Tuesday, October 27, 2020

INL small business subcontracting, purchasing hit new high in FY 2020

Despite being an incredibly challenging year, FY 2020, which ended Sept. 30, saw Idaho National Laboratory’s highest-ever levels of small business subcontracting and purchasing.

The lab spent around $352.5 million with small businesses, which made up over 66% of the spend on goods and services. INL also exceeded all five of its specific small business spending goals, including small disadvantaged, HUBZone, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, and Idaho-based businesses.

This unusually high spend for goods and services occurred in large part due to the success of INL’s growing missions, including a thriving construction portfolio, expanding cybersecurity research and a heightened business need generated by the advanced nuclear projects slated for the INL desert site.

Along with these exciting new mission developments, the lab’s high attainment is especially impressive in light of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented to businesses. Standard spending habits decreased significantly during the beginning phases of the pandemic, and efforts instead shifted toward purchasing items necessary to keep the lab safe, including hand sanitizer, disinfectants and cleaning supplies, and masks, in addition to filling consistent PPE needs not related to COVID-19.

This shifted focus allowed the lab to support several local small businesses in their extraordinary efforts to provide innovative solutions to overwhelming need during the pandemic. Even as COVID-19-related needs die down, these lasting partnerships will continue to benefit INL and the southeastern Idaho community.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Moms Supporting Moms | Chynna Hansen, Little Mama Shirt Shop

Chynna Hansen, her husband, Tyler, and their three sons, owners of the eBusinees Little Mama Shirt Shop

On an initial investment of $400, Chynna Hansen started an online shirt shop as a way to make extra income to help pay household bills while her husband, Tyler, went to school. “I think I didn't know I was an entrepreneur, maybe even when I was,” she says now about the decision.

Chynna saw that graphic tees were gaining popularity but that most of them did not have a flattering fit. “It struck me one day. The name came to me first,” she said. She started with seven designs and worked with a local screen-printer. Starting on Etsy and then announcing it on Facebook live, the idea was a success. “It was a lot of hustle. We dumped everything into the business for the first seven months,” she said.

 Chynna is known for the saying "Bringing Up Boys" and has trademarked the saying as her design.
“I was meant to be my own boss -- even if that came with a lot of heartache and a lot of struggle, it was what I was meant to do,” she said. She admits that she hadn't really accepted that she has a business until last year. There wasn't a ton of pressure on the business and Chynna was able to focus on the LMSS community, which has since changed as her husband has left his full-time job and joined the company.

LMSS has a VIP group of around 8,000 members. Considering the group, Chynna admits that she's scared to grow it because she likes the intimacy of the group as it currently is. The VIP group provides early access to sales, advice, and general mom “stuff.” It's important to Chynna to be active in the group every day, and she feels the personal touch has made all the difference. She likes showing that they are truly a family business and look just like their customers.

“We have worked hard to build a reputation of always moms supporting moms,” she said. “We always say it's more than shirts.”

A lot of the moms resonate with the need for community. Looking back, Chynna recognizes that she was lonely as a mom raising her kids. It took courage to say to the world, but she knew she needed to do it for herself and for others who felt the same way. That made her want to create a place where mothers could share information and lift each other up with without judging each other.

Although followers and customers don't see everything that is happening behind the scenes, Chynna works hard to show her business model is pretty transparent. She came from an entrepreneurial family, but never really understood the impact that had on her. She admits she has had good mentors in her parents, and they have always been there to answer her questions based on their own experiences. Still, a lot of what she has learned has been by trial and error and by just diving in.

When asked about working with a spouse, Chynna admitted it can be difficult but said she loves it. “He has a lot of good ideas and has phrases for shirts too,” she said. When her husband recently left his full-time job it was a risk but she admitted she needed him to help grow the business.

Chynna said that they have a supportive community but it has not come without some critics. “With eCommerce, people forget that there is a person operating behind the screen. You can't please every person, but you can try,” she said. She has worked through it by just figuring it out, knowing she's not alone because she has the whole community of LMSS behind her. “We have to choose every day to go in the positive direction that works,” she said.

Scaling was more difficult than starting, she said. She and her team are working hard to find resources to solve the problems that arise, and even though that can be intimidating their team is committed to LMSS success.

The future of the business is always on Chynna's mind, and she and her husband are looking to bigger plans for the future. She says she's not looking for giant warehouses and hundreds of employees, but anything is possible.


For more information on Little Mama Shirt Shop, visit their website at https://littlemamashirtshop.com/. You can find LMSS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/littlemamashirtshop and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/littlemamashirtshop/.

Business Leadership Moment

Job descriptions and role clarity. Are you experiencing a different role than what your job description says? Does it say leader and yet you are acting like a job support staff? Time to self examine!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Lindstedt earns Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate

Anna Lindstedt
Fall River Electric board member Anna Lindstedt of Driggs recently earned her Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate (CCD) from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which represents over 900 consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric providers in the United States.

This first part of NRECA’s three-part Director Education Program, the Credentialed Cooperative Director program, consists of five courses that focus on basic governance knowledge and the essential skills required of cooperative directors. The CCD prepares directors to fulfill their fiduciary duty as elected officials serving on behalf of their membership. Now that Lindstedt has completed her CCD, she can pursue the Board Leadership Certificate available through NRECA.

Fall River Electric’s by-laws require all board directors to complete certification as a cooperative
director which provides them with the essential skills required of co-op directors. “Our board has been impressed with Anna’s knowledge and at how dedicated she has been in accomplishing the training that is beneficial to the entire board,” said Dede Draper, president of Fall River’s board of directors.

Lindstedt is employed by Friends of the Teton River and has been in Teton Valley since 2004. She was elected last year from District 4, which includes the northeastern portion of Driggs, including the Alta area and then north along Highway 33 and east of N 500 W.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Idaho Women's Business Center to open office in Idaho Falls

The Idaho Women’s Business Center will be opening an office in at the Idaho Innovation Center in Idaho Falls, with a ceremonial kickoff event scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. Due to social distancing, a limited number of attendees will be able to participate live, but anyone interested in participating virtually can do so at www.IdahoWomen.org.

Launched by the U.S. Small Business Administration in July 2019, IWBC's mission is to support innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic empowerment for women across the state. Since its inception it has intended to have a statewide presence. In addition to the Idaho Falls office, another office will be opening in Moscow. The Idaho Falls office comes as a result of an technology innovation grant from Idaho National Laboratory. "After several meetings with INL, we knew that even though the pandemic has delayed our projections to open, we needed to push forward to be closer to our clients, said Megan Bryant, IWBC Director of Communication & Connections.

Cheryl O’Brien, a former INL senior executive, is the IWBC associate director for eastern Idaho. She brings a variety of experience to the position and her community connectivity to stakeholders locally will enhance IWBC's ability to leverage the existing ecosystem of resources.

Located at 2300 N. Yellowstone, the Idaho Innovation Center is a business incubator providing resources to small, fledgling companies, where entrepreneurs can confidently and aggressively start and grow their small businesses through collaboration, education, mentoring and shared resources. Resources onsite include the IIC, the Idaho Small Business Development Center, the Service Corp of Retired Executives, the Idaho Manufacturing Alliance, the University of Idaho, and Idaho State University.

