Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DOE cleanup contractors receive six-month extensions

A scene from inside the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, where transuranic legacy waste is characterized and readied for disposal.
The two contractors taking care of waste cleanup at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho site got six-month extensions this week, amounting to $179 million in work.

Idaho Treatment Group (ITG), which is running the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, and CH2M-WG Idaho (CWI), which is running the Idaho Cleanup Project, will both remain on the job while DOE moves toward awarding and transitioning to a new ICP Core contract. Both of their contracts had been scheduled to end today. The extension will allow cleanup to continue without interruption as DOE evaluates bid packages for a new cleanup contract.

The CWI contract extension is valued at approximately $114 million, while the ITG extension is valued at approximately $65 million. CWI was first awarded the ICP contract in March 2005, while ITG received the Mixed Waste contract in October 2011.

Under its contract, CWI is responsible for:

  • Treatment and disposal of radioactive waste
  • Retrieval, disposal and other remediation related to buried waste
  • Safe management of spent nuclear fuel
  • Disposition of nuclear materials
  • Environmental remediation activities
  • Sodium bearing waste processing activities

ITG’s contract dictates that it will safely and compliantly:

  • Characterize, certify, package and store transuranic waste offsite disposal
  • Disposition mixed low-level waste at an appropriate treatment and/or disposal facility
  • Retrieve stored waste from the Transuranic Storage Area-Retrieval Enclosure.
  • Complete upgrades to the Waste Treatment Facility

Monday, September 28, 2015

DOE offers help to small businesses developing clean energy products

Small businesses developing clean energy technologies are now able to compete for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is offering $20 million in vouchers to help clean-energy entrepreneurs and small businesses get their products to market.

Idaho National Laboratory has partnered with Ames and Oak Ridge national laboratories to assist with outreach, merit reviews and selection of proposals. The INL-Ames-Oak Ridge team was recently selected as one of five pilot teams implementing the Small Business Voucher Pilot Program, which is part of EERE's Lab Impact Initiative. The team has jointly received the largest of the five awards, which together total $20 million.

The vouchers are intended to help U.S.-based and U.S.-owned small businesses that are developing clean-energy technologies in advanced manufacturing, buildings, vehicles, wind, water, bio-energy, fuel cells, geothermal and solar.

EERE released the first call for small business requests for assistance today. More information – including how to submit applications online – is at www.sbv.org.

Vouchers of $50,000 to $300,000 per small business will be awarded to initiate collaborative research projects, provide technical assistance and facilitate third-party validation. INL can provide unique materials, prototyping, technology testing and validation, engineering designs, and scale-up of samples. The selected businesses must provide 20 percent matching funds or in-kind services.

Three cycles of competitions will be offered to small businesses through 2016, and DOE estimates more than 100 businesses will receive funds.

Other labs participating in the pilot program are National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Idaho Falls council names new municipal services director

Pamela Alexander
The Idaho Falls City Council has named a new municipal services director, Pamela Alexander of Mesa, Ariz., who will take the job Nov. 2.

Alexander succeeds Craig Rockwood, who is retiring after working for the city  29 years. The appointment was made at Thursday night’s City Council meeting and follows a search process that involved five finalists.

Alexander’s annual salary in her new position will be $110,000.

Alexander is a certified public manager who received her certificate from Arizona State University in 2006. She currently works as a senior fiscal analyst for the city of Mesa’s Development and Sustainability Department, a position she has held since 2013. Prior to that, she worked as budget coordinator for the city of Mesa Police Dept., where she managed a $150 million budget, coordinated capital improvement programs, managed purchasing functions and developed financial analysis and forecasting of operational funds. From 2007 to 2010, she worked as a budget coordinator for the city of Mesa, and was charged with coordinating the city’s five-year capital
improvement program of over $1 billion.

Idaho Falls’ selection committee consisted of city staff, department directors and council members, as well as a finance executive from a local business and a finance director from a neighboring city.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Salon h.Davis holding annual charity cut-a-thon

Salon h.davis, 2450 E. 25th St., Suite B, is holding its annual charity cut-a-thon Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The fund-raiser will feature $10 haircuts and the opportunity to receive a blow dry and style for an additional $5. All payments for services will be donated directly to the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen.

