Friday, February 26, 2016

Bish’s RV buys Brockman’s in Jerome

Bish’s RV announced this week it has bought Brockman’s RV in Jerome, which had been in business for more than 45 years, building a strong reputation for great customer service and competitive prices.

Mindful of that reputation, Idaho Falls-based Bish’s is keeping the existing staff. “Brockman’s business values went hand-in-hand with the values we hold,” said Troy Jenkins, president of Bish’s. “We want to continue that
legacy that Steve Brockman started.”

A huge selling feature for Bish’s RV was that Brockman’s RV is a Jayco-only dealership. Currently, Bish’s RV sells Jayco products at three of its locations, but was lacking the ability to sell the brand in the Twin Falls area.

“We’ll continue to keep this location a Jayco-only dealership,” said Kacey Jensen, Bish’s RV’s regional director. “We’re excited to now offer Jayco products to our existing customers in the Magic Valley.”

A grand opening in April is planned to coincide with the Annual Jayco Days sales event to welcome the new location to their dealership line-up. With this acquisition, Bish’s now has four locations in Idaho, making it the largest RV dealer in the state.

For more information about Bish’s RV, visit www.bishs.com.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

INL hosting high school students for tours, education

Idaho National Laboratory will host high school students from throughout the region Friday at a new event designed to support the federal My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

President Obama announced the MBK initiative in 2014 to address opportunity gaps faced by disadvantaged and minority youth. INL added it this year to the roster of events it sponsors to interest students in the potential for a career at the national laboratory. The goal of the event is to break down stereotypes about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers and provide students with role models and mentors to follow.

Workforce development is one of the great challenges right now, said INL Director Mark Peters. “It’s vital that we engage students now and make sure they are aware of the incredible opportunities right here in Idaho, along with the education and training needed to take advantage of them.”

Students will participate in a full day of hands-on activities and laboratory tours, interact with research scientists and nuclear engineers, and learn about STEM careers and opportunities for post-secondary education and internships. MBK will engage students in STEM activities relevant to the mission of INL and related to the curriculum they are learning in school.

“Too often, students, parents and teachers are not aware of the opportunities available in their own backyard,” said Amy Lientz, INL’s director of Partnerships, Engagement and Technology Deployment. “In the end, this type of event builds interest in STEM careers and helps to grow our talent pipeline, enabling a sustainable future workforce.”

This year’s event will be held at the Energy Innovation Laboratory in Idaho Falls, and in several other INL facilities.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tai Pan Trading plans soft opening Tuesday

These letters will spell "Tai Pan Trading"before long.
The Idaho Falls Tai Pan Trading store, at 1568 E. 17th Street, was still a work in progress today — the sign was a jumble of letters in the front window — but owner Jon Lee said he is determined to have a “very soft” opening Tuesday, with a grand opening to follow April 1-2.

“We’re trying to unpack as quickly as we can,” he said. “I think it will be a good reception. This is by far the biggest investment we’ve made in three or four years in a new store.”

Lee is the CEO of TPT Home, a company that franchises Tai Pan Trading stores in Boise, Logan, Utah, and Costa Mesa, Calif. He also owns shares in the parent company, Tai Pan Trading, which is based in Utah.

Store Owner Jon Lee
At nearly 23,000 square feet, the Idaho Falls store is twice the size of the store in Logan. He said he has seen a lot more excitement from people in Idaho Falls than he has in other markets. “Maybe it’s because it’s near Utah,” he said. “There is an existing fan base, for sure.”

Shane Murphy of Venture One Properties, who negotiated the Idaho Falls lease, is a Tai Pan Trading fan himself and he said he knows plenty of people who make special trips to Utah to shop there. “They loved the location and the price was right,” Murphy said. “I think they already knew they wanted to come here.”

Once it’s up and running, the Idaho Falls store will employ 15 people. Lee said he hopes customers will find it unique. “If we had to pick a competitor it would probably be Hobby Lobby, but the way we merchandise is completely different.”

Lee, 27, is taking extension business classes from Harvard, and anticipates having his degree in the fall. His first business, mysportsguys.com, involved streaming Utah high school sports, and through it he got acquainted with the Tai Pan Trading people.

If he opens any more Tai Pan stores, they could be “pop up” locations along the lines of Halloween City. The company makes half its money in the first three quarters of the year and the other half in the fourth quarter, he said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lucy’s Pizza moves to Idaho Falls side of Hitt Road

Lucy's Pizzeria owner Geoff Padigimus tosses dough in the kitchen at their new location, where Winger's used to be.
Lucy’s New York Style Pizzeria has relocated into the old Winger’s location at 2770 S. 25th East, a move that only brought them a little more space but a lot of other advantages.

Although they only have 270 more square feet than they did across Hitt Road, the floor plan allows them to seat 45 more people, owner Geoff Padigimus said.

The lease on their space in Ammon was expiring, but when they learned that Gator Jack’s was pulling out, “We decided to get over here for this building,” Padigimus said.