Local, state and national leaders have been invited to the ceremony Tuesday, including Governor Brad
Little, U.S. Sen. James E. Risch, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

DOE picks two companies for advanced reactor demonstration funding

The Natrium system from TerraPower and GE-Hitachi features a 345-MWe reactor and can be optimized for specific markets. For instance, its thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500-MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday it has selected two U.S.-based teams to receive $160 million in initial funding under the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). ARDP, announced in May, is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.
DOE is awarding TerraPower LLC of Bellevue, Wash., and X-energy of Rockville, Md., $80 million each in initial funding to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years. The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry that will deliver two first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The department will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years, subject to the availability of future appropriations, with industry partners providing matching funds.
“The awards are the first step of a new program that will strengthen American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “These partnerships will help maximize DOE’s investment in advanced reactors, which play a vital role in our clean energy strategy.”

As DOE's lead laboratory for nuclear research and home of the National Reactor Innovation Center, Idaho National Laboratory will play a role in the projects' development.

"I congratulate TerraPower’s Natrium reactor and X-energy’s xe100 reactor for receiving the DOE's advanced reactor demonstration pathway awards," said INL Director Mark Peters. "Today marks a tremendous step forward in bringing advanced fission systems from concept to reality."
“Congratulations to all the innovators selected for their Advanced Reactor Demonstration Proposals,” said Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Innovation Center. “NRIC looks forward to working with each of you to deliver successful outcomes. These projects contribute to a diversity of designs, which will help achieve our commitment to demonstrating advanced reactors.”

GE Hitachi, TerraPower Team on Nuclear-Storage Hybrid SMR (Powermag.com, Sept. 3, 2020)

Specifically, TerraPower will demonstrate the Natrium reactor, a sodium‐cooled fast reactor that leverages decades of development and design undertaken by TerraPower and its partner, GE‐Hitachi. The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind a solar. In addition, this project will establish a new metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of this demonstration program.
X-energy will deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design. The Xe-100 is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor that is ideally suited to provide flexible electricity output as well as process heat for a wide range of industrial heat applications, such as desalination and hydrogen production. The project will also deliver a commercial scale TRi-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO) fuel fabrication facility, leveraging DOE’s substantial investment in development of this highly robust fuel form.

The Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed modular nuclear power plant has a small physical footprint, only 200 meters by 100 meters with a small emergency planning zone, and a reduced water requirement which means it can be installed in a much wider range of potential locations compared to other clean energy solutions.

Both projects incorporate a range of design features that will not only enhance safety, but make them affordable to construct and operate, paving the way for the United States to deploy highly competitive advanced reactors domestically and globally.
“DOE and U.S. industry are extremely well-equipped to develop and demonstrate nuclear reactors with the requisite sense of urgency, which is important not only to our economy, but to our environment, because nuclear energy is clean energy,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

X-Energy Steps Into The Ring With Its Advanced Pebble Bed Modular Nuclear Reactor (Forbes, March 27, 2017)

Congress appropriated $160 million for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget as initial funding for these demonstration projects. Funding beyond the near-term is contingent on additional future appropriations, evaluations of satisfactory progress and DOE approval of continuation applications. In addition, the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation also provided initial year funding of $30 million for two to five Risk Reduction for Future Demonstrations projects and $20 million initial year funding for at least two Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) projects. Awards for these projects are expected to be announced in December 2020. 
More information on the Office of Nuclear Energy and its programs can be found here.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Abracadabra's owner plans French restaurant for old Cellar location

At left is the property at 3520 East 17th as it appeared in the early 20th century, and at right, the building as it appears today.

For years it was The Cellar and regarded as one of the more upscale places to eat in the Idaho Falls/Ammon area. For a brief stint this year it was Rustic Vine, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. And now, the property at 3520 East 17th Street is being refashioned into Cast Iron, with an opening set for November.

East Idaho News reports that co-owner Josh Swain plans to open sometime around Thanksgiving. “It’s going to be French cuisine with a rotating menu,” he said. “There’ll be a staple of six or seven items, but we’re going to have daily specials. It’s peasant food reinvented for (modern) times.”

Swain owns Abracadabra’s in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Twin Falls, and is the former owner of Stockman’s Restaurant. He said he and his partners felt inspired to purchase the property last month when Rustic Vine, the previous occupant, closed after six months of operation.

“I didn’t want to open another restaurant, but I’ve always been in love with this place,” he said. “I think I have a concept that’s going to make people fall in love with it the way that I did.”

He said it will be a standalone location and that his goal is to open without fanfare this November. “We’re just going to turn the lights on and say, ‘We’re open,'” he said.

Wind River Construction is doing the remodeling, and Launie.com is a consultant on the project.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Idaho National Laboratory plays key role in 'green hydrogen' research

Dr. Dong Ding (right) and his GEM fellow student, Joshua Gomez (left) examine a lab-made solid oxide electrolysis cell, which will be used for hydrogen production through high temperature steam electrolysis.

Idaho National Laboratory is a member of two new Department of Energy research consortia charged with exploring new methods and technologies for hydrogen production. Hydrogen can effectively store excess electricity, which can be harvested later via fuel cells. These consortia – H2NEW and HydroGEN 2.0 – were formed to discover how “green” hydrogen can be produced more efficiently and less expensively.

“DOE has a strong interest in hydrogen generation,” said INL researcher Gary Groenewold, who is leading the lab’s involvement in the H2NEW consortium. “They’ve got technology they feel can be pushed from mid-range research to the pilot plant level.”

INL and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will co-lead H2NEW, which will advance state-of-the-art hydrogen production using low temperature electrolysis and high temperature electrolysis. The program will conduct research, development and demonstration of large-scale, affordable electrolyzers — devices that use electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The end goal is to be able to produce hydrogen at a generalized cost of $2 per kilogram. Today, carbon-free hydrogen from electrolysis costs about $5 to $6/kg to make assuming electricity prices of $0.05/kWh to $0.07/kWh.

The second consortium, HydroGEN 2.0, is led by NREL. It will focus more on fundamental science questions by facilitating collaborations between national laboratories, academia and industry. The consortium’s steering committee has representatives from DOE and each of the six member labs. Dr. Richard Boardman is INL’s representative.

Both consortia are funded by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Collectively, these efforts support EERE’s H2@Scale vision for affordable hydrogen production, distribution, storage and utilization across multiple applications.
INL is widely known for its expertise in solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOECs). For years, INL researchers have experimented with solid oxide electrolysis stacks, splitting water molecules at lower temperatures and reducing stress on SOEC materials. In 2018, INL researcher Dong Ding and his colleagues demonstrated high-performance electrochemical hydrogen production at a lower temperature than seen before. In a paper published by the journal Advanced Science, Ding reported on a highly efficient proton-conducting solid oxide electrolysis cell (P-SOEC) that incorporates a 3D ceramic steam electrode. During testing, the cells operated below 600 degrees Celsius at a highly sustained rate for days.

