Rogers: CSI was key to ‘Magic Valley Miracle’

Rogers: CSI was key to ‘Magic Valley Miracle’

Rogers: CSI was key to ‘Magic Valley Miracle’

Student Ambassador Shakalah-le Brown, right, talks to Carol Anderson, a sign language interpreter for the College of Southern Idaho Student Disabilities Services, as they tour campus with a selection of Magic Valley high schoolers Feb. 8 during the College GPS event at CSI in Twin Falls. Jan Rogers, the CEO of Regional Economic Development of Eastern Idaho, who previously spent 14 years as the executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, said the community college played an integral role in what has become known as the “Magic Valley Miracle.” Drew Nash / Twin Falls Times-News

Chelsea Bickers, Advising Center office specialist, helps Winston Sanchez, left, and Antonio Granados, right, set up an appointment with Sanchez’s adviser Jan. 12 at the Taylor Building Student Matrix on the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls. Drew Nash / Twin Falls Times-News

A key issue in the debate over a proposed community college in eastern Idaho revolves around jobs and economic prosperity.

One selling point among proponents of turning Eastern Idaho Technical College into a community college is that a more robust higher education system could provide a “career pipeline,” providing locals with the necessary education and training to gain high-paying jobs. And they argue that a better-skilled workforce would help attract better employers to the region.

Proponents of converting EITC into the College of Eastern Idaho say the College of Southern Idaho, a community college in Twin Falls, offers a model of how worker training programs centered in a community college can drive economic growth.

The Magic Valley has in recent years become a national hub for food processing, drawing major national companies including Chobani and Clif Bar. It has drawn hundreds of millions in investment and employed hundreds of workers. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter branded it the “Magic Valley Miracle.”

Jan Rogers is the CEO of Regional Economic Development of Eastern Idaho. Before that, she spent 14 years as the executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, a similar group based in Twin Falls.

Rogers said CSI was a key piece of the Magic Valley Miracle.

“We called CSI our ‘secret weapon,’” Rogers said. “Talent has always been a very important part of any new business or business expansion project. If you don’t have the talent, then you’re not going to get the business.”

Rogers said the role of a local board of trustees would be key. CSI trustees, along with CSI President Jeff Fox, took steps, including visiting Chobani’s plant in New York, to make sure they understood what skills the prospective employer would need.

The school then developed a custom curriculum designed to provide prospective workers in the Magic Valley.

“We are constantly working with industry,” Fox said in a phone interview.

In August, Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary told the Twin Falls Times-News that his company had trained much of its workforce through programs at CSI. It began training prospective workers through a program at CSI months before it opened a 275,000-square-foot bakery in Twin Falls.

“For Clif Bar as a company, Twin Falls has really exceeded our expectations,” General Manager Dale Ducommun told the paper.

And last month Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya told the New York Times that collaboration with CSI and other colleges has been key to solving problems with a shortage of skilled labor.

“Our biggest challenge is that we have to find a way to keep the young in Idaho,” Ulukaya told the paper.

CSI provides training for careers outside of industrial food processing such as health care. The college provides training for paramedics, radiology technicians and certified nursing assistants.

“We have a huge hospital presence here, with St. Luke’s (hospital system), so we have a vibrant career pipeline,” Fox said.

CSI also has programs for law enforcement, veterinary technicians, welders and HVAC installation.

“When you come here, we are an educational institution that will customize education for your business,” Fox said. “It has made a difference for a lot of the companies that have settled here.”

Economic Modeling Specialists International, an economic evaluation firm based in Moscow, released an assessment of the economic impact of CSI in February.

The firm concluded that CSI created an additional $255 million in income in the Magic Valley, and that it’s responsible or about 3.6 percent of total economic activity in the area and about 5,700 jobs.

The firm concluded that the $37 million in taxpayer support CSI received in 2013-14, resulted in $72.5 million in additional tax revenue.

The firm concluded the biggest impact of the school is increasing the skill sets and earning potential of graduates, and in turn, attracting business.

“Students earn more because of the skills they learned while attending the college, and businesses earn more because student skills make capital more productive (buildings, machinery, and everything else),” the report states. “This in turn raises profits and other business property income. Together, increases in labor and non-labor (i.e., capital) income are considered the effect of a skilled workforce.”

It estimated that the total value of its students’ increased skills at over $700 million.

Rogers said the lack of a community college in eastern Idaho has been an impediment for her regional economic development work since transitioning from southern to eastern Idaho.

