Monday, March 31, 2014

Paid time off is good for employees and employers

The Arizona desert is the perfect place to be productive and get work done. As I write this I am headed back to Idaho from sunny Phoenix, Ariz., where I spent spring break.

During our five-day family vacation, I have answered e-mails, spoken to insurance underwriters, scheduled interviews and meetings, written new employment policies and updated job descriptions. All this productivity has taken place in between sightseeing, shopping, swimming, MLB pre-season games and time with friends.

Despite the fact that I own and manage my own company, I relate more to today’s average employee. Like most employees, the workplace extends my office, hours typically aren’t Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and if a client calls with a question when I am on vacation I answer it.

Businesses continue to change and conform to societal trends and demands. With markets expanding globally and the public demanding 24/7 operations, staffing and managing businesses has never been more challenging. Employees are tasked with more to do in their day-to-day duties, while attendance at work is crucial for business operations.

So the question then becomes, are there benefits to offering and taking paid time off away from work? The answer for both businesses and employees is simple -– yes.

Currently U.S. employment regulations do not legally mandate that employers offer any paid  time off. According to Forbes.com the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to offer paid time off, lagging behind countries like Canada, Japan,   France, etc. This means it’s up to employers to voluntarily offer paid time off to their employees in the United States.

Most U.S. employers offer paid time off, right? Not quite. According to Forbes.com, it's only one out of four. Companies that pay lower wages, have part-time employees and are small businesses are more likely to not offer paid time off.

Offering paid time off has a number of benefits that can impact and cost a company far less than the paid time off employees may take during the year. Paid time off allows employees to have a work-life balance without the worry of lost or decreased income for the employees.

As employees are required to work longer and harder hours as a part of 24/7 business operations, job-related stress can be a major concern in the workplace. Job-related stress leads to lower productivity, increased absenteeism, lower employee morale, health issues  and high turnover. Paid time off can not only significantly decrease work-related stress, it can also be beneficial to the economy. As employees are allowed to take paid time off from work, they are able to take vacations, go shopping, eat at restaurants, and enjoy other recreational activities, all benefitting the economy.

So how does a business come up with a paid time off policy if they don’t have one in place? The Internet is filled with ideas on policies that can get a company started in the right direction. Business and management consultants have a vast knowledge of how to draft a paid time off policy -- what to include and specific suggestions on key points.

While businesses may worry about an employee missing work, and have to financially pay for the employee being away from the workplace with paid time of, the benefits of offering paid time off far exceed the costs.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New bar opens in downtown Idaho Falls

Deb Reinhart, operator of the Steinhouse Bar, 335 A Street.
At 520 square feet, the Steinhouse Bar at 335 A Street, which opened March 22, might be the coziest drinking establishment in Idaho Falls.

"This is basically a quiet bar, where people can come and sit and talk," said operator Deb Reinhart, who got her liquor license from the state the old-fashioned way, by applying for one and then waiting years.

Beer and wine licenses are easy enough to get, but Idaho bases the number of liquor license a community can have on population. This arrangement has led to some exorbitant prices being paid by people in a hurry.

Now that she has received a new state liquor license, she must "perfect" it over the next six months by staying open 10 hours a day six days a week and selling at least one drink each day.

The property is across the street from Great Harvest Bread Co., where a barbershop had been since the 1950s. The remodel had some archaeological interest, with papers and old clipper heads from the Eisenhower era. Reinhart opted to keep the black-and-white-checkerboard linoleum floor, but said she would not care to repeat the experience of cleaning it on her hands and knees.

Because the use of the building was being changed, she was required to put in a handicapped-accessible bathroom. "This is probably the smallest bar with the biggest bathroom you'll ever see," she said.

The name comes from the collection of beer steins on the shelf. Reinhart said there is no place she would rather be than downtown. Other bar owners have stopped by to wish her well.

"I love downtown," she said. "The people are so friendly."

For more information, call (208) 680-6232.

Engineering firm leases old Ronsen's space on Broadway

Applied Engineering Services has moved to downtown Idaho Falls, setting up in the long-vacant Ronsen's State Hardware building on Broadway.
After more than 20 years at the Idaho Innovation Center on North Yellowstone, Applied Engineering Services, Inc., has moved to downtown Idaho Falls, occupying the storefront on Broadway that was home for years to Ronsen's State Hardware.

Formed in 1992, AES provide engineering services nationwide in areas of specialized studies, design, systems analysis, consulting, project management, and environmental restoration. On its Web site, the company describes itself as "engineers with a practical, no-nonsense approach for your project."

Downtown Development Director Bob Everhart said there wasn't much work involved in bringing AES downtown. "They had pretty much decided that was what they wanted to do," he said. But the lease allows the building owner, Janet Jack, to continue remodeling residential units upstairs.

"There's a growing interest in downtown's residential component," he said.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

DOE announces extension of Battelle INL operations contract

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today it will be extending Battelle Energy Alliance’s original 10-year contract to operate Idaho National Laboratory an additional five years.

The contract was awarded to BEA in November 2004, and was notable in that it merged the lab operations that had been managed by BWXT Idaho, and before that Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies, with Argonne National Laboratory-West, which had for decades been run by the University of Chicago. The 10-year INL contract began on Feb. 1, 2005, with the current period of performance scheduled to end this Sept. 30. The extension announced today means BEA will operate INL through Sept. 30, 2019.

