Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an active year for development

Construction work at Sand Creek Commons, where Cabela's is being built and Hobby Lobby is slated to go.
Here we are at the end of 2014, with the temperature below zero and little to report in the way of new development. Let’s take a look at the top business stories of the year.

Cabela’s, Hobby Lobby
For years, everyone has known the southeast corner of Sunnyside and Hitt was prime for commercial development. This year was when things got rolling in earnest, first with the announcement that Cabela’s would be building a store, then in September with confirmation that Hobby Lobby was coming. The third anchor tenant is Rigby-based Broulim’s. Other tenants include D.L. Evans Bank and Mountain America Credit Union.

Also worth noting, the cities of Idaho Falls and Ammon came up with an mutually acceptable agreement in September to share the cost of widening Hitt Road south of the Sunnyside intersection, estimated at $2 million. Because Hitt Road lies within Idaho Falls city limits, this has not always been an easy point of negotiation over the past 20 years.

Growth at Snake River Landing
This year has seen a massive amount of development at Snake River Landing, south of Pancheri Drive. In early summer, Scientech moved into its approximately $9 million, 110,000-square-foot facility. Brandon River Apartments opened a complex of 48 one- and two-bedroom apartments, and residential development by Kartchner Homes proceeded as well. On the retail side, Bill’s Bike and Run and McKenzie River Pizza opened, and foundation work began on a Home2 by Hilton hotel just south of Stockman’s Restaurant.

New Car Dealerships
Teton Toyota gained Teton Volkswagen for a neighbor in June, and in the Smith Group opened its Honda and Chevrolet dealerships across Sunnyside Road to the southwest, on 17 acres. Each dealership is just shy of 30,000 square feet. Owner Stafford Smith said he plans to have a grand opening in spring 2015, but is happy to show the place to guests now.

Opting to stay in Idaho Falls, Broadway Ford began work on a new dealership that will include an 8,196 square-foot showroom and a parts and service department of 21,429 square feet. 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 building permit valuation from city of Idaho Falls is $4.8 million.

Melaleuca Moves Headquarters
Melaleuca, Inc., one of the county’s major employers, moved its headquarters from South Yellowstone to its new $50 million complex near Interstate 15 Exit 113. A grand opening is likely to be held sometime in early 2015.

Camping World
If you’re driving over the new Pancheri overpass, you’ll notice a lot of dirt being moved to the southwest. That would be Kentucky-based Camping World, which is developing 12 acres. The company and its Boise developer, Zoke LLC, signaled in May they wanted to develop the land.

Because it was designated for high-density residential development in the city of Idaho Falls’ comprehensive plan, the City Council had to take action before annexation could take place and work could get started. Once that happened, Camping World both the OK Trailer RV dealership in Shelley. An opening is tentatively planned for May.

Guns and Gear
The $3.5 million Guns and Gear, opened in November, and while it has given firearms enthusiasts something unlike anything they have ever seen here its broader effect may be on the surrounding land.  Dixie and Shane Murphy and their partner, Ryan Later, spent $2.8 million on the two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, which overlooks the Snake River Landing development, and $700,000 on equipment.

This provided the impetus for the city of Idaho Falls to establish the 55-acre Eagle Ridge Urban Renewal District. What this will allow is tax increment financing through the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency. Put simply, while taxes are collected on the land the way they always have been, money collected on improvements to the land goes to the Redevelopment Agency to be spent on roads, water, sewer and power lines in the district. Snake River Landing, Taylor Crossing on the River and the hotels on Lindsay Boulevard all lie within urban renewal districts.

D Street Underpass opens
Does anyone notice how much easier it is to get into downtown Idaho Falls since the city opened the D Street Underpass in August? The new structure provides two westbound lanes, one eastbound lane, a wide sidewalk and a traffic signal that allows left-hand turns.

New Restaurants
Restaurants come and go, but one thing that remains constant is the interest in them shown by BizMojo Idaho readers. While there was nothing on the Olive Garden or Chick-fil-A level to provide excitement in 2014, there were some new entries into the market. Gator Jack’s moved into the old Winger’s location on Hitt Road. Togo’s Sandwiches opened in Rexburg and is poised to open its first Idaho Falls store in January. Noodles & Co. is also coming to Hitt Road, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger is poised to open on Woodruff Avenue in early January. Downtown, Alchemy Bistro has moved in to where Il Castello used to be, and the Park Avenue Grill has reanimated the long-dormant location at 950 Park Avenue.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Comment sought on long range transportation plan

Everyone's favorite intersection, 17th Street and Hitt Road.
Next time you're waiting at a traffic light and muttering under your breath, think about this. The Bonneville Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating its long range transportation plan and seeking public comment. You do have a voice.

