Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Valley on cusp of developing aerospace industry cluster (Business Barometer)

by Shirl Boyce, Idaho Business Review
08/28/2006

This edition of the Boise Business Barometer is being dedicated to the aviation industry and its importance to a healthy, growing economy. As the reader will see in the article to follow, the Boise Valley has well-developed aviation facilities to service its citizens and businesses.

It will also be shown that on the one hand aviation services are an important element in our transportation infrastructure. On the other hand, aviation provides tremendous potential for establishing new industry clusters that have heretofore not existed in the Boise Valley.

In today’s world, access to aviation services is a critical element in any region’s economy. These services include scheduled air passengers or passengers and freight over regular routes. They also include transporting cargo without passengers over scheduled routes. Additionally, there are non-scheduled chartered passenger air transportation and nonscheduled chartered freight air transportation.

What is not common knowledge is that the Boise Valley has significant potential to develop a significant aerospace industry cluster (a “cluster” is a group of different but related businesses, often in close proximity to each other). Most recently, Mission Aviation Fellowship has moved its headquarters from California to the Nampa Airport. Its “mission” is to fly supplies and missionaries to remote regions of the world. Not only are they modifying aircraft for this purpose, they are training pilots here as well.

The Boise Airport has been and continues to be considered as a site for significant aircraft maintenance facilities, manufacturing of airplane equipment and parts.

The Boise Metro Area has been known as the most remote metro area in the country. Now we are being seen more and more as a “central location” for markets in the Northwest and Mountain States.

More specifically, the Boise Valley is being viewed as a potential site for distribution centers for air cargo as well as truck cargo.

A cornerstone for increases in air cargo is the Boise Airport’s new control tower, which is slowly being funded through piecemeal federal appropriations.

Another piece is the runway currently being used for training C-130 transport crews at the south end of the airport. When it is finally turned over to the airport, Boise will be one of the few inland airports with three 10,000-feet runways.

Caldwell and Nampa both have airports that service the private and charters aircraft. Mountain Home Air Force Base is also a part of the aviation mix in our metro area. All of these elements then provide the footings and foundation for what could likely become a significant new industry cluster in the Boise Valley.

Shirl Boyce is the vice president of economic development services for the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, a division of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Idaho shows ‘remarkable strength’

by Brad Carlson, Idaho Business Review
08/28/2006

The quarterly Idaho Economic Forecast covering 2006 through 2009 was released last month. The report says the state’s economic outlook has brightened since the previous forecast.

Mike Ferguson, the chief economist for Gov. Jim Risch, recently answered some questions about conditions in the state.

What is most surprising about Idaho’s economy now?

Its remarkable strength, particularly in real estate and construction-related sectors.

What factors drive the growth Idaho is experiencing in Gross State Product, jobs and income?

Gross State Product is not part of our forecast but the latest data (2005) shows 7.5 percent growth, after 10.1 percent growth in 2004.

Again, construction and real estate-related sectors seem to be the most rapidly growing. Other strength shows up in recreation and lodging-related sectors.

How does Idaho’s economic growth compare to growth in neighboring states and the entire U.S.?

Our GSP growth for 2005 was fourth fastest in the nation. Arizona, Nevada and Florida beat us, so we did better than all but one of our neighboring states.

Why is personal income growing faster in Idaho than in the entire U.S.?

The West in general is a hot part of the nation’s economy. Idaho has established that it is a good place to do business, and we are currently benefiting from relatively lower real estate prices that are attracting people from overheated markets, typically on the coasts (and Arizona). Strong in-migration pushes income growth rates higher.

What is the outlook for continued growth of GSP, jobs and income in Idaho?

In a nutshell, we see the Idaho economy decelerating modestly over the next few years, but not going into reverse. The primary reason behind this expected slowing is the cooling of the real estate and construction sectors.

What employment trends are you seeing in manufacturing, in services and in retail trade?

Manufacturing has been weak for the past five years, services have been quite strong, and retail trade has been weak but rebounded strongly in 2005.

How significant has construction been in Idaho’s recent economic growth?

Very.

What happens if the housing bubble bursts?

Bad things. But that’s not what we’re forecasting.

Why do non-manufacturing jobs continue to account for the most jobs and the most job growth?

Manufacturing is most subject to intense foreign competition, and economies in general are seeing a shift away from goods consumption into services consumption.


Will service and trade industries continue to produce strong employment gains?

Yes.

What is the current condition and outlook in the computer and electronics category?

C&E were hit hard in the 2001 recession, but this sector appears to have stabilized, with a relatively flat outlook.

What about logging and wood products?

Logging and wood products was also hit hard, but the housing and construction boom has helped it achieve modest gains over the past couple years.

The outlook is for further declines, but not as bad as the beginning of the decade.

What do you expect in the Idaho economy for the rest of this year and into early 2007?

Deceleration later this year, with lower (but positive) growth over the next several years. We expect modest declines in construction activity over the forecast horizon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Idaho Velodrome & Cycling Park planned for Eagle

Article published Aug 28, 2006
by Kathy Moeller @ Idaho Statesman
Cycling fans can't wait to spin their wheels at planned Eagle park
20-acre facility would cater to an array of bike sports

Cycling fans in the Treasure Valley say a planned 20-acre bike park that ties in with the Ridge-to-Rivers trail system could one day put Eagle on the map as Cycletown or Biketown, USA.

Eagle's largest city park — the more than 80-acre Eagle Sports Complex on Old Horseshoe Bend Road, north of Hill Road — could offer a wide array of cycling attractions, including a velodrome, mountain biking track, BMX track, skills park and jumps. Eagle wants to be known for great parks and unique outdoor recreation opportunities — that's why city leaders signed on to the bike park.

"That's really what makes this unique. There's no place that we can find that has the multiple disciplines of cycling offered in one contained location," said Douglas Tobin, a spokesman for the Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park Committee.
Individuals from across the Treasure Valley have donated about $100,000 toward building the $4.5 million Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park, which was conceived as a place to get youth and families involved in cycling.

The park's designers plan to approach corporate sponsors in their next stage of fundraising. They need $1 million in hand to begin constructing the tracks, the first phase of the park.
Concessions, seating and other buildings would be constructed in the second phase.

Idaho wine industry seeks its place in the sun

Article published Aug 28, 2006
by Joe Estrella @ Idaho Statesman

Idaho wine industry seeks its place in the sun
Federal AVA designation would recognize Snake River Valley's unique conditions

Idaho wine makers want to make the Snake River Valley as recognizable to wine aficionados as the Napa and Sonoma valleys in California.

For the last year, the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission has been waiting for a decision from the U.S. Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on whether a portion of Southwest Idaho — defined as the prehistoric Lake Idaho area — will be designated as Idaho's first-ever American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

An AVA designation, also called an appellation, would declare 8,263 square miles beginning outside of Twin Falls and ending just over the Oregon border as a region where geological, topographical and climate conditions produce grapes for wines with distinctive flavors that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the United States.
"It (the AVA) would mean that the Snake River Valley would be known for grapes would have a unique characteristic, leading to wine that would have a unique personality," said Lloyd Mahaffey, owner of the five-acre Casa D'Aguila vineyard near Eagle, which expects to have its first production harvest next year. "And that would prove that Idaho is an up-and-coming wine-growing region."

Over the years, the government has issued 172 AVAs, including 93 in Cali-
fornia. They range from the 62-acre Cole Ranch AVA in Mendocino, Calif., to the 26,000-square-mile Ohio River Valley AVA.

The Snake River Valley appellation request encompasses 10 Idaho counties, including the cities of Hagerman, Glenns Ferry, Boise, Eagle, Caldwell, Nampa and Weiser. It reaches into two Oregon counties.

Wine production is relatively new to the Treasure Valley. Commission Chairman Brad Pitler said Ste. Chapelle opened the area's first winery in Emmett in 1982. Before that, the industry was centered around the Lewiston area, until Prohibition and the difficulty of growing grapes in a cold- winter climate put most operations out of business.
The commission filed its request a year ago. Approval can take 18 months to two years. That means the green light on Idaho's first AVA could come in early 2007, says Ron Bitner, former chairman of the wine commission.

