Dr. Mary C. Daly, President and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, to Speak in Idaho Falls on Nov. 12, 2018

Dr. Mary C. Daly, President and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, to Speak in Idaho Falls on Nov. 12, 2018

Daly’s Eastern Idaho visit is her first public speaking appearance since assuming her new role, garnering national attention and media.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, Nov. 9, 2018 — Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI) is pleased to announce its hosting of Dr. Mary C. Daly, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in her first public speaking engagement since assuming her new role. At an event held in Idaho Falls on Monday, Nov. 12, President Daly will address current and projected economic conditions in the context of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of maximum employment and stable prices as well as prospects for bolstering U.S. employment conditions over the longer term. Dr. Daly’s address is expected to receive nation-wide attention with national media outlets in attendance. The event is by invitation only.

“We are honored to host President Daly in her first public speech as president and CEO of the San Francisco Fed, “said Dana Kirkham, CEO of REDI. “Dr. Daly’s perspectives and expertise in labor market dynamics will provide immense insight for the growing communities of Eastern Idaho.”

Dr. Daly is a widely respected expert on labor markets. Her published work on economic inequality, wage and unemployment dynamics as well as increasing output through workforce development is frequently cited by other prominent economists. She took office as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2018, succeeding John C. Williams, who became president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York this year. As president of the San Francisco Fed, she is a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which decides monetary policy, including whether to raise or lower interest rates.

“Eastern Idaho is growing at an unprecedented rate,” added Kirkham. “Its regional leaders and cooperative efforts will greatly benefit from Dr. Daly’s advocacies.”

eCOBALT’S SALMON AND BLACKFOOT OPERATIONS, AND  REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR EASTERN IDAHO  RECEIVE NATIONAL AWARD

eCOBALT’S SALMON AND BLACKFOOT OPERATIONS, AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR EASTERN IDAHO RECEIVE NATIONAL AWARD

 

IDAHO FALLS, ID –  May 9, 2018 – eCobalt’s mining operations in Salmon and proposed refining facility in Blackfoot, along with Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), have received the Corporate Investment & Community Impact award from Trade & Industry Development, a leading national trade publication dedicated to site selectors.

With hundreds of project submissions throughout North America, eCobalt and REDI were recognized for eCobalt’s investment in Eastern Idaho for cobalt mining and refining as one of only 15 finalists in the Impact Division of the Trade & Industry’s Annual CiCi Awards.

“For eCobalt’s Blackfoot and Salmon operations and REDI to be nationally recognized for eCobalt’s significant mining and refining investments in our region is an important achievement,” said Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI.  “It’s an honor to receive a CiCi award and speaks highly of the region’s strong business climate.  Site selectors are likely to draw their attention to Blackfoot and Salmon as a result of this significant economic development achievement.”

CiCi Awards’ Community Impact category recognizes projects that will make a big impact on their respective community and local economic development organizations that work in lockstep to attract this kind of development.

“The City of Blackfoot is very pleased to have been selected as the site for eCobalt’s refining facility,” said Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll.  “We are looking forward to the positive impact this refining operation will have on area jobs and to the local economy.  Light manufacturing companies can be challenging to attract to smaller communities, but we are very proud and excited to have been selected as the future home of eCobalt.”

Cobalt company refines processing plans

Cobalt company refines processing plans

Cobalt company refines processing plans

A Vancouver company is seeking to build a cobalt processing plant near Blackfoot that could create dozens of jobs paying $70,000 to $80,000 annually.

The company, eCobalt Solutions Inc., doing business in the U.S. as Formation Capital Corp., released a feasibility study in September for the facility, coupled with a cobalt mine near Salmon. In December, the company simplified its plans.

“It’s gone from a very complicated plant to a more simplistic refinery that just roasts the ore to drive off the arsenic and capture it in a stable form,” said Floyd Varley, chief operating officer. “We can ship that product, with the arsenic removed, anywhere in the world.” That also makes it cheaper to process the ore, he said.

map of United States and a photo of a cobalt mine

The Canadian company eCobalt is working on a mine and processing facility in eastern Idaho.