The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BMPOTransportationSurvey2015. Even if you are waiting at the Hitt Road and 17th Street intersection, please do not attempt to fill it out on your smart phone. Do it when you get to where you're going. The deadline for responses is Jan. 16.

In case you are curious, here are two of the 15 questions:
  • In your opinion what will be the three most significant transportation challenges in our region in the next 25 years? 
  • If you only had $100 to spend on funding transportation improvements, how would you prioritize projects? 
The plan’s purpose is to identify existing and future transportation deficiencies and problems, rank projects in order of priority, and develop policies and strategies for preserving and maintaining the transportation network. Federal transportation policy calls for the plan to be updated every every five years. If it isn’t, Idaho misses out on federal highway funding.

The survey can also be be found at www.bmpo.org, or a hard copy can be obtained by calling the BMPO office at (208) 612-8509.

Timing is everything, so make a plan

Tanyan Davies-Wall
The new year is almost here, which means it’s time to make some plans. If you are buying or upgrading a home, here’s something to think about: Mortgage Professional America Magazine reports that in 2015 rates are expected to rise to an average of 4.6 per cent on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, up from around 4 percent, where they are right now. What's more, those rates are expected to reach 5 percent by the end of 2015.

With interest rates on the rise, understanding how they affect your payment is crucial to your decision making. The first thing that I advise clients to do is set a budget based on a payment they are comfortable with, not on a home price they think they can afford. The price of a home means little compared to the cost of covering the debt service.

For example, if you can comfortably afford a $1,200 monthly house payment, right now you could purchase a $200,000 home once you figure in taxes and insurance. But if the interest rate rises to 5 percent this year, the same payment will only afford you a $178,000 home. We’re looking at a negative impact on your buying power of nearly 10 percent.

Understanding how interest rate fluctuations impact buying power will allow you to make educated financial decisions.

Also, remember that you will always make more money when there is “blood in the water.”

The adage is that investors make their highest returns when everyone else is losing money. Buying a home is no different. I tell buyers that if they are looking for a good deal, winter is often the best time to find one. People needing to sell their homes tend to become more desperate in the winter, knowing that it is harder to sell a home when there is snow on the ground.

If you are planning to buy in the near future, you may want to leverage your buying power and the time of year to get the best deal. If winter house hunting isn’t your thing, the very least you can do is get your ducks in a row. I suggest working with a licensed Realtor and a reputable lender to ensure that you are ready to move come spring time. This affords you two things: it allows you to continually see what the real estate market is doing and the ability to time interest rates to improve your buying power.
Tanyan Davies-Wall is an agent with Voigt-Davis Realtors and a member of the Square One business development organization.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

January openings planned for Togo's, Freddy's

A job applicant at the Idaho Falls Togo's, in the Sagewood Plaza shopping center.
While busy with pre-holiday shopping, I poked my head into a few places that are looking like they are nearly done and here's what I found out. Togo's, on Hitt Road, is planning on opening in mid-January. They are taking applications now, and are in especial need of help during the daytime. Freddy's Frozen Custard has its lights on, but is looking at opening after the first of the year, possibly Jan. 6, according to a worker onsite. I'm not sure who is in the mood for frozen custard at this time of year, but their hamburgers are highly rated, at least by Consumer Reports.

With that, I will wish you a Merry Christmas from BizMojo Idaho. Keep looking in during the next few weeks. Though I expect things to be slow, I will be poking my nose into whatever I might think of interest to loyal readers.
The lights are on at Freddy's, near WinCo Foods on Woodruff Avenue.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Melaleuca delivers tons of food to 13 families in dire straits

Melaleuca and its employees have done their part this holiday season, donating 1,000 cans of food to the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen, 5.5 tons of food to 13 individual families, 500 Christmas gifts to the Salvation Army and a $1,000 in-kind donation to St. Vincent de Paul's Christmas Basket Project.

This is the 13th year the company has donated food to families who are suffering extreme hardship. Employees had confidentially identified eight families in Idaho and five in Knoxville, Tenn., where the company also operates. Each family received a three-month supply of non-perishable food, 40 pounds of meat, new clothing and toys for the children.