“From an economic development perspective, one of the things that doesn’t put us on a level playing field is we don’t have a community college,” she said. “We’re the only region in the state that doesn’t have a community college, and so we don’t have the flexibility that other communities do. We can’t turn the ship fast enough.”

Local communities receive grant awards

Local communities receive grant awards 

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced Tuesday that 18 Community Development Block Grant awards will be distributed to communities this spring.
The federally funded grants are administered by the Idaho Department of Commerce.  The money is routed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for projects that benefit low-and-moderate-income persons, prevent or eliminate slum and blight conditions, or address damage caused by natural disasters.
Most of the eastern Idaho funding is earmarked for water or wastewater projects.  It includes projects in Blackfoot, Ashton, Basalt, Shelley, Preston, and Caribou County.
“One of the greatest assets that we can offer our communities is to partner with them in helping to improve their infrastructure, attract new businesses, and better serve their citizens,” said Megan Ronk, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.  “It’s truly encouraging to see all the growth and development across Idaho because of the CDBG program.”
The 18 awards announced Tuesday are:
Public Facilities Awards
• City of Blackfoot – Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project – $500,000
• City of Filer – Water System Improvement Project – $500,000
• City of Ashton – Wastewater Improvement Project – $500,000
• City of Kellogg – Wastewater Collection Line Replacement Project – $500,000
• City of Stites – Wastewater Improvement Project – $375,000
• City of Shelley – Water System Improvement Project – $400,000
• City of Garden City – Infrastructure to serve Life’s Kitchen – $474,689 (sub-recipient: Life’s Kitchen)
• City of Donnelly – Water System Improvement Project – $500,000
• City of Grangeville – Construction of a new Kids Klub facility – $400,000 (sub-recipient: Kids Klub)
• City of Basalt – Wastewater Improvement Project – $350,000
• City of Preston – Water System Improvement Project – $500,000
• City of Hazelton – Water System Improvement Project – $412,550
• Benewah County – Water System Project – $500,000 (sub-recipient: Fernwood Water and Sewer District)
Senior & Community Center Awards
• City of Mountain Home – Senior Center Kitchen Improvement Project – $150,000
• Power County – Senior Center Kitchen Improvement Project – $150,000
• Caribou County – Roof Replacement Project – $137,350
• City of Kimberly – Roof Replacement & Kitchen Improvement Project – $84,150
Imminent Threat Award
• Shoshone County – Water Main Replacement Project – $100,000 (sub-recipient Pinehurst Water District)
All grant awards are reviewed and recommended by the Economic Advisory Council.  Final approval is granted by the Governor.

Chubbuck joins regional economic development group

Chubbuck joins regional economic development group

CHUBBUCK, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – The city of Chubbuck has formally joined the Regional Economic Development (REDI) organization.
REDI was created to focus on business recruitment, expansion and retention efforts.
“We are excited to join REDI, adding another dynamic tool in our toolbox to promote Chubbuck and drive additional business development in our great community,” said Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England.  “Our city council has been working to identify a direction and vision for securing economic growth.  As we solidify this plan, we see joining REDI as integral to our ability to implement our long-term efforts promoting Chubbuck.”
Chief Executive Officer Jan Rogers said the partnership will support REDI’s goal to market the entire eastern Idaho corridor.
Chubbuck joins REDI members Idaho Falls, Ammon, Ucon, Blackfoot, Shelly, Rexburg, Bonneville County, and Bingham County.
Chubbuck joins REDI economic development group

Chubbuck joins REDI economic development group

Chubbuck joins REDI economic development group

  • By Josh Friesen

“We see Chubbuck as one of the most marketable areas in Southeast Idaho,” said Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England.

Chubbuck is currently a member of Bannock Development Corporation. The city’s decision to join REDI has no effect on its membership with Bannock Development Corporation.

The decision to join REDI has been several months in the making, with the Chubbuck City Council discussing the direction it feels is best for the city. Last Wednesday, the City Council met after studying REDI and came to the conclusion it was time to join. Chubbuck joins REDI members that include Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Shelley, Blackfoot and Bonneville and Bingham counties.

“We’re excited for the opportunity,” England said. “I’ve heard from several who are members of REDI, and they’re excited. They see this as an opportunity for the region to work together, and that’s the basic intent of REDI.”

Added REDI CEO Jan Rogers in a press release, “Eastern Idaho is prime for new business opportunities. Our extensive marketing efforts promoting the region to national and international markets can now include the city of Chubbuck. Our new partnership with Chubbuck supports our goal to market the entire Eastern Idaho corridor.”