“Individuals and families of all backgrounds rely on the hot meal that the Soup Kitchen provides year-round,” salon owner Niki Young said. “I love how the organization treats those they help with dignity, and we want to do our part to make sure that this valuable organization has the food and supplies to help those in need.”

Anyone interest in participating but unable to attend the event can make a donation during regular business hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 523-1208 or visit www.salonhdavis.com.

DB's getting makeover, new name

Here's the scene at DB's one night in 2014. With the remodel, the wood paneling is gone, the stage is bigger and the drum riser is higher.
A fixture on First Street for more than 30 years, DB's Steakhouse is getting a makeover and a new name.

Shawn Barry, who is leasing the property, said he plans to rename the establishment The Falls and give it more of a nightclub atmosphere. The stage has been expanded and remodeled, with a taller drum riser. The walls have been painted black, and there will be less of a rustic feel overall.

Barry won't be presenting acts himself, but working instead with outfits like Metal Shield Promotions, which is putting on a show Oct. 3. The bill features Doyle, the guitarist from the horror punk band The Misfits, as well as The Family Run, Hatchet and Gutter and the Onslaught. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, and available in Idaho Falls at Shadow Domain. Online, they can be bought at www.metalshieldpromotions.com.

Old-timers know DB's was originally called Debbie's Brother, and owned by Wes and Roxanne Smith (who now run, respectively, The Blue Wave and the North Hi-Way Cafe). These were the legendary days of "Power Hour." An expansion took place in the '90, with a stage and dance floor added.

Although the grill will remain front-and-center at the bar, Barry said he is unsure what he wants to do about food at the new establishment. To check on events that are coming up, follow this link: DB's events.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rush's Kitchen Supply has new manager

Ashley Hargrove
Going from a corporate atmosphere to small business has required Ashley Hargrove to make some adjustments, but the new manager of 105-year-old Rush’s Kitchen Supply is coming around — and learning a lot about cooking in the bargain.

A merchandising manager for Old Navy in Seattle for six years, Hargrove moved to Idaho Falls in May to manage the Lindsay Boulevard business. At Old Navy, any observation or comment went up the chain of command. At Rush’s, she answers directly to the owner, Alex Constantino, who is married to her aunt Mary Constantino.

She has had to learn about a whole new line of products, including hand-held juicers in three sizes: orange, lemon and lime. “Anything you might need to do in the kitchen, there’s a gadget for it,” she said. “I never realized there was something you could use to pit a jalapeño instead of using a knife.”

Rush’s carries such well-known brands as Kitchenaid, Le Creuset and All Clad, and in many cases there is a difference between commercial grade cookware and what is found in retail stores. While the store’s customer base has been more tilted toward commercial customers, Hargrove said they hope to see more of a 50-50 split between that and everyday cooks.

Then there are the classes. “Think Like a Chef 1,” focusing on sautéing, knife skills and stovetop sauces, began Sept. 12. Part 2, , which covers making chicken stock (“We will teach you to debone a chicken …”) begins Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. For more information, call 523-4818 or visit the Web page, rushskitchen.com.

A “military brat” before she settled in Seattle, Hargrove said she has been getting used to Idaho Falls. “I’m enjoying the weather, and the people are very nice,” she said.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Distinguished Under 40 luncheon set Sept. 29

Jeanette Bennett of Salt Lake City will be the keynote speaker at the Distinguished Under 40 luncheon Sept. 29 at the Residence Inn.
The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network is holding its 2015 Distinguished Under 40 luncheon Sept. 29.

Ten recipients will be presented with awards. The keynote speaker will be Jeanette Bennett, an Idaho Falls native and owner of Bennett Communications of Salt Lake City.

The event will begin at noon at the Residence Inn.

Individual tickets ($20 for chamber members, $25 for non-members) and full table registrations are available for purchase under the events tab at idahofallschamber.com. The registration deadline is Sept. 25.

