Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an active year for development

Construction work at Sand Creek Commons, where Cabela's is being built and Hobby Lobby is slated to go.
Here we are at the end of 2014, with the temperature below zero and little to report in the way of new development. Let’s take a look at the top business stories of the year.

Cabela’s, Hobby Lobby
For years, everyone has known the southeast corner of Sunnyside and Hitt was prime for commercial development. This year was when things got rolling in earnest, first with the announcement that Cabela’s would be building a store, then in September with confirmation that Hobby Lobby was coming. The third anchor tenant is Rigby-based Broulim’s. Other tenants include D.L. Evans Bank and Mountain America Credit Union.

Also worth noting, the cities of Idaho Falls and Ammon came up with an mutually acceptable agreement in September to share the cost of widening Hitt Road south of the Sunnyside intersection, estimated at $2 million. Because Hitt Road lies within Idaho Falls city limits, this has not always been an easy point of negotiation over the past 20 years.

Growth at Snake River Landing
This year has seen a massive amount of development at Snake River Landing, south of Pancheri Drive. In early summer, Scientech moved into its approximately $9 million, 110,000-square-foot facility. Brandon River Apartments opened a complex of 48 one- and two-bedroom apartments, and residential development by Kartchner Homes proceeded as well. On the retail side, Bill’s Bike and Run and McKenzie River Pizza opened, and foundation work began on a Home2 by Hilton hotel just south of Stockman’s Restaurant.

New Car Dealerships
Teton Toyota gained Teton Volkswagen for a neighbor in June, and in the Smith Group opened its Honda and Chevrolet dealerships across Sunnyside Road to the southwest, on 17 acres. Each dealership is just shy of 30,000 square feet. Owner Stafford Smith said he plans to have a grand opening in spring 2015, but is happy to show the place to guests now.

Opting to stay in Idaho Falls, Broadway Ford began work on a new dealership that will include an 8,196 square-foot showroom and a parts and service department of 21,429 square feet. Owner Mont Crnkovich and his management team had been talking for several years about a new showroom and service department, with a more efficient layout out and up-to-date amenities. The building permit valuation from city of Idaho Falls is $4.8 million.

Melaleuca Moves Headquarters
Melaleuca, Inc., one of the county’s major employers, moved its headquarters from South Yellowstone to its new $50 million complex near Interstate 15 Exit 113. A grand opening is likely to be held sometime in early 2015.

Camping World
If you’re driving over the new Pancheri overpass, you’ll notice a lot of dirt being moved to the southwest. That would be Kentucky-based Camping World, which is developing 12 acres. The company and its Boise developer, Zoke LLC, signaled in May they wanted to develop the land.

Because it was designated for high-density residential development in the city of Idaho Falls’ comprehensive plan, the City Council had to take action before annexation could take place and work could get started. Once that happened, Camping World both the OK Trailer RV dealership in Shelley. An opening is tentatively planned for May.

Guns and Gear
The $3.5 million Guns and Gear, opened in November, and while it has given firearms enthusiasts something unlike anything they have ever seen here its broader effect may be on the surrounding land.  Dixie and Shane Murphy and their partner, Ryan Later, spent $2.8 million on the two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, which overlooks the Snake River Landing development, and $700,000 on equipment.

This provided the impetus for the city of Idaho Falls to establish the 55-acre Eagle Ridge Urban Renewal District. What this will allow is tax increment financing through the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency. Put simply, while taxes are collected on the land the way they always have been, money collected on improvements to the land goes to the Redevelopment Agency to be spent on roads, water, sewer and power lines in the district. Snake River Landing, Taylor Crossing on the River and the hotels on Lindsay Boulevard all lie within urban renewal districts.

D Street Underpass opens
Does anyone notice how much easier it is to get into downtown Idaho Falls since the city opened the D Street Underpass in August? The new structure provides two westbound lanes, one eastbound lane, a wide sidewalk and a traffic signal that allows left-hand turns.

New Restaurants
Restaurants come and go, but one thing that remains constant is the interest in them shown by BizMojo Idaho readers. While there was nothing on the Olive Garden or Chick-fil-A level to provide excitement in 2014, there were some new entries into the market. Gator Jack’s moved into the old Winger’s location on Hitt Road. Togo’s Sandwiches opened in Rexburg and is poised to open its first Idaho Falls store in January. Noodles & Co. is also coming to Hitt Road, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger is poised to open on Woodruff Avenue in early January. Downtown, Alchemy Bistro has moved in to where Il Castello used to be, and the Park Avenue Grill has reanimated the long-dormant location at 950 Park Avenue.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Comment sought on long range transportation plan

Everyone's favorite intersection, 17th Street and Hitt Road.
Next time you're waiting at a traffic light and muttering under your breath, think about this. The Bonneville Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating its long range transportation plan and seeking public comment. You do have a voice.

The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BMPOTransportationSurvey2015. Even if you are waiting at the Hitt Road and 17th Street intersection, please do not attempt to fill it out on your smart phone. Do it when you get to where you're going. The deadline for responses is Jan. 16.

