Monday, September 29, 2014

Idaho Falls Regional Airport posts survey

Do you want to win two airline tickets? The Idaho Falls Regional Airport is seeking input from passengers. Please share your opinions about the airport, its customer service and the amenities it provides. Participants who complete the short online survey (link below) will be entered in a drawing to win two airline tickets. The survey is open until Friday, Oct. 10.


Vino Rosso starts Art-Wine-Music event

An example of one of Fire Art Design's photos
Now that Alive After 5 is over, if you're looking for a place downtown to socialize and have something wet Vino Rosso, 439 A Street, has started First Wednesday: Art-Wine-Music.

It runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This first one will feature photos by Fire Art Design's Tony Deschamps and music by Jessica Marie Nichols.

For a look at some of Fire Art Design photos ("Modern Photography for Commercial Design") visit this link: www.fireartdesign.com.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Independent Contractor Pay: Hassle free or Headache?

The NFL has a lot of problems these days. Over the past few weeks America has watched stories about NFL players that are more like episodes of COPS than Sports Center features.

But have you heard about the cheerleaders? Here's a whole different headache for the league.

Over the past year, 13 cheerleaders in five states have filed lawsuits against their respective teams claiming the teams violated minimum wage laws. How is possible that in a billion-dollar industry the sideline entertainers don't make even minimum wage?

The NFL has always given responsibility for cheerleader management to the teams. The teams either contract individually with their selected squad members as independent contractors or contract with an outsourced sponsor or management company. In turn, the women are typically paid for each game and promotional appearance during the season. Pay range for the season -- yes the entire season -- can be as little as of $100.

Keep in mind the ladies are required to attend practice weekly, come to all scheduled games during the season and post season, and may have promotional responsibilities as well. That means that starting contractor pay for an average season could be as low as $20 per month.

The contractor pay issue has become so problematic that the cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Jills, will be absent for the first season ever since the 1960s. In Oakland, earlier this month, one cheerleader was awarded a settlement of more than $1 million for the Raiders' cheerleader independent contractor pay practices. After that, the Raiders implemented a pay program for cheerleaders, paying them $9 per hour.

With workplaces that operate globally now, hiring contractors has never been a more “in-
vogue” business practice than it is now. For a fraction of the cost of hiring and retaining an actual employee, contractors can be hired locally, nationally, or even globally to fulfill tasks or projects.  Hiring contractors not only can be easy and beneficial for both parties, but also breaks the barriers of long-term commitment for either party while operating in a flexible and cost-efficient manner. For a lot of businesses, independent contractors just make more sense – or do they?

The good news in all of this is, I would say ninety-nine percent of the people reading this column do not have cheerleader contract problems. The bad news is the NFL isn’t the only place where contractors are incorrectly classified when it comes to pay in a workplace – and doing so can easily become a bigger headache than putting the contractors under payroll.

In fact, a series of state and federal employment laws come into play when determining if an individual should be paid as a contractor or employee. The U.S. Department of Labor, state departments of labor, and the IRS have been increasing audits of employers across the country each. These audits hit big and small companies alike and require a detailed review of every person you have paid over a three-year period. Even if a contractor no longer works for a company, if he or she is deemed to have been classified as an employee the company is required to pay back all the “unpaid” employment taxes plus penalties.

It seems like it would be worthwhile to classify appropriately to make sure you don’t end up like the
Buffalo Bills without the Jills – and a lawsuit to follow, right? Check-in with us next week as we determine if you should pay someone as an independent contractor or employee.
Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources agency in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ririe family finds life sweet in August, September

Patty Landon of Landon's Sweet-Lovin' Corn
If you like your corn on the cob fresh and sweet, there are a few things to bear in mind, says Patty Landon of Ririe, who runs Landon's Sweet Lovin' Corn with her husband, Norman.

First of all, it helps if you cook it the day it's been picked. Second, it needs to be kept cold. "If it's picked cold, it has a higher sugar content," she said. That's why their daily pickup load is harvested by hand (and by Norman) at 4 or 5 in the morning, then kept covered by a heavy tarp.

