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Former trucking company workers sue employer

Two former employees of the Idaho Falls-based Deer Valley Trucking Inc. are suing their former company in federal district court, alleging Deer Valley did not pay them for overtime.

Shawn Moore and DeDe Jardine filed the suit Jan. 25.

The two worked for Deer Valley Trucking in the North Dakota oil fields as “truck pushers,” an industry term that means coordinating and managing the large trucks needed at a work site, according to the lawsuit.

They were both hired in spring 2012, but the lawsuit does not state how long Moore and Jardine worked for the company. They allege that they “consistently” worked overtime hours while employed there and never received overtime pay.

The lawsuit asks for unpaid overtime, an unspecified amount of damages, interest and attorney fees.

By Sean Olson

MWI Vet continues growth for its first quarter fiscal 2013

Boise-based MWI Veterinary Supply Inc. reported increased sales and profit for the start of the company’s fiscal year 2013.

Company executives said in a conference call with analysts Feb. 4 that total sales increased by 24 percent to $572.8 million during the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to $461.9 million during the same quarter in 2011.

Profit grew at a 26.9 percent rate during the first quarter. MWI made $16.8 million for the quarter in 2012, compared to $13.2 million in 2011.

According to President and CEO Jim Cleary, MWI’s sales force expanded at a significant rate over the last year. The company added 61 people to its field and telesales offices, bringing total sales staff to 513.

But that rate won’t continue. Cleary said, “Hiring won’t be as high over the next year.” He thinks the reps they do hire would be in the Midwest and East rather than the West.

MWI Vet distributes pet and animal health and pharmaceutical products in the United States and United Kingdom.

Scott Ki

Mining company changes its name

Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines Inc., a mining company searching for molybdenum, silver, copper and tungsten in Boise County, has changed its name to American CuMo Mining Corporation.

The move came as the company named Shaun Dykes the new CEO, in addition to adding new board members John Moeller and Joseph Baird, both Idahoans, according to a company news release.

The name change was originally approved in 2009, but the company never made the change.

CuMo is exploring 10,000 acres in Boise County. It is working to provide more information to the United States Forest Service, which has is asking for additional environmental analyses that would prove the exploration efforts do not harm groundwater.

By Sean Olson

Semiconductor design firm wins award for flexible electronics technology

Boise-based American Semiconductor Inc. has won an award at an industry conference on flexible electronics and displays.

The technology company received the award from the Flex Tech Alliance for its “Flex Hybrid Systems.” These systems combine printed electronics with a process that makes standard, flat silicon wafers into flexible wafers and integrated circuits.

That means logic and memory chips can be combined with printed sensors and other circuitry in flexible wafers that can be bent and mounted to surfaces that are shaped.

According to CEO Doug Hackler, the proprietary technology can be used in consumer, automotive and aerospace products. In a phone interview, he said the technology works with prototype cell phones that are flexible and thin enough that consumers can sit on them like a wallet.

In the automotive industry, Hackler said the technology can combine collision avoidance sensors with data processors in a vehicle’s body or skin. These integrated sensors and processors would alert drivers to potential obstacles.

American Semiconductor employs 14 people at its headquarters in Boise.

By Scott Ki 

Blackfoot Telecom completes purchase of Idaho firm

Fairpoint Communications Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C., has closed on a deal to sell its Idaho operations to Missoula, Mont.-based Blackfoot Telecommunications Group.

For approximately $30 million, Blackfoot bought FairPoint Idaho and its Fretel Communications and Fremont Telecom operations. These companies provide phone and data services for more than 5,000 residential and business customers in the Idaho cities of Idaho Falls, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Teton, Ashton and Island Park.

The acquisition adds to Blackfoot’s existing customer base in Idaho. The company also serves less than 100 people in Powell Junction.

In a November phone interview, Blackfoot CEO Bill Squires said the company specializes in providing service to relatively less populated cities and towns in remote areas. “It fits our business model and the acquisition of the east Idaho companies allows us to gain a little bit of scope and scale so we can spread some of our fixed costs among a broader customer base.”

Blackfoot Telecommunications Group originated from the Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative. The company is a nonprofit corporation owned by its customers. Member-owners receive refunds each year based on Blackfoot’s income and the amount they spend on services.

By Scott Ki 

New magazine covers Idaho food and drink

Two Idaho writers have teamed up to launch Edible Idaho South, a quarterly magazine that highlights local food, farms, vineyards, restaurants and retailers.

Ketchum-based Claudia S. Mahedy owns and publishes the magazine. She has been a food writer for ten years and is also a trained chef.

“Idaho is so under the radar and yet it’s producing such quality ingredients. I want to show the world that we’re more than just potatoes. There’s so much happening here,” she said.

The publication’s managing editor is Guy Hand, a Boise-based food writer, photographer, and voice of the Edible Idaho public radio show. He said, “I don’t know of any other Idaho publication that focuses just on food.”

