What is the Pasta Indicator, you might ask? Pasta is a cheap meal. When the economy is down, pasta sales grow. When it starts to get easier to find your favorite flavor of Top Ramen on the store shelves, it means things are getting better.
This time of the year, when thinking about our local economy and things that we can do to make sure our Pasta Indicator points upward, I think about buying local. How does buying close to home boost the local economy? It may be more than a feel-good, it’s worth paying more for local matter. Research is finding there is a hugely profound impact of keeping money in town, and local communities like ours increasingly depend on it.
When you buy local, more money stays in the community. Let’s think about it for a minute. On one side I could sit in my home, and from Amazon, I could find, order and have delivered all of my family’s Christmas gifts. They could be under the tree without ever having to leave the house. Conversely, I could go out to our local boutique shops or even department stores and search for those perfect gifts. And this does several things:
It enhances the “velocity” of money, or circulation speed in the community. If currency circulates more quickly, it passes through more hands, and more people have had the benefit of the money and what it has purchased for them. When money is spent online for example, you lose the opportunity for cash to circulate locally. Let me explain. I buy this year’s gifts from fill in the blank favorite boutique in town. I hand my money over. It goes to input costs — store supplies and upkeep, printing and advertising, paying employees, etc. The rest goes to the business owner, your neighbor. Are you following?
Buying local costs more you argue. Think about the local employment it creates, the relationships you build when you buy from people you know, and the fact you know what you are getting and that difference is easily overcome.
What about local resilience and sustainability? We just had a recent presidential election that exposed many of our nation’s problems. What if it becomes no longer possible to import certain goods and services? Supporting local goods and services gives the business community diversity to adapt local needs and conditions. When we talk about buying local, it creates the opportunity to see what gaps exist in the community. What products do we keep having to turn to big corporate box stores or online retailers to get. This signals an opportunity for someone local to fill that gap. This is one way we get new, innovative businesses into our community. I challenge you to think about this.
Money is like blood. It needs to keep circulating around to keep the economy going. When money is spent elsewhere, like big supermarkets, non-locally owned businesses and online retailers, it flows out like a wound.
It’s not about how much money we’ve got, but how much we can keep circulating without letting it “leak out.” Do your part to ensure that our Pasta Indicator is moving in the right direction.
Don’t forget to join us every month for our Membership Breakfast Meeting and After 5 events. Check out www.haydenchamber.org or our Facebook page for more information.
I recently vacationed in the western Caribbean with 17 of my family members and enjoyed every minute of our time together. The food was good, the service was good, the cruise staff was pleasant, but even on a cruise ship there are glitches in the customer service. When you work in the customer service industry, you come to expect excellence, not just good service. I invite you to a special presentation on Dec. 5 from noon-1 p.m. at the Idaho Department of Labor where I will be speaking to this very thing, “Customer Service vs. the Customer Experience.” Come have lunch with me and learn the difference.
It’s hard to believe that the end of the year is just around the corner. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has come and gone, Christmas will be here before we know it and then we will be singing Auld Lang Syne to welcome in the new year.
This time of year can be a real struggle for many of our small businesses, especially if they rely on profits from visitors and seasonal sales. Before you get online to do your holiday shopping, I want to encourage our community to support our local retailers, bistros and attractions. These are the people that support us all year long with sponsorships and donations for local sports teams, charity fundraisers and education. Shop Local, it does make a difference.
For many of us, the next 30 days bring the hustle and bustle of company parties, entertaining out-of-town guests, year-end projections, next year budgeting, legislative preparations and the list goes on. I want to bring your attention to a few things you may want to add to your calendar. We are bringing Tony Rubleski, speaker and bestselling author to you on Dec. 5 at The Coeur d’Alene Resort. You can register on our website for just $25 and be amazed by his presentation: Referral Magic. On Dec. 7 we invite you to attend the Holiday Lighting Ceremony at Post Falls City Hall where children can meet Santa and families can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa and cookies in the rotunda. Mayor Clay Larkin will give the State of the City Address on Tuesday, Dec. 18 from noon-1 p.m. at Red Lion Templin’s and then later that evening we will celebrate the grand opening of the Boys and Girls Club with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. For a complete list of activities and events, check out our website at www.postfallschamber.com.
