Thursday, March 31, 2016

Early 2016 housing stats show Bonneville County rebound

Source: Snake River Multiple Listing Service
In the absence of anything earth-shattering along the lines of Costco, Dunkin’ Donuts or In-N-Out Burger, it’s always a good time to crunch some numbers in order to provide some news for the day.

A statistician I am not, but I do like looking at the housing market numbers from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service to see what is going on locally.

Today’s drill-down was to look at stats from January and February over the past 10 years. It’s typically not a great time of year for home sales, but what I found interesting was that the number of homes sold (259) was the highest since the first two months of 2007 (242). Things had been climbing back since 2012, but the 37.8 percent spike from 2015 to this year represented a development worth noticing.

If I were to guess at what might be driving this, I would point to Fluor Idaho, which is taking over the Idaho Cleanup Project at the beginning of June and has opened a new office on Lindsay Boulevard.

The other thing to note is that the median price has bounced back. In the first two months of 2007 it was $146,700 and in 2016 it was $149,000, up sharply from 2015.

This tracks pretty closely with the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s HPI Calculator, a tool I never get tired of using. A home bought for $146,000 in the last quarter of 2006 would have an estimated value of $147,161 in the last quarter of 2015. All in all, housing prices seem to be back where they were before they peaked in 2008 then tanked.
If you bought a home in the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area for $146,000 at the end of 2006 this is the line chart for the estimated value through Q4 2015. (Source Federal Housing Finance Agency)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Museum director leaves ambitious plan in place

An artist's rendering of the Museum of Idaho. At right is the old Carnegie Library, which opened 100 years ago this Thursday. 
As he steps down from the Museum of Idaho to turn his focus to the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, executive director David Pennock is hoping to see his vision live on.

Although the museum opened in 2003, Pennock has been involved since 1999. Since 2012, when the Margaret and Wendell Petty family contributed $1 million, one main focus has been on raising funds for an expansion that will allow the museum to stay open year round.

So far, the museum has raised $2.4 million toward a $3 million construction goal and $1.8 million for a $3 million endowment.

Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie Library, now part of the Museum of Idaho. The library was built after the Village Improvement Society and Round Table Club applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant to help them build a permanent center for learning and enlightenment. Considering everything that’s happened, this was a gift that continues to give.

After the city built its new library in the mid-1970s, the old library was taken over by the Bonneville County Historical Society and turned into a home for its archives and artifacts. This was frequently a touch-­and-go proposition, especially one winter when the pipes froze and flooded a large section of the building.

The historical landmark finally got a new lease on life when hometown philanthropist Greg Carr helped put up money to make the Museum of Idaho possible. This involved buying the old Carnegie Library and the Masonic building next door, extensive remodeling and building the exhibition space between the two.

As he leaves — Friday is his last day — Pennock and the board have envisioned a 17,000-­square-­foot exhibition hall directly north of the existing museum complex, including 10,000 continuous square feet of exhibition space. This will allow the museum to stay open year-­round, also for its 14-­foot­-tall Columbian mammoth to be taken out from under a tarp and put on permanent display.

Plans for a dedicated loading facility have been on the books since the museum opened. Without it, the space limitations have dictated that the must be closed when exhibits are being changed. This takes about two months out of the year, Pennock said. The Museum of Idaho has about 104,000 visitors a year.

For temporary exhibits, the plan is for about 8,000 square feet in the old Masonic Lodge section. When the expansion is complete, the existing Carnegie Library­/Masonic Temple structure will be dedicated to the permanent Idaho exhibit, tripling the available space.

The plan also includes moisture and temperature control systems and efficient loading facilities.

Advanced Ceramic Fibers receives SBIR award

The United States electrical power grid is aging. There are 200,000 miles of high­-voltage transmission lines that have been in service for more than 50 years and will need to be replaced.

By offering a self­-supporting composite conductor cable design, Advanced Ceramic Fibers is hoping that its innovation will have significant impact on the country’s power grid.

Located in the Idaho Innovation Center on North Yellowstone Highway, the company has received a $150,000 Phase I SBIR award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The objectives of this project will be to determine the feasibility of enhancing the thermal and electrical conductivity of commercial metals for improved energy efficiencies. ACF’s unique “Fi­-Bar“ fiber, integrated into conductor wire, creates a metal­-matrix composite that reduces the weight of the wire while enhancing the thermal and electrical conductivity.

The project — “Reinforced Commercial Metals for Enhanced Electrical and Thermal Conductivity” — started in February and is scheduled to be finished in November this year. The company’s partners include ECK Industries, Inc., an aluminum casting company, and Future Science and Technology, which provides extrusion and material testing services.

