Friday, March 16, 2018

Goodwill Industries plans store in old Hastings location

It looks like there is going to be no shortage of second-hand stores on 17th Street. In addition to the new Deseret Industries in Ammon, due to hold its grand opening March 22, Goodwill Industries has filed with the city of Idaho Falls Building Department to remodel the old Hastings store in the Albertson’s shopping center.

The March 8 permit application was filed by Wind River Construction, which was already at work on the site Thursday, according to our faithful BizMojo scouts, Andy and Aubree Fox.

Goodwill has four stores in the Boise-Nampa area, one in Twin Falls and one in Pocatello, but this marks its entry into the Idaho Falls area. The non-profit organization dates back to 1902, when it was founded in Boston by the Rev. Edgar J. Helms. Since then, it has expanded into 17 countries, and in 2012 it posted $3.53 billion in revenue. In addition to second-hand goods, Goodwill provides vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Broadway underground parking garage being capped this week

An artist's rendition of what the Broadway project in Idaho Falls will look like.
Sometimes, the direction of progress is down.

This morning around 6:30, construction crews began capping first underground public parking garage in Idaho Falls. When completed, the work will mark completion of the underpinnings of The Broadway, the development project currently under way at the corner of Broadway and Memorial. With a scheduled October opening, the facility will be home to 49 below-ground parking spaces.

“We’re really excited to get this first phase completed,” said Oppenheimer Development Corp. Vice President Jeremy Malone. “It won’t look like much from the surface, but to the people who use it, this parking garage will be a huge step forward in downtown parking.”

During the excavation phase more than 25 million pounds of rock were removed. They were replaced with 150 mixer-truck loads of concrete and 18 miles of steel rebar and reinforcement cable.

The Broadway will also offer 24 above-ground public spaces.

This is the Boise-based Oppenheimer Development’s first project in Idaho Falls. The project incorporates nearly 40,000 square feet of retail and commercial business space; a public plaza featuring a fountain in the summer and planned skating rink in the winter.

Approximately two-thirds of the rental space in The Broadway has already been leased. The list of tenants includes Bank of Idaho, Lucy’s Pizzeria, Smokin Fins, and Parsons Behle & Latimer.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sweeto Burrito files for permit to remodel old Dickey's Barbecue store

I’ve been asked a number of times what’s happening where Dickey’s Barbecue Pit used to be, 2090 East 17th St., and can now answer that a building permit has been filed by Sweeto Burrito, a chain with locations in Washington, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota and Virginia. It also operates food trucks, one of which has been in Idaho Falls.

The company dates back to November 2011, when it opened its first food truck in the Bakken Oil Fields of western North Dakota. That winter was rough, but they survived and on a whim the summer that followed they took the truck to Sturgis, S.D., where they were able to serve their fare to motorcyclists there for the annual rally. It announced franchising plans in 2013, an opened its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Fargo, N.D.

The Idaho Falls remodel is being done by Construction Solutions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Post Register owner names regional president and publisher for eastern Idaho properties

Travis Quast
The Adams Publishing Group has named Travis Quast as regional president and publisher of the company’s eastern Idaho publications, including the Idaho Falls Post Register, the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, the Standard Journal in Rexburg and the Teton Valley News in Driggs. Quast also will provide oversight for the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah. He assumes his new role April 2.

Prior to joining the Adams Publishing Group, Quast served as publisher of the Twin Falls Times-News, The Voice and the Elko Daily Free Press in Nevada for five years. He also has served as the vice president of sales and marketing at the Idaho Statesman and held management positions at the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald and Newspaper Agency Corp. — agents for the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

Quast currently serves on the Newspaper Association of Idaho's board of directors and is a member of the University of Idaho Journalism and Mass Media Advisory Committee. He has been involved in numerous community leadership roles, such as the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization.

“Travis is a proven champion for local community news and a thoughtful strategic leader,” said Eric Johnston, APG's Western Division president. “His wide range of experience, passion for our industry and creative leadership style will surely be invaluable as we continue to serve our communities in the eastern Idaho region.”

Recognized for his efforts to protect First Amendment rights and advocacy for transparency in local and state government, Quast won a landmark case against the University of Idaho for access to teacher evaluations. He continues to lead efforts to shape local government public records and open meeting policies. Quast, who was born in Burley, is a graduate of the University of Idaho, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public communication.

Since 2014, Minneapolis-based APG has bought more than 100 small dailies, weeklies and shoppers in at least 15 separate transactions. The Post Register was acquired in 2015. In October 2017, it bought Seattle-based Pioneer News Group Co., which owned nine Idaho newspapers, including the Teton Valley News in Driggs, the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, and the Rexburg Standard Journal.

