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Nez Perce Tribe wins grant for community loan fund

The Nez Perce Tribe has been awarded a $117,422 grant from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. The technical assistance award is the first step to opening a nonprofit lender in Lapwai, where there are no banks or credit unions.

Ann McCormack, an economic development planner for the tribe, said it could take as long as two years to plan and develop the proposed loan fund. She said the award will be used to hire an executive director, establish a board, and work on an application for nonprofit status. Then, the tribe will apply for approval and certification from the Treasury Department to start lending.

McCormack said the fund will likely lend money to small businesses and perhaps to individuals for big-ticket items. But the fund’s client base has yet to be determined.

Ted Piccolo, executive director of the Northwest Native Development Fund, said it took four years for his Nespelem, Wash., organization to start lending. His fund serves tribal members and employees of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Spokane Tribe Indian Reservation in Washington state.

Piccolo said they used that time to study the market and potential demand for a community loan fund. He also said it was important to get tribal buy-in for the fund, as both the Colville and Spokane tribes operate credit unions.

The Treasury Department reports 72 certified Native CDFIs nationwide in June 2012, an increase from nine in 2001.

Scott Ki

BuckSnort moves root beer brewing to Boise

BuckSnort Beverage Co. is moving from Bellevue to Boise to expand the reach of its draft root beer in the Treasure Valley and southeastern Idaho. BuckSnort currently is on tap at more than 20 locations in the Treasure Valley and Wood River Valley, including farmers markets in Boise and Ketchum.

Owner Kainoa Lopez’s origin story for BuckSnort sounds like that of many startup companies. After being laid off by California-based software company Wide Orbit, Lopez went out to his garage to brew some beer, experimenting with nonalcoholic root beer recipes.

“There wasn’t a lot of information about making old-fashioned sodas back then,” he said. The BuckSnort name comes from a childhood nickname given to him by an aunt.

Lopez said BuckSnort differs from most root beers because it doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup and gets its root beer flavor from traditional ingredients, including sassafras, wintergreen and molasses.

“We make it like it was made 100 years ago,” he said.

Lopez founded the company in 2009 in Bellevue and has been selling root beer at the Capital City Public Market since 2010. He wants to expand the brand in southwestern Idaho, as well as to Pocatello, Idaho Falls and northern Idaho. That expansion could mean switching from his current distributor, Idaho’s Bounty, to a beer distributor, Lopez said.

“We’ll have to consider using a broader distributor,” he said.

BuckSnort is only kegged and available on draft at restaurants or farmers markets. Lopez said bottling or canning is in the company’s future, and he’ll be in touch with breweries in the Boise area that have expanded with canning and bottling.

While it lacks alcohol, Lopez said BuckSnort is usually sold in restaurants and bars with draft beer selections.

“People that are into good beer are usually into craft root beer,” he said, adding that root beer’s audience also includes people who can’t or don’t drink alcohol.

The company will move into its new space on 37th Street in Boise on Dec. 1. Lopez said he will have one or two other employees working on site.

Brad Iverson-Long

Silver Mountain on the auction block

Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg will be sold at auction in three different pieces starting in January.

A sealed bid sale after Jan. 1 will include the resort’s waterpark and management division for condominium rentals. A second sealed bid around mid-February will offer the ski area and mountain operations. If these auctions prove successful, the resort’s Galena Ridge Golf Course, home building sites and other remaining assets will be sold sometime afterwards.

According to an email from Silver Mountain general manager Jeff Colburn, “JELD-WEN, Silver Mountain’s parent company, has offered the property for sale for some time while it continues to focus efforts on its core window and door businesses.” Oregon-based JELD-WEN has owned the resort since 1996, but could not find a buyer to take over the entire operation. As a result, the company decided to sell the resort as separate business units.

In the Northwest, there haven’t been a lot of changes in ski resort ownership, said John A. Gifford, president of Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association. “I wouldn’t say it’s typical, but it does happen once in a while, at least when we’re in tough economic times.”

Silver Mountain joins Soldier Mountain Ski Resort in Fairfield and the Tamarack Resort near Cascade as Idaho ski areas undergoing ownership transitions in the past year. Actor Bruce Willis donated Soldier Mountain to a nonprofit organization in spring 2012. Tamarack, meanwhile, is mired in bankruptcy as well as foreclosure and fraud hearings and investigations.