I want to thank the following professionals for their years of service to the board of directors. Ed Santos, Dave Bobbitt, Jack Reiswig, Sharon Sorenson, Skip Hissong and Craig Wilcox, and welcome new board members; Ryan Davis, Jerry Lyon, Pat Clevenger, Mark Woodworth, Kay Viebrock and Nancy DiGiammarco. Join us on Jan. 24 as we celebrate our business community and outstanding citizens at our Annual Recognition Banquet.
This months’ article is submitted by Business Development Committee member Chris Copstead of Kagey Company.
Have you shopped the wonderful stores and services in Coeur d’Alene lately? With Christmas fast approaching, now’s the time to experience everything our community has available for you. Try this example for a great opportunity to explore one of Coeur d’Alenes’ local shops and Business Development Committees’ Shining Star Companies.
Ace Hardware at 1217 N. Fourth St. is outstanding! You’re greeted as you enter by every staff person around — and there’s always one around — and they usually greet you by name. You’re immediately asked if you need help, and if you do you’re taken directly to the product. But wait, they’ll stay with you and give advice, if you need assistance, until you find the exact item you’re looking for. They’ll spend as much time on a 25 cent item as a $25 item. If they don’t have what you need they’ll recommend a competitor. Now that’s service! And that is why Ace is this months’ recipient of Business Developments Service Excellence Award.
This is why you should shop local:
• Keep Your $$ Here: According to studies, for every $10 spent at a local business, $4.50 stays in the local economy which creates jobs and expands the city’s tax base.
The Internet purchase provides nothing to our local economy. When you buy from local businesses your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses and service providers. This continues to strengthen the economic base of our community.
• Better Service: Local business owners, operators and employees provide more knowledge and understanding of the products they sell. And they take the time to get to know you — their customer.
• More GOOD Jobs: Keep your neighbors, friends and family working buying local creates more jobs.
• Invest in Your Community: Local businesses are owned or operated by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave this community, and are more invested in this community’s future.
• NonProfit Support: Charitable giving grows as local business grows.
The Coeur d’Alene community is our home. It’s where we live, where we play and should be where we shop. Local businesses are what make Coeur d’Alene a great place to live.
Check out the chamber’s website www.cdachamber.com and click on the Buy North Idaho/create MOJO link to learn more about being involved in the Buy Local campaign.
This will not be breaking news for those of you who still use a rusty pair of vise grips in lieu of the missing nob on the 19-inch Zenith (sorry Mom); however, for most of us who have plunged into the digital revolution, this is relevant information.
Last month I held back on this story, instead discussing how one claims his or her business on relevant business directories. Now that we all better understand why claiming your business is important, let’s explore recent changes with Google.
Google’s Places was designed as a free business listing service offered by Google, where business owners could submit or claim ownership of their business. They generally show up when users search for a service-oriented business followed by the city or town in their search. Often displaying a map with a pin drop, this location-based search result was important for businesses that operated in very specific regions.
Google moved from “Places” to “Local” in an attempt to boost their social media platform, Google+. Now, Google+ users can recommend businesses to friends and interact with the business. As a result, businesses can market themselves in a similar fashion to Facebook. Basically, Google is trying to integrate search with social media. Unlike Facebook, everyone does not need to be your friend. You can put people into “circles” and share information with a circle as opposed to everyone.
I began to speculate how we would change digitally when Facebook celebrated its inflated IPO. I couldn’t help to think that Google was still the 800-pound gorilla. Their product line included Google Adwords, Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Reader, Google Labs, Google Gadgets, Google Mail, Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Docs and You Tube. It was inevitable that they would tap into the social media market.
At the end of May, more than 80 million Google Places pages across the world were converted to Google+ Local pages. The transition was far from smooth. The information from many businesses, including some of our clients, did not transfer over properly. Either no data was transferred, or in some cases, reviews were completely lost and could not be recovered. This is a big concern because customer reviews are the biggest benefit of the platform.
The other big news is that Google’s 5-star rating has been removed because they purchased Zagat and are now using their 30-point rating system. With a score of 30 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest, the rating system provides more content and reviews for local services. The acquisition came shortly after Google’s unsuccessful purchase of competing Yelp. After the half a billion-dollar deal failed, Google picked up Zagat for a bargain price of $151 million.