In contrast to other big consolidators, they often leave existing management in place, do not impose cookie-cutter content templates, and do not start by stripping down newsrooms of editors and reporters. Here is a link to an October 2017 story about the company from the Poynter website: Who are the Adams family, and why are they buying newspapers by the dozen? 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Deseret Industries' new Ammon store set to open March 22

An artist's rendering of the new Deseret Industries store in Ammon, which opens March 22.
Deseret Industries will be closing its store in downtown Idaho Falls on March 17 in preparation for the opening of its new store in Ammon, at 2885 E. 17th Street.

"DI," a non-profit chain of thrift stores operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been operating in Idaho Falls since 1974. In addition to offering merchandise, it has provided employment and vocational training to hundreds of community residents over four decades.

The new thrift store opens March 22 with a three-day grand opening celebration, including a ribbon cutting with city leaders, music, a balloon artist, and giveaways.

“We believe our customers will enjoy the greater merchandise offerings and easier donation process, but most importantly, the larger store allows us to hire more associates and provide training and educational resources to more area residents," said store manager Aaron Kelley. "We exist to change lives and with the help of the community, we’re doing just that.”

The new Ammon location is approximately 48,000-square-feet and will employ 14 full-time employees and 105 store associates as part of its career-training program. Associates develop skills and obtain certifications enabling them to advance to permanent, full-time employment in a variety of fields and careers. The location will also include an LDS Family Services facility.

There are 43 Deseret Industries stores throughout the western U.S. As a thrift store, Deseret Industries offers tens of thousands of gently used items, with thousands of new goods placed on store shelves each day.  Affordable, quality secondhand merchandise includes everything from clothing and shoes to furniture, home décor, toys and games, sports equipment and much more.

“We receive donations covering every possible household need,” said Deseret Industries marketing manager Brooke Yates. “And with thousands of items added to the inventory daily, it’s a treasure hunt each time our customers visit. We often have people lined up outside our stores as we open each morning.”

The new Ammon store includes a multi-lane, covered drive-thru donation bay. Donations are received daily, except on Sundays, and all donations are tax-deductible. Items not sold in the store may be recycled or used for humanitarian relief.

Deseret Industries also provides some newly manufactured, low-priced merchandise for its shoppers, including new suits and dress shirts for men, new coats for adults and children, new mattresses and bedding, and solid wood furniture including bed frames, dressers, tables and chairs.

The Ammon store offers extended operating hours, opening daily at 10 a.m. and closing Mondays at 6 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays at 9 p.m. The store is closed Sundays. The donation bay opens daily at 8 a.m., also closing Mondays at 6 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays at 9 p.m. It is closed Sundays.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center has new owner

The Alturas Real Estate Fund has acquired the Parkway Plaza Shopping Center, in Idaho Falls at the corner of First Street and Woodruff Avenue. The property includes 75,300 square feet of retail property, including Planet Fitness, which opened in early January.

Several retail locations remain vacant within the property, but Alturas, a commercial real estate investment company based in Eagle, is working with the Thornton Oliver Keller leasing team in Idaho Falls to find occupants.

“With the proper investment it will once again be the excellent community asset it should be,” Travis Barney, president of Alturas, said in a news release.

Monday, February 26, 2018

'Space is the Place' for new INL engineer Amanda Gates

Amanda Gates, at INL Materials & Fuels Complex, where she is part of the lab's Space Nuclear Power Department.
NOTE: This is a story written for the web site and posted Feb. 21, in recognition of National Engineers Week. I am reprinting it here in hopes of wider circulation and because I think the person it profiles, Amanda Gates, is a great example of the type of person INL is trying to attract to replace the generation that is retiring. Also, I wrote the story. I'll have another one tomorrow about another up-and-comer, equally interesting and appealing, Janine Lambert.

One of Idaho National Laboratory’s new generation of engineers, Amanda Gates, says she’s as surprised as anyone to be where she is.

“I love the people I work with. I enjoy coming to work every day,” said Gates, an engineer in INL’s Space Nuclear Power Department at the Materials and Fuels Complex.

A native of Snoqualmie, Washington, Gates said that when she was in high school, she had her heart set on a career in sports marketing. Based on the aptitude she showed for science and math, however, her teachers and advisers insisted that she consider a career in engineering. Eventually, she talked to some friends’ parents who were engineers.

“I decided maybe it was the way to go,” she said.

Gates pursued a degree in mechanical engineering from University of San Diego (a Catholic university not to be confused with the University of California, San Diego). During winter break in 2014, she was working as a housekeeper in Colorado, researching internships and snowboarding whenever she could, when she first heard of INL from a co-worker whose father worked at the lab.

Based on her résumé and application, INL’s University Partnerships office arranged a phone interview for her with Shad Davis, a mechanical engineer in the Radioisotope Power Systems Department. “Her résumé was spot on. She had a lot of hands-on experience with machining and tooling.”

When she landed the summer 2015 internship, Gates said she didn’t know much about the program or nuclear materials. But the manual aspects of the job appealed to her. “I like working with my hands and designing things, and I have an artistic side, too,” she said.