In 2020, Ding led a team of INL researchers to pioneer a reversible electrochemical cell that efficiently converts excess electricity and water into hydrogen but also, when called for, can convert hydrogen back into electricity for the grid. The hydrogen can be used as fuel for heat, vehicles or other applications. The results appeared in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“The people in his group are working at a very high level,” Groenewold said.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Closings this week in the Greater Idaho Falls area

Here's a rundown of closings this week from SVN High Desert Commercial:

Odyssey Rehabilitation leased 3,645 sf of office space located at 756 Oxford Drive in Idaho Falls. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the landlord and Shane Murphy of Venture One Properties represented the tenant.

Christensen Insurance agency leased 766 sf of office space located at 1820 E 17th Street in Idaho Falls. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the landlord and Tina Miller of Assist to Sell represented the tenant.

Boomers Audio leased 3600 sf warehouse in Ucon. Randy Waters represented the landlord and tenant.

Mi Casa Properties LLC purchased a 1,960 sf medical condo at 2065 E 17th street. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the seller and Jason Grider of Morgan Grider Peterson represented the buyer.

Alphagraphics purchased an additional acre next door to their current location on Bentley Way in  Idaho Falls. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert represented the buyer and seller.

Boam and Associates leased 1,306 sf in the Exchange Plaza. Randy Waters represented the landlord and tenant.

Kone Properties Purchased a 1.313 acre lot in Andersen Business Development slated for a 6,000 sf warehouse. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the buyer and seller.

Boost Mobile leased 1,200 sf located at 563 South Woodruff. Randy Waters of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the landlord and tenant.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

INL wins three R&D 100 Awards

Three Idaho National Laboratory technologies have won R&D 100 Awards in 2020. Since their inception in 1963, the R&D 100 Awards have celebrated research and development from across the public and private sectors and are a prestigious distinction for inventors. Laboratories and companies across the nation submit nominations, and a panel of more than 40 industry-leading experts ranks the entries based on technical significance, uniqueness, and applicability across industry, government and academia. Typically, the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories have dozens of finalists every year.

Including this year’s winners, INL has won 25 R&D 100 Awards since 2005.

This year, due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 R&D 100 Awards ceremony was held virtually.


Carbon CURE (Carbon Capture & Utilization through Reduction Electrolysis)

Researchers: Luis Diaz Aldana (principal investigator), Ningshengjie Gao, Tedd Lister, Birendra Adhikari, Aaron Wilson, Eric Dufek

Description: Decarbonizing energy production through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a popular idea that has been plagued by operational and economic challenges, but integrating carbon capture with reuse to make high-value products could offer an operational advantage. The Carbon CURE process provides a solution by using recyclable solvents as a carbon capture medium that can be fed directly to an electrochemical cell. The cell converts carbon dioxide to syngas, the building block for a raft of high value products. The process will help to achieve economical carbon capture at an industrial scale.

The Carbon CURE process aims to achieve economical carbon capture at an industrial scale.

CoDeAc (Colorimetric Detection of Actinides)

Researchers: Catherine Riddle (principal investigator), Rick Demmer

Description: In responding to an accident or attack, handheld detectors may provide adequate screening for some radiation sources but they lack the sensitivity to detect alpha emitters such as uranium and plutonium in dusty, outdoor environments. CoDeAc can help responders quickly detect actinides at any disaster or accident scene. CoDeAc's color change in the presence of very low concentrations of uranium and plutonium gives a go/no-go result in seconds, allowing these professionals to make decisions based on actual data instead of assumptions on-site. These decisions impact everyone and can mean the difference between evacuating hundreds of thousands of people within square miles or just 100 people within a square block during a radiological event.

Crop Artificial Intelligence Quotient (Crop AIQ)

Researchers: Mike Griffel (principal investigator), Damon Hartley (biomass analysis), M. Ross Kunz (data analytics)

Description: Crop AIQ provides a vital function: agricultural performance assessments that allow land managers to make more informed decisions about how they grow plants for food, feed, fiber and fuel. The tool gives farmers the ability to generate an accurate yield map without having to rely on harvester data, the only other way to produce such a map. A yield map is fundamental to precision agriculture and integrated land management. It is also basic to maximizing agriculture productivity and profitability, while minimizing environmental impact.

CoDeAc can help responders quickly detect actinides at any disaster or accident scene.


CellSage-KTA (Kinetic & Transient Analyses)

Researcher: Kevin Gering

Description: CellSage-KTA is an advanced computational tool that gives insight into a battery cell’s age. It employs physics, electrochemistry and thermodynamics to diagnose battery health in real time on a standard personal computer or laptop. It also can be used to predict battery performance and track aging characteristics through multiple mechanisms.

High-Moisture Pelleting Process

Researcher: Jaya Shankar Tumuluru

Description: High-Moisture Pelleting Process helps produce biofuels and biopolymers for roughly 60% less compared to the cost of current practices, making these bioproducts cost-competitive with petroleum-based alternatives. The method efficiently dries and pellets high-moisture biomass, significantly reducing energy consumption for preprocessing materials such as agriculture leftovers or municipal solid waste.


Researchers: Briam Johnson (principal investigator), Michael McCarty, Rishi Chatterjee, Kristopher Watts (Gravwell Group)

Description: The OpDefender, an intelligent software-defined networking switch, protects electric utilities, oil and gas infrastructure, water systems, and other critical infrastructure from cyberattack. OpDefender uniquely monitors and protects industrial control systems at the application protocol layers, reducing the cyberattack surface by as much as 99% compared to standard industrial switches.

Route Operable Unmanned Navigation of Drones (ROUNDS)

Researchers: Ahmad Al Rashdan (principal investigator), Michael L. Wheeler, Dakota Roberson (University of Idaho), Roger Lew (University of Idaho)

Description: ROUNDS is a cost-effective method for drones to navigate a course inside a building or structure where a strong GPS signal is absent. Self-navigation is achieved by determining the drone’s location from the visual angle of QR codes placed along a desired course, then dynamically adjusting trajectory accordingly. Self-navigating drones using ROUNDS could gather instrument data, check inventory, perform security rounds or do other tedious tasks, saving time and money while increasing operational efficiency across a range of industries. Likewise, automated movement of drones could improve safety by eliminating the need for people to enter areas that are hazardous due to elevation or the presence of chemicals or radiation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Chicken and donuts and subs, oh my! Three new food options coming to Ammon

Who knows when things will ever get back to normal, but regardless of that lunchtime options for students at Hillcrest High School are about to become more varied with the developments at 2671 E. Sunnyside Road.

This is Hillcrest Plaza, the strip mall near the new Dutch Bros, and this week’s list of real estate transactions from TOK Commercial shows three transactions: Super Chix Idaho, LLC has leased 3,044 square feet; Hole Foods, LLC has leased 1,200 square feet; and Snake River Restaurant Group, LLC has leased 1,646 square feet.

Word is the latter two will be home to Duck Donuts and Jersey Mike's Subs.

No opening dates have been announced. Bonnie Wetsel, who is opening Duck Donuts with her husband, Wyatt, told EastIdahoNews.com in September that the buildout will depend on availability of materials. Likewise, Bill Hawes, who is opening Super Chix, said an opening won’t be for several months.