ACF received letters of interest from the Bonneville Power Administration , Electric Power Research Institute, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Innovation Center has made available to ACF its fiber conversion production system and business offices.

For more information, the company’s Web site is

Monday, March 28, 2016

EITC Foundation announces annual awards

The Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation announced its annual awards today, recognizing a contributor, corporate partner, outstanding faculty and staff.

  • Contributor of the Year: Roger and Pamela Mayes
  • Corporate Partner of the Year: Ball Ventures, LLC
  • Richard and Lila Jordan Outstanding Faculty of the Year: Traci Harbert, legal technologies faculty
  • Outstanding Staff of the Year Award: Melody Clegg, adult basic education division manager 

All award recipients will be featured in a featured article in INVEST magazine (a Foundation publication), a photo displayed on the EITC campus and public recognition at the EITC Scholarship Ceremony, April 13 at 7 p.m. at the Shilo Inn. RSVP’s are required for this event.

The recipients are being recognized for their support of education, college initiatives and service to community.

For more information, call (208) 535-5398 or email

Friday, March 25, 2016

Idaho Central tops credit union rankings

Chubbuck-based Idaho Central Credit Union took first place for the fourth straight year in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s ranking of 2015’s 50 best-performing credit unions.

It placed ahead of Lake Michigan Credit Union, Grand Rapids, Mich., and University of Iowa Community Credit Union, North Liberty, Iowa, and was the only Idaho credit union to make the list.

S&P Capital IQ and SNL Financial, S&P Global Market Intelligence ranked the best-performing credit unions using five core financial performance metrics: member growth, net charge-offs as a percentage of average loans, efficiency ratio, asset quality and market growth. To qualify for this ranking, a credit union had to report more than $500 million in total assets and a net worth ratio of at least 7 percent as of Dec. 31, 2015. Based on these two criteria, there were 488 credit unions that qualified for this analysis.

ICCU has three branches in Idaho Falls, at 169 Houston Circle, 240 N. 25th East (Hitt Road and First Street) and 3330 S. 15 East (Sunnyside Road and St. Clair Road).

Looking Back | March 25, 2016

Note: Looking Back appears in the Post Register every Thursday.

100 years ago
The New Sweden Irrigation District was offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the capture of two men suspected of breaking into the bunkhouse March 24-25, 1916, and killing Wilbur Breckenridge, the district foreman. Idaho Gov. Moses Alexander said the state would pay $250 for each man as well.

According to the Idaho Register, two masked men entered the bunkhouse of the district ranch, 2 1/2 miles west of Idaho Falls, bound and gagged the four men they found there and ransacked the room. One victim, Dan Evans, first thought it was a neighborhood joke and didn't raise his hands, prompting one of the robbers to hit him over the head with his gun and the other one to shoot him, the bullet cutting a deep gash in his scalp and knocking him unconscious.

A few minutes after the suspects left the bunkhouse the men inside heard a gunshot. When they worked themselves out of their ropes and went outside, they found Breckenridge, who had been shot in the face at close range.

Police said they had good descriptions of the men and believed they were familiar with the area. They said they thought Breckenridge might have been killed because he recognized them.

"The murder of Breckenridge is a crime so revolting, an act so unnecessary, so cold-blooded and so cruel that the whole community is deeply stirred," the newspaper said.

75 years ago
Idaho Falls Mayor E.W. Fanning announced this week in 1941 that he intended to run for mayor as the People's Party candidate in the April 22 municipal election. Fanning had become mayor when Chase Clark resigned to become Governor of Idaho.
Fanning said he intended to keep the city active in partnership with the federal government, encourage the development of new industries and continue with electrical power projects.

50 years ago
The Vietnam War made its presence known this week with a report of the combat death of Staff Sgt. Lester George Michaels, 36, of Blackfoot.

A Korean War veteran who had been wounded there, Michaels had been in Vietnam only a month when his wife, Wanda, received word of his death, which occurred March 22, 1966.

A member of the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Marine Division, he was the first serviceman from Blackfoot killed in Vietnam and the fourth from the Upper Snake River Valley.

25 years ago
Department of Energy officials said they planned to have a study done by June 1991 of the feasibility of moving nuclear weapons production to the Idaho National Engineering  Laboratory.

Augustine Pitrolo, DOE-Idaho Operations office manager, said his staff would study the feasibility of moving the work done at Rocky Flats, Colo., the Y-12 plant in Tennessee and the Pantax Plant in Texas.

Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus said he welcomed the study but stopped short of saying he favored turning the INEL into a "bomb factory."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Local officials report on 'Community to Capital' trip to D.C.

Rebecca Casper
Eastern Idaho has been sending its leaders to Washington, D.C., since the late 1940s, when Mayor Tom Sutton and attorney Bill Holden flew out of Fanning Field to lobby the Atomic Energy Commission on behalf of Idaho Falls.