Mahaffey said an AVA designation would also be a powerful marketing tool. The serious wine drinker is often drawn to a label indicating that a bottle of wine comes from an AVA, he said.
Wine industry officials in Washington, which has nine AVAs, including three added in the last year, say it's impossible to determine whether the appellations have been responsible for the industry's runaway growth in that state. But Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, said that since 1983, when the Yakima Valley became the state's first AVA, the industry has grown from 19 wineries to 400.

"An AVA clearly denotes a distinctive style and taste for your wines," Pollard said.

The economic impact
Idaho officials have already taken note of the Idaho wine industry's impact on the economy.

Tourism officials say wine-makers will play a big role in a promotional campaign the state is planning around the food and beverage industries, with an eye toward increasing Idaho's reputation as a destination stop for wine enthusiasts.
"We want to emphasize what the wine industry can add to the tourism experience," said Carl Wilgus, administrator of the Tourism Division at Idaho Commerce and Labor.

A 2002 study by the University of Idaho said the industry injected $40 million into the Idaho economy that year, including $20 million in the Treasure Valley.

"And there has been a lot of growth since then," said Pitler, who is general manager of the Sawtooth Winery south of Nampa.
The U of I study also found that 14 wineries and 900 acres of land devoted to growing grapes produced 165,000 cases of wine. By 2006, unofficial industry statistics indicate, the number of Idaho wineries has grown to 25 and acreage to 1,600. Production is estimated at 250,000 cases at 2.4 gallons per case.

The second time around
Bitner, who owns Bitner Vineyard in Eagle, said Idaho wine makers have been trying for an AVA for the Snake River Valley for five years.

An earlier application was sitting in Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's office when it had to be destroyed along with other potentially contaminated documents during the 2001 anthrax scare in Washington D.C., he said.

The delay in filing a second application was partially caused by the fact that it took a year for the government to inform the commission that its application had been destroyed, Pitler said. It took another two years for geoscientists at Boise State University to complete a study by designed to establish the Snake River Valley's grape-growing credentials once and for all.
"You have to show the feds why your region is distinct from other regions," Bitner said.

BSU professor David Wilkins said the study found that Idaho's grape-growing season is shorter than California's, but that brevity is offset by the state's longer and warmer summer days. The extended heat produces optimum sugar levels that account for the unique quality of Idaho wines and can't be duplicated elsewhere, he said.
He said the quality of Idaho grapes is also the direct result of the south-facing slopes in the Snake River Valley, where the grapes are planted. The southern exposure provides more direct sunlight, while the slopping ground allows cold air to drain away from the grapes, thereby preventing frost damage.

At times, Wilkins said, Idaho's cold winters can work to the industry's advantage.

"Because we have cold winters, we can produce what's called 'ice wine,'" he said. "You simply let the grapes stay on vine until later in the season, which produces high-sugar grapes that are then picked and processed while frozen. You couldn't do that in California. It's another way we benefit from our more variable climate."
The Snake River Valley's elevation of about 2,800 feet is better suited for operating a vineyard than drier, colder and windier areas of eastern Idaho, Wilkins said.

Meanwhile, Bitner said a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research speculates that the global warming problem could ultimately elevate wineries located in the northernmost part of the nation to a greater prominence. He said the study's conclusion that rising temperatures could scorch grapes in hotter climates means Idaho's grape crop would be even more valuable.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What's Next for Your Taxes?

Article published Aug 27, 2006
By Gregory Hahn

What's next for your taxes?
On Friday, Idaho lawmakers raised your sales tax by a penny to pay for property-tax relief. Now they might cut taxes on groceries.

After 16 of the most bitterly fought and passionately argued legislative hours in recent memory, it may be hard to imagine Idaho's Republicans and Democrats agreeing on anything any time soon. But there's already a new consensus building at the Idaho Statehouse, despite Friday's special legislative session on taxes.

What's bringing lawmakers together is groceries.

Idaho is one of eight states that tax food at the same rate as other goods. Taxing food is largely what makes the sales tax regressive, meaning low-income people pay a greater percentage of their income on the tax than the wealthy.
And with Friday's decision to raise the sales tax to 6 percent in October to pay for property-tax relief, it's hard to find anyone at the Statehouse who doesn't want to give folks a tax break on the food they need to eat.

"You're taxed on food and clothes," Coeur d'Alene Democrat George Sayler said, "but not on a massage or a haircut."
Now, every Idahoan who files an income-tax return can claim a $20-a-person grocery tax credit — $35 if you're over age 65. When the sales tax rate rises, the credit essentially shrinks. What was once a credit on taxes for $400 worth of food will drop to a credit on $333 worth Oct. 1.

The Legislature likely will debate food taxes in its next regular session in January. The debate may hinge on two ideas: Should Idaho eliminate or lower the tax on food, or raise the credit?

Many Democrats and conservative Republicans have pushed for years to stop taxing groceries altogether. But at the moment, more lawmakers seem to be leaning toward raising the credit.
House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said a lot of Democrats want to eliminate the food tax. She's not sure she agrees because tourists would share that break, while a bigger tax credit would go just to Idahoans.

Even lawmakers who want to raise the credit haven't agreed on how much. That's one reason Gov. Jim Risch didn't include a higher credit in his bill this past week.
"The 'shock and awe' guys want to get it to $100," Oakley GOP Rep. Scott Bedke said. "There are some who think doubling has a nice ring to it."
The rule of thumb on the tax credit is that every $5 increase — say, to $25 and $40 — would cost the state $6.2 million. To boost the credit to $100 — which would cover the sales taxes on $1,667 worth of food purchases — would cost the state nearly $100 million a year.

And don't think that the next legislative session will be smooth just because lawmakers have found a general area to agree on.

The Democratic minority in the Senate tried every trick it could to knock Friday's session off the tracks, and the Republican majority countered just as aggressively. The repercussions could echo in January. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis of Idaho Falls could punish the Democrats by keeping Republican chairmen from ever holding hearings on their bills. But the Democrats could just keep the Senate clerk reading bills, which is a procedural protest that does exactly what it says and can add hours or days to any Senate action.
Complicating grocery-tax relief will be questions about state finances. State economists predicted two weeks ago that Idaho was on its way to another $200 million surplus, saying the construction and housing sectors would supply the revenues between now and July. Most of last fiscal year's surplus was spent Friday.

But a Thursday story in the Idaho Statesman about new housing-market troubles in the Treasure Valley led many lawmakers Friday to say they weren't sure what the future would bring. Many of them are still stinging from 2001, when they passed the biggest income tax cut in Idaho history, only to watch the economy crack in the following months. Two years later they had to raise the sales tax temporarily just to get by.
State revenues aren't the only question mark between now and January. Come November, voters will weigh in on some key decisions:

• Whether Risch's plan to eliminate the property tax for schools and raise the sales tax a penny was a good idea. Their verdict will not be binding.

• Whether they want the state to raise another $200 million to boost school budgets. This measure was put on the ballot before Friday's special session and originally envisioned raising the sales tax a penny, but proponents now plan to seek alternative state funding instead.
• Whether they want libertarian-leaning Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter or Democrat Jerry Brady in the governor's office.

The Republicans are counting on Idahoans to say yes, no and Otter, but any hiccup could throw the Statehouse into a struggle it hasn't seen in the several years Democrats have been relegated to a small caucus. And that could affect tax legislation on more than just groceries.
Jaquet brought up one idea that, if it catches on among Democrats, could change partisan debates on future property tax battles. Since the Republicans have pulled school funding largely away from property taxes, she said, Democrats have less reason to fight against the kind of tax system California embraced in the late 1970s that sets a maximum rate at which a home's taxes can grow each year. "Maybe it's time for Prop 13-style reform," Jaquet said.

Meanwhile, the most conservative Republicans still aren't 100 percent behind the sales-tax increase they supported. Some hope they can slide it back to 5.5 percent or even 5 percent.

Challis Republican Rep. Lenore Barrett has opposed virtually every bill that has ever even hinted at a tax increase, but she voted with the governor Friday. Still wanting the Legislature to cut budgets and restrict funding, she said the fat lady hadn't sung yet.
"She can't sing unless you put her on stage," Barrett said.

Tax plan passes; Burden shifts from property to sales

Gregory Hahn
Idaho Statesman
The Idaho Statesman | Edition Date: 08-26-2006

Almost as many Republicans as Democrats vote against the plan in the House

It wasn't pretty — and it certainly wasn't quick — but Gov. Jim Risch has his tax bill to sign.