Duck Donuts was founded in North Carolina in 2007. Since then, it has expanded to more than 200 stores, mainly on the East Coast, with scattered locations in Utah, Arizona and California. The Ammon store will be the first in Idaho.

Super Chix is owned by Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. The first restaurant opened in Texas in 2014. It bills itself as “a premium, fast-casual dining experience devoted to fresh, high-quality offerings and a great customer experience.” Besides chicken sandwiches and fries, the menu also features hand-dipped frozen custard, served in cones, cups, milkshakes and fusions (concretes). Two franchises opened in Utah earlier this year.

Jersey Mike’s
dates back to 1956, when 17-year-old Pete Cancro, with help from his high school football coach (also a banker) opened a shop in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Since then, the chain has expanded to more than 1,600 locations, with major expansion in California and the Western United States.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Sara Prentice selected to chair Chamber of Commerce board

Sara Prentice
The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors has selected Sara Prentice as its new chair.

In addition to having served on the board since 2016, Prentice is manager of Mission Enabling Communication Services at Idaho National Laboratory. In that role, she oversees a staff of communications professionals focused on supporting the INL laboratory director and deputy laboratory directors with executive communications. Her organization also includes employee communications, visual communications, digital media, and protocol and hospitality. Prentice was previously the protocol officer for INL and enjoyed showcasing the eastern Idaho community to VIP visitors.

“Sara is a great connection between the business community and the INL," said Chamber CEO Chip Schwarze. "Her leadership, event planning, tourism, and community awareness make her an ideal representative of our diverse business community. I am eager to work with her and serve our great business community.”

Since it started as the Idaho Falls Club of Commerce in 1904, the chamber has grown to include 656 member businesses representing more than 27,000 employees in the greater Idaho Falls region. Member businesses represent more than 30 different business sectors. The chamber works to create and protect competitive advantage for business in the region. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A little bit of history for today ...

Researching my weekly history column for the Post Register, I  found an interesting ad on the financial page of the Sept. 7, 1920, Portland, Ore., Daily Journal. It might be of interest some of my commercial real estate friends. The copy reads as follows:

“Per Capita — Idaho Falls is One of the West’s Wealthiest Cities ... The fact that Idaho Falls’ immense wealth is based on agriculture and it is the trading center of a vast irrigated region makes it unusually solid and places its bonds in the class of PREFERRED INVESTMENTS ... ONE TO TEN-YEAR 6 1/2% IMPROVEMENT BONDS ... INCOME TAX EXEMPT PRICE TO YIELD 7%”

Bonds could be bought in denominations of $100, $500 and $1,000. The ad was posted by Lumbermens Trust Co., under supervision of the Oregon State Building Department.

Good news from Google -- and how to stay in the Big G's good graces

Oh my gosh, after eight years it looks like BizMojoIdaho is out of the doghouse with Google! My AdSense account has been reinstated.

I don’t know what got me banned in the first place, a mildly satirical column on the blog or the mistake of clicking a Google-sponsored ad that appeared on my page (a bigger no-no than I had any idea, obviously). Whatever the case, my appeals fell on deaf ears for years until this past week.

For the education and edification of any publisher with a web page who wishes to stay in Google’s good graces, here is a rundown of do’s and don’ts from the email I received Monday afternoon:

  • It is against our program policies for publishers to click on their own ads or to encourage others to do so. In addition, the use of automated techniques to generate clicks, such as robots or scripts, is prohibited.
  • Use the Google Publisher Toolbar if you want to click an ad to check the landing page or other details. It will allow you to check the destination of ads on your page without the risk of invalid clicks.

The email contains a few cautions as well:

  • Please be assured that we are logging all the clicks, so do not click your ads to make sure the clicks are reported in the Performance reports. However, there may be reasons that you don't see the clicks right away as it may take up to 24 hours to finalize clicks and impressions in your reports.
  • Please note that if ad serving does not resume after your account is reinstated, there may be other issues needing resolution.

So I guess we wait and see. I'm curious to see how the ads appear and whether they generate any significant money. This blog turned nine years old earlier this month, and a lot has changed since I started it. I really appreciate the people who've followed it, the people who weigh in with questions and suggestions and tips, also my faithful advertisers. Thanks so much!

Chamber seeks Distinguished Under 40 nominees

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations from the community for its annual Distinguished Under 40 Awards. This is an awards program that honors 10 young professionals who have gone above and beyond to accomplish great things in their careers, community, and education. To be considered, young professionals can be nominated by co-workers, managers, and business associates. The nomination process will open this Thursday and the deadline is Oct. 30

Since it started as the Club of Commerce in 1904, the chamber has grown to include 656 member businesses representing more than 27,000 employees in the greater Idaho Falls region. Member businesses represent more than 30 different business sectors. The chamber works to create and protect competitive advantage for business in the region. For more information about becoming a member, contact Aaron James at marketing@idahofallschamber.com, or Stacy Butcher at programs@idahofallschamber.com Or call (208) 523-1010.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Finding the right fit | Mike Taylor, Taylored Fit

Mike Taylor
Mike Taylor's college education started with studying business until an economics class brought him to the realization that it might not be the right career for him. After moving on to performing arts and finding out that his lack of piano proficiency would be a big stumbling block, he turned to his physical education professor and asked, “How can I do what you do?” He changed his major to sports science and went on to get his master's degree in health education.

“I figured out I can work with people, I can talk about exercise and biomechanics and things that I'm interested in and teach people to help them feel better, look better, and just be happier with themselves and their lives,” he said.

Taylor's approach is holistic and takes in nutrition, behavior modification, and activity in a way that is enjoyable for the clients he serves to help them meet their fitness goals. “One of the things people like about me is that they don't feel judged. We have that accountability factor but they know me, they know my story. I've been through the ups and downs of weight loss and healthy lifestyle management, so I'm no stranger to the self-shame and the self-loathing we go through,” Mike said, “I try to find out where they are at and go from there.”

Since college, Taylor has worked full-time at the health department as well as providing personal training. “The last few years I've noticed that I've been trading time for money. I was running short on time. I've been working well over 60-plus hours a week. I decided I've got to do something different,” he said. As an answer to this, he has developed an online coaching program. COVID-19 has sped this up and now Taylor has a fully virtual program for his clients where anyone can visit any time during the day.

The vision is to grow his business and create a platform that anyone across the globe can access. He continues to see clients one-on-one as well as provide his virtual program and some small groups. When asked what he thinks sets him apart he said, “Personal training. I develop and design your program just for you. I'm the type of trainer you need.” He feels that his experience and training allow him to create a program that leads his clients to success.

He shared that an uncle once told him, “Mike, if you aren't living on the edge, you're taking up too much space. I really like that, the edge is the defining moment of what happens. You either stay on the edge or fall off.”

He admits that one of his biggest challenges is believing in himself daily. Although he does that for other people, he still needs that for himself. He feels strongly that you need to have your own support system and that is what helps to get you through the tough times. “We have setbacks, we have to learn self-reflection. Don't stew on the negative, learn from it and move on,” he said.

Taylor's family is active in sharing the story of fitness. They have recently started a YouTube channel called Taylored Fit Fam to share their own lives and how to fit fitness into everything a busy family of six kids has to do.