The original feasibility study was for a $184 million project, $124 million of which was for the Blackfoot processing facility, which would be in full production by Q3 2020. The new plant will cost less but due to stock exchange regulations eCobalt won’t be able to reveal final numbers until later in the first half of this year. “We expect that to come in significantly lower than what we were looking at,” Varley said.

photo of Marc Small

Marc Carroll

Operating the facility was originally going to call for 65 jobs; with the new structure, that number will be lower. “The same skill sets, just fewer of them,” Varley said. Salaries should be comparable to those at Idaho National Laboratory and Premier Technology, in the $70,000 to $80,000 range, said Marc Carroll, the newly elected mayor of Blackfoot. “People are very excited about it,” Carroll said.

The company is financing the project now and is working with a number of interested parties to either buy the ore, take a share of eCobalt, or both, Varley said. “When we have final numbers, we will decide what’s the best deal,” he said.

For now, eCobalt isn’t going after any grants, but it is talking with Blackfoot about using community development block grants for infrastructure improvements. First, though, the company needs to determine how many jobs it will create, because the amount of money available is tied to that number of jobs, Varley said.

Similarly, eCobalt is not looking at Idaho tax reimbursement incentives, but the company’s suppliers and service providers might, Varley said. For example, the facility will use recycled glass to stabilize arsenic removed from the ore. The region doesn’t recycle glass because there isn’t a use for it, but such a spinoff would justify keeping it out of landfills, Varley said. The company is talking to people in Salmon and Blackfoot about leveraging economic development resources to create a business to collect the glass, he said.

photo of Hope Morrow

Hope Morrow

The facility could be a real shot in the arm for Bingham County, where the average wage in 2016 was $33,607.

“This will bring up wage averages and bring up family income,” said Hope Morrow, regional labor economist for the Department of Labor, in Idaho Falls.

The facility could also create indirect jobs, like building housing for the workers. “eCobalt is going to have to do something to build up some living space so their workers don’t have to commute from Idaho Falls or Pocatello,” about a 30-minute drive during rush hour, she said.

photo of Jan Rogers

Jan Rogers

Mining jobs provide some of the highest paid industrial or service employment in Idaho.

As of 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, mining contributed $1.32 billion to Idaho’s gross state product, as well as $721.4 million to total compensation, 14,194 jobs, and $122.1 million in property, sales, excise, and personal and corporate income taxes, said Benjamin Davenport, executive vice president for the Idaho Mining Association, a Boise-based advocacy group for the mining industry.

Mining jobs, including salary and benefits, average $104,061 per worker, he said. Mining in Idaho includes antimony, garnet, gold, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, pumice and silver, as well as cobalt.

Cobalt is used in batteries, particularly for electric vehicles, with demand going up sharply since mid-2016. Idaho has the only deposit of cobalt in the U.S., and one of only two in North America, that’s available for mining.

The demand for cobalt shows no signs of slowing. “We’re not all of a sudden not going to have electric cars,” said Jan Rogers, CEO for Regional Economic Development Eastern Idaho. “Every company has an electric or hybrid car.”

Idaho cobalt is well-known to geologists.

“In terms of the U.S., we do have the only reserve of cobalt,” said Virginia Gillerman, associate research geologist and economic geologist for the Idaho Geological Survey, a state agency that is administered by the University of Idaho. The world’s largest deposit is in the Congo in Africa. There are other deposits in Ontario, Canada; Russia; and some in Minnesota that are not being mined, she said. Idaho’s cobalt deposit – possibly the largest and most known domestic resource – has its own name: the Idaho Cobalt Belt.

Idaho’s cobalt deposits are smaller than those in Africa, Gillerman said.

It takes lots of rock to get cobalt. The concentration in the Salmon mine area ranges from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, Gillerman said. “If a ton of rock is 2000 pounds, half a percent is 10 pounds,” she said.

INL, NuScale, UAMPS address House committee

INL, NuScale, UAMPS address House committee

INL, NuScale, UAMPS address House committee

Peters

BOISE — Officials for Idaho National Laboratory, NuScale Power and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems briefed the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on Tuesday about developing 12 small modular reactors at the INL site.

“We continue to be a lab that’s solving big national challenges,” INL Director Mark Peters said.

That briefing included mention of two forthcoming bills that INL and related companies are seeking in this year’s legislative session.