His plan to cut property taxes by about one-fifth and raise the sales tax a penny passed the Legislature more than 14 hours after the gavels fell to start Friday's special one-day session. Risch plans to sign the bill next week.

The measure will:
• Eliminate the $260 million property tax for school maintenance and operations.
• Raise $219 million a year by raising the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent starting Oct. 1.
• Use the $200 million surplus to cover the rest of the costs of the property tax cut and to pour $100 million into a rainy day fund for schools.
• Add a question to the ballot in November to ask voters if they agree with the changes.

Risch said the bill would provide substantial property-tax relief. The bill sputtered through a stilted House hearing Friday morning that was overflowing with people, although just two members of the public were allowed to testify. It survived several procedural attacks and a 21/2-hour debate on the House floor and passed 47-23 with almost as many Republicans (11) as Democrats (12) voting against it.

The plan sparked a 6-3 vote in the Senate tax committee, which is chaired by one of the idea's biggest opponents. The bill passed the Idaho Senate late Friday night, 24-11, proving Risch had indeed convinced the very lawmakers who killed similar ideas three times in April. "It's not a quick fix," McCall Republican Rep. Ken Roberts said. "It's a long-term solution that we talked about here today."

Democrats tried but failed throughout the day to get their alternative proposal heard.

They wanted to cut the school tax only for people who own the homes they live in — not businesses, vacation-home owners or farmers — at a cost of $105 million a year, without raising the sales tax. Senate Democrats tried repeatedly to lodge an official protest, saying Risch's bill and his calling of the special session were unconstitutional. But Majority Leader Bart Davis, an Idaho Falls lawyer, thwarted the attempts with the help of Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Ricks, who was presiding over his first — and probably only — legislative day.

Former Supreme Court Justice and Democratic lawmaker Robert Huntley has said Risch's call was illegal. Idaho Democratic Party spokesman Chuck Oxley said the protest was a "legal bookmark" that could help a lawsuit to block the changes if Democrats or other Idahoans decide to sue. Risch has argued for the past month that the concepts he included in the bill have been hashed out before. To be sure, few new ideas were brought forward Friday.

No Republicans joined Democratic efforts to thwart the progress of the day's actions, but some spoke strongly against what the bill would do.

Boise Rep. Steve Smylie, who recently lost the GOP primary for superintendent of schools, spoke for about half an hour against the measure in the House. Meridian GOP Sen. Hal Bunderson, in his last likely appearance as the chairman of the Senate tax committee, had agreed with his fellow Republicans that he wouldn't block the bill from moving to the floor for a full vote, but he didn't withhold his criticism.

"I'm deeply concerned that this bill has more to do with education than it does with tax policy," he said. "We are changing in a day the way we fund education in a very profound way."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Special session convenes today (Property Taxes)

Article published Aug 25, 2006
by Gregory Hahn, Bill Roberts and Shawna Gamache

Special session convenes today (Check back all day long for updates from the special session)
Lawmakers will take up governor's tax proposal

The Idaho Legislature convenes this morning to vote on Gov. Jim Risch's plan to cut property tax and increase the sales tax. Statehouse leaders say the measure will pass.
That didn't keep several groups of educators, parents, advocates for the poor and Democrats from trying Thursday to stop the train. The Democrats even stood in front of the Boise Depot to make the point.

"What we have here is a special-interest session from a special interest governor," said House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum, wearing a blue-and-white train conductor's hat. "We're not going to be railroaded by you guys."
Senate Democrats conducted their own public hearing Thursday night, with about 50 people in attendance to hear about the minority party plan — which Risch won't allow to be introduced in today's special session.

About 75 educators and parents turned out at Borah High School's parking lot Thursday afternoon to protest the plan. "Our schools are horribly underfunded," said Siva Laughlin, a Nampa homeowner and property taxpayer.
She's concerned that her sixth-grade daughter must attend classes packed with up to 40 students and ride a school bus crowded with high schoolers because her district cannot afford a separate route for middle school.

"We are kind of squished," said Laughlin's daughter, Celena Sanchez.
Brenda Miller, a former state PTA president, told the Borah crowd that Risch's doesn't plan to use the state's $200 million surplus to buy another textbook or fix a leaky roof. "Just think what ($200 million) could do for your kids," Miller said.

Earlier in the day, about a dozen advocates for the poor, Idaho women, teachers and social workers spoke about the tax plan in front of the Statehouse steps.

United Vision for Idaho and social worker Bill Whitaker said the plan is unfair because businesses and second-home owners would get much of the tax break, while Idahoans buying food would pay more sales tax. The Rev. Elizabeth Greene, a Unitarian minister, said it was immoral and unethical to ask low-income people to pay for tax breaks for the rich.
Risch has called the Legislature back to town to:

• Eliminate the $260 million property tax that pays for school maintenance and operations.
• Raise the sales tax by a penny to bring in $219 million.

• Use the state's $200 million surplus to pay for the rest of the cut and to put $100 million into a rainy-day fund for schools.

Democrats want to cut the school tax just for people who live in their own homes, while requiring other property owners to continue to pay it. Their $105 million plan includes no sales tax increase.
Risch said before he called the special session a month ago that he wouldn't bring the lawmakers back unless he was sure he had a majority. Thursday, key lawmakers said that majority was holding.

In the past few days, groups on both sides have been running radio ads, and Risch and the Democrats have each toured much of the state to spread their messages.

New Cabela Sports Store Opens in Boise

"Preview the new Cabela's, open today"

Article published Aug 25, 2006
by Rober Phillips and Pete Zimowsky

Preview the new Cabela's, open today
Roger and Zimo explore the sporting goods legend's vast new Boise store

We got a chance at a sneak preview of Cabela’s new store Thursday afternoon, and you can bet your last No. 2 steel shot load that we took it faster than you could drop a mallard coming into the decoys.

Decoys! Heck, there are between 150,000 and 175,000 unique items in the 132,000-square-foot super outdoors store, and that’s not counting the regular stuff they sell.

It was tough for us to stay focused because this was an official assignment, and we couldn’t buy anything. But someone had to give you a preview of the opening day, which is today.

Here goes. Zimo and Roger unleashed in Cabela’s:

Zimo: Roger, Roger, forget the big polar bear. Look at this fully furnished wall tent. It’s got cots, sleeping bags, a stove and a whole kitchen set. What a way to relax in elk camp.

Roger: Pete, you’ve seen wall tents before, check out the Conservation Mountain - it’s like a museum.

Lording over the two-story display of stuffed animals is the Grand Slam of sheep. It’s one of North America’s greatest hunting accomplishments to get all four species of wild sheep. There’s some world-class elk, mule deer and whitetails as well.

But you would expect those at a Cabela’s store. Check out the polar bear, musk ox and arctic fox, and around the corner are pronghorns and ground squirrels.

Several unique ecosystems are represented. Look on the ground near that big bull elk. That’s a spruce grouse.

I usually prefer live animals to stuffed ones, but I will make an exception with that stuffed skunk. It smells a lot better than the real thing.

Zimo: Sheep, sleep. You’ve got to see this Cabela’s cot tent. It unfolds into a cot wrapped in a tent. What convenience. You just crawl inside and go to sleep. And, you’re off the ground. My back would love this thing.

Roger: I’m heading back to the General Store. They’re making fudge in there.

I just sampled the Moose Drool Chocolate fudge. It’s one of about 30 varieties they make right in the store. The Moose Drool has peanut butter cups, walnuts, marshmallows and drizzled whipped carmel in it.

The General Store also is educational. Did you know “penuchi” is brown sugar? I didn’t. You can learn a lot hanging out at the fudge counter.

Zimo: Fudge, smudge (OK, it really did taste good). Look over here at this beavertail canoe paddle. I’ve been looking everywhere for a beavertail canoe paddle. They’re great for whitewater paddling.

Roger: Canoe paddle? I can sit around in my underwear and order one of those from the Cabela’s catalog.

You’ve got to see the Elmer Keith exhibit. He was one of Idaho’s most famous gun writers.

You’ve really got to tip your 10-gallon hat to the folks at Cabela’s who took the idea of an Elmer Keith museum and ran with it.