“For the short amount of time she was here, she was very proactive and persistent,” Davis said. “She bought a piece of equipment and wrote a test plan for it. She fit right in with our group, which can be hard to do with the dynamics and personalities of a dozen engineers.”

Gates worked on design teams that employed computer numerical control plasma tube cutting, using lathes, mills, drill presses, and three-dimensional computer-aided modeling, designing a robotics system and performing finite element analysis. Outside the lab, Davis was impressed with the passion she had for restoration work on her 1982 Ford Bronco.

“This knowledge of machining equipment and hands on was invaluable in coming up with a new drilling operation into some exotic materials that are used in our heat sources,” he said. “She was given the scope and goal of this project and she ran with it, completing it in the three months that she was here.  Her motivation was amazing and her attention to detail and desire to succeed made my mentoring job easy.”

Gates said the camaraderie of the group was an inspiration, and she liked eastern Idaho’s opportunities for outdoor recreation, too. After getting her degree in December 2015, “I bugged them enough to hire me full-time,” she said.

“When a full-time position was proposed, it was easy for me to submit her as a candidate because of the high impression she left on me, her co-workers, and manager,” Davis said. “Her transition to our staff as full-time engineer was seamless. I truly enjoy having her on our team as a peer.  She is a very capable and intelligent engineer. She is well-organized and her personality is a perfect fit. She is very active outside of work, and her excitement for life is contagious."

Being focused on the 2020 Mars mission, Gates says it’s easy for her to talk to people about what she does. “You can talk to anyone about that,” she said. “People ask me if I am going to Mars. Sometimes they’re serious, sometimes not.”

Her experience with the MMRTG (Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) hit home when she watched “The Martian,” particularly the scene when Matt Damon’s character digs up the generator to keep himself warm while riding across the frigid Martian landscape.

“It looked just like what we’re working on,” she said. “Hollywood got something right for once.”
Gates said she tells her friends and former classmates all the time about the opportunities for work and recreation in eastern Idaho. She’s very eager to learn everything she can, and anticipates things will only get busier as the 2020 launch date for the rover approaches.

“Amanda’s excitement is contagious,” Davis said. “It really kind of rubs off on all of us. I have no doubt that as she gains experience, she will soon be in charge of more projects and tasks.”

The University Partnerships Organization at INL leads recruiting efforts at universities and students interested in participating in an internship or in the lab’s postdoctoral or graduate fellowship programs can apply or find more information at

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

EIRMC, HCA announce annual Award of Distinction winners

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) have announced their annual Awards of Distinction. These awards are intended to honor exceptional individuals whose work and lives reflect the corporate values upon which HCA is founded.

Dr. Michael Lemon
Frist Humanitarian Award (Physician) – Michael Lemon, D.O., general and trauma surgeon

Dr. Michael Lemon is a board-certified general and trauma surgeon who has been a member of the EIRMC medical staff since 2013. He quickly built a reputation as an excellent clinician and in January 2016 was asked to chair the Department of Surgery. His positive influence and leadership have helped to improve the culture in the operating room, engage physicians in operational decisions, launch improved patient care programs, and to recruit new physicians to our area.

In addition to his dedication to patients, Lemon has demonstrated exceptional commitment to community and global service. He serves as a Scout advisor in the Grand Teton Council of the Boy Scouts of America, working with boys age 12 to 14 years, including several boys with special needs. He spends two hours with the boys each week, goes on campouts every other month, and attends a weeklong summer camp each year.

On the global front, Lemon was a founding board member of ZimbabWEcare, a non-profit, all volunteer organization with 100 percent of funds going towards providing health and humanitarian services to people in southern Africa. In addition to his role as founder, he has been a board member, medical director, and was the first and only physician to embark on the inaugural mission to Zimbabwe in 2014. Lemon has continued to make yearly trips to Zimbabwe to provide necessary medical treatment, prescribe medication, and provide medical supplies, clothing, and food to the people. This is done through clinics set up in fields, under trees, and out of the back of vehicles, in the most remotest areas of Zimbabwe.

As a trauma surgeon, Lemon’s skill set has been uniquely valuable when the team has happened upon bus rollovers, car accidents, burn victims and even the resuscitation of a lifeless newborn infant.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Lemon’s name to his charity of choice, ZimbabWEcare.

Nicole Willey
Frist Humanitarian Award (Employee) — Nicole Willey, R.N., Ambulatory Surgery

Nicole Willey is a Registered Nurse in the Ambulatory Surgery Department at EIRMC. As a member of the EIRMC team, she maintains a high level of selflessness while being a model employee. She is described as having outstanding leadership potential, and being caring, compassionate and a humanitarian.