If you've got to keep corn for a day or two, keep it refrigerated and don't shuck it until you're ready to cook it.

This is the seventh year the Landons have parked their truck in late summer/early fall at the corner of First Street and North Holmes Avenue (their son, Allan, has another truck at Sunnyside and Hitt.

Idaho Falls has been good to them, and they usually sell out every day. "Canners will come by and buy 10 to 40 dozen ears," Landon said. "One person even bought 60 dozen."

Their price is $4 for a dozen ears. The two sweet corn varieties they prefer are serendipity and sugar buns, both best sellers at roadside stands across the nation. Serendipity produces bigger ears and sugar bun. Each have their own particular flavor.

Ironically, most of the corn grown in the Midwest is for feed or ethanol or corn syrup. Landon said her sons served LDS missions in Iowa and Missouri and begged her to send corn to them.

The Landons run a small operation, 100 acres they bought from her father, Arlo James Moss. They will be on the corner for as long as the corn holds out, but with the weather getting colder it's going to be a limited number of days. Like them on Facebook here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gold's Gym plans first anniversary celebration Monday

Gold's Gym in Ammon, late Tuesday morning
Gold's Gym in Ammon will be having a first anniversary celebration Monday with a two-night Vegas hotel stay and a Precor stretch trainer featured as the big giveaway prizes.

After some fits and starts at remodeling the old Teton Spectrum Raceway building at 2363 Eagle Drive, Gold's moved last year from its temporary location near Kmart to its present location. The celebration will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Members of the public are invited to come and see the facility, which as 30,760 square feet on the main floor.

Here is the link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Golds-Gym-Idaho-Falls/419013054859743

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's official: Hobby Lobby is coming to Ammon

We had a story nearly two weeks ago suggesting it was virtually certain that Hobby Lobby would be coming to the Sandcreek Commons development at Hitt and Sunnyside Roads.

This appeared in the BizMojo inbox this morning at 11:41.

Idaho Falls, ID - Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corporation today announce the coming of Hobby Lobby to the Idaho Falls area. The planned location for the new craft and home d├ęcor retailer is Sandcreek Commons, located at the corner of Hitt Road and Sunnyside Road in Ammon. Hobby Lobby will occupy a 55,000 square foot building and plans to open in the third quarter of next year. Cabela’s previously announced plans to locate in Sandcreek Commons.

 Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma City-based company founded in 1972. The Ammon location will be one of over 600 stores owned by the privately held national retail chain. Hobby Lobby’s first Idaho location opened in Meridian in 2010. A second location is set to open in Nampa on September 22, 2014. The Ammon location is expected to bring roughly 35 to 50 jobs to the community, paying $15 per hour for full time positions and $10 per hour for part-time associates.

Ball Ventures, an Idaho Falls based real estate development company, is pleased to speak on behalf of both development companies regarding the newest major national retail tenant coming to the east Idaho region. “We are pleased Hobby selected Sandcreek Commons as the location for their new store. They are very popular with shoppers in this region and we anticipate the store will enjoy great success at this particular location,” says Eric Isom, Ball Ventures’ Chief Development Officer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Paint-your-own pottery studio opens downtown

Mary and Josh Hashagen of Possibly Picasso, the newest business to open downtown.
For a couple who moved to Idaho Falls only in April, Josh and Mary Hashagen have not wasted any time getting their shingle hung out.

Today, at 351 W. Broadway, where the Bookstore on Broadway used to be, the two opened Possibly Picasso, a paint-your-own pottery studio. Mary had been to one in Phoenix and saw the business possibilities. "We wanted a family place for indoor activity," she said.

Making the space appealing took some work, including paint, a sink and a new hardwood floor. Then there was the issue of rewiring the store with a service robust enough to power two kilns without blowing every fuse on the block. Luckily, Josh's trade is construction, so the work could be done "in house." Because Josh's trade is so seasonal, they feel they have the time a small business requires.

A ribbon cutting has been scheduled for Sept. 27. For more information, their Facebook page is www.facebook.com/possiblypicassollc.

