Here's a fast way to scan Idaho’s top business news from mid-December to mid-January for whatever you have missed. Told in 14 briefs and three photos.
Weather pummels Valley businesses
For companies that sell what you need in an emergency — such as disaster cleanup crews, plumbers, heating and air-conditioning contractors, and roofers — Boise’s odd winter was an anomaly. They were flooded with calls from people with roof leaks, basement flooding, furnaces on the fritz and burst pipes. They reported having all their workers putting in overtime as they struggled to keep up with demand.
But the weather punished retailers and other businesses that rely on customers leaving their homes. Not only did Downtown bars, restaurants and shops see a steep drop in customers, they struggled with their own winter woes, like parking near work and keeping sidewalks clear and dry. The Boise Co-op in the North End found that loyal shoppers made the trek to the store for provisions, but employees spent much of their time shoveling, then managing the snow melt.
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On top of that, deliveries stopped coming in from out of state. Most notably, it became almost impossible to find ice melt at local stores. Businesses themselves felt the ice-melt shortage as they went through buckets of the stuff at record rates.
Big snows bring windfall to ski areas
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area has increased skier visits by 35 percent this January. Sun Valley Resort set a single-day record with more than 9,000 skier visits on Dec. 28. Tamarack Resort has topped its busiest day of last season four times already this season. Brundage Mountain Resort is having one of its best seasons.
Bogus Basin and Brundage each have dealt with a power outage, and Tamarack felt some effects from a closure of Idaho 55. Soldier Mountain was closed briefly because of too much snow, which buried some lift chairs and equipment.
Macy’s to close Nampa store
This spring will be the last for Macy’s at the Gateway Center in Nampa. The store is among dozens the Cincinnati retailer plans to shutter after clearance sales.
The closure follows an announcement last year that Macy’s would close 100 stores as part of a restructuring as it tries to adapt to competition from online retailers.
The Nampa store opened in 2009. Previously, the city had a Macy’s store at the Karcher Mall.
St. Luke’s to sell Saltzer by May
A federal judge is allowing St. Luke’s Health System a few more months to sell Saltzer Medical Group of Nampa.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill had ordered the system to sell the physicians group by December 2016, after ruling that its 2012 purchase of Saltzer violated antitrust laws. But the government plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit against St. Luke’s and Saltzer told the judge that the divestiture is proceeding as it should, and just taking longer than expected.
The medical group has chosen its buyer, whose identity has not been disclosed. The deal is expected to close this spring, with the divestiture wrapped up by May. By then, it will have been about five years since the Federal Trade Commission and Idaho Attorney General’s Office warned St. Luke’s and Saltzer to halt the sale or risk being sued.
Airport gets San Diego flight; airfares fall
Airfares from Boise have dropped to their lowest since late 2010, according to federal statistics through the second quarter of 2016.
But if it seems to longtime Boiseans that airfares are getting more expensive, this could be why: As the city grew and its airport got busier, the average ticket price gradually synced up with the national average. Boise used to be a bargain compared with the rest of the country; now, it’s average.
Meanwhile, the airport continues to get more flights. Southwest Airlines plans to start daily nonstop service to San Diego June 4.
Idaho closes gold mine
The Idaho Department of Lands issued a cease-and-desist order to close a gold mine southeast of Boise that was operating without a permit.
An inspection found that the mine, located off Blacks Creek Road and operated by Atlanta Gold, was releasing arsenic into a tributary of the Boise River. The company, which reported mining 8,000 tons of gold-bearing ore in 2015, says it hasn't operated since September.
Steel company won’t fight OSHA fine
Jack McNamara, owner of Donahue McNamara Steel, says the company will not dispute the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s findings that a July fire at J.R. Simplot Co.’s new Boise headquarters stemmed from safety violations.
The company faces $20,484 in fines from the violations. The fire broke out on a hydraulic lift as two workers were welding.
Idaho Athletic Club sells to franchise
Idaho Athletic Club, the largest Idaho-based chain of gyms, is converting to Crunch Fitness after being sold to Curtis Harman, a Chatsworth, California, businessman who owns 31 Crunch locations across the country. He bought the Meridian-based business from founders John and Cheryl Wardle, who are retiring.
Idaho Athletic operates seven gyms in the Treasure Valley. Harman plans to renovate the gyms, update equipment and consider expanding hours to 24 hours per day.
Idaho dairy accused of human trafficking
Six Mexican veterinarians have filed a federal human trafficking lawsuit against the owners of — plus a lawyer for — Funk Dairy Inc. in Murtaugh, east of Twin Falls.
The vets say they were recruited to work as animal scientists and were promised jobs overseeing animal health and reproduction programs. Instead, they say, they were forced to work as laborers, milking cows and shoveling manure for about a year.
Idaho’s Truckstop.com opens office in Boise
Truckstop.com, an Idaho company that connects truckers with freight needing transport, opened a 100-employee office in Boise at 1444 S. Entertainment Ave. The New Plymouth headquarters will keep about 130 employees.
Scott Moscrip founded the business in his basement in 1995. Truckstop.com increased its employee roster by 50 percent in 2016 to about 280. It opened offices in Phoenix and Illinois in the last 18 months and bought a Toronto company.
Apartments planned for Boise warehouse
Developer Chad Olsen plans to build eight apartments Downtown on the corner of 15th and Front streets. He plans to preserve the structure of the nearly 9,000-square-foot warehouse on the site.
Plans are still in flux, but Olsen expects to reinforce load-bearing walls enough to support a second floor. His current design calls for two-to four-bedroom apartments ranging from 1,350 square feet to 1,850 square feet.
Movie stars donate Hailey theater
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore donated the Liberty Theatre in Hailey to Company of Fools. The movie stars, who were married but have since divorced, bought the historic movie house in 1995 and persuaded friends to relocate Company of Fools there from Virginia the next year.
The arrangement was successful, and in 2013, the company merged with the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, creating the largest arts organization in the state. Willis and Moore remain active in Sun Valley-area arts.
Simplot sues plants operator
J.R. Simplot Co. is asking a federal judge to appoint a third party to take control of Pasco Processing and Gem State Processing. Both Washington-state companies are jointly owned by Simplot and companies controlled by Frank Tiegs, a Pasco grower.
Simplot accused Tiegs of jeopardizing the factories through a pattern of self-dealing, including knowingly buying rotten potatoes and peas contaminated with glass from companies he controls. The companies have 2,100 employees and bring in $400 million in annual sales.
State sues Canyon County Co-op
The struggling natural foods co-op closed in December, announcing the closure by advertising a liquidation sale. As its board mulled closure due to lackluster sales, the nonprofit was being sued by the Idaho Industrial Commission for not providing workers’ compensation insurance for its employees.
The co-op had not provided the insurance since June 1 and “further failed to comply with demands from [the commission] to secure appropriate workers’ compensation coverage,” says the lawsuit, filed Nov. 4. The commission seeks a penalty of $3,200 plus attorney’s fees. The co-op could owe an additional $25 for each day without insurance after Oct. 6, the commission says in the lawsuit.