Just as the eastern Idaho desert became where Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 was built, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham say the region is poised to become the place where small modular reactors are demonstrated to the world.

The two were part of a “Community to Capital” group that traveled to Washington in mid-March to meet with members of Congress and officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Navy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Although the Idaho National Laboratory’s continued mission was at the top of their agenda, they were keen to gauge what sort of support there was in the capital for a proposal by the UAMPS and an Oregon company called NuScale to build small modular reactors on the desert.

Dana Kirkham
The reaction was positive from everyone they met. “It reinforced that we are at the top of the list,” Kirkham.

DOE announced in February that it had granted a site use permit to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, of which Idaho Falls Power is a member, allowing UAMPS access to the INL site to analyze environmental, safety, and siting conditions for its Carbon Free Power Project.

If UAMPS identifies a suitable area for the project within the DOE site boundary, and if the department determines it would not conflict with INL mission work, the design, construction and operation would be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, following extensive safety and environmental reviews. Officials from NuScale, a subsidiary of Fluor said they have targeted 2025 as the date for having a project online.

If all goes as planned, “We should be prepared to host an onslaught of international visitors,” Casper said.

Casper and Kirkham were accompanied on the trip by Richard Holman, president of the Partnership for Science and Technology; Mike Hart of Communication Designs, the partnership’s past-president; Jerry Stenquist, an attorney with Moffatt Thomas; and Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI for Eastern Idaho.

Rogers, who came to eastern Idaho from the Magic Valley in 2015, said the trip was an eye opener. While she has always recognized the INL’s economic significance to the area, what she heard from the people she met convinced her of the lab’s importance on a national level.

“As a first-time participant, I was impressed with their interaction and engagement,” she said. “It wasn’t platitudinal in any way.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tickets available for TEDxIdaho Falls

Tickets are available now for TEDxIdahoFalls, scheduled for April 2 at the Colonial Theater, at

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

The speakers for TEDxIdahoFalls were selected from a pool of 47 potential presenters. They include:

  • Obert Skye: The magic of revision
  • Roger Plothow: Journalism as antidote
  • Robert Podgorney: We’re sitting on the sun
  • Ann Washburn: Body Language: The key to your subconscious
  • Marjanna Hulet: The simple formula for successful schools
  • Mashaal Hijazi: The modern maze of cultural identification
  • Garth Smelser: Unplug & reconnect: Propelling our children toward a nature-rich future
  • Alan E. Barber II: Humans: Some assembly required
  • L.J. Krumenacker: Unearthing Idaho dinosaurs: You only see what you’re looking for
  • Cameron C. Taylor: You can innovate like Philo T. Farnsworth
  • Jacob DeLaRosa: Take two smiles and call me in the morning
  • Valerie Hall: We Are All Midwives

The program begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person. Twelve speakers will share ideas in 3 blocks with social periods in between.

Black Rock owner expands taps, starts remodeling downstairs

The new taps at Black Rock, 439 A Street
Little more than a year after he bought Vino Rosso and turned it into Black Rock Fine Wine and Craft Beer, Chuck Chute is not resting on his laurels.

Chuck Chute
Last week he expanded his number of taps from 10 to 30, and he is remodeling the 2,500 square feet downstairs into a performing venue for music. A grand opening is being planned for April 23.

“The reality is the craft beer market is growing 30 percent a year,” he said. The tap
system, which was installed March 14 by Hayden Beverage, will allow him to offer a greater variety and grow his sales.

“This changes the way we sell draft beer,” he said. “We’ll be able to offer four IPAs instead of one, and sample flights. We couldn’t do that before because the bandwidth was so narrow.”

Carpenter Corey Petersen built the cold box to house the tap apparatus. Some modifications in the cooler behind the wall were necessary, and a chalkboard is no longer adequate to the task of advertising everything they’re serving. The next new development will be a high-­res screen and projector system that will allow them to change their listings with a laptop. “It should make it pretty visually dynamic,” Chute said.

The bar is also selling refillable growlers for beer and wine. They have been specially designed and engraved.

“There are plenty of places in town people can go to get a draft beer,” Chute said. “We needed to take it up a notch.”

As for downstairs, project manager Tony Deschamps is seeking music memorabilia for the theme, so if you have a photo of yourself with a rock, pop or country music star he’s inviting you to send a file to him at Likewise if you have a photo of yourself in a garage band, and if you are interested in designing music-­related art he is interested in hearing your ideas.

Also needed:

  • An upright piano, to be painted in vivid, psychedelic colors. “It can be in any shape, but must be tunable,” he said.
  • Concert posters, psychedelic art, old musical instruments, photos, guitar picks.