England says both REDI and Bannock Development Corporation are viable investments for Chubbuck. He also said that an economic development team is being organized within city staff. And with a proposed interchange linking Chubbuck to Interstate 15 in the works, the future for development is bright, and England wants to make sure he’s using all the resources available to promote his city.

“We believe that both Bannock Development and REDI can help us sell this completely,” he said. “We believe that we will fit both Bannock Development and REDI hand in glove with what we’re trying to do right now. It’s a different direction than this community’s ever taken.”

When REDI formed with the merging of other regional economic development organizations in early 2015, Bannock Development Corporation and several local officials, including England, opposed the idea, citing concerns that a merger would effectively dissolve Bannock Development Corporation.

 Now, however, England says that isn’t the case.

“(REDI) recognizes that Bannock Development is an important part of what we do in Bannock County,” England said. “REDI will be more of a marketing outfit to kind of push our region.”

Chubbuck currently pays a membership fee of $15,000 per year to Bannock Development Corporation. It cost the city $10,800 to join REDI. That money comes out of funds in the city’s budget allocated to economic development.

England knows those funds — through resources such as Bannock Development Corporation and now REDI — will pay off for Chubbuck.

“I think the concept of a coordinated effort throughout the corridor of I-15 has always made a lot of sense to me,” he said. “I think if we don’t sell ourselves regionally, we’re making a big mistake. As we push this, we really need to be tickled when Rexburg lands a big thing or when Pocatello lands a big thing or when Blackfoot lands a big thing. It really is big to our entire regional community. And so to me it makes sense for us to work together.”

Rexburg keeps growing

Rexburg keeps growing

Rexburg keeps growing

This 2011 file photograph shows construction near the BYU-Idaho campus. Post Register file

Students leave the BYU-Idaho Center after the first devotional of the fall 2016 semester. BYU-Idaho photo

REXBURG — When Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill grew up in Rexburg during the 1960s, most shops were on Main Street.

There were rows of clothing stores, burger stands and a J.C. Penney that survived for nearly a century.

Three pharmacies also lined the strip, including a Thriftway Drug run by Hill’s father. Hill would often get soft drinks at the attached soda fountain, as would other kids and teenagers.

The Main Street pharmacies have since disappeared, though soft drink cravings can be satisfied at Soda Vine on Second West.

The drink stop opened several years ago in response to a burgeoning student population after two-year Ricks College became Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2001.

The school’s change from a junior college to a university exponentially accelerated growth in Rexburg, a city with humble agricultural beginnings.

Apartment buildings replaced houses that used to flank Main Street, while restaurants and boutiques catering to college students continue to pop up.

Rexburg’s population was less than 5,000 people in the ’60s. It grew to more than 17,000 people in 2000 and topped 27,000 people in 2015.

“I don’t think any of us imagined it growing at the pace it has, especially in the last decade or so since Ricks College became a four-year,” Hill said. “There’s so many apartments now, some over five stories high. You wouldn’t see anything over two stories in the ’60s or ’70s in Rexburg.”

Enrollment drives overall growth

Student population at BYU-Idaho has spurred construction of housing complexes, campus buildings, such as the BYU-Idaho Center and the Hyrum Manwaring Center, and local businesses.

Total campus enrollment is up 61 percent since the conversion to BYU-Idaho. For the fall semester in 2016, the total campus enrollment was 17,980. The enrollment total for all three semesters in 2016 showed the university’s largest student body in its history.

Rob Garrett, vice president of executive strategy and planning, has worked at BYU-Idaho for 15 years and has seen changes both on campus and in the community.

Garrett attributes some of the enrollment growth to church membership growth as well as the university’s efforts to provide a quality education. The church has added nearly four million members since 2003, when it had 11.9 million members.

University surveys show that BYU-Idaho’s appealing qualities include its faculty’s teaching focus, the opportunity to gather with other students who share common values, real-world preparation and a high-value education, Garrett said.

About 57 percent of on-campus students in the winter 2017 semester served full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of whom learned a foreign language during their service.

In the winter 2017 semester, 1,097 on-campus students were international students who were from countries with national languages other than English.

The university employs 1,658 full-time employees, including administration, staff, full-time faculty and adjunct faculty. That’s nearly 500 employees more than it had a decade ago, according to the city of Rexburg’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan, written in 2008.

Business attracted to students as customers, employees

Madison County’s unemployment rate was 2.1 percent in March, the lowest in the state where the average is 3.5 percent.