According to lobbyist Ken McClure, who has been hired to work on the bills, one would exempt two of the 12 SMR units from sales tax. Idaho has an existing sales tax exemption for research facilities at INL, and INL plans to purchase those two units for research purposes. But because those two units are part of the larger 12-unit project, with the remaining 10 reserved to provide commercial power production, the lab wants to get clarification about the portion of the project dedicated to research.

“For those two modules, for one-sixth of the expenditure on this facility, it would remain sales tax exempt,” McClure said. “That’s what they would get if they only built two units. They shouldn’t be penalized because we’re also building 10 more.”

The second bill, McClure said, seeks to make a few technical changes to a law to “make the bolt holes line up” and ensure an existing tax break for large investment projects can be used.

Lawmakers passed a bill in 2008 that exempted new properties with assessed values of more than $400 million and total investment of more than $1 billion from property taxes. That bill was written with an eye to a planned uranium enrichment facility planned by Areva, which has stalled following a reduction in demand for nuclear fuel triggered by the 2011 reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan.

The SMR project is expected to be large enough to qualify for such a break.

Peters also went through a review of the lab’s recent performance and expansion. For the fourth year in a row, the lab was given an ‘A’ rating by the Department of Energy.

“We’re not perfect, but we’re performing very well,” Peters said.

NuScale CEO John Hopkins detailed his company’s’ progress toward the construction of innovative small modular reactors. More than $700 million have been invested in the project so far, he said, and the company is currently going through the lengthy process of Nuclear Regulatory Commission certification.

He and UAMPS CEO Doug Hunter told the committee that current cost estimates indicate power from the small modular reactor project will be cost competitive with natural gas, but without climate-change-driving carbon emissions. Hopkins told the committee he thinks the eventual size of the SMR market might be enormous, with applications such as the electrification of Africa, where siting small reactors could eliminate the need for large power lines.

“I don’t really know how big this market is, but the potential is huge,” Hopkins said.

Chairman Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, a farmer, said that idea appeals to him.

“I think we’ve been privileged in getting in on a new era in power production,” Raybould said. “Here we have an opportunity to have these little small power plants that can be located right next to cities, and we don’t have to have these big power lines.”


Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

For manufacturer Sakae, eastern Idaho is the land of opportunity

For manufacturer Sakae, eastern Idaho is the land of opportunity

For manufacturer Sakae, eastern Idaho is the land of opportunity

Sakae Casting President Takashi Suzuki poses for a portrait Jan. 23 outside of the company’s satellite office at Shoup Avenue. Sakae opened its Idaho Falls office in April. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Sakae Casting President Takashi Suzuki poses for a portrait Jan. 23. Suzuki splits time between Japan and the United States in an effort to expand the reach of his company. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Rogers

An example of Sakae Casting’s signature cooling plate. The cast aluminum plate features embedded stainless steel cooling tubes. Sakae’s casting process enables a minimum clearance of 0.5mm with a space between parts of 1mm, a plate thickness of 8mm and a pipe diameter of 6mm.

Takashi Suzuki didn’t get what he needed in Silicon Valley. But he found it in Idaho.

The Tokyo-based Sakae Casting president opened an Idaho Falls satellite office in April. Since then, Sakae has begun work on a new spent fuel cask design with researchers from University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho National Laboratory.

If successful, the design could be used across the nuclear industry. The research is being funded, in part, by a state entrepreneurship grant Suzuki never would have heard about had he not attended a national investment summit in 2016.

At that time, Suzuki was planning to close an unsuccessful satellite office in California, then refocus efforts back to Japan. Instead, he decided to take a chance on Idaho after meeting Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Jan Rogers, CEO of Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho.

Idaho was much cheaper than California’s Bay Area, and this side of the state offers robust research collaboration opportunities. But there was something else: Gem State representatives made Suzuki felt welcomed.

During a recent trip to Idaho, Suzuki spoke to the Post Register, with the aid of interpreter Mika Fox, about his decision to open a Sakae office in Idaho Falls, and the possibility of further business coming to the Gem State.

“He met the people from Idaho. and they were passionate about getting business, and he was very impressed by them — he was very touched by it,” Fox said. “He thinks there’s a match between them: what they’re looking for and what he wanted to do.”