When considering self-employment, Taylor advises others who love to serve customers and are willing to have integrity in your business to go forward and follow their dreams.


Check out Mike's website for a free eBook and for more information on Taylored Fit at https://mikethetrainertaylor.com/.

Follow the Taylored Fit Fam on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSEy9EliKpQXdihkJh6o0rQ.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Shepherd's Inn 'Win the Whole Cow' fundraiser goes virtual

Shepherd’s Inn, eastern Idaho’s long-established pregnancy support center, will be holding its annual Win the Whole Cow fundraiser virtually this year. The center operates solely on grants, donations and fundraisers, and this year there is an added level of community need.

“Every little bit helps, and moving the event to a virtual arena makes sense right now,” said executive director, Julie Zahn. “We can save the golf tournaments and spaghetti dinners until it’s safe to gather again. That being said, we really need everyone’s help to rally around our event and join us online in our raffle ticket sales efforts. The bottom line is we still need to reach our $15,000 dollar goal to keep our services at the level our clients need."

No one really thought in the past about how much this annual fundraiser relies on local 4-H clubs to raise the yearly beef until there almost wasn’t a 4-H auction this year. Luckily, 4-H and county officials found a way to safely continue the sale. Shepherd’s Inn advocate and annual benefactor Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot purchased one of the bovines and donated it directly to the Win the Whole Cow raffle. Thieman’s Meats is stepping up again this year to provide the cutting, wrapping and storage of the beef until the winner is announced.

The grand prize alone is valued at over $4,500. To purchase tickets, go to https://shepherdsinn.org/win-the-whole-cow/ and select the amount of tickets you’d like to purchase, then click “Buy Now” The drawing includes not only the chance to win an entire beef cow but multiple themed gift baskets and other valuable prizes,  There will be a live Facebook drawing and announcement of the winners on Nov. 1.

To learn more about the raffle or to make a prize donation call 208-525-2014.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

DOE greenlights Critical Decision 1 for Versatile Test Reactor project

Even as the Versatile Test Reactor makes its way through the federal approval process, the VTR team has already begun collaborating with industry and academia to prepare experiments in anticipation of construction.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday announced it has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies.

Idaho National Laboratory has been designated the lead national laboratory for the project, heading a team that also includes Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Savannah River National Laboratory, as well as several universities and industry partners. Detailed cost estimates are not yet available, but documentation submitted for Critical Decision 0, based on similar projects, put the estimate between $3 billion and $6 billion. When the analysis of alternatives and conceptual design are completed, more accurate cost estimates are expected with a narrow cost range.

DOE is s considering locating VTR at either Idaho National Laboratory or Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is following processes outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to make its determination. Since clearing Critical Decision 0 in February 2019, DOE has been preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) as required by NEPA, to analyze alternatives and study impacts.

Critical Decision 1, known as “Approve Alternative Selection and Cost Range,” is the second step in the formal process DOE uses to review and manage research infrastructure projects. As part of Critical Decision 1, federal committees reviewed the conceptual design, schedule, and cost range, and analyzed potential alternatives. The VTR project now moves to the engineering design phase as soon as Congress appropriates funding. DOE has requested $295 million for FY 2021 for the project.

Frequently asked VTR questions

Versatile Test Reactor’s purpose will be to produce high levels of fast-neutron radiation to mimic, in weeks or months, the effects sustained over years or decades in a power reactor core. Existing test reactors, like the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at INL and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are thermal neutron reactors. Modifications can be made to simulate fast neutron conditions and limited boosting of fast neutron fluxes in thermal reactors, but irradiation conditions (in terms of neutron flux and energy spectrum) are not sufficiently prototypical to create data required in a formal fuels and materials development and qualification program for fast reactor designs.

DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee studied the issue and released a report in February 2017, recommending preconceptual design planning to support a new test reactor, including cost and schedule estimates. Companies developing advanced reactor including TerraPower, Westinghouse and Oklo, submitted letters in support of the NEAC report. The only capability for testing fast spectrum irradiation currently available to U.S. companies is the Bor-60 reactor in the Russian Federation. U.S. researchers and developers encounter multiple barriers when seeking access to Russian Federation reactors, including export control concerns for materials and fuels testing, intellectual property rights, and international transportation issues.

TerraPower: The Versatile Test Reactor Is Essential to Reestablishing U.S. Nuclear Leadership

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the approval of CD-1 represents a significant step toward re-establishing the United States as a global leader in nuclear energy research, safety and security, and developing new technologies that will help supply the world with low-carbon energy. “The Versatile Test Reactor addresses a long-standing gap in research infrastructure in the United States,” he said. “We have not had a fast neutron spectrum test facility for decades. Many of the new reactor designs under development by in the United States require this sort of long-term testing capability. Not only will VTR support the research and development of much-needed clean energy technologies, but it is key to revitalizing our nuclear industry, which has long been the model for safe operations and security for the world.”

“The approval of Critical Decision 1 establishes a solid foundation upon which the design phase can begin,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. “We have repeatedly heard from industry and other stakeholders that the United States needs a fast neutron scientific user facility to maintain our global leadership in nuclear energy. This decision puts us firmly on the path toward achieving that goal.”

DOE will make a final decision on the design, technology selection and location for VTR following the completion of the EIS and Record of Decision. According to the current schedule, final design will be completed, and construction would commence in 2022. The target date for a Versatile Test Reactor to be fully operational is 2026, subject to an adequate level of funding appropriations by Congress. The range for the startup date is estimated to be 2026 to 2030.

INL.gov: Versatile Test Reactor key to answering big science questions for university researchers

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Registration still open for REDI's annual conference (virtual this year)

Registration is still open for the “What’s Up in Eastern Idaho!” conference being sponsored Oct. 8 by Regional Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI).

Originally planned for May, plans for a live conference were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and over the summer REDI started making arrangements for the annual conference to be held online. Speakers are to include Idaho Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, and representatives from economic development organizations and state agencies.

"We have an exciting line up of speakers presenting on hot topics surrounding our region, said REDI CEO Teresa McKnight. “Slots are filling up fast, so we encourage those interested in attending to register as soon as possible."

Registration forms can be found at this link. A conference schedule can be found at this link.

REDI was created in 2015 to connect businesses to resources for growth, build relationships, help nurture and grow world-class sectors, and be a champion in promoting eastern and southeastern Idaho, an area encompassing 14 Idaho counties. It provides comprehensible and pertinent information to enable timely decision making for business expansion, attraction, and regional growth. REDI works with stakeholders to expand regional assets and connect public and private partners together to facilitate research and collaboration efforts, strengthen the workforce pipeline through industry needs assessment, education and training, and to enhance research and entrepreneurial activities in the region.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I.F Mayor Casper heads ECA's 'New Nuclear' initiative

The board of directors of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA), an organization better known for its work in advancing the cleanup of U.S. Department of Energy sites, has launched a new initiative aimed at supporting the development of new nuclear technologies.

Rebecca Casper

The self-funded, one-year initiative will focus on small modular reactors, micro and advanced reactors, a skilled nuclear workforce, and new nuclear missions around DOE facilities.

