Economy

Officials say the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport needs improvements to keep up with more demand and bigger aircraft.

Airport Executive Director Tony Bean says the airport has fallen behind the times due to aircraft increasing in size.

Bean says there isn't the space and capacity to land current-size aircraft safely, and as the trend doesn't seem likely to change, the problem will only worsen.

smcgee / Flickr

The executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission says the state is getting national attention for its wines.

Moya Dolsby credits a $400,000 annual budget funded through the state liquor tax and wine industry assessment as well as enthusiastic supporters.

Dolsby tells the Lewiston Tribune that she no longer has to beg restaurants and retailers to try Idaho wines.

The state's wine industry has grown from a single commercial winery in 1976 to 50 today.

Northwest asparagus growers are just starting to harvest spears in the warmer sites around Pasco, Wash.

money, dollars, wages
401(K)2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's average wage increased by almost 20 cents last year. But wage growth isn't keeping up with the national average. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment Survey finds Idaho's average hourly wage for all jobs was $18.67 last year, that's up 19 cents from 2012. Still, Idaho's average wage was almost 84 percent of the national average, which is $22.33 an hour.  

The survey also found that half of Idaho's hourly employees earned $14.68 or less in 2013. That's a 10 cent increase from 2012. 

housing, map
National Low Income Housing Coalition

An Idaho worker earning the minimum wage would need to work 73 hours per week in order to afford a modest two-bedroom rental according to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

fast food, kitchen, minimum wage
Gorgeoux / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s share of minimum wage workers declined 0.6 percent from 2012 to 2013 according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The drop means Idaho no longer has the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country; Tennessee has taken Idaho’s spot.

trapping, wildlife
Jessica Murri / For Boise State Public Radio

Just four years ago, bobcat fur sold for about $200. Now, that same bobcat pelt can be sold for almost $2,000. Higher prices come from a rise in demand for fur in Asia, and it has led to more trappers in the field here in Idaho.

Patrick Carney, president of the Idaho Trappers Association, gets calls almost daily from folks who want advice on how to get into commercial trapping.

Idaho's unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a percentage point in February to 5.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than 5 years.

That decline came as the participation rate - which is the percentage of the population 16 and older working or actively looking for work - fell a tenth of a percentage point to 63.7 percent.

Idaho's participation rate dropped below 64 percent last October - the first time in over 30 years - and has been gradually sliding since.

In Olympia, Washington policymakers are pondering whether to make an end run around looming cutbacks in the federally-funded food stamp program.

Boise-Based Albertsons To Merge With Safeway Stores

Mar 6, 2014
RoadsidePictures / Flickr Creative Commons

Safeway says it has agreed to be acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Albertsons and several other supermarket chains.

The acquisition is worth about $7.64 billion in cash, and pending other transactions could top more than $9 billion.

It comes amid ongoing consolidation in the supermarket industry, which is facing growing competition from big-box retailers, specialty chains, drug stores and even dollar stores.

Micron
Micron Technology

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Idaho and other states have obtained court approval of a $311 million settlement involving Boise-based Micron Technology and other computer chip makers.

The court approval announced Tuesday means consumers can start filing claims to recoup the money they overpaid as a result of chip makers engaging in unlawful anti-competitive practices to inflate prices.

The approval involves the settlement of a lawsuit Idaho and 34 other states brought against 12 makers of dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM.

North Idaho Landowner Selling Waterfront Property For Bitcoin

Mar 5, 2014
bitcoin
Antanacoins / Flickr Creative Commons

A North Idaho man is selling lake-front property for bitcoin, a digital currency that isn't regulated like the U.S. dollar.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports Hayden resident Alen Golub has joined with neighbors to sell 660 waterfront acres. Golub tells the paper he's selling his 50 acres in exchange for bitcoin.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Twin Falls officials in south-central Idaho have approved a $3.5 million expansion of a Greek yogurt plant operated by Chobani.

The Times-News reports in a story on Wednesday that the addition to the $450 million plant will add to its packaging and filling rooms on the east side.

Company officials say the plant reached full production in December, producing 1 million cases of yogurt a week.

According to a National Park Service report, towns around national parks lost an estimated $414 million during the partial government shutdown last October.

Idaho Statehouse
Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to snip Idaho income tax by $126 million over the next six years passed the House over objections that the state can't afford to lose that much revenue for the general fund.

The bill seeks to drop rates in all brackets from the current 7.4 percent to 6.8 percent, starting with a .1 percent cut in January.

Republican Rep. Mike Moyle, from Star, says that could make the state more attractive to businesses and put Idaho more in line with neighboring states.

Montana has an income tax rate of 6.9 percent and no sales tax.

The rising popularity of hummus across the nation has been good for farmers like Aaron Flansburg.

Flansburg, who farms 1,900 acres amid the rolling hills of southeastern Washington, has been increasing the amount of the chickpeas used to make hummus by about one-third each year to take advantage of good prices and demand.

"I hope that consumption keeps increasing," he said.

When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.

That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.

A Boise call center that helps people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is laying off nearly its entire work force as the federal exchange open enrollment period ends.

Maximus Inc. hired about 1,800 people for the Boise facility last year.

In a letter to employees on Monday, company officials announced that 1,600 employees will be laid off in April because they won't be needed when the federal enrollment period ends. Company officials say some employees may be hired back this fall, in preparation for the next enrollment period.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The value of Idaho’s agriculture products grew from $5.7 billion to $7.8 billion between 2007 and 2012. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) It released preliminary results from its Census of Agriculture Thursday.  The USDA provides the update every five years and the latest covers 2012.  

Bogus Basin, ski
Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Next year’s Bogus Basin season passes went on sale this week. For skiers who buy before Monday, $229 will get them unlimited access to the ski mountain next season. Alan Moore, executive director of the non-profit attraction north of Boise, says prices are staying at the same level as this year.

The 2013-2014 season has been mixed, Moore says. Like many ski hills in Idaho, Bogus had pretty thin snow for a while.  But Moore says it’s also had a lot of sunny days that have drawn people out of the often hazy valley.  

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