In a news release, DOE cited BEA’s "consistently strong annual performance and success" in managing INL, focusing in particular on the creation of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. BEA partnered with the State of Idaho to establish CAES, which has generated nearly $60 million in competitive research opportunities for Idaho's universities and INL since 2008, the release said.

Now with about 3,500 employees, Battelle's work at INL is in three areas: nuclear energy and technology; energy and the environment; and national and homeland security. Its contract with the DOE allows the federal government to adjust its annual payout based on performance, up to a ceiling of about $18.5 million.

In December, the Associated Press reported BEA had earned 91.4 percent of its available fee during fiscal year 2013, an improvement over 2012, when the company earned about 86 percent. The fiscal year 2012 rating was the company’s lowest in the time it has run the lab.

According to the report, Battelle didn’t get a 100 percent rating for 2013 in part because of deficiencies in worker safety and other operations. On the positive side, DOE reported that INL had several achievements to boast in 2013, including a research discovery advancing scientist's understanding of fuels used in high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Businesses report phone scammers posing as city of I.F. representatives

Five Idaho Falls businesses called City Hall Tuesday to report they had received calls from people claiming to represent the city and threatening to shut off their utilities unless they paid allegedly overdue bills with a credit or debit card.

The city never calls anyone to demand immediate payment over the phone, said Lori Holverson,  Idaho Falls' collection adviser. “If you do receive a phone call requesting immediate utility payment, write down the phone number of the individual calling you and contact the Idaho Falls Police Department,” she said.    
The city offers a link with further information on how to avoid being scammed. Here are some key bullet points from it:
  • Ask for verification: IFP and Utilities employees rarely call residential customers. If they do, however, they will know the customer’s name and address, account number and account balance. If you suspect a scammer is on the other end of the line, hang up and call the Utilities office at 612-8280. 
  • Keep your information safe: Do not provide account information to any caller. No one from Idaho Falls Power or the city Utilities office will ever ask for account information. 
  • You always have options: A number of payment options are available to customers and the Utilities office can usually work out a payment arrangement for a customer who has fallen behind on his bill. 
  • Please report scam calls: If you receive a suspicious call, write down the phone number if you have Caller ID, hang up and call the police. 
If someone comes to your door: 
  • Did you have an appointment? IFP employees who conduct energy audits or other projects that require home visits always make appointments. Collections agents with the Utilities office often don’t have an appointment, but they drive city vehicles, wear marked clothing, carry ID and all pertinent account information, and will provide a receipt for any payment made. Meter readers will never collect payment. 
  • Check the vehicle: IFP and city Utilities employees drive white or yellow vehicles bearing the IFP logo or city logo. 
  • Ask to see ID: City employees always carry ID cards. 
  • Verify: To confirm the person at your door is an IFP or Utilities employee, ask them to wait outside and call either IFP at 612-8526 or the Utilities office at 612-8280. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Idaho Falls Good Samaritan Center names new administrator

Dr. Susan Jones has been named administrator of the Good Samaritan Society-Idaho Falls Village living center.

According to the press release announcement, Jones brings many years of health care experience to the position, with degrees in nursing and health care administration. Prior to this appointment, she was the center's nursing director.

Founded in 1922, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society is the largest not-for-profit provider of senior care and services in the United States, with more than 240 locations. Its centers offer rehabilitation and skilled care services, including in-patient therapy and memory care as well as home and community services such as outpatient therapy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Taking old fashioned electronics for a spin

Skylar Burtenshaw at the family business, Burtenshaw's Electronics. In the foreground, our Technics turntable, with which there was nothing wrong.
After years of putting it off, I finally decided Monday to take Karen's old Technics SL-D2 turntable to Burtenshaw's Electronics, 200 First Street.

If you're not familiar with Burtenshaw's it's a beacon of hope in this dark time of planned obsolescence. TV doesn't work? Don't chuck it just yet. "The larger ones are almost worth fixing," said Skylar Burtenshaw, who minds the business with his father, Bruce, who started the shop nearly 30 years ago.

Since vacuum tubes are a thing of the antediluvian past (except in guitar amplifiers), the thing most likely to go wrong with a newer TV is the power supply, he said. On average, that's a $75 fix. If the TV is something you bought at Fred Meyer for $39 you aren't going to shell out the dough, but a $999 Samsung or LG is a different story.

As for our turntable, after we plugged it in and moved the arm over, it started working. Dang!

"Did you plug it into the socket in the back of the amplifier?" Skylar asked. I nodded yes. "That's probably where the problem is."

Aside from feeling stupid, the good news is that we're good to go analogue. I have been using a Pioneer receiver I bought at a yard sale for $25, along with two crappy looking but great-sounding JBL speakers. I doubt I'll be taking the receiver in for repairs, so if anyone has an old Marantz they want to part with I'm all ears.

One thing for sure is that I'm ready to embrace vinyl again. Lately I have been preoccupied with the irony that so much of the music I have downloaded in the last ten years has disappeared through the digital donut hole. Hard drives crash, portable devices stop working and poof! -- it's gone.

Compare that to the stack of LPs in my garage that I once considered selling but couldn't. Records that date back to high school and college; albums I bought at Budget Tapes and Records at lunchtime when it was across the street from the Post Register.

I can remember where I bought some of my records (e.g., Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," at John Wanamaker in Wilmington). As for the LPs I "forgot" to return to their rightful owners, I hope there will be mercy for me at the Throne of Judgment.