An authentic welcome

Sakae’s signature product is a cast-aluminum plate embedded with U-shaped stainless steel pipes that can be used to cool semiconductors, other digital technology, and, possibly, spent fuel casks.

Sakae opened its Silicon Valley office in 2011. At that time, and still today, Suzuki said global expansion is logical for Japanese firms, partially due to long-term demographic shifts within Japan.

Reuters poll from June showed that shrinking domestic demand and labor shortages were by far the largest concerns of more than 500 medium and large Japanese businesses.

Japan’s birth rate is low; its population is aging. The country’s 1995 peak working-age population shrank 11 percent to 77.2 million in 2015, and it’s projected to drop to 45.2 million by 2065, according to Reuters.

To Suzuki, who also has opened a Sakae office in South Korea, there were two clear choices for further international expansion: China and the United States.

“He chose America because of its culture for new businesses and open-mindedness for investment as well as research and development — the American dream,” Fox said. “That’s the culture here, not in China.”

Silicon Valley, a world tech hub, was a logical place to open a satellite office, but it eventually became too expensive. And Suzuki, who settled there with assistance from Japanese connections, couldn’t integrate his company into the area’s business community.

It was at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C., that Suzuki met representatives from other states, most memorably Idaho.

“He felt an authentic welcome from Jan, and she tried to introduce him to other people — it never happened in California,” Fox said.

Getting to the front of the line

Idaho is poised to attract small- to medium-sized businesses such as Sakae, Rogers said, because of the potential to develop relationships between CEOs and key state figures.

“Everyone was doing what they could to help move this project forward in the state. If you were to ask a number of businesses, I would think that somewhere in that discussion would be the fact that they were treated with respect,” Rogers said. “We did what we said and said what we meant.”

Gem State representatives can intimately engage business presidents, partially, because of the state’s size.

California had the largest gross domestic product of any state in the U.S. during 2016: $2,602.67 billion. Idaho, meanwhile, was ranked 43rd, including the District of Columbia. The state added $67.28 billion to the U.S. economy.

Companies that wouldn’t be a blip on the radar of larger states can get a personal touch from Idaho.

“You’d have to be a huge company, like Samsung or Mitsubishi, to get to the front of the line with California’s governor. Our state is small enough where you can actually get the introduction,” Rogers said.

Rogers headed southern Idaho’s regional marketing firm when yogurt manufacturer Chobani opened a $750 million factory in Twin Falls. Today, approximately 1,000 people work at the factory; Chobani also built a $21 million research center in the area last year, USA Today reported.

During a state of the state speech, Otter declared the local investment of Chobani and other food processing firms the “Magic Valley miracle.”

‘That’s his mission — hiring local people’

For Sakae, opportunity is propelled by the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM), which provides funding for commercialization research between university personnel and businesses.

IGEM, a subsidiary of the Idaho Department of Commerce, has invested more than $4.8 million in 24 projects since 2013, including $979,572 during fiscal year 2017.

The spent fuel cask project, which is being researched at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, is funded largely by a $237,898 grant distributed in late 2017.

Sakae is expected to build two prototypes before 2019.

If the project is viable at the end of the yearlong research period, and a business plan detailing market potential, profit margins and other details can be drawn up, Sakae and researchers could be granted another round of IGEM funding.

If the product goes to market, Sakae has committed to building a cask factory in eastern Idaho within five years, give or take. Suzuki plans to create internship and hiring programs along the way to bolster Sakae’s Gem State workforce presence by dozens of people.

“Ultimately they want to hire 50 people. That’s his mission — hiring local people,” Fox said.

If Sakae succeeds, others will follow

Sakae’s local economic impact could extend beyond the company’s immediate presence in eastern Idaho, however.

Suzuki is the informal leader of a small chamber of commerce in Japan. Sakae’s ventures outside Asia, if successful, could become a model for affiliated small- to medium-sized companies hesitant to do the same.

“They want to diversify their businesses, but they are small, so there’s a bit of struggle and many walls to break — the U.S. is huge and intimidating,” Fox said. “So they’re skeptical and a bit afraid. It’s really important for (Suzuki) to succeed and show them that he made it. Then others follow.”

Representatives from a Japanese automated manufacturing firm visited Idaho in December; they’re considering Gem State facilities to complement the state’s agriculture industry.

