Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Three seats open on Fall River Electric Co-op board

Three positions on the nine-member Fall River Electric Cooperative board of directors are set for election this year, including District 1, Rexburg/Ririe area; District 5, west Driggs/Tetonia area; and District 6, the Ashton area. The Co-op’s board is responsible for providing strategic direction for the future of the cooperative.

If you are an owner/member (customer) of the Co-op living in any of those three districts and are interested in serving on the board, nomination by petition is currently open. To have your name placed on the official ballot, interested members are to submit a petition with their name on it accompanied by fifteen signatures of members who also reside in the district. Deadline to submit petitions is Monday, April 26, 2021. You must reside in one of the districts listed that have a seat up for election.

If you are interested in submitting a petition to be a candidate, please contact Fall River’s CEO Bryan Case at (208) 652-7431 or by email at bryan.case@fallriverelectric.com. Remember, the deadline to present your petition is Monday, April 26.

For further information on the duties of board members and the qualifications, refer to pages 7 through 11 of the cooperative’s bylaws which can be found at https://www.fallriverelectric.com/bylaws.

Monday, April 12, 2021

McDonald's Is Closing Hundreds of Walmart Locations

 

 
At the end of last month, some Wal-mart shoppers in Ammon, Idaho were surprised when they noticed that the in-store McDonald's had closed after 18 years of serving customers who got hungry pushing their carts up and down the aisles. Lindsay Rainey, a spokesperson for McDonald's USA, told East Idaho News that two of its other restaurants inside Idaho Walmarts would also be closing. 

"Our people are one of our highest priorities, and with the closure in Ammon, all employees of the restaurant have been offered positions at [other McDonald's locations]," Rainey said. "Closing a restaurant is a difficult decision in any town but we look forward to continuing to serve our customers at our other McDonald's restaurants in the neighboring communities."

The McDonald's inside a Walmart in Camden, Delaware—the town's only McD's—also closed last month, as did three in-Walmart locations in Bradenton, Florida. According to The Wall Street Journal, these closures aren't the only ones: McDonald's is reportedly shuttering all but 150 of its Walmart-based restaurant locations between now and this summer. (Walmart's website says there are currently 4,743 Walmarts scattered throughout the United States. If you took AP Math, you've already calculated that just over 3 percent of Walmarts will still have an in-store McDonald's.) 

McDonald's and Walmart have had a symbiotic relationship since 1994 and, at one point, 1,000 Walmarts had their own McDonald's locations. That number had slipped to around 875 by 2012, dropped to 638 in 2017, and fell to about 500 by the beginning of 2020. The fast-food giant went through two rounds of Walmart-related closures last year, which were both planned before the pandemic—although the Journal reports that McDonald's "sped them up" when things took an unprecedented turn. 

Last July, McDonald's announced that it would be closing 200 restaurant locations—including 100 that were inside Walmart stores—due to decreases in sales volume. Analysts noted that capacity restrictions inside retailers and an increase in grocery deliveries and curbside pickups likely contributed to a decline in demand for those locations. And then there was our newfound preference for the drive-thru. Kevin Ozan, McDonald's Chief Financial Officer, said that a super-sized 90 percent of the chain's sales were made through drive-thru windows during the second quarter of last year.

Walmart is now trying to figure out what to do with those now-empty spaces where a McDonald's used to be. The Journal reports that it is giving Taco Bell a trial run in some locations, others may get a Domino's Pizza (some 30 Walmarts already have a Domino's), and it plans to open at least 10 Charleys Philly Steaks in some stores. It is also giving smoothie vending machines a try. "We took a turn to make sure what we are doing matched up with the strategy for the company," Linne Fulcher, Walmart's vice president of customer strategy, said. 

If you're a loyal McCustomer, this shouldn't affect your ability to get a Big Mac meal at all: McDonald's still opened around 500 restaurants worldwide last year, and has plans to open another 1,300 new locations before the end of 2021. 

 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Pole fitness studio opening in Idaho Falls

 

Chelsea Barnes
Reprinted from EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS – A new type of exercise experience is coming to eastern Idaho this spring.

Pre-registration is now open for pole fitness classes at The Pole Experience, a new tenant moving into Patriot Park at 2295 North Yellowstone Highway in Idaho Falls the first week of May.

Owner Chelsea Barnes tells EastIdahoNews.com there are sometimes misconceptions about this type of business. She says The Pole Experience is about fitness, and is not related to strip clubs, dancing or anything of a sexual nature.

“I’ve gotten that question a lot,” Barnes says. “A lot of the classes are similar to Zumba, very upbeat and fun. We’ll be (using a pole) and doing squats and lunges and things like that to build body strength, not any kind of dance routines.”

There are three levels of classes focused on developing full-body strength, muscle definition and flexibility. Those who graduate from these classes will move on to more advanced instruction in Inversion 1 and 2.

“Inversion is kind of like what you see on TikTok and Instagram — people flipping upside down, doing crazy spins, climbing a 12-foot pole, and back bending down the pole. Those are things you should not try to attempt right off the bat,” says Barnes.

Barnes was introduced to pole fitness in 2011 after graduating from Ririe High School and moving to New York City. One of her friends had lived in Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada, where pole fitness gyms were fairly common.

They drove past a pole fitness gym while on a road trip in New York and decided to take some classes.

“They had six levels at the studio I went to. I was at level four when we moved back here (in 2014),” Barnes says. “A lot of the very high up, aerial stuff, I had a little bit of experience with but I hadn’t gotten quite to that stage.”

With no place to practice in eastern Idaho, Barnes tried continuing with her own pole at home but was ultimately forced to give it up because the space wasn’t big enough.

She first thought about opening a pole fitness business of her own several years ago.

“I was probably seeing five posts a week on social media asking if there were any pole fitness or pole dancing places. We’d been sitting on a business plan for two years and decided we just need to do it,” says Barnes.

Just as the project was gaining momentum, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and put a halt on everything.

But she’s excited the project is moving forward again and is happy others seem to be interested as well.

“We already have three classes that are full. Registration is open for seven others … and they’re at least half full,” Barnes says.

Classes are open to anyone 18 and older. Barnes is eager to share something she’s passionate about with others and invites locals to give it a try.

“I want to emphasize you don’t have to have the perfect body strength (to participate). Any stage you’re in with weight or age, you’re welcome to come,” she says.

Barnes worked with Randy Waters at SVN High Desert Commercial and Century 21 High Desert in acquiring the 1,400-square-foot space. Patriot Park is next to State Trailer RV and Outdoor Supply.

To pre-register or learn more, visit the website or Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Paycheck Protection loan application deadline extended to May 31

Jeff Newgard
The PPP Extension Act, signed Tuesday by President Joe Biden, will lengthen the application period for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by two months.

Originally scheduled to expire at the end of March, the extension gives small businesses until May 31 to apply for PPP loans and gives the Small Business Administration until June 30 to consider applications.

"If you own a small business and have been on the fence about participating in the program, I'd encourage you to apply," said Bank of Idaho President and CEO Jeff Newgard. "While many other institutions have stepped back from their PPP lending programs, we still consider it an important service – as a matter of fact, we recently created a new SBA department."

Initiated early in the pandemic crisis, PPP loans are credited with saving hundreds of thousands of American small businesses. This first round of loans deadlined in 2020.

The second round opened for application in January 2021. Businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic could be eligible to receive a low-interest-rate loans under this program and can submit their application at https://www.bankofidaho.com/cares. PPP loans may be eligible for full or partial forgiveness if the money is used for qualifying costs and depending upon eligibility.

For the second round, SBA removed a cap on small loans to encourage lenders to work with smaller borrowers. Also, $15 billion was set aside for lending institutions with less than $1 billion in assets, and another $15 billion was earmarked for banks with less than $10 billion. Second-round applicants are limited to loans under $2 million, with a total loan amount from both rounds under $10 million.

I.F. Downtown Development names social media, marketing specialist

Gibby Smede
The Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation (IFDDC) has brought on Gibby Smede, a local artist, as its social media and marketing specialist. Smede will be responsible for communications and social media campaigns to promote downtown Idaho Falls.

Smede is the creator of Pugsslane Alley in downtown Idaho Falls and joins IFDDC in an exceptional time of growth and progress. Construction projects over the last four years have been well under way with the completion of The Broadway development, the Downtown Event Center and the Bonneville Apartments, which have brought new life to the historic Hotel Bonneville, first built in the late 1920s.

A handful of new businesses plan to open in mid-to-late summer this year and construction projects that began before the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to make good progress, said Catherine Smith, IFDDC's executive director. With a focus on social media reach, Smede’s work will be focused on IFDDC's mission to advance downtown as the regional center for commerce, culture and leisure activities.

“We are optimistic the good work of IFDDC will continue as we move forward on projects that will thrive with Gibby’s creative eye and colorful talents," Smith said. "Public art installations are planned for this summer and new marketing efforts to promote the cultural and historic center of Idaho Falls will benefit from Gibby’s talents.”

For more information about IFDDC, visit http://downtownidahofalls.com.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Idaho Falls Power begins major 161kv powerline construction

A

Bear Prairie
 power project more than four decades in the making is getting underway in Idaho Falls that will improve power transmission capacity and provide critical redundancy to the power system throughout Idaho Falls and across east Idaho.

Originally conceptualized in the 1980s, Idaho Falls Power (IFP) started examining routing options and public outreach to determine the best routes for the second half of a major 161kv power line built along the southern portion of Idaho Falls.

In 2011 IFP paused work on the project as the utility addressed legal challenges and focused on working with landowners to pursue additional land acquisitions and rights-of way for the 14-mile-long project.

“Obviously this is a large and critically important project for Idaho Falls and the surrounding area,” said Idaho Falls Power General Manager Bear Prairie.  “Our residents and businesses depend on our ability to provide stable and reliable sources of power.  We can produce all the energy in the world, but without a way to transmit that power to our customers, it’s of no value.  This project provides a must needed key element to a reliable power system to carry energy to critical areas of growth in and around the city.”

In 2017, IFP partnered with Rocky Mountain Power on the project to make it a dual use line that will also serve the growing needs of RMP customers. In addition to circling Idaho Falls to the north, RMP will also build an additional line that will improve service to their customers in Eastern Idaho.

The line will provide critical transmission upgrades and service capabilities for IFP customer’s around the rapidly growing north and west side of Idaho Falls. The line will connect to the existing Sugarmill substation along Hitt Road and extend north across Lincoln and Yellowstone.  The line will cross over U.S. Highway 20 near 25th then travel to the west and across the Snake River.

The power line will then connect to a new IFP substation, which is also currently under construction, near Idahoan Foods and the Upper Power Plant off of West River Road in the northwest area of Idaho Falls along the Snake River.

Summit Line Construction, the contractor for the project, has been drilling holes along the new route in order to provide foundations for the new poles to be installed.  Concrete pouring for those foundations will begin soon, and installation of the poles should begin sometime in the next six to 12 weeks, depending on conditions.

IFP anticipates that the project will be completed and ready for service by this fall.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Bank of Idaho names new v.p. and trust officer

John Kociolek
John Kociolek has taken a position with Bank of Idaho as a vice president and trust officer. He will be responsible for day-to-day trust and estate administration, as well as new business development in the Boise area.

Kociolek has been in the trust and estate business since 1980. He has previously served as the National Estate Settlement Manager for Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh; Market Trust Executive for Bank of America in Tampa and Orlando; and was recently the National Trust and Estate Manager for Capital Bank and Trust Company in Reno, Nevada.

"We're fortunate to land a candidate with John's credentials," said Bank of Idaho VP and Trust Department Manager Jeremy Parkinson. "Our clients will directly benefit from the depth and breadth of knowledge he brings to the table."

The hire allows Parkinson to focus his energy on big-picture strategy and growth. "With a staff of nine now, we're really able to give all of our clients a personal touch, which is really important in trust and wealth management work." he said. "We're not just managing investments, we're helping people plan for the future. We advise them in lots of different areas of their financial world."

Parkinson said that although he and his staff have had great success working remotely with their clients over the past year, they will all welcome a return to face-to-face conversations. "The better we know people, the better we're able to help them, and for that, there's no substitute for meeting in person," Parkinson said. “We've assembled a great team of experts, but we are continuing to look for opportunities to grow in the Boise market and eastern Idaho. I believe we're assembling the best team of trust and
wealth experts of any community bank in the state.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Super Chix plans to open in Ammon on Wednesday


Super Chix will have a soft opening Wednesday at 11 a.m. at its new Ammon location inside the Hillcrest Plaza, 2671 East Sunnyside Road, with a grand opening to follow Saturday. For that event, the first 100 people through the door will receive a free chicken sandwich and a free regular fry.”

Super Chix is a fast-casual dining franchise that offers a variety of chicken sandwiches, hand-cut fries, salads and frozen custard. The restaurant comes courtesy of Flying H Holdings, LLC, the same franchise company involved in bringing Five Guys to Ammon. Company President Bill Hawes told East Idaho News in December that the experience played a role in his decision to open Super Chix.

“It’s got a lot of gravity in that area,” he said. “It’s great to be close to the high school, other (places to shop) and the movies. There’s a lot of food choices in that area and it’s growing.”

Super Chix first opened in Dallas in 2013 and now has stores throughout Texas, Alabama and Utah. New locations are have been planned for Bozeman, Mont., Fort Collins, Colo., and San Jose, Calif. Hawes said he plans to open stores in Logan, Utah, Pocatello and Rexburg.

The Hillcrest Plaza will also be home to Duck Donuts and Jersey Mike's Subs, both due to open soon.

Super Chix will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with a 10 p.m. closing time Friday and Saturday. Visit the website or Facebook page for more information.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Fall River Electric offering scholarships to high school seniors

Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative is once again offering scholarships to local area high school graduating seniors whose parents or guardians are members of Fall River Electric. A “member” is anyone who receives electric service from Fall River, whether at a permanent residence, a vacation property or commercial business. Over $70,000 in scholarship funds are available this year while throughout the history of this program, Fall River Electric has awarded over a half a million dollars in scholarships to deserving graduating high school seniors.

Fall River Electric scholarships are valued at $2,400 and are paid in increments of $600 annually. To apply, graduating seniors must have at least a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) and provide two short written essays stating why they are deserving of a scholarship. Applications are now being accepted from seniors enrolled in the Madison, Jefferson, Ririe, Sugar-Salem, Fremont, Teton, and West Yellowstone school districts.

Interested seniors or their parents or guardians may obtain a scholarship application by visiting the Fall River Electric website at www.fallriverelectric.com , then click “My Community” and open the “Scholarships” tab on the dropdown menu to download an application.

Applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 26, 2021 or can be dropped off at any of Fall River’s offices in Ashton, Driggs or West Yellowstone. For further information or to answer questions, call Angela Haws at 208-652-7002 or email her at angela.haws@fallriverelectric.com.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

INL leader named to Top 100 Women in Energy list

Dr. Marianne Walck
Dr. Marianne Walck, Idaho National Laboratory's deputy laboratory director for science and technology, has been named a Top 100 Women in Energy at the national Energy Inclusion Conference.

The award recognizes top women leaders who directly contribute to business growth and strategic direction within their organizations. Honorees must maintain a record of accomplishments in their areas of expertise, be effective role models who inspire others, demonstrate a deep commitment to corporate citizenship, and operate with the highest level of integrity and ethical behaviors.

Walck has nearly four decades of experience as a leader in the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory complex, both at Sandia National Laboratories and INL. As a female executive, Walck has championed INL’s efforts to become a national employer of choice for women, people of color, people with disabilities, military veterans and the LGBTQ+ community. As co-chair of INL’s Executive Inclusion Council, she has helped embed visible diversity, inclusive thought leadership and employment equity across INL’s workforce, STEM outreach, university partnerships, marketplace, supply chain and charitable giving.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Walck. Her commitment to active, visible and transformational leadership continues to make an impact on America’s energy future; and her support and mentoring is developing the next generation of scientists to respond to our energy challenges,” said Ron Crone, INL associate laboratory director and co-executive sponsor of INL’s Women in Leadership Council.

In addition to leadership roles at SNL and INL, Walck chaired the National Laboratory Chief Research Officers Council, which steers the research operations for 17 Department of Energy national laboratories and, in 2020, she joined the executive committee of the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory, to shape America’s R&D response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a full list of the Top 100 Women in Energy honorees, follow this link: The Energy Inclusion Conference Announces the Top Women in Energy

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Alaska Air to start nonstop flights to SEA-TAC in June

The 76-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop

Idaho Falls Regional Airport announced today that Alaska Airlines will begin nonstop service between Idaho Falls and Seattle on June 17, making it the fourth destination added to the airport’s route map this year and a major milestone for the community.

The addition of the new, direct Seattle flight gives IDA travelers 12 nonstop destinations to choose from, as well as hundreds of one-stop connections. Alaska Airlines will become the fifth major airline to now operate out of IDA, the second busiest airport in the state.

“We are very pleased to welcome Alaska Airlines to our market and wish them every success,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “Providing direct flights to Seattle opens up a whole new set of destinations for our passengers at very competitive rates.”

Seattle will be the first nonstop destination offered locally by Alaska Airlines, and will connect passengers to over 60 cities from its Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) hub. “With the only year-round nonstop flight to the West Coast, guests will benefit from shorter journeys, low fares and great service,” said Brett Catlin, Alaska’s vice president of network and alliances.

IDA Director Rick Cloutier said the agreement has come after many years of hard work on the part of the airport team to grow air service options for the region. "We are thrilled to welcome Alaska Airlines and are working hard to continue to provide additional flights and destinations to the people of Idaho Falls and throughout the region,” he said.

The daily, year-round flight will be operated with a Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft offering passengers a comfortable and reliable flight experience. With 76 seats arranged in a two-by-two configuration, customers will enjoy the spacious interior cabin during the easy flight. Tickets are now available for booking at www.alaskaair.com or by contacting a local travel agent.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Idaho Falls, INL, REDI announce grant for innovation district planning

The city of Idaho Falls, in partnership with Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), has been awarded an economic development grant from Battelle Energy Alliance, operator of Idaho National Laboratory, to begin conceptual development of an innovative new project called the Idaho Falls Innovation District.

“There are less than a handful of innovation districts in this country that converge on science and cutting edge research,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “I expect some very big things will happen here in the future and it’s thrilling to know that the city will have played a significant role in helping to launch this kind of creative space right here in Idaho Falls.”

All innovation districts contain economic, physical, and networking assets.
 

The $55,700 grant award will be used to develop a master plan for the district, which is designed to focus on developments that support start-up companies, business incubators and accelerator type businesses. Innovation districts also often include a larger, main anchor-type business in addition to housing, office space, research facilities, retail, and hospitality areas.

“Working towards an Idaho Falls Innovation District is an effort that has the potential to impact our community in a profound way. There is prevalent demand and interest, and it is our job now to provide a study and framework that can lead to implementation,” said Dana Briggs, economic development coordinator for the city. “I appreciate the funding granted by Battelle Energy Alliance to move the project forward, as well as the support and work of other partners and stakeholders.”

Article: The Rise of Innovation Districts (Brookings Institution)

The plan is to focus on the area around MK Simpson Boulevard, where INL has the bulk of its in-town operations, said Briggs, who will also be manager of the Innovation District project. The goal is to create a dedicated area where public and private partners can work together to attract businesses and organizations that generate ideas for technology advancement and economic growth.
 
“Idaho Falls has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, and now is the right time to take a look at fostering an innovation district,” said Marsha McDaniel, senior advisor with INL. “Idaho National Laboratory looks forward to supporting the city in its efforts.”

Innovation districts are commonly used in an effort to create new products, technologies, and market solutions by grouping together what can often be disparate sectors and specializations. With an area dedicated to keeping these groups in close proximity to one another, collaboration is richer, incubation of ideas is more efficient, and a synergistic dynamic is created.
      
“REDI is thrilled to be invited to work with the city of Idaho Falls as they investigate the design and development of an innovation district,” said REDI CEO Teresa McKnight. “These unique districts are catalysts for tech-oriented areas adjacent to research-intensive anchor institutions like the Idaho National Laboratory. Not only are they catalysts, they are also place makers for feeding startups to drive advanced industry growth.”

The city and REDI will work with the consulting firm of Agnew::Beck, a multidisciplinary consulting firm from Boise, on the initial design. The 12-month planning process is anticipated to involve a variety of steps including stakeholder outreach and engagement, focus group interviews, technical research, a land use site plan, and implementation report. The project is anticipated to begin in March 2021.
 
“Idaho Falls has a proven ability to both dream big and be practical,” said Ellen Campfield Nelson, principal and owner of Agnew::Beck. “As an Idaho-based planning and public engagement business, we are excited to be part of helping shape and implement the community's vision.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Changes to PPP loan program could offer new lifeline to small businesses

Jeff Newgard
Changes announced Monday to the Paycheck Protection Program could offer hope to small businesses that have felt shut out until now, Bank of Idaho President and CEO Jeff Newgard said.

The Biden administration's changes include a 14-day period, beginning Wednesday, during which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees can apply for PPP relief. Sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals are now allowed to base their loan calculations on gross income rather than net income.

"These adjustments will be game-changers for so many of our smallest businesses," Newgard said. "Previously, these types of businesses felt locked out of PPP assistance. We hope these changes make them reconsider."

Businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic can learn more details at https://www.bankofidaho.com/cares. Depending on the specific rules of the program, PPP loans may be eligible for full or partial forgiveness if the money is used for qualifying costs.

Newgard said SBA programs have become so adept at helping small businesses that Bank of Idaho has
added a new department solely dedicated to SBA lending. "These programs can be real life lines for small businesses, so we're committed to getting as much of that help into our communities as we can," he said.

New PPP updates include:

• The 14-day period, starting Wednesday, limiting applications to businesses with fewer than 20
employees. During this period, however, applications already in the pipeline
or requiring error resolution will continue to be processed.

• Revising the loan calculation formula for sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-
employed individuals to use gross income instead of net income, as advocated by ICBA. Additional details are expected on whether this will be limited by number of employees or otherwise. Further, $1 billion will be set aside for PPP loans to businesses in this category without employees located in low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas.

• Eliminating restrictions preventing small-business owners delinquent on their federal student loans or with prior non-fraud felony convictions from qualifying for the PPP.

• Ensuring access for non-citizen small-business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by
clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to apply for relief.

The administration also said it has revised the PPP loan applications to encourage self-
reporting of demographic data, and it will conduct stakeholder outreach on PPP challenges. The SBA also will launch an initiative to enhance lender engagement with opportunities for lenders to provide
recommendations and ask questions about the PPP and obtain resolution of open questions and concerns in a more streamlined way.

Additional PPP information and resources are available online at sba.gov.

Sale closed for Alturas International Academy to renovate old Sears space at Grand Teton Mall

Alturas Executive Director Michelle Ball, second from left, and three board members,  Christine Ogden, Callie Hatch and Anna Long, review plans for the remodel in the old Sears space. (Alturas International Academy photo)

Grand Teton Mall will have a new tenant this fall in the anchor space formerly occupied by Sears, but it will not be retail. TOK Commercial announced Tuesday that its brokerage team has successfully closed the sale with Building Hope, a non-profit organization that assists charter schools in the financing, procurement and renovation of educational facilities.

Building Hope plans to convert the 70,000 square feet to the new Alturas Preparatory Academy, a secondary school planned to open in Fall 2021. The space will undergo extensive renovations and will feature 30 classrooms, common areas, and flexible, naturally-lit collaborative spaces.


Brian Wilson, TOK Commercial’s lead agent on the transaction, assisted Building Hope with site selection, contract negotiations, and the eventual purchase. “It was such an honor to work with Building Hope as they bring additional educational opportunities to our community through an innovative repositioning of this high profile real estate asset,” he said.

Alturas first announced its plans for the space last August in an email reporting it had received approval from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission for a school to serve students in grades six through 12. The school had been awarded a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation to help fund the purchase and renovation of former Sears space.

Plan are for 30 classrooms, science labs, common areas, an art room, drama room, music room, gym, wide hallways and abundant natural light, according to a press release. Rooms will be set up to open into larger collaborative spaces. Overall, the cost of the remodel has been estimated at $6 million to $7 million, Alturas Executive Director Michelle Ball said.

They expect the first year of Alturas Preparatory Academy to have roughly 260 students. Each year they plan to add a new sixth-grade class until they reach their capacity at the high school, which will be 96 seats available per grade level.

Alturas International Academy Principal Brian Bingham said students who attend the high school can earn 30 college credits, plus they will seek authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. The IB high school curriculum focuses on critical thinking and community and global stewardship, and it contains two tracks — a rigorous diploma program and a more traditional career-oriented program. Alturas International is currently the only authorized International Baccalaureate World School in eastern Idaho, a school news release said.

“That opportunity to obtain the diploma program and stand out on their college applications and receive a strong education will provide an opportunity for them to be successful at the university level,” Bingham said.

Enrollment will be determined by a lottery system, with priority given to current Alturas International students and their siblings.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fall River Cooperative announces $1 million rebate to owner-customers for 2020


Fall River Electric Cooperative has announced payment of another $1 million in the form of a rebate to its owner-customers for 2020. The co-op’s board voted to return current profits, referred to as margins, to all owners knowing that many have been impacted by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. This money will be recirculated into the local economies of eastern Idaho and southwestern Montana.

This comes on top of the $1.015 million-plus paid out to owner-members in December through the co-op’s patronage capital program, meaning Fall River Electric has now distributed more than $2 million within the last two months. February’s disbursement is to those customers who purchased power last year while the December payments were to members of the co-op who purchased power back in 2000. The patronage capital program is where extra revenues over the cost of operations is then disbursed to its owner-members on an approximate twenty-year cycle. Unlike investor-owned utilities that pay profits to stockholders, Fall River Electric’s patronage capital is a customer’s investment in the cooperative.

“When the pandemic struck our area, Fall River Electric tightened its belt and reduced expenses,” said Bryan Case, Fall River’s general manager and CEO. “Although energy sales to businesses shrunk, residential energy sales increased as people self-quarantined or worked from home, which contributed to better-than-projected revenue in 2020. As a result of the Co-op’s strong financial position, our elected board approved this additional instant rebate to our 2020 owner-members.”

The amount of the rebate is based on how much each owner-member paid for electricity in 2020 and is being provided as a credit on their February statements.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wingstop remodeling old Kiwi Loco space on Hitt Road


It looks like Wingstop will be moving into the Sagewood Plaza space that has been vacant since last fall when Kiwi Loco folded. A building permit with the city of Idaho Falls was filed Wednesday for a  $175,000 remodel at 3198 S. 25th East (Hitt Road).

Wingstop started in 1994 as a small buffalo-style chicken wing restaurant in Garland, Texas. It opened its first franchised location in 1997, and has grown since then into a chain with more than 1,000 locations in the United States and abroad. In 2003, the chain was acquired by Gemini Investors, which sold it to Roark Capital Group in 2010. Wingstop went public in 2015.

Wingstop locations are decorated following a 1930s and 1940s pre-jet aviation theme. The menu consists of wings, boneless wings, and chicken strips, with a variety of dips and sides. The flavors on the U.S, market that are still available include Hawaiian, garlic parmesan, lemon pepper, mild, original hot, Hickory Smoked BBQ, hot lemon, garlic, atomic, mango habanero, Cajun, Louisiana rub, and Spicy Korean.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Idaho Falls ranks first on list of Best-Performing Small Cities

Idaho Falls has topped this year’s list of Best-Performing Small Cities released by the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics, which produces research, programs and events designed to inform and activate innovative economic and policy solutions to drive job creation and industry expansion.

The city moved up six spots to No. 1 based on the area’s job growth and high-tech industry presence, including Idaho National Laboratory and Battelle Energy Alliance.

“As we discovered through our rankings, cities perform best when they pursue innovative strategies that allow high-tech industries to grow while still providing affordable costs of living,” said Misael Galdamez, Milken’s senior policy analyst and a co-author of the report. “This alignment provides a foundation for metro areas to become more resilient to economic shocks.” 

"Being included in the Milken Institute’s Index among small cities comes as a high honor because these rankings are based on meaningful data,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “Idaho Falls has been focused on connectivity and housing—two of the Milken Institute’s new categories for consideration. The pandemic caused everyone to realize how important connectivity is for the future. People need not be tethered to desirable jobs in large cities as they once were; instead, they’re relocating to places like Idaho Falls that give them a better quality of life and a lower cost of living.”

The index measures economic vitality in 200 large metropolitan areas and 201 small metropolitan areas using job creation, wage growth, and innovation industry metrics. The 2021 version of the index emphasizes jobs, wages, and high-tech growth, housing affordability, and household broadband access.

To view the full report and search the 400 metro areas evaluated, visit https://milkeninstitute.org/reports/best-performing-cities-2021, and follow coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn using #BestPerformingCities.

2021 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index

LARGE US CITIES – TIER I

  1. Provo-Orem, Utah
  2. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  3. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  4. Salt Lake City, Utah
  5. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
  6. Boise, Idaho
  7. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Arizona
  8. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
  9. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
  10. Huntsville, Alabama
  11. Denver, Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  12. Fort Collins, Colorado
  13. Seattle, Bellevue-Kent, Washington

SMALL US CITIES – TIER I

  1. Idaho Falls, Idaho
  2. Logan, Utah-Idaho
  3. The Villages, Florida
  4. St. George, Utah
  5. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama
  6. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
  7. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  8. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida
  9. Gainesville, Georgia
  10. Charlottesville, Virginia
  11. Punta Gorda, Florida
  12. Bellingham, Washington
  13. Bend, Oregon


Saturday, February 13, 2021

American Airlines plans routes from IDA to Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix

American will be flying Bombardier CRJ-700s on the new routes.

Idaho Falls Regional Airport announced Friday that American Airlines plans to add two new, non-stop routes out of Idaho Falls this summer.

Daily nonstop flights from IDA to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) are set to start June 3. Tickets are now available for booking at aa.com or by contacting a local travel agent.

“American is excited to add daily, non-stop service between our hubs in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Phoenix to Idaho Falls regional airport,” said Brian Znotins, American’s Vice President of Network Planning. “As customers once again embrace travel, the National Parks System is high on their list of destinations. Not only do these new flights open a gateway to the parks, but they also provide local residents with access to hundreds of one-stop connections across American’s network. And when customers take to the skies, our Clean Commitment ensures their well-being through every step of their travel journey.”

“There is so much good news contained in this announcement about American Airlines,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “For the traveler, it means getting to many more destinations more quickly. And for all of us it indicates that eastern Idaho as a region and Idaho Falls in particular are poised for some very promising growth in the coming months.”

Both of the new routes will be operated with Canadair Regional Jets, specifically the CRJ-700, known for its dual class offering and reliability. The year-round service enhances the ability of not only local travelers to utilize their local airport, but provides further gateways for those wishing to visit the Idaho Falls region.

“We are thrilled American Airlines has chosen to partner with IDA as they bring new, year-round service to the region,” said Rick Cloutier, Idaho Falls Regional Airport director. “It’s perfect timing as we open the second phase of our new terminal project. Along with American’s new flights, we will have new gates available in a more customer-focused environment.”

IDA is currently undergoing a $12 million expansion project which will add an additional 38,000 square feet to the passenger terminal including two new terminal gates - one on the second floor and one on the ground floor, a new jetway for the second floor gate and three covered ground-level boarding positions.  
The terminal will also undergo a complete remodel that will relocate the TSA screening and check-in area as well as add a new, dedicated TSA pre-check line. The front lobby and interior of the facility are similarly included in the remodel with a new service-animal and pet relief area incorporated.  

“American Airlines is a perfect addition as we grow and expand," Cloutier said. "We look forward to working with them and wish them great success in IDA.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Battelle Energy Alliance signs agreement with Brazilian nuclear agency

Idaho National Laboratory announced on Monday a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Battelle Energy Alliance and the Brazilian agency Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares (Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research, IPEN). Battelle Energy Alliance operates INL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, while the IPEN acts on behalf of Brazil's Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear (National Nuclear Energy Commission, CNEN). The MOU will enable further collaboration between INL and IPEN-CNEN to advance nuclear energy research and development in both countries.

Negotiations first began in 2019 at an International Atomic Energy Agency-sponsored conference near Chicago. Dr. Marianne Walck, deputy laboratory director of science and technology and chief research officer at INL, was then invited to present at several Brazilian conferences, a meeting which furthered interactions towards an agreement.

“We agreed that creating an MOU to further our collaborative relationship would be beneficial to both countries,” said Walck, who represented INL at a virtual signing ceremony in January. “It took some time to finalize the agreement, but happily, we have now done so.”

The MOU makes provisions to further academic coordination between the agencies by outlining policies for the exchange of researchers, graduate students and other members of technical-administrative staff. Contributing individuals will be able to participate in research activities, conferences, teaching and related professional activities for the benefit of both their home and host institution.

Also present for the signing were individuals from the DOE’s Idaho Operations Office, Office of International Affairs, and Office of Nuclear Energy representing the United States, while representatives from IPEN, CNEN and the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation attended from Brazil.

“Each entity has significant expertise to bring to bear the furtherance of nuclear energy and research,” Walck said. “We are looking forward to taking concrete steps to enhance our working relationships.”

Friday, February 5, 2021

Venture fund seeks investors interested in advanced nuclear, deep decarbonization

Seeing that Idaho Falls is a place where one finds an enthusiastic level of support for nuclear energy, I thought I might share this with people looking for a "hot" investment opportunity. Nucleation Capital is looking for people interested in supporting the next generation of nuclear technologies and advanced decarbonization.

The sentence that jumped out at me in this blog post from Atomic Insights, reprinted in its entirety below, was this: One of the key ways that our fund differs from most other venture funds, is that we will be able to accept investments from accredited individuals at a fairly low level of capital commitment (i.e. in the tens of thousands, rather than in hundreds of thousands or millions). I'm certain there are accredited investors in eastern Idaho with enough money to consider this something worth investigating.

Change is in the wind: Commencing a new phase as a Venture Capitalist


February 3, 2021 By Rod Adams

Atomic energy is a tool that is capable of helping address some of humanity’s most wicked challenges. Clean, abundant, reliable and affordable power makes everything we do a little easier and is becoming increasing urgent in the era of climate change.

Unfortunately, atomic energy is a long way from reaching its potential or even achieving the impact envisioned by its pioneers.

We’ve had numerous discussions here about reasons for the slow progress. (See, for example, here, here and here.) I have long believed that the next generation of nuclear reactor designs can address many of the existing concerns about nuclear energy. Therefore, some of the longstanding obstacles to greater deployment can be overcome through the successful commercialization of next-gen designs.  In particular, I have blogged about the need to increase investment in the development of this next generation of nuclear technologies.

In early 2018, I was contacted by a reader to discuss ways to increase funding to advanced nuclear in response to a request I posted for anyone thinking about this to be in touch. In the course of several long conversations, I  learned that this reader, Valerie Gardner, a former hightech entrepreneur who had co-founded an investment firm back in 2002, was interested in developing a fund to invest in advanced nuclear and asked for my help. In keeping with my career-long strategy of finding ways to help others work more successfully – often motivated by my own desire to stay abreast of the latest trends – I agreed to assist.

Fast forward through almost three years and numerous stages of development, I am pleased to announce that I am joining forces with Valerie Gardner to become a managing partner at Nucleation Capital. Nucleation Capital will be investing in innovative companies enabling what we call the “carbon-managed economy” of the 21st century, with primary focus on advanced nuclear energy, advanced smart grids and deep decarbonization ventures.

By blending my expertise with hers and that of a few other extremely capable people, we expect to identify, fund and help great teams overcome barriers that limit their ability to bring clean energy products and services to market, foremost of which is access to capital.

Throughout our development process, we were advised by attorneys not to talk publicly about the fact that we were developing a fund due to certain SEC restrictions. Over the last two quarters, however, we have made some changes which shift our operating paradigm and we now can discuss the fund publicly, which is a welcome change, especially for me.  I look forward to sharing more about this fund and why and how that change happened: hint, it has to do with new technology. For the moment, I am leaving that for another post and/or podcast.

My purpose today is to alert you that there are some changes in the works both for me and Atomic Insights. I have invited Valerie to also join me in publishing related blog posts here. She has a wealth of experience in technology development, startups, financial management, investment and environmentalism. Some of you might already know her; she has been actively participating in climate, energy and investment-related groups and discussions for years. We are also moving forward with a long-delayed upgrade to the Atomic Insights website, with the goals of improving your ability to find and stay on top the material that is of interest to you.

You can be assured that we will keep writing about nuclear energy but we will also be looking at the kinds of newly commercializing “climate services” that nuclear will be ideally suited to power, including desalination, hydrogen production, and various types of carbon capture, utilization and sequestion (CCUS) activity. Of course, I will also be writing more about Nucleation Capital, the process of venture investing, the ways that venture capital differs from other components of the capital stack that support the deployment of clean energy, and our experience working to fulfill our vision to help “nucleate the carbon-managed economy.”

For those impatient to learn more about Nucleation Capital, please visit the website. One of the key ways that our fund differs from most other venture funds, is that we will be able to accept investments from accredited individuals at a fairly low level of capital commitment (i.e. in the tens of thousands, rather than in hundreds of thousands or millions). If you want to learn more about the fund as a potential investor, please use the link at the bottom of the Fund page on the Nucleation website.

I will be busier now but I promise to keep sharing my new experiences and what I learn through this process to continue to build on the base of accumulated knowledge which has been shared widely by readers.  As usual, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.



Idaho Falls to host discussions on growth, development

The City of Idaho Falls is inviting residents to join in a discussion on the future of growth through an innovative initiative entitled “Imagine IF.”

“Imagine IF” is a plan to move Idaho Falls forward through communitywide discussion about growth and change. As part of the initiative, residents will be asked to complete a short survey about their vision for the city. The survey will be available online at www.imagineif.city later this month.

Residents can also request a paper copy of the survey be mailed to them by calling 208-612-8799, or they can pick one up at the Idaho Falls Community Development Services Department, located in the Idaho Falls City Hall Annex at 680 Park Avenue in downtown Idaho Falls.

In addition to the survey, there will be neighborhood meetings all across the city in February and March. These will be hosted with limited in-person attendance and in accordance with the most current Covid-19 guidelines while being broadcast online through the Webex virtual meeting platform and on Facebook Live.

“For the first time ever, we will be adding neighborhood meetings into the process to give people an opportunity to talk about the part of town they have the most investment in," said Brad Cramer, director of Community Development Services for the city. "We see this all as a great opportunity to learn from each other and explore both big and small ideas to make improvements to our community now and into the future.”

A link or phone number to the meetings can be obtained by visiting www.imagineif.city or by emailing imagineif@idahofallsidaho.gov. Links to the meetings will also be advertised and available on the city’s Facebook page. Each meeting will begin at 6:30 pm and will run until 7:45 pm. A full list of dates and locations for the meetings will be announced within the next few weeks.

All of the feedback from the meetings and the data from the survey will be used to help complete a major update to the city’s comprehensive plan being conducted this year.

“Idaho Falls is growing at a rapid rate," Cramer said. "Growth can be exciting, but it can also bring concerns and be seen as a threat to the way of life we’ve come to enjoy. ’Imagine IF…’ is an opportunity to come together as a community to talk about those concerns as well as the excitement that comes with growth and change.”

Monday, February 1, 2021

Swimming with a trend | Eric Browning, Fin Fun

Eric Browning
Many of us know Fin Fun as the company that created the first real swimmable mermaid tail, but how many of us know it took 40 different business ideas for serial entrepreneurs Karen and Jerry Browning to hit on that successful idea? “They were always doing something and my dad was always feeling out the next idea,” their son Eric said.

When the Brownings' granddaughter came to grandma Karen and asked her to sew a mermaid tail, their life changed. Once their granddaughter's friends saw the tail, they all asked for one. Word spread and in a short time they had created an eCommerce site and employed seven part-time seamstresses to keep up with the demand.

It was at this same time that Karen and Jerry decided to serve a church mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “That's when I (knew) their character because they finally found something that was working and they said ‘You know what, we feel impressed that it's our time to serve a mission',” Eric said.

Although thriving in his own career, Eric said at this time he'd been observing what they were doing and helping here and there, but he felt impressed that he needed to keep Fin Fun going. Eric's brother Steve and he decided to become partners with their parents and take over the business in their absence. “My goal was that (my parents) would never have to work again,” Eric said.

Eric and Steve knew right away they needed to make changes to take the business to the next level. They soon added the mono-fin, a rigid fin that could create propulsion.

“It's not just something that looks cool, you can swim really well in these,” he said.

Once the mermaid idea was born, it blossomed. Fin Fun has a website dedicated to the fantasy world of mermaids and tells stories of mermaid friends all over the world as well as games and other mermaid themed content meant for kids. “We just kept going. Why not go for it, let's just go for it and we've had a lot of fun,” Eric said. He admits that he's had a great team that has been the foundation of Fin Fun's success.


“The challenge within our business is riding a trend and staying within that trend. Certainly, the mermaid tail, when it came out, was a huge trend. And the trend has come off like anything would so you have to find other ways to continue to keep a business rolling. That's the challenge we all face,” Eric explained. He has learned that any idea is a stepping stone to the next idea.

Fin Fun works to stay true to its mission of service and is involved in giving back to the community through different means, including donations.

Eric also explained that they are working to show they live the mission for their employees too. This has included being flexible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic where the majority of the team are now working from home.

The company was founded on family and there are many family members involved in the business. “It wasn't just because they were family, they had the skills,” Eric said. He admits that as the company has matured it has had to evolve and learn and always put the people in the right seats despite their relation. “You have to remove the egos and get it out of the way,” he said. He admits that includes himself.

When asked about whether or not he's had feelings of doubt he admitted that he has. “I understand that I make mistakes, we've made a lot of mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes,” Eric said. He admits taking on the family business and all the responsibility that accompanied that was a lot of pressure. He said it motived him to be successful.

Eric said that business has helped him learn about himself and improve. He advises others to surround themselves with talented people and be grateful that everyone has different skills that can be leveraged. “You don't want to have a business that depends on one person,” he said. He supports that a true leader is one that can walk away and the business continues without them and has led Fin Fun with that philosophy.

Like all businesses, COVID-19 threw Fin Fun a curveball. Over the last couple of years, Fin Fun has employed SethAaron Henderson of Project Runway fame as their lead designer. Among other projects, SethAaron created a clothing line for the company. However, the timing of its launch hit just as COVID was ramping up and retail plummeted. Eric and Steve were faced with the difficult decision to pull the plug on the project. “SethAaron would still work with us in a minute and we'd work with him, but the timing isn't right now,” Eric said.

During the pandemic business actually has boomed because people have been buying backyard pools and staying home. “Even during the toughest times, there are businesses that are ready to have success. Find a way to rearrange yourself to find a solution,” Eric said. He is optimistic that 2021 is going to be a great year for Fin Fun.

The plan for the future is to acquire or build up businesses through their parent company Blue Spring Partners. “I feel very strongly to say this time next year we will have acquired or have a new business that's moving along,” Eric said.

Information

To learn more about Fin Fun visit their website at https://www.finfunmermaid.com/. Find them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

I.F. chamber leader supports continuation of emergency declaration

Bonneville County's 7-day moving average COVID-19 incidence rate was at 28 on Jan. 24, the lowest it has been since Sept. 22 last year. Likewise, the number of cases reported last week was 262, the lowest since Oct. 3.

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce has taken the stand that Gov. Brad Little's emergency declaration should continue to stand. Here is the text of a Jan. 22 letter sent to state Legislators:

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is the leading advocate for businesses in Eastern Idaho, representing over 600 businesses with over 25,000 employees actively engaged in growing our region’s economy. On their behalf, we request our legislators cease their efforts to declare an end to the emergency declaration regarding Idaho’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chip Schwarze
We appreciate their concern and desire to move forward by putting this emergency declaration behind us; however, the real-world consequence of a premature end to the emergency declaration will further harm our ability to recover physically and financially from this pandemic. Ending the emergency declaration risks losing federal aid to our state that would provide support for immunization distribution, for deployed National Guard members, and for rebounding businesses still struggling to recover from this pandemic.

With Idahoans being immunized daily and by continuing to follow the recommended safety guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing, and personal hygiene, we can see that the end is near for this pandemic. Now is not the time to declare victory—especially if doing so would jeopardize the financial support facilitating our recovery. Further, after thousands of deaths in our state, we must do all we can to mitigate further loss of life. Declaring an end to the pandemic prematurely will endanger more Idahoans.

We urge our great legislators to withdraw their efforts to symbolically end this pandemic. Be patient until we can safely return to normality. Withdraw SCR101 and all other bills designed to end this emergency declaration regarding COVID-19. Having heard from leaders of FEMA and other agencies, a strong concern is that the end the emergency declaration would bring an end to the federal aid helping our local businesses get back on their feet. East Idaho businesses are counting on vaccines to open our economy completely. Do not endanger funding which can ensure our bright future when we are almost through this pandemic.

Sincerely,

Chip Schwarze
President/CEO

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

INL researcher honored with Asian American Engineer of the Year (AAEOY) award

INL Senior Staff Researcher Dr. Dong Ding

Dr. Dong Ding, a senior staff researcher at Idaho National Laboratory, has been named an Asian American Most Promising Engineer. He is one of only four in the United States to receive the honor this year.

The Asian American Engineer of the Year (AAEOY) Awards have taken place each year since 2002 as part of the U.S. National Engineers Week to honor outstanding Asian American professionals in academia, public service, and industries. It is hosted by the Chinese Institute of Engineers/USA (CIE-USA), and sponsored by corporations and the community.

At INL, Ding leads a group of researchers in electrochemical processing and electro-catalysis for clean energy storage and conversion. He is a principal investigator for multiple projects including direct funded and Laboratory Directed Research & Development. 

Here are a few links to follow if you want to know more about his research:

Low-temp hydrocarbon cracking could make plastics from natural gas

INL research highlighted in the journal Advanced Materials

Idaho laboratory joins national research programs for making ‘green’ hydrogen 

In addition to his research at INL, Ding is an adjunct professor in the departments of Chemical & Materials Engineering at New Mexico State University and University of Idaho. He has 89 peer-reviewed publications and holds three U.S. patents and 11 patent applications.

“Congratulations to Dr. Ding on becoming AAEOY’s Most Promising Engineer of the Year," said Dr. John Wagner, INL director. "This is an amazing accomplishment, which publicly recognizes his dedication to scientific innovation. His work will continue to have a tremendous impact on the scientific and energy communities well into the future,”

Traditionally, AAEOY holds a banquet and awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the achievements of the awardees. However, due to the uncertainty and restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the banquet and ceremony have been postponed tentatively to May 2021.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Hokkaido Ramen & Sushi Bar to open at Snake River Landing

A dish from the Hokkaido Ramen and Sushi Bar in Great Falls, Montana

Snake River Landing announced Friday that a new restaurant is coming to Idaho Falls. Hokkaido Ramen & Sushi Bar will open this summer at 901 Pier View Drive near Love at First Bite and Bill’s Bike & Run.

“Hokkaido Ramen has such an exciting and unique menu,” says Eric Isom, Chief Development Officer for Snake River Landing. “The new restaurant will be an excellent addition to Snake River Landing and Idaho Falls.”

“Our menu offers fresh, original dishes,” says Hokkaido manager John Schneider “We can’t wait to bring our authentic ramen and Japanese menu to Idaho Falls. We are unlike any other restaurant in the Idaho Falls area."

Hokkaido Ramen is a casual Japanese restaurant with locations in Helena, Bozeman and Great Falls, Montana. It is also opening at the Rail Crossings Shopping Center near Costco in Pocatello this summer. The Hokkaido menu offers a wide variety of authentic Japanese ramen dishes including traditional Japanese ramen, appetizers, fresh sushi, rice dishes, and bubble tea for full-service dining room or carry-out options. Once open, Hokkaido will operate seven days a week.

“Some people hear ‘ramen’ and think about some chicken bouillon package and some noodles, or anything like that," Schneider said. "We’re doing the real, authentic, traditional ramen out of Japan. We serve high quality, gourmet wheat noodles; not like the typical noodles you would get in Top Ramen in the store -- which we all lived on for about a year-and-a-half of college. To get the broth right is the trickiest part. It’s a process that lasts more than eight hours. It is the core foundation for really top quality, authentic, traditional ramen.”

Hokkaido’s most popular specialty menu selections include appetizers Gyoza and Bang Bang Shrimp, and a Tantanmen or the Spicy Beef Ramen. Thinly sliced "ramen eggs" and grilled pork "chashu" are signature accompaniments to any authentic Japanese ramen. "Chashu" is slow cooked and thinly sliced pork belly, from the same cut as American bacon. Hokkaido draws its name from the northernmost of Japan’s main islands; a place known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs, skiing, and as the birthplace of ramen.

Hokkaido also enjoys giving back to the communities in which they open, including offering discounts to first responders and healthcare workers. More information about Hokkaido Ramen is available at hokkaidoramen.life.

Hokkaido Ramen & Sushi Bar menu

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Bank of Idaho preps for early PPP loan money disbursement

The Federal Government has announced that financial institutions with less than $1 billion in assets will get exclusive access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) portal at least two days earlier than other lenders during the program's second round, which is expected to open this week. Bank of Idaho meets the early-participation criteria.

Jeff Newgard
"The extra time will definitely be an advantage for the small businesses we're working with," said Bank of Idaho President and CEO Jeff Newgard. "As a matter of fact, we rolled out a waitlist, where hundreds have already signed up to hold their place in line."

Newgard said that even people who used other lenders for the first round of PPP assistance may want to consider using Bank of Idaho for the upcoming iteration because of its impressive track record. During round one of the PPP initiative, with its staff working remotely and in many cases round-the-clock, the bank secured more than 1,000 loans for Idaho business owners under deadline pressure.

"While other lenders focused on big-ticket loans, we saw that there was a critical need for smaller amounts, so we've got plenty of PPP loans on the books for less than $20,000," Newgard said. "Navigating the process takes care and attention, and that's where we excel."

Businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic could be eligible to receive a low-interest-rate loans under this program and can learn more details at https://www.bankofidaho.com/cares. PPP loans may be eligible for full or partial forgiveness if the money is used for qualifying costs and depending on the specific rules of the program.

The SBA also added optional demographic reporting section to its round two application in the hopes that lenders will encourage borrowers to fill it out and bolster, "efforts to reach underserved, minority-owned, veteran-owned and women-owned businesses."

Macy's clearing out of Grand Teton Mall


Grand Teton Mall is looking at another empty anchor with the departure of Macy's. The company announced Jan. 6 it is closing the eastern Idaho store in March.

"This closure is part of the company’s strategy announced in early 2020,” Media Relations Director Emily Workman wrote. The department store chain announced in February it planned to cut 2,000 jobs nationwide and close one-fifth of its stores or roughly 125 locations by 2023. Macy’s shuttered approximately 30 stores in 2020. The Idaho Falls store is one of about 45 scheduled to be shuttered.

“Regular, non-seasonal colleagues who we are unable to place at nearby Macy’s stores will be eligible for severance, including outplacement resources,”  Workman said.

Macy’s first opened at the Grand Teton Mall in the early 2000s after purchasing the space formerly occupied by the Bon Marche. When the mall opened in 1984, there were four anchor tenants: JC Penney, ZCMI, Sears and the Bon Marche. Only JC Penney remains. Sears closed down in 2019 and ZCMI was replaced by Dillard's.

A clearance sale will begin at the Idaho Falls Macy's this month and run for 8 to 12 weeks. The store is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with a 9 p.m. closing time Friday and Saturday. It closes at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Related: Bed Bath & Beyond closing more than 40 stores this year, but Idaho Falls store to remain open

DOE accepting comments on microreactor project proposed for INL

The MARVEL project is proposed for inside INL's Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT), which resumed operations in late 2017 after a 23-year hiatus.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Monday the start of a 14-day public review and comment period on a draft environmental assessment for a proposal to construct the Microreactor Applications Research Validation & EvaLuation (MARVEL) project microreactor inside Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL’s) Transient Reactor Test Facility.

The MARVEL design is a sodium-potassium-cooled, thermal microreactor with a power level of less than 100 kilowatts of electricity using High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU).
“Nuclear energy has always been a reliable power source that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” said Idaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner. “MARVEL takes the next step. It will provide for prompt, small-scale demonstrations of several environmentally friendly technologies associated with advanced microreactors as well as larger reactors, which will benefit the nuclear energy industry and end-users.”

“MARVEL will be capable of testing power applications such as load-following electricity demand to complement intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It will also test the use of nuclear energy for water purification, hydrogen production, and heat for chemical processing. It will additionally provide industry partners with the ability to test new microreactor-related technologies and will provide real-world, viewable examples of how commercial end-users could incorporate microreactors into their clean energy portfolios.”

Ever since the first useable amount of electricity generated by nuclear energy was demonstrated in 1951 at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I in Idaho, nuclear power has played an essential role in U.S. electricity generation. Nuclear energy today generates nearly 20% of the nation’s electricity and about 55% of U.S. carbon-free electricity. That electricity is generated by large light-water reactors that each generate hundreds and sometimes thousands of megawatts of electricity, with each megawatt being enough to power about 1,000 homes.

International interest is now growing in microreactors: very small, factory fabricated, transportable reactors. Microreactors can be used in remote communities, industrial sites and defense bases, as well as for applications such as backup generation for power plants, humanitarian assistance, water purification, hydrogen production and disaster relief missions.  Just like large traditional reactors, microreactors also use fission to produce energy with no carbon emissions.

The DOE Microreactor Program supports research and development (R&D) of microreactor technologies. Led by INL, the program conducts both fundamental and applied R&D to reduce the risks associated with new technology performance and manufacturing readiness of microreactors. The intent is to ensure that microreactor concepts can be commercially licensed and deployed and to reinvigorate U.S. leadership in nuclear energy.

As part of the DOE Microreactor Program, INL is planning to develop MARVEL at INL to perform R&D on various operational features of microreactors to improve integration of microreactors with end-user applications. This will accelerate the development of commercial microreactors to provide essential electricity and energy-intensive services to power our lives.

The draft environmental assessment prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act is posted for public review at: https://www.id.energy.gov/insideNEID/PDF/Final%20MARVEL%20Draft%20EA%20DOE%20EA-2146.pdf

The 14-day public comment period on the draft environmental assessment will conclude on January 26, 2021. Comments can be submitted by mail to Garrett Kropp, 1955 Fremont Ave., 83415-1222 or by email to marvel@id.doe.gov. Paper copies of the document are available on request.

Friday, January 8, 2021

INL ranks #24 among best places to work for women, diverse managers

Ashley Finan
Diversity MBA, a national leadership organization that integrates diversity and inclusion with talent management, ranked Idaho National Laboratory #24 in the nation for Best Places to Work for Women & Diverse Managers and in the Top 10 Best in Class Categories for Recruitment, Workplace Inclusion and Accountability.

Companies recognized as Best in Class have demonstrated consistent and excellent practices, with metrics aligned to a strategy that results in impactful change. Diversity MBA’s methodology uses a multitiered process that involves primary and secondary research. The rankings are based on an extensive survey and statistical analysis performed by DePaul University, Chicago. Companies were selected based on scores in six categories: representation, board diversity, recruitment, workplace inclusion, retention, succession planning and accountability.

Richard Farrar

The recognitions were shared with the broader community via the Diversity MBA 2020 50 Out Front Magazine.“These recognitions demonstrate to themarketplace and business community that INL’s commitment to inclusive diversity is embedded as part of the lab’s culture, belief structure and values,” said Juan Alvarez, INL’s deputy laboratory director for Management and Operations and chief operations officer. “They are great motivation to keep the pedal to the floor and continue our positive momentum.”

In addition to the organization awards, Diversity MBA Magazine also named four INL leaders to their 2020 Top 100 Under 50 Executive and Emerging Leaders list. This recognition represents outstanding achievements in

Ning Kang
community, leadership and education. Each awardee must pass a rigorous screening process, have an advanced degree or certification, and can only receive the award once in a lifetime.

Awardees were recognized in the fall issue of Diversity MBA Magazine, which has over 1.9 million readers. Diversity MBA’s list includes both emerging and executive leaders.

Congratulations to INL’s Top 100 Under 50 Executive and Emerging Leader Award winners:

• Richard Farrar, M.S., Analytical Research Laboratories research manager

• Ashley Finan, Ph.D., National Reactor Innovation Center director

• Ning Kang, Ph.D., PE, Power & Energy Systems department manager

• Ryan Petersen, J.D., Labor and Employment Law senior counsel

Ryan Petersen
“This is an outstanding honor for our laboratory. Thank you all for helping INL increase its global visibility and reputation as an inclusively diverse employer of choice,“ said Alvarez.

Awardees were invited to attend the virtual Awards Gala during the Diversity MBA 14th Annual National Elite Business Leaders Conference.