Business Briefs

IBR Staff//December 5, 2012

Business Briefs

IBR Staff//December 5, 2012

Finalists selected for Boise Metro Chamber’s startup competition

Judges for the Boise Young Professional’s startup program, known as b|launched, selected two companies Dec. 11 to receive over $55,000 in seed financing.

BeFree Village won first place for their plan to create “a trusted brand of resources and products to help travelers with specific dietary needs and food allergies.”  The ten members of the team will receive a minimum of $25,000 to develop their ideas.

Team spokeswoman Lisa Bloomquist said the Boise area will be the focus of a pilot project for the brand within the next three to six months.  “We’re ready to move forward and we have some partnerships in place.”

According to the team’s handout, their first project involves a healthy meal box that local hotels can offer their guests.  Discussions are also underway to offer these boxes for purchase at the Boise Airport.

Faisal Shah, one of the mentors for BeFree Village, said, “I think our biggest goal as mentors and as part of the community is to actually create a startup culture in the community.”

Shah is the founder of MarkMonitor, an online brand protection company, and First to File, a patent company.

Team members of second place winner, craysay, want to build a mobile software platform that connects people from 15 to 34 years of age with products and services.  As the second place team, craysay will receive at least $10,000.

By Scott Ki

Coeur d’Alene makes Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Retire”

The northern Idaho city of Coeur d’Alene is on Money magazine’s top 20 “Best Places to Retire 2013.”

The magazine listed Coeur d’Alene in its “resort area” section along with Fredericksburg, Texas; St. Augustine, Fla.; St. George, Utah, and Traverse City, Mich. as good places to go for those who are retiring young.

It listed Coeur d’Alene’s 25-mile long lake and three ski resorts as assets for retirees.

The magazine said its researchers looked for places with low housing prices and a range of leisure oactivities, but near a “sizeable city or urban cluster” to provide young retirees with access to an airport, dining, shops, sports and an active music scene.

“In those few cases where a metropolitan area wasn’t within 100 miles, we looked for an outdoor lifestyle compelling enough to overcome the relative isolation” the authors said.

Coeur d’Alene has a population of 38,000 and a median home price of $311,700.

IBR Staff

NNU holding MBA classes in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls

Northwest Nazarene University will offer a Masters of Business Administration starting in January at sites in Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. Students can take Tuesday and Thursday evening classes via teleconference with classes taking place at NNU classes in the Nampa. NNU’s MBA program can take 16 months to complete.

MBA Program Coordinator Maureen Matlock said the private university has at least five students signed up in Idaho Falls and two in Twin Falls. NNU added sites in the two cities to meet demand for students wanting an MBA. Matlock said NNU has had people move from Idaho Falls to the Treasure Valley to pursue an MBA.

“Especially with Idaho Falls, we have had an increase in the number of people contacting us about our program,” Matlock said.

NNU also offers social work degrees in Idaho Falls and Twin Falls and counseling degrees in Twin Falls. The university also offers an online MBA program and is looking to add more teleconference sites in Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

NNU won’t be the only university offering an MBA program in southeastern Idaho. Utah State University will offer weekend MBA classes at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg starting in January.

Brad Iverson-Long

Micron and Hewlett-Packard land on top 100 innovators list

A business unit of Thompson Reuters selected 100 companies and public institutions worldwide as top innovators. Micron Technology, Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are among the 47 U.S. organizations that made the list based on patent-related criteria.

Micron, a Boise-based memory chip maker, occupied one of 18 slots held by semiconductor and electrical components companies. That industry led all others in total numbers.

Computer hardware companies were also well represented on the list. HP has operations in Boise that focus on computer printers and services. The company was one of 13 such companies overall.

Thomson Reuters chose these organizations based on four patent-related measures. Both Micron and HP filed over 100 patents over the past three years. They also achieved a high level of success in patent approvals, and applied with authorities worldwide to protect those ideas. The number of times patents were cited by other companies in their inventions was also a factor.

The report noted that the “Top 100 organizations outperform the S&P 500 by 3 percent in market cap weighted revenue and add nearly 125,000 jobs.”

“Innovation is the foundation for economic prosperity and technological advancement,” said David Brown, a managing director at Thompson Reuters, in a news release. “Our Top 100 Global Innovator methodology demonstrates the insight that can be gleaned from the analysis of patent data and confirms the fact that companies focused on innovating drive growth and financial success.”

