Economy

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.  

Whatever you already believed about raising the federal minimum wage, you now have more ammo for your argument, thanks to a report released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office, titled "The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income."

Yes, you're right: Raising the wage in steps to $10.10 an hour by 2016 would push employers to cut jobs — about 500,000 of them, says the CBO, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress.

Michelle Stennett
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to put more money in the pockets of Idaho's lowest-paid workers cleared its first hurdle Monday when the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to send it forward to a full hearing.

The proposal would increase the state's minimum hourly pay from $7.25 the federal requirement— to $8.50 July 1, then raise it again to $9.75 in 2015.

But Republicans who control 81 percent of the Legislature immediately criticized the plan, throwing its future into doubt.

When Team USA marches into the stadium for the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Friday, they'll be swathed in the warmth of the Northwest, quite literally.

Materne, GoGo Squeez
TheImpulsiveBuy / Flickr Creative Commons

Applesauce-maker GoGo squeeZ says it plans to open an $85 million food processing facility in Nampa, Idaho that will employ at least 230 people.

The Idaho Department of Commerce announced the company's Idaho investment in a press release Thursday.

The Idaho Statesman reports the average wage at the new facility will be $16 an hour, more than double Idaho's minimum wage.

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

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is calling on the Russian government to allow Chobani Greek yogurt to be delivered to Sochi for U.S. Olympic athletes and NBC Studios employees.

Schumer said Tuesday that a shipment of Chobani yogurt is being held up at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because of "unattainable" Russian Customs certifications. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has requested that Russia approve a USDA safety certificate for the yogurt, but Schumer said Russia still won't allow the shipment.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Boise Rescue Mission plans to open two shelters in Nampa in the next two weeks.

The Idaho Statesman reports that a men's shelter called Lighthouse Rescue Mission and a women's shelter called the Valley Women and Children's Shelter are scheduled to open.

Officials say the women's shelter has 60 beds and will welcome women and children who are homeless as well as those displaced by domestic violence. A grand opening is planned for Thursday.

Northwest farmers call him “the weather man.” And at a farming conference in Spokane, he offered a reason for them to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

Dave Hosford / Flickr Creative Commons

The head of Idaho's liquor division says state liquor stores had about $10 million in additional sales from Washington customers last year.

The Spokesman-Review reports Jeff Anderson told lawmakers that the bump was not so much because the stores sold more bottles statewide, but because northern Idaho stores saw an increase in sales of higher-priced premium liquor products.

The Greater Boise Auditorium District has announced plans to partner with the Gardner Company to create more convention space by expanding the Boise Centre.

Officials including Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Gardner Company Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist and the Auditorium District Board made the announcement Thursday.

Plans call for two new buildings with about 43,000 square feet of space for meetings and a kitchen to be built on the parking lot around the U.S. Bank building owned by the Gardner Company.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Volunteers are combing Idaho's streets for the next few days asking homeless people where they spent Wednesday night. This annual count is the only source for much of what we know about Idaho's homeless population. Those numbers, which we won’t know for months, help determine how much federal money will come to homeless programs in Idaho.

bread, food, foodbank
Emily Carlin / Flickr Creative Commons

Local musicians and their lyrical Christmas creations brought more than good cheer to Idaho last year.
In December, we told you about a special musical collection aimed at raising money for The Idaho Foodbank. Now, we know  just how much the album raised.

The fourth IdaHo Ho Ho Christmas CD raised enough cash to pay for 23,465 meals for those in need.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Luanne Jensen sits in an alley behind Boise’s Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter. She recently had knee surgery, so she's sitting on a bench built into her walker. The surgery, she says, is why she’s staying at Interfaith Sanctuary -- again. Jensen says she stayed here three years ago before landing a job. Now, she can’t work.

Super Bowl suspense is building — for the game and the commercials. With an audience of over 100 million people, advertisers covet this space, but at a reported $4 million a spot, only the mightiest corporations can afford Super Bowl exposure. This year, though, there's an exception. One lucky little business will get one of those primo slots — free.

RoadsidePictures / Flickr Creative Commons

The grocery chain Albertsons plans to close several stores in the Northwest.

The Albany Democrat-Herald in Oregon reports that seven of 111 shops will be shuttered. The affected stores are in Washington and Oregon.

Albertsons spokesman Dennis McCoy says the Boise-based company is continuously evaluating its stores, pulling the plug on locations that are less profitable.

McCoy says some of the employees who worked at the affected stores may be able to transfer to a different location.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The new head of Idaho's Labor Department says the state needs to shift its focus to better paying jobs that will help grow the state's economy. 

Ken Edmunds is now in his second month as the head of Idaho’s Labor Department. The Twin Falls businessman replaced longtime labor director Roger Madsen in late November.   

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