Many people I’ve talked to who have a Google+ account think the site is great and the features and usability are much better than Facebook. Needless to say, Google+ is a ghost town. Hosting a social media site with few users and no interaction is like going to a dance party with no music. This isn’t to say that Google’s search engine momentum will not progress them into a competitive social media environment.
For those of you who set up a Places account a while ago, double check to see if your business information transferred properly. If you have not yet set one up, I recommend you do so right away. It will help your search engine rankings.
Mike Alexander is the Digital Advertising Director for The Coeur d’Alene Press and WSI Media One CDA (cdainternetmarketing.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 664-8176 ext. 1013.
Nobody’s better at finding out what’s new on the local business scene than Press columnist Nils Rosdahl. Here are just a few of his recent new-business scoops. Look for Nils every Sunday in The Press and on cdapress.com.
FABULOUS FINDS CLOTHING
New and used clothing and accessories for all members of the family are offered at Fabulous Finds. The store opened recently at 6680 N. Government Way (across from Silver Lake Mall).
Owners Mike and Jamie Pederson came from the San Diego area to join family here in 1995. The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone 704-1050.
LIGHTS ON AT OUTLET STORE
Offering quality lighting at discounted prices, Idaho Lights opened a 3,000 square-foot outlet store in Suite D of Harbor Ridge Plaza at 1600 Seltice Way.
“Many pieces are one of a kind,” said Dianne Ansbaugh, owner with husband Gene and Lew and Darlene Smith. “Many are overstocked or discontinued. All products will be cash and carry.”
The owners bought Goodman’s Lighting in 1995, changed the name to Idaho Lights and moved the store from Government Way to 6055 N. Sunshine St. (off Highway 95). They also have Evergreen Lighting in Spokane Valley.
Hours in Post Falls 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Phone 457-0090. Check www.idaholights.com.
ON SITE FOR SENIORS
A house-call medical service by doctors and nurse practitioners called On Site for Seniors has opened at 1052 W. Mill Ave. in Coeur d’Alene. The nine medical providers give primary health care to frail and immobile adults where they reside (their own homes or skilled and assisted-living facilities).
Dr. Susan Melchiore and Lynda Arnold opened the practice in 2008 on Meadowlark Way. They also have a support staff and volunteers who visit the patients. On Site for Seniors works with home health, hospices, assisted and skilled nursing facilities. The office is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Phone 664-3301. Volunteers can ask for Mary Ann. Check www.onsite4seniors.org.
Custodial and non-medical homecare is available through BlueStar Affordable Homecare Services. Customized to fit the client’s needs, services include daily living assistance in bathing, dressing, transferring, toileting, eating and walking.
Other services can include light housework, preparing meals, helping with medications, shopping for groceries or clothes, telephone use, medical transportation and managing money and insurance forms to enable the client to live independently in the community.
Owner is Cherry Roa, who has a master’s degree in health-care administration and worked many years with homecare in California. BlueStar serves all North Idaho and Spokane and is licensed, insured and bonded. Employees are background checked and have references upon request.
Office hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in Suite E at 7352 N. Government Way. A client coordinator is always available at 762-0878 or (818) 398-1008. Caregivers can be dispatched within 24 hours or immediately for emergencies.
With a building permit for $7 million, construction has begun on the Marriott Springhill Suites Hotel at 2250 W. Seltice Way (next to Holiday Inn Express above Riverstone).
The four-story, 70,000-square-foot complex on 3.5 acres will include 118 suites, an indoor pool, jacuzzi, two patios and a three-hole putting green. It should be complete within a year.
ALL STAR GUITARS
Guitars of all varieties, other stringed instruments, parts, accessories and minor repairs are available at All Star Guitars in Suite A of Seltice Center at 205 E. Seltice Way, Post Falls.
Learning guitar from his father, owner Dan Howard has been in the guitar business since 1975 in Napa, Calif., and came to North Idaho in May. His son now has the Napa store. Howard hosts jam sessions for bluegrass/country/acoustic guitarists 7-10 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month. The store will be adding drums and accessories.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Phone 457-3202. Email email@example.com.
CAREGEM THERMAL MASSAGE
Treatments in the store and products for the home are offered at Ceragem Thermal Massage in Suite 201 of Mullan Plaza at 780 N. Cecil Road (at Mullan Road), Post Falls.