This year’s honorees include:

Andy Crossman, program director, Royal Journeys LLC
Eric Liester, loan officer, Bank of Idaho
Brandi Newton, executive director, Idaho Falls Arts Council
Brian D. Turville, counselor, Free Spirit Counseling and Consulting, LLC
Jared Duncan, branch manager, Idaho Falls/BMG Rentals
Nick Burrows, senior services director, EICAP and Hospice of Eastern Idaho
Shawn William Allred, mechanical engineer, Idaho National Laboratory
Aaron D. Wilson, research scientist, Idaho National Laboratory
Dakri Bernard-Gilstrap, owner/realtor, Dakri Bernard Realty Group
Travis Snowder, president/CEO, Qal-Tek Associates

The event is sponsored by East Idaho Business, Willowtree Gallery, Residence Inn, and IF Signature Party Rental.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Utah Avenue being extended to Pioneer Road

Here's a map to explain what's going on south of Pancheri Drive.
You may have noticed a lot of road construction south of Pancheri Drive on Utah Avenue. That is because the city of Idaho Falls is building a road connecting Utah Avenue to Pioneer Road and “T” intersection that will connect those two roads to Snake River Parkway.

The intersection will be right where Utah Avenue (formerly Crane Drive, which is no more) jogs left to become Snake River Parkway. City Planner Brad Cramer said they plan to have the asphalt laid before the hot mix plants shut down for the winter. Curb and gutter work will go on during the winter and landscaping will take place in the spring.

All this work is taking place on land in urban renewal districts, which means the money collected from taxes on new building can be put back into the local infrastructure. The city established the 55-acre Eagle Ridge Urban Renewal District last December after the $3.5 million Guns and Gear opened its doors. Owners 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 this provided the impetus for the city to establish a district that allows 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. Most of the development we’ve seen along the river since the Shilo Inn was built in 1988 — Snake River Landing, Taylor Crossing on the River, Candlewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, etc. — has been made possible by tax increment financing. The land would be too expensive to improve otherwise.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hart’s Tux and Gown moving to West Broadway

That's me on the left, next to Local News 8's Karole Honas, at the Symphony concert Saturday evening. 
I would like to thank Hart’s Tux and Gown for the use of a white dinner jacket Saturday night, when I was the narrator for the Idaho Falls Symphony’s concert in Freeman Park. This was an IF 150 event and fun for everyone involved — City Councilman Ed Marohn, who played the triangle during the “William Tell Overture” and KIFI’s Karole Honas, who guest-conducted John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Maestro Thomas Heuser wrote the narration based on my book, “Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls.” It was both a pleasure and honor to be involved.

I actually own a tuxedo, inherited from my late father, David Menser, and my paisley suspenders came courtesy of my late grandfather Henry Evans. But a white dinner jacket is still something lack, and Hart’s was gracious enough to let me have one for the evening at no charge. How civic-minded is that?

Speaking of Hart’s Tux and Gown, once the September rush of rentals is over, the shop will be moving to 630 W. Broadway, where the Candy Junction store was. Some remodeling needs to be done and this would not have been a good month to move anyway, said store manager Diane Chiles. Skyline and Hillcrest had their homecoming dances this past weekend, Shelley and Firth’s are next weekend and Idaho Falls and Bonneville’s are at the end of the month, so Chiles and her crew have their hands full.

Once October comes, they will be moving to a location with a lot more space and better parking. “We’re very excited about this and want to get the word out,” Chiles said.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Opera Elect to perform Saturday night at The Cellar

Zach Buker and Jordan Michelle Bowman, Opera Elect, will be performing at The Cellar on Saturday night. Showtime is a 7 p.m. There is no cover charge.
Opera Elect, a pair of youngsters from the Treasure Valley, will be performing Saturday night at The Cellar, at Ammon Road and 17th Street.

Jordan Michelle Bowman and Zach Buker say they paired up out of necessity. "We want to perform, but the opportunities to do so are limited, especially for people as young as we are," said Bowman. "So we thought, well, let’s create our own opportunities."

The two aim to make classical music accessible and fresh for everyone, help other young artists and commission works by young local artists while singing works from the classical repertoire as well. They have done opera parties throughout the Northwest.

Their performance at The Cellar will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. There is no cover charge.

