Monday, June 30, 2014

Master distiller leaves Idaho for Hawaii

Bill Scott
Rigby's loss is Maui's gain. Bill Scott, the master distiller behind such brands as Blue Ice Vodka, American Harvest Organic Spirit, Square One, and 44 Degrees North, has taken a job with Hawaii Sea Spirits, in Kula, Hawaii, on the island of Maui.

“(Bill) has mentored me for the past ten years as we took Ocean Vodka from concept to market,” Shay Smith, the company's CEO. While Blue Ice and Teton Glacier were made from Idaho potatoes, Ocean Vodka is made from organic sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water, sourced from a depth of 3,000 feet off the Kona Coast of Hawaii.

For more than a decade at a re-purposed gasohol plant in Jefferson County, Scott distinguished himself as an industry leader in white spirits production (fermentation and distillation), spirits flavoring systems and innovative product development.  During his 18-year spirits career, he has developed award-winning flavoring systems for over 20 premium and ultra-premium distilled spirits brands winning many best-of-the-best ratings in domestic and international competitions.

Where this leaves the Idaho operation is up in the air. "We are helping where we can," he said. "The crew I had in place is the best in the business, I just hope they get the right leadership rolling soon."

Friday, June 27, 2014

All-Star Workplaces Start With Cross-Training Employees

It may be overused, but one of my favorite sayings is still, “There’s no 'I' in team.”

This is true literally and figuratively. One person never makes a team. Professional sporting organizations have shown us that all-star athletes like LeBron James can help a team's success. But even "King James" can’t single-handedly carry an entire team to victory game in and game out.

I know the workplace is not a playing field or a sports arena, but professional sports organizations have embraced an important concept that can be almost foreign in some of the most successful businesses around the world: cross-training.

Cross-training is simply teaching or training employees the responsibilities or duties of another position to increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Cross-training is actually crucial to the success of a business.

Let’s say the Seattle Seahawks decide to solely train Russell Wilson as the only quarterback, that he is the only player who knows the plays and runs from where the quarterback stands. What happens if Wilson gets a season-ending injury the first game of the season? Without cross-training in place, the Seahawks would be facing a pretty rough season -- and some angry fans.

But with second- and third-string quarterbacks in place, as well as offensive players being cross-trained and well versed in the plays, formations, etc., the team can rest easy that they won't face a painful season of losses and booing.

Employers that choose not to cross-train operate at a huge risk. In today’s society we are all trying to do more with less. Cross-training is a concept that fully embraces the more-with-less concept. Cross-training employees not only allows for a back-up player in case a team member happens to get put on the disabled list or goes to a different team, it also helps build morale.

Employees feel valued when a company is willing to invest time and resources into helping them expand their skills and knowledge. Cross-training also encourages strong, teamwork-centered environments where employees actively support each other because they understand and relate to co-workers in other positions. The are extremely efficient if an employee resigns, goes on vacation or even is out for a day or two with the flu.

Cross-training ensures business continuity and success. While cross-training may take planning, time and resources, it is worth it.

You can let King James lead the team to a championship, but he decides to become a free agent the lack of cross-training could certainly hurt your business’ chances at reaching the playoffs next season.

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group in Idaho Falls.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Officials greet Fluor's re-entry to Idaho Falls

Fluor Government Group President Bruce Stanski and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter talk Thursday morning at the company's new Idaho Falls office.
Fluor Corp. has opened a new office in Idaho Falls, but the multinational engineering and construction firm, is no stranger this area.

In the days the Idaho National Laboratory was the National Reactor Testing Station, it built the Materials Test Reactor, the Advanced Test Reactor and the Waste Calcining Facility. If all goes as planned, the company and its Oregon-based subsidiary NuScale will have small modular reactors generating power on the Idaho desert in 2023.

"Planting the Fluor flag again," was how Bruce Stanski, president of the company's Government Group, described the official event this morning at its new offices at Taylor Crossing on the River. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper, Commerce Department Director Jeff Sayer and several Idaho legislators were on hand to put out the welcome mat.

"We're very excited about you being here again," Otter said.