Most of the renovation was done in the kitchen. In the restaurant area, they added subway tile to give it a more Big Apple feel, and they rewrapped the tables with metal as well.

A native of Roberts, Padigimus started Lucy's there in June 2009. The first Idaho Falls location, at 725 E. Anderson opened in November 2009. The Ammon location opened in fall 2011, and there is a Lucy’s now in Orem, Utah, as well.
From one store in Roberts, Lucy's has expanded to four locations.

Padigimus said his original idea was to do hot-­and-­ready pizza part time, but the recession and subsequent slowdown in the construction industry, in which he was employed, made him think again. So did his introduction to Rich Franco, who showed him how to make New York style pizza. In fact, Lucy's was named after Franco's bulldog, Lucy, and the pizza ovens and equipment came from Franco's kitchen on First Street.

The visibility of the new location, with a sign right on Hitt Road, ought to be an advantage, as will its next ­door proximity to Panera Bread in the old CD World store. Padigimus said the lease will soon be up on the Anderson Street store and that they are on the lookout for a new location on that side of Idaho Falls.

Other Hitt Road construction news

On the southwest corner of Hitt and Sunnyside, Skidmore Construction is moving dirt for a Washington Federal branch and three retail buildings.

The site plan at the Idaho Falls Building Department includes a 2,750 square foot building for financial use at at 3450 S. 25th East. The biggest building is an 18,480 square foot retail center, at 3352 S. 25th East, and there are two other retail buildings planned as well, a 7,020 square foot building at 3,340 St. 25th East and a 3,575 square­-foot building at 3350 S. 25th East.

Meanwhile, on the north side of Sunnyside we have preliminary information on two projects. First, the building at 2940 S. 25th East, formerly the home of Syringa, is slated to be remodeled into a Car Wash Express. Second, despite what looks to be significant progress at the old CD World location, Panera Bread is looking at opening its Idaho Falls bakery-­cafe this fall. That was the word at least from Amanda Cardosi, the company spokeswoman who responded by e­mail to our question.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

DOE allows evaluation of INL site for small modular reactor project

An graphic rendition of how what a small modular reactor might look like.
An energy consortium of which the city of Idaho Falls is a member has moved one step closer toward building a nuclear small modular reactor on the desert west of Idaho Falls by 2025.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that an agreement has been reached to support possible siting of an SMR project within the boundaries of its 900-square mile Idaho National Laboratory site, the home of 52 reactors between the 1950s and 1980s.

A site use permit has been granted to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, of which Idaho Falls Power is a member, allowing UAMPS access to the INL site to analyze environmental, safety, and siting conditions for its Carbon Free Power Project.

“Small modular reactors are an important new step toward safe, reliable, carbon-free technology,” said Lynn Orr, undersecretary for Science and Energy at DOE. “(This) announcement is a part of the Department of Energy’s ongoing commitment to strengthening nuclear energy’s role in America’s low carbon future.”

If UAMPS identifies a suitable area for the project within the INL site boundary, and if the Energy Department determines it would not conflict with INL mission work, the design, construction and operation would be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, following extensive safety and environmental reviews.

The design for the project is being provided by NuScale Power, a Portland, Ore., company that announced its interest in Idaho in the fall of 2012. A subsidiary of Fluor, NuScale was picked in 2013 as winner of the second round of the DOE's competitively-bid, cost-sharing program to develop SMR technology.

The regulatory hurdles are formidable and the permitting process alone will cost $1 billion, said Michael McGough, chief commercial officer for NuScale, in a 2012 interview. NuScale has had a prototype small modular reactor in operation since 2003.

Fluor wants to market nuclear power plants to the world, which is why it bought NuScale in October 2011. In December 2015 the company announced it had signed a contract with AREVA Inc. for the manufacture of SMR fuel assemblies. Mechanical and thermal hydraulic testing of the new fuel assemblies is under way as part of NuScale’s design certification application, which is planned for submission to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission late this year.

McGough said review of that application would take 39 months, after which they need to get NRC permission to build. "There's lots of things you have to do, and you have to do them right," McGough said.

Unlike traditional pressurized water reactors, which use electric pumps to keep water on fuel rods to keep them from melting, NuScale's self-contained, self-circulating reactors are designed to shut themselves down in a power failure.

As for the selection of Idaho Falls, it's a case of going where you are wanted, McGough said. "If the community won't support it, you just shouldn't try.”

The Western Governor's Association has had nuclear energy on its mind since 2012, when it released its "State of Energy in the West" report. One of the stated goals was to find ways to accelerate introduction of small modular reactors into Western states. Shortly after that, NuScale announced its Western Initiative for Nuclear, a demonstration project in Idaho to be built and owned by a consortium of regional utilities including Energy Northwest and UAMPS.

"The electrical industry is changing – that change is driven in part by regulations and technology," said Idaho Falls Power’s general manager, Jackie Flowers (who was also elected UAMPS chairwoman this past December). "The opportunity to participate on a project that is leading the evolution of the nuclear energy industry is exciting. And the opportunity to evaluate siting potential at the country’s lead nuclear laboratory is thrilling."