Elmer’s son, Ted, who lives in Nampa, and his friend Al Marion of Garden Valley planted the idea with Cabela’s top honchos back in November. Elmer’s stuff was spread all over the state, and they thought Cabela’s would be a great place to gather it for public display.

The store has a whole wing devoted to the writer, and there’s more stuff to come. I bet ol’ Elmer would give a big “aw shucks” and be mighty proud of how they recreated his writing den and displayed some of his big game trophies and favorite firearms.

Zimo: There are decoys flying around the store. Flying duck decoys. Yikes!

Wait, look over here, there are a ton of Wiggle Warts in all colors. The steelhead love them. I like the blues and greens. And look at these huge rainbow trout pillows. My grandkid’s going to love one of these.

Roger: Pulling you away from that fishing gear and other stuff is tougher than hauling a “B” run steelhead out of the Clearwater. How about looking at all these fish swimming around in the big aquariums? There’s a catfish as big as my leg in there.

It looks like Brownlee Reservoir in one of the tanks. It’s got bass, crappie, perch, bluegill and pike.

The other tank has lots of fat trout, but it looks like they had a rough trip getting there. Their fins and tails look pretty tattered. But it’s still fun to look at them, especially those goofy golden rainbow trout that you see in Hagerman. Kids will love those.

Zimo: Who wants to look at fish? I’d rather fish and hunt.

Look, this pair of waders has a clip-on shotgun shell holder. Do you know how many times I lose shotgun shells out of my pocket while duck hunting? These are awesome. Mine have holes in them.

Roger: Sorry, Pete, but you’re not going to get me out of this African diorama for waders. I’ve been fascinated with Africa since growing up with Marlon Perkins and Jim Fowler on Wild Kingdom.

It’s pretty neat seeing zebra, lion and rhino in the diorama. It’s even cooler seeing lesser-known members of the antelope family like kudu, klipspringer, duiker and gerenuk. You don’t get a chance to see those in Idaho every day.

Zimo: Look at all these spices, and there’s a jerky-making kit. ... Somehow rhino jerky doesn’t sound good.

Look here, full-body coyote, deer, turkey and bear targets for bow hunters, purple Crocs, camp PJs, a camo steering wheel for your truck, wood stove for a wall tent, Cajun duck marinade.

Quit blowing that elk call.

Whew!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Costco opens Nampa store next week

Article published Aug 19, 2006
Ken Dey @ The Idaho Statesman

Costco opens Nampa store next week
City officials hope to keep shoppers in town, lure others from outlying areas

The new Costco in Nampa will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The opening of the members-only warehouse store has been a long-awaited event for Canyon County shoppers, who have had to drive to Boise if they wished to shop at a Costco.

"Many residents have commented that this is long overdue, and we are anxious and excited to be part of the beautiful area," Norm Peterson, manager of the Nampa store, said in a news release.
The 151,000-square-foot store is at 16700 N. Marketplace Blvd., on the north corner of Karcher Road and Midland Boulevard. The store is about 15,000 square feet smaller than the Boise Costco.

"I think everyone is excited about the Costco opening," said Sharla Arledge, the public information officer for the city of Nampa. "Not only will it be a convenience for the people living in Nampa, but will draw a lot of people from Meridian to Ontario."
Keeping existing shoppers in Nampa and drawing others to the city will also help existing businesses, Arledge said.

The Nampa Costco will feature all of the departments available at other locations including a bakery, produce section, deli and fresh meat department.

The store will also have an optical department with a doctor of optometry, a one-hour photo processing area, a pharmacy, a tire center, a hearing aid center, a wine section and a food court. And it will have an on-site gas station.
The Nampa store is the company's fourth in Idaho and 356th in the United States.

The Costco store is one of the anchors of the Treasure Valley Marketplace that will also include a Target and a Kohl's. Other stores in the project include the Dress Barn, Maurice's, Famous Footwear, Michael's, Old Navy, Petco, Best Buy and Del Taco. Developers say the entire marketplace should be open by spring 2007.
On the east side of Nampa, another members-only warehouse store is set to open this fall when Wal-Mart opens a Sam's Club across from the Idaho Center on Franklin Road, adjacent to a new Wal-Mart Supercenter. Across I-84 from the Idaho Center, work on the new Gateway shopping center is under way. It will include a J.C. Penney.

California family makes Idaho home

Article published Aug 16, 2006
Hilary Costa @ The Idaho Statesman

California family makes Idaho home

Uwe and Karen Ruttke decided in 2004 to move from California to the Treasure Valley — but the rest of their family beat them to it.

Soon after purchasing their lot two years ago in Eagle's Castlebury subdivision, the Ruttkes announced their intentions to their family members, most of whom were living near them in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the time between then and the day their moving truck arrived on Aug. 7, Uwe's parents and brother, and Karen's grandparents and mother, all trickled in to Idaho.

"There's nobody in our family left there," Karen said.
Many Idahoans grumble about the influx of Californians like the Ruttkes into the Treasure Valley — and it's no secret to the newcomers. One of the first tasks Karen checked off was switching her license plates.

The way these transplants explain it, however, they picked Idaho for the exact same reasons long-time residents cherish it: safety, affordability and a slower pace of life. The Ruttkes also picked the Treasure Valley for its well-known status as a great place to raise a family.
The Ruttkes' 5,500-square-foot custom home set on an acre in the neighborhood off Chinden Boulevard was a frenzy of unpacking last week as Uwe (pronounced "Oova"), Karen and their daughters Kathryn, 7, and Kristin, 4, embarked on their new life in Eagle. Their four-bedroom, four-bathroom home, built by Boise's Tradewinds Building Co., boasts a wine room, a craft room and two offices — including one for the girls.

The best part of the move for Kristin and Kathryn was the swimming pool of packing paper that grew in the dining room as Karen unpacked. The girls gleefully submerged themselves in the piles of crumpled paper and burst out of it to surprise a visitor entering the front door.

Though the girls have their own bedrooms connected by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, they sleep in matching twin beds in the same room because, Karen believes, it will give them a stronger bond. Karen said their family is fortunate enough to be able to afford the extra space, but she doesn't want her daughters to take it for granted or isolate themselves from one another. She likes hearing Kathryn and Kristin chatter and giggle together after she puts them to bed at night.
But the Ruttkes are making sacrifices to give their daughters the kind of childhood they want them to have. Uwe's job as a financial planner and asset manager is still in California. For the foreseeable future he will commute to the Bay Area, spending as much time as possible with the rest of his family in Idaho.

"The challenge for me will be when Uwe is out here, I want him to feel like he's at home, not just visiting," Karen said.

Idaho ranks sixth best state for business

Article published Aug 19, 2006

Idaho ranks sixth best for business

Idaho is the sixth best state for business, according to Forbes Magazine's first-ever state business climate rankings.

The Forbes rankings take into account business costs, economic climate, growth prospects, labor, quality of life, and regulatory environment.

Virginia was rated the best state for business, with neighboring Utah taking fourth. Hurricane-ravaged Louisiana was ranked the worst state for business.
Idaho received its highest marks for economic climate, for which it ranked second, and its lowest marks for regulatory, for which it ranked 34th.

In May, Boise was ranked the fourth best metropolitan area for business by Forbes, down from first place a year before.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Idaho-IncomeProperty.com has arrived!


Announcing the rollout of Idaho-IncomeProperty.com, my new website focused on investing in Idaho and beyond. If you are looking to invest in the Boise, Idaho area, please visit my website for MLS Search, Featured Propeties (some of which are NOT on the MLS and Investor Resources. I hope you find my website helpful and easy to use in your quest for the right inevstment in our area. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

Regards
Mike Hon
Investment Property Specialist
208 919 0458

Getting ready for the EXPO in San Francisco!



Yes, I am getting ready for the Learning Annex Real Estate Wealth Expo.. I will be at the Stevens Realty booth #507. The dates are Sat. and Sun., Aug. 26 and 27 at the Moscone Center in Downtown San Francisco. Come by and register to win a copy of Gary Keller's book, "The Millionaire Real Estate Investor". I will be giving away ten copies, you can register on my website at this link. Just type in "SFO EXPO" in the comments section and submit. Make sure you visit my website at Idaho-IncomeProperty.com.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Breathing Room

Fixed mortgage interest rates fell slightly this week, with the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) decreasing by two basis points (.02%) to 6.62%, according to the nation's widest survey of mortgage prices. Five-one Hybrid ARMs finished the week at an average 6.35%, unchanged from last week.

