Business Insider

Catch up on Idaho business news: February 2016

Developer David Herman is planning to build a neighborhood of homes out of shipping containers in Garden City this spring. Each three-bedroom home would be made from three stacked containers.
Developer David Herman is planning to build a neighborhood of homes out of shipping containers in Garden City this spring. Each three-bedroom home would be made from three stacked containers.

This update is part of the Feb. 17-March 15, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.

Idaho insurer CEO, board pay secret

While other nonprofit health-care organizations like St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health systems must report what they pay their leaders, the nonprofit health insurance companies in Idaho have a special exemption from public records law. Blue Cross of Idaho and Regence BlueShield of Idaho do not have to release their pay information under an Idaho law.

Most of Idaho’s neighboring states make health-insurer CEO and board pay public. The Statesman obtained records from Montana, Washington, Oregon and Utah, showing what out-of-state companies that sell insurance on Idaho’s health exchange — Mountain Health CO-OP, SelectHealth, PacificSource and BridgeSpan — pay their leadership.

St. Luke’s surrenders 2 hospitals

The Boise-based health system will keep operating the critical-access hospitals but has given them back to the taxing districts from which it acquired them in the past six years. The transfer settles a year-long dispute between St. Luke’s and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden over the legality of the purchase agreements.

The deals set up St. Luke’s to benefit from tax revenues that were originally intended to support publicly owned hospitals. Wasden says it was unconstitutional for the taxes to benefit a private entity.

St. Luke’s has signed 25-year leases for the McCall and Mountain Home hospitals. The taxing districts and St. Luke’s can renew the leases for 10 years when the initial leases expire. A lawyer for St. Luke’s says patients should notice no changes in the care.

Kmart in Boise to close, but Nampa will stay open

The Kmart store at Fairview Avenue and Five Mile Road in Boise will close in mid-March and began a liquidation sale in January. Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, also will close the Kmart in Pocatello in mid-April.

The Boise store has 56 employees, the Pocatello store 65.

Thunder Mountain Line silenced

The kid-friendly tour train operated out of Horseshoe Bend since 2001 is not running trips for the 2016 season. It plans to make a final decision later this year whether to resume operations.

Vice President Chris Bertel says the company struggled to attract new riders in the eight or nine years since the economic downturn, despite making improvements.

Village Cinema sues over ‘50 Shades of Grey’ liquor sting

The Idaho State Police says the Meridian movie theater broke an obscure law when it served undercover officers alcohol while showing the sexually explicit R-rated film last February. Theater operator Meridian Cinemas now is suing ISP over its threats to revoke the theater’s liquor license.

Meridian Cinemas argues that the revocation attempt is a violation of its First Amendment’s free-speech protections. The company says its theater employees posted signs prohibiting alcohol consumption during the film. Though one waitress brought beer and liquor to undercover detectives, other employees told the detectives not to drink alcohol in the theater, the company says.

Idaho liquor law drives Bardenay to Colorado

Kevin Settles, who owns three successful Bardenay restaurant and distilleries in Idaho, said he plans to open his fourth location in Colorado to sidestep Idaho’s liquor license system. Idaho caps the number of licenses in circulation, creating a secondary market where owners sell their licenses for hundreds of thousands in some Idaho cities.

Settles said Idaho laws stymie economic development by placing too much expense and complication on to operators..

Ben’s Crow Inn tavern saying goodbye after 70 years

The couple who own Ben’s Crow Inn, a restaurant and bar in East Boise, is selling the property and retiring after decades of serving beer, casual American food and buckets of clams. The tavern will close in September. Its buyer plans to use the land to build a single-family residential development.

Idaho most reliant on gun industry, study says

Financial website WalletHub ranked Idaho No. 1 among states based on firearms industry activity in the state, gun ownership and contributions by gun control and gun rights groups to members of Congress.

The study ranked Idaho second in firearm industry jobs per capita and in firearm industry output per capita, as well as first in gun-control contributions to members of Congress per capita.

In recent years, nearly 200 gun and ammo companies employed about 3,000 people in Idaho’s $500 million industry.

Once homeless Boisean creates video games

Ryan Zehm found himself staying at shelters after losing his job at Hewlett-Packard and a home foreclosure. He spent his days at the Boise library researching and learning how to program video games.

There, he built his first game, “Space Blast,” which eventually brought in enough money from in-game advertisements for him to pay for a $300-a-month apartment in Emmett. He has since established a company, NurFACE (pronounced in-your-face), that has grown and won game developer awards.

Vet teaching center near Caldwell closing

The University of Idaho will close the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center as part of its broader strategy to teach students closer to livestock producers.

Nine faculty members at the center will lose their jobs. They will be given preference if applying for similar positions within the university. The center, which opened in 1977, will close completely by the end of 2016.

New CEO steps in at

Liberty Interactive, which owns a controlling stake of, hired serial startup executive Richard Jalichandra to succeed founder Ryan DeLuca as CEO.

Jalichandra has 30 years of corporate experience, including more than a decade of working as an executive at a handful of startups, several of which he guided to sale. The nutritional supplement distributor will be the largest company he has run.

Jalichandra said he expects Boise operations to grow in the coming years.

Broadway businesses take a hit from bridge construction

Traffic adjusted smoothly to the roadwork on the Broadway Avenue bridge near Downtown Boise. But business owners say they’re hurting because of the construction, which will close a high-traffic segment of Broadway until fall. Restaurants near the bridge say workers at businesses northward are no longer coming in for lunch, because of traffic diversions. The owner of Pita Pit says his Broadway Avenue fast-food restaurant’s business has fallen 45 percent.

Chiropractors threaten to sue

A group of chiropractors from around the state has threatened to sue if Idaho changes its laws to keep them from prescribing in ways they have for years.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office in May 2014 advised the state’s chiropractor board of a conflict between state law and rules of practice for chiropractors. The law says chiropractors cannot prescribe prescription, only drugs. But the Board of Chiropractic Physicians’ rules say chiropractors can prescribe — and administer, distribute and sell — vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other substances in all forms.

State Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, last yar put the board on notice to fix the conflict before the 2016 legislative session. The board has worked to develop changes. A lawyer for the unhappy chiropractors says the rules “will significantly impact the livelihood of our clients, and potentially, the livelihood of all other chiropractice physicians practicing in Idaho.”

A10 lands $75 million

A10 Capital, a middle-market commercial real estate lender in Boise, says it has closed a $75 million investment from KKR, a New York private equity firm..

The investment is one of the largest of its kind in recent Idaho history. The Idaho Technology Council released a report detailing investments in 2014 that said no Idaho company made or received private investments of more than $20 million. The report, which relied on company disclosures, was not comprehensive or include later investments.

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