Earlier this month, NAVEX Global, an ethics and compliance software and services company, announced it will expand its Rexburg operations with a call center which is expected to create up to 100 jobs.

The concentration of potential applicants who possess multilingual skills, typically acquired on an LDS mission, is attractive to companies such as NAVEX with customers around the world.

“I think we have kind of a well-kept secret of a pretty massive work force here that’s very talented in languages and things like that,” Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill said.

Other call centers that provide similar opportunities in Rexburg include AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, Melaleuca and Progrexion.

Merrill said Rexburg’s workforce appeals to more than call centers.

“What we’ve got here that companies need to be aware of is just a really well-educated workforce that is available and willing to work and can contribute a lot to a company that’s looking to expand,” Merrill said.

Some businesses opened in Rexburg largely because of the student population.

Soda Vine, which opened in June 2014, saw the potential of students as both workers and consumers.

Manager Kaitlyn Anderson said the owners opened the business primarily to help students pay for college and support their families.

“They wanted to be able to help and give back to students,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the key to the company’s success has been customer service, word of mouth and social media. The warmer weather that comes with spring doesn’t hurt, either.

“Business has just been so successful, especially lately,” she said.

The Burg, a local restaurant that serves burgers, fries and shakes, opened in July 2015 and its sales have steadily increased.

Manager Layne Davidson said The Burg’s owner saw an opportunity for good business.

Davidson said the business is outgrowing its current location across the street from BYU-Idaho’s campus, and the owner is considering moving to a larger location.

Davidson said although locals eat at the restaurant, its target demographic is students, and the key to the business’ success has been keeping prices low and quality high.

The Burg also appeals to college students by offering weeknight entertainment such as open mic nights, karaoke nights and local band performances on Friday nights.

Keeping pace with growth

Madison School District 321 has seen an influx of students since the early 2000s.

Elementary schools are “fairly full,” Merrill said, and the district is considering building another elementary school in the near future.

BYU-Idaho educates many nontraditional students who have children, Madison assistant superintendent Randy Lords said.

“The district is definitely being impacted. You get more families in town and that means more kids,” he said. “We feel growing pains because we don’t tend to build as fast. We rely on levies and bonds when we have big growth, but when you ask patrons to tax themselves it’s a challenge.”

The district passed a bond in 2008 to rebuild Madison High School due to population growth. Madison Junior High School relocated into the old high school, while district offices moved into the old junior high building.

District officials are already discussing additions to the new high school, which was completed in 2010 with room and infrastructure to accommodate extra wings.

Additions also are being considered for Kennedy Elementary School, near West Main Street. A proposed university apartment building for married students could double Kennedy’s 300-student population, Lords said.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in elementary schools especially from parents going to BYU-Idaho,” Lords said. “But we’re grateful for the growth.

The city’s fire and police departments also have been forced to adapt.

Merrill said Rexburg’s ratio of police officers or firefighters per thousand people is one of the lowest in the country.

“We try to do a lot with the small amount of resources we have,” he said.

The Rexburg Police Department and Madison Fire Department have each added personnel within the last year, since BYU-Idaho removed its paramedics program.

“We had usually six interns a year from (the BYU-Idaho paramedics program),” he said. “We’ve had to replace those and that’s cost us.”

Although the loss in interns has cost the city, BYU-Idaho contributes about $1 million a year to the city’s police and fire departments.

“(BYU-Idaho) definitely does contribute financially to the support of our police and fire departments,” Merrill said. “They don’t just demand services and not be willing to pitch in for those services.”

Growth begets growth

Apart from growing up, Rexburg has grown outward.

After minimal annexations from 1982 to 1999, Rexburg’s footprint expanded considerably from 2000 to 2015, according to a city map. Western subdivision growth is especially pronounced. The city’s footprint doubled from 2000 to 2010.

Despite the rapid expansion, the city’s infrastructure has been solid, Public Works Director Keith Davidson said. City personnel are working on a set of infrastructure projects worth $22 million.

Planners completed a traffic study a few years ago, and stoplights have been added near the university to moderate vehicle flow. The seven-week breaks between BYU-Idaho terms give crews ideal opportunities to work on infrastructure, though U.S. Highway 20 gets backed up when the semester begins.

Wastewater treatment plant upgrades are wrapping up in the next few months. The plant’s capacity will increase from 3 million gallons per day to 5.4 million gallons per day, Davidson said.

City officials also are selecting a site for a new water reservoir, on which they hope to begin construction in the summer.

“You just keep planning for a larger population,” Davidson said.