The Federal Reserve decided not to raise short-term interest rates last week, noting that moderating economic growth is helping to restrain inflation. This week's crop of data not only confirms that decision, but bolsters expectations that the Fed will stay its hand at its September meeting.

Housing starts fell by 2.5% in July, more than expected, to just fewer than 1.8 million units, but more notable is that housing permits -- the precursor to starts -- dropped 6.5%. And while housing starts are off 13% from a year ago, permits have plummeted by 21% in that period. Builders are holding off on new construction due to the increasing inventory of unsold homes, which the National Association of Home Builders attributed to the "wait-and-see attitude" of potential buyers. Unsurprisingly, the NAHB's Housing Market Index, which measures builder optimism, fell for the seventh straight month to land at a pessimistic 32, its lowest point in 15 years. Next week's report on home sales will tell us more about the softening of the nation's housing market.

The much-anticipated reports on inflation showed that the Producer Price Index rose a modest 0.1% in July, due largely to rising energy prices. Excluding food and energy costs, the PPI's 'core' number fell by an unexpected 0.3% last month, which was the first decline since last October. Inflation at the retail level also brought good news, as the Consumer Price Index rose an as-predicted 0.4% in July, again mostly due to the higher cost of energy, after a 0.2% increase in June. The CPI's 'core' index rose 0.2% in July, down from 0.3% seen over the past several months. Taken together, the two figures suggest that inflation slowed, but of course one month doesn't make a trend. It's also worth keeping in mind that while the PPI figures reflect the items you see on store shelves, the cost of the materials needed to make them (what economists call 'crude goods') are climbing, some sharply, behind the scenes. The question is when, or whether, those more-expensive goods will make their impact known in the prices at the store; there may come a time when producers can no longer absorb those rising costs.

Back on the producer side, Industrial Production rose by 0.4% in July, where a gain of 0.6% was predicted due to the temporary increase in the demand for electricity during last month's heat wave. Factory capacity utilization rose 82.4%, up a notch from a downward revised 82.3% for June; it was the highest level in six years and more than 2% higher than a year ago. Along those lines, the survey of manufacturing conditions from the Federal Reserve bank in Philadelphia rang in at 18.5, up from just 6 a month ago -- the highest level since April 2005. Its New York counterpart pegged its index at 10.3, indicating that activity is still growing in the area, although at a slower pace than evidenced by last month's upwardly revised reading of 16.6.

What does the man on the street think about the big picture? High (if somewhat stable) energy prices, a slowdown in the housing market exacerbated by uncertainty about interest rates, personal finances and such may not be enough to offset decent news on the inflation front. The weekly ABC News/Washington Post survey of consumer comfort fell to -15 for the week ended August 13, a drop of 3 points. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell more than expected, to 78.7 from 84.7 last month, largely due to concerns about higher gas prices but also reflective of consumers' expectations for the coming months. Since the figure is preliminary, it's not unusual for later revisions to improve it.

On the jobs front, initial jobless claims fell by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000 for the week ending August 12. Although fewer people filed for the first time, the Labor Department also reported that continuing jobless claims rose by 34,000 to 2.51 million in the week ending August 5.

Finally, the index of leading economic indicators released by the Conference Board fell 0.1% in July, erasing June's increase. Of the 10 indicators that comprise the index, half were better than last month but the rest, which includes housing permits, were worse off. Overall, the index seems to suggest that the economy might start to cool in the months ahead.

Taken together, this week's data will strengthen those members who voted to forego a rate increase at their last meeting. It will also give the Fed a little breathing room before their next meeting in September; at the moment, the betting is that the Fed won't have to raise rates.

Next week will be light on economic data, but as noted, the latest report on home sales (and appreciation) will be closely watched. Both new and existing homes are predicted to show a slight decline, but we won't know the whole story until Wednesday.

The better-than-expected reports on core inflation, coupled with the softening of the housing market, helped the yield on ten-year Treasury to drop from 5% midweek to 4.84% at the close of business Friday. Based on that, I'd expect to see a decline of a few basis points in mortgage rates next week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Meridian purchases creamery site for new city hall


The city of Meridian has finalized the purchase of the old Meridian Creamery that will eventually become the new city hall. The purchase was final on Aug. 3.

City officials said the two-acre site, in historic downtown Meridian between Main Street and Meridian Road and Broadway Avenue, was chosen for its central location.

The dilapidated creamery site is being secured by a chain link fence and demolition is scheduled to begin in six- to eight-weeks. The new city hall will be a four-story, 80,000-square-foot building featuring a public plaza and "water feature."

The city purchased the property for $2.4 million, and city leaders say staff may move in during spring 2008.

The project’s architects, LCA of Boise, are currently working on site plan concepts, and construction management firm Petra Inc., of Meridian, is making preparations for site demolition.

Man behind BoDo plans $130 million development that includes a new library south of Downtown core


Joe Estrella
Idaho Statesman
Aug. 11, 2006

The man who developed the BoDo district in Downtown Boise wants to turn six blocks south of BoDo into an upscale urban neighborhood with condominiums, stores, offices and a new $42 million public library.

As first reported Thursday night on Idahostatesman.com, Mark Rivers' proposed $130 million development, which he calls the Library Blocks, would revitalize an increasingly blighted section of the city south of the Downtown core. The Library Blocks would be twice as large as BoDo, extending west from Capitol Boulevard to Ninth Street and from Myrtle Street south to the the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial by the Boise River.

The featured attraction would be the new three-story library on the site of the existing library between 8th Street and Capitol. The new library would cost Boise $2 million a year, but Rivers said the Library Blocks would generate enough new tax revenue to cover the cost.

Rivers said Boise has an "amazing Downtown, just waiting to go to another level with more people living and working in an urban environment." His success with the two-year $60 million BoDo (short for Boise Downtown) redevelopment of the historic 8th Street Marketplace will help attract financing and local government support for the Library Blocks, he said. BoDo is now almost entirely leased.

"You know my philosophy about real estate development: You either go big, or you go home," Rivers said in an exclusive interview with the Idaho Statesman. "My vision about urban development is a neighborhood at a time, not a building at a time. A building at a time takes forever."

Some of the condominiums would be affordable for Downtown workers, and that should help secure support from Boise officials, Rivers said.

"Our ability to create significant housing, especially work-force housing, and a spectacular cultural and community asset will help seal the deal," he said.

If all goes well, Rivers said, construction could begin in mid-2007 and be completed two years later.

Early reaction among civic leaders, academics and lower Downtown business owners ranged from support to caution.

Among the supporters is Boise City Historian Todd Shallatt. He called the overall project the latest piece in a developing lower Downtown landscape that would start at the new Linen District between 13th and 16th streets, extend east through a proposed convention center between 11th and 13th streets and to BoDo between Ninth and Capitol, and reach south through the Library Blocks.

"That area is ripe for redevelopment," Shallatt said. "You have a chance to galvanize the lower Downtown area with almost a new city."

GATEWAY TO DOWNTOWN

With Julia Davis Park and the Boise Art Museum across the street, the Library Blocks would transform Capitol into the "gateway to Downtown" the city has envisioned since the 1940s, Shallatt said.

Rivers hopes to persuade Mayor Dave Bieter and the Capital City Development Corp., the city's urban-renewal agency, to join the project. Rivers says the project is "doable" because all of the properties are owned by him, the city or CCDC.

"You don't have to try and get 10 different landowners on a single block to agree to something," he said. "You have three parties that have a history of working together."

Bieter is reserving judgment.

"It's an exciting (overall) project, because the library system has not been adequate since I was 14 years old," Bieter told the Statesman. "But we have to do our due diligence on how to pay for this."

Bieter said a new library would help meet a vital need and shore up an inadequate city service. The city has hired a consultant to come up with "three or four scenarios" that could be used to solicit public comment on the proposed new library, he said.

Economic benefits

The blocks to be redeveloped include businesses like the Renewal consignment-furniture store and a 24-hour FedEx/Kinko's photocopying shop. But they also include empty, deteriorating warehouse buildings. Rivers said they generate enough tax revenue now to pay for one city police officer.