Willey has dedicated over 15 years to the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) program, dedicated to teaching leadership skills to high school sophomores in addition to instilling in them an attitude of service and innovation. She has been instrumental to the growth of HOBY in Idaho and also serves on the national planning team for volunteers across the nation. She recruits and trains volunteers, plans activities and retreats, and leads staff in addition to working on the front lines directly with the youth.

Willey even opens up her home to youth in the community, providing a safe space to hang out, and is even available for 2 a.m. phone calls. She serves as a volunteer with Watersprings Church through a program called “Thrive,” working with troubled youth.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Nicole’s name to her charity of choice, Old Faithful Christian Ranch.

Chaz Houpt and Milli
Volunteer Frist Humanitarian Award – Chaz Houpt and Milli, Pet Partners Team

Chaz Houpt and Milli have been volunteers at EIRMC since 2012, and have volunteered nearly 600 hours during that time. Milli, a corgi and Intermountain Therapy Animal, and Chaz make up a Pet Partner team and spend their time visiting with patients, often playing an active role in their recovery.

At the EIRMC Behavioral Health Center for example, Milli and Chaz participate in weekly planned group therapy sessions. Adolescent and adult patients are able to interact with her, ask her to do tricks, and draw comfort from her. Many long-term patients get to see Milli for several weeks and look forward to her visits.

Besides the BHC, Chaz and Milli spend time at the main hospital campus with speech and physical therapy patients and pediatric patients. In addition to their work at EIRMC, Chaz and Milli visit residents in area retirement communities. Chaz has served on the Crime Stoppers board for 30 years, a group that works with county and city law enforcement and community informants to solve crimes. He also volunteers with the Field of Honor, which honors veterans with a display of over 1,000 flags each Memorial Day. Milli was awarded the AKC Distinguished Therapy Dog Award in 2017 and the Silver Medallion Working Dog, the highest honors a dog can receive.

Together, Chaz and Milli participated in a Therapy Animal Intervention Pilot Study, published in the Human Animal Bond Research Institution Research Library, which studied gave weight to the positive effects of therapy animals in physical therapy.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Chaz and Milli’s names to their charity of choice, the Intermountain Therapy Animals.

Bevan Burnell
Excellence in Nursing, Professional Mentoring – Bevan Burnell, BSN, RN, CEN, manager of Perioperative Services

Bevan Burnell is the manager of Perioperative Services, a role he has held since 2016, but his history at EIRMC stretches back to 2003. Bevan has held positions in Cardiac Care, Float Pool, and the ER and now in Surgical Services. He started as a CNA and has continually pursued higher education earning first his LPN, then associate RN, followed by his Bachelors of Science in Nursing RN in 2017. Bevan has plans to pursue an MBA in 2018. As the manager of Perioperative Services, Bevan has lead his department to reach new heights by not only improving both patient satisfaction, but by strengthening his team and employee morale. Bevan was nominated by two of his employees for this award, who each shared touching accounts of the ways that Bevan has created a strong and supportive team, and encouraged them reach new heights as individual healthcare professionals.

One nominator shared, “This summer I started feeling like I needed a change in my career. I noticed an opening in Bevan’s department.  After meeting with him and getting specifics, I felt that the move was what I needed. I am so glad that I did.  Being in this department, I have seen what a true leader Bevan has become. He has changed a struggling department into a wonderful place to work.” After seeing potential in one of his nursing staff, Bevan encouraged her to take on leadership roles and helped her to find confidence in her skillset despite her own doubts. She says, “He told me he believed in me even if I didn’t believe in myself. That simple statement changed my life.”

As an Excellence in Nursing winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Bevan's name to his charity of choice, the Haven Shelter.

Tamara Lewis
Excellence in Nursing, Compassionate Care – Tamara Lewis, RN Cardiac and Progressive Care Unit

Tamara Lewis has been a member of the EIRMC team for 10 years. Though she is now a registered nurse on the cardiac unit, Tamara started out in the IT (Informational Technology) department. Throughout her career, no matter her role, Tamara has always been a compassionate patient advocate as evidenced by her multiple Daisy, Nursing Excellence, Award Nominations through the years. Time and time again patients, patient families, and coworkers have shared experiences where Tamara has shown exceptional respect, understanding, and compassion towards her patients, while also demonstrating exceptional patient care abilities. One patient’s family member shared an experience where Tamara exceeded her expectations by working closely with the patient to explain the importance of rehabilitation and a no-salt diet to his cardiac health, despite his reluctance to change his life style. The family member said, “She truly made a difference in my father’s recovery and future health. Thank you.”

As an Excellence in Nursing winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Tamara’s name to her charity of choice, FREEMED.

Monday, February 12, 2018

INL wins Green Spirit Award for transportation program

Idaho National Laboratory buses lined up and ready to roll.
The American Bus Association (ABA) Environmental Committee has selected Idaho National Laboratory as a winner of the 2018 Green Spirit Award in the “special recognition” category. This award is given to companies that demonstrate the greatest commitment to environmental stewardship in all areas of its business and community.