Owners Pavel and Galina Grishko offer showroom deep tissue thermo massages (with the first three free) and sell Ceragem massaging beds, mattress pads and portable neck massagers. Originally from Ukraine, they came to the United States about 20 years ago and were trained in the massage business in Los Angeles. They came to Spokane nine years ago. Their Post Falls store opened last month.
Store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Phone (509) 435-7403. Check www.ceragem.com.
BIG R EXPANDS
A “squeeze shoot” is fencing to funnel farm animals into a certain area. This and all kinds of fencing, primarily for livestock, will be sold and stored in the 20,000-square-foot “yard” under construction in front of the Big R Store on Government Way at Kathleen Avenue. With the current yard moving from the south side of the store, it will also expand parking and possibly the building.
With the new yard opening at the end of the month, Big R hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays with 28 employees. If you’ve never checked it out, this store is quite interesting. Phone 666-0506. Check www.bigrstore.com.
REVIVE ON LAKESIDE
Now at 211 E. Lakeside Ave. (a block up from Sherman) in the former Salon Bella Dona location, Revive Salon & Spa is a full-service place.
“We offer designer haircuts, coloring, hair extensions, facials, waxing, nails and massage,” explained owner Johnny Nelmar. A Coeur d’Alene native, he’s been a hair professional for six years and has six hair stylists, a nail tech and massage therapist.
They use exclusively Kenra hair products, All-Nutrient Organic Hair Color and Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics. The shop is open 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone 667-6276.
MASSAGE IS ELEMENTAL
“Not all massage is created equal” is the theme of Elements Therapeutic Massage that opened recently in the lower level of Sportsmen’s Plaza on the northeast corner of Government Way and Neider Avenue (in front of Costco).
Owner Mike Davis has 10 employees there and also has the company outlet in Richland, Wash. Open for five years, Elements Massage has about 110 outlets throughout the nation with its headquarters in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Cd’A hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Phone 866-4397. Check www.elements massage.com/cda.
Examples of the special items in the Wiggett’s Too antique store in Silver Lake Mall include a totally restored Santa sleigh from the 1800s and an old wooden soaking tub.
Extending from its store in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Wiggett’s Too just opened to offer more space for furniture from the 1800s and 1900s, vintage jewelry and collectible stone and Indian artifacts and leather pieces.
Owners are Lynn and Steve Rinker, who also are vendors in the downtown store, and downtown owners Carolyn and Johnny Berry. Phone 719-0021. Check firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three men sleeping in a doorway, alley, under a bridge, over a steam grate or in a box in the cities and rural communities across the nation has put on a uniform and served this country.
North Idaho is home to more than 22,600 veterans. Unfortunately, 9 percent of veterans living in Idaho are unemployed in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found 270 were homeless in North Idaho on Jan. 25, 2011, for the one-night Point-In-Time count providing a snapshot of our homeless population. Over one-quarter of the total homeless counted on that given day were veterans.
While nearly half the state’s veteran population lives in southwestern Idaho, which includes Ada County and Mountain Home Air Force Base, North Idaho has more veterans as a percent of total civilian population 18 years and over, at 20 percent compared to 12 percent.
Through the Homeless Veterans Initiative, the Department of Veterans Affairs committed $800 million in FY 2011 to strengthening 14 programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans. Part of the initiative is government assistance for Stand Downs for Homeless Veterans, which provide services to homeless veterans or veterans in need of help.
North Idaho’s one-day Stand Down for Veterans on Sept. 29 provided medical assistance and dental care, access to military surplus items, service providers, clothing, fresh produce, haircuts, veterinary services and bike repair. For the first time, a job fair was held in conjunction with the Stand Down.
Although the numbers are not final, the event drew more than 280 veterans. The 34 participating employers received 145 résumés and conducted 30 interviews before making 28 job offers. An additional 100 people are expected to be hired in the near future.
More than 1,100 soldiers have returned home within the past year statewide and will need the support of the community and local resources to help them transition back to civilian life.
Alivia Metts is the regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.
Sometimes five plus five equals $1 trillion.
That’s the combined gross domestic product of the mega trade partnership PNWER — the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, whose annual meeting Coeur d’Alene hosted in mid-November. The group’s combined resources in the Northwest and Canada represent more than 20 million people and $700 billion in gross regional product. That’s a serious economic punch.
