Here's a fast way to scan Idaho’s top business news from mid-March to mid-April for whatever you have missed. Told in 12 briefs and three photos.
Legislature OKs HP campus deal
The Idaho Legislature approved a measure authorizing the state to buy the Hewlett-Packard campus in Northwest Boise for state offices.
Idaho plans to sell bonds to raise the $110 million it expects to pay for the campus. The Legislature approved an extra $16 million for renovations. HP Inc. will lease back about half of the 793,000 square feet of office space for a seven-year term.
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The state plans to migrate agencies gradually to the campus from Boise offices that face expiring leases in the coming years, starting with the Tax Commission.
Amazon now collecting sales tax
The online retailer Amazon.com is now collecting 6 percent sales tax on purchases made by Idahoans.
The Seattle-based company began collecting the tax and remitting it to the state on behalf of consumers on April 1. Before that, consumers were required by law to calculate and pay the state tax on their own, typically when filing their tax returns each year.
Idaho is one of several states where Amazon recently begun collecting sales tax.
Powerhouse operator faces lawsuit, allegations
The Idaho Department of Finance accuses Jeff Jerome of bilking at least 17 investors who gave him money for Powerhouse, an event center at 621 S. 17th St. in Boise.
The state says in a lawsuit that Jerome raised $238,500 through “sham businesses” and used the money to repay prior investors and to cover home-mortgage payments and personal expenses. Jerome denied the allegations and says the money was used for “authorized purchases.”
Separately, several people and businesses say Jerome owes them money. Among those are former employees, caterers, the parents of a bride who planned a wedding at the Powerhouse, and a Boise bakery.
Franchise ordered to pay Boise business owners
Safeguard Business Systems was ordered to pay more than $10 million to owners of two Boise franchises, Roger Thurston and Dawn Deply.
Safeguard sells forms and other supplies for businesses. A Boise jury and an arbitration panel says Safeguard cheated on its franchise agreements and hurt Thurston and Deply by buying two of their local competitors and undercutting their prices. “We’ve been put through a real meat grinder,” Thurston says.
Affinity Inc. shut down amid IRS probe
The Internal Revenue Service raided the Boise mental health agency in early March, accompanied by police. Officials have not released any details, but former Affinity employees say the company seemed to be in financial trouble since last year, when their paychecks started to bounce.
Affinity was evicted from its office on Emerald Street in late March.
One of the largest agencies of its kind in the Valley, Affinity operated for 17 years. Its clientele last year included more than 800 people on Idaho Medicaid.
Home health agency fights Medicare ban
Medicare plans to stop allowing Saint Alphonsus Home Health and Hospice to take Medicare and Medicaid patients after the agency failed two inspections. Such a ban is rare.
SAHHH was not providing “services which are sufficient to meet the needs of its patients,” according to a March 17 legal notice by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Inspectors reported an unlicensed nurse, and employees failing to follow physicians’ orders, among other problems.
A federal judge has put the Medicare ban on hold while SAHHH appeals. The Boise health care company saiys the inspection was “fatally flawed” and was overseen by a “hopelessly conflicted and biased nurse” who had been dismissed by the company and then hired by the state’s inspection bureau.
Boise gets big event after N.C. bathroom law
After North Carolina passed House Bill 2, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists was one of several organizations that pulled events from the state.
The law required people to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificates — not based on their gender identity. It also banned local anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Now, the council’s conference is expected to bring at least 1,400 tourists to Boise between June 4 and 8. The economic impact to Boise is estimated to be $2.54 million.
Homeless turn to Boise group homes
With the city in an affordable-housing crisis, several Boise property owners now rent rooms in single-family homes to people who are homeless or who have mental health or substance-use issues.
Some of the rentals are legal but unsupervised. Others are licensed or sanctioned by the state. And many are protected by federal law.
Unlike the “housing first” approach now being tried in Boise, unofficial group homes lack on-site medical, mental health or social services. Some homes offer a supportive living environment. But the lack of services and structure led to the failure of “Emerald House,” a home donated by a property owner who wanted to help people who had lived in Boise’s Cooper Court tent village, which the city disabanded in December 2015.
Airbnb cheers legislative protection
Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill ensuring Idahoans rights’ to rent their properties through Airbnb and other short-term vacation rental sites.
The law requires vacation rental sites to collect and remit state and local taxes, requires that they retain residential zoning and bars any ordinances that have the “express or practical effect” of prohibiting the rentals.
Rexburg had sought to close vacation rentals in low-density residential neighborhoods after receiving complaints of a party at one rental property.
TSheets offers workers new vacation perk
TSheets, the Eagle timesheet software company, offers to reimburse its employees up to $1,500 for vacation expenses, including travel, hotels, food and drinks. Since starting the policy Jan. 1, about 25 employees have taken advantage of the perk.
Employees must have at least one year at TSheets to qualify. While on vacation, employees are banned from accessing work or communicating with the office. CEO Matt Rissell says the policy is intended to bolster the company’s “work hard, play hard” ethic.
Boise PR pros say United botches crisis response
Professionals at two Boise public relations firms say United Airlines did a terrible job in its first responses to a video showing a bloodied passenger being dragged off of a flight went viral.
Experts at Fahlgren Mortine and Red Sky PR say CEO Oscar Munoz should have taken every opportunity to give public and heartfelt apologies the day of the incident. Instead, Munoz offered a tepid apology the following day after a leaked United memo showed Munoz defending employees and blaming the passenger’s behavior. Munoz later offered a fuller apology and promised reforms.
Boise’s apprentice backs Trump
Troy McClain, who achieved minor celebrity in 2004 as a finalist on the first season of Donald Trump’s reality TV Show, The Apprentice, remains in his mentor’s corner. McClain, founder of McClain Cos. in Boise, now buys, turns around and sells struggling companies and works as a paid motivational and business speaker.
McClain says Trump is making good on his promise to run the country like a CEO rather than a politician. He is optimistic about Trump’s presidency, though he wishes the commander in chief would lay off Twitter.