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Looking back: Idaho Business Review’s most-read stories of 2019

Shoppers turned out in droves for the Oct. 17 opening of the new Trader Joe’s store in Meridian. Photos by Steve Sinovic

2019 was an eventful year for Idaho with a contentious Boise mayoral race, record-setting growth and appearances for the state on practically every positive top 10 list across the country.

But, it appears, nothing could beat the long-awaited appearance of Two-Buck Chuck in Meridian. In October, Trader Joe’s launched its second Idaho location at 2986 N. Eagle Road., and our story about the store’s grand opening got more clicks than anything else we produced in 2019 by a wide margin.

The quirky California-based grocer clearly has a strong following in the Treasure Valley.

Other popular stories of 2019 cover topics such as real estate appreciation, major investment capital deals, 5G mobile service, and soon-to-be Boise Mayor Lauren McLean.

Read on for a quick look back at the Idaho Business Review’s most-read stories of the year.

1. Trader Joe’s shooting for fall opening in Meridian – Oct. 17

After years of longing, Trader Joe’s has finally landed in Meridian.

Over 100 people on Oct. 17 braved the morning traffic and light sprinkles to queue up for the store’s 8:30 a.m. opening. As they entered the sliding glass doors, they were greeted by a double column of cheering employees, some in Hawaiian shirts, handing out shopping bags and dispensing cups of hot cider.

2. Forecast: Idaho housing prices to rise further – July 19

A new forecast of real estate markets around the nation predicted four Idaho cities will continue to see some of the biggest increases in values over the next year, with appreciation rates north of 9%.

Meanwhile, homes sold in Ada County set a median sales price record in June, according to Boise Regional Realtors.

California-based real estate analytics firm Veros’ forecast for the strongest and weakest markets through June 2020 showed the Gem State as one of three states with metro areas dominating the 10 top appreciation markets.

photo of stagedoto

Galena Capital is helping raise money for StageDotO Ventures, housed in Boise. Photo courtesy of State Historic Preservation Office

3. Company kicks off $50 million Boise startup fund with $1 million investment – Aug. 29

A Seattle-based investment company is not only creating a $50 million fund to invest in Boise technology startups but is moving its headquarters to Boise as well.

“We’ve been watching the Boise region for a while,” said Mike Self, general partner with StageDotO Ventures. “It’s like Austin 25 years ago. We don’t think there’s a better region to be investing in than Boise.”

The company made a presentation at the Capital Connect Conference in May announcing its intention to move into an office at 110 Main this summer.

4. Monster trucks: Truckstop.com gets major investment– April 3

In what could be the largest venture capital investment in Idaho history, a majority share of Truckstop.com is being acquired by ICONIQ Capital, a San Francisco-based privately-held financial advisory and investment firm.

Neither company revealed the size of the investment, but CEO Paris Cole called it “one of the largest in the state of Idaho’s history,” adding that it “would value Truckstop.com as one of the most valuable technology companies in the state.”

Previously, the largest specified investment in Idaho technology was Kount, which received a venture capital infusion of $80 million in 2015 from CVC Capital Partners. Eagle timesheet company TSheets was acquired by Intuit in 2017 for $340 million.

Boise-based WinCo has been in expansion mode in many Western states. Photo by Teya Vitu

5. Report: WinCo eyeing another shuttered Shopko in Oregon – Oct. 1

The discount grocer’s growth strategy of late seems to be backfilling vacant Shopko boxes in places like Wenatchee, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon, according to recent news reports in both of those markets.

Now it looks like the company may be on the move to Bend, Oregon, and it’s targeting another closed Shopko as a potential new supermarket.

According to a Sept. 25 report by KTVZ, the city of Bend “has held a pre-submittal meeting with representatives of the Boise-based WinCo, and they are proposing to move into the building formerly housing Shopko, totaling 100,000 square feet.”

6. 21 Idaho companies make Inc. 5000 list – Aug. 22

More than 20 Idaho companies have been named to the Inc. 5000, a prestigious list of the fastest-growing privately held small businesses in the U.S.

Idaho companies ranked as high as 23, with ConvertKit, a software company with revenues of $13.8 million and a growth rate of 7,966%, and 28, with Amherst Madison, a real estate company with revenue of $7.8 million and a growth rate of 7,301%. Both are based in Boise.

While many of the companies were based in the Treasure Valley, other areas of the state were represented as well. Post Falls had three companies: NanaMacs Clothing, ranked 364, with revenue of $12 million and a growth rate of 1,253%; Precision Precast Erectors, ranked 2800, a construction company with revenue of $9.8 million and a growth rate of 135% and Mainstream Electric, Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, ranked 3680, with revenue of $5.7 million and a growth rate of 94%.

photo of 5g installation

Verizon has been installing 5G transmitters in downtown Boise since earlier this year. Photo by Sharon Fisher

7. 5G comes one step closer to Boise – Jan. 23

While nobody has announced 5G mobile networks in Idaho yet, Ada County has taken a step that could bring them closer, by making it easier for mobile network providers to install the transmitters they need.

The ordinance, which was passed by the Ada County Board of Commissioners earlier this month, updates zoning regulations for communication towers, antennas and base units, said Brent Danielson, associate planner with Ada County Development Services. It covers the installation of “small cells,” which can be used by 5G mobile technology as well as current 4G technology. In addition to being smaller than current cell phone towers, they are also closer together and intended for an urban environment, he said.

Lauren McLean

8. A word with Boise mayoral challenger Lauren McLean – Aug. 26

Boise City Council President Lauren McLean raised some eyebrows in May when she announced that she was challenging four-term Boise mayor Dave Bieter for the 2020 election. McLean was appointed by Bieter, with Council approval, in 2010.

But McLean argues that it is time for a mayor who can take a fresh look at Boise’s challenges, particularly related to growth.

9. Idaho banks did well overall in 2018, but US Bank is closing seven branches – April 8

Last year was generally a good one for Idaho banks, but U.S. Bank is still shutting down a number of branches in the state.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s fourth-quarter report, which also covered the year as a whole, net income of Idaho banks was $87 million, an increase of 38% over the previous year. Idaho banks had total assets of $6.61 billion. While that was up just 0.44%, it marked the highest level since 2013, Wright said. Total deposits were $5.6 billion, up 0.4%, while total loans and leases were $4.45 billion, up 0.39%.

Nonetheless, U.S. Bank is closing a number of Idaho branches.

photo of the beginning of the demolition of the old Mercy Medical Center in Nampa

First external demolition work on the vacant 12th Ave. medical center in Nampa. Photo courtesy of Saint Alphonsus Communications.

10. Demolition begins on Mercy Medical Center – Dec. 20

Demolition of the former Mercy Medical Center on 12th Avenue in Nampa is underway.

The work began on Dec. 16 at the facility, which has been vacant since Saint Alphonsus opened its new Nampa medical center on Garrity Boulevard in July 2017.

For many years, the old Mercy Medical Center was the only hospital in Nampa. The original Mercy Hospital was founded in 1919 by the Sisters of Mercy. It moved to the 12th Avenue location in 1967 and became part of the Saint Alphonsus Health System in 2010.

About Kim Burgess

Kim Burgess is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.