"The seven acres of land owned by the city, CCDC and myself will generate $55,000 in property taxes in 2006," he said. "With my plan, by 2009, those properties will generate over $2 million every year. We ought to be in the business of recycling property and generating tax revenue out of our key parcels."

Boise State University economic professor Don Holley agreed.

"The economic impact would be some multiple of the cost of building the project," he said. "And not just in the Downtown area. The jobs created would be concentrated Downtown, but the impact would be throughout the Boise Valley because the person (working Downtown and) living in Meridian spends their money in Meridian."

Tom Lay, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit that develops affordable housing throughout the Treasure Valley, said government funding would be used to provide subsidized work-force housing for 40 families earning up to 140 percent of Idaho's median family income of $51,000.

"We're talking about people who have good jobs, but are still finding it hard to find a home," Lay said. "We're also going to be talking to major employers in the area about helping their employees own a Downtown condo that would be priced under $200,000."

BUSINESSES BACK PROJECT

An informal survey of lower Downtown businesses found support for the project.

At Scooters of Boise, 701 Fulton St., sales and marketing manager Valerie Aker said the development would encourage consumers to cross Myrtle Street during Downtown events like Live After 5 and First Thursday.

"Right now a lot of people don't know that there is something else below Myrtle," Aker said.

Bringing in new housing would build on the recent Downtown residential construction that is discouraging people "from just leaving Downtown at 5 p.m.," she said.
Mike Fitzgerald, owner of the TableRock Brewpub & Grill, 705 Fulton St., said that just as BoDo removed the "invisible wall" that prevented consumers from crossing Front Street, Rivers' new development would reinvigorate a lower Downtown area that been waiting for such plan for more than 10 years.

"Anybody who isn't excited about an upgraded and vibrant Downtown is a little crazy," he said.

Money Magazine ranks Boise, ID 8th best place to live

Here the link to the article on Money Magazines website.

Fed pauses, mortgage rates dive

Adjustable-loan borrowers may rush refi market

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Inman News

Mortgage rates dropped for the third consecutive week after the release of a disappointing labor market report and the Federal Reserve's subsequent decision to discontinue its interest-rate hikes, according to surveys conducted by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.com.

In Freddie Mac's survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to an average 6.55 percent this week, down from last week's average of 6.63 percent. The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also sank from last week, falling from 6.27 percent to 6.2 percent.

Points, which are fees charged by lenders for loan processing expressed as a percent of the loan, averaged 0.4 on the 30- and 15-year loans.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 6.21 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 6.27 percent. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM average remained at 5.69 percent, with an average 0.8 point.

"The weaker-than-expected jobs report combined with the Fed's decision to pass on raising rates at its last meeting led directly to lower rates this week," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. "Interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages have dropped to levels last seen in the spring of this year.

"Lower rates may bring about a rise in refinancing activity as homeowners with ARMs getting ready to reset decide to take advantage by locking into a fixed-rate mortgage now rather than waiting until the adjustment date when rates may be higher."

In Bankrate.com's survey, mortgage rates declined for the third week in a row and the fifth time in the last six weeks, as the Federal Reserve held interest rates steady for the first meeting since May 2004. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.57 percent, the lowest since April 19, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey of large lenders, and these loans had an average of 0.32 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular for refinancing, dropped by a similar amount to 6.25 percent, Bankrate.com reported. On larger loans, the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate declined to 6.79 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages also backtracked, with the average 5/1 ARM sliding to 6.32 percent and the average one-year ARM retreating to 6.01 percent.

News of slower economic growth, such as a disappointing number of new jobs added in July, reinforced the Fed's assertion that a cooling economy and the 17 interest-rate hikes already implemented would be enough to tame inflation, Bankrate.com noted. As a result, the Fed's record streak of 17 consecutive interest-rate hikes is over, buying the Fed some time to see if that scenario plays out. With the Fed casting aside inflation concerns and focusing on a slowing economy, the Fed followed the lead of the bond market. Yields on long-term government bonds, to which fixed mortgage rates are closely related, had been declining in anticipation of the Fed's pause. But with inflation still very much an issue, this trend may not hold much longer.

Bankrate.com reported that fixed mortgage rates have fallen more than one-third of a percentage point since the Fed last hiked rates at the end of June. At the time, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.93 percent, meaning that the monthly payment on a loan of $165,000 was $1,090. With the average 30-year fixed rate now 6.57 percent, the same loan originated today would carry a monthly payment of $1,051. With the recent pullback, fixed mortgage rates remain an attractive refinancing alternative for adjustable-rate borrowers facing sharp payment adjustments, Bankrate.com said.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Michael Hon Passes Idaho Broker Exam

Yes, I finally did it! I passed my Idaho Brokers Exam today. In Oct., after completing some more required eduction, I should be at Associate Broker status.

Harvard Study: Housing Market slowdown is merely a breather

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University just issued their 2006 report on the nation's housing market. The conclusion is that cooling home sales won't last long because continuing strong household growth will fuel more housing demand. Over the next 10 years there will be at least 2 million more new households than were formed over the past decade. "On the strength of this growth alone, housing production should set records", the report says. Don't expect prices to plunge as a result of the current slowdown. Markets are neither seeing big employment drops nor overbuilding in housing supply - two conditions that precipitated price falls in the past.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Boise will be easy to sell, recruiter says

Article published Aug 8, 2006
Ken Dey @ The Idaho Stateman
Boise will be easy to sell, recruiter says
New executive director brings almost 20 years experience in California with him

Paul Hiller, 64, is no stranger to economic development. For nearly 20 years he has recruited companies to California. He spent a decade working at the California Department of Commerce and most recently was president and chief executive officer of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership in Riverside, Calif.

In the two years he led that partnership, Hiller helped create more than 1,500 jobs in the Riverside area by bringing in everything from corporate headquarters to advanced manufacturing facilities. Now he brings that experience to Boise to help expand the area's economy by attracting companies to create high-paying jobs.

Last week Hiller was named executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership. The partnership was started by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. The chamber solicited donations from hundreds of businesses and has collected $5 million to recruit companies to the area. Hiller's goal is to bring in new jobs that pay at least $40,000 a year.
Hiller, who will start in October, recently sat down to talk about Boise and the surrounding area, and his plans for the partnership.
How hard will it be to sell the Boise area to companies looking to expand?
I don't think it will be a hard sell at all. I really believe this is a great product and compared to the product I currently sell, there is absolutely no comparison. The Inland Empire of Southern California has some real issues, but Boise has everything that an economic development person dreams about. The vibrant, high-rise Downtown area, the major corporations that are already here, the modern airport, a great work force and great universities and colleges. You couldn't ask for a better product. And the irony is that it's the best-kept secret in the Western states. But as I've been telling everybody, that's about to change.
What kinds of industries and companies will you be targeting for expansion?
What we're going to see are corporate headquarters, regional offices and technology-driven companies compatible with tech firms that are here already. We're going to see advanced manufacturing in areas like medical devices and pharmaceuticals. We want to see $40,000-a-year blue collar jobs and $75,000-a-year white collar jobs. We want to shape our growth in a well-planned and orderly manner that brings the kind of jobs we want that will lead to a better standard of living for people in the area.
Boise has been recognized with national rankings in magazines like Forbes. Hasn't that helped raise the awareness of the area?
I don't think it has had that much of an impact. I have talked to a lot of executives in California, and I have asked them what they think of when they think of Boise, and I can't get a response. They're not sure what's here. We have to raise the level of awareness about the area, and we're planning an aggressive public-relations campaign to do that. We will bring in a major public-relations firm, most likely New York-based, to develop an aggressive program to pitch stories to business writers all over the U.S. We will also personally sell the state with business-attraction missions that will get us in front of prospect companies and site-search consultants throughout the U.S.
The Boise area has a very low unemployment rate, and that can make it difficult to recruit companies, because there is a fear they won't be able to find a work force. Is that a factor that concerns you?
It is a factor to consider, and it can be a challenging factor, if there was no population growth in the region. But if you look at Boise's population growth, it's one of the fastest in the U.S. Workers are pouring into this Valley, and that makes a big difference in terms of companies trying to find the kinds of workers and numbers of workers they're looking for.
How will you work with other economic development organizations?
We want to work cooperatively with the state and other regions. But more important to us are the cities and counties in our region. They need to be actively participating in this and have a voice. We're not looking to compete directly with other regions in Idaho, and we're not looking to compete directly with anyone in particular. There's a big market out there, and we intend to get our fair share of it. Our direct competition will be coming more from other states with very aggressive programs.
Historically, Idaho hasn't been able to provide the type of incentives other states offer to attract companies. Does that put us at a disadvantage?
I think incentives are probably the most overrated part of economic development. I have never had incentives to work with, and we've had phenomenal success without incentives. Incentives are necessary when you're dealing with companies that are so cost-conscious that they're probably not paying the wages we're interested in.
There's been an ongoing effort to open a community college in the area. How important is that for your recruiting efforts?
It would certainly be helpful to have a community college and be able to offer that for the kind of training programs companies need rather than baccalaureate programs, but it's not the key to success for us.
Are there any particular geographic areas you will be targeting?
We will be doing a national effort, but obviously we're going to be targeting California, which is the big state and has more companies, more business and more opportunities than anyone else does. I also expect to see a lot of companies that expand in this area coming from the Midwest and East Coast.
One of the attractions of this area is relatively low housing prices, short commutes and a smaller population, but as we grow there will be more pressure put on the area. How do we keep Boise from turning into the big cities you're recruiting from?
Because the population is growing, there will always be growth pressure. But it all boils down to land use and planning, and smart growth. It's carefully targeting the companies that will provide the wage levels we need and are compatible with growth plans and land use plans.