Pay Transparency: Compensation Models for the Future

Once again the federal government has rattled the cages of employers. If you haven’t heard the latest from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance, you'd better read up, especially if you are a federal contractor or work for one.

The National Law Review reported on Sept. 15 that the OFCC issued a proposed rule that would bar federal contractors from firing or retaliating against people for discussing their pay or the pay of their co-workers. This proposed rule coincides with President Obama’s Executive Order 13665, signed in April, which requires pay transparency among federal contractors.

From a traditional HR perspective, compensation and pay “secrecy” has always been the norm for companies. I am willing to admit that I have been a supporter of policies prohibiting employees from discussing pay with co-workers. I have been in countless employee meetings where this has been discussed, given verbal or written warning notices for violations, but luckily have never had to terminate anyone for violating confidentiality of pay policies.

Why has it been the norm you ask? From a management and HR standpoint, it is not about trying to hide information from employees, but often based on the fact that employees are paid differently based on education, experience, knowledge, skills, abilities and performance. There isn’t a huge conspiracy by most employers to hide this information. They just understand that it is harder to explain differences in pay because employees often perceive themselves as being equal to their peers or even on a higher level than their peers. Think about it -- if employees knew how much their bosses or co-workers made, jealousy and feelings of being undervalued would follow.

That's the traditional argument. But I think it’s safe to say that because this is a fairly new concept for businesses to explore pay transparency shouldn’t be an idea that is automatically discredited.

Regardless of what employees do or do not discuss with their co-workers, each employee has ideas about what they make vs. their peers and superiors. Often this is very different from what the true reality of the pay structures within a company are. In recent studies it has been found that employees believe that their superiors make less than they really do and that their peers make more than they really do.

While this sounds very off base, has been studied repeatedly since the '60s. This harbors and discourages professional development and career growth within the company.

Think about it. If employees think they will only make a little bit more for increased responsibility, wouldn‘t they be more inclined to stay where they are? Or, even worse, seek opportunities somewhere else, where they can make more and grow in their career?

Additionally, employees who feel their peers make more than they do will tend to ask for higher raises or salaries, which can become awkward and problematic on both sides at performance evaluation time.

Let’s look at the opposite approach. Pay transparency and why it is something for companies to consider. I am not suggesting sending out a company email with everyone’s pay information to make sure everyone feels like they are being paid fairly versus their peers. What I am asking for us to at least be open to are policies and transparent company cultures that find a middle ground on this topic.

In a recent study done by Cornell and Tel Aviv University, the study found that pay transparency worked significantly better than pay secrecy in their experiment. While this was a small study conducted with students, the results were concrete. The test subjects who were allowed to discuss their pay and bonuses with peers outperformed the ones who were prohibited from doing so.

What does this mean and how can a company make this work? It’s actually not terribly difficult to accomplish. Creating aggregated pay and salary structures is a practice the most successful companies in the world already have in place. Each position in a company should have a compensation model in which there is a base/entry level wage, an average wage and a top performer wage. Implementing these and updating them based on market and uniformly and in compliance with employment labor law.

Taking this a step further is really where pay transparency comes into play. If an employees find out they are is being paid on the higher end of the structure, or even above the average wage, they may feel a sense of value, fairness and appreciation. For those that are paid under the average, this creates an opportunity to learn why they are under the average and what they can do to earn more. Overall, this engages employees in a way that cannot be measured monetarily and creates more loyalty within the company's ranks.

The cold hard fact is that your employees are talking about their pay. Silencing them hurts your company more than it helps. Just this once I suggest following the federal government’s lead and join the new way wave of transparent compensation models.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources consulting company.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Work begins on Freddy's Frozen Custard site

The site on Woodruff Avenue where Freddy's Frozen Custard is to be built.
For the sake of everyone who has asked about dirt being moved on Woodruff Avenue near WinCo Foods, that site is where Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers is going.

Freddy's announced last December that it was planning a store in Idaho Falls and filed site plans with the city building office in April.