Then there is the digital-vs.-analog argument over sound quality. The MP3 format keeps file size small by discarding information, Burtenshaw said. That's great for having a lot of songs on your hard drive or iPod, but kind of like eating a meatloaf that's 85 percent air when compared to the sound that comes from a stylus in the grooves of a record.

Beyond that, has any young person ever been as excited about downloading Deadmaus or Beyonce as I was when I bought Steely Dan's "Countdown to Ecstasy" at Wonderland (the No. 1 record store and head shop in Newark, Del.) then brought it back to Brown Hall to listen to with my friends? Dropping the needle on a record is an experience that pressing PLAY doesn't come close to matching, but maybe I'm just sounding like an old man again.

Tell you what. Come over to my house when I've got the stereo assembled. I'll cue up my copy of K-Tel "Bong Hits" and we can decide for ourselves, man.

Salon h. davis hosting cut-a-thon to help Relay for Life

This Saturday, salon h.davis will once again host an all-day cut-a-thon to support the American Cancer Society.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 2450 E. 25th Street. Beverages and hot dogs will be provided to all guests. The fund-raiser will feature $10 haircuts and the opportunity to receive a blow dry and style for just $5. All payments for services will be donated directly to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which provides many services in the Idaho Falls area including the “Look Good, Feel Better” program, which assists women in chemotherapy with make-up and wig application.

“Thousands of individuals throughout our community will face cancer in some way, whether it is through a personal diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one. We want to show our love and support,” salon owner Niki Young said.

Anyone unable to attend the event but interested in donating can stop in during regular business hours Monday through Friday at the salon.

Negativity in the workplace is no joke

One of my favorite movies of all time is "Office Space." No matter how amazing your job is, I think at some point in our careers we can all relate to a “case of the Mondays."

It could come from an overly confident, micro-managing superior, or perhaps outsourced professionals like “the Bobs” coming in to analyze the work environment. Then there's the clueless co-worker like Milton, who is always looking for his missing stapler.

Although it's funny, "Office Space" offers a chilling picture of how negativity in the workplace is no joke and has a very far-reaching impact on employees. It's a caricature of a workplace gone wrong in so many ways that ultimately one disgruntled employee decides to burn the building down.

Most of us of course aren’t going to burn down the building if we are having problems at work. But negativity does certainly have an impact on productivity, efficiency, employee morale, absenteeism and turnover. to name a few impact areas.

A negative workplace in theory should be easy enough to identify. What's hard is changing things for the better. From watching "Office Space," here are a few lessons on how to better manage a negative workplace.

One of the major characters in the movie is Peter’s boss, Bill Lumbergh, who is a stereotypical micro-manager. It’s easy to see how the employees' attitudes and performance reflect on Bill’s management style.  In management it’s easy to want to keep track of every aspect of the company, but in reality doing so creates lower productivity and decreased performance.

Another major issue in the movie is lack of communication. From Milton’s “reassignment” to the basement of the office and being taken off the payroll to the decision to bring in the “Bobs” for organizational analysis, it is pretty clear that communication is completely absent. Lack of communication can lead to a long list of issues, including poor performance, non-compliance with policies and procedures, disciplinary actions and even termination of employment.

While Milton’s termination seems a little far-fetched in the real world, it is a good example of how lack of communication can be a long-term problem. Additionally, while upper management isn’t required to make subordinates aware of all the issues they face or decisions they make, it’s important for employees to be told about upcoming events, decisions and changes. If communicated properly, this makes employees feel engaged and important. Open communication is the simplest way to boost morale and create harmony between employees and management.

"Office Space" works as a satire because most working people can identify with it in one way or another. Laughter is a universal way of taking power over things that would otherwise make us suicidal. But keep in mind, a negative workplace can have issues that are far reaching, and that's no laughing matter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cleaning company offers free service for women with cancer

Distinguished Images, an Idaho Falls cleaning company, wants to get the word out that it has teamed up with Cleaning For a Reason, an organization that provides free housekeeping for women with cancer.

"(The) homes that my maids enjoy cleaning the most are the ones we do for women battling cancer," said Travis Collins, Distinguished Images' owner. The company donates its employees' time at no cost to the client.

"It is our way of giving back," Collins said. "I personally have a strong passion for this, as I have family that is currently fighting the fight, and have several other friends and family that have gone through the battle with cancer. ... We have cleaned for several ladies since joining nearly a year ago.  So the help I need is getting the word out, we want to clean for more ladies."

If you know of someone who can benefit from this service, call (208) 552-1310.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness in the workplace: Fun or foul?

March Madness began this week and millions of Americans are now involved in one of the nation’s most intense 21 days of athletic competition. Sports enthusiasts all over the nation have put in their brackets and are now watching their choices play out.

It starts with 68 teams -- for just the men’s tournament alone – and ends with one national champion, the last team standing. With such intense competition and an outcome that cannot easily be identified by even the best analysts, sports enthusiasts all over the nation are already on the edge of their seats.

If not managed properly March Madness can be a real problem in the workplace. It might seem ludicrous to say the enthusiasm and love for the tournament has to be left at home during the workweek.  Doesn’t that take away friendly, casual inter-office casual competition? March Madness can’t be that big of a deal if it is only 21 days out of the year right?

