Company Spotlight: Fin Fun

The Idaho Falls business, Fin Fun, is making a big splash with swimmable mermaid tails.

Fin Fun sells colorful mermaid tails in a wide array of designs that, when combined with their patented monofin, allow children to look and swim like mermaids.

It is a family owned business that was started in 2010 and has grown explosively, now selling mermaid tails and other lifestyle products to over 180 countries.  In 2016 Fin Fun was named #119 Fastest Growing Company on the Inc. 5000 list with a 3,000% growth over a 3 year period.  Most recently in 2017, brothers Eric Browning, CEO, and Steve Browning, CFO, have been named the Idaho Small Business Persons of the Year.

To order your mermaid tail or learn more about Fin Fun, go to


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Director’s Blog: From the Red Carpet to Rock Music

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my experiences at both the Sun Valley Film Festival and Treefort Music Festival.  How fortunate we are to live in a beautiful state where culture and outdoor living collide in such diverse, creative, and fun ways.

The tourism industry – Idaho’s 3rd largest industry – had an exciting month of major events in March, and we are currently in the midst of another amazing month featuring all things Idaho.

In case you missed it, in March we welcomed filmmakers, artists, writers, celebrities, and national media to Sun Valley for the sixth annual Sun Valley Film Festival. I am still in awe of seeing the incredibly talented Geena Davis receive the Vision Award at the Grande Dame brunch. To be surrounded by women who have accomplished so much professionally was a humbling experience and an inspiration for all in attendance.

The Sun Valley Film Festival had a record year, drawing in over 5,000 attendees which is double the entire population of Ketchum!  Hotels and restaurants were packed throughout the weekend as filmgoers watched films, listened to coffee talks, and participated in various film festival events.

On the tail of SVFF, over 16,000 people filled downtown Boise for the sixth annual Treefort Music Festival. What started out five years ago with one fort (Alefort), has now grown to a variety of fun and engaging “forts” like Yogafort, Foodfort (my personal favorite!), Storyfort, Kidfort, Hackfort, Strengthfort and several others.

It is truly incredible how much traction this event has generated in a relatively short amount of time – both nationally and internationally. It was reported that people have come from as far away as Lithuania and Australia to attend Treefort.  And having experienced the sense of community that Treefort develops around music, food, art, technology and many other shared passions, I can understand why.

And now in April we are celebrating the first annual Idaho Craft Beer Month, highlighting the amazing businesses in this rapidly-growing industry.  If you are a beer aficionado or foodie, this is a great month to be in the Gem State to take advantage of exciting promotions at Idaho’s breweries, taprooms, restaurants, and retailers.  Check out events throughout the state:

It is exciting time for tourism in Idaho as I truly believe (as does Vogue magazine) that Idaho is having a moment. It is one reason my team and I love coming to work every day: to pitch the incredible assets we have in our state to the rest of the world.

So – Cheers to Idaho (with an Idaho craft beer, or course)!


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Company Spotlight: Asana Climbing Gym

Our Commerce BRE team had the pleasure of sitting down with Asana’s very own Jamey Sproull and Rory O’leary to talk about their new climbing facility on the corner of Glenwood and Chinden in Garden City.  This was right after they held their grand opening, and it was evident that Jamey and Rory were both ecstatic to finally be operational in their new facility.

With this new expansion, they have tripled the size of their climbing space, and doubled their manufacturing capacity all under one roof.  It was amazing to see all their new climbing features, which also includes a ninja warrior course, bouldering and rope features, a yoga studio, slacklining, Aerial Silks and Aerial Hoop, personal fitness training, a full workout gym, massage room as well an upcoming dry sauna.  Basically, everything you need under one roof whether you are a novice or seasoned climber or interested in other fitness opportunities.

It is clear that Asana is a serious place for serious climbers.  During our meeting we could see some very fit climbers reaching high above the crash pads they manufacture right on site.  What truly makes this place great though is whether you climb every day, or are new to the sport, Asana is a place for sponsored athletes and families alike.

Asana boasts some amazing sponsored athletes on their team, but it was equally great to see the young kids taking on the Asana climbing features during our meeting.  Asana is a big advocate for children and the future of the sport.  They host birthday parties, summer camps and after school programs.  And their weekend family rate is hard to beat if you want to take your family down to the gym to learn.