The company was founded in 2002 by two brothers, Bill and Randy Simon, whose father, Freddy Simon, was the inspiration for the restaurant (and obviously its namesake). The first franchise launched in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 2004 and by October 2013 the company had opened its 100th location, in Bowling Green, Ky.

According to the Web site, Freddy's plans to open 400 more stores over the next 10 to 15 years.

Earlier this year, Freddy's rated No. 9 in a Consumer Reports ranking of hamburgers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who's afraid of Shaddow Domain?

Julie Oliver, behind the counter at Shaddow Domain
Julie Oliver recognizes some people are never going to visit her store, Shaddow Domain, 175 S. Eastern Avenue.

Anyone who is freaked out by pentagrams, Wiccan accoutrements and books about the occult (and there are a few) are by and large not her target audience.

Nevertheless, she's not a devil worshiper, just a small retailer and good neighbor who's been in business for 12 year. She would like to encourage anyone with an open mind to stop by for a visit.

"We're not scary," she said. "The hardest thing is to get people in the front door. It's just a fun place."

With Halloween approaching, you might expect a surge in business, but it's not that big a bump. "It's a big time for people to come in who don't normally come in," she said.

Before starting the store, Oliver worked for 20 years at Chesbro Music, on the second floor, where all the sheet music is kept. Working at Shaddow Domain has given her more face time with the public, which she likes.

Nobody has ever given her flak, and obviously there's a market for the shirts, incense, candles, dolls and novelties that Shaddow Domain sells. The store's Facebook page has 1,986 likes.

"People are looking for so much different stuff," Oliver said. She has no aspirations to grow the business to get any bigger than it is.

"If it got huge, it would lose something special," she said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nearest Hobby Lobby store remains in Logan, Utah

We're still kind of buzzing from the response the Hobby Lobby story got last week (6,114 page views in two days) and are waiting like everyone else with bated breath for the official announcement. In the meantime, the nearest Hobby Lobby store remains in Logan, Utah. If it's a deal to you, it might be a nice weekend for a drive. Tell them BizMojo Idaho sent you.

Guns and Gear eyes early November opening

Work has been going on at Guns and Gear, on Crane Drive, since April.
With a new business, Guns and Gear, due to open in two months, Shane Murphy thinks he knows his niche fairly well.

Sportsman's Warehouse and the soon-to-be open Cabela's can have the hunters. Guns and Gear is aimed at "couch commandos," the firearms aficionados who can't get enough of gadgets.

"A $3,500 heat sensor comes out and they've got to have it," Murphy said. "It's very interesting to see the level of interest in that high tactical stuff."

Located on Crane Drive, south of Pancheri, Murphy said they are eyeing a soft opening the first week of November and a grand opening Nov. 14. The project got underway in April, and has been smooth sailing since then, he said.

When finished, there will be roughly 15,000 square feet, about one-third of it devoted to retail. On the range, there will be 15 lanes, 8 of them high tactical.

Murphy said they anticipate hiring around 14 people, including an in-house gunsmith who will be licensed to do warranty repairs on major brands. "We want to be able to fix it or modify it on the spot, not send it off for a week or ten days," he said.

For information, call 521-4564. To check them out on Facebook, click here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Olive Garden debates wisdom of unlimited breadsticks

In three years of blogging eastern Idaho business I have never seen a reaction like the one to Wednesday's post about Hobby Lobby. In two days, BizMojo Idaho got more visitors and pageviews than the entire month of August. It was all due to the way the story got passed around on Facebook.

It's only natural to want to prolong the excitement, so here's a story about Olive Garden, another brand that seems to provoke a passion in these parts. I'm not expecting a Yellowstone Caldera eruption of hits, but I can dream, can't I?


Personality-based interviewing works for both sides

Have you ever watched ESPN's features on athletes? If you haven’t, you are missing out. If you have, you may have a good idea of what a job interview with me would be like. Of course that is without the television cameras, film crews, and an inspirational story or background that I will be asking questions about.

ESPN’s method for encouraging and gathering information from their subjects hands down should be a model for how an employer should do an interview. This isn’t a concept that is really hard to grasp, so I am going to encourage a little bit of thought on this one.