Most of the games during the first week are broadcasted mid-afternoon and are full of action that one would not want to miss during the workday. Service providers like Verizon Wireless and DirectTV make watching the games as easy as a click of a button. So the occasional check-in from your computer or phone isn’t that big of a deal – or is it? RetailMeNot conducted a survey with The Omnibus Company and recently reported that almost three in 10 professionals plan to watch March Madness at work. Additionally, the survey found that 39 percent plan to watch the games right from their work computers.

This doesn’t account for employees that may be watching or checking scores on their cell phones or mobile devices. For employers, this amounts to a distracted and less productive workplace. It can result in poor work performance and costly mistakes by employees. Employers are still paying wages throughout March Madness, meaning countless dollars are spent on employees working absent-mindedly or not working at all.

As if distracted employees, low production and the sunken cost of wages aren’t enough – take into account bracket pools amongst employees. While bracket pools often are a friendly betting competition between co-workers, a company needs to think about the impact these activities can have over the long term.

Depending on how management handles the situation with employees, there could be serious consequences such as employee grievances, disciplinary actions and even discrimination/harassment claims. What if a company allows the March Madness bracket pools as a fun inner office activity but doesn’t want to allow a bracket pool for the NBA Finals or even the NFL playoffs? Then there is the gambling in the workplace that doesn’t include sports related competitions.

It’s important to think about how to respond to employee issues that may come as a result of bracket pools gone wrong. Is a company prepared to take disciplinary action against employees that take the friendly competition too far?  What exactly is a company’s disciplinary policy on matters like this. The outcome of these situations can have long-lasting and potential legal liabilities.

March Madness can be an opportunity for an afternoon mental break and some friendly fun between co-workers. Important for companies to remember, however, that unless these activities are carefully monitored and managed in compliance with company policies, March Madness can create the kind of madness in the workplace that doesn't do anyone any good.

GOP roundup at Riverbend Ranch

Shaking hands with former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Photo by Melissa Bristol)
I typically steer clear of politics on BizMojo Idaho, but when I got an invitation to the Republican roundup Wednesday night at Frank and Belinda VanderSloot's Riverbend Ranch I figured, "Why not?"

This was a campaign event for U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, who is facing a primary challenge from Bryan Smith in nine weeks. Gov. Butch Otter, who also faces a primary challenge, was there, as was U.S. Sen. Jim Risch. But the real star of this GOP cattle call was 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on hand to encourage the faithful to open their checkbooks.

"Dig deep," he said. "Vote, and get your friends to vote. I'm not elected these days, but I can sure fight hard."

Perhaps the most passionate words of the evening came from the host himself, Frank VanderSloot, making his introduction and seeking to refute any suggestion that Simpson might not be conservative enough to serve in Congress.

"I don't know what the litmus test is for a conservative anymore," he said. Simpson has A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association, Right to Life and the United States Chamber of Commerce (on whose board of directors VanderSloot sits). Were Simpson to lose the primary, it would mean at best a loss of clout in the House, because of Simpson's seniority, and at worst the loss of the seat altogether. "If Mike doesn't win, we're likely to have a Democrat in Congress," he said, casting a momentary chill over an otherwise upbeat program.

Romney was his affable self, giving liberals the benefit of being fine Americans, just misguided. "We're right and they're wrong," he said, quoting President Reagan's answer to a question about the difference between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

Otter showed his usual reverence to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, but could someone please tell him that George Washington's name has only one R in it?

During the meet and greet that followed I shook Governor Romney's hand, because I do agree that we're all American's and that we can be friends with each other. Having lost an election myself, I could relate to some of the things he said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ty Jenkins honored by Mortgage Banking magazine

Ty Jenkins
Ty Jenkins, founder and CEO of DocuTech Corp., a leading provider of compliance and documentation technology, has been named one of Mortgage Banking magazine’s 2014 Tech All-Stars. The Tech All-Stars is an annual list honoring mortgage industry professionals who continue to innovate in an adverse regulatory environment.

According to a press release announcing the honor, Jenkins was selected due to his ongoing mission to simplify the loan documentation process while achieving compliance through DocuTech’s concept of a dynamic documents platform; one of the first of its kind introduced in 1991.

DocuTech’s flagship software, ConformX®, transforms an Internet connection into a closing document office and incorporates all data from one system into the user’s loan origination software, reducing data re-entries and producing compliant closing documents.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sunnyside Sweets offers Tuesday specials

Brittany Warnick, left, waits on (l to r) Jasmine Harris, Abigail Sanchez-Gibson, Brenna Gibson and Ashley Rydalch at Sunnyside Sweets mid-day Tuesday.
I went out Hitt Road today to see how the new Indian restaurant, Tandoori Oven is coming along. Located where Play and Trade used to be, it looks like there's still some work to be done.

Here's some news, though. Across the road at Sunnyside Sweets Candy Shoppe they were having a Tuesday special of 75 cents for a kids scoop ice cream cone (last week it was $1 Italian sodas). They have 22 flavors from which to choose, although the very popular Play-Doh blend probably won't be back until summer, said Brittany Warnick, a BYU-Idaho student who has been working behind the counter since the store opened in October.

Owners Tara and Jarom Christensen, who own the Sunnyside Plaza building in which Sunnyside Sweets sits, are going for a retro feel, with lots of old school candy varieties and sodas. A lot of them they buy through Amazon, Warnick said. I was pleased to find my favorite, Turkish Taffy, and a new flavor to boot (blue raspberry; it was OK, but I still think I'll stick with chocolate, vanilla, banana and strawberry.)