"These families were overcome with emotion and gratitude," said Melaleuca employee Heidi Weiers, who chairs the company's food drive committee. "At one home, there was a 9-year-old girl who helped us unpack the 16 boxes of food we brought over. Her father is on an organ donor list and has a lot of medical bills, so she wasn't expecting to receive a single Christmas present. She was overjoyed for her little brothers and sisters because we'd brought bananas and oranges, her brother's favorite fruits, and diapers for the baby, which they couldn't afford."

Melaleuca employees also participated in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, purchasing Christmas gifts for hundreds of children. They placed gift cards, toys, clothing, video games and art supplies under Christmas trees at the company's facilities. Many of these gifts came from Melaleuca call center employees who exchanged some or all of their December bonus checks for presents.

"Melaleuca is a wonderful example of a good corporate citizen," said Maj. James Halverson of the Salvation Army. “Not only is the leadership team generous, but their employees also get involved in serving others.”

Additionally, Melaleuca supported the Christmas Basket Project, a philanthropic effort led by St. Vincent de Paul, the Idaho Falls Catholic Community, and First Presbyterian Church. The company made an in-kind donation valued at $1,000 to the campaign, which delivers food and Christmas gifts to more than 400 families.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Idaho Falls receives 11-acre land donation for park development

The waterfall at what is slated to become Heritage Park
Christmas came early to the city of Idaho Falls, as three property owners made a gift Thursday night of more than 11 acres of undeveloped property on the Snake River north of Sunnyside Road.

Stafford and Woody Smith, Ball Ventures and the Idaho Falls Rotary Club announced a gift and park development agreement for land on the river’s west bank, value estimated at nearly $2 million. Situated at the south end of Snake River Landing, the land will be developed into Heritage Park. It features unique lava rock formations and a scenic natural waterfall.

The agreement says the park will be developed to include walkways, parking, water features, landscaping, lighting, benches, monuments and other features.

“The creation of Heritage Park is a great example of how individuals, companies, civic organizations and city officials can work together to accomplish amazing things for our community,” said Eric Isom, Ball Ventures’ chief development officer. “Improving this riverfront area will not only increase the quality of life for area residents, but will continue to promote further economic development in our city.”

Stafford Smith, who co-owns the land with his brother Woody, said the Heritage Park theme is intended honor the city’s relationship with the river, which dates back to 1865, when James Madison “Matt” Taylor built a toll bridge across the Snake River. “This park will represent and celebrate our heritage,” he said.

A Heritage Park development committee will be established in the next 90 days, and the city anticipates it will take three years to put together a plan -- seeking out local, state, federal and foundation grants, as well as donations from other business.

Over the past 24 years, the Rotary Club of Idaho Falls, through the annual Great Snake River Greenbelt Duck Race and grants from the city, has raised approximately $2 million for greenbelt improvements and expansion. The money has paid for more than seven miles of running and biking paths, the Trapper statue on Memorial Drive and the development of the Friendship Garden and Ryder Park.

“Rotary has been committed to raising money to develop and enhance the greenbelt since 1991. We were delighted to partner with the other Heritage Park donors as part of our 2018 Centennial project,” said Rotarian Kevin Call.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Villa Coffeehouse opens Hitt Road location

The inside of the Villa's new location on Hitt Road.
The Villa Coffeehouse and Cafe has opened its second location, at 3102 S. 25th East (Hitt Road) in Idaho Falls. The second location is in Sagewood Plaza, next to Runway Fashion Exchange.

Hours are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 9 to 5 p.m.

Beginning Dec. 27, owners Chip and Alexis Langerak will be having a weeklong grand opening, giving away free food, coffee and Villa merchandise, with a photography exhibit by the High Desert Photographers’ Club.

Visit the Facebook page here.

INL gets lead mention in New York Times story

Controls at the Human Systems Simulation Lab at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls. 
Jim McAuley for The New York Times
Little old Idaho Falls made it into The New York Times on Monday, in a story about the how future nuclear reactors could fit into the nation's energy mix in coming decades. It paints a fairly realistic picture -- natural gas is so cheap now that nuclear can't really compete on the basis of cost -- but covers some stuff that might surprise readers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Idaho Falls LDS Temple to close in mid-March for renovation

Ground was broken on the Idaho Falls LDS Temple this week in 1939, and the edifice was dedicated in September 1945.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced today that its Idaho Falls Temple will close for renovations in mid-March 2015 and remain closed through October 2016.  Dates of when the temple will reopen have not been announced. Following the renovation, the temple will be rededicated.