Job seekers, I want you to imagine a job interview in which you can expect to be interviewed as an individual -- meaning getting to know you as a person -- about your professional experience.

Employers, I want you to think about how you can do that by looking beyond the typical “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” questions.

Before we completely demolish the concept of nice, structured, streamlined interview questions that solely focus on nitpicking a resume, sprinkled with a behavioral question or two, it’s important to remember that interview questions should be a custom fit for each company, and really each job.

However, doesn’t a job go beyond why a person is interested and how a candidate responded to a similar job-related situation previously? Of course it does! And that is why the concept of personality-based interview questions and approaches are becoming crucial to the interview process.

Personality-based questions are designed to find out more about the candidate on a personal level. Candidates are posed with a question that in theory should allow the interviewer to introspectively assess personal attributes, characteristics and goals, to name a few. This is important for a number of reasons (not including finding new work buddies) but foundationally allows an employer to determine if the candidate is the right personality fit. In turn, personality fit is crucial to a candidate being successful in his or her job and being able to assimilate into company culture.

Additionally, these questions can at times be a conversation “ice-breaker” – which leads to the candidate feeling more comfortable in responding to future questions by the interviewer. In turn, this allows in the interview to become more or less of a dialogue between interviewer and interviewee, allowing the interviewee to feel more at ease with the process (and to be more open with responses opposed to carefully “scripting” responses geared towards the perceived “right” answer.)

The great news is that these questions aren’t hard to create. One personality based question I ask in interviews is, “If you could have any job in the world, without any boundaries, what would it be?” I have heard everything from health inspector to sitting on the beach with a margarita – after winning the lottery of course. Both responses were exactly what I was looking for and gave me insight into each candidate.

Overall, employers need to get creative in finding the right people for the job, not a person. Personality-based interviews allow companies to go beyond the resume to get a well-rounded view of a candidate.
Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hotel on the Falls, formerly The Westbank, hangs in limbo

A vintage early '60s postcard from the Westbank Motel, Coffee Shop and Lounge.
If the phrase "Eat By the Tumbling Waters" means anything to you, you may be inclined to call the Hotel on the Falls by its original name, The Westbank.

In the '60s and '70s, that's what billboards around the Snake River Valley advertised, but since late August anyone wishing to dine or have a drink by the falls has had go somewhere else. With tourist season at an end, the fate of the River Parkway property hangs in limbo. The eight-story hexagonal tower is in foreclosure, while the restaurant, convention center and surrounding motel complex are locked up and on the market.

Dane Watkins, who owns the convention center and motel, has indicated he plans to improve the property as he looks for someone to buy it and get it back in operation. The restaurant, lounge and convention center were shut down Aug. 23, putting roughly 35 people out of work and leaving groups like the Idaho Falls Downtown Rotary, which met there every Wednesday, in the lurch.

Newer hotels such as the Hilton Garden Inn and the Marriott Residence Inn offer more up-to-date accommodations, and the Home2 by Hilton, due to open next year at Snake River Landing, is likely to raise the bar a notch higher.

The tower, which opened in 1978.
The tangle dates back to 2006, but things came to a head in June when the property's owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million.

Doing business as Red Lion Hotel on the Falls, Om Shiv Ganesh's managing partner, Bhupendra Patel, took out a $4.37 million mortgage in 2006. In summer 2008, terms were amended to reduce the unpaid balance to $2.505 million, with monthly payments of $19,427.98 and a balloon payment of $1.69 million at maturity. Then, in April 2011, the company got a loan extension allowing it to make interest-only payments from May through October.

But with the economy sputtering, the troubles didn't end. The default judgment claims Om Shiv Ganesh stopped making payments after December 2012 and failed to pay property taxes from 2009 to 2013.

Brady Kraupp, who now runs the hotel for Westerra Realty & Management, the Salt Lake City company managing the receivership, said he's optimistic about the tower's future. "It's in pretty good shape, really," he said. "It's a concrete building. We're hoping to have a new owner after the first of the year, perhaps have some chain come in and buy it. I could be partial, but we still have the best view and the biggest rooms."