Rogers, along with local researchers and Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, will visit Japan in April to meet with company representatives introduced by Suzuki.

“When companies are seeing results and that the community and our state is doing whatever it can to make your business successful, then they’re more likely to encourage others to speak with you,” Rogers said. “We’re going to try to continue to develop these relationships, and who knows where the next opportunity will come from? But unless you pursue it, it never happens.”

Echoing Japan’s generational issues, Suzuki has heard anecdotal evidence of Idaho’s young people, “talent,” leaving the state for high-paying jobs elsewhere.

Suzuki said he wants to bring additional Japanese companies to Idaho so they can hire local, too.

“He comes here and sees more opportunities,” Fox said. “He’s thankful that eastern Idaho opened the door, so if he can contribute to creating employment here, that’s how he wants to help: hiring local people so they don’t have to go to Silicon Valley.”


Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.

This Could be a ‘Breakthrough’ Year

This Could be a ‘Breakthrough’ Year

INL is the nation’s lead nuclear research lab but, without spent fuel, it’s difficult to conduct research, writes Dana Kirkham.

This Could be a ‘Breakthrough’ Year

The U.S. Department of Energy has 17 national laboratories located in 14 states. Only Idaho has a Settlement Agreement governing waste cleanup and disposal. The value of our 1995 agreement is enormous because it protects our environment and people.

The Settlement Agreement brought accountability to DOE, and has been incredibly successful, including treatment of more than 1 million tons of radioactive liquid waste. The 2013 Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission report said 959 of 964 mandated deadlines had been met and tons of waste shipped out of Idaho.

The agreement also contains pro-visions that allow it to be amended. In 2008 the Navy successfully negotiated an addendum.

And, in 2011, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that allowed into Idaho National Laboratory limited quantities of used commercial fuel for research.

One missed cleanup deadline, however, has had huge consequences for INL’s research mission and Idaho’s economy, and tells us that our 23-year-old agreement needs updating.

That came in 2012, when DOE failed to begin processing the last 900,000 gallons of liquid waste at the site. When that deadline was missed, Wasden stopped two scheduled commercial nuclear fuel shipments. Clearly, the attorney general is in a difficult place, with a duty to enforce the agreement and, as he attempted to do in 2011 by signing the spent fuel MOA, ensure INL’s important R&D mission.

Contributing to the complexity of
this issue are changes made in 2005. At that time, DOE separated cleanup and research functions at the site. Today they are handled by different contractors working under separate contracts. That leaves INL in the uncomfortable position of having its vital clean energy and national security research affected by factors out of its control.

INL is the nation’s lead nuclear research lab and, to state the obvious, without spent fuel it is difficult to conduct research. The first shipment scheduled for INL instead went to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The loss of these shipments could cost Idaho millions of dollars.

Idahoans need to address this issue, because it’s not going away. In 1995, when the Settlement Agreement was signed, the state and federal governments anticipated having a national repository to dispose of waste imported into Idaho during the Cold War.

Because of the federal government’s inability to open a national waste repository, approaching Settlement Agreement deadlines are likely to go unmet.

But I am confident we can find a solution to this difficult problem this year, for three reasons:

1. DOE’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant (AMWTP) should complete treatment of TRU waste brought to Idaho from Rocky Flats by the end
of this year. AMWTP is a multi-billion dollar facility with the ability to treat waste from across the DOE complex. This saves taxpayer money, and advances the national interest of treating waste from our atomic past and moving it to be safely stored. The problem is the agreement that created the AMWTP mission prevents it from continuing. The completion of its mission may accelerate discussions about AMWTP’s future because time is running out.

2. The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit facility, designed to treat the remaining liquid waste, is set for a simulant run early this year. Hopefully, solutions are imminent.

3. Last fall, officials from DOE, DOE-Idaho, Wasden, and state and local officials met. Important questions were identified and a path forward established. It is vital this momentum continues.

Federal, state, and local officials have an obligation to update the 1995 Settlement Agreement without diminishing the vital protections it provides to our environment and people. Let us resolve to continue cleaning up the site while enabling INL’s vital R&D mission.

It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. The time has come to find a deal that works for everyone.

Dana Kirkham is the STAR director for REDI. You can reach her at danak@easternidaho.org.