In a prepared statement from the church’s First Presidency, the Rexburg Temple is preparing to accommodate the influx of members of the church who would normally attend the Idaho Falls Temple.

Friday, incidentally, is the 75th anniversary of the day ground was broken in the construction of the temple. The bids were opened Dec. 15, 1939, and the $300,000 job — that would be $5.1 million in 2014 dollars — was awarded to Nick Burggraf of Idaho Falls. David Smith and Leonard G. Ball, presidents of the North Idaho Falls and Idaho Falls stakes, were present for the contract signing, as was civil engineer E. Milton Christensen.

World War II slowed down the construction, and the Idaho Falls Temple was finally dedicated Sept. 23, 1945.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Commerce Department Director Jeff Sayer to speak Thursday in Idaho Falls

Jeff Sayer
Jeff Sayer, Idaho’s Commerce Department director, will be in Idaho Falls Thursday morning to talk about the state’s Accelerate Idaho initiative.

Sponsored by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the breakfast meeting will be at 7:30 a.m. at Catered Your Way, 2161 E. 17th Street. Cost is $10. Reservations can be made by emailing ceo@idahofallschamber.com.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the “Accelerate Idaho” initiative in May, describing it as a statewide effort to engage local communities and private industry. It came on the heels of Project 60, a 2009 initiative to expand Idaho’s gross domestic product to at least $60 billion. Idaho’s total economic activity achieved that goal in the last quarter of 2013, and was forecast to reach $62 billion this year.

“Accelerate Idaho is our strategy for ensuring that Idaho is the right place for employers looking to expand or relocate. The goal is more career opportunities for Idahoans,” Otter said in May. It has three points:

• Advancing Individuals by engineering talent pipelines, cultivating K-though-career education, and expanding high quality jobs.
• Elevating existing industries, empowering business opportunities and invigorating innovation and research
• Strengthening communities by inspiring community vitality, developing infrastructure solutions and encouraging regional collaboration.

Sayer, who left Idaho Falls in 2011 to take the Commerce Director job, will talk about Accelerate Idaho’s Rapid Response Team composed of representatives from nine state agencies that are often directly involved in business expansion projects. One of Idaho’s greatest assets is its ability to remove red tape and “move at the speed of business,” and the Rapid Response Team is intended to accelerate customer service through a formalized partnership that responds to business needs quickly and efficiently.

Another important tool that is “Bluebird,” a new application designed for site selectors, commercial realtors and economic development professionals, intended to streamline the sharing of information about such things as incentives, grants and business cost comparisons. With Bluebird, businesses, entrepreneurs and investors can access a secure Web platform containing a library of economic development materials to aid in site selection decisions.

Here is a YouTube video about Accelerate Idaho from earlier this year:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Keep your company off the naughty list

Merry all are we during the holiday season, aren’t we? What is not to love about the festive fare, catered events, lights, parties, sugary treats, white elephants gifts, and time off from work?

I will share a little secret with you. For employers, the holidays create increased liabilities and open the door for long-term legal problems. Holiday enthusiast that I am, I hate to say that the season of cheer during the work week gives me visions of lawsuits instead of sugar plum fairies.

While holiday decorations, cards, costume contests, gift giving, and parties all seem innocent enough, unless they are carefully managed they can easily become holiday headaches for employers. It’s important to remember that while some employees take for granted beautiful nativity scenes and cards adorned with paintings of Mary and Jesus, other employees may consider them offensive and an invitation to file discrimination claims.

In considering what to allow in the workplace during the holiday season, it is safe to say most people are comfortable with secular symbols of the season such as Santa, reindeer, snowmen, and Christmas trees. In contrast, a nativity scene and religious symbols, cards, programs, or music could easily divide employees with differing beliefs.

The potential holiday headaches continue in considering holiday bonuses and gifts. While I am certainly not encouraging any business to cut bonuses or gifts, discriminatory practices or favoritism can easily creep into those festive envelopes. Businesses should streamline ways to allocate holiday bonuses, and give out similar presents to all employees. Failure to fairly streamline these practices could easily go as bad as egg nog left out in the breakroom.

Since we are lighting the way to holiday headaches, let’s not forget the liabilities that come with holiday workplace parties. From sexual harassment to “harmless” jokes, inappropriate touching, comments and behavior, to collect calls from the county jail the day from the employee who got stopped on the way home, holiday parties can pose major problems for businesses. Businesses should remember and communicate to all employees that workplace policies still apply during holiday parties — and will be enforced.