I did not find loose Bazooka gum, which I would really like. The last place to have that was Common Cents on South Boulevard, and I'm pretty sure it was during the first Bush administration.

The big screen TV on the wall is usually playing "The Wizard of Oz," "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" or "E.T.", although they have others they play around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

In parting, I would like to ask whether you think Idaho Falls has a sweet tooth. In addition to Sunnyside Sweets, we have Aunt Annie's Kitchen, Sarah's Candy Cottage, Candy Junction on West Broadway and Love at First Bite. Tell me what you think.
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Plats filed for convenience store, new credit union branch

I wish I had more to share on this blustery, snowy Monday, but my survey of site plans, plats, etc., at the Idaho Falls City Hall Annex yields only two items:

A new Safari 66 convenience store at the southwest corner of Skyline Pancheri. This project has been platted by the Drs. Justin and Joshua Bell, partners in Riverwest Dental next door.

A new Idaho Central Credit Union branch near the intersection of First Street and Hitt Road. This is on that small section of Idaho Falls that protrudes east of Hitt, just north of the Arctic Circle.

Rest assured we will stay on top of these projects as they progress and keep you posted on new ones as the papers and plans are filed.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It was (almost) 20 years ago today ...

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, here is the first Internet story I ever wrote, published April 10, 1994. In print.

In unearthing this gem, my search term was "information superhighway." a term quite in vogue at the time. Other headlines that day included "Authorities say rapes often go unreported" and "Cobain's suicide perplexes local youth."

GROUP SELLS `ON RAMP' TO INTERNET

Remember that old encyclopedia you had when you were a kid? The one in which Eisenhower was still president and the Piltdown man was still regarded as a revolutionary archaeological find?

OK, you were brilliant and got straight A's in spite of it. But think of how much easier it would have been if you'd had the latest information at your fingertips.

It's the computer age now. Although there's still lots of work to be done on the much-hyped "information superhighway," eastern Idahoans will soon have an easier time of getting linked up to the Internet, the worldwide network on which it's possible to get the latest information on practically anything.

SRVnet, a new non-profit organization based in Idaho Falls, is offering low-cost access to the Internet, access that has been limited until now to universities and government research agencies.

"My children just get on it and cruise," said Nancy Peterson, who is seeking investors and subscribers to help raise the $40,000 the association needs.

There are significant differences between SRVnet and commercial services like Compuserve, Prodigy and America OnLine. The people who run commerical services limit a user's exposure to what they want the user to see -- usually things for which they've been paid. The offer hook-ups to the Internet, but that involves a surcharge on top of the base cost, Peterson said.

With SRVnet, a user pays a set amount for a straight pipeline to the Internet. A "gold membership" costs $240 for two years, giving a user four free hours every month. Silver members pay $120 for one year, involving three free hours a month. Bronze members pay $10 a month for two free hours a month. Extra use in all three cases is billed at $3 an hour.

"If we could get 120 gold members and 120 silver members to sign up, we could begin," Peterson said. "The necessary documents have been filed and the equipment is waiting to be ordered."
If the effort falls through, all money will be refunded, Peterson said.

There will be a one-time charge of $29.95 for software, or users may purchase their own.
It's also essential to get a basic computer setup that can process information fairly fast. Any IBM compatible PC should be at least a 386 with Windows software (the programs will also run on Macintosh.) A regular telephone line will work fine, but the modem's capacity should be 9600 bps or more.

A good modem will cost around $150 to $200, Peterson said. PC prices vary and are coming down all the time. "In the next few years, you're going to see more and more people coming online," she added.

Anyone with children should be particularly interested in getting online with SRVnet, since the service will be very similar to the Internet access public schools will be offering. For business people, the Internet offers a competitive edge, both in gathering and putting out information. It's possible to start a bulletin board on the Internet that allows you to get your message out to anyone who has an interest in what you have to offer, Peterson said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Idaho Falls produces edgy people? Believe it

Idaho Falls native Jared Gold, now a fashion designer and creative director at Woodbury University in Los Angeles.
For all that is being written about Millennials, I think it might be Generation X that amazes us most when all is said and done.

Working on a book for Arcadia Publishing, "Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls," I have discovered some extraordinary people born here around 1971. Two stand out in particular, Jared Gold and Darcy Stanger, and it comes as no surprise they were friends who lived four or five houses away from each other on 11th Street.

Gold is a fashion designer in Los Angeles; Dame Darcy (her professional name) is a cartoonist, illustrator, designer, doll maker and musician based in Savannah, Ga. Discovering both of them nearly simultaneously, I wondered how Idaho Falls, routinely dismissed as boring, could have produced such avant garde people.

"Was there something in the water?" I asked Gold in telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. His answer was more interesting. Basically, they were too young to be Baby Boomers but too early for the Internet.

"I ask people whether they had the Internet in high school," he said. "If you didn't, it puts you on the leading edge of Generation X."

Gold occupied himself by silkscreening T-shirts and selling them, publishing an infozine called "Aqualung" (surreptitiously using the copier at Chesbro's, where he worked) and organizing raves in Idaho Falls and Rexburg.

"It gave me a lot of confidence, and when I moved to a bigger city I was ready," he said.