In their manufacturing department, Asana has found success hiring local refugees in their cut and sew department.  It takes precision and a fine touch to sew the high quality crash pads they manufacture, and having a workforce that is dedicated to quality and detail is a must.  Not only do they hire people from around the world, they also sell their crash pads and climbing pads across the globe from right here in Idaho.  In fact, Jamey attended the Outdoor Show in Friedrichshafen Germany with Idaho Commerce in 2015, and we hope they will join us again for the ISPO show in 2018.

Looking down the road, Jamey and Rory see climbing going nowhere but up here in the Boise Valley.  Rory anticipates adding more bouldering and other features to the facility in year or less.

We wanted to congratulate Asana on their recent expansion and for letting us get a back stage pass to the new features.  Its companies like Asana that make Idaho a great place for business and a great place to live.

To learn more about Asana, check out this video or visit their website.


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Director’s Blog – Idaho’s Job Growth Success

The Idaho Department of Labor announced last week that Idaho topped the nation in over-the-year job growth. This is incredible news that serves as a testament to the success of our growing economy and the great work that Idaho companies are doing to offer new opportunities to the working citizens of our amazing state.

It comes as no surprise that the construction industry saw the greatest increase (11.3%; 4,500 new jobs) after the Association of General Contractors announced in August 2016 that Boise Metro had the fastest growing construction market in the U.S. We have wide open spaces to grow in Idaho, and companies are using that to our advantage in building sites to fit their expanding needs. Idaho truly is a great place to live, work, and play.

The continued success that we are seeing with the Idaho Tax Reimbursement Incentive certainly factors into the influx of job opportunities in the Gem State. Since the program’s inception on July 1, 2014, TRI investments have created a projected 5,193 jobs and over $2 billion in payroll. With the help of TRI, Idahoans are getting new opportunities through the expansion of existing Idaho companies, and new companies relocating to the state.

At Idaho Commerce, we are excited about the future for Idaho and know that this news is only the beginning. And while there is always more we can do, and more we will continue to do, I’m so proud of Team Idaho for leading the nation!

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Welcome! Ewa, Kim, and Skylor!

We have been busy building our Commerce team and are excited to welcome 3 new faces to the bunch!


Ewa Szewczyk


We are excited to welcome Ewa to the Idaho Department of Commerce Grants team.

Born in Poland, Ewa immigrated to the United States as a baby and has lived in Boise for the majority of that time. She is passionate about cooking and finds herself humming and singing at every opportunity. You may see her singing karaoke on the weekends at various local haunts. She loves road tips and looks forward to exploring Idaho while working with Idaho Commerce grant recipients.

With over 14 years of experience in banking contracts and compliance in the private sector, Ewa is excited for her first role in the public sector.


Kim Glineski


Kim joins the Idaho Department of Commerce Business Retention and Expansion Team. She has years of experience in marketing and communications, including time with Treasure Valley Racing, Agri Beef and Micron.

As a native Idahoan, she is passionate about helping our great state succeed. She was raised in the Treasure Valley with a family background in agriculture and she has a soft spot for rural communities.

In her free time you can usually find Kim on the sidelines of the football & lacrosse fields, running the chute for her husband, or in the barn helping their kids with the animals and 4H/FFA projects.


Skylor Lenz


Skylor Lenz is an International Trade Specialist with the Idaho Department of Commerce. He’s proud to have attended University of Idaho and Boise State University. He’s earned a Bachelors in Spanish and an MBA focused on International Business.

His background includes consumer trend analysis with national manufactures identifying sales/marketing opportunities and delivering actable insights. Skilled in research and data analysis, he’s excited to apply those skills to promote Idaho businesses abroad.

In his spare time he’s an active member of Shriners International and an avid soccer player.

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Director’s Blog: “Made in the Magic Valley”

What an honor it was to keynote the “Making It in the Magic Valley” event this week!

From all of us at Idaho Commerce, I just want to give a big thank you to the Times News for hosting a wonderful event and to Idaho Power for being the title sponsor and always supporting Idaho’s economic development efforts.

Several of the honorees are companies we’ve worked closely with over the years, like Glanbia, Clear Spring Foods, Idaho Milk Products, and more recently, Fabri-Kal.

Others are companies I’ve recently gotten to know while traveling across the state in my role as Director of Idaho Commerce, and others are businesses I am excited to work with in the future and get to know better.

While reflecting on one of the honorees, DOT Foods, and my visit to their facility last summer, I was reminded of their company promise that is prominently displayed on their fleet of vehicles:

“Trusted values. Innovative solutions. Shared growth.”

