Economy

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Every year in late January volunteers around the country, and across Idaho, take to the streets to ask people experiencing homelessness where they slept on a particular night. It's a difficult task because people who sleep in their cars or in parks -- known as unsheltered homeless -- can be hard to find. But the numbers volunteers come up with are important because they're used for things like setting federal funding for local homeless programs.

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.

The state of Washington announced a new confirmed case of avian flu in a wild duck in Whatcom County Friday.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

President Barack Obama got an up-close look this week at some of the technology and business partnerships being created in Boise. During his speech at Boise State, Obama said the university's New Product Development Lab is putting the Treasure Valley on the "cutting edge of innovation" and is helping to build Idaho's economy. 

The steep drop in oil prices is helping to pad the bottom line of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. But don't expect lower fares on the horizon.

During his stop at Boise State University Wednesday, President Barack Obama will visit a lab that helps local entrepreneurs and industries build prototypes of their products to help get them into the marketplace.

Obama will visit the College of Engineering’s New Product Development Lab. It’s managed and run by the College of Business and Economics. 

Idaho Wine Commission

Idaho wine growers have good reason to say "cheers" these days. According to research from Stonebridge Research Group, the number of wine cases bottled in 2013 increased 76 percent from the previous year. In 2013, Idaho vintners produced 234,000 cases in 2013 up from 179,000 in 2012. The Idaho Wine Commission paid for the study.

The number of Idaho wineries has also grown. In 2002 there were 11 wineries in the state, now there are 51.

On the face of it, the new potato varieties called "Innate" seem attractive. If you peel the brown skin off their white flesh, you won't find many unsightly black spots. And when you fry them, you'll probably get a much smaller dose of a potentially harmful chemical.

But here's the catch: Some of the biggest potato buyers in the country, such as Frito-Lay and McDonald's, seem afraid to touch these potatoes. Others don't even want to talk about them because they are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho lawmaker who has the power to kill tax bills says there will be no new tax breaks unless beginning teacher salaries boost to $40,000 a year.

Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway threatened to hold proposed tax cuts hostage in order to get more funding for Idaho's public schools even before the legislative session kicked off on Monday. Siddoway sharpened his demand on Tuesday, saying teacher salaries must increase sooner than what Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has outlined.

Young Invincibles

A national group working to engage young people on issues like education and health care gives Idaho a D- when it comes to state support for higher education.

Kevin Rank / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s annual legislative session starts next week, but some lawmakers are already at work. Each year, just before the session, a group of lawmakers meets to try and get an idea of what Idaho’s economy will be like in the coming year. They use what they hear to inform their budgeting decisions.

Of course, what the state’s economy will do in the future is something that’s important to most everyone in Idaho, not just lawmakers. So here’s a preview of what legislators will hear.

Advanced Aviation Solutions , an Idaho-based startup, has become the first company to win federal approval to use drones in farm settings.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr Creative Commons

The J.R. Simplot Company is partnering with a Texas-based company to build a 300,000-square-foot beef processing facility near Kuna, Idaho, creating up to 600 new jobs.

Simplot and Caviness Beef Packers announced Tuesday it expects to open in the fall of 2016, pending regulatory approval.

In a press release, Simplot officials say the processing plant will be called CS Beef Packers, LLC. The two companies say they're investing $100 million to build the facility.

Mike Mozart / Flickr Creative Commons

The bankruptcy of national clothing retailer Coldwater Creek last spring posed a serious challenge to the northern Idaho city of Sandpoint, as more than 300 jobs vanished.

But The Spokesman-Review reports that the community is getting a second wind — thanks in part to former workers at the company who stuck around and started or joined new firms.

A Western Oregon mail order company has begun selling what might become the No. 1 conversation starter of Northwest garden parties this summer.

Uber
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The city of Boise has issued a cease-and-desist order to Uber, the app-based car service company. City officials say Uber is violating an agreement not to charge passengers until the city gives it the go ahead.

Uber has been operating in Boise since October under a temporary agreement with the city. Boise and Uber were in negotiations for a permanent contract.

Aspen Skiing Company, artist rendering

Aspen Skiing Co. plans to build a hotel in Ketchum, Idaho, modeled on its Limelight Hotel in Aspen.

The company said Tuesday the hotel will be near Sun Valley's River Run base at Bald Mountain. It will also be called the Limelight.

Aspen Skiing bought the property from Bald Mountain LLC. No cost figures were released.

The company says the site has approval for 119 rooms and suites and 11 residential units. The company says it will ask Ketchum city officials for minor modifications in the plans, including a reconfiguration of the main floor.

Five of Idaho's neighboring states will ring in the New Year with an increase in their minimum wage. Idaho, meanwhile, hasn't seen an increase in its minimum wage since 2009.

Idaho's wage is the federal minimum, $7.25 per hour.

Not only is Idaho nearly surrounded by states with a minimum wage above the federal baseline, but it's nearly surrounded by states with the highest minimum wages in the country.

Sun Valley Resort

Ski season is now in full swing, but the lodge at one of the region’s most famous destinations is closed for the season.

The owners of Idaho's Sun Valley Resort are hoping a major renovation will keep them competitive among wealthy travelers. Sun Valley’s reputation as a destination among the jet-setting class goes back decades. But the iconic 1936 lodge hasn’t kept pace with the area’s star-studded image.

The new year will mean higher pay for low-wage workers in Oregon and Washington. The minimum wage in both states is set for an increase.

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