He went to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, and after graduating in 1992 began creating fashion for men, women and children, taking inspiration from antiquated imagery and Victorian sewing details. On television, he appeared as a guest judge on America's Next Top Model in 2006 (an episode that featured his "Roach Brooch" jewelry) and in March 2009 he was a special guest judge on Germany's Next Top Model, hosted by Heidi Klum.
Dame Darcy, born Darcy Meghan Stanger, in mermaid regalia near a replica of H.M.S. Bounty.
On a similar track, Stanger won a scholarship at age 17 to the San Francisco Art Institute. After graduating, she started a alternative comic book, "Meat Cake." She has designed murals and stained glass for celebrities (Courtney Love, Margaret Cho) and done window displays for Forbidden Planet in New York City. For a period, she played banjo and sang Elizabethan murder ballads at the legendary punk club CBGB, to keep people from leaving when the bands were setting up their equipment behind the curtain.

"She has an unadorned style of singing that's really effective, and visually she makes a impression," said her dad, sign painter and bluegrass musician Mike Stanger.

Dame Darcy summed up her Idaho Falls years in an online interview: "(I) spent seventeen years there in an ice cavern, drawing, doing dumb little plays I wrote, and making flip books. Everything I learned to do then, I make money doing now."

Gold said there are other amazing people their age from Idaho Falls, including Natalie Behring, an internationally renowned photographer now based in Portland, Ore.

"We were the children of a generation that kind of realized there was another way other than the Baby Boomer path," he said.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Random Musings: Selfies, old phone exchanges and laughing gas

I went to the dentist this morning and after they put the nitrous mask on my nose and left me alone for a minute or two I did what any 21st century American would do. I pulled my phone out, took a selfie and posted it to Facebook.

"At the dentist, huffing NO2. Hahahahaha!" said the text that ran with the photo. Then, in my gas-addled state, I added the hashtag "#comfort_care_dental," thinking I might get a discount (no dice) but also wanting to show the world I'm in the know when it comes to social media.

The entire staff were greatly amused, but I couldn't believe it doesn't happen all the time. Don't we live in the selfie age?

A few years ago I was playing guitar and singing at local coffee house when a group of teen-agers came in and plopped down on the sofa. For the next 45 minutes, all they did was take pictures of each other with their phones.

Elizabeth Taylor never took a selfie. All you needed to do was call BUtterfield 8.
I can handle being ignored. I don't like it, but it happens all the time. But this was annoying, and I was strongly tempted to razz them from where I was sitting. In the end, I just kept on, but it was my introduction to the selfie mentality.

Have I become like them? Actually, yes. My wife tells me I'm as bad as any kid when it comes to my smart phone -- pulling it out every two minutes, looking at it, ignoring the world around me. It's rude, she says, and she's right. If I have a meeting, I have to leave my phone in the car. I feel kind of like Marlon Brando did when he threw cheeseburgers over the fence trying to convince himself not to eat so much (it didn't work).

Remember when the only phones in your world were the ones at home, at work, and the ones that cost a dime to make a call?

Remember when phone numbers had two letters at the beginning? The prefix to every number in Idaho Falls was JA, for JAckson. "Jackson 3-7393" sounds like a Wilson Pickett song, but it's the number I've had for more than 30 years.

According to the Telephone EXchange Name Project, Blackfoot was SUnset, Rexburg was either ELmwood or ELwood and Rigby was SHerwood. There is a database where you can go to look up any town or city in the U.S.A., which makes me so glad we have the Internet.

Here's the cherry on top: A chart of Ma Bell's officially recommended exchange names. According to it, my smart phone number, 821-1285, should begin with one of the following: TAlbot, TAlmadge, TAylor, VAlley or VAndyke. Even though I like the last one best, I think Taylor rolls off the tongue best. "Hey man, call me at Taylor 1-1285."

I've wandered away from the subject of selfies, but that's OK. The past has so much to give us that's weird and fascinating. Could we marry the conveniences of the present with everything from the past that makes us smile? Or does the past make us smile because it's the past? In 50 years, maybe people will think of selfies as fondly as I do of my old phone number, Olympia 5-9822. I doubt it, but who knows? I don't expect to be around to find out.

Marketing Your Personal Brand: Define, Design and Deliver

Personal branding sounds simple enough, right? If we were to sum it up in the Reader’s Digest version it would be, "define, design and deliver." If you have already defined and designed your personal brand, now it is time to deliver with your launch.  But where do you start?

The first step is to determine who you want your brand to reach.  Is it designed solely for professional purposes?  Or is it designed for personal and professional purposes? (This is what I would recommend.)

Similar to basic marketing campaigns and strategies, the first step is determining who your target market is. The brand launch you create has to encompass how these individuals think, behave and even feel. It’s important to understand at least some basic qualities of your intended market to better reach them.

Regardless of who you are trying to reach, networking is crucial to the success of your personal brand. The age-old principle of "it’s not what you know but who you know" will hold forever true.
But before you start signing yourself up for various networking events, clubs and conferences, keep in mind if you are launching your personal brand you need to identify avenues for networking that fit you. This can be anything from attending events specifically aimed at encouraging networking and building relationships; joining a professional organization; or just volunteering.  It’s never easy to be the new person in a group or setting, but with time and commitment the right relationships can be built and if maintained.

Web presence is also important with personal branding. From social media, blogs and online resumes, it is certain that without a Web presence your personal brand will not succeed. In creating this presence you have to determine what you want the world -- that’s right, the whole world -- to see.

The best way to start this process is to Google yourself and see what is out there about you. You may be surprised how much there may be about you on the Web right now.  I Googled myself and I saw everything from my business to events I have been a part of to volunteer organizations. There were even pictures from my high school reunion -- without me in them.