Property taxes explained in Internet video

by IBR Staff Report, Idaho Business Review
07/03/2006

With the click of a mouse, Ada County residents watch an educational video about Idaho’s property tax system.
Anyone who visits www.adaweb.net will have access to an eight-minute video that explains how Ada County properties are appraised and how their values are assessed. The video also explains special taxing districts, how tax levies are set, and where property tax dollars are spent once they are collected.

People interested in learning more about the state’s tax system will find a special link to the video posted in the “County Spotlight” box on the homepage. Due to file size, the video is best viewed with a high-speed or broadband Internet connection.

“We want to make sure property owners have all the facts when it comes to navigating Idaho’s complicated tax law,” says Ada County Commissioner Fred Tilman.

One topic viewers will learn more about is the authority of special taxing districts.

Currently in Ada County, there are 49-separate taxing districts that include school districts, fire districts, irrigation districts, libraries, cemeteries, cities and Ada County.

Each district is given the authority to use property tax dollars to fund its annual budget. By law, budgets cannot increase by more than 3 percent over the previous year’s total. That budget total is then used to calculate how much each property owner (located with the specific tax district) must pay to fully fund the budget. The law does not permit the collection of tax dollars in excess of a taxing district’s budget.

The Idaho Association of Counties, in conjunction with Boise State University, produced and funded the educational video in June of last year. Copies of the video have been made available to all of Idaho’s 44 counties.

City plans development of new Meridian interchange

by Brad Carlson, Idaho Business Review
07/03/2006

The Meridian City Council on June 22 approved a $97,460 contract with a Boise firm to plan the area of the future Ten Mile Interchange.
The Idaho Transportation Department won’t finish the Ten Mile Road interchange with Interstate 84 until 2009. But Meridian planners aim to start the formal planning process this week by holding the initial meeting with engineering and architectural firm HDR July 7, city Comprehensive Planning Manager Steve Siddoway said.

The affected area lies within Meridian’s impact area, and the city plans to annex it as development unfolds, he said. City crews have done some utility work in the area recently.

“As a city, we’re looking to make Ten Mile a showcase for the state of Idaho as to how an interchange, land use and the local transportation system can be developed together,” Siddoway said.

Components of the specific-area plan include a market study.

“We want to make sure our planning efforts are grounded in the market realities for the area and the region,” Siddoway said.

HDR and Meridian planners also will evaluate transportation needs in the interchange area, and recommend building design guidelines, Siddoway said.

“The mayor and City Council desire to increase the quality of development in Meridian, and we are using the Ten Mile Interchange area to develop those standards,” he said. “We will be looking at things like basic building design elements, site design and how a building relates to parking areas and the adjacent roadways.”

The transportation component will address traffic patterns and intersection capacity, trip generation, access management and impacts on land uses.

“We expect to see some access control to provide for smooth traffic flows along Ten Mile Road,” Siddoway said, “and as such, we need to look at a series of collectors and possibly backage roads that will provide the commercial access to the areas around the interchange.”

Meridian planners and HDR intend to start interviewing stakeholders and coordinating efforts with various agencies immediately after the July 7 meeting.

The city plans to hold public meetings, including a four-day planning workshop during the last week of September, Siddoway said.

“We will take all the information that we have gathered and all the preliminary work we have done, sit down and start working out the issues,” he said.

H.W. Lochner Inc., Boise, is leading design and engineering of the interchange structure, and will gather input from residents, he said.

Meridian officials believe replacing the existing freeway overpass with a full interchange would provide more convenient access to and from the west side of the city, relieving some pressure on the Meridian Road interchange to the east, Siddoway said.

HDR will conduct a citywide industrial lands analysis and needs assessment as part of the Ten Mile contract, he said.

* * *

To contact the author, send email to: brad.carlson@idahobusiness.net.

Home rate hikes mean bankruptcies to spike

by Brad Carlson Idaho Business Review
07/24/2006

Idaho bankruptcy filings plunged in the second quarter of 2006 from the same period a year earlier.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Boise received 732 case filings in the most recent quarter. A year ago 2,759 cases were filed.

Last year many people rushed to the courthouse to file for bankruptcy before major reforms took effect, a court official said. After the reforms were implemented, in October 2005, the number of new filings dropped across the country.

“It’s still the outgrowth of the Bankruptcy Reform Act,” Tom Murawski, court administrative analyst, said. “It’s probably going to be a while before it gets anywhere close to what ‘normal’ is.”

The new law requires people to complete a means test before filing for bankruptcy, resulting in fewer people qualifying for a Chapter 7 liquidation, Murawski said. The law also requires people to complete a financial management course and pay a higher filing fee.

It is having an effect. A court report shows 581 Chapter 7 liquidations from April through June, down from 2,425 a year earlier. Chapter 13 repayment plans also fell sharply, from 326 in the second quarter of last year to 142 this year.

The bankruptcy court in Boise received seven Chapter 11 reorganizations — mainly involving businesses — down from six in the second quarter of 2005, the report said. The court saw two Chapter 12 family farm cases in the second quarter of both years.

Bernie Rakozy, a Chapter 13 trustee in Boise, said the new law put an end to “Chapter 20” combinations that became common during last year’s filing frenzy.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee sells assets to pay creditors and the filer is cleared of unsecured debt, assuming there are no objections during the hearing process.

In a Chapter 13, the filer completes a repayment plan under the court’s direction — usually on secured loans and tax debts.

Rakozy said it had been common for people to wipe out unsecured debt in a Chapter 7 within about 60 days of filing, then immediately file a Chapter 13 so they could make payments on secured loans and keep homes and cars. The new law requires someone to wait four years between completing a Chapter 7 and filing a Chapter 13.

Filers under either chapter can keep up to $100,000 in home equity. Limits vary by state, and Idaho raised its limit from $50,000 as of March 31.

Razozy said curing a mortgage default in a Chapter 13 is increasingly worthwhile, because the higher home equity exemption and recent big gains in home values mean borrowers have a chance to emerge from a bankruptcy with significant home equity.

However, the high home values represent a two-edged sword in the bankruptcy world, partly because they resulted from increased use of short-term, adjustable-rate mortgages, he said.

“In the next three to four months, you’re going to see an increase in Chapter 13 filings,” Rakozy said.

“A lot of these short-term mortgages are coming due” — at much higher interest rates — “and borrowers are not going to be able to come up with the money to refinance,” he said. “A lot of real estate is being sold with a first and second mortgage.”

Many two-income households lack sufficient reserve accounts to handle one person’s job loss if the economy softens, Rakozy said.

***

To contact the author, send email to: brad.carlson@idahobusiness.net.

Monday, August 07, 2006

County to vote on Middleton impact area

Article published Aug 6, 2006
Sandra Forester @ Idaho Stateman

County to vote on Middleton area of impact
City says it needs to have a say in development, but some landowners would rather become part of Caldwell or Star

Middleton has plans to double the size of its future city limits to accommodate new homes and businesses over the next 10 years.