It’s also important to remember that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide holiday gatherings that demonstrate a commitment by the employer to maintain compliance with company policies.

Lastly, the holidays are a time for creating memories with family and friends – that means most employees are interested in some time away from the workplace. While it is not required, it is widely accepted among most companies that Christmas and New Year’s Day should be paid holidays. For businesses that operate 24/7, isn’t it fair to offer some incentivized pay to the employees who gladly hold the fort at work while the rest of the team enjoys festive celebrations with loved ones?

“Scrooging” your employees out of holiday pay for a day or two doesn’t make sense and only lowers employee morale.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy festive fun, even in the workplace, a time to close out one year and get ready for another. Still, it’s important to remember that the holidays are not a “hall pass” for employers and employees alike to forget company policies, acceptable workplace standards, and employment/labor laws.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Togo's sign up on Hitt Road

Togo's Sandwiches is going in at 2994 S. 25 East, in the Sagewood Shopping Center.
It looks like the first Idaho Falls Togo's Sandwiches is going to be at 2994 South 25 East, in the Sagewood Shopping Center next door to Costa Vida. The sign went up this week and inside the work is progressing steadily.

This will be the second Togo's in eastern Idaho. The first opened last month in Rexburg. The California-based chain announced last spring it had a plan to develop five restaurants in eastern Idaho and eight in Salt Lake City.

The Idaho Falls and Rexburg restaurants are two that Ty and Debbie Jenkins have signed on to develop, along with others Twin Falls, Pocatello. Ty Jenkins is CEO of DocuTech, a company that develops and markets Web-based mortgage compliance software.

Overall, Togo's has more than 325 locations open and under development throughout the West. Last year, the company launched a franchise development incentive program to drive expansion in key growth markets. Both new and existing franchisees who sign new agreements for three or more locations receive reduced royalty fees for the first two years for each new restaurant developed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. Additionally, franchisees benefit from $10 million for remodels and transfers, as well as $5 million to build new restaurants.

To become a part of the Togo's team, candidates should possess liquidity of $150,000 for a single restaurant and a net worth of $300,000. Area developers looking to develop three or more restaurants should have liquidity of $450,000 and net worth of $900,000.

Post Register names digital media specialist

Donna Nims
Donna Nims has been named the Post Register’s digital media specialist, a new position in which she will provide support for all of the Post Register’s online efforts.

Nims had previously worked at the Post Register, for more than two years in two different positions, most recently as a sales manager for Farm & Ranch and digital advertising sales.

She has a bachelor of science degree in computer and mathematical sciences from Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. She also has a management background in wireless Internet sales and services.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Local photographer offers discount on online drone course

Here's a aerial video tour of the Idaho Falls Greenbelt and the LDS Temple made by Mark Richardson and posted on his www.camerastupid.com Web site.

Are you planning on getting a drone for Christmas? If you are, you might want to learn how to fly it, in which case Mark Richardson, a local photographer, is offering a course through udemy: Aerial Photography and Videography with Drones.

As a professional photographer, Richardson has traveled extensively in the United States and abroad to use quadcopters to capture aerial imagery for corporate and commercial productions. He has built a few of his own, but now prefers the DJI Phantom platform, because it is easy to use and portable.

“The people who know how to fly drones are about to have a whole new world of opportunities open to them,” he said. “The photography and videography trades alone have already and will continue to see major transformations as multi-rotors are used as flying cameras.

Richardson is offering the course at $49 to anyone who uses this link: https://www.udemy.com/aerial-photography-and-videography-with-drones/?couponCode=drone+49. In addition to 40 online course videos and materials, students will be able to get one-on-one instruction from Richardson himself. The course is comprehensive, offering information to people who already own drones as well as those looking to buy. The lessons also cover legal and safety issues.

A few things are needed:

  • A computer, to update and calibrate the drone that I recommend.
  • Basic tools such as soldering iron, wire cutters and screwdrivers, for customizing your aerial platform.

In addition to his work as a photographer and droneographer (does such a word exist yet? I predict it will) Richardson is also the proprietor of the www.camerastupid.com blog/Web site. Want to like him on Facebook? Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/camerastupid.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Camping World coming to Idaho Falls near Pancheri overpass

Work going on at the future site of Camping World, scheduled to open in May.
The dirt being moved southwest of the Pancheri overpass will be the new home of Camping World, a company that started nearly 50 years ago in Kentucky and most recently bought the OK Trailer RV dealership in Shelley.