“We want pieces that mean something to music fans, especially local music fans,” he said. “These can be donated, loaned, or we may also buy them from you. All items on loan will be insured and catalogued. You will be able to reclaim it any time you'd like.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rita's in Ammon plans grand opening in April

Rita's in Ammon is looking at a grand opening in April.
The Ammon location in Sand Creek Commons is one of four restaurants where Rita's Italian Ice plans to test a new cafe concept that includes custom donuts, coffee creations and specialty drinks.
In addition to Ammon, the Philadelphia-based chain has plans to open in Albuquerque, N.M., Bloomington, Minn., and Scotts Valley, Calif., in the first half of 2016.

Dr. David Chamberlain, a general surgeon in Idaho Falls, has the rights to develop Rita’s in Idaho. He and his wife, Shawna, discovered Rita’s while in Utah and thought it represented a good investment opportunity. Under their agreement, they plan to build 12 stores in 10 years, of which the Sandcreek Commons location will be the first.

A grand opening is planned for April. The store’s Web site can be found here — — and its Facebook page here —

"Expanding our menu was an obvious choice for us," said John Small, vice president of international and concept development at Rita's Franchise Company. "As we looked to expand business hours to new day parts, the cafe concept gave us the perfect opportunity to provide our guests with delicious, quality products that also naturally fit within our existing menu of famous frozen treats."

In addition to Rita's signature Italian ice and frozen custard, the Rita's cafe menu will include unique donut creations such as maple bacon, French toast, chocolate chip and strawberry shortcake, as well as create-your-own options – customizing a freshly made vanilla cake donut with a variety of icings and toppings of choice.  In addition to fresh donuts, Rita's Cafe will offer specialty beverages combining Rita's award-winning frozen custard with coffee, espresso and hot chocolate, and will feature new items that combine fresh donuts into frozen treats such as a Donut Blendini, Donut Sundae and Donut Milkshake.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Looking Back | March 18, 2016

NOTE: This is the history column I write that appears every Thursday in the Post Register. I would be curious to know how many BizMojo regulars read "Looking Back" in print, and whether my reprinting it here a day later would make them any less inclined to subscribe to the paper. If that is overwhelmingly the case I won't run "Looking Back" online, but I think local history is important and I would like to get it in front of as many people as I can.

100 years ago
The Consolidated Wagon and Machine Co. ordered 50 Ford runabouts to be used by its salesmen, solicitors and collectors in Idaho and Utah. "This is probably one of the biggest orders for cars ever placed in the west and would no doubt make a national record of automobile purchases for individual use," the Idaho Register said. "As soon as weather and road will permit all horse-drawn vehicles will be discarded and disposed of, as well as the horses. ... The cars are all handsomely lettered with the name of the company." Ernest N. Musselman of the Idaho Falls Auto Co. placed a large part of the order.

75 years ago
Two Idaho Falls men got their wings in late February and early March 1941. Stanley E. Gagon, son of Wendell and Ida Gagon, 264 Ninth St., graduated from the U.S. Army's advanced air Corp training station at Kelley Field, Texas, "the West Point of the Air." Based on his record, he was named an instructor. He followed Melvin Nielsen, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse H. Nielsen, 316 Sixth St., who had been transferred to active service. Nielsen went on to become a lieutenant-colonel and commander of the 79th Fighter Group, leading the first rocket mission in the group's history in October 1944.

50 years ago
The Women's Christian Temperance Union of Idaho Falls announced the winners of its annual poster contest this week in 1966. They were as follows:
Junior High Division -- Sharon Stickley, first, and J.R. Sermon, second.
Senior High Division -- Russell Brown, first, Kathy Schuldt, second, and Gigi Gruel, honorable mention.

25 years ago
Bonneville Joint School District officials estimated construction of a new high school, a new elementary school and a gym at Falls Valley Elementary School would come in at around $12.1 million. was estimated at $8.9 million high school; and Four E Construction of Rigby for Iona Elementary and the guys. Superintendent Richard Goodworth said he expected work to commence by April 1.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency to review annual report Thursday

An aerial shot of the Snake River looking north between Pancheri Drive and Sunnyside Road. On the west bank of the river is the 400-acre Snake River Landing development, still only partially completed but once a gravel pit for Monroc. Urban renewal and tax increment financing have made the land more feasible to build on.
The Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency’s annual report will be presented for discussion and approval at its regular monthly meeting, at noon Thursday in the City Council Chambers, 680 Park Ave. The annual report summarizes the agency’s activities for 2015 and provides a brief history of its actions over its 27-year history. As with all of agency meetings, the public is invited to attend.