In case you are curious, here are two of the 15 questions:
  • In your opinion what will be the three most significant transportation challenges in our region in the next 25 years? 
  • If you only had $100 to spend on funding transportation improvements, how would you prioritize projects? 
The plan’s purpose is to identify existing and future transportation deficiencies and problems, rank projects in order of priority, and develop policies and strategies for preserving and maintaining the transportation network. Federal transportation policy calls for the plan to be updated every every five years. If it isn’t, Idaho misses out on federal highway funding.

The survey can also be be found at www.bmpo.org, or a hard copy can be obtained by calling the BMPO office at (208) 612-8509.

Timing is everything, so make a plan

Tanyan Davies-Wall
The new year is almost here, which means it’s time to make some plans. If you are buying or upgrading a home, here’s something to think about: Mortgage Professional America Magazine reports that in 2015 rates are expected to rise to an average of 4.6 per cent on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, up from around 4 percent, where they are right now. What's more, those rates are expected to reach 5 percent by the end of 2015.

With interest rates on the rise, understanding how they affect your payment is crucial to your decision making. The first thing that I advise clients to do is set a budget based on a payment they are comfortable with, not on a home price they think they can afford. The price of a home means little compared to the cost of covering the debt service.

For example, if you can comfortably afford a $1,200 monthly house payment, right now you could purchase a $200,000 home once you figure in taxes and insurance. But if the interest rate rises to 5 percent this year, the same payment will only afford you a $178,000 home. We’re looking at a negative impact on your buying power of nearly 10 percent.

Understanding how interest rate fluctuations impact buying power will allow you to make educated financial decisions.

Also, remember that you will always make more money when there is “blood in the water.”

The adage is that investors make their highest returns when everyone else is losing money. Buying a home is no different. I tell buyers that if they are looking for a good deal, winter is often the best time to find one. People needing to sell their homes tend to become more desperate in the winter, knowing that it is harder to sell a home when there is snow on the ground.

If you are planning to buy in the near future, you may want to leverage your buying power and the time of year to get the best deal. If winter house hunting isn’t your thing, the very least you can do is get your ducks in a row. I suggest working with a licensed Realtor and a reputable lender to ensure that you are ready to move come spring time. This affords you two things: it allows you to continually see what the real estate market is doing and the ability to time interest rates to improve your buying power.
Tanyan Davies-Wall is an agent with Voigt-Davis Realtors and a member of the Square One business development organization.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

January openings planned for Togo's, Freddy's

A job applicant at the Idaho Falls Togo's, in the Sagewood Plaza shopping center.
While busy with pre-holiday shopping, I poked my head into a few places that are looking like they are nearly done and here's what I found out. Togo's, on Hitt Road, is planning on opening in mid-January. They are taking applications now, and are in especial need of help during the daytime. Freddy's Frozen Custard has its lights on, but is looking at opening after the first of the year, possibly Jan. 6, according to a worker onsite. I'm not sure who is in the mood for frozen custard at this time of year, but their hamburgers are highly rated, at least by Consumer Reports.

With that, I will wish you a Merry Christmas from BizMojo Idaho. Keep looking in during the next few weeks. Though I expect things to be slow, I will be poking my nose into whatever I might think of interest to loyal readers.
The lights are on at Freddy's, near WinCo Foods on Woodruff Avenue.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Melaleuca delivers tons of food to 13 families in dire straits

Melaleuca and its employees have done their part this holiday season, donating 1,000 cans of food to the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen, 5.5 tons of food to 13 individual families, 500 Christmas gifts to the Salvation Army and a $1,000 in-kind donation to St. Vincent de Paul's Christmas Basket Project.

This is the 13th year the company has donated food to families who are suffering extreme hardship. Employees had confidentially identified eight families in Idaho and five in Knoxville, Tenn., where the company also operates. Each family received a three-month supply of non-perishable food, 40 pounds of meat, new clothing and toys for the children.

"These families were overcome with emotion and gratitude," said Melaleuca employee Heidi Weiers, who chairs the company's food drive committee. "At one home, there was a 9-year-old girl who helped us unpack the 16 boxes of food we brought over. Her father is on an organ donor list and has a lot of medical bills, so she wasn't expecting to receive a single Christmas present. She was overjoyed for her little brothers and sisters because we'd brought bananas and oranges, her brother's favorite fruits, and diapers for the baby, which they couldn't afford."

Melaleuca employees also participated in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, purchasing Christmas gifts for hundreds of children. They placed gift cards, toys, clothing, video games and art supplies under Christmas trees at the company's facilities. Many of these gifts came from Melaleuca call center employees who exchanged some or all of their December bonus checks for presents.

"Melaleuca is a wonderful example of a good corporate citizen," said Maj. James Halverson of the Salvation Army. “Not only is the leadership team generous, but their employees also get involved in serving others.”

Additionally, Melaleuca supported the Christmas Basket Project, a philanthropic effort led by St. Vincent de Paul, the Idaho Falls Catholic Community, and First Presbyterian Church. The company made an in-kind donation valued at $1,000 to the campaign, which delivers food and Christmas gifts to more than 400 families.