That spirit perfectly encapsulates the success happening in the Magic Valley, and what has driven all of Idaho to unprecedented heights recently.

Reflecting back to 2015 when the U.S. Commerce Department Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership selected the Magic Valley as a top manufacturing community in the Food Manufacturing category, is validation of the incredible work and partnerships that have been happening in that area for decades.

Given the success Idaho has seen in job growth and economic productivity, more businesses are seeing that Idaho has a very positive economic climate and, in many ways, the Magic Valley has led the way in this expansion. And we expect this region to continue to be a strong driver in the state’s growth. In the years coming out of the recession until present, jobs in the Magic Valley grew by 12.5%, ahead of statewide growth of 11.6%, and we anticipate seeing this trend continue!

Another honoree, Glanbia, was one of our first TRI projects at Idaho Commerce and has been a staple of existing Idaho business success for a long time. Glanbia reported a 400% employee increase since 2005, including bringing their first US headquarters to Twin Falls in 2013, which created 100 new jobs.

With a footprint across the country, Fabri-Kal, another honoree, could have chosen to be most anywhere in the nation, but they chose to be in a place that understands food, that understands production, that understands innovation. There is no place better for all these important components than the Magic Valley.

Idaho’s economy is recognized nationally – even globally – as having a workforce that still makes things. Not only growing, raising, harvesting, or extracting the necessary raw materials, but imagining, designing, building, manufacturing, and finishing those goods and products better than anywhere else in the world.

There truly are few places that “make it” better than we do here in the Magic Valley!

Congratulations to the “Makings it in the Magic Valley” award winners:


Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News




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Power to the People: Inergy Solar Power


Idaho-based Inergy brings innovation, research and product development in solar energy to the gem state and with it— a mission to bring the world portable energy.

By: Idaho Commerce

About one fifth of the world’s population do not have regular access to energy. Regular conveniences that many in developed countries may take for granted daily are unattainable because of limited infrastructure, remoteness of location or proximity to energy sources and poverty.

Sean Luangrath, CEO of Idaho-based solar energy innovation company Inergy, witnessed these challenges first-hand while living in a camp for refugees of the Vietnam War in the late 1970’s and more recently while visiting Laos, his birthplace, after being away for over 30 years and was driven to commit his life to creating energy independent communities that could live “off the grid”. Luangrath and his partners have created a model that would help address this need.

With the support of funding from the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program, Inergy—in collaboration with the University of Idaho for technical oversight—began development of a compact solar powered system in 2016 that will provide whole-home power with a unit that weighs less than 100 pounds. The nature of all IGEM grantees is a partnership that maximizes the research capability of Idaho’s universities, promotes collaborations and encourages job development.

According to Luangrath, the solar powered system will be integrable with others like it, so neighborhoods experiencing a blackout during a disaster or villages that have never had power can create their own electricity grid through linking. Luangrath says that Inergy’s model is unique and will help deliver integrated power because of the bottom-up approach that requires only a small investment, as opposed to the massive investments of solar farms, solar panels on a home or even a farm of battery banks similar to the project completed by Tesla in Southern California.

“It’s possible that clean energy is being approached the wrong way,” said Luangrath. “Rather than taking a ‘top down’ approach where a great deal of investment and planning and in some cases, bureaucracy, is required –Inergy’s philosophy is that it should come from the bottom up and that energy should be attainable. Our mission is to bring the world portable solar power, and we can only do that if we make that energy accessible to everyone.”

The IGEM project is not the only solar endeavor of Inergy’s. Inergy just ran a successful IndieGoGo campaign for their most consumer-friendly product yet— a $65 take anywhere solar quick charger and light that will fully charge two phones, a tablet or GPS called the Raptor Pro. This charger joins a fleet of Inergy’s other solar generators that are helping people globally seek energy independence.

Inergy was born when former strangers united over a common mission—to bring energy to a world that did not have a prior avenue to it.
Luangrath had originally planned to move Inergy’s operations to Utah, but was so impressed with Idaho’s business culture and the support the company was receiving that he determined Pocatello would be the company’s headquarters indefinitely.

“The support in Idaho has been incredible. With the Idaho National Laboratory in our backyard, the state championing our efforts and the low cost of doing business, we’ve found the permanent symbolic headquarters for Inergy right here in Idaho,” said Luangrath.

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2017 Idaho Commerce Proposed Legislation

Proposed Bill:  TRI 2.0
As I’ve traveled the state over the last year as Director, I’ve met with many of you economic development professionals in rural areas who are proponents of the TRI but said that projects creating 20 jobs is unachievable.