The magazine’s debut issue is available for free throughout Southern Idaho. The next issue will be published in mid-March.

Edible Idaho South is a member of Edible Communities Inc., a publisher of more than 75 locally owned and operated magazines across North America.

By Scott Ki

State sues Idaho Falls assisted care developer

The Idaho Department of Finance has sued an Eastern Idaho man for fraud. DOF alleges that Keith F. Rasmussen of Idaho Falls took more than $500,000 from at least five people.

According to the court filing in Bonneville County’s 6th District Court, Rasmussen has a background in geriatrics and as a building contractor, which he used to develop assisted care facilities. Between 2003 and 2011, he formed eight companies. Rasmussen borrowed money to develop and run these businesses. But DOF alleges he frequently used the cash for personal needs, business needs and to repay previous investors.

Eventually, Rasmussen could not sustain these companies. By 2010, he filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He filed for Chapter 7 in 2011.

According to an email from Wayne Klein, the trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court, Rasmussen is no longer associated with and has no ownership in Gables Management and its three facilities in Blackfoot, Pocatello and Shelley.

Rasmussen also no longer operates the company that does business as Gables Senior Living or Gables of Idaho Falls, according to a DOF news release.

By Scott Ki

Sterling Bank reports profitable 2012

The holding company for an Idaho bank recorded a profit in 2012, a turnaround from 2010 when it was under a cease and desist order from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for part of the year.

Sterling Financial Corporation of Spokane, Wash. is a holding company that owns Sterling Savings Bank in Idaho.

Sterling recorded a profit of $385.7 million last year. That amount includes a tax benefit of $292 million. Without the benefit, 2012 profit totaled $93.7 million, compared to $39.1 million in 2011.

Chief Financial Officer Patrick Rusnak said by phone, “We had very robust residential mortgage performance which is a function of record low interest rates.” For instance, income from mortgage banking operations was $96.9 million in 2012, up 85 percent over 2011.

In Oct. 2009, the FDIC placed a cease and desist order against Sterling. That order was lifted in Sept. 2010 after the bank complied with recapitalization requirements and made changes to its management and operations. The bank also received $300 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program money from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Sterling has 18 locations in Idaho with 158 employees.

By Scott Ki

WinCo Foods to enter Texas market

The Boise-based WinCo Foods is planning to enter a new market with stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

WinCo spokesman Michael Read said the company is still looking for sites for its Texas stores, and it’s not yet known how many new stores will be opened in that area.

WinCo now has 86 stores. The discount grocery company recently entered the Arizona market for the first time with three new stores.

The expansion probably won’t have an impact on staffing levels in Boise, Read said.

“Our staff here is structured such that support, administration and that sort of thing doesn’t have to increase every time we open a store,” he said Jan. 30.

WinCo also has stores in Nevada, Idaho , California, Utah, Washington, and Oregon.

IBR Staff

Date set for Silver Mountain auction

The Kellogg, Idaho ski and waterpark resort will be offered at a sealed bid auction Feb. 12.

The Silver Mountain Resort will be available in three distinct pieces or those interested can include two or all three properties in one bid.

The first piece includes the indoor waterpark and Morningstar Lodge, which includes the management division for nearly 300 condominiums.

J. Murph Yale of Waterford Development Corporation in Needham, Mass, who is handling the sale, said he heard from interested parties in January on this package but couldn’t reach an understanding on the sale amount. He thinks the February auction will compel those interested to make another bid.

The second piece of property includes the ski and mountain operations, including a restaurant, retail and commercial space. The third property includes the Galena Ridge Golf Course, home building sites and other remaining assets.

According to Yale, they will hold another sealed bid auction in mid-March if the golf course and home building sites don’t sell. He said the owner of the property, Oregon-based Jeld-Wen, has invested well over $60 million into the property. Jeld-Wen makes and distributes windows and doors.

Waterford Development is working with Ameribid of Tulsa, Okla. on the upcoming auction.

By Scott Ki

Togo’s planning first Boise sandwich shop this summer

Togo’s Eateries Inc. is still on track to open its first sandwich shop in Boise this summer. Franchisee Mark Barber said he’s still looking for the right spot for the first sandwich shop, which is planned to expand to five Treasure Valley locations within four to five years.

Barber said he’s considered locations in Garden City and on Eagle Road, but has yet to find the right spot, which would need to be approximately 1,600 square feet with good visibility.

“We’re getting going,” said Barber. “We’re excited. We’re trying to narrow down our first location right now.”

Barber and his wife Kiersten have franchising rights for the Boise area, and are also planning locations in Nampa and Caldwell.

Once the first store opens this summer, Barber said he’ll close down his construction business, Mark Barber Custom Homes, to focus on Togo’s.