ABA is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motor coach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services.

The Green Spirit Award, co-sponsored by leading bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries (MCI), is based on three aspects of a company’s operations: administrative, maintenance, and equipment and facility practices. INL was among three winners of the award from across the nation, along with Badger Coaches of Madison, Wisconsin, and Premier Transportation of Dallas, Texas.

INL Transportation Services – which operates the largest bus and light vehicle fleet in the U.S. Department of Energy complex – has long been a supporter of investigation into improving sustainability of bus and vehicle systems. INL pursues ongoing efforts to conserve fuel, including a stringent idle reduction program. Drivers and mechanics attend annual driver safety training, which incorporates fuel-efficient driving techniques into classroom and on-the-job training.

Further reductions in petroleum fuels are anticipated through the implementation of a “no-idle” battery electric auxiliary power unit (APU) with a high performance solar energy system on INL buses. With funding support from the Department of Energy’s Sustainability Performance Office, INL formed a working partnership with Bergstrom, Inc., a prominent cab climate systems designer/builder, and Motor Coach Industries, to design and modify a bus cooling-ventilating system to sharply reduce idle emissions. In August 2017, a pilot proof-of-concept no-idle HVAC project was completed with the installation of the Bergstrom battery electric APU with solar, and motor coach industry representatives attended a demonstration and technical review at the Energy Innovation Laboratory. The system is now being tested on INL fleet vehicles.

ABA presented the award to leaders of INL's Mission Support Services Division, which manages Transportation Services, at the association’s annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 29.

“We are truly honored to receive this award from our peers in the motor coach industry,” said Scott Wold, INL Mission Support Services director. “The award recognizes INL for many years of investment in environmentally responsible equipment and the adoption of green business practices, including collaboration with the motor coach industry to find cleaner, more energy-efficient technology.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Former councilman hired by Idaho Falls for accounting position

David Smith
Former Idaho Falls City Councilman David Smith has joined the city of Idaho Falls’ accounting team, filling a budgeted position the Municipal Services Department that had been vacant.

The job’s focus is on supporting accounting functions for the electric utility, and although the position reports to the city controller in the Municipal Services Department, Idaho Falls Power pays the salary and benefits from the city’s enterprise fund.

A certified public accountant, Smith has more than 30 years of accounting, auditing, tax, and business consulting experience, with a professional focus on forensic accounting. He was appointed to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2015, and served until January. During his time on the council, he served as liaison to Idaho Falls Power and also on the Policy Makers Council for the American Public Power Association.

Idaho Falls Power and Municipal Services began evaluating the accounting needs for the utility in summer 2017 and recommended in early October that a senior accountant be hired. The job description was finalized in early November and the position was advertised regionally in mid-November, closing on December 15.

Including Smith, there were six applicants who applied for the position, none of whom were internal candidates. The selection committee identified three candidates to advance to the interview process. Due to the holidays, interviews were scheduled in mid-January, with a job offer made to Smith shortly thereafter.

The city does not have a policy with respect to hiring past City Council members, said Bear Prairie, assistant general manager for Idaho Falls Power, who represented the utility on the interviewing panel. “(The) standard hiring protocols were followed, with the objective of hiring the most qualified candidate. We interviewed other qualified CPAs, but no one had his (Smith's) level of experience.”

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Auditorium district hires new executive director

Brian 'Chip' Scott
The Idaho Falls Auditorium District’s board of directors has hired Brian “Chip” Scott as its new executive director.

In his new role, Scott is responsible for the operations and management of the district, with is funded by a tax on hotel guest stays in the greater Idaho Falls area.

According to a news release from the district, Scott has served as vice president of operations for the Memphis in May International Festival, production director for Bumbershoot, the Seattle Music and Arts Festival, and booking and marketing director for a 14,000-seat arena in North Carolina.

Scott also has experience in fund-raising, project management and public relations. He holds a bachelor of science degree in recreation from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Radford University in Virginia.

The auditorium district was established by vote in 2011, and is involved in the planning of an events center slated to be built on ground in the Snake River Landing development on Idaho Falls’ south side. Board meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at the Business Development Center, 425 N. Capital Ave. For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Real estate marketing numbers show slight cooldown in 2017

The numbers for 2017 are finally in from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service, which keeps track of home sales and prices for eastern Idaho.

The results for Bonnneville County show a market that has slowed down somewhat, but it would be hard to keep the pace of 2016, the most go-go year ever.

Here’s what the number crunching reveals …

Homes Sold: 1,986 in 2016, 1,766 in 2017, a decline of 11 percent.

Average Days on Market: 57 in 2016, 48 in 2017. Homes were selling faster on average.

Median Price: $163,783 in 2016, $174,527 in 2017. Homes were selling for more.

