Thursday, March 31, 2016

Early 2016 housing stats show Bonneville County rebound

Source: Snake River Multiple Listing Service
In the absence of anything earth-shattering along the lines of Costco, Dunkin’ Donuts or In-N-Out Burger, it’s always a good time to crunch some numbers in order to provide some news for the day.

A statistician I am not, but I do like looking at the housing market numbers from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service to see what is going on locally.

Today’s drill-down was to look at stats from January and February over the past 10 years. It’s typically not a great time of year for home sales, but what I found interesting was that the number of homes sold (259) was the highest since the first two months of 2007 (242). Things had been climbing back since 2012, but the 37.8 percent spike from 2015 to this year represented a development worth noticing.

If I were to guess at what might be driving this, I would point to Fluor Idaho, which is taking over the Idaho Cleanup Project at the beginning of June and has opened a new office on Lindsay Boulevard.

The other thing to note is that the median price has bounced back. In the first two months of 2007 it was $146,700 and in 2016 it was $149,000, up sharply from 2015.

This tracks pretty closely with the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s HPI Calculator, a tool I never get tired of using. A home bought for $146,000 in the last quarter of 2006 would have an estimated value of $147,161 in the last quarter of 2015. All in all, housing prices seem to be back where they were before they peaked in 2008 then tanked.
If you bought a home in the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area for $146,000 at the end of 2006 this is the line chart for the estimated value through Q4 2015. (Source Federal Housing Finance Agency)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Museum director leaves ambitious plan in place

An artist's rendering of the Museum of Idaho. At right is the old Carnegie Library, which opened 100 years ago this Thursday. 
As he steps down from the Museum of Idaho to turn his focus to the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, executive director David Pennock is hoping to see his vision live on.

Although the museum opened in 2003, Pennock has been involved since 1999. Since 2012, when the Margaret and Wendell Petty family contributed $1 million, one main focus has been on raising funds for an expansion that will allow the museum to stay open year round.

So far, the museum has raised $2.4 million toward a $3 million construction goal and $1.8 million for a $3 million endowment.

Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie Library, now part of the Museum of Idaho. The library was built after the Village Improvement Society and Round Table Club applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant to help them build a permanent center for learning and enlightenment. Considering everything that’s happened, this was a gift that continues to give.

After the city built its new library in the mid-1970s, the old library was taken over by the Bonneville County Historical Society and turned into a home for its archives and artifacts. This was frequently a touch-­and-go proposition, especially one winter when the pipes froze and flooded a large section of the building.

The historical landmark finally got a new lease on life when hometown philanthropist Greg Carr helped put up money to make the Museum of Idaho possible. This involved buying the old Carnegie Library and the Masonic building next door, extensive remodeling and building the exhibition space between the two.

As he leaves — Friday is his last day — Pennock and the board have envisioned a 17,000-­square-­foot exhibition hall directly north of the existing museum complex, including 10,000 continuous square feet of exhibition space. This will allow the museum to stay open year-­round, also for its 14-­foot­-tall Columbian mammoth to be taken out from under a tarp and put on permanent display.

Plans for a dedicated loading facility have been on the books since the museum opened. Without it, the space limitations have dictated that the must be closed when exhibits are being changed. This takes about two months out of the year, Pennock said. The Museum of Idaho has about 104,000 visitors a year.

For temporary exhibits, the plan is for about 8,000 square feet in the old Masonic Lodge section. When the expansion is complete, the existing Carnegie Library­/Masonic Temple structure will be dedicated to the permanent Idaho exhibit, tripling the available space.

The plan also includes moisture and temperature control systems and efficient loading facilities.

Advanced Ceramic Fibers receives SBIR award

The United States electrical power grid is aging. There are 200,000 miles of high­-voltage transmission lines that have been in service for more than 50 years and will need to be replaced.

By offering a self­-supporting composite conductor cable design, Advanced Ceramic Fibers is hoping that its innovation will have significant impact on the country’s power grid.

Located in the Idaho Innovation Center on North Yellowstone Highway, the company has received a $150,000 Phase I SBIR award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The objectives of this project will be to determine the feasibility of enhancing the thermal and electrical conductivity of commercial metals for improved energy efficiencies. ACF’s unique “Fi­-Bar“ fiber, integrated into conductor wire, creates a metal­-matrix composite that reduces the weight of the wire while enhancing the thermal and electrical conductivity.

The project — “Reinforced Commercial Metals for Enhanced Electrical and Thermal Conductivity” — started in February and is scheduled to be finished in November this year. The company’s partners include ECK Industries, Inc., an aluminum casting company, and Future Science and Technology, which provides extrusion and material testing services.

ACF received letters of interest from the Bonneville Power Administration , Electric Power Research Institute, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Innovation Center has made available to ACF its fiber conversion production system and business offices.

For more information, the company’s Web site is www.acfibers.com.

Monday, March 28, 2016

EITC Foundation announces annual awards

The Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation announced its annual awards today, recognizing a contributor, corporate partner, outstanding faculty and staff.

  • Contributor of the Year: Roger and Pamela Mayes
  • Corporate Partner of the Year: Ball Ventures, LLC
  • Richard and Lila Jordan Outstanding Faculty of the Year: Traci Harbert, legal technologies faculty
  • Outstanding Staff of the Year Award: Melody Clegg, adult basic education division manager 

All award recipients will be featured in a featured article in INVEST magazine (a Foundation publication), a photo displayed on the EITC campus and public recognition at the EITC Scholarship Ceremony, April 13 at 7 p.m. at the Shilo Inn. RSVP’s are required for this event.

The recipients are being recognized for their support of education, college initiatives and service to community.

For more information, call (208) 535-5398 or email natalie.hebard@my.eitc.edu

Friday, March 25, 2016

Idaho Central tops credit union rankings

Chubbuck-based Idaho Central Credit Union took first place for the fourth straight year in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s ranking of 2015’s 50 best-performing credit unions.

It placed ahead of Lake Michigan Credit Union, Grand Rapids, Mich., and University of Iowa Community Credit Union, North Liberty, Iowa, and was the only Idaho credit union to make the list.

S&P Capital IQ and SNL Financial, S&P Global Market Intelligence ranked the best-performing credit unions using five core financial performance metrics: member growth, net charge-offs as a percentage of average loans, efficiency ratio, asset quality and market growth. To qualify for this ranking, a credit union had to report more than $500 million in total assets and a net worth ratio of at least 7 percent as of Dec. 31, 2015. Based on these two criteria, there were 488 credit unions that qualified for this analysis.

ICCU has three branches in Idaho Falls, at 169 Houston Circle, 240 N. 25th East (Hitt Road and First Street) and 3330 S. 15 East (Sunnyside Road and St. Clair Road).