“With growing bipartisan support for nuclear energy in Congress, new federal demonstration projects led by DOE and the Department of Defense, and notable investment from the private sector, local governments want to be meaningfully engaged—and prepared—to match the strengths and needs of our communities with new nuclear opportunities,” the ECA said in its Sept. 15 announcement.

To focus its work, the ECA formed the New Nuclear subcommittee, led by Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. It has identified three core questions:

  • What do communities need to know to attract and support new nuclear development/missions?
  • What and how should communities communicate to industry, national laboratories, and state and federal governments about local resources and development opportunities?
  • What hurdles and challenges will communities face and who can the ECA work with to overcome them?

The ECA, a non-profit, membership organization of local governments adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities, said that its communities host and support the nuclear research and development that is under way across the DOE complex. This includes, the organization said, the advanced nuclear reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee; the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium in Piketon, Ohio; and the development of the Versatile Test Reactor and the NuScale small modular reactor at Idaho National Laboratory.

The ECA also points to private-sector initiatives such as Bill Gates’ TerraPower, Deep Isolation’s nuclear waste disposal solution, and NDB’s battery that is powered by nuclear waste.

“ECA communities are knowledgeable about and, in many ways, driven by the nuclear missions they already host,” the Sept. 15 announcement said. “These local governments are eager to fill vital roles, from establishing new U.S.-based manufacturing and supply chains to promoting creation of training programs at local community colleges around existing nuclear sites.”

The New Nuclear subcommittee intends to begin by hosting a series of educational webinars to facilitate interaction and develop a shared understanding of the outlook for developing technologies, messaging and advocacy strategies, national security implications, and supply chain impacts and needs.

The ECA will also develop written resources to support education and outreach in communities on specific issues, including understanding priorities and timelines, federal and state regulatory requirements, community and workforce needs related to siting, potential cost-sharing, and public/private partnership opportunities. New issues are expected to be identified through ongoing discussions throughout the project year.

Participation: Those looking to collaborate or provide educational resources, or those wanting more information about the ECA New Nuclear subcommittee, are asked to contact Kara Colton, ECA director of nuclear policy, at kara.colton@energyca.org or MacKenzie Kerr, ECA program manager, at mackenziek@energyca.org.

Gasoline demand, prices likely to slip in Idaho

As the summer draws to a close, fuel demand is starting to slip in Idaho and across the country, and gas prices along with it. According to AAA, the average price in the Gem State dropped two cents on the week, while the U.S. average was down three cents.

And there’s more good news on the horizon – soon, refiners and retailers will be making the switch to winter-blend fuel, which requires fewer additives and is cheaper to produce than summer blend.
Barring an unexpected supply issue related to wildfires or Tropical Storm Sally in the Gulf Coast, pump prices are expected to continue their slow descent this week.

"'Never say never' seems like an appropriate reaction for just about everything in 2020, but if we follow the normal trend, the most expensive gas prices of the year are already well behind us,” says Matthew Conde, AAA Idaho public affairs director. “It may take a little time for the last of the summer-blend fuel to work its way through the system, but when it does, we could see gas prices drop all the way to Thanksgiving.”

Today, the Idaho state average for regular fuel is $2.45, which is two cents higher than a month ago, but 31 cents cheaper than a year ago. Meanwhile, the current U.S. price is $2.19, which is a penny higher than a month ago, but 38 cents less than a year ago. Idaho ranks 9th in the country for most expensive gas prices, which is typical for our state.

The Energy Information Administration reports that national gasoline demand currently sits at 8.3 million barrels per day. Even though stock levels dropped by nearly three million barrels this week to 231 million bbl, that’s still a surplus of three million barrels over last year. In the Rockies region, stock levels actually increased on the week by 400,000 barrels to reach 7.4 million barrels on hand.

With an 86 percent utilization rate, Rocky Mountain refineries are currently some of the most active in the country, trailing only the Midwest region. As long as regional refineries stay busy and finished gasoline supplies continue to grow, Idaho prices are likely to stabilize or even decrease.

Tropical Storm Sally and the devastating wildfires in the West could delay fuel deliveries in some areas, but at this time, disruptions are expected to be temporary and site-specific.

“The United States is currently producing 10.3 million barrels of crude oil per day, compared with 12.4 million a year ago,” Conde said. “With fewer opportunities for people to travel for business or pleasure, commute, or even take kids to school, there’s less demand for some finished products like gasoline and jet fuel.”

After being distilled at a refinery, the average 42-gallon barrel of crude oil produces 20 gallons of gasoline, 11 gallons of diesel, and 4 gallons of jet fuel, among other things.

Here’s a sampling of gas prices around the Gem State as of Sept. 14:

  • Boise – $2.48

  • Coeur d’Alene – $2.33
Franklin – $2.44

  • Idaho Falls – $2.34
Lewiston – $2.43
Pocatello – $2.46
Twin Falls – $2.45

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Electric vehicle owners invited to participate in survey

Idaho National Laboratory will be one of the national laboratories analyzing data collected from electric vehicles and charging stations.

Although it might not be widely known, Idaho National Laboratory has conducted electric vehicle research for the U.S. Department of Energy since the early 1980s and plays a leading role in the national laboratory complex today, especially when it comes to data analysis. Over the last decade, INL has partnered with numerous automakers and private companies to understand how consumers are using electric vehicles and charging stations.

Energetics, a technology consulting firm, has asked INL and other labs to analyze data from its latest project. The Electric Vehicle Widescale Analysis for Tomorrow’s Transportation Solutions (EV WATTS) project will collect real-world use data from electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles around the country. Starting in January 2021, the company will share this data with INL, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory so they can analyze it for ongoing electric vehicle research.

Right now, the company is calling for volunteers who want to participate in the EV WATTS program. Owners of an EV or a plug-in hybrid can volunteer their vehicle(s) for the project. Energetics will install Geotab telematic hardware that logs the vehicle’s driving and charging behavior. The program will cover the cost of the hardware, installation and subscription service for up to 18 months.

There is no financial incentive to take part in the study, but the subscription service allows participants to access their driving and charging data through the MyGeotab dashboard. This provides instantaneous reporting on fuel economy, mileage, maintenance issues, faults and vehicle activity. The dashboard also allows users to compare their own data with other vehicles in the program. All information collected by EV WATTS will be kept anonymous.

Nationwide, Energetics is asking for 1,600 EV/Plug-in hybrid owners to take part. Considering that there are more than 1 million such vehicle owners in the United States, one might think it no problem. But the profile of the everyday EV user is changing, said John Smart, lead researcher for INL Mobility Systems and Analytics. First, there are growing concerns across society about data gathering and privacy, he said. Secondly, the first adopters – folks much more likely to have a keen interest in every aspect of their vehicles – are giving way to people who just want to get in and drive.

With the rapid increase in vehicle electrification, there is a need for up-to-date, publicly available national data to understand end user charging and driving patterns, as well as vehicle and infrastructure factors that may affect planning. Under its $4 million contract with DOE, Energetics will work with Clean Cities coalitions, fleets, state and local governments, vehicle manufacturers, utilities, and charging station providers. The data will come from:
    •    All-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
    •    All vehicle applications (cars, buses, etc.)
    •    Multiple geographic areas and climates
    •    AC Level 2 and DC fast charging infrastructure
    •    Various electric vehicle supply equipment sites (corridors, workplace, multiunit dwellings, curbside, fleets, transit, ports, airports, etc.)