The Westbank dates back to 1928, the year Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark and the grandson of Joseph A. Clark, Idaho Falls' first mayor, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate an ever-growing number of motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded the Westbank, first with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then a two-story red brick motel. The tower opened in 1978, and Clark reportedly had plans for a second one where the convention center and motel are, but declining health sent him into retirement in 1980. He died in 1987 at age 79.

Since the '80s, the hotel has gone by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, the property was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. In 2012, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while Watkins bought the convention center and the land on which it sits.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hobby Lobby, Broulim's slated for Sandcreek Commons development

Work goes on at the Sandcreek Commons development, at Sunnyside and Hitt. In the back is the new Cabela's store, announced earlier this year.
In addition to Cabela's, Hobby Lobby and Broulim's have plans to build stores in the Sandcreek Commons development on the southeastern corner of Hitt and Sunnyside Roads.

All three businesses are named a document filed Tuesday at the Bonneville County Clerk and Recorder's Office. The 62-page declaration of protective covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements was filed by the two companies developing the project, Ball Ventures, of Idaho Falls, and Woodbury Corp., of Salt Lake City.

In addition to detailing how the project will be laid out and built, it details conditions with regard to businesses concerning competition. In the case of Rigby-based Broulim's, the agreement restricts any other grocery store in the development, prohibits any sit-down restaurant within 100 feet, plus any convenience store, delicatessen or pharmacy within the protected area, a portion of the project on the northeast side.

Cabela's announced earlier this year that it would be building at Sandcreek Commons, but the other two businesses have made made anything official. Documents filed at the clerk and recorder's office are a matter of public record.

Scott Nelson, Hobby Lobby's assistant vice-president of real estate, told BizMojo Idaho in November 2011 that the company had taken notice of the Ammon side. A stand-alone market like Idaho Falls-Ammon is right up their alley. “It’s got a good population and it’s Middle America. That’s what we’re looking for,” he said

With nine stores in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming, this would mark Broulim's entry into the Idaho Falls market. The company dates back to 1922, when Charlie Broulim opened his first grocery store on Main Street in Rigby, and has been expanding since 1967, when it opened a store in Montpelier

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Concert to benefit local schools' music programs

If you want to help the cause of music education in the schools, there is a special concert Saturday night at 7 in the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium, a concert featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim.

Over a career spanning nearly 60 years, Sondheim's work includes "West Side Story," "Gypsy," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeny Todd," "Follies," "Company," "Sunday in the Park with George," and "Assassins." In short, there are a lot of great songs from which to choose.

Under the guidance of Roger Evans, performers from the Idaho Falls Symphony, the Idaho Falls Opera Theatre, Teton Chamber Orchestra, Sounds Summer Musical and Idaho Falls Youth Arts Centre will give it their all to support music programs in local schools, whose performing arts budget continue to get cut in the face of shrinking budgets.

Every person who buys a ticket can designate which area school he or she wants to help. Tickets may be purchased online at www.rogersrevue.org, at Chesbro Music, or at the door.

A personal note: I could fill the Hollywood Bowl with people who have told me over the years, "I'll buy my ticket at the door." Buy your ticket in advance! You'll be more likely to attend, and even if you do crap out, the school will still have your money. For more information,  call Erin Nazario at 206-794-4350 (she is local).

Here's one of my favorite Sondheim songs, a lesser-known, hilarious and hugely challenging number from "Company," "(Not) Getting Married Today," performed by the cast of Glee:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Shoshone-Bannock Hotel hires new general manager

Cody Blackman
The Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Event Center has named Cody Blackman of Salem, Ore., as its new general manager of hotel operations. The general manager oversees all aspects of property management in accordance with tribes' goals, including maximization of financial performance, guest satisfaction and staff development.

A member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, Blackman has worked most recently for JP Morgan Chase. He is the oldest of four children and an alumnus of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. He has worked for Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and Wyndham International. His duties with the hotel and event center at Fort Hall begin full time Sept. 26.