Togo’s, based in San Jose, Calif., has 244 restaurants in four states. The company opened 11 restaurants in 2012, including one in Bend, Ore., where Barber said his step-son told him he had to try the chain’s sandwiches.

“It’s really good food. It sold us the first time we had one,” Barber said.

 By Brad Iverson-Long

Washington lawmakers weigh training wage for new employees

Washington state has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, but a new bill being considered by lawmakers would allow some employers to pay a lower “training wage” to new employees for a certain period of time.

The measure heard before the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Jan. 30 would establish a special training certificate for employers with fewer than 50 employees. The certificate would allow them to pay new employees 75 percent of the minimum wage during a training period to last no longer than 680 hours. Washington state’s minimum wage increased by 15 cents this month to $9.19 per hour.

Employers would only be able to use the certificate once per employee, and training wages could not be used on more than 10 percent of the employer’s workforce.

Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, either because they’ve tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.

Washington voters approved a process in 1998 to automatically increase the minimum wage to compensate for inflation.

Oregon has the next highest state minimum wage at $8.95 per hour.

The Associated Press

IACI turns lawmaker directory into an app

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, one of the state’s more prominent business and lobbying organizations, turned its state legislative directory into a free smartphone and tablet app. The app also includes a bill tracker useful for anyone wanting to lobby on legislation and could soon include lawmakers’ social calendar.

The new app was spearheaded by Zachary Hauge, who became IACI’s political director in mid-2012.

“It’s a full-on replacement for the books we used to make,” he said.

The app includes contact information and committee assignments for all 105 Idaho lawmakers. The app, available for Apple and Google’s Android devices, also has a vote counting app, which lets users input and track how they think lawmakers would vote on a piece of legislation. The free app replaces the functionality of a similar app called Vote Count developed by an Oregon lobbying firm.

The app was developed by Valice, a Boise web hosting and development firm which also built IACI’s website. Jenna Haener, director of development for Valice, said an update to the vote tracking function is coming in the next few weeks.

Hauge said an update could include better sorting of lawmakers as well as the legislative social calendar that IACI hosts on its website. He said he’s received positive and constructive feedback from users of the app, which was released Jan. 17.

The app is the first Valice has released directly to Apple and Google’s online stores, though the company has worked on apps for other clients.

“At the end of the day, it’s like web programming and development,” Haener said.

By Brad Iverson-Long

Bankruptcy affects Idaho and Hawaii properties

The owners of a firm called Hawaii’s Premiere Mortgage Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Included in the list of the couple’s assets are properties they own in Hawaii and Idaho.

Kathleen P. Morris and David D. Herman jointly filed for bankruptcy in Idaho in January 2012 year. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court Hawaii in May. According to legal documents, the couple owns property valued at $26 million in Hawaii and Idaho. But secured claims total more than $20 million.

The couple’s three properties in Idaho are located in Sun Valley. One is a residence, another is described as a vacant lot, and the third is a condominium unit in Elkhorn Springs. Calls to the managers of the Elkhorn Springs unit were not returned.

A Chapter 11 generally means the owners want to continue running the business through a plan of reorganization and are willing to use future income to pay back creditors. Secured creditors can get the full amount of their collateral paid out over time. But unsecured creditors often get relatively little.

A reorganization plan for the couple involves payments to secured creditors, but other creditors oppose the plan.

Efforts to reach Morris, Herman and their lawyers were unsuccessful.

By Scott Ki

Melaleuca CEO sues magazine, claims defamation

Eastern Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot is suing Mother Jones magazine because he contends he was defamed by an article that depicted him as a “gay-basher.”

VanderSloot, the CEO of direct marketing company Melaleuca, filed the lawsuit in Idaho Falls’ 7th District court on Jan. 29. He says a February 2012 article about him and two tweets promoting it prompted national criticism.

The magazine’s co-editor-in-chief Monika Bauerlein says Mother Jones stands by its reporting and she hasn’t yet received official notification of the lawsuit.

VanderSloot is asking for nearly $75,000 in damages. The lawsuit focuses on the article titled, “Pyramid-Like Company Ponies Up $1 million for Mitt Romney.” The term “gay-bashing” never appears in the story, but VanderSloot points to a tweet promoting the article that described him as Romney’s “gay-bashing buddy.”

The Associated Press

Corrections nixes Idaho mental health prison

The Idaho Department of Correction and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter are backing away from a mental health prison, citing concerns over operating costs.

Less than a month ago, Otter announced the $70 million, 579-bed facility in his State of the State speech.

But on Feb. 4, Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke withdrew the proposal.

He said legislators were asking questions about the project’s ongoing costs — and Idaho’s priorities for helping address mental health and substance abuse.

Instead, Reinke says he’ll work with the Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho’s courts system, the Criminal Justice Commission and other groups on alternatives.

Otter says he still thinks a secure mental health facility is needed, but must be considered “in the context of our limited resources” and the changing behavioral health environment.

The Associated Press

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