This consistent feedback led us to our TRI “Micro” bill that would create a 3rd tier – a “micro” tier – for communities with less than 5,000 residents where a project could qualify for TRI by creating 10 or more jobs.

All the other parameters of TRI will remain the same – projects will still have to pay wages at or above the average county wage; require a community match; and declare TRI as a defining factor is relocating or expanding in Idaho.

We believe that by making TRI more accessible to Idaho’s smallest communities we’ll be able to positively impact Idaho’s rural economic development efforts.


The Idaho Information Technology Equipment Tax Rebate Bill would provide a sales tax  rebate on eligible server equipment in data centers located in Idaho.

Idaho is already home to several small data centers and as we all know, the need to store data in our data-driven society is not going any way.

The goal of this legislation is to help Idaho’s existing data centers expand, as well as recruit new data centers to the state.

As you can imagine, it is extremely costly for these businesses to continually add to and upgrade their equipment. With much of the equipment priced in the tens of millions of dollars, these businesses are looking to locate in states willing to waive sales and use taxes in order to make this cost of doing business possible.

Like most industries, data centers tend to cluster, and many are in areas where they are running out of land to expand. Additionally, given its temperate climate, low natural disaster risk, and ample land, Idaho is an ideal location to house a data center.

To qualify for the rebate, existing Idaho data centers have to invest $5 million dollars in eligible server equipment in a year to qualify for 100 percent sales tax rebate on that equipment and anything purchased over that amount.

New to Idaho data centers have to invest $25 million in capital investment, including brick and mortar, and create 20 above county average wage jobs within 2 years of operation. Once these requirements are completed then they will be treated as an existing data center.

This bill has a sunset clause after 7 years and will be null and void in 2024.

We’re excited about the potential behind this bill. Idaho has had several big name data centers look to move here, but they ultimately chose not to because we do not have this kind of rebate in place.

The economic impact of data center construction and permanent jobs is substantial and being better able to attract this industry will help Idaho continue to grow its tech sector.

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Director’s Blog: SHOT Show 2017

What an incredible turnout at the 2017 SHOT Show in Las Vegas last week! I was so impressed that we had representation from 49 different Idaho rec-tech companies. While we at Idaho Commerce can boast about what a great state we live in and how great it is to do business here, testimonials from actual companies who love doing business in Idaho speaks volumes to companies who are looking to make a move.

I am thankful for the time that companies like Nemo Arms and Buck Knives spent with Lt. Governor Brad Little and myself, and meeting with customers to showcase their innovative new products and remarkable technologies. I’m especially excited about Idaho success stories like Kryptek that started as a small business and have become internationally recognized by their revolutionary signature camouflage pattern.

The sportsmanship and camaraderie at SHOW Show truly exemplifies the rec-tech sector and we love having the quality of life, diverse terrain, and staunch support of the 2nd Amendment to encourage that sector’s continued growth and innovation.

I’m excited to see what new companies will join our Idaho family after seeing what incredibly opportunities our state has to offer.

I’d also like to give a special thanks to the sponsors of our Idaho reception:
Howell Munitions & Technology
Hawley Troxell
Vista Outdoor
Washington Trust Bank
Eide Bailly
Seekins Precision
Koda Adventure Gear
MGM Targets
Chris Reeve Knives
Lone Wolf Distributors
Valley Vision
Bannock Development Corporation
Snake River Economic Development Alliance (SREDA)
Silver Valley Economic Development Corporation (SVEDC)

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Director’s Blog: EORAC 2017

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Idaho Legislature’s Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee on the progress of Idaho’s economy and our perspective on the future of the state’s economy.

Over the last several years, rebounding from the “Great Recession” and growing steadily, Idaho has much to be proud of.

And many others have taken notice of Idaho’s job growth, business-friendliness, and high quality of life. In 2016, Idaho was recognized by Kiplinger, Governing Magazine and CNBC as a top state for doing business.

Idaho’s economy has backed up those accolades and fared well over the last year – not only when compared to our neighbors, but nationally as well. Idaho’s employment increased 3.6% between March 2015 and March 2016 – the nation’s largest percentage increase over that same period of time. Idaho’s real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 2.8% in the second quarter of 2016 – the third largest increase nationally and second largest regionally. Idaho wages grew 4.2% in the second quarter of 2016 – twice the national average, fourth largest increase nationwide and third largