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.


Chip Schwarze

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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

First Idaho Falls building permit of 2021 filed

Newspapers used to salute the first baby born in the new year with gifts contributed by local businesses -- toys, clothing, diapers, supplies, even savings bonds. It was a cute practice, and one I kind of miss.

In that spirit, BizMojo Idaho would like to salute the first Idaho Falls building permit of 2021. I wish I could say it was some grand new project: Trader Joe's, Dunkin' Donuts, In-N-Out Burger, but alas, it is far more humble. The first building permit, COM21-0001, is for a basement remodel at 1165 Canal Avenue. The applicant is 3D Siding and the owner is listed at Phil Henrie of Ammon. The permit description reads: "Adding additional unit in basement of existing duplex." The job value is estimated at $0 and the total fees charged amounted to $70.

Rest assured that when a big commercial project does rear its head we will be on the lookout. And no, it doesn't look like In-N-Out or Dunkin' will be in the area anytime soon, based on these stories in BoiseDev.com:

In-N-Out Burger sets plan for Boise, but it will be a while still  

IKEA? In-N-Out? Dunkin’? A crystal ball look at when the area could get some big names




Monday, January 4, 2021

From manure to domes | Mike Hunter, Domtec International

Mike Hunter, Domtec Interntional
Based in Idaho Falls, Domtec International builds and sells domes all over the world, as storage buildings and as hurricane and tornado shelters. But the company's origins are in the dirt.

As a young, newly married man, Mike Hunter had purchased some farmland near Hamer. One day, while hauling manure from the feedlot pens and spreading it on the farm fields, he thought to himself there had to be a better way of making a living. He envisioned himself traveling the world making business deals. Hunter left the farm and tried his hand in sales, eventually finding himself working for a company that made dome potato storage units.

After the original owners decided to move to California, Mike and another employee of the company decided to break off and do their own business. They were successful, but within the first couple of years it was clear the partnership wasn't going to work long term.

His jumping-off point came when he was in Germany negotiating a deal. The German company wanted Hunter and his partner to be the general contractors, a role they had not previously played. When Hunter approached his partner about taking the role he said no. He decided to do it on his own, and Domtec International was born.

One of the biggest challenges that Hunter faces is finding, training and keeping staff to work on the domes, because they can be working on a project for months away from home.
When asked about whether or not a college degree is needed to have a successful business, he replied, “A university isn't the only place you can get an education if you're a hard worker, and if you really pay attention and if you're really observant. If you want to learn, if you're just naturally curious, and you'll try to learn what you have to learn, you can learn it.”

Domtec International frequently does work in foreign companies. The secret to success of working internationally is partnering with local experts. “If you know how to do it, it's not that hard. It was daunting but now that I've been through it several times it's not all that difficult,” Hunter said.

His advice to those considering self-employment is to believe in themselves and sell a product that other people need to solve their problems. “If you take the time and do the hard work to be an expert in that then it's just a matter of sticking with it and working it out,” he said.

He also advises business owners to embrace delayed gratification. Many of the profits that come from a business need to be reinvested into the business. Hunter likes to quote Dave Ramsey: “If you will live like nobody else then eventually you can live like nobody else.”

He admits he often felt like a fraud at the beginning of his business. “In time you start to get comfort in your own skin,” he said. In his own experience, and based on what he's heard from others, a little bit of fear is a good thing.

When asked what motivates him today, Hunter said, “I've met some great people in different parts of the world. That's probably what motivates me the most now.” He attributes much of his success to surrounding himself with amazing people that work for the company.

The future of Domtec includes bringing up new leadership. “As long as we are going forward and upwards that's all that counts,” he said. He admits that his days at Domtec are winding down and he's working on what his future days will look like on the golf course or in his backyard bird watching.
To find out more about Domtec, visit their website at https://domtec.com/.