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Catch up on Idaho business news: November 2016

“Inspector 12” makes an unannounced annual inspection of The Grove Hotel in October. AAA inspectors check out 58,000 diamond-rated hotels and restaurants each year. The Grove kept its four-diamond rating.
“Inspector 12” makes an unannounced annual inspection of The Grove Hotel in October. AAA inspectors check out 58,000 diamond-rated hotels and restaurants each year. The Grove kept its four-diamond rating. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Simplot reaches milestone trio

The J.R. Simplot Co. and foundation enjoyed an eventful month:

▪ The 55-acre city park bearing the name of the family matriarch, Esther Simplot, opened north of Quinn’s Pond in Boise’s West End after five years of planning and construction. The foundation paid $2 million of the $6.5 million cost.

▪ The company said 630 employees will begin moving into its new Downtown headquarters late this month. The nine-story headquarters includes 265,000 square feet of office space and a 70,000-square-foot annex.

▪ Lastly, the company received regulatory approval for two more types of its Innate line of genetically modified potatoes.

What Idaho business wants from Trump

Some Idaho business leaders and experts hope President-elect Donald Trump will benefit them by lowering corporate taxes. They hope, despite his campaign promises and a Republican-controlled Congress, that his administration will keep the Affordable Care Act with tweaks to improve it

They worry he could do damage by repealing the health care law, by targeting the undocumented immigrants who help sustain Idaho’s agricultural industry and by tearing up trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Chobani founder gets death threats

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya has become an advocate for refugees, employing more than 300 at the company’s plant in Twin Falls and opposing President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to stop refugees from entering the U.S.

Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, has received death threats for supporting refugees, as has the mayor of Twin Falls for supporting Chobani. Fringe websites have published false stories claiming Ulukaya seeks to “drown the United States in Muslims.”

Idaho insurers boost out-of-network charges

Most of the health plans that are being sold on Idaho’s health insurance exchange this fall include deductibles of up to $50,000 and out-of-pocket maximum costs to the patient of up to $200,000, for care received out of a plan’s network of doctors, clinics, laboratories, pharmacies and hospitals.

For a family, the responsibility for out-of-network care is up to $400,000.

The Idaho Department of Insurance has no legal authority to restrict deductibles. The law also gives regulators little say in the size and selection of providers available to patients who need care within restrictive networks. Department Director Dean Cameron says he is working on a bill to give the department more oversight authority.

St. Luke’s to buy former M-K Plaza

St. Luke’s Health System is under contract to buy Washington Group Plaza, the 24-acre business campus east of Broadway Avenue between Park Boulevard and Front Street.

St. Luke’s, which has leased space there since 2013, plans to have 370 workers at the site once the sale is final. Former Boise industrial giant Morrison-Knudsen Corp. started building the campus in 1970 to serve as its headquarters.

Grove Plaza, Downtown transit hub open

After two years, the new City Center Plaza and the adjacent new underground transit hub are open in Downtown Boise.

The plaza includes the Clearwater Building, an expanded Boise Centre and Main Street Station, the transit hub. Boise State University’s computer science department now resides in the Clearwater Building. The Boise Centre expansion includes 38,000 square feet of event and conference space, a new ballroom, meeting rooms, a kitchen and audio-visual services.

The federally funded transit hub is beneath the U.S. Bank tower and Grove Plaza. It has eight bays for buses and includes a customer service office, restrooms, bike storage and repair station and a Boise Police Department office.

Architect Hummel, ex-Idaho Power CEO die

Boise lost two business leaders in October:

▪ Charles F. Hummel, a renowned Idaho architect, died in his sleep at age 91. Hummel was the grandson of early Boise architect Charles Hummel, who designed the Idaho Capitol and other projects with partner John Tourtellotte. Their firm continues today as Hummel Architects.

▪ Joseph Walden Marshall III died Oct. 19 in Meridian after decades as a prominent businessman and philanthropist. He was 78. Marshall spent 30 years with Idaho Power, serving as CEO and chairman from 1989 until his retirement in 1999.

Idaho Power wants to close Nevada coal plant

Idaho Power has asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for permission to accelerate depreciation of its North Valmy coal-fired power plant. It wants to shut down the plant in 2025, 10 years earlier than previously planned.

Idaho Power owns the Battle Mountain, Nev., plant with NV Energy. Idaho Power’s investment is guaranteed to be paid for by its customers over the life of the plant, so the accelerated depreciation — if approved by the PUC — would accelerate customers’ payment of their share, raising monthly bills for a typical household by $3 per month.

The shutdown is mainly for economic reasons. Climate change and new federal carbon rules are secondary.

Lori Otter forms women’s networking group

Idaho first lady Lori Otter helped form Women in Leadership, a nonprofit aiming to increase the number of women in Idaho politics and climbing the corporate ranks.

Otter is CEO of the group, which plans to host networking and coaching events to encourage women in industry and those considering running for office. While Otter is a Republican, she says the organization is bipartisan and focuses on political participation rather than ideology.

Start preparing now for 10-digit dialing

Idahoans will soon need to dial 10 digits whenever they pick up the telephone.

On Nov. 5, a transition period began to allow callers to practice 10-digit dialing for in-state calls and to begin reprogramming equipment that uses phone lines. On Aug. 5, 2017, 10-digit dialing will become mandatory for all calls.

The reason: Idaho will get a second area code, 986, on Sept. 5, 2017. Like the 208 code, 986 will cover the entire state. People with 208 phone numbers will not have to change them.

Boise No. 1 for construction job growth

The steady stream of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings in the Treasure Valley during the past year landed the Boise metro area at the top of the Associated General Contractors of America’s national ranking for construction job growth.

Boise had 24 percent job growth between September 2015 and September 2016, AGC says. Boise had 23,100 construction jobs, up 4,500 from a year earlier.

Townhouse projects coming to Boise

Around the time when developer David Hale broke ground on Downtown Boise’s first townhouse project, Boise firm Trilogy Development moved forward on plans to build 154 townhouses in the State Street corridor.

Hale will build nine townhouses with prices starting at $329,900 on Idaho Street between 16th and 17th Streets. He hopes to break ground on a second building with six townhouses next year.

The Boise City Council approved the Trilogy development on 17 acres at 6022 N. Roe Street.

Right-to-work lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s “right-to-work” law. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge granted the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the Idaho law, saying it is constitutional.

Idaho is one of 26 states with right-to-work laws that forbid requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

The lawsuit from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 370 argued that it’s unconstitutional to require unions to spend money and time representing nonmembers while also forbidding any fees.

This roundup appears in the Nov. 16-Dec. 20, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).

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