The point of doing this is that if you are going to decide what you want the world to see you have to determine what it is the world can already see. Then comes the careful balance of how much information is too much information, what is appropriate and inappropriate, and how personal you want to get.  Regardless of what you decide to put out, quality is better than quantity when it comes to content online. 

Although there is no magical formula on how to create the perfect personal marketing/public relations campaign for your personal brand, keep in mind that the definition, design, and launch of your personal brand should always be based on you from start to finish.

Monday, March 10, 2014

MacKenzie River Pizzas opens at Snake River Landing

MacKenzie River Pizza franchisee Colin Higgins, at the benefit Saturday night for Development Workshop. The Idaho Falls restaurant, at Snake River Landing, officially opens today. (Photo by Melissa Bristol)
After a soft opening Saturday night, with a share of the profits going to Development Workshop, MacKenzie River Pizza, 1490 Milligan Road, is officially open today.

This is the 20th restaurant for the Montana-based chain, which began in Bozeman in 1993, and the third in Idaho (Pocatello and Couer d'Alene are the others). It is also the second owned by Colin Higgins of Butte, one of the chain's first franchisees.

Higgins said he is impressed by the reception MacKenzie River has gotten in Idaho Falls. "We had more than 2,000 Facebook likes before we opened our doors," he said. "People are great. People love to eat here."

While the Idaho Falls restaurant retains the "A River Runs Through It" decor that the chain is known for, it has some variations in the menu and layout. "It's a continually evolving brand," Higgins said.

For a look at the menu, click here. The restaurant is managed by Pat O'Rourke. For more information, call (208) 932-2987

Self-serve pet spa opens in Idaho Falls

Tina Dixon, owner of Splash Self-Serve Pet Spa
Splash Self-Serve Pet Spa, 333 W. Broadway, has a special offer going on guaranteed to give you paws: Adopt a dog or cat from the shelter and you have 30 days to bring it in for a free wash.

Owner Tina Dixon said she set the deal up so people could see what she has to offer. Eight pet owners (the split was seven dogs and one cat) took advantage of it Saturday at Splash's grand opening.

When she moved to Idaho Falls last year from Bakersfield, Calif., Dixon knew she wanted to open a pet spa. She'd taken her blue heeler/Rottweiler mix to one and found it way more convenient than trying to lift him in and out of her bathtub.

She also knew she wanted to be downtown, near the Greenbelt and farmer's market.

Located between Chesbro's and Dave's Bike Shop, Splash has custom-built tubs that are big enough for large breeds but can be converted to handle little critters as well, with water temperatures regulated. For $15, you get access, shampoo, towels, ear wipes and a blow dryer.

Dixon said she is gradually expanding the line of toys, food and accessories for sale in the shop. She and her friend David Cooper are adamant about everything in the shop being made in the United States, and if it's made locally that's even better.

For more information, call (208) 881-1021 or visit their Facebook page.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Some insights into the electronic facets of car repair

The bay at C&S Auto Repair, 2435 East Iona Road
I had an interesting visit recently with Chris Neal of C&S Auto Repair, where I have taken my car for years (and which, for the sake of full disclosure, is an advertiser on BizMojo Idaho.) It used to be that when you noticed a belt squeaking it was time to get busy with a socket wrench, but these days auto maintenance is more about keeping up with the manufacturer's latest technical service bulletins and flashes.

Neal said his shop on Iona Road has finally gotten everything they need to do high-end diagnostics on GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles. While they can't do factory warranty work, he and his four mechanics can now do pretty much everything else.

In addition to having the right equipment, an independent repair shop must subscribe to the bulletins and receiving the flash codes that manufacturers send out.

For example, GMC became aware of an issue with the air conditioning units in its SUVs and trucks. In the winter, when people weren't using AC, oil would pool in the bottom of the unit. Although an owner can take care of this by turning on the AC once a week, not everyone is going to remember.

So GM sent a flash code that instructs the computer to turn on the unit automatically when it hasn't cycled for a certain period. "From the manufacturer's standpoint, it's getting the vehicle to take care of itself," Neal said.

Another example is the new high-beam headlights,which are too bright for oncoming vehicles. Rather than recalling the bulbs, a flash allows technicians to set the high beams to a microsecond on-off pulse, cutting the brightness without having to replace the bulb.

Clark honored at Boise business women's banquet

Pam Clark

Pam Clark of Zions Bank was among 50 women honored Feb. 18 by the Idaho Business Review at its annual Idaho Business Women of the Year banquet.

Clark, vice president and executive banking team leader, joined Zions in 2006, and has held a variety of positions in commercial lending and executive banking. A dedicated volunteer, she serves as vice chairwoman of the Idaho Falls Arts Council board of directors. She also has been involved in Zions Bank's Mentor Program, designed to support future leaders by providing learning, shadowing and skill building opportunities as employees polish work to strengthen their careers.

Clark lives in Swan Valley with her husband, Dave, and enjoys spending time with her two children and four grandchildren.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Walgreen's files final building plans with city of I.F.

The layout of the new Walgreen's store being built this year on Idaho Falls' west side.
Walgreen's has its building plans filed at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department for the store it plans to build at 635 Skyline Drive.