While the office will initially employ only about 10 people, Fluor plans to expand its presence as NuScale pursues the development of 12 small modular reactors west of Idaho Falls. The developer of the project will be the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, of which Idaho Falls Power is a member.

For Idaho Falls Power Chief Jackie Flowers, becoming the lead utility for the project represents a seven-year process that began with her asking SMR people, "Why not Idaho?" She said the real turning point came five years ago, when she took Mike McGough, now NuScale's chief commercial officer, on a tour of the Center For Advanced Energy Studies.

Based in Corvallis, Ore., NuScale, in which Fluor has been the the majority investor since 2011, announced in late May that it had signed a contract agreement with the DOE for $217 million in matching funds to support development, licensing and commercialization of the company’s nuclear small modular reactor technology.

After review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NuScale expects to submit an application for design certification in the second half of 2016. This they hope will allow them to meet a commercial operation date of 2023, in partnership with UAMPS and Energy NorthWest, which operates nuclear facilities in Washington state.

NuScale has had a prototype small modular reactor operating since 2003. Unlike traditional reactors, which rely on electric pumps to keep water on the fuel rods to keep them from melting, NuScale's self-contained, self-circulating reactors shut themselves down during a station blackout.

Several things have to happen before any dirt gets moved on the desert. While it pursues certification from NRC, the company must identify possible sites on the desert, gathering geological and meteorological information.

In its "State of Energy in the West" report of June 2013, one of the Western Governors Association's stated goals was to find ways to accelerate introduction of small modular reactors into Western states. As for the selection of Idaho Falls, there's the history and the community's favorable attitude toward nuclear energy. "It's a case of going where you are wanted. If the community won't support it, you just shouldn't try," McGough said.

As part of the Intermountain Energy Summit scheduled for mid-August in Idaho Falls, NuScale has set up a Supplier's Day on Aug. 21, where possible vendors can engage in "speed dating" -- 15-minute meetings where they can discuss possibilities. "We were blown away by the response," McGough said. "There is a lot of interest in this project."

"This is where we're going to be and this is where we're going to deploy our first 540 megawatts," said John Hopkins, NuScale's CEO. "This office is the leading edge, an operations center and a hub to build from."

Idaho Falls chosen for mental health crisis center

Idaho Falls has been chosen as the site for the state’s first mental and behavioral health crisis center, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced today.

A press release from the department said Idaho Falls was chosen over Boise and Coeur d’Alene because of its outstanding community and legislative support.

Crisis centers are designed to treat at-risk patients and lower psychiatric hospitalizations, keeping the often uninsured or under-insured mentally ill out of jail or the emergency room.

“This crisis center – and others we hope to develop – will be modeled on the best practices of other states where such plans have been successful,” said Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter, who made an announcement this morning at Idaho Falls Regional Airport. “We’re hoping for similarly encouraging outcomes here, with communities joining in these investments as they see declining use of local emergency rooms, hospital beds and jail cells.”

Data gathered from the center will be used to evaluate the need and resources necessary to create centers in the other two cities, should the Legislature fund them.

During the 2014 session, the Legislature set aside $1.52 million in annual funds and $600,000 in one-time federal money for one center. The department originally requested $4.56 million for all three proposed centers.

State officials said Twin Falls was Idaho’s next-highest priority area to fund the facility. The Division 5 Behavioral Health Board in Twin Falls is pursuing the idea of creating such a center independent of state funding because of the local need.

The board is also looking to fix the problems that led to Boise officials overlooking the area when considering a crisis center.

“One of the things we were missing from the three other areas primarily was that display of readiness,” Scott Rasmussen, Region 5 program manager for the Behavioral Health Division, told the Twin Falls Times-News last week.

For sound clips from the airport this morning, follow this link to East Idaho News.

Nominations open for Distinguished Under 40 awards

The Young Professionals Network of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is now accepting nominations for the 2014 Distinguished Under 40 award recipients.

Distinguished Under 40 is an annual awards program exclusive to Bonneville County that honors 10 young professionals who have shown accomplishment in their careers, community and education. To be considered for the award, young professionals are nominated by co-workers, managers, business associates or themselves.

A nomination form can be found here.