Founded in 1991 and pooling resources to increase global competitiveness, facilitate regional interests (e.g., border and transportation issues), and common interests in energy, PNWER is the only statutory, nonpartisan, nonprofit, binational, public/private partnership in North America. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Members include Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska in the U. S., and Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and the Yukon in Canada.
In September of this year Idaho Gov. Butch Otter stepped up Idaho’s interest by creating the Idaho Council on PNWER. Council leadership includes veteran North Idaho legislators Sen. John Goedde and Rep. George Eskridge, who participated in November’s annual conference and working groups.
Why should local businesses care about all this? Self-interest, naturally; because it’s designed to facilitate and increase economic power and success for all Idaho businesses. The local siting this year increased our exposure; conference delegates toured local businesses and public facilities such as KTEC, Sunshine Minting, and Ground Force Manufacturing. Key policy issues such as border crossings, regulatory cooperation, invasive species, energy, and workforce development were discussed and opportunities to improve them identified.
According to the Idaho Department of Commerce, Canada is by far Idaho’s largest trading partner, representing $1.64 billion of the state’s total $5.89 billion in global exports during 2011. Most exports to Canada from Idaho are metals, chemicals and minerals. Idaho’s second and third largest export recipients are Taiwan ($761 million) and China — including Hong Kong ($626 million), with high-tech/computer, food, and machinery topping the list of product categories. Mexico is Idaho’s eighth largest partner.
A few more state trade facts for 2011:
• The Dominican Republic bought $2.3 million worth of Idaho vegetables.
• Idaho sold $18 million worth of nuclear reactors, boilers, and machinery parts to France.
• Chile bought more than $10.5 million worth of dairy products from Idaho.
• Idaho sold $105 million worth of electrical machinery to Malaysia.
• Cambodia imported $248,220 worth of iron and steel products from Idaho.
• Sweden bought $2 million in beverages from Idaho.
• Idaho sold over $120 million worth of TV, sound, and electrical equipment to Japan.
Our largest export industry? Semiconductors and industrial equipment at 55.8 percent of total exports. Second and third at around 14 percent each are mining and food/agriculture (other categories are below 4 percent each).
Proof that Idaho is far more than potatoes, thank you.
Happy holiday shoppers key to Q4 retail results in region
Put a nice, big bow on this Christmas shopping season.
It’s looking like quite a present.
So goes the general sentiment of a sampling of Coeur d’Alene-area retailers whose businesses have won the prestigious Best of North Idaho competition, voted on each year by readers of North Idaho Business Journal.
The holiday shopping season is critical to most retailers, putting icing on the fourth quarter cake. That’s the hope, anyway.
“Fourth quarter can make or break you,” acknowledged Mix It Up gift shop owner Jan Carr, a former buyer for Nordstrom and product developer for Nike. “You can have a fabulous year and then a bad fourth quarter, and that’ll knock you flat.”
But at Mix It Up, the cash register is ringing merrily through the middle of the quarter.
Carr, whose shop offers new inventory daily for home decor, gardens and gifts, said October sales were 51 percent ahead of last October’s. That’s dramatic because October is generally a blah month sandwiched between back-to-school sales and holiday shopping fever, she said.
“This business is just growing so fast for us,” she said of the upward trend that Mix It Up has seen since opening in April 2009.
Mix It Up, located at 513 Sherman Ave. in downtown Coeur d’Alene, isn’t alone in feeling plenty of holiday cheer. The advent of the holiday season is promising glad tidings for Phones Plus owner Chris Cheeley. In fact, October 2012 wasn’t just the start of a strong Q4: It was the best month ever in Cheeley’s 22 years of owning Phones Plus stores.
“It was actually pretty predictable,” said Cheeley, whose company just broke ground on its 12th store — this one in Medford, Ore. “Even though it was our best month ever, I wouldn’t call it an anomoly.”
That’s because Apple released its wildly popular iPhone 5 in October. Customers flocked to Phones Plus stores because iPhone 5’s introduction was accompanied by iPhone 4Ss being sold for $100 and iPhone 4s were free with the purchase of a data plan on contract.
Not that predictability took any of the fun out of Cheeley’s job.
“It will certainly make our fourth quarter strong,” he said.