John Walker, owner of Walker's, said the property owner, Kingston Properties, has told them they have until April 30 to clear out, with demolition to begin the following day. He said the plan is for them to move to a strip mall Kingston is building to the east on Broadway, between Los Albertos and Arby's.

The new Walgreen's, Store No. 15973, according to the plans filed with the building office, will be 14,490 square feet, with most of the room taken up with a general sales area of 10,620 square feet and a 1,220-square-foot pharmacy. Walgreen's has been doing business on Idaho Falls' west side for years in the old Westgate Drug building. The new store will be much like the two it has in Idaho Falls and the one in Ammon.

Blog comments leave me scratching my head

Every blogger likes to get comments, right? It means people are reading the posts and engaging with the person responsible for them.

Not so fast. Although my stats from Blogspot say I've gotten 353 comments, it would take a careful count to find out how many are acutally related to the items I post. More and more seem to be like these:
I can't understand why these are appearing, but I'm sure there are some of you out there who can enlighten me. Are these people posting to my site in hopes of boosting their own visibility online? Is this what people engaged in search engine optimization do for their clients? Are these comments being generated by people at all? And what makes them want to glom onto my humble, hyper-local contribution to the new age of communications?

It's a strange world we live in. This week, I've been substitute teaching a class at Idaho Falls High School, where Rob Morris, a teacher's teacher if there ever was one, flattered me by asking me to do four periods on newswriting while he was bringing his mother back from Oregon to live here.

I concocted a pageful of notes for a not-entirely routine police story: 11-year-old girl deters would-be burglar by whacking his hand with a baseball bat; suspect later arrested while seeking treatment at emergency room.

I wrote a standard news lede, the kind I would have written in 1984, when I was doing cops and courts for the Post Register. The verdict? Boring. "This is why I don't read newspapers," said one of the students, a freshman girl.

Before the period ended, I told them their homework was to write a lead and two or three paragraphs. More than a few of them groaned. Maybe I should have asked them how they would tell their friends about this on Facebook.

In the meantime, anyone who can enlighten me on the gobbledygook I'm getting on this blog, I'd appreciate it.






Monday, March 3, 2014

What's your story? Creating 'You' as a brand

A few months ago I was in a meeting with a client discussing some employee issues they were having. The president of the company was having a hard time with some of the newer hair styling trends, especially the dyed hot pink strips of hair one of his female employees had.

This particular company is a well established company in a service related industry. and this employee was responsible for interfacing with the general public and clients.

In our conversation the president said,  “To some people, Monica, your nails could be concerning and a little 'out there.'” This was during football season, and because I have a strong sense of pride in my alma mater, Boise State, every football season, from August through December, my nails are a combination of royal blue and orange. I will admit that I’ve had a number of comments over the years on my nails during football season, but this one will definitely be remembered.

Like the employee with the dyed pink hair and me with my orange and blue nails, more and more people are trying to create personal brands that merge with their professional lives. Before we jump head on how to create a personal brand, I think it’s important to understand what a personal brand is and why it is important.

A personal brand is what you want others to know about you and how others “see” you.  It relates closely to your reputation – which is the foundation of your personal brand. Your personal brand is as unique to you as corporate brands are to companies like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and others. While there may be individuals we are similar to, our personal brands are for individuality.

We briefly touched in last week’s feature on why personal brands are important, but there’s much more to possibly landing a job after you have been invited to an interview. A well created and maintained personal brand can affect every area of your life. It can travel with you from job to job and beyond the workplace to volunteer commitments and work in the community. Or if you get the crazy idea like me one day to start your own business, personal brands can be the difference between being a successful entrepreneur or one that is scavenging the streets for any business that comes their way.

Creating a personal brand isn’t easy, though. It takes time and an ongoing commitment. To start creating the personal brand you want others to “see” you have to understand who you are first. Who you are is a combination of the roles we hold – for me I am a Christian, wife – (a veteran’s wife, I might add), mother, daughter, friend, college graduate, business owner, and board member, just to name a few. But my roles don’t solely define who I am – my personality, education, the way I dress, my body language, and life experiences also are major contributing factors as well.  Once you have taken the time to clearly analyze who it is you are, think about who and what it is that you want others to see you as.

How would you want them to describe you? What value to you bring that differentiates you from others?  These are important questions to ask from the beginning to create your personal brand. Keep in mind this is a continual process and rebranding yourself is just as important as the initial creation.

Once you have established what your brand is and what you want it to be, you have to launch your brand. A carefully planned and executed launch is just as important as a carefully crafted personal brand.  Next week’s feature will be the final feature on personal branding, and we’ll take a look at “launching” the new you.

INL honors researchers, inventors for achievements in 2013

A.J. "Gus" Caffrey
The Idaho National Laboratory honored more than 100 researchers and inventors Friday night at its annual recognition event, held this year at the Energy Innovation Laboratory in Idaho Falls.

This was the 18th such reception, and honored the lab's achievements in 2013, including the receipt of 39 new patents, the application for 21 new patents and the submission of 32 new inventions for evaluation. The work that goes on at the lab may be used by U.S. government agencies and also licensed for commercialization.

This year's honorees included:
  • Joshua Daw for Exceptional Engineering Achievement,
  • Aaron Wilson for Early Career Exceptional Achievement,
  • Douglas Porter for Individual Lifetime Achievement in Science and Technology
  • A.J. "Gus" Caffrey, Inventor of the Year
  • Albert Smith, Technician of the Year
INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's 10 multi-program national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE's strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation's leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.