and friends. Businesses that fail to see the value in offering this benefit to employees more than likely will see a parade of employees walking out the door – signing their individual "Declaration of Independence" letters on their way out.

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Local Market Monitor offers lackluster forecast for Idaho Falls

A section from the May 31, 2014, report by Local Market Monitor.
Idaho Falls home prices are forecast to increase by 1 percent over the next 12 months, according to a report by Local Market Monitor, a company in Cary, N.C., that keeps track of fundamentals in 300 markets across the United States.

Over the next three years, prices are anticipated to go up 7 percent, said the company's latest report, dated May 31.

"Economic growth has been erratic since the recession. Growth was poor in the past year, with jobs weak in government, healthcare and the big retail sector. Expect erratic growth the next few years," the report said.

At the county level, the forecast was not any more robust. Bonneville County home prices were pegged to rise 0.7 percent in the coming year, 2.3 percent the next year and 4.2 percent the next. In Jefferson County, the forecast was for 1 percent growth, rising to 2.6 percent then 4.4 percent.
Nationally, prices are forecast to increase by 7.7 percent.

"There was a modest housing boom and bust, but home prices have been flat in recent years," the report said. "Rents are very low. Population growth has been average. Job growth and low unemployment will increase housing demand, but mainly for rentals. Expect a weak housing market the next few years. ... The market is currently underpriced, -12 percent relative to income."

At the heart of any healthy economy is job growth. "Jobs in the market have grown by 0.4 percent," the Local Market Monitor report said. "This compares to a national increase of 1.7 percent."
Population in the market grew 0.9 percent, compared to 0.7 percent for the United States. In 2012, population migration was -0.1 percent.

The report forecast rents in the Idaho Falls market to increase 11 percent over the next three years, to an average of $837 a month.

Total housing permits in April this year were down 9 percent from last year, and single family permits were down 14 percent.