Economy

Holiday shopping, Downtown Boise, Retail
Downtown Boise Association / Instagram

As Black Friday approaches, cities in Idaho are reminding shoppers to think about local stores too.

American Express has popularized Small Business Saturday over the last few years. But in McCall, the idea of shopping local during the holidays is a tradition that pre-dates the credit card company’s initiative. That’s according to Nicole Musgrove of McCall’s Chamber of Commerce.

“I think most people try to buy anything they can from local businesses,” says Musgrove.

neetalparekh / Flickr Creative Commons

State officials say Idaho's unemployment rate has remained at 3.8 percent for the past four months.

The Idaho Department of Labor announced Friday that growth in manufacturing, education and health offset jobs shed in national resources, construction and transportation.

The agency says the state's workforce dropped by 200 to 813,000, putting the state's labor force participation rate to 64 percent. The national rate is 62.8 percent.

State officials say the number of unemployed Idaho residents is around 30,900.

Harrison Berry / Boise Weekly

As the Grove Plaza continues to shape up in downtown Boise, the newest addition is the opening of a third Gyro Shack location in the Treasure Valley. But before the local franchise could expand too much, it had to solve a saucy problem. 

Flickr Creative Commons

State officials have approved a utility company's application to build a solar power project southeast of Boise funded by customers who take out subscriptions.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission late last week approved Idaho Power's application for the 500-kilowatt solar project that would be the state's first utility-owned solar power production facility.

Dan Brubaker Horst / Flickr Creative Commons

Producers in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon area saw onion yields that are larger in both quantity and size this year.

The Capital Press reports that despite the bigger yields in 2016, prices dropped, meaning producers saw about break-even earnings. The Idaho-Eastern Oregon growing region has about 300 growers who produce roughly 25 percent of the United States' Spanish bulb onions.

Southern Idaho's agriculture community was happy to welcome a major Clif Bar production facility recently, but the company's "Mr. Seed" video that criticizes conventional agriculture has been less well received.

The Capital Press reports that the animated video, which is for the Clif Bar Family Foundation, features a foul-mouthed organic seed complaining that conventional agriculture is ruining the world with pesticides, performance-enhancing chemicals and genetically modified organism seed.

Tamarack Resort
A.Davey / Flickr Creative Commons

A homeowners association has purchased parts of the long-troubled Tamarack Resort near Donnelly, Idaho.

The Tamarack Municipal Association purchased the property from the bank group Newtrac, and will now control all skiing operations. The golf course and other parts of the resort are still owned by other entities.

Tamarack opened in 2004, but the original owners went bankrupt a few years later and the resort has struggled ever since.

Peter Barker / Flickr Creative Commons

A lumber mill in northern Idaho has closed down, leaving about 40 people without work.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that Tri-Pro Forest Products closed its Orofino mill on Tuesday. Resource Manager Mike Boeck says a lack of cedar logs forced the company to curtail operations at the Clearwater County mill over the past few weeks.

insurance exchange, computer, your health idaho
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Though there will be more options for health insurance available on Your Idaho Health's marketplace this year, premiums will be higher than in 2016.

The Idaho Statesman reports that premiums will be about 24 percent higher on average in 2017 than they were in 2016. The price each person pays depends on factors such as age, geographic location and desired levels of insurance coverage, among other factors.

Vista Outdoor Facebook

Outdoor recreation company Vista Outdoor is planning a $70 million expansion to its ammunition plant in Lewiston.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the Idaho Department of Commerce announced Monday that Lewiston beat offers from Minnesota, where the company already has a plant, and other states.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The city of Twin Falls and Clif Bar Tuesday celebrate the opening of a new plant that will bake all flavors of the company’s signature energy bars and a line of kid’s bars. The plant is nearly 300,000 square feet and employs more than 200 people with about 60 more to be added early next year. The lowest wage is $15 an hour.

Idaho's unemployment rate in July slightly bumped up from last month to 3.8 percent.

The Idaho Department of Labor in a news release Friday says continued demand for workers and an increase in people looking for work caused the rate to move from the previous 3.7 percent. The last time state's unemployment increased was in April 2015.

However, Idaho has regained its status as number one in the nation for job growth in July with nearly 23,000 more jobs.

Total employment for Idaho grew by more than 1,000 to 781,000.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

In 2014, Idaho ag exports hit a record value of more than $1 billion. Levels like that now seems like a distant memory.

Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Numbers from the Economic Policy Institute show that the average Idaho family spends about $7,200 a year for infant child care and $6,900 a year for preschool-aged children. The Idaho Statesman reports that's more than a year's tuition at a public college.

Katy Lightfield told the Boise newspaper that she and her husband expected the $30,000 pay cut they took when they moved from Texas to Idaho. But they were surprised to find that child care costs are the same between the two states.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The State of Idaho has $125 million sitting in the bank that doesn’t belong to it. It belongs to state residents. In fact, more than 800,000 people are entitled to some of it. That’s equivalent to about half the state’s population.

This reporter got a tiny fraction of that money, which raised a lot of questions for me. A while ago I got a check in the mail from the State of Idaho. I wasn’t expecting a check and for I while I had no idea what it was for. Just as surprising though was the amount: 6 cents. 

Benjamin Nolan / Flickr Creative Commons

Despite Idaho’s “world famous” potatoes, the International Potato Center is actually in Lima, Peru. After all, that's the part of the world where the potato originated. The center has the largest potato gene bank, with the goal of conserving biological diversity of the plant.

The organization’s overall mission is a lofty one: to battle global poverty through partnerships and technology. 

Stethescope, Health Care, Doctor, Medical
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers are eligible for the same health care benefits as full-time state employees even though they are considered part-time workers.

The Idaho Statesman reports that 90 out of Idaho's 105 lawmakers are enrolled in the state's health care plan. State records show that 30 of the 35 Senate members and 60 of the 70 House members are enrolled.

The 14 percent opt-out rate inside the Legislature is higher than the state's workforce, where just about 8 percent of employees don't take the state-provided benefits.

C. Holmes / Flickr Creative Commons

A police chief in northern Idaho is proposing hiring incentives to attract more officers to his department.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports Police Chief Lee White has proposed adding incentives to entry-level positions for people who have experience at other law enforcement agencies.

Micron Headquarters Building
Dan Greenwood / Boise State Public Radio

We learned last week that Harvard University is suing Micron Technology over patent infringement. Micron isn’t commenting on the suit. If it goes to court, the company will likely argue that the technology it uses is based on a patent it owns, not the one developed by Harvard.

Screengrab Idahowines.org

The Idaho Wine Commission will be working to promote and expand Idaho's wine industry thanks to two grants from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

The Capital Press reports that the grants, totaling about $118,000, are for two of 15 specialty crop projects submitted to USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for funding approval, expected in September.

Idaho has more than 50 wineries and 1,300 vineyards. According to the wine commission, the Idaho wine industry has about a $170 million economic impact.

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