How does urban renewal work? Say a city council wants to see an area developed but the land is too blighted or rocky to make it economically feasible (in Idaho Falls’ case, lava rock can make some land very expensive to build on.) Under a law passed in 1965 by the Idaho Legislature, the council can form an urban renewal agency. With the city council’s approval, that agency has the authority to designate certain parts of the city as urban renewal districts. For the 20 years that follow the land is taxed as it always has been but any taxes on increased property value in the district go to the redevelopment agency, which directs the money to the city for streets, water and sewer and power lines.

Soon after the agency was activated in 1988, Idaho Falls Mayor Tom Campbell and the City Council created the Lindsey Boulevard Urban Renewal District (which has since been expanded into the Snake River Urban Renewal District.) This area contained numerous vacant parcels, open storage and gravel roads.

The agency issued a bond and undertook the reconstruction of Lindsey Boulevard and Utah Avenue, then Utah Avenue, Wardell and Mercury rights-of-way and Memorial Drive. The agency has also relocated power lines, improved major road intersections and railroad crossings, and replaced or installed water, sewer and storm drainage lines. The Snake River district will end on Dec. 31, 2018, although the agency may continue to receive some incremental money into 2019.

In 2004, the Mayor Linda Milam and council approved the creation of the River Commons Urban Renewal District on lands along the Snake River that for decades had been home to gravel pits and salvage years. The agency entered into a partnership with the developer of Snake River Landing, Ball Ventures, to finance the construction of Pier View Drive, portions of Snake River Parkway, Milligan Road within the city and Bluff Drive and accompanying public utilities. As of 2015, these improvements spurred an increase of $202,060,908 in the assessed value in these two districts.

In 2015, Mayor Rebecca Casper and the council approved the Eagle Ridge District, the fourth district in the program. This district has already connected Snake River Parkway to Pioneer Road and a new intersection with Utah Avenue. Also in 2015, the Agency agreed to purchase the site of the former Saving Center grocery store and an option on the Bonneville Hotel. Both of these projects are planned to be used for mixed-use developments.

Urban renewal has its detractors, including the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which routinely lobbies the Legislature to repeal the law. "It allows for the government to fictionalize property values," wrote Wayne Hoffman, the foundation's director, in an 2015 opinion piece titled Urban Renewal: Repeal is the Best Option. "When a piece of property is developed or improved, the local taxing districts are told to pretend the property is still undeveloped; they’ll still have to provide services to the developed property, but without the benefit of the increased property valuation. Only the urban renewal district gets to consider the property as developed for taxation purposes. That difference—between the value of the property as it was and as it is—is where urban renewal squeezes money out of taxpayers. That taxpayer money is often controlled by unelected and unaccountable urban renewal boards."

'The number one thing was vision' | Local entrepreneur publishes book

The advice given to most authors is “write what you know about.” In Travis Johnson’s case, it’s entrepreneurial enterprise.

Travis Johnson
Johnson has been at it since age 13, when he was selling homemade air fresheners to convenience stores. For 16 years he headed MicroServ, one of Idaho Falls’ first Internet Service Providers. Since selling the company to Colorado­-based JAB Broadband in 2013, he has devoted his attention to commercial real estate management, small business investments and writing.

On Friday, Johnson and his JW Capital partner, Ryan Westwood, released their first book, self­published, “The Five Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur.” While the book is based on their own experience, it also incorporates the results of an e­mail survey they sent out to more than 100,000 CEOs, with responses from 2,631.

“The number one thing was vision,” Johnson said. In fact, it was the only characteristic that was identified as essential to success by a majority of the respondents.

Vision stood apart from the other four characteristics: work ethic, resilience, positivity and passion. It was picked by entrepreneurs who had been in business for more than 16 years as often as it was picked by those who had been in business two to five years. In fact, the least likely group of respondents to pick vision were the ones with less than a year of experience.

“It’s hard to say why,” the book says, “but thinking back to our early entrepreneurial days, we can remember how overwhelming everything felt.”

An entrepreneur with no vision — e.g., someone who can’t say whether they want to retain 10 clients or recruit 10,000 in the coming year — is courting stagnation, frustration and failure. Likewise, someone who puts off defining a vision may be able to sustain the business for a long time but will be unable to see the kind of steady growth and achievement that investors hoped to see.

Everybody is going to have a different definition of vision, Johnson said. One person might be looking two years into the future while another might be looking ahead 10. But the book offers a process called V2MOM. That acronym stands for the five components: vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures, all of which must be defined thoroughly to open a path to success.

A good sense of timing can also be the difference between success and stagnation. “It’s not just being ready for what’s coming,” Johnson said. “It’s having the pieces in place to make things possible.”