City workers also are conducting water line upgrades. Subdivision growth to the north has been put on hold until city officials can complete a study on water lines there, Davidson said.

“Our system was built to handle quite a bit, but we’re getting to the point where we need to increase line sizing around town,” Davidson said. “Part of the biggest aspect of the stress on resources from population growth is just your capacity and line sizes.”

In the meantime, commerical growth in the north continues.

Construction is underway on a Panda Express restaurant near the Wal-Mart Super Center on Second East. Other restaurants, hotels and businesses are also eyeing the area, Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Mann said.

The city’s industrial sector also continues to grow, with companies including Lockwood Manufacturing, Matrix Drilling Products and Citius Composites drawing employees.

“After population growth you see an increase in business, then more in population, and they kind of follow each other. We just have to make sure our job creation and economic outlook stays right in the middle of all that,” Mann said. “But I think Rexburg is prime for growth, and we look forward to seeing more of that. People want to live here because of the growth.”

Surgical suite to be built in Arco

Surgical suite to be built in Arco

 By: Staff Writer

ARCO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH) of Blackfoot and Lost Rivers Medical Center (LRMC) in Arco have announced a partnership. The two hospitals are building a new surgical suite at LRMC in Arco to provide surgical services to rural Butte County and Custer County.
“Today’s announcement is an exciting step in the continuation of our journey to provide advanced health care services to the communities that we serve,” said LRMC Chief Executive Officer Brad Huerta.  “We greatly value our collaboration with BMH and look forward to expanding access to high-quality, affordable care to the Lost Rivers Valley and beyond.”
The new suite will provide general, orthopedic, and gastrointestinal surgeries.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 at Lost Rivers Medical Center. The hospitals plan to have the new facility operational by summer of 2018.

New surgery center being built in Arco

New surgery center being built in Arco

An Arco medical center will begin building an extensive surgical services suite thanks to a partnership with Bingham Memorial Hospital.

Lost Rivers Medical Center will have a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the construction of its new surgical facility, expected to be finished by the summer of 2018, a Bingham Memorial news release said.

The surgical center will offer services to residents of rural areas in Butte and Custer counties who otherwise would have to travel long distances to be treated. The two hospitals partnered to provide a state-of-the-art surgical suite at the Arco hospital. The new suite will offer surgeries from orthopedic to gastrointestinal care.

Chief Executive Officer Brad Huerta said the construction project is projected to cost approximately $1.3 million. Lost River has been saving funds to pay most of the cost, with Bingham Memorial Hospital providing the surgeons once the suite is built.

“Being Arco, it’s hard for us to recruit surgeons,” Huerta said. “Bingham has been great as a partner. They’ve really stepped up and said ‘We get you.’”

Bingham Memorial isn’t the only organization to take notice of the rural hospital. A recent Politico story profiled the hospital, pointing to its expansion and necessary medical services to a rural populace in a town that has seen many of its businesses close and its population drop by 16 percent since 2000. (The in-depth profile of the hospital can be found at

“We have people that need to get gall bladders out or need knee scopes, just like everybody else,” Huerta said.

Bingham Memorial spokesman Mark Baker said talks regarding partnering with Lost Rivers have been underway for at least six months. Baker said Bingham Memorial is engaged in both a consultative and financial partnership with the Arco hospital.

Lost Rivers Medical Center operates as a Critical Access Hospital, the designation of which was established by law under the Medicare program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require Critical Access Hospitals to, among other requirements:

• “Furnish 24-hour emergency care services seven days a week, using either on-site or on-call staff, with specific on-site response time frames for on-call staff.”

• “Be located more than a 35-mile drive from any hospital or other Critical Access Hospitals or located more than a 15-mile drive from any hospital or other Critical Access Hospitals in an area with mountainous terrain or only secondary roads.”

Reporter Tom Holm can be reached at 542-6746

Chubbuck becomes latest city to join REDI economic development group

Chubbuck becomes latest city to join REDI economic development group

Chubbuck becomes latest city to join REDI economic development group

  • City of Chubbuck press release
“Eastern Idaho is prime for new business opportunities,” said Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI. “Our extensive marketing efforts promoting the region to national and international markets can now include the City of Chubbuck. Our new partnership with Chubbuck supports our goal to market the entire Eastern Idaho corridor,” she said.

Chubbuck joins REDI members Idaho Falls, Ammon, Ucon, Blackfoot, Shelly, Rexburg, Bonneville County and Bingham County.