New Listings: 2,663 in 2016, 2,426 in 2017.

If these numbers suggest anything to me, is that 2016 was a year in which a lot of inventory got unloaded while 2017 was healthy and still a seller’s market.

For the sake of historical perspective, let’s take a look at 2006, the biggest year before the crash.

Homes Sold: 1,788
Average Days on Market: 95
Median Price: $143,717
New Listings: 1,863

And, lastly, here are the numbers from 2011, which represents rock bottom.

Homes Sold: 987
Average Days on Market: 110
Median Price: $133,879
New Listings: 2,049

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Idaho Falls airport director leaving for new job in Hawaii

Idaho Falls Regional Airport Director Craig Davis has announced he is resigning from his position, to take a job with the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Airports Division of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Davis has been airport director since October 2012.

Under his tenure, the airport has passed the annual FAA safety inspection with zero discrepancies – the highest rating a commercial airport can receive. The rating also came with comments and accolades for IDA’s efficiency, management and overall safety. It has requested and received multiple federal grants for airport improvements and expansions: $2.5 million for the south terminal expansion, $2.4 million for the south quad ramp expansion, $2.3 million for the commercial ramp expansion and de-icing pad, $9 million for the Taxiway A, C and Runway 2/20 rehabilitation project, and $3.6 million for the baggage claim expansion project, which will take place this summer.

The airport operates from the city’s enterprise fund as a financially self-sustaining entity. In 2016, new revenue streams were created for the airport by adding three new corporate hangars and a new Enterprise Rent-a-car storage and maintenance facility. Other accomplishments include a successful Runway 17/35 Planning Study that will result in maintaining the runway use and increase safety. IDA also extended its aircraft rescue and specialized aircraft firefighting to 24-hour coverage, making it much safer for pilots who must land after-hours.

Davis oversaw the launch of IDA’s rebranding project, part of a comprehensive air service-marketing plan aimed at increasing awareness of the airport’s offerings within the community.

“While I am very sad to see him go, I am very happy to have had his expertise and leadership here at the city serving to build our airport over these past six years,” Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said. “Craig worked tirelessly to attract and expand flights to the area, including new flights to Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, recently striking a tentative deal with Alaska Airlines to begin a non-stop flight to Seattle. He knew that bringing competition to the IDA marketplace could result in lower airfares.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dutch Bros. building second Idaho Falls location

A second Dutch Bros. Coffee is in the works for Idaho Falls, at 830 E. 17th Street, where Wendy’s used to be.

The city of Idaho Falls Building Department approved the permit application on Monday from Adam Garcia of HB Architecture in Nampa. The owner is listed as Kyle Cooper of Needles Eye Holding, a company located in Eagle. The building will be 2,335 square feet, and the permit application gives an estimated value of $550,000.

This is obviously going to be some cause of excitement for you BizMojo Idaho readers. When I posted about the first Dutch Bros., which is going up on Woodruff Avenue where Sarah’s Candy Cottage used to be, the response made me wonder if Russian bots had suddenly taken an interest in my humble, hyperlocal online business updater. As of this morning, the counter on my stats page shows there have been 62,667 page views for that post alone (since its inception in September 2011, BizMojo has logged 1.3 million page views, in case you’re interested.)

Anyway, there you have it: Dutch Bros. No. 2. I've actually been waiting for this, since a tipster told me in November that this would be happening, but corporate types are tight lipped and I don't want to go reporting something before there is official verification.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Tru by Hilton hotel slated for construction in Idaho Falls

The Tru by Hilton hotel that was built last year in Lancaster, Pa. One is slated for construction in Idaho Falls this year.
It looks like another Hilton hotel is going to be built on Lindsay Boulevard, this one a Tru by Hilton just south of the Hilton Garden Inn.

The city of Idaho Falls Building Department approved a permit application Thursday from B&T Hotels IV LLC for a 43,102-square-foot hotel at 680 Lindsay Boulevard. Once the site of the Stardust Motor Lodge, the land is at the northeastern corner of where Lindsay merges with Utah Avenue. The job value on the permit is estimate at $5.55 million. The contractor is Headwaters Construction Co. of Victor.

Hilton announced the Tru brand, its 14th, in January 2016, billing it as its re-entry into the midscale hotel segment. In 2017 Hilton opened its first-ever Tru property, in Oklahoma City followed by eight additional hotel locations, and expanded internationally with signed deals for three locations in Canada. At the latest count, 470 Tru hotels were slated to be built.

”I ultimately think this will be our biggest brand over time," Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said at the time of the brand’s announcement, pointing out that 40 percent of demand for hotel rooms is in the midscale segment, e.g. brands such as Comfort Inn by Choice Hotels and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.