Scott Ki

George Fox University is phasing out of Boise

Enrollment at George Fox University is slowly shrinking as the university phases out the programs at its Meridian campus.

The Oregon-based Christian university plans to graduate the last of its Boise-area students in 2014 and close its satellite campus in Idaho.

George Fox has offered a part-time MBA program, some education programs, adult degrees, and social and behavioral studies since 1995, said Rob Felton, director of public information for George Fox University in Portland.

School officials said increasing competition from other private colleges and universities in the Boise area were making it difficult for George Fox to survive in the market. A move toward online learning also hurt George Fox, although the university does offer some online classes, Felton said.

“It essentially came down to the bottom line,” said spokesman Sean Patterson, who is also in Portland. “As far as trying to maintain a satellite campus in a distant location, it wasn’t feasible financially.”

George Fox has nearly 3,500 students attending classes on the university’s residential campus in Newberg, Ore., and at its Oregon campuses in Portland and Salem. It has about 120 in a leased building at its Meridian campus on Eagle Road, Felton said.

At its peak enrollment, about 12 people worked at George Fox full-time and about 10 others worked as adjunct faculty, Felton said. Some of the faculty were laid off last fall.

The part-time George Fox MBA program in Meridian cost about $23,000.

Sixteen private colleges are registered with the state Department of Education, according to the Idaho Board of Education.

IBR Staff

Life is Good shop opening in Boise’s North End

Life is Good, a national optimism-focused clothing brand, will open its second Boise location soon in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Manager Kelly Cromwell said she’s waiting for city permits and wants to have the store open for the holiday shopping season.

“I’m praying we’re open before Black Friday,” Cromwell said.

She manages the Life is Good store in the Boise Towne Square Mall, which has been open for five years. Those two stores, plus a location in Coeur d’Alene near the Silver Lake Mall, are owned by Timberline Distributors, which are owned by David Knoll, Cromwell’s father. Knoll also owns The Black Sheep Sporting Goods stores in north Idaho.

Cromwell said the Life is Good brand, which features smiling stick figures, fits with the lifestyle of the Hyde Park neighborhood.

“We’re hoping to capture another market in the North End,” she said. The store will hire two new employees and could share staff with the mall location. The 1,400-square-foot store on Eastman Road was formerly home to the Twigs and Twist fabric and craft store.

Life is Good, founded in the mid-1990s in Boston, sells its apparel at several other Boise stores, including See Jane Run, Greenwood’s Ski Haus and Cabela’s, according to the Life is Good website. The company had $100 million in sales last year.

Brad Iverson-Long

Milan Institute closing its Boise school

The Milan Institute is closing its Boise school, saying student enrollment is sluggish and the program is no longer cost-effective.

Seventeen people will lose their jobs after the institute closes in May, said registrar Kelsey Copeland. Sixty-five students are now enrolled.

“The economy has kind of gotten to us,” Copeland said. “Enrollments have been down.”

The school, located at 590 W Fairview Avenue in Boise, offers training programs in beauty, allied health, business, and massage therapy. It’s owned by a California company with offices in California, Nevada, and Texas. The company also has a school in Nampa that will stay open, a school official there said Nov. 16.

Milan Institute in Boise occupies a building that it rents from the school’s owner, Copeland said.

IBR Staff

Auditor: Same problems at state parole commission

Idaho officials responsible for judging how well state agencies operate continue to pinpoint problems with the Commission of Pardons and Parole.

The Office of Performance Evaluation presented a follow-up report on the commission to lawmakers Nov. 14. In 2010, OPE auditors criticized the commission’s process for paroling state inmates, finding that delays in approving parole had cost the state nearly $7 million between January 2007 and September 2009.

Last year, lawmakers requested a follow-up report.

This time, OPE auditors found little improvement at the commission.

Auditors say more than half of the offenders cases examined in the study were released late. Those delays were costly again, this time estimated at $7.2 million from January 2009 to April 2012.

Auditors attribute the problems to an inability to manage parole release data.

The Associated Press

Twin Falls considers propane school buses

The Twin Falls School District is considering a proposal a proposal to fuel its bus fleet with propane.

Western States Bus Services is proposing to replace 10 diesel buses with propone ones and to phase more in over the next two to three years.

The bus company estimates the district could save $17,240 in fuel costs each year. Western States Bus Services’ manager Michele Dameron says the cleaner-running buses also would be quieter and beneficial for children with asthma.