IBR Staff

Micron Foundation commissions Appleton statue

The Micron Foundation is commissioning a life-sized, bronze statue of late CEO Steve Appleton, which will stand in the courtyard of Boise State University’s Micron Business and Economics Building. The courtyard will be named the Appleton Courtyard in Appleton’s honor.

The foundation has contracted with the Boise City Department of Arts and History to facilitate the process of selecting an artist and managing the project, which has a budget of $90,000. A nationwide search for artists who have experience creating figurative work in bronze is now under way, with an application deadline of 4 p.m. Jan. 3.

Appleton attended BSU, where he played on the tennis team. After graduation in 1983, he began working for Micron. He became the company’s president and chief operating officer in 1991. He was appointed CEO and chairman of the board in 1994, and worked in those capacities until he died in a private plane crash Feb. 3.

The Micron Foundation was established in 1999 under Appleton’s leadership, and he was chairman of the foundation’s board from 1999-2006, remaining involved until his death, according to Micron’s website.

In addition to the sculpture, the foundation has memorialized Appleton by helping establish funds in his honor for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Boise State University Foundation, providing $25,000 to each.

IBR Staff

Polaris buys Rigby outfitting company

Snowmobile industry giant Polaris bought out Rigby-based Teton Outfitters, according to a Dec. 6 news release from Polaris.

Teton Outfitters is the owner of the KLIM Technical Riding Gear line, which did $30 million in sales in the past calendar year.

The companies did not disclose the sale price.

According to the release, Polaris will keep the operation in Rigby and not change any leadership positions. The clothing and accessory line will not change its brand name either.

The Rigby company employs “dozens” of people in southeastern Idaho and expects to keep all the positions, according to the release.

Teton Outfitters is a former small business of the year designated by the Small Business Development Center, growing from a startup that did $22,000 in sales in 1998 to the $30 million mark in 2012, according to the SBDC.

Sean Olson

Balihoo makes Red Herring Global Top 100

Media company Red Herring named Balihoo one of the winners of its Global Top 100 award for 2012. The award highlights “innovative and transformative startups.”

Boise-based Balihoo uses technology to automate how national brands work with local franchisees to market and advertise products and services.

Red Herring is an online and print media company that reports and holds conferences on innovative high-technology firms.

Red Herring representatives surveyed more than 1,000 private companies in North America, Europe and Asia to come up with the Global Top 100. They looked at such factors as financial performance, technological innovation, management quality, strategy and market penetration in their assessment.

“The Red Herring Global 100 focuses on innovation coupled with business success, and we’re honored to be included among this year’s list of impressive winners who are on the cutting edge of finding solutions to important business problems,” Pete Gombert, Balihoo’s CEO, said in a news release.

Balihoo is one of 46 U.S. companies on the 2012 list. Balihoo also won Red Herring’s 100 North American Award in 2010.

Scott Ki

Boise approves new anti-discrimination law

Boise is now the second Idaho city to adopt an ordinance outlawing discrimination against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Boise City Council unanimously gave final approval to the law Dec. 4, setting off a round of cheers from hundreds of supporters on hand for the vote.

The new law – set to take effect Jan. 1 – criminalizes discrimination in employment, housing and public places because of sexual preference. The ordinance makes an exemption for churches and private organizations.

Councilwoman Lauren McLean says protections for gays, lesbians and the transgender community is something Boise has lacked for too long.

Boise follows the northern Idaho city of Sandpoint in adopting protections based on sexual orientation. Leaders in Pocatello are also considering a similar ordinance.

The Associated Press

Otter: ID education probably violates Constitution

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter doesn’t believe Idaho is meeting its constitutional requirement to provide a uniform system of public education.

The Spokesman-Review reports Otter made the comments at a taxpayer group’s luncheon in Boise Dec. 5.

Otter’s words come as Idaho faces a lawsuit alleging that fees charged at some schools for activities and classes violate the state Constitution’s requirement for a free public education.

At the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho meeting, Otter took a question from former state economist Mike Ferguson about the number of school districts asking their property taxpayers for more money.

Otter said Idaho is doing the best it can, including using the Idaho Education Network for distance learning in rural districts.

But he agreed the state is probably falling short of the constitutional requirement.