Bowman studied music at The College of Idaho under Mari Jo Tynon and Brent Wells. In those four years she starred as Olympia in “The Tales of Hoffmann,” Semele in “Semele,” Lucy in “The Telephone” and The Queen of the Night in “The Magic Flute.” She sang in the college’s choirs and also gave many solo performances with the college’s orchestra, Sinfonia, and The Sawtooth Cello Choir. Buker also studied vocal performance at The College of Idaho and is now pursuing a graduate degree in opera studies at the University of Washington.

For more information, visit their Web site, operaelect.org.  In the meantime,  here is a video from earlier this summer of them singing Mozart atop the Big Idaho Potato.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

An open letter from the 'Gig Economy'

"What am I taking home today, $50 or $65?"
As a musician, I know what it’s like to land a gig. I also know what most gigs pay, which is why when I hear about the “gig economy” I feel no small amount of trepidation.

If this is the first time you’ve seen the term, rest assured that it won’t be the last. Go ahead and Google it. In the gig economy, your time is your own.

Remember the days when people found jobs that paid a fixed salary every month, allowed them to take paid holidays and formed the basis for planning a stable future?

How quaint! How 20th century!

My late father worked for the state of Delaware as a social studies teacher from 1956 to 1988. My late father-in-law worked for Westinghouse from 1948 to 1990. Both enjoyed working for employers that valued them, paid them steady if not lavish wages, offered solid retirement programs and medical benefits that would keep them from the poorhouse if they or members of their families got hurt or sick. Between the two of them, they put seven kids through college. My dad thought it would be good for me to take out a student loan my senior year. It would teach me responsibility and help me build credit. It was for $1,000.

I entered the work force in January 1979 with a baby boomer set of assumptions, i.e. that my career would follow a trajectory similar to my father’s. Instead of teaching, I chose newspapers. I liked to write, and what could be more solid than the newspaper industry?

Today, I have a gig writing my blog, BizMojo Idaho. I have a gig as a freelance writer. I have a gig as a substitute teacher. I peddle my book, “Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls.” I dabble in guitar lessons and play in a band called Happyville.

There are some real advantages to the gig economy. I get to work when I want and I don’t have to deal with a boss I never can seem to please for more than a couple of days in a row.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing,” I told a friend last spring. I love the connection with the community that my writing affords me. I enjoy getting to know young people through substitute teaching, a job I would recommend to anyone who wants a better understanding of the challenges that teachers face (especially Idaho state legislators, who ought to be required to do it for a week before they vote on any education bills.)

Last of all there’s music. Playing in my band I’m living the dream I had as a kid. My mom and dad told me I’d never make a living at it. But it’s part of my living now. We actually made a four-song CD three years ago and it's on iTunes. The only money I have seen is the cash people have handed me for copies I have burned on my computer. The iTunes money, negligible as I'm sure it is, might as well be with old, dead Steve Jobs.

And that's the gig economy for you -- a little bit here and a little bit there, but not a lot from any one source. After I tell people how much I’m enjoying myself, I add, “I’m lucky to have a wife with a full-time job.”

Are we returning to the economy like the one Adam Smith described more than 200 years ago in his book An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations? Smith wrote about a genuine market economy of individuals engaging in commerce with one another. Plenty of Americans swear by it, especially in this neck of the woods.

The thing is, the ink was hardly dry on Smith’s pages before mass production and distribution gave us modern corporations. The tradesmen of Smith’s day and age gave way to the salaried employees of the 20th century.

Ah, but we’ve been told corporations are people, too, haven’t we?

On a good day, being your own boss is empowering. You can achieve a work-life balance that allows you to take your kids to soccer practice or piano lessons without having to apologize to a scowling overseer.

On the other hand, there’s something reassuring about a steady paycheck, fixed work hours and company-provided benefits. It’s harder to plan your life long term when you don’t know how much money you’re going to be making next year.

Which reminds me. I’ve got to tell YourHealthIdaho how much I anticipate making in 2016. I’ll do it right after I tune my guitar. And bill my BizMojo advertisers. And check SubFinder to see if there’s a teaching job open.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bonneville County home sales up dramatically so far this year

In the four years since I started BizMojo Idaho (my first post was Sept. 5, 2011)  I have routinely asked my friends in real estate how the market is. The answer has almost been "good" or "better." And while there has always been a temptation to dismiss this as what one might expect -- a positive attitude is essential for sales, after all -- looking at the numbers tells a compelling story.