Advertising Federation schedules first fall Lunch & Learn

Michael Watson
As the marketing director of one of the fastest growing credit unions in the country, Michael Watson of Idaho Central Credit Union is prepared to share his perspective on choosing the right marketing mix Sept. 18 at the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation's  Lunch & Learn, at Dixie's Diner from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Part of the mission of the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation is to provide learning opportunities to our diverse membership. We are thrilled that Mr. Watson is willing to share his experience in managing the Idaho Central Credit Union brand,” said Idaho Falls Advertising Federation President Lisa Fischbach.

Managing the credit union's marketing, Watson oversees budgeting, development of marketing plans and campaigns, strategy and managing an agency relationship. He began his career with ICCU in 2000 and has been in his current position since 2004. He is a graduate  of Idaho State University with a bachelor’s degree double major in marketing and business.

The event is open to the public. Cost is $12 for members and $15 for non-members $15. Reservations can be made by following this link.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Touchdown or workplace penalty: Does Fantasy Football belong in the workplace?

NFL kickoff is finally here. Say goodbye to pre-season practice games and hello to the new season.

Football fans everywhere are priming up their television sets, laptops, and other electronic devices to watch the season’s gridiron battle tonight. Tonight is the night weeks of hard work and preparation finally shift into gear and move forward – for fantasy football that is.

No doubt, countless Americans have already paid their fantasy football league dues, completed their drafts, and are primed to jump into this season’s most competitive electronic sports phenomenon.

Trust me when I say your avid fantasy football league participants take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears getting their season ready. To a certain extent, it would defy common sense to think that over the next few months they would leave fantasy football safely away in their parked cars in the parking lot. So why shouldn’t fantasy football be allowed in the workplace? It’s pretty harmless, right?

Logically speaking, one would think that fantasy football would harm productivity during the season and would be problematic in the workplace.

That’s true if not managed properly, but maybe it’s time to explore the benefits of incorporating fun activities like fantasy football into the workplace to increase productivity and employee morale.

According to the Fantasy Trade Association, about 32 million Americans spend $467 per person -- $15 billion total -- playing fantasy football. The hopes of paying minimal and possibly winning more drives energy, excitement and participation for a period of three to four months on average.

Trust me when I say one of those 32 million Americans is probably one or more employees within your company. This means you have employees excited, engaged and participating in a competitive team or league modeled environment. Imagine incorporating that type of model into the workplace – what would the results be?

The answer is pretty easy, at least in my mind. If managed properly, fantasy football could have a very positive impact on the workplace. Employees who have never interacted before suddenly have a common bond, common interest and a place to start building work relationships. Increased interaction, relationship building and team-building does increase productivity and creates a more positive work environment. Employees feel like they are a part of something beyond their job title at work, which creates camaraderie.

The key is, it has to be managed properly, which can be challenging. Not everyone loves football, nor do they want to participate in fantasy football. So that same sense of belonging for some employees can bring alienation among those who do not participate. While productivity may increase in some areas, it may decrease in others.

It also can be a huge time waster during the day. Think of the countless hours dedicated to Internet searches, phone calls and “meetings” in the workplace. Hard to say but it is certain that time management and wasted time is an issue.

Last of all, fantasy football for money is essentially gambling, which is illegal in the workplace. This means the “stakes” have to be lowered if introduced in the workplace. Management would be forced to be “creative” with the ultimate prize for the league champion, which easily could be free lunch, gift card, prizes, etc.
While fantasy football may not have a place in the workplace unless it is the right culture and employee base – and managed carefully by management or human resources professionals -- it should help engage and inspire management to create programs and incentives that have the same impact that fantasy football has outside the workplace.

Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources consulting company.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Startup Weekend set for Idaho Falls in late October

Sponsored by the UP Global and the Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center, the first Startup Weekend in Idaho Falls is scheduled to be held Oct. 23-25 at Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Held worldwide, Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where enthusiasts from every industry come together to share ideas and skills, form teams, build products and launch startups. Beginning with open mic pitches on the first night, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over the next two days, teams focus on customer development, validating ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On the final evening, teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.