In the last study of this kind, conducted by INL between 2011 and 2013, there were far fewer EVs on the highways. The cars in the study – Nissan LEAFs and Chevrolet Volts – had limited range and performance.

Since then, almost all automakers have brought an electric vehicle to market. “Tesla is clearly dominant, but there’s more variety than ever before,” Smart said. “Americans love to have options, and they love bigger vehicles.”

In addition to the wider variety, many more charging stations exist than there were eight years ago. “Now it’s feasible to drive an electric vehicle from coast to coast,” he said.

Smart said having an outside organization collecting the data frees INL and other national laboratories to do more nuanced and in-depth analysis. “The industry can take the data and form the models that allow them to simulate EVs in the future, when there are more of them,” he said. “We need to know how many charging stations are going to be needed. And the electrical utilities need to know what sort of effect many more vehicles are going to have on the grid.”
How to register

If you own or lease an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and would be interested in having a Geotab telematics device installed for providing data to the EV WATTS program, please answer the questions in the survey associated with the area of your residence.
Eastern Idaho: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EVWATTSEastern-Idaho
Blaine County: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EVWATTSBlaine-County
Boise Area: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EVWATTSBoise-Area

Monday, September 14, 2020

Bonneville County takes lead in incidence of reported COVID-19 cases

Wanting to be number one is usually a worthy goal, but it looks like Bonneville County is on track to be Idaho's top COVID-19 hotspot this week. Cases reported to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The number of total cases reported since the end of March has climbed to 2,208. While still small compared to Ada (11,953) and Canyon (7,687), a few things ought to set off alarm bells.

Number one, Bonneville County's seven-day moving average incidence rate per 100,000 people is the highest in the state now save for rural Custer and Clark counties. It's at its highest level since mid-August, when it peaked at 40.7. The statewide rate stood at 12.4 on Sept. 13.

Likewise, the first day of this week saw Bonneville outpace Ada and Canyon in the number of new cases reported.

If you want to browse the numbers, they can be found here: https://public.tableau.com/profile/idaho.division.of.public.health#!/vizhome/DPHIdahoCOVID-19Dashboard/Home. Meantime, let's be careful out there, OK?

Idaho Falls home prices up sharply in 2020

After watching a mid-century home across the street from me sell in less than a week we thought it might be time to take a new look at the housing market in the greater Idaho Falls area. What the January-through-August numbers reveal is a market in which homes are selling in the roughly the same numbers and at a faster pace than either 2019 or 2018, and at significantly higher prices.

The median price for a home in this area jumped from $193,256 to $246,054, an increase of 27.3%. This is confirmed by a report on Zillow.com, from August, which calls the market temperature “very hot.”

“The median home value in Idaho Falls Metro is $247,983. Idaho Falls Metro home values have gone up 11.5% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 0.4% within the next year. The median list price per square foot in Idaho Falls Metro is $119, which is lower than the Idaho average of $173. The median price of homes currently listed in Idaho Falls Metro is $260,000. The median rent price in Idaho Falls Metro is $1,200, which is lower than the Idaho median of $1,400.

Mortgage delinquency is the first step in the foreclosure process. This is when a homeowner fails to make a mortgage payment. The percent of delinquent mortgages in Idaho Falls Metro is 0.5%, which is lower than the national value of 1.1%.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

AmeriTitle names Jenny DeMott newest I.F. escrow officer


Jenny DeMott
AmeriTitle has named Jenny DeMott as the newest escrow officer in its Idaho Falls office.

The promotion comes after nearly one year in the title and escrow industry. In this role she is responsible for the closing of real estate transactions for buyers, sellers, and borrowers throughout Bonneville County.

DeMott is a southeast Idaho native who graduated from Bonneville High School. She spent 15 years in the dental industry before moving into real estate industry, earning her real estate license in 2018.

Her passion for helping people, love for the business and ability to adapt helped her quickly move into an escrow officer position, said Richard Hajek, AmeriTitle VP and state manager. When she isn’t working, she enjoys golfing with her husband, Ryan, boating with friends, traveling, and spending her lazy days with her stepkids and her dog, Brooks.  

“Jenny has a high level of integrity, a superior work ethic, and an attitude for service that makes her a great fit with our already outstanding Idaho Falls escrow team," Hajek said. "I am proud of how quickly she has transitioned and stepped up to take care of AmeriTitle clients.”

DeMott can be reached at AmeriTitle Idaho Falls, at Jenny.DeMott@AmeriTitle.com or 208-524-6600.

Bank of Idaho expands commercial lending division

Tony Vahsholtz

Bank of Idaho has expanded its commercial lending division, embracing the strengths of the Small Business Administration (SBA).

With an eye toward becoming the go-to SBA lender in Idaho, the bank is capitalizing upon its
comprehensive expertise in SBA lending by creating a cutting-edge, stand-alone SBA department headed by Tony Vahsholtz, formerly the vice-president and area commercial manager of the Boise Market.

"SBA lending has always been a passion of mine, and I've been doing it since 1998," Vahsholtz said. "Judging by current trends, I really think you'll see a lot of SBA lending done over the next two years. We want to be regarded as the experts in this market."

The shift creates advantages on multiple levels: clients will benefit from the enhanced focus of the new department; and the bank gains assurance because a larger portion of its small-business lending portfolio will be backed by the SBA.

Bank President and CEO Jeff Newgard said adding a specialized department was a boots-on-the-ground decision made after booking more than 1,000 PPP loans in a matter of weeks. "Our loan officers along with our small-business customers are really finding that the SBA is tailoring programs to provide a lifeline that's not available anywhere else. So it only makes sense to get that help to the small-business community as quickly and efficiently as possible."

For instance, the SBA has introduced a program in which they'll cover the first six payments of loans booked before the end of September. "That's huge. For larger loans, that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Vahsholtz said. "And I imagine they'll make new offers as well, as the recovery continues. We want to be there to make sure small businesses in Idaho are first in line."

Vahsholtz officially began in his new role Aug. 17. He relishes the unique opportunity. "Bank of Idaho expanded into the Boise market when I signed on, just over a year ago, and this is very similar. We start up, expand, find the right people, and book some loans,” he said. “We’re very adept at growing the bank by simply addressing our customers’ needs. It's great to work at a place that operates like that. "

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Idaho Falls Costco reveals opening numbers

For Labor Day, Costco is offering it signature 10 inch round cakes. Available in white or chocolate. Baked fresh in house and available at all Costco Bakery locations. Save $2 off at the bakery through Saturday, Sept. 6.

Costco opened its doors in Idaho Falls Aug. 14, and while the grand opening was expected to be busy, it ended up being more successful than managers had predicted.

Over the weekend, 1,300 people signed up for a new membership. Approximately 11,000 members came through the doors and sales were 20% higher than anticipated, Manager Greg Gillingham told the Post Register.