Johnson was not thinking about selling MicroServ when JAB Broadband approached him about buying it. Once a deal was set in motion, the sale took 60 days. It was a full-­on stock sale, one of two that JAB has done in its acquisition of small ISPs around the Rockies, and what was surprising is that the due diligence uncovered no issues like HR claims or pending lawsuits.

It’s an open question as to whether someone can be taught to be a successful entrepreneur. Just because someone is a skilled cook doesn’t mean they have what it takes to run a successful restaurant.

When they invest in a company, Johnson and Westwood take an active role. “We’re more like partners in the business ranter than handing them money,” Johnson said. In the case of EcoFlower, a company in West Haven, Utah, that manufactures hand-carved flowers made out of wood, sales went from $9,000 in 2014 to $1 million in 2015. The company now has an 8,000­ square­-foot warehouse and 30 employees.

“We’ve already done it. We’ve been there,” Johnson said. “We try and help people get going as fast as they want to go.”

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rizo's Pizza coming to Teton Spectrum

Owner Jaime Rhoda says he hopes to have Rizo's Pizza in Ammon open by early June.
We've had several questions about the free-standing building going up in the Teton Spectrum parking lot, on Eagle Drive. Although we reported on it in December when the building plans were filed with the city of Ammon, this is the home of Rizo’s Pizza. It's always good to remember that not everyone is hanging on our every word.

Owner and developer Jaime Rhoda said he hopes to have the restaurant open by early June. The plan calls for a 1,250-square foot dining area and a 553-square foot kitchen. Rizo’s will feature fire-baked pizza and specialty salads. “It’s thin-crust pizza made on demand, coming in two sizes. It’s made very fast, only three or four minutes,” Rhoda said.

He described the design concept for the restaurant as fast casual and patterned after Chipotle. “Overall it’s a really neat concept,” he said. “The price points are really good, and with two different sizes, the kids get what they want and the parents get what they want, too.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

INL helps sponsor i-STEM seminars

The Idaho Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative, or i-STEM, is offering six low-cost teacher institutes this summer, to be held around the state in June and July.

i-STEM is a partnership lead by INL in collaboration with educators, government agencies and private companies working to improve STEM education in Idaho. The lab’s daily operations require skilled technical workers educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

“The program helps educators enhance their STEM content knowledge through context,” said Anne Seifert, executive director of i-STEM and INL’s K-12 STEM manager. “We are proud to support a wonderful team from across the state that is helping sponsor and support this important professional development opportunity.”

The schedule is as follows:

June 20-23 at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene
June 20-23 at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston
June 21-24 at Idaho State University in Pocatello
June 27-30 at Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls
June 27-30 at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls
July 27-30 at the College of Western Idaho in Nampa

Interested teachers can register for the i-STEM Teacher Institutes by visiting the following website:

During the workshops, participants choose a specific topic to study, such as clean energy, environmental sustainability, nuclear science, chemistry, computer science, manufacturing, agriculture, gaming and others. They attend sessions taught by STEM experts and participate in general sessions to learn how to integrate STEM, 21st-century skills, career awareness, and the practices of the Idaho Core Standards into the subjects they teach. Participants receive continuing education credits and resource kits.

i-STEM members include INL, Idaho universities and community colleges, State Department of Education, Idaho State Board of Education, Intermountain Gas, Micron and Idaho Power, and others. More information is available at

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Boise commercial real estate company opening Idaho Falls office

Brent Wilson
Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate, Idaho’s largest full-service commercial real estate firm, has announced it is opening an office in Idaho Falls, at a location yet to be announced.

The company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has experienced considerable growth, completing more than 40 percent of the commercial real estate transactions in the Boise market over the last 10 years. Independently owned, TOK has 26 agents, averaging over 15 years of experience and listing nearly 500 properties throughout the state of Idaho. Its property management department is accredited by the Institute of Real Estate Management and manages more 5 million square feet of commercial real estate.

“Outside of Boise, Idaho Falls is the largest market in Idaho and continues to grow,” said Michael Ballantyne, managing partner, in a news release. “The opening of this office will provide increased opportunities and services to our existing clients while also introducing Thornton Oliver Keller to new prospective clients. We look forward to serving southeast Idaho with the same client focus that has led to our success in Boise.”

Brian Wilson
The Idaho Falls offices means the addition of two agents in Idaho Falls, Brent Wilson and Brian Wilson. “Brent shares our commitment to quality commercial real estate brokerage and has been the leading agent in Idaho Falls for several years," Ballantyne said. "We are very pleased to have him join our firm and help us to launch the new office.”

“I look forward to sharing the resources and knowledge in southeast Idaho,” said Brent Wilson. “Their market research and technology will broaden my reach and enhance the support my clients receive.”