Startup Weekends typically cost between $75 and $150 (less for students). A ticket covers seven meals, snack, access to exclusive resources from our sponsors, and of course, all the coffee you can drink. For the Idaho Falls event, early bird tickets will be available until Sept. 23. Student discounts are available. To find out more, visit this link.

Here is a video that explains more about Startup Weekend:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Il Castello closed, Alchemy Bistro moving into space

Chef Tim Leininger of Alchemy Bistro and Catering
In the continuing game of restaurant roulette, Il Castello on A Street has closed and the space is being taken over by Alchemy Bistro, which is vacating its space at 552 North Capital, where That One Place and Pachanga's used to be.

Chef Tim Leininger said he hopes to be open at the new location by Oct. 1, and is looking to hire staff, including a sous chef, servers, hosts, bartenders, dishwashers and a restaurant manager. He said he is not going to do much in the way of remodeling. "It's pretty bistro looking as it is," he said.

Before opening around Thanksgiving last years, Leininger had been running a catering business in the Trackside Mall. A Pennsylvania native, he had worked at restaurants while attending college, but came to Idaho in 1989 to work at the Idaho National Laboratory. After retiring from there in 2006, he went to the French Culinary Institute in New York City.

The Capital Ave location will be open during the transition, but Leininger asks diners call first to be sure of available service, 529-1032.

Idaho Mountain Trading moving into old Youth Ranch store

Davin Napier, on the floor at Idaho Mountain Trading.
After 29 years at the corner of Shoup Avenue and B Street, Idaho Mountain Trading is moving, The good news for downtown is that they are relocating to the old Idaho Youth Ranch store on Shoup, where they will have twice as much room.

Owner Richard Napier, who started the business in 1977 on A Street, hopes to have the business open in the new location by Oct. 1, said his son, Davin, who returned from Boise two years ago to rejoin the team. Remodeling is being done by Ormond Constrcution.

When finished, Mountain Trading will have 12,000 square feet, double what it has had in its current location. "It will allow us to open up the store and give customers a more thorough experience," Napier said. It will also allow them to keep all their inventory on the floor year round, instead of moving bikes to the basement when ski season starts. "We'll be a four-season store," he said.

Mountain Trading is buying the building from Idaho Youth Ranch, which moved out to Woodruff Avenue near WinCo Foods. Kristi Staten, executive director of the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp., said they are hugely relieved that such an important business is making such a big investment in downtown.

In anticipation of the move, the merchandise in the store has been marked down as high as 40 to 60 percent. "The less we have to move, the better off we're going to be," Napier said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Commercial air service between Idaho Falls, Boise set to begin Oct. 1

Idaho Falls Regional Airport announced today that non-stop air service between Idaho Falls and Boise will begin Oct. 1.

Gem Air, a carrier based in Salmon, will begin flying 9-passenger turboprop planes between the two cities, filling a gap in service that has existed since SeaPort Airlines stopped service in 2012. Before SeaPort, Horizon Air provided service to Boise for several years.

“We believe this is a great option for our community,” said Craig Davis, IFRA airport director, in a press release from Mayor Rebecca Casper's office. “There’s been strong demand, especially in the business community, and we’re thrilled that Gem Air was able to step in and fill that void.”

The route will not be served via IFRA’s main terminal but out of a private operator, AeroMark, which is located just south of the airport at 1940 International Way. Passengers will enjoy free parking and will not need to go through a TSA checkpoint before boarding. Travelers will also have the luxury of arriving only 30 minutes prior to departure.

Travelers should also be aware that flights will arrive and depart the Boise Airport from the main terminal at the Gem Air counter.

“Gem Air is dedicated to making travel convenient and comfortable for our passengers,” states Gem Air’s director of airline development, David Schroeder. “With two round-trips a day, travelers can get in a full day of business and be home the same night.”

Flights are slightly more than an hour long and will run twice a day on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Departures from Idaho Falls will be in the morning and afternoon. Ticket prices begin at $149.

For more information or to book tickets, visit www.gemairflights.com.