The Associated Press

Fruitland bar owner sentenced for tax evasion

A Fruitland bar owner convicted for income tax evasion, illegal gambling and conspiracy to commit money laundering has been ordered to spend 46 months in a federal prison.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced 68-year-old Thomas Dale Overstreet Dec. 5. Overstreet pleaded guilty to the charges in August after a lengthy investigation by Internal Revenue Service agents.

Prosecutors claimed that between 2001 and 2011, Overstreet owned a bar called Club 7 and ran an illegal gambling operation using video machines out of the business.

He was also accused of not filing a tax return since 1999 and evaded paying more than $477,000 in taxes during that period.

Winmill also ordered Overstreet to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution and the forfeiture of $2.4 million in illegal gambling profits.

The Associated Press

Former steel co. employee arrested for burglary

Police in Pocatello have arrested a former employee of a steel company on suspicion of burglary and possession of items taken from his former workplace.

Officials say an employee of SME Steel arrived at work at about 3:30 a.m. Dec. 6 to find someone inside the business with a flashlight. Police say someone had driven forklifts through walls, destroyed offices and broke into vending machines.

The business had also been burglarized in July and October and police had information about 35-year-old Shawn Hatch possibly selling stolen items. They went to his house to question him, obtained a search warrant and arrested him. He also faces a vandalism charge.

KPVI reports officers located more than $200,000 worth of evidence at Hatch’s residence and another one nearby.

The Associated Press

Judge won’t leave plant’s ESA protections in place

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lost a bid this week to leave federal protections in place for a desert plant whose listing threatens to disrupt public-land ranching.

U.S. District Magistrate Candy Dale on Dec. 4 refused to leave a threatened designation for slickspot peppergrass in place while the wildlife agency works to remedy errors it made when it listed the plant under the Endangered Species Act in 2009.

In August, Dale ordered the federal agency to reconsider the listing according to her instructions.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter sued the government three years ago, arguing protections for slickspot peppergrass weren’t grounded in the best science and ignored Idaho’s preservation efforts.

On Dec. 6, Otter hailed Dale’s latest decision, saying it shows there’s no “slam-dunk” case for simply relisting the disputed plant.

The Associated Press

Ex-Idaho woman hiding after $163M federal judgment

A former Idaho woman believed to be hiding in the Caribbean owes the U.S. government $163 million after a civil judgment earlier this year stemming from an alleged Internet scam.

The Idaho Statesman (http://tinyurl.com/crbyy9w ) reports Kristy Marie Ross was a student and athlete at high schools in Boise and Eagle before becoming involved in an Internet scam in the early 2000s.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the now-32-year-old participated in an Internet scheme in which people were scared into buying virus-protection software they didn’t need.

Others involved in the business, called Innovative Marketing, have paid some $16 million in settlements.

But Ross remains on the lam, possibly on the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Her former boyfriend, Sam Jain, is also an international fugitive targeted by the FBI’s cybercrimes unit.

The Associated Press

BLM makes changes to power line after tribes balk

A disputed power line project in Idaho has been re-routed after opposition from the Shoshone-Bannock Indian tribes.

The Bureau of Land Management released a new preferred alternative for the 1,100-mile high-voltage transmission line known as Gateway West on Dec. 7.

Originally, it would have crossed the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, but the tribes refused right-of-way on grounds it will hurt natural and cultural resources.

The BLM now says the new preferred path minimizes impacts to Arbon Valley agriculture and avoids sage grouse nesting sites.

The project is proposed by Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power Co. and stretches from Glenrock, Wyo., to Murphy, Idaho, southwest of Boise.

It’s been beset by opposition.

In October, for instance, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter accused the BLM of disregarding public input and demanded an explanation.

The Associated Press

Nampa schools still mulling how to close $4.5M gap

The Nampa School District is still wrestling with a $4.5 million budget deficit that prompted its top official to resign earlier this year.

The Idaho Press-Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/cgeotm8 ) reports district leaders plan to meet Dec. 11, to mull solutions to filling the gap that emerged as a surprise at the state’s third-largest school district in August.

Superintendent Gary Larsen quit after 18 years in the job.

Though no teachers are being laid off this year, district officials say drastic measures are necessary to the current $68.7 million spending plan.

There are still questions over whether Nampa can declare a financial emergency.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Michaelson says numerous options are on the table, including furloughs, restructuring bond payments and a supplemental levy in which taxpayers would be asked to make up the difference.

