Drones Hone in on Agriculture Market

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a homemade drone. Idaho farmer Robert Blair and a friend built their own drone with cameras to monitor his 1,500 acres of land.

The drone that resembles a small Cessna weighs less than 10 pounds and is 5 feet long. Blair uses the drone to view his cows and fields of wheat, peas, barley and alfalfa. “It’s a great tool to collect information to make better decisions, and we’re just scratching the surface of what it can do for farmers,” said Blair, who lives in Kendrick, Idaho, roughly 275 miles north of Boise.

Experts point to agriculture as the most promising commercial market for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and vast rural areas where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern.

The technology could revolutionize agriculture, farmers say, by boosting crop health, improving field management practices, reducing costs and increasing yields.

In the near future you could see more agriculture drones in Idaho skies.

Read the full article here.


Having a Ball at the Renovated Owyhee Plaza

The renovation of the Owyhee Plaza nears completion and while it is a month behind schedule General Manager, Clay Carley, says the timing is “not bad for such a complex project.” A recent article in the Idaho Statesmen highlights the changes that were made to the Owyhee Plaza Hotel that was orginially built in 1910. 

One of the areas of focus is on the large, elegant rooftop terrace that was closed in 1940.  Carley’s plan opens the terrace and will be able to hold up to 150 people. The Owyhee Plaza will also be able to accommodate larger events because the renovation increased the occupancy level of its ballroom from 220 to 350 persons.

Carley is known for his renovation of Old Boise at 6th and main streets, but this his first attempt at a residential building. “The building will have 36 apartments. Most are one-bedroom. Four will be studios. Carley says they’ll be finished in January and open for occupancy on Feb. 1. He says 22 people are already on the list to move in.”

Carley says that he asked to get a “stained glass dome that was removed from the ceiling of the lobby and reinstalled at the Idaho State Historical Society” back, but was unable to convince the Society.

The Plaza will house other businesses and restaurants. Hopefully this will bring the desired rejuvenation to Downtown Boise’s west end.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/11/19/2878531/owyhee-place-nears-completion.html#storylink=cpy

Magic Valley’s Need to Expand Entertainment Scene

Currently, Magic Valley has two different proposals in the works to build its entertainment scene. First, the Twin Falls County Fair Foundation is working on a proposal to build an event center at the fairgrounds in Filer. After two unsuccessful ballot measures in 1997 and 2006 to build the center, the Fair Foundation is pursuing private funds to invest in the project.   The Fair Foundation plans for the estimated $10 million center to be 66,000 square feet dedicated to year-round concerts, livestock shows, trade shows, and other events.

The second proposal comes from Greg and Julie Dodson, owners of Diamondz Bar & Grill in Jerome. The Dodson’s recently applied for a multipurpose arena endorsement, a relatively new endorsement, signed into rule by the Legislature in the last session.   A prerequisite for the endorsement is that a business must have a liquor license to comply and must submit a detailed application to prevent minor from being served. The state Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau approves these endorsements.

A local entertainment scene may play a much broader role as Twin Falls County, and the Magic Valley as a whole, continues to develop. Last year, yogurt producer Chobani opened its plant, creating more jobs and bringing additional skilled employees to the area. In October, energy bar producer Clif Bar signed a deal to build a bakery, which is expected to be in operation by 2016. Clif bar will initially create 250 jobs, and depending on the market condition that number could double. With these additional jobs and creation of a new workforce, businesses will be looking for attractions to bring in and retain quality workers. Currently, no such entertainment facility exists within 120 miles of Twin Falls, and without such facility, the area will continue to lose money to Boise.


Economic Gain on the Play?: CofI Football Predicted to Have Positive Local Impact

The joke that the College of Idaho’s football team has been undefeated since 1977 (the year the football program was disbanded), is soon to be a thing of the past. After years of consideration, the decision to bring the football program back to the oldest private college in Idaho was finalized in 2012—the first season will be the 2014-2015 school year.  Looking beyond the sort of impact that such a decision will directly have on CofI, a recent article in the Idaho Press Tribune highlights the broader economic impact that reinstating the program will bring to the City of Caldwell.

Besides the number of new football recruits who will enroll at the college, Dr. Marv Henburg, the College’s President, anticipates that the program will have an economic impact in the areas of additional salaries, increased accommodations, additional infrastructure and construction, and printing costs. While CofI can hardly expect to draw the massive crowds that NCAA Division I football can conjure any given weekend, other college towns with NAIA football teams have reported economic growth and increased tourism as a result of the programs.

Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla., added an NAIA football program this year and the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation reports that the local economy has benefited from those who come to watch. After all, they buy gasoline, stay in the hotels, buy the school apparel and eat at local restaurants.

For a town whose proximity to Boise is undoubtedly a double-edged sword, a football program may be just what Caldwell needs to keep its residents in town on the weekend and maybe even entice alumni and other football fans in Ada County to make the journey to, and spend their money in, the 2C.

Here’s looking forward to the first kickoff in the fall of 2014—Go Yotes!

SeaTac to Vote on Reaching a $15 Minimum Wage

SeaTac, a suburb of Seattle, will vote today on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a 63% increase to Washington’s current $9.19. SeaTac Proposition 1 would create a $15 an hour minimum wage for 6,300 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and its nearby hotels, car-rental agencies, and parking lots. The measure also calls for annual increases to inflation, paid sick leave, and tip protection.

Both Mayoral candidates support this proposition and say that if elected, Seattle could see a push for $15 an hour minimum wage for city workers and employees of fast-food chains and retailers. If successful, Seattle would be the first big city to embrace such a raise in minimum wage. The Proposition has gained a lot of support, including $1.4 million raised by unions in support of its passage.

However, the Proposition is not without opposition. Alaska Air, based in Sea-Tac, has contributed over $155,000 to defeat this proposal saying higher wages will cost jobs, raise prices, and drive businesses away. Other opponents of the measure include the affected hotels, car-rental companies and restaurants.

According to Census statistics, Seattle’s median household income was $65,677 last year, trailing only Washington D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Baltimore, and Minneapolis-St. Paul among the nation’s most populous areas.  If passed, this Proposition, and future actions by Seattle’s Mayor and City Council, could lead to a national discussion of raising the minimum wage in metropolitan areas.


Economic Development and Local Elections

Today’s elections in Idaho include the race for the mayor of Caldwell—an election which has Paul Alldredge running against incumbent Garret Nancolas and which has raised disputes between the candidates regarding the city’s future and past development efforts. As for past efforts, Alldredge disputes the value and success of the development efforts undertaken over the last decade or so in downtown Caldwell. The revitalization efforts in downtown Caldwell have centered on Indian Creek, which flows through the downtown area. As part of the project, Indian Creek had to be uncovered—it had literally been paved over decades earlier because it was contaminated with sewage runoff from local industries.  Finished in 2009 with the help of urban renewal money, the Indian Creek downtown area has park spaces, decorative bridges and walking paths.

Nancolas said that several businesses have remodeled their buildings since the project was finished. For those reasons, among others he believes, the project provides a “tremendous” economic value for the city. His opponent disagrees, saying: “Indian Creek has been opened up for a number of years and the direct correlation to economical development is nil at best.”

At issue in this race then it seems is what direction the residents of Caldwell want to see the city move towards in regards to revitalization, and whether or not they feel that projects like the Indian Creek restoration are the way to do it. For those like myself who saw the before and after and continue to see how the downtown is changing, true and lasting revitalization seems like it will be a slow, but hopefully, successful project if the city’s government and businesses can find more ways to get people to downtown Caldwell instead of I-84.

Idaho’s growing air transportation problem

The Boise Airport’s application for a grant of $700,000 from the Small Community Air Service Development Program has recently been denied. The Airport had hoped to win this grant in order to entice an airline carrier to offer a non-stop flight to Boise from an East Coast travel hub, such as New York, Washington D.C., or Atlanta.

The airport had received pledges for $160,000 in matching funds from 17 local companies and organizations including the city of Boise, Idaho Division of Tourism Development and the Greater Boise Auditorium District which together pledged $100,000.

If the grant application had been approved an airline could have realized close to 1 million dollars by offering the desired non-stop flight to the East Coast. However, considering that an airline would have to pull a plane from an existing route, or purchase a new plane, airlines must see enough customer demand to justify the risk of a new route.

This denial is a blow to Boise, and the Idaho economy overall. Around six years ago, the Boise Airport hit a peak. That is when the airport had the most passengers, the most seats available, and the most planes coming in and going out.

Since then, the most recent complete year of data (2011) shows almost all of those numbers are the lowest in more than 10 years, and airfares have increased. Recently, Southwest has suspended its flights from Boise to Reno; Seattle; Salt Lake City; and Portland. American Airlines has suspended it flights from Boise to Los Angeles, and Frontier has stopped offering flights to Denver.

Passenger counts and the number of available seats have also decreased. Since 10 years ago, the seats available to fliers out of Boise have decreased by more than 400,000.


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