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Catch up on Idaho business news: May 2017

Retiring Micron Technology Inc. CEO Mark Durcan, right, passed the torch to incoming CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, who cofounded SanDisk, a competitor. This photo is from a video in which Durcan introduced Mehrotra as the new CEO.
Retiring Micron Technology Inc. CEO Mark Durcan, right, passed the torch to incoming CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, who cofounded SanDisk, a competitor. This photo is from a video in which Durcan introduced Mehrotra as the new CEO. Provided by Micron

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.

Labor shortage extends to entry-level jobs

With Idaho’s unemployment rate at rock-bottom 3.5 percent, the Treasure Valley’s labor shortage has spread to most industries, including entry-level positions.

The shortage has forced employers to raise wages and benefits and to poach workers from other industries. The shortage has made it easier for those with barriers to employment, such as former inmates, refugees and people with mental or physical disabilities, to land jobs.

Chobani sues Alex Jones

Chobani, which operates the world’s largest yogurt plant in Twin Falls, sued right-wing radio provocateur Alex Jones and his InfoWars website for defamation in Idaho court.

The company says Jones and his network repeatedly published false information linking Chobani, founder Hamdi Ulukaya and the community to a sexual case involving refugee children at a Twin Falls apartment complex. The network’s headlines, at least one of which were changed upon Chobani’s request, claimed the company was “importing migrant rapists” and brought crime and tuberculosis to the community by hiring refugees.

Jones vowed on his radio show to fight the lawsuit and to come to Idaho to investigate Ulukaya.

Bidding wars escalate in home-sales market

A record-low home inventory in Ada and Canyon counties is pitting homeowners against each other. Buyers often must be prepared to place offers the first day homes reach the market. Offers $10,000 or more above the asking price are becoming more common.

And prices keep climbing. The median price for resale homes in Ada County hit $238,000 in April, $1,000 short of last June’s record. The overall median reached $253,250, nearing February’s $256,600 record.

In Canyon County, the overall median reached a record $179,900 in April, up 12.4 percent in one year and 240 percent since the recession’s 2011 low of $74,500.

Dwindling apartment supply squeezes renters

Despite new apartment complexes, the Valley’s rental vacancy rate remains below 3.5 percent. Rentals usually fill as soon as they are available.

Rents have risen across all price points. Impoverished renters have been hit the hardest, paying a rising share of their income for housing. Fewer landlords are accepting housing vouchers, making it harder for 2,000 Ada County families holding vouchers to find homes.

Most new apartments are high-end, especially Downtown, where most apartments completed recently or currently under construction rent for more than $1,300 per month.

Bohnenkamp pleads guilty to fraud

Christopher Bohnenkamp, the former owner of a Boise jet boat company, admitted to one count each of wire fraud and bank fraud. Prosecutors say he took customers’ money for boats he knew he couldn’t deliver, spent it on a lavish lifestyle, then moved to New York state to start another business.

He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 8, when victims are expected to testify.

Boise dodges retail meltdown, somewhat

National retail chains are downsizing in response to changing consumer behaviors — mainly, people wanting to shop online or buy from small, local businesses. But when the chains announce mass closures, Boise-area stores often are not on the closure list.

Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Sears, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Payless Shoe Source and Radio Shack each have kept at least one Boise store alive during waves of mass closures. Some have closed other Treasure Valley stores, as Macy’s did this spring in Nampa.

Why? Retail experts say Boise is still a growing market that attracts shoppers from around the region, making stores here healthier.

That doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar retail is safe. Tri-State Beauty Supply and Salon is closing after 46 years in a shopping center at Overland Road and Orchard Street in Boise. The family-owned business could not compete with online shopping, the longtime store manager says.

Child psychiatrist gets license back

The Idaho Board of Medicine reinstated the license of Richard Pines, a Boise child and adolescent psychiatrist. The Idaho Supreme Court previously decided that Pines had improper sexual contact with former patients.

The board accused Pines of inappropriate conduct with a former psychiatric patient as well as former foster and respite-care children, and of prescribing drugs to a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship.

The agreement settles a court fight. It sets limits on Pines’ license. Among them: He cannot treat patients under age 18 for at least five years or have sex with current patients.

Positive Changes hypnotherapy closes

The office on Emerald Street shut down suddenly after its owner, Spokane-based ET Research Inc., filed for bankruptcy.

The company reports debt between $500,000 and $1 million. The Boise office had a net loss in January of $43,552 and in February of $32,319, the bankruptcy filing says.

One local hypnotherapist announced that other Boise-area hypnotherapy practices are thriving.

Report says Albertsons might buy Whole Foods

Albertsons Cos. could take over the organic grocer Whole Foods Market Inc., according to the Financial Times.

Cerberus Capital Management, the New York private equity firm that controls Boise-based Albertsons, held preliminary talks with bankers about making a bid for Whole Foods, the newspaper says.

Albertsons says it does not comment on speculation.

Record year for Amalgamated Sugar

Amalgamated Sugar Co. the company that buys all of the sugar beets grown in Idaho, says it will produce a record 2.34 billion pounds of sugar from its 2016 crop.

Crops genetically modified to resist pesticides and selecting breeding practices have increased sugar content in beets, making operations more efficient. Idaho growers harvested a record 7.2 million tons despite harvesting 2,000 fewer acres than in 2015.

The high yield helped secure finances for Amalgamated after several years of poor prices.

New shop to sell hemp oil

Welcomed Science plans to sell cannabidiol oil products derived from hemp when the store opens at 5155 N. Glenwood St. in Garden City.

The owners say the oil can be used to treat pain, anxiety and inflammation and that it contains none of the psychoactive compound THC that causes marijuana users to get high. That and the fact that the oil will be processed in California mean that the products are legal in Idaho, the owners say. A store already sells similar products in northern Idaho.

Inspection clears waste pond for Sorrento whey

The owner of an Owyhee County feedlot’s dirt pit will stop storing whey byproduct from the Sorrento Lactalis cheese plant in Nampa.

Two weeks after the Idaho Conservation League asked the Idaho Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Quality to inspect the Wilson Creek Cattle Feeders’ 8-foot-deep pit the size of two football fields, the agencies inspected the site and found no wrongdoing.

The Idaho Conservation League had questioned whether dumping there violated Idaho waste-disposal and groundwater-protection regulations, and whether cattle should be eating the whey byproduct.

This summary appears in the May 17-June 20, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).