The Times-News reports the school board will take action on the proposal next month.

The Buhl and Filer school districts already use propane-fueled school buses.

The Associated Press

Nearly 500 schools share $38M in teacher bonuses

Public schools in Idaho’s capital will get the biggest share of a $38 million pay-for-performance bonus under Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s now-repealed education overhaul.

Boise School District teachers will share $4.6 million, with teachers in the Meridian School District, the biggest in the state, taking home a combined $4.2 million.

The Pocatello School District will receive $2 million to distribute to educators.

In all, 499 schools, or 76 percent of Idaho’s roughly 650 schools, will receive one-time bonuses linked to student performance in 2011-2012.

Despite his loss Nov. 6 on all three of his education laws, Luna has promised to resurrect some provisions during the 2013 Legislature — including merit pay.

Foes of the laws the week of Nov. 12 warned that he shouldn’t pursue anything without first enlisting their support.

The Associated Press

Idaho settles legal case with diabetes drug maker

Idaho is expecting to receive more than $1 million as part of a legal settlement with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the terms of the deal Nov. 15. Idaho is one of 37 other states that sued the company and poised to benefit from a total $90 million deal.

The states sued the company to challenge claims that its diabetes drug Avandia had cardiovascular benefits. Those claims were unfounded and Wasden says the drug could actually increase cardiovascular risks.

Idaho will get $1.33 million for its share. That cash will be deposited in the Consumer Protection Account and spent by the Legislature.

The Associated Press

Idaho coin dealer indicted on fraud charges

An eastern Idaho coin dealer who prosecutors say lured $4 million from investors has been indicted on federal fraud charges.

Gene Hinsley of Idaho Falls was indicted Nov. 14 on 10 felony counts including wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Assistant U.S. attorney George Breitsameter said in U.S. District Court filings that more than 100 investors lost up to $2 million.

According to the 21-page indictment, Hinsley offered investors low- and no-risk opportunities to invest in silver.

Instead, Hinsley used money from unsuspecting clients of his Galaxy Coin business to pay off earlier investors – and cover personal and business expenses.

What’s more, since Hinsley kept such incomplete records, prosecutors say the exact amount he may have defrauded investors isn’t known.

Hinsley didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The Associated Press

U of I gets OK to buy McCall campus after rent rises

The University of Idaho won unanimous approval for its plan to buy the school’s campus in McCall after the state Land Board boosted its annual rent five-fold.

The Idaho Board of Education voted Nov. 19 to approve the Moscow-based school’s acquisition.

The land on the shore of Payette Lake is currently part of Idaho’s endowment, but has been leased by U of I for the last six decades.

The lease was boosted earlier this year to $250,000, from just $50,000, as the Land Board seeks to maximize returns from endowment land for beneficiaries including Idaho public schools.

U of I plans to buy the land for its appraised value, about $6.1 million.

It anticipates that bond payments to help finance the acquisition will be less than $250,000 annually.

The Associated Press                            

Natural gas explosion rocks Lewiston, no one hurt

A construction worker digging with a backhoe in Lewiston struck a 4-inch natural gas line, sparking an explosion and fire that rocked the downtown area, destroyed the backhoe and damaged a nearby building. No one was seriously injured.

The Lewiston Tribune reports flames shot 100-feet into the air after the explosion at 1:35 p.m. Nov. 19. The newspaper and several nearby businesses were evacuated while firefighters battled the blaze.

Avista spokesman Mike Tatko says three natural gas lines that serve the area were shut off within 20 minutes of the explosion. The fire was out about 20 minutes later.

Laura Von Tersch is administrator for the city’s Urban Renewal Agency. She says the quality of mapping used for the renovation project may be partly to blame for the explosion.

The Associated Press

Idaho’s unemployment drops to 7 percent

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 7 percent in October, the lowest rate in 3.5 years.

The Idaho Department of Labor says the decline is mostly due to 1,100 workers leaving the state’s labor force. More than 7,000 people have left the labor force since May.

The Labor Department says the state’s unemployment rate has dropped nearly 2 percentage points since its post-recession high of 8.9 percent in July 2011.

Just more than 14,500 unemployed workers received $14.2 million in state and federal unemployment benefits in October, down from 23,300 workers and $22.6 million in benefits in October 2011. Federal extended unemployment benefits expire at the end of the year.

The national unemployment rate in October was 7.9 percent.

The Associated Press

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