Business Insider

Catch up on Idaho business news: April 2016

The team behind Boise startup Art of Visuals hopes to parlay a wildly popular Instagram account into a print magazine and online business. Prince McClinton, standing, and Travis Leslie, center, founded the company. Jim Allen is at left, and Brian Wiley is working on the cover design of their next magazine.
The team behind Boise startup Art of Visuals hopes to parlay a wildly popular Instagram account into a print magazine and online business. Prince McClinton, standing, and Travis Leslie, center, founded the company. Jim Allen is at left, and Brian Wiley is working on the cover design of their next magazine.

Les Bois Park closes

Treasure Valley Racing shut down the last piece of its operation at the Garden City racetrack: simulcast TV feeds of off-site horse races, shown on screens in the Turf Club restaurant that overlooks the track.

The company cited the Idaho Legislature’s refusal to restore instant horse racing after it was repealed last year. Treasure Valley Racing was depending on revenue from slot-like instant-racing machines to prop up horse racing with larger purses, or prizes.

Otter will not pursue Medicaid waiver

Gov. Butch Otter ruled out calling a special legislative session or taking executive action on any Idaho-designed, federally funded health care program for 78,000 Idahoans who earn too much for Medicaid but too little for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

An interim legislative committee will study how Idaho should proceed, likely via a federal waiver to permit the state to take an alternate approach to Medicaid expansion. The House voted against giving the administration the go-ahead to seek the waiver.

Insurance exchange complaints mount

Consumers and insurance agents say the state-run Your Health Idaho is struggling to meet the needs of Idahoans.

They have filed complaints and told the Statesman that the exchange was months late issuing important tax documents to consumers, that some people still have coverage problems months after they signed up for insurance, and that the exchange call center is no longer taking calls but is directing people to file thousands of emails to support staff.

Micron reports first loss since 2013

Micron Technology Inc. lost $48 million in its latest quarter because of weaker-than-predicted demand for memory chips.

The company is the last U.S. major manufacturer of DRAM, or dynamic random access memory, which is the main memory in computers and smartphones. The company also produces NAND flash memory chips, used as storage in mobile devices and computers. Analysts say Micron has lost ground to Korean competitors.

St. Luke’s to pay $8.4M in antitrust court costs

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill says the Boise-based health system must pay its opponents’ attorney fees and court costs incurred in a 2013 lawsuit, in which St. Luke’s unsuccessfully defended its purchase of Saltzer Medical Group.

The purchase was found to violate antitrust laws. Opponents to be reimbursed are Saint Alphonsus Health System, Treasure Valley Hospital and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. The $8.4 million may be covered by St. Luke’s liability insurer.

Ada County settles Dynamis-related lawsuit

After a prolonged legal battle with Fortistar over the 2011 trash-to-energy project proposed by Eagle company Dynamis Energy, Ada County has agreed to pay $2.2 million plus $451,000 in legal fees to Fortistar.

Foristar is the landfill’s gas distributor. Fortistar sued the county, saying the Dynamis project would hurt its existing gas-to-energy project. The Dynamis project fell apart between 2011 and 2013, costing the county $2 million.

IACI denies tie to ‘secret society’ memo

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry denied it was behind a memo laying out a plan to shift leadership within the Idaho GOP.

The memo was filed in court by Bonneville County Republican Chairman Doyle Beck and Region 7 GOP Chairman Bryan Smith as part of a motion meant to compel the depositions of several party members, including an Ammon official who plans to challenge Beck.

Shell firms hide billions, but not for Idahoans

A massive leak of documents has blown open a window on the vast, murky world of shell companies, providing an extraordinary look at how the wealthy and powerful conceal their money offshore.

The data breach occurred at a little-known but powerful Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. McClatchy, the newspaper company that owns the Idaho Statesman, took part in an international media collaboration to review the documents.

At the Statesman’s request, McClatchy searched them for the names of 30 current and former Idaho political and business figures and their spouses or companies. None appeared in the documents.

Boise Co-op lays off 24

The layoffs earlier this year followed lower-than-projected sales at the Boise Co-op’s store at The Village at Meridian, which opened Nov. 13, 2015.

Eighteen employees at that store and six from the original North End store were laid off — about 9 percent of the total Co-op workforce.

Organic seed farmer admits to fraud

Bernard Saul, co-owner of Saul Farms, admitted in federal court that he obtained $1.9 million in padded profits by illegally marketing conventional alfalfa seeds as organic.

Under the name Bliss Seed, Saul sold 7 million pounds of mislabeled organic seed between 2010 and fall 2015. Saul faces up to 10 years for fraud and 10 years for money laundering. His wife, Roza Saul, was also charged for selling a misbranded product and faces up to a year in prison.

Boise sometimes loses on cost of living

Treasure Valley companies often justify paying lower wages than competitors in other markets by saying salary differences are offset by the Valley’s cost of living.

That’s not always true. For example, according to a report posted on the Idaho Department of Labor’s blog titled Wages Key When Attracting Talent, computer and math professionals in Colorado Springs pay 2.9 percent more in living costs than those in Boise but earn 31.5 percent more. Education professionals in Reno, Nev., offset a 2.6 percent higher cost of living with 22 percent higher wages.

Dallas flights benefit business travelers

The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce lauded the nonstop flights connecting Boise and Dallas coming in June, saying Treasure Valley companies will have better access to partner companies.

Dallas was the most common final destination for Boise travelers not already served by a nonstop flight. The new flights will connect Boise to Texas as well as create a new network of one-stop destinations in Central and South America.

Insurer says nonprofits cannot pay premiums

Blue Cross of Idaho says it erred when it refused to apply funds from charitable foundations toward a Kuna man’s health insurance deductible.

That decision delayed Colin Smith’s cancer medication by two weeks, and his caretaker and a hospital employee were told by Blue Cross that its policy barred such third-party payments.

The insurer says it is trying to clamp down on third-party organizations or people covering its members’ premiums — not their out-of-pocket costs. Blue Cross says it will not let foundations pay for insurance if the foundations are fronts for companies that profit on claims from insured patients.

Boise company sues Idaho over tax breaks

Employers Resource sued the state, saying the Department of Commerce lacked authority to grant $6.5 million in tax breaks to recruit a competitor to open operations in Boise.

Paylocity, which offers similar human-resources services, received the breaks after committing to creating 551 jobs paying an average of at least $46,200 per year.

Patients stuck between insurer, dialysis firms

Blue Cross of Idaho no longer has network contracts with dialysis providers, leaving patients to go to out-of-network centers.

Canyon County resident and kidney patient Debbie Birch has no “in-network” centers available. She worries her family could lose its farm because Idaho law allows patients to be charged much higher prices for out-of-network care.

Birch’s dialysis provider, DaVita, and Blue Cross say they will treat her claims as “in network” for now.

Studio owner battling cancer seeks buyer

Linda Crouch, owner of Fusions Glass Studio in Eagle, hopes to find a buyer who will carry on the business she started in her garage in 2003 . The studio serves as a space for fusion artists to work, take classes and buy materials.

Fewer than 5 percent of patients with Crouch’s form of rare bile duct cancer survive for five years. Crouch says her decision to sell was motivated by pride in her business rather than financial need.

Lego store brings family (business) together

Boise Bricks and Minifigs opened March 19 at 10150 W. Fairview Ave., Boise. It buys, sells and trades Lego products and miniature figures.

The store is owned by franchisees Brook and Reed Brimhall, but it is operated by their entire family. The Brimhalls’ initial goal was to open a business where their son, who has Asperger syndrome, could work. He is now the resident “Lego guru.”

This roundup is part of the April 20-May 17, 2016 edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.