“I think the larger warehouse helped to spread members out in the store a bit more so it didn’t feel congested or have lines at checkout,” he said.

I still have the Kirkland pink Himalayan salt I bought at the Pocatello store in 2017, so I'm on the fence about joining, but it's my wife who will make that decision, I suspect. If you have joined, here are some links that might enhance your experience.

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco (Kiplinger)

The Best Things to Buy At Costco, Because We Know Those Giant Aisles Can Be Overwhelming (Woman's Day)

The 10 Best Things We Bought at Costco in February (Kitchn)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Focus on Craft and Business | Tyler Price, Austin Kade Academy

Tyler Price
What sets Austin Kade Academy apart from other beauty schools is its focus on education around beauty techniques in addition to learning how to run a business. Since most technicians are sole proprietors, learning business principles can be the key to their success. Tyler Price, and his wife, Allison, realized this when they started the school in 2008 and have been following that vision ever since.

Tyler has recently partnered with previous graduates who were looking to do more and opened Lyle Amado, a barbershop, and soon, Lash and Body Lounge, both located in Ammon. “These are graduates who want more, they are doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I bring the marketing and business development,” Tyler said. Working within any of Tyler's spaces comes with strings that he likes to refer to as discipline. Part of the rental of the space includes a monthly coaching session with Tyler where he helps them develop their business. “There's some love in that. They appreciate the fact that I hold them to the fire a little bit,” he said.

Tyler demonstrates a great passion for the beauty industry, and during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown earlier this year he took a vocal stance to get this industry back to work. “The kids were dying. This is how they make their living,” Tyler said. Most individuals in the industry didn't qualify for government programs offered to offset the losses. Understanding that the beauty industry was second only to healthcare facilities in sanitation procedures he was confident that business could continue with minimal risk. He opened his doors when others kept theirs shut despite the staged criteria provided by the state.

His boldness in this area was not appreciated by everyone in the industry and with other small businesses. “The saddest part for me was, first off, our governor acting like he could take our license. He scared everybody. I was vocal and told him to come and take my license. He couldn't and he knew he couldn't.” Tyler was reported to the state and local authorities but there was nothing enforceable that they chose to do. Tyler stands behind all of the protective measures they took and is proud that he was able to get his team back to work even during a time of fear and unknown future. “We will never close our doors ever again,” Tyler said.

With his experience, he is now working with the Small Business Development Center in Idaho Falls and is helping businesses to deal with COVID related issues or general business growth and development challenges. “There are resources we can direct businesses to,” Tyler said.

Tyler has an interest in local business owners and individuals who are doing interesting things and so he decided to combine his love of VW bugs with getting to know local people and started doing interviews while in the bug. Tyler drives around town and asks questions of his guests. There's also a '57 bug in Lyle Amado for everyone to enjoy.

Family has always been important in Tyler's life and he found great inspiration from his own father who acquired and sold businesses while being an accountant. “He was, in my opinion, a brilliant business mind and he was pretty gutsy. We learned a lot from him,” he said. Tyler's partner in business is his wife, Allison. “It's been hard but great at the same time. In the grand scheme of things she's the talent and I'm just the guy that talks really loud and obnoxiously at times,” Tyler explained.

For those considering self-employment, he says, “Start now.” Like many guests before him, Tyler advises to go for your dreams and utilize the resources around you to do it the best way possible. “Don't wait. So many say ‘I'll to this when'. Time is always ticking,” he said. He sees people who wait and they are no further ahead.

Tyler recently started growing micro-greens and creating grow tables. He said he recognizes a business opportunity with them, but not for him.


If you are interested in learning more about Austin Kade Academy you can find them at https://austinkade.com/.

Learn more about Lyle Amado at https://lyleamado.com/.

To watch his interviews in a bug follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tyler.price.526.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Intermountain Packing plans $20 million meatpacking plant on Idaho Falls' north side

The plant will be on Iona Road between Holmes Ave and North 15 East.

Intermountain Packing, an offshoot of Intermountain Bison, is negotiating with the city of Idaho Falls over incentives to build on the south side of Iona Road between Holmes Ave and North 15 East. The project calls for a 50,000-square-foot plant on nine acres of land with a total capital investment of $20 million. 

Construction is currently projected to begin in September and is expected to take one year to complete. The company says it will create approximately 200 full-time jobs with wages of at least $15 per hour and medical, dental and vacation benefits.

Intermountain Bison is an Idaho Falls-based company founded by Roger Ball, whose business history in the area dates back decades and includes Ball Packing in Idaho Falls 1969, Golden Valley Natural and King B Jerky.

For the full story, read Sally Krutzig's story in the Post Register: $20M meatpacking plant looks at Idaho Falls, bringing 200 jobs

Monday, August 17, 2020

Agriculture for Entertainment | Ryan Searle, Wild Adventure Corn Maze

Ryan Searle of Wild Adventure Corn Maze (Renae Oswald photo)

Ryan Searle was determined not to be a farmer like his family before him. He went to school and studied business because he knew he wanted to be a business owner. Loving motorsports, he had planned to own and operate a motorsports business. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, that goal did not pan out. What he learned is that although he couldn't control the weather to be a successful farmer he found out that the same applied to other businesses. “Reality is nobody really has control,” Ryan said. That realization brought him back to the farm.
As the third owner of the Wild Adventure Corn Maze, Searle has big ideas for what he wants to accomplish and all of it surrounds family fun. Last year the corn maze was designed around honoring veterans. Designs are decided at the end of the previous season and this year's theme has yet to be announced. New to the Maze last year was the sunflower patch and it's back again this year, bigger and better.

Sunflower Days are happening through Aug. 29. Last year they were only able to be open for 10 days. “It's five months of work that we got 10 days out of,” Searle said. He admits that it was a great learning experience and this year they have done things differently. “Let's go big and better, we want this to last a month. We had multiple plantings to extend the season,” he explained. Along with that, he planted several different varieties of sunflowers for people to enjoy. This year they are also allowing individuals to pick flowers and fill a pail. “It's a crazy killer deal,” he said.
The corn maze is open for seven weeks and will be opened starting September 14th. In the corn maze, he grows short-growing corn so that it can be harvested after the maze is over.

The previous owner had been looking for a new piece of ground and knew of Searle and that he had property along the highway. He'd run it that year and did much of the work, but decided that he couldn't do the corn maze any longer and so he offered the opportunity to Searle.

When asked about why he decided to do the corn maze he explained, “It was the right place, right time, fell in our lap. In our area, we can't do this full time to support a family. It's something new and challenging. You've got to diversify to afford to farm.”
Searle's advice for anyone considering self-employment is, “Who do you trust the most? I trust me to do the work that needs to be done,” he said. Most people aren't willing to put in long days and dedicate themselves to their business, and those individuals are not made for owning their own business. He also feels that business owners require an optimistic attitude.
The future for the corn maze is to continue to grow the sunflowers and provide the corn maze at the current location. Some investments are dependent on owning the ground, which Searle does not currently. Other announcements are yet to be shared on growth, events and supporting partners that will improve the experience.
For more information on the Wild Adventure Corn Maze go to their website at https://wildadventurecornmaze.com/. You can also find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WildAdventureCornMaze/.