Thornton Oliver Keller is independently owned by 14 members of the firm and was selected in 2015 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a winner in the annual Blue Ribbon Small Business Awards program that recognizes companies for their success and innovation as well as contributions to economic growth and free enterprise.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Idaho Falls water company takes honors at international tasting

Mike Sedlmayr and his daughter, Kiersten Landers, are remodeling space on Whittier Avenue into the headquarters for Divinia Water.
An Idaho Falls bottled water startup called Divinia took high honors Feb. 27 at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Billing itself as the “Academy Awards of Water,” 10 judges spent hours taking and selecting from waters sourced in 18 states, seven Canadian provinces and five foreign countries, including Greece, France, Macedonian and New Zealand.

Divinia took the silver in the Best Purified Drinking Water Category, which had only been added this year. The company is headed by Steven Sedlmayr, who has been using well water from the Roberts area but is moving his operation to a location on Whittier Street and will be using Idaho Falls water once in operation.

Sedlmayr built his patented purifier in his garage in response to a request from his wife, Remy, whom he describes as a “water snob.” The purifier removes such contaminants as arsenic, chlorine, fluoride, lead, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and antibiotics. The process uses 14 stages of filtration, taking over eight hours to purify three gallons of water.

Through lab tests at UC Davis, Divinia has been verified as deuterium depleted water. This is done with what Sedlmayr calls a microwave resonant chamber, which breaks the hydrogen-oxygen bonds in water. “It was a freak discovery,” he said. “I was actually afraid of it for a while.”

It’s bottled in glass, not plastic, because Sedlmayr claims chemicals from plastic bottles leach into the water, especially if subjected to higher temperatures.

The water was a hit in December at the Live Winter 2015 Bevnet Expo in Santa Monica. “We were like rock stars there,” said Sedlmayr. The 72 bottles they took were quickly snapped up and some key contacts were made, especially with potential customers in Europe and Asia.

Operating on a direct sales model, Divinia can be purchased online. It isn’t cheap: a three-gallon case costs $165. Production is between 30 to 40 cases a week, but they will be scaling up once moved into their new location in Idaho Falls, and Idaho Steel is collaborating on a larger version of Sedlmayr’s filtering apparatus.

The company is looking for investors, and admits it has a challenge. “It’s up to us to build credibility,” said Kiersten Landers, Sedlmayr’s daughter and Divinia’s chief operating officer.

This isn’t Sedlmayr’s first foray into the world of invention-based entrepreneurship. His career dates back to the 1980s, when he pioneered a manufacturing process for flat-screen high-definition television. This November 1989 article from Inc. Magazine has a lot of interesting information on that period of his life: Blind Ambition: Two companies fight over the patent rights to fiber optic HDTV (high-definition television).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Entrepreneurs’ Platform set for March 15

The next Entrepreneurs’ Platform will be held March 15 at Eastern Idaho Technical College, Building 5, Room 541, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Hosted by the Research and Business Development Center and Founder’s Forum, the Entrepreneur’s Platform is intended to provide an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to present their business plans to professionals and to be linked to needed resources and potential partnerships. Audience members can support the presenters by offering resources including expertise, contacts, etc. after their presentations. Admission is free.

The presenters this time include:

Simple Helping Hands For You
Founded by the late Al Argyle and Micah Argyle in 2007, Simple Helping Hands For You seeks to provide unique decor technologies to private and commercial customers. Their products enhance the aesthetic appeal of any building interior, what makes products unique is that they enable the customer to seamlessly position a piece of wall art in the corner of any room. They support pictures, canvas, mirrors, clocks and more. Learn more at

Education Positioning System
EPS is a new tech platform that addresses the entire student life cycle of undergraduate students at institutions of higher education. EPS provides individualized education tools that help students prepare for college level work, select a career path, map out their entire four years of coursework, receive tutoring and advising support as needed, and find internship and career opportunities.

Institutions can use EPS to track student learning outcomes, forecast class demand, identify at risk students, and support more students with fewer staff. As an integrated platform, EPS helps students to graduate sooner with fewer wasted credits. EPS is a product of Excelsoft Technologies built in collaboration with Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Learn more at

Friday, March 4, 2016

My first ride with Uber ... 'This is Blowing My Mind'

Uber driver Bill Beal
I took my first ride on Uber the other day, when I had to get my car from C&S Auto, where they were replacing the power steering pump in my 2004 Subaru. No one was home to give me a ride and I needed to be somewhere by noon, but also I'd wanted for a while to find out what the Uber experience was like -- and report to you, of course, because perhaps a few of you might actually be curious.

I downloaded the app on my iPhone 5s, indicated I needed a ride and waited. In less than 10 minutes, a silver late-model Ford Escape pulled into my driveway.