INL boosts battery-testing infrastructure

INL boosts battery-testing infrastructure

INL boosts battery-testing infrastructure

Idaho National Laboratory Energy Storage Group Lead Eric Dufek talks to reporters about the new chemical storage units at INL’s Nondestructive Battery Evaluation Laboratory on Monday afternoon. The unit allows INL researchers to test lithium-ion batteries in harsh conditions. Taylor Carpenter /

A shaker table sits in the Idaho National Laboratory Nondestructive Battery Evaluation Laboratory on Monday afternoon. The table shakes and vibrates experimental electric car batteries to simulate driving conditions. Taylor Carpenter /

Any next-generation electric car battery design gracing a Ford, Chevrolet or Chrysler in coming years likely will have been tested at Idaho National Laboratory first, thanks to equipment recently added to the lab’s Idaho Falls campus.

Workers at INL’s Nondestructive Battery Evaluation Laboratory on North Boulevard recently gained access to a pair of fireproof chemical storage units that allow batteries to be tested in extreme temperature conditions. Eight employees work at the lab.

The units allow INL to test experimental, fast-charging lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and U.S. Department of Energy representatives will visit the facility Tuesday.

“We saw (that) this would provide a way to help the path forward with vehicle electrification as fast-charging becomes more necessary on the horizon,” INL Energy Storage Group Lead Eric Dufek said.

The rectangular thick-walled units occupy one corner of the battery evaluation lab. Rated to withstand fire for four hours, they’re traditionally used in various industries, from waste management to food manufacturing, to store hazardous chemicals and materials. INL’s units are outfitted to accommodate battery testing.

Today’s fastest 480-volt electric car battery chargers take about 30 minutes to charge batteries, INL Clean Energy and Transportation Division Director Kev Adjemian said, though automotive manufacturers are trying to design batteries that take only five or 10 minutes to charge.

“In electric vehicles one of the issues in regards to customer acceptance is how long it takes to charge a vehicle,” he said.

Experimental, energy-dense batteries capable of such charge speeds are more fire-prone and more likely to release volatile fumes, which is why storage units are necessary for testing.

“They give DOE a location to do these types of tests without burning a lab or a whole building down,” Adjemian said. “We’re trying to test these extreme conditions in a safe environment.”

Cameras lining the units’ interior walls provide visual access to ongoing experiments, while exhaust vents remove hazardous fumes and floor holes drain water from interior sprinkler systems.

Environmental test chambers, capable of temperatures from minis 70 degrees Celsius to more than 100 degrees Celsius, are wheeled into the units to test batteries in environments not far from the realm of realistic use.

INL’s battery evaluation lab also includes a shaker table to simulate road bumps and vibrations. The lab is unique in DOE’s complex, Adjemian said.

INL tests experimental batteries from other DOE labs and from USCAR, an INL-partnered research consortium that includes Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

After batteries are tested, INL researchers work with industry or lab partners to eliminate vulnerabilities.

“Can the battery and vehicle withstand such high levels of charging? With time what are possible failure mechanisms?” Adjemian said. “We start with the developer to work on potential countermeasures to solve particular problems.”

Batteries powering the Chevrolet Volt and recently released Chevrolet Bolt electric cars were tested at INL in the late 1990s, Dufek said.

Of the roughly 700 batteries tested annually by INL, about 50 to 70 will be car batteries tested in the Nondestructive Battery Evaluation Laboratory.

Though new battery chemistries and manufacturing ideas pop up often, a battery takes around 20 years to develop from the “beaker to the dealership,” Adjemian said, during which time it’ll likely stop in Idaho.

“The reality is every week some professor is saying ‘I invented this thing that will solve everything’ but DOE doesn’t necessarily believe it until Idaho tests it,” Adjemian said.

Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 542-6762.

REDI announces hiring, promotion

REDI announces hiring, promotion

REDI announces hiring, promotion

Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI) has hired Molly Swallow to serve as manager of investor relations and advocacy and promoted Josh Wise to manager of talent attraction and business development.

The changes took effect Monday, a REDI news release said.

Swallow has resided in eastern Idaho for more than 25 years and has served in commercial banking since 2002. She will be responsible for facilitating REDI’s growing investor relations and advocacy efforts, the release said.

“I’m thrilled to be joining REDI and promote economic development in eastern Idaho,” Swallow said in the release. “The region has seen significant growth since REDI was established just two years ago.”

Wise has served as executive assistant since October 2015 and in his new role will support REDI’s growing business development and talent attraction efforts including business expansion, retention and attraction and securing talent to support business employment opportunities, the release said

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