Cheeley said that typically, fourth quarter is the second best three-month period of the year in his business. The summer months of June-August are usually the best, he said.
“People are out doing things in our neck of the woods,” he said, and when they’re out doing things, phones tend to get lost or broken. Further, kids have more time to chat, text and data surf.
But Cheeley is optimistic that this December will be at least as strong as usual, particularly when the middle of the month rolls around.
“People are in the buying mode,” he said.
Jeff Runge, vice president of Runge Furniture in Coeur d’Alene, is hoping furniture shoppers are in the buying mode, too.
Runge said the store is up for the year despite some monthly peaks and valleys — ups and downs that have been somewhat commonplace since the Great Recession.
“Nationwide, December is one of the better months, if not the best,” he said. “It doesn’t spike radically — it’s not like Toys ‘R Us. But we’re stocked up and we’re thinking it’s going to be pretty good.”
Runge said that after a somewhat soft September and October, November was going extremely well at the store, located at 303 E. Spokane Ave. in the Midtown area. As usual, dining room sets were the biggest sellers, with families thinking ahead to holiday meals.
So what’s hot in December?
“Recliners,” he said. “We have a huge selection of recliners. We also have a food drive where people get discounts for bringing in canned goods.”
There’s no fourth-quarter reclining at Black Sheep Sporting Goods, 308 W. Seale Ave. in Coeur d’Alene. But there are discounts, which is one of the reasons company spokesman Brian Knoll says the holiday season is full speed ahead. No matter what season it is, people want their dollars to stretch as far as possible.
“Our particular store does better during difficult economic times, and we feel that’s one of the places we shine — our low prices,” he said. Knoll said customers know they can easily save 10 to 20 percent on quality merchandise over Black Sheep’s competitors.
Despite the recession and its lingering negative effects, Black Sheep has shown year-over-year growth since 2008, he said.
“People won’t let the economy keep them from having fun outdoors,” Knoll said.
He said the biggest months of the year for Black Sheep are traditionally July and August, when the store’s four main categories — hunting, fishing, camping and marine — all draw their followers. But December is a pretty big fish, too.
“One of the things we focus on is bringing in additional products,” he said. “Despite the economy, people find ways to give the best gifts they can give. At the Black Sheep, they can buy bigger items or more of them. We’re definitely prepared for Christmas.”
From a slightly broader perspective — all of downtown Coeur d’Alene, anyway — hopes for a happy holiday harvest rise with the fall of snow.
But not too much.
“Another 30 inches on a Saturday before Christmas would be devastating,” said Terry Cooper, a former downtown shopkeeper now in his eighth year as manager of the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association. “But snow on the ground does help, as long as there isn’t too much. It stimulates shoppers during the holiday season.”
Cooper said the association, comprised of locally owned businesses and mom and pop shops, depends heavily on traffic during the fourth quarter. That’s why special events aren’t relegated merely to the tourist-intensive times of years.
He said his feedback is that the first part of Q4 has been a little soft, but “they’re getting ready for strong holiday sales” to sustain them through the traditionally difficult first quarter of the year.
But having said that, Cooper is sensing an optimism for the new year that’s more brisk than most.
“They’re all looking forward to 2013 and hoping people will be in a better position, with better income that gives them stronger purchasing power,” he said.
Even the biggest dreams don’t start off that way. So goes the mantra of mom and pop businesses everywhere.
“Shop local,” Cooper encouraged. “Shop small.”
Pam Houser couldn’t put it better herself. Anecdotally, at least, she hears that most retailers on the western edge of Kootenai County are enjoying a little better year than 2011 and are eagerly anticipating a strong fourth quarter. While Post Falls is home to megastores Walmart and Cabela’s, even the smaller retailers are heavily dependent on holiday sales, she said.
Now finishing up her sixth year at the helm of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce, Houser passionately pounds the drum for shoppers’ feet on the streets, rather than fingertips on the keyboards.
“People really need to think consciously about buying locally because that’s what supports the local economy,” she said. “When you shop on the Internet, you’re not giving back to the people who give back to the community.”
With Micron and Hewlett-Packard leading the way, Boise is Idaho’s technology home base.
But there’s plenty of room for North Idaho to join the tech party, and as a matter of fact, joining north and south is a key strategy in building a robust knowledge-based economy statewide.