Behind the wheel was Bill Beal, 68, an Uber driver since January this year. Beal came to Idaho Falls in 1979 after “prematurely retiring” from the auto industry. He picked eastern Idaho because he is passionate about trout fishing.

In the years he has been here, he has sold cars and real estate, worked in restaurants and guided on the river. He said he was attracted to becoming an Uber driver because he could work the hours he wanted.

“This beats cabin fever,” he said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be at home hollering at the television.”
As for the money, “I don’t think I could make a living at it,” he said. “If you lived in a place like San Diego I think you could keep busy all the time, but not here.”

His fares typically range from $6 to $10 (mine was $12.76, and will be counted as a business expense), but he once had a rider who wanted to go to Island Park. He drives mainly during the day. He could make himself available at nights, but isn’t sure he wants to deal with people coming out of bars.

Another thing he has gathered from his conversations with riders is that they tend to be either young or originally from somewhere other than Idaho Falls.

At 68, Beal said he never really thought much about what could be done with a mobile phone until he became an Uber driver. “This is new to me,” he said. “This is blowing my mind.”

As a footnote, let me add that after he left me at C&S Auto I realized I’d left my iPad in his vehicle. Luckily, I still had my phone, and the app allowed me to call him. He was back in five minutes at no extra charge.

All in all, the trip was 3.8 miles and took 10.38 minutes. I rated him 5 stars.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Museum of Idaho director to take over Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park

David Pennock
Longtime Museum of Idaho executive director David Pennock is turning his attention to another community institution, the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park. Effective April 4, Pennock will take the reins there as executive director.

A native of Idaho Falls, Pennock returned in 1999 to develop the Museum of Idaho and became executive director in 2003. Since its opening, the museum has averaged more 104,000 visitors annually, including more than 18,000 school children on organized tours from 17 Idaho counties each year. The museum has a $1.3 million annual budget.

Pennock has a Ph.D. in systematics and ecology from the University of Kansas, as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in zoology from Brigham Young University. "With the museum, you'd think I was a history person, but my degrees are in biological sciences," he said. He is a published researcher and has taught various graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas, University of Arkansas and Fort Hays State University. He and his wife, Gisele, have six children.

During Pennock’s tenure with the Museum of Idaho, $20 million has been raised through grant writing, donor development, memberships and corporate sponsorships, with over $950,000 raised for facility improvements.

"We owe David a deep debt for creating and growing the Museum of Idaho," said Linda Guinn Montgomery, who chairs the museum’s board of directors. "Without David's vision, hard work and enthusiasm, the museum would not be able to serve the 100,000 people a year we see. We are very sad to lose his leadership; however, we are delighted with his new opportunity with the Idaho Falls Zoo. We wish him the very best in his new role."

The museum board is organizing a search for a new executive director.

Pennock began working as a consultant for the Idaho Falls Zoo in 2015 to develop a 5-year strategic plan for zoo operations. He said he sees a lot of opportunity to grow the zoo programmatically and to enhance the economic benefit it brings to the community.

"This is something that is well-established, well-loved and well-supported," he said. "It's extraordinary for a community our size to have something like this. There's already a great foundation, and I want to see whether we can't take it another step."

“Dr. Pennock’s experience with the Museum of Idaho, various local non-profit boards and community outreach, coupled with his education, make him uniquely qualified to lead this important community resource, said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ace Hardware, Marketplace Home Furnishings coming to West Broadway

The scene last week at Dan's Ace Hardware on West Broadway.
It’s been years since Rite Aid Drug closed on West Broadway, but the space finally has a new lease on life. Two leases, in fact.

Dan’s Ace Hardware will be opening its 14,000-square-foot store at 1747 West Broadway on Thursday. This is the fifth store Dan Moldenhauer of Rexburg has opened. Others are in Rexburg, St. Anthony, Lava Hot Springs and Garden City, Utah. The store has a sales floor of 11,711 square feet.

This doubles the number of family-owned hardware stores on the west side, as Rocknak’s Hardware Plus has been there since 1995.

In the other half of the Westfield Plaza building, Marketplace Home Furnishings is eyeing an opening in the middle of March. The store is owned by Dave Collette,  D.J. Collette, and Barry and Sue Landon. Although they have extensive experience in property management and business this is the first furniture store for them.

“We don’t plan on making it a chain,” Barry Landon said. The store will carry such brands as Elements, Folio 21, Urban Roads and Palliser. Sue Landon is doing most of the buying, and it is she who is calling the shots in terms of display and presentation.

“We want it to be a new kind of furniture store,” she said. “There will be a ton of accessories, a really big variety. This is a brand new opportunity that came about. We’re happy to be bringing something new to the west side and hoping people will make a trip out here to see what we have to offer.”