The Associated Press

Feds seeking conservation lands in southeastern Idaho

Federal wildlife officials are on the hunt for ranchers and farmers willing to put thousands of acres of land into conservation easements in Idaho’s southeast corner.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to buy up development rights in the Bear River watershed. KIDK-TV (http://bit.ly/UszpXT ) reports the target is to set aside up to 920,000 acres deemed important habitat for species.

Fish and Wildlife Service official Bob Barrett says conservation easements are critical to protecting valuable habitat in the long term.

Under conservation easement rules, the government pays landowners for the right to stop development on certain acreage — though farmers and ranchers can still use the land to grow crops or graze cattle.

The agency held public meetings in Montpellier and Preston on the plan last week.

The Associated Press

Texas firm wants $2M from Idaho nuke developer

A Texas-based financial company says it’s entitled to $2 million from a would-be Idaho nuclear power plant developer.

Hamilton Guaranty Capital filed documents in U.S. District Court in Idaho the week of Dec. 3 outlining its dispute with Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc.

Earlier this year, AEHI paid $2 million into a Nevada law firm’s escrow account, money required before Hamilton Guaranty would arrange a transaction for AEHI.

Hamilton says it fulfilled its obligations — and wants the money.

The $2 million remains tied up in Nevada state court, where a judge is considering its rightful owner.

In early November, the Securities and Exchange Commission called AEHI’s transaction with Hamilton a get-rich scheme.

Lawyers for the federal stock regulator then asked a federal judge to freeze AEHI’s assets, to protect them from being squandered.

The Associated Press

Judge orders Idaho school district to open records

An eastern Idaho judge has ordered the Blackfoot School District to release all documents surrounding a separation agreement and a consulting fee by mid-week.

Sixth District Judge David Nye issued the order Dec. 7 in response to an open records lawsuit filed by former Blackfoot teacher Joyce Bingham and the Post Register in Idaho Falls. Bingham and the newspaper sued after the district refused to make public a separation agreement between the school board and former Superintendent Scott Crane, as well as details of a contract payout worth more than $105,000.

Attempts to reach Blackfoot School Board chairman R. Scott Reese for comment were unsuccessful. The school board announced that it would hold a meeting Dec. 10 to discuss an issue related to the case.

The payment and the district’s handling of Crane’s exit have raised questions about who received the $105,428 check that the district made to an unnamed source the day after Crane’s June 30 retirement. When they declined to release the documents, school district officials cited protections in state law for personnel matters.

But in his ruling, Nye rejected that stance.

“Everything about this case smacks of a public agency trying to hide its decision-making from the public,” Nye wrote. “Parties cannot exempt a public record from disclosure and hide it from the public simply by placing it in a personnel file and declaring the personnel file exemption to be applicable to it.”

Crane started a new job as superintendent for the Grand County School District in Moab, Utah in July.

The Associated Press

Feds identify weaknesses with INL tactical team

U.S. Department of Energy inspectors have found a handful of weaknesses in the Idaho National Laboratory team responsible for protecting special nuclear material at the eastern Idaho research facility.

Agency officials identified the shortcomings in a Nov. 30 report that looked at INL’s Tactical Response Force, singling out problems with equipment, coordination and communication. The report suggested those weaknesses could contribute to confusion or even public injury if nuclear material used in research was ever stolen from the site.

Tom Middleton, INL director of security, said the response force will do everything required by DOE to bolster security.

“We are not weak in the protection of special nuclear material or our training,” Middleton told the Idaho Falls Post Register in a story published Dec. 7.

The inspection occurred between October 2011 and September.

Problems spelled out in the report include Tactical Response Force vehicles lacking sirens or public address systems, security markings, and lights that are visible in a 360-degree arc. INL officials cited budgetary concerns, but DOE responded that it was not expected to have all vehicles equipped with those tools.

Inspectors cited a lack of coordination with other law enforcement agencies and assigning specific roles and responsibilities should a chase cross jurisdictional lines. INL was also dinged for not inviting those agencies to take part in training exercises, which the DOE requires at least every 12 months.

DOE spokesman Tim Jackson said INL will not face any financial penalties for the weaknesses.

Battelle Energy Alliance, which contracts with DOE to operate INL, has a June 30 deadline to make fixes.

The Associated Press