“Our deal is to set the whole ecosystem in place,” says Jay Larsen, president of Idaho Technology Council. “We don’t have a nervous system in Idaho that’s tied together.”
Since founding ITC in 2009, Larsen has been striving to connect the dots that ultimately will help Idaho complement its strong agriculture and natural resource industries with the kind of technology growth that has made neighboring Utah a regional giant. Utah, Larsen notes, has roughly twice Idaho’s population but more than four times its tax base. That’s what building a knowledge-based economy did for Utah starting with initiatives from former Gov. Mike Leavitt more than a decade ago. And he says Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is helping blaze a similar trail here.
Technology is the engine of a knowledge-based economy, Larsen says.
“With technology we’re talking about the application of innovation,” Larsen says. “You can have that in a myriad of forms.”
ITC’s focus is doing everything it can to grow the state’s economy by helping build out its technology ecosystem. And that’s accomplished by finding seed money for promising start-ups and helping in other ways with businesses in various iterations as they remake themselves in changing times.
“At the end of the day, our goal is … getting new ideas to the market,” Larsen says. Overall economic impact, number of jobs created and impact on the tax base are three key measurements ITC uses in assessing how successful it is in building out technology-based infrastructure.
Put another way: “We look at the dollars that flow into the state and into the community because of those companies.”
While Boise might boast much of Idaho’s brainpower with biotechnology, energy and software development, Larsen is convinced that there’s plenty of potential for similar growth up here.
“We need North Idaho to be at the table helping us figure it out,” he said. “We need to have a stronger voice in North Idaho.”
That’s part of the reason Larsen was visiting the region in mid-November. After meeting with Coeur d’Alene businessman and ITC board member Steve Meyer, Larsen was convinced that there’s room for six new board members from North Idaho. He said the ITC board now has 45 members.
ITC is also seeking more members to join the 175 companies with more than 20,000 employees who already support the non-profit entity. Annual individual memberships start at just $99 a year.
What makes ITC unique?
Over the past decade, many organizations have been involved in supporting or driving innovation in Idaho, but never one that involves the entire ecosystem. The ITC is based on successful statewide innovation councils across the country, particularly in states with perceived geographic isolation. The ITC is a member-driven, non-governmental organization representing the full spectrum of tech companies in Idaho.
The ITC has three main goals:
1. Create alignment with private and government sectors on innovation initiatives and developments.
2. Inform and educate individuals and groups regarding the state of technology in Idaho and be a source of technical networking.
3. Advocate the position of the technology and be a voice linking innovation to Idaho.
Technically, a friend to education
Shawn Swanby has the brain-drain funnel pointed in the wrong direction.
It’s the wrong direction for those who think the best and brightest engineers and technical specialists should be living and working in places like Seattle, the Silicon Valley or even Denver.
It’s the right direction for Idaho.
“Anybody who’s coming to the region, we’re pretty much interested in talking to them,” said Swanby, founder and CEO of Ednetics, a high tech company that develops and installs networks and other infrastructure in school districts and universities throughout the Northwest.
Just 38, Swanby has been growing jobs — darn good jobs in a place most workers would love to call their home away from home — for 15 years. His company boasts about 60 employees in three locations, with 45 based in the new 32,000 square foot Ednetics headquarters just south of the University of Idaho Research Park in Post Falls. And he’s looking at significant job growth in the very near future.
At the top of Swanby’s personnel wish list are network and voice system engineers. He’ll be picky, but it will be worth applicants’ time.
“I pay more,” he said, because he knows he has to compete with places like Washington that have no state income tax. But he also has a better sales pitch than most: North Idaho itself.
Born in Boise and raised in Kuna public schools, Swanby cut his own engineering teeth at University of Idaho. His loyalty to the Gem State in general and the greater Coeur d’Alene area in particular is punctuated by the $7.5 million investment his new building represents. That and the growing Ednetics payroll.
“We’re here in North Idaho for two reasons,” he explained. One was that he wanted this area’s quality of life for himself and for his employees. The other?
“I wanted to have a place that wasn’t exporting our talent,” he said. “We’re importing most of our talent here.”
Some of the talent was home grown. Swanby launched Ednetics from the apartment living room he and his roommate shared while studying mechanical engineering at UI. That roommate, who was also Shawn’s buddy going back to sixth grade, is Will Stowe, who runs the Ednetics office in Bellevue, Wash.