It is one of Treasure Valley's fastest growing cities, with a population jump of 51.7 percent in about five years.

Canyon County will soon vote on the city's request to greatly increase its area of impact. At stake is whether Middleton can adequately plan for the water and sewer needs that growth will inevitably bring. If Middleton's request is denied, it would have to live with whatever development the county, Caldwell and Star approve in the area.
The city expects to serve an additional 7,000-plus homes in the next few years. Subdivisions with city services are being built beyond 2005 area of impact boundaries, and rural developments are sprouting nearby, Mayor Frank McKeever said. Along with the housing boom, business development is on an upswing, Middleton officials and business owners say.

But some landowners in the proposed area of impact say they don't want more government oversight of their property; others say they shop and do business in Caldwell or Star and feel more connected to those cities, so they would rather be in the Caldwell or Star area of impact.
"They need to plan, but they have a lot of vacant land to take care of before they get to our farm," said farmer Morris Vavold, who grows alfalfa and raises cattle on 230 acres near Purple Sage and Willis roads.

Vavold and other farmers also oppose the expanded area of impact, saying plans for sewer and water will hasten the pace of development and could force farmers out of business as homes press in on them.

"Pretty soon you give up and you have to subdivide," he said. "We can't compete with $50,000-an-acre ground."
Star and Caldwell on either side of Middleton both have designs on land in the proposed impact area, but have opposite stances on Middleton's request.

Caldwell has been annexing land in the area and has requests from other property owners to be annexed. Caldwell officials see opportunities for commercial and residential growth east of Interstate 84 and north of the city.
Star, however, would have to install costly lift stations to serve homes and businesses west of the Ada County line with sewer, while most of the land drains by gravity into Middleton. And Star would have to negotiate with a different highway district and school district.

McKeever and other officials said they are feeling pressure from developers' designs on thousands of surrounding acres and want to manage the growth the larger area of impact would give them.

"It just lets us have more control over that area. The county has to notify us of what is happening" with land-use requests, said McKeever. "Our recommendations are taken more seriously."
Canyon County commissioners will consider on Aug. 17 approving the Middleton area of impact request that county planning commissioners rejected in March. The August hearing will be the last chance for residents and officials to make comments. If the request is approved, Middleton's future boundaries would expand from 10,560 to 19,740 acres.

If the county does approve the expanded area of impact, the city of Middleton would still need to hold a public hearing and adopt an ordinance extending the boundaries. No date has been set, McKeever said.

No Shortage of Opportunity-Idaho Stateman

Article published Aug 7, 2006
Ken Day at Idaho Statesman
No shortage of opportunity
Treasure Valley remains a hot spot for restaurant expansion — and food service jobs

If you want to work in a Treasure Valley restaurant, there's no shortage of opportunities. Help-wanted signs are now just as common at area restaurants as the posters announcing the daily specials.

"I need people," said George Doumani, director of operations for area Wendy's restaurants. "So does everyone else."

More than 1,600 jobs are listed at Idaho Commerce and Labor's Treasure Valley offices in the service industry, which includes retail, hotel and food-service jobs. About half of those jobs are in the food service category.
That's not surprising given the low unemployment rate, said John Panter, a regional labor economist with Idaho Commerce and Labor. The rate was 3.1 percent in the Boise-Nampa area in July. Economists consider anything below 4 percent full employment.

"It's not unusual for those kinds of jobs to go begging," Panter said. "The unemployment rate is so low that those willing to work for the wages being paid are pretty well working."
The shortage isn't likely to ease anytime soon:

• Last month, The Cheesecake Factory announced plans for its first Idaho location at the Boise Towne Square mall. It plans to bring in more than 200 full and part-time job openings.

• Later this month, Meridian will get its first Sizzler restaurant.
• Companies like Fuddruckers, which opened this spring at 1666 S. Entertainment Drive near the Boise Spectrum theaters, are already planning new locations.

Doumani, who has been in the Boise restaurant business more than 20 years, said his company has always been able to retain longer-term employees but has struggled lately to keep new ones.
"There are a lot of new restaurants coming in, and when you can be a busboy at one of those new restaurants making $50 to $60 a night in tips, we can't compete with that," Doumani said.

New players

As the Treasure Valley boom continues, the area remains a hot spot for restaurant expansion.
In the first two weeks that Fuddruckers was open, it reported the highest sales of any Fuddruckers restaurant. Two months later, it is still in the top three.

"We were really nervous as we looked around town," said Rick Pottenger, general manager of Fuddruckers. "Everywhere you looked there was a 'now hiring' sign in the window."
But Pottenger said hiring went better than expected because Fuddruckers pays better than average — from $7 to more than $14 an hour.

Stephanie Towne is one of Fuddruckers' new employees. She left a job at another restaurant, saying she liked the upbeat atmosphere and opportunity for advancement — something she wasn't offered at her former job.

"When I started, I was told to work hard at your job, and there will be an opportunity to go further," she said. "I'm already a supervisor and plan to stay with Fuddruckers and work my way up."
Howard Gordon, senior vice president of business development and marketing for The Cheesecake Factory, said each location usually attracts about 2,000 applicants for 200 to 250 jobs. But Gordon said the chain has opened restaurants in far more competitive labor markets than this one.

"We've been at this for many, many years," he said. "There are lots of restaurants in Los Angeles, so you learn that you have to be flexible."
One way The Cheesecake Factory meets its staffing needs is by sharing workers with other larger restaurants. Because many food servers already work two jobs, Gordon said The Cheesecake Factory contacts other restaurants to see if they have employees who want to pick up shifts.

Maintaining employees

Competition for labor helps employees, bringing better wages and benefits, economists say.
Panter, the labor economist, expects that demand will put upward pressure on wages. Most jobs listed with Idaho Commerce and Labor offices already pay above minimum wage, he said.

"There are very few minimum wages jobs left, because people won't work for that anymore," he said.
In Idaho Commerce and Labor's 2005 wage survey, cooks and food preparation workers earned an average $9.01 an hour. Food-and-beverage servers earned $6.62. Other food-prep and serving-related workers earned $6.75.

Fast-food restaurants find it difficult to match wages, but they have started programs to retain and recruit employees.

Becky Darmody, director of public relations for the McDonald's franchises in the Treasure Valley, said things like college scholarship programs for long-term employees have helped retain employees at the 25 stores in Ada and Canyon counties.
More restaurants are also offering benefits, including paid vacations and health insurance. Many also provide bonuses for employees who recruit new hires.

Troy Hansen, operations manager for Chicago Connection, a Boise-area pizza chain, said it's difficult to find employees today, but the problem is not new.
"Right now it's tough, but it's not quite as extreme as the 2000-2001 time frame when the job market was so tight," he said. "It wasn't a matter of pay at that time. There wasn't anyone available to work."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Boise Investment Real Estate

Just sitting here in the family room on a toasty Sunday afternoon in the Treasure Valley starting my real estate investment blog.

I am a licensed Investment Property Specialist with Stevens Realty based in Boise, Idaho. I have an MBA and the GRI designation. I am originally from NYC (yes, that's right the only New Yorker to move to Boise, ID that was NOT on the Witness Protection Program!) I am also a real estate investor and builder (working on my first duplex project on the Boise Bench). I am focused on helping YOU build YOUR WEALTH. After all we all want to retire early or at least not have to depend on Social Security for our futures. I offer my services to you, the real estate investor, whether you have many properties or you're just starting out. I specialize in single family, multi-family, commercial and land investments.

I hope to give you my insight into investing in our area and potentially seeing you here for a visit. My website, www.idaho-incomeproperty.com should be up and running by the end of the month. I will be at the Trump Real Estate Expo on Aug. 26 and 27, booth 507 on the exhibition floor. The show will be open from 9am to 6pm both days. I hope to see you there.

In the mean time here's links to flyers on a couple of fourplexes that are not on the MLS.

New Fully Rented Fourplex in Boise

Fully Rented Fourplex with Garages in Boise

Please contact me if you have questions. Thanks in advance for your trust and consideration.

Michael Hon - MBA, GRI
Investment Property Specialist
Stevens Realty
208 919 0458 Direct
208 460 3885 Fax
208 890 3874 Nancy Robertson, Assistant
michael.hon@att.net
www.idaho-incomeproperty.com

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