Business Insider

Catch up on Idaho business news: September 2016

Proof Eyewear’s wood frames and an appearance on TV’s “Shark Tank” have propelled the Boise startup to a projected $1.6 million in sales this year. Taylor Dame wears a popular style. He co-owns Proof with brothers Brooks and Tanner Dame.
Proof Eyewear’s wood frames and an appearance on TV’s “Shark Tank” have propelled the Boise startup to a projected $1.6 million in sales this year. Taylor Dame wears a popular style. He co-owns Proof with brothers Brooks and Tanner Dame.

Tech corridor takes shape Downtown

Leaders of the Boise tech community say pieces are coming together to make 8th Street the go-to place for those looking for technology training.

Trailhead, the Downtown startup co-working space, is expanding into a second location on 8th Street to house its new code school. Boise State University’s Computer Science Department started classes in its new home in the Clearwater Building. Meanwhile, popularity keeps growing for free coding courses and other tech programs down the street at the Boise Public Library.

Texas billionaires limit access to land

About 172,000 acres of private timberland in Southern Idaho changed hands for the second time this year. The land was sold by Southern Pine Plantations of Macon, Georgia, to D.F. Development LLC.

At the wheel of the company are Farris and Dan Wilks, the west Texas founders of Frac-Tech Services, a hydraulic fracturing and oil-field service company. After being ordered off the land following the sale, at least four logging companies were forced to lay off around 100 loggers and truckers, affecting the economies of Valley, Boise and Gem counties.

The company soon after told the loggers they could return. However, snowmobile access will be limited. More than 18,000 snowmobilers use the West Mountain snowmobile trail system annually.

Tamarack lifts go up for auction

Ski lifts, the unfinished Mid-Mountain Lodge, three holes on the now-closed Osprey Meadows Golf Course and a zip line at the bankrupt Tamarack Resort west of Donnelly will be auctioned to the public on Monday, Oct. 17.

Valley County took control of the Tamarack assets Aug. 29 for nonpayment of past-due property taxes. The buildings and equipment are on state land that Tamarack leases for its ski runs. NewTrac, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse, owns the resort.

Labor shortage delays Downtown projects

The shortage of skilled construction workers has stalled two major Downtown projects.

The opening of Main Street Station, the underground bus station under construction Downtown beneath Grove Plaza, was pushed back for a second time. The shortage also delayed completion of Boise Centre East, a ballroom-anchored building just east of the Grove Plaza.

Project developers now expect the station to open by November and for Boise Centre East to open by the end of September.

Businesses cheer as Broadway bridge opens

The Broadway Bridge has reopened nine months after it closed during a $20 million project to build a new bridge expected to last at least 75 years.

Owners or managers of businesses near the bridge — such as the Ram Restaurant and Brewery, Chili’s and Qdoba — voiced relief and happiness with the bridge reopening, especially as the college football season was just getting started at nearby Albertsons Stadium on the Boise State University campus.

Hundreds of people gathered on the new bridge to participate in its reopening. Construction took about half the time officials had previously warned it could take.

Home-price growth slumps in Ada County

Median home prices in Ada County had a strong year, rising 5.5 percent to $243,000 in July compared with the previous July, according to the Intermountain Multiple Listings Service. However, the median price fell 4 percent from June.

That wasn’t the case in Canyon County, where the median price grow 13 percent year over year, to $169,700. The median was up 3.3 percent in July from June.

Boise campus drives HP’s new printer push

HP Inc. announced two major moves as part of the company’s push to take a bigger share of the global printer market.

The company will launch a new line of printers it says is smarter, faster and more cost effective. The printers, which were developed at HP’s Boise campus, will also offer more printers tailored for businesses, a weakness in the company’s current offerings.

HP also announced it will buy Samsung Electronic Co.’s printer business for $1.05 billion.

Apartment boom under way in Meridian

Some 1,500 new apartments are planned, under construction or already built within one mile of Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue. If all are completed, the apartments will increase Meridian’s multifamily capacity by more than one-third.

Developers think the apartments will be filled, thanks in part to the city’s rapid growth from 35,000 people in 2000 to more than 90,000 today.

Gardner changes plan for Downtown hotel

Developer Gardner Co. has submitted a new $65 million hotel proposal for the lot bordered by 11th, 13th, Myrtle and Front streets where it once proposed two hotels.

The 175-room hotel, on the lot’s northwest corner, would be one of the first Hilton Garden Inns in the Northwest using a new design prototype.

Gardner plans to build a parking garage on the northeast corner, a restaurant on the southeast corner and an office building on the southwest corner.

Wells Fargo fined over sales practices

Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for what federal regulators call “widespread illegal” sales practices, including creating secondary accounts and applying for credit cards that customers didn’t ask for. The bank acknowledged it had fired 5,300 employees nationwide in connection to the behavior.

Regulators said the bank’s sales staff opened more than 2 million bank accounts and credit and debit cards that were unauthorized by customers.

Wells Fargo has the largest market share in the Treasure Valley, with 26 percent of local deposits.

ITT Tech shutters Boise campus

ITT Tech, the for-profit college chain, has closed all campuses, including the Boise campus near Chinden Boulevard and Cloverdale Road.

The closures followed federal sanctions on Aug. 25 that banned ITT Tech from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.

Northwest Nazarene University, the College of Western Idaho and Treasure Valley Community College reached out to displaced local ITT students seeking to finish their educations.

St. Luke’s receives 5-star Medicare rating

Programs aimed at eliminating hospital infections are among the efforts that helped to make St. Luke’s Treasure Valley operation one of the top in the U.S., ranked by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The star ratings are based on each hospital’s performance on 64 measures of safety, efficiency, patient satisfaction and other areas that Medicare and other health insurers increasingly use as proxies for overall quality.

St. Luke’s Chief Quality Officer Bart Hill says the ratings system falls short by failing to consider patient demographics, access to preventive care, the severity of injuries and illnesses at each hospital and other factors that can drastically affect patient outcomes. But he applauds an effort to create an easy-to-understand system for patients to find the right hospital for their needs.

State broadband debacle leads to dueling lawsuits

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sued two companies demanding repayment of $37 million they received to bring broadband to high schools under a contract that was later voided by the courts.

Wasden sued CenturyLink Communications LLC and Education Networks of America Inc.

The two companies sued the state just days earlier, each seeking at least $18.5 million. The companies say the 2009 contract was voided because of state action, not anything they did. A judge in 2014 ruled the contract void because the state had improperly changed it to exclude another company, Boise’s Syringa Networks.

Taxpayers have paid $29 million for the now-defunct Idaho Education Network.

This roundup appears in the Sept. 21,-Oct. 18 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).