Also in the inner circle is Jeff Jantz, another former fellow UI engineering student who was Shawn’s first hire and is now Ednetics’ chief information officer. Amy Des Rosier, whom Shawn met through a program at UI, is yet another.
Whether they signed up 15 years ago or last month and come from northern California or eastern Washington, Ednetics employees are part of something exciting these days. The upscale headquarters doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s a tantalizing tale.
Upstairs in the new building, where most of the offices house sales, marketing and engineering staff, outstanding artwork from regional and local artists adorns the walls. Downstairs, there’s a workout center complete with locker room, showers and a racquetball court.
“This is fairly important for us, to create a culture around physical fitness,” said Swanby, a Coeur d’Alene resident who participated in the inaugural Coeur d’Fondo bike race on Sept. 29.
On the main floor is warehouse space, room for Ednetics’ massive hardware and a spotless conference room that features a glass wall whose opacity can be increased or decreased at the touch of a button.
“Our building is designed to be a demonstration facility,” Swanby said. “Everything we can do for our customers is in this building.”
With its focus squarely on education, Ednetics has grown into a $30 million a year company by never losing sight of its mission. The meat grinder of debilitating recessions, intense competition and head-spinning change has been inspiration, not obstacle, to Swanby and his team.
“I get frustrated when people draw artificial limitations,” he said. “There are real limits, things like finances, but most of the time people can accomplish more than they typically set for themselves.
“Most entrepreneurs are very optimistic people. They feel that, you know what? Whatever the challenge is, I’m going to figure it out.”
Swanby sure figured something important out: When the economy went south, he optimistically went to work.
“A mistake for some companies is that when times get tough, some companies change their focus, which dilutes the company’s vision,” Swanby said. “So when others were cutting back, cutting expenses and reducing their workforce, they gave us a huge opportunity to step in and grab market share — which we did.”
He grabbed market share by investing $7.5 million in the new headquarters, which has a steady stream of education-centered tour groups coming through, including superintendents and board members from school districts interested in Ednetics’ infrastructure. He invested in personnel, doubling the employee head count. As a result, Ednetics doubled its account base while at least three of its competitors disappeared.
Part of the reason for Ednetics’ growth also has been due to the company’s vision to provide complete solutions, not just bits and pieces, to their customers’ infrastructure needs. Not that Ednetics’ bits and pieces are bad. The Ednetics phone system can save 80 percent of what many school districts are paying other providers today; its video surveillance system rivals anything out there in the private or public sector.
“Our competitors all focus on specific segments of the business,” he said, “but no organizations have our breadth of portfolio. We’re in a fairly strong position because we can combine all these things we do. We want to solve all our customers’ issues.
“Everything is network-based, but we want all these solutions to talk to each other. We want one unifying platform.”
So, apparently, do many school districts and universities.
Swanby said Ednetics currently works with about 80 percent of the school districts in North Idaho, 70 percent in eastern Washington and 40 percent in western Washington — about 175 school districts and universities in the Northwest. Washington State University, he said, is one of Ednetics’ biggest customers.
“At least 50 percent of our customers depend on us for all that they’re doing,” he said.
Swanby added that after so much investment, Ednetics is “on the cusp of some really big increases in revenue.” And that would only add to Ednetics’ corporate legacy in the Inland Northwest, said Steve Griffitts, president of the region’s economic development agency, Jobs Plus, Inc.
“Ednetics’ impact on our community already is in the millions of dollars,” Griffitts said. “It’s a first-class company that attracts the type of employees who will have a lasting impact on how our region is perceived. We’re delighted that Shawn’s influence is being felt throughout the state.”
Ednetics solutions include:
• Bell control and paging
• Video distribution
• Video surveillance
• Emergency alerts
• Phone system voice and applications
Technology Inspired by Education
At Ednetics we are inspired by the positive impact that technology makes on education. Our entire team is focused on finding and implementing solutions that serve the education community. The evolution of technology has created exciting opportunities — from improving communication and operation efficiency to enhancing curriculum and empowering teachers. Functions that previously existed on separate infrastructures are being consolidated on the data network. The potential to unite these functions on the network is emerging as an important development for the education community.