One of the things we joke about here is how “development” can mean two different things, depending on what you’re talking about. It could mean either constructing a building, developing technology such as software.
This week, “development” means both.
On the building side, this week we’re covering the Idaho Building Owners and Managers Association symposium. Like most events these days, it was largely virtual, but it also featured (socially distanced) vendor booths and the usual array of tchotchkes. It was a great reminder that, one of these days, we might actually be back to normal.
What’s really impressive is that, at least for real estate, the COVID-19 pandemic has been barely a blip. Vacancy rates are approaching normal rather than being laughably small. Developers — the building kind — are still going as fast as they can.
Our busy staff reporter Catie Clark wrote about how, as we’ve been covering all along, residential real estate prices continue going up as inventory has stayed low. Part of the reason, as she writes in an interview with two First Interstate Bank executives, is the paucity of available building lots. That’s why we continue to see builders constructing homes in suburbs and rural areas — because there just isn’t very much land left in Boise.
That’s also what makes it more difficult to build affordable housing — if the land gets to a certain price, it’s hard for the builder to construct affordable housing on it and still make any money.
That said, our intrepid freelance Alx Stevens wrote about the LOCAL Ventures project in downtown Boise across the street from WinCo. While it’s certainly not affordable housing by any measure, it’s at least comparable or somewhat lower-priced than some of the other new apartments downtown. And between the in-house amenities and nearby ones such as WinCo and Boise’s parks, residents can probably save money on travel and recreation.
In other construction news, Catie wrote how Scentsy is adding two buildings to its headquarters in Meridian — there has to be enough room for all those pumpkin spice products, after all. Our Q&A this week is with Dave Armga, president and CEO of ArmgaSys, which makes ConDoc, software that lets construction management companies go virtual with all the documents the building process requires. Just goes to show how the two meanings of “development” are converging.
Our Focus section this week is on the other meaning of “development,” technology. Like everyone else, we were transfixed by Perseverance as it landed on Mars — and powered by technology developed at the Idaho National Laboratory. The lab isn’t resting on its laurels, either; it’s already working on the next generation of power for space travel.
The University of Idaho is also partnering with INL on nuclear technology, such as molten salt reactors, Alx tells us. In addition, Catie — who, as I love to mention, has a doctorate in geology — covers both a potential gold mine in Lemhi that could add up to $1.2 billion to the state’s economy, and the formal announcement that Midas Gold is moving its headquarters to Idaho and changing its name to Perpetua Resources, after the state motto.
Catie also showed off her mad stats skillz by explaining why it’s just not true that Boise has the worst rush-hour traffic in the country, and for those of you who hate word problems in math, she also drew a picture.
Finally, if you missed our Breakfast Series panel on Feb. 9 discussing Idaho’s Tech Trends, we’re running an excerpt in this week’s issue, as well as a commentary by Jay Larsen, president and CEO of the Idaho Technology Council. And if you’d like to watch the whole event, it’s available on our website.
To judge by the number of events and invitations we’re hearing about, people are ready for both winter and COVID-19 to be over, and are scheduling things like mad, even though, for now, many of them are still virtual. We’re not alone; we’re working on our Icon Awards, choosing our CEOs of Influence and collecting nominations for Accomplished Under 40, all of which are coming down the pike in the next couple of months. If there’s someone who’s gone above and beyond at your company, your suppliers or your customers in this past year, nominate them for an award. Now more than ever, people deserve recognition.
Sharon Fisher is interim managing editor of the Idaho Business Review.