As far as homes sales in Bonneville County go, numbers on the Snake River Multiple Listing Service Web page show the first seven months of this year were the best we have seen since 2007, the year before everything went in the tank. The number of homes sold, 993 is the best since '07, when 1,043 homes were sold between Jan. 1 and July 31. Homes were selling as fast this year as they were in 2007, which was, I hasten to remind you, a year in which anyone with a pulse could get a home loan, and probably more than they could afford, since that was the game. The easy credit of eight or nine years ago would be one explanation for the higher median prices we see as we crunch the numbers.

As for the chorus of "It's getting better all the time," it's pretty obvious that in 2011 things couldn't have been much worse. Home sales were down nearly 46 percent, prices were bottoming out and the average sale was taking close to four months. The first half of 2012 wasn't much better more homes sold, albeit at the same slow pace.

In all, if agents were happy last year with the way things were trending, they ought to be ecstatic now. Sales in the first seven months of 2015 were up 37 percent over 2014 and homes were selling on average a month faster.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Great Clips moving into Sandcreek Commons retail center

An artist's rendering of the retail center at Sandcreek Commons.
After last week’s big news about Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen coming to Sandcreek Commons, I’ve been eager to check in with the city of Ammon to find out what else may be shaking.

After all, they have a retail center with spaces for 15 businesses that is coming along very quickly. So far, there is one business committed to the center, Great Clips.

I realize this is hardly Popeyes or Panera Bread-level excitement, but there you have it. By way of consolation, let me tantalize you with the conversation I had with Greg McBride, Ammon’s plumbing and mechanical inspector, who said he has been getting a number of calls about ventilation hoods and grease interceptors. “They never say who they are, but from the questions they’re asking I’m thinking they’re small restaurants,” he said.

If you’re interested, Kohl’s and Texas Roadhouse have both filed plans for remodeling. Otherwise, on to Idaho Falls, where Java Express is planning a new building at the corner of St. Clair and Woodruff. Java has had a small drive-thru presence in this location for years. The plans at the Idaho Falls Building Department office show a 40.5-by-13.5-foot building with drive-thru lane, landscaping, parking and a patio.

Java Espress is owned by Shane Murphy, who has been in the coffee-serving business for 23 years. Murphy opened Kool Beanz in Snake River Landing in May, and told me then he toyed with the idea of naming it Java Express but then thought that might be confusing to people.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Flowers Power -- Idaho Falls utility chief to speak Thursday

Jackie Flowers
The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is featuring Idaho Falls Power Director Jackie Flowers as its speaker Thursday afternoon as part of its CEO Speaker series.

The free program will be from 3 to 4 p.m. at the ARTitorium on Broadway.

Flowers was hired to head the utility in 2006.

At 115 years, Idaho Falls Power is one of the oldest public power generators in the United States, and it is Idaho’s largest publicly held utility. Idaho Falls Power boasts some of the lowest utility rates in the country — less than half the national average for residential power. It is also unique in that more than 95 percent of its energy comes from carbon-free energy sources, predominantly hydroelectric power.

Flowers said she saw several challenges when she came to Idaho Falls from Sheridan, Wyo. Although she was a licensed civil engineer with infra-
structure experience in dams and municipal public works, she had never managed an electrical utility.

Her first day on the job, as she prepared to meet her staff, then Mayor Jared Fuhriman handed her the massive set of keys to all the facilities and said, “You know you are going to have to earn their respect. How are you going to walk in there and introduce yourself?” Flower replied, “Doughnuts will be involved.”

Since then, she has distinguished herself in her industry, serving on the board of directors for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), which is made up of utilities from eight western states, as well as on several other industry organizations. She regularly speaks on energy issues and has been asked numerous times to speak about her position as one of few female utility executives in the country.

Asked about the challenges she may have faced being a female in such a male dominated industry, she said, “It isn’t really something that I have given much thought to in the past. In engineering school the ratio was about 4 to 1 male to female. There have only been a couple of times in my career where the fact that I am a woman has really stood out.”