Rates at Tru are in the $90 to $100 range. The brand is especially intended appeal to people in their 20s and early 30s who tend to favor modern design, public spaces where they can work and socialize, and advanced technology such as mobile check-in, according to the company’s webpage. Local snacks and drinks, including single-serving beer and wine, are available from a grab-and-go area. A build-your-own breakfast station is complimentary, and coffee and tea are free throughout the day. The play area features a large TV, and activities such as ping pong and foosball tables. Wi-Fi is free. Rooms come with either a king bed or double queen beds, in sizes of 231 or 275 square feet.

Just to keep you on the page longer, here's a video to watch.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Building activity in Idaho Falls holds roughly even in 2017

The city of Idaho Falls Building Department has released figures for 2017, showing levels that held roughly even with 2016.

Total building construction valuation for the year was $96,392,830, representing a .66 percent drop from 2016, which posted valuation of $97,032,026. Revenue for the building division in 2017 was $829,719, which included $37,3446 in contractor licensing fees.

New commercial building projects were up 20 percent in 2017, and new single family housing starts were up 7 percent. The total number of permits issued in 2017 was 2,149, a .326 percent increase over 2016.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

INL researchers publish paper on solid carbon fuel cell technology

Idaho National Laboratory research scientist Dong Ding is developing direct carbon fuel cells.
Advancements in a fuel cell technology powered by solid carbon could make electricity generation from resources such as coal and biomass cleaner and more efficient, according to a new paper published by Idaho National Laboratory researchers.

The fuel cell design incorporates innovations in three components: the anode, the electrolyte and the fuel. Together, these advancements allow the fuel cell to utilize about three times as much carbon as earlier direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs.

The fuel cells also operate at lower temperatures and showed higher maximum power densities than earlier DCFCs, according to INL materials engineer Dong Ding. The results appear in the Jan. 25 edition of the journal Advanced Materials, and are featured on its inside front cover.

Whereas hydrogen fuel cells (e.g., proton exchange membrane (PEM) and other fuel cells) generate electricity from the chemical reaction between pure hydrogen and oxygen, DCFCs can use any number of carbon-based resources for fuel, including coal, coke, tar, biomass and organic waste.

Because DCFCs make use of readily available fuels, they are potentially more efficient than conventional hydrogen fuel cells. “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding said.

So far, DCFCs have had several drawbacks. They operate at extremely high temperatures — 700 to 900 degrees Celsius — making them less efficient and less durable. As a consequence of those high temperatures, they’ve required expensive materials that can handle the heat. These limitations have inhibited DCFCs' ability to effectively utilize carbon fuel.

Ding and his colleagues addressed these challenges by designing a true direct carbon fuel cell that’s capable of operating at below 600 degrees Celsius. The fuel cell makes use of solid carbon, which is finely ground and injected via an airstream into the cell. The researchers tackled the need for high temperatures by developing an electrolyte using highly conductive materials: doped cerium oxide and carbonate. These materials maintain their performance under lower temperatures.

Next, they increased carbon utilization by developing a 3-D ceramic textile anode design that interlaces bundles of fibers together like a piece of cloth. The fibers themselves are hollow and porous. All of these features combine to maximize the amount of surface area that’s available for a chemical reaction with the carbon fuel.

Finally, the researchers developed a composite fuel made from solid carbon and carbonate. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.” The molten carbonate carries the solid carbon into the hollow fibers and the pinholes of the anode, increasing the power density of the fuel cell. 

The resulting fuel cell looks like a green, ceramic watch battery that’s about as thick as a piece of construction paper. A larger square is 10 centimeters on each side. The fuel cells can be stacked on top of one another depending on the application. The Advanced Materials journal posted a video abstract here:

The technology has the potential for improved utilization of carbon fuels, such as coal and biomass, because direct carbon fuel cells produce carbon dioxide without the mixture of other gases and particulates found in smoke from coal-fired power plants, for example. This makes it easier to implement carbon capture technologies, Ding said.

The advanced DCFC design has already attracted notice from industry. Ding and his colleagues are partnering with Salt Lake City-based Storagenergy, Inc., to apply for a Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding opportunity. The results will be announced in February. A Canadian energy-related company has also shown interest in these DCFC technologies.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Blacker's opens HGTV Home Design Studio by Bassett in I.F., Blackfoot stores

Connie Wood
Blacker’s Complete Home Furnishings has become Idaho's first and only affiliate of HGTV Home Design Studio by Bassett, in both its Idaho Falls and Blackfoot showrooms.

To commemorate the new galleries housing the design studios, Blacker’s is hosting a ribbon cutting with the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday at 1 p.m., at their 1530 E. Lincoln Road location.

“We are thrilled to add the HGTV Home Design Studio by Basset to our stores,” said Blacker’s upholstery buyer, Connie Wood. “This design studio will allow our customers to be inspired by the freshest home interior looks in the country, and gives them the ability to customize their own comfort and look, in sought-after HGTV color and style.”

HGTV Home Design Studio by Bassett allows customers to create custom furniture or a room makeover plan unique to their own style and preferences.