The company and its Boise developer, Zoke LLC, signaled in May they wanted to develop 12 acres near Interstate 15. As the land was designated for high-density residential development in the city of Idaho Falls’ comprehensive plan, the City Council had to take action before annexation could take place and work could get started.

The site is bordered by Tara Street and Skyline Drive. It will feature multiple service bays, a Camping World retail store and a state-of-the-art collision center.

Camping World began with a small store in Beech Bend Park, an amusement park and campground outside Bowling Green. Campers at the park were requesting a place where they could buy supplies, so David Garvin, son of the park's owner, took out a loan and opened a store. Garvin amassed a large customer list as the years went by. In 1997, he sold the company to the current owners, Good Sam Enterprises of Ventura, Calif.

The company now has more than 100 retail and service locations throughout the United States, and also sells goods through mail order and online. The Idaho Falls center will be the second in Idaho. The other is located in Meridian.

Keefer’s Island plans grand opening Thursday

William and Eldora Keefer and their children in the early 20th century. Twins Fred and Frank are on either side of their parents. (Photo courtesy Museum of Idaho)
When the crew at the Shilo Inn were looking for a new name for their catering business, all it took was a look out the window, where Keefer’s Island sits right in the middle of the Snake River.

Formerly O’Callahan’s, Keefer’s Island Restaurant and Catering will be having its grand opening Thursday, starting with a ribbon cutting by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber Ambassadors at 10 a.m.

Complimentary breakfast Danishes and beverages will be served.

In the evening at 6, there will be Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and drink specials, and live music by Happyville (the band in which I play guitar, if you don’t know that already.) For the historically minded, there will be a display of items from the Keefer Family Collection, provided by the Museum of Idaho.

The Keefers were one of the most important families in Idaho Falls’ history. William W. Keefer came to town with the Utah & Northern Railroad, and once the bridge and shops were built he decided to stay. With a developer's eye, he began buying real estate.

Keefer was a builder and a brewer, and his most lasting impact may have been on the Snake River itself. In 1909, he and his twin sons, Fred and Frank, built a dam and retaining wall north of Broadway, creating the actual falls and providing water for hydropower generation.

Fred and Frank were the most colorful of William and Eldora Keefer’s seven children, and it was Fred who filed a mineral claim on the island in the Snake below John’s Hole, then built a cabin. In 1962, he deeded it to the city of Idaho Falls on condition that the cabin stayed and that the island be called Keefer’s Island.

The menu features American cuisine, new and traditional, burgers, seafood and southern-style cuisine. Breakfast, brunch and buffets are served, and its hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The lounge is open until 1 a.m.

For more information, call 523-1818. For catering, 523-4318.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Local gasoline prices edging lower

Just like many of you, I've been waiting to see local gas prices nose below $3 a gallon, and today it looks like we have a winner. The Tesoro station at 125 S. 25th East has regular unleaded listed at $2.919 a gallon.

Don't everybody head out there at once. Although we have been lagging behind other parts of the country -- on Tuesday, Idaho gas prices were reported the seventh highest in the nation -- we can expect lower prices between now and the end of the year, said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho spokesman.

Today, the nation's average is $2.76 -- 52 cents less than a year ago and the lowest average price since the 2010 holiday season.
Even some parts of Idaho have been following suit. Last Tuesaday, the average price per gallon in Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday was $2.80, and in neighboring Post Falls, typically higher than in Coeur d'Alene, it was $2.79. In Idaho Falls, however, it was more in line with the statewide the average of $3.06.

I know some of you have been tearing your hair over this, but let's keep things in perspective. This is the lowest price since February 2011 and 71 cents cheaper than it was on Labor Day.

"Lower pump prices should be around for a while," Carlson said. "Gas prices are down thanks to lower oil prices, weak demand here and abroad and plentiful unconstrained gas and oil supplies."

On the global front, Saudi Arabia's oil minister told fellow OPEC members on Thursday it was a bad idea to cut output. The Saudi view is to keep the spigot turned on in order to undermine the profitability of North American producers. This strategy could work over time. It costs the Saudis a lot less to get their oil from desert compared to the highly involved fracking process American producers have been using. But we're likely to see oil prices to continue dropping.

Carlson said Idaho's Idaho prices have stayed higher on the national scale because there is less incentive for retailers to cut prices. "An isolated market means less competitive factors," he said.

Also, any retailer who has bought gas at a higher wholesale price has to keep the price higher to make any sort of margin. It the station across the road gets a new shipment at a lower rack price, that's when the first retailer is more likely to slash prices in order to stay competitive.