Collin Cook
“Working with Blacker’s to bring the exclusive HGTV Home Design Studio by Bassett to Idaho was a natural”, said Bassett area representative Greg Johnson. “They have spacious showrooms and a deep customer base that covers from Jackson Hole, and surrounding Wyoming areas, to all the way up and down this valley. Besides having the space, Blacker’s has the vision, and the 40-plus years of experience necessary to showcase such a unique and high-quality line.”

“Adding this new line with the design studio galleries is very exciting for our stores and our communities. We were able to reconfigure our showrooms, making the Design Studio for HGTV by Bassett the centerpiece,” said Collin Cook, Blacker’s General Manager. “And we can’t wait to hear what our customers have to say of the results, and the fact that they no longer have to drive to another state to find it.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stephens joins Bank of Idaho board

Denise Stephens
Denise Stephens, retired chief information officer and director of information management for Idaho National Laboratory, has joined the board of directors for Bank of Idaho and the Bank of Idaho Holding Co.

Stephens also is a former member of the Department of Energy Cyber Council.

“Denise brings to the table over 20 years of experience as an information technology and cyber security leader,” said Jeff Newgard, CEO and president of Bank of Idaho, in a news release. “In this day of advanced technology and increased cyber threats, it is a great benefit to the Bank of Idaho to have Denise on the board to lend her expertise.”

Stephens is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a Master of Business Administration. In 2017 she was named one of the Idaho Business Review’s Women of the Year for her efforts and dedication to INL.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Meal prep service opens in Ammon, Rexburg

Citrus Pear, a a meal preparation company based in Smithfield, Utah, has opened in the Ammon and Rexburg Broulim’s stores, offering weekly classes to help people make  10 to 40 simple crock pot and pressure cooker meals in two hours.

Around 10 to 15 people participate in each class, which are guided by a registered dietitian who monitors issues such as food allergies. Private classes also are available.

To sign up for a class or to create a private class, visit First classes in Ammon begin Feb. 6. The following dishes will be: 3 Bean Turkey Chili, Balsamic Chicken, Beef with Broccoli, Breakfast for Dinner, Cashew Chicken, Chicken Fajitas, Fresh Mexican Soup, Penne & Turkey Sausage, Sweet Pork, and Vegetable Beef Stew.

Registration is first-come-first-served. Each location offers approximately two to three classes per week. Prices: $185 for 10 meals feeding six to eight people; $195 for 20 meals feeding three to four people; $320 for 20 meals that feed six to eight people; and $332 for 40 meals that feed three to four people.

Participants need to bring a large container, such as a laundry basked or cooler with wheels (recommended), in which to place their dinners once they’re prepared. They are also advised to wear their hair back (the website makes no mention of hairnets, but there is a non-fashion reason they are used in institutional food service settings.)

Work spaces at the classes are equipped with cooking utensils, but participants are welcome to bring their own. Meal prep and clean-up are taken care of by the staff.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Felton promoted to Melaleuca's president of international operations

Jerry Felton
Melaleuca Senior Vice President of International Jerry Felton has been promoted to president of Melaleuca International. In this role, he will oversee all of Melaleuca’s international operations in the 16 countries where the company does business.

Felton has been with Melaleuca for nine years, starting as senior vice president of sales for three-and-a-half years before becoming senior vice president of international. In the last five years under Felton’s leadership Melaleuca’s international operations have tripled in size, and in the last three years international operations have grown by over $800 million in annual sales.

“Jerry has been a skillful administrator in leading Melaleuca’s operations both domestically and internationally,” said Melaleuca President and CEO Frank VanderSloot. “He is extremely well prepared to take on this role. Our 16 international companies are in good hands.”

Prior to Melaleuca, Felton spent 17 years at United Parcel Service, where he was the company’s Vice President of Global Accounts.

Based in Idaho Falls, Melaleuca manufactures and markets more than 450 natural health and wellness products, which are marketed through a unique systems of personal representatives. Started in 1985, the company recently announced it reached $2 billion in sales.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Idaho Falls's first building permit of '18: Shoe Dept. store remodel planned

This is Bizmojo Idaho's "first baby" story: The city of Idaho Falls has its first commercial permit application of 2018. I wish it was something more exciting, e.g. Dutch Bros. Coffee, it is instead a humble remodel of the Shoe Dept. Encore store in Grand Teton Mall.

According to the permit application, the space is 10,157 square feet and the project valuation (based on square footage) is $267,315. The store is located on the mall’s south side, directly across from The Buckle.

The store is owned by Shoe Show, Inc., a company founded in 1960 in Kannapolis, N.C. According to the company’s web site, it has 1,137 locations in 45 states, doing business as Shoe Show, Shoe Dept. and Burlington Shoes.

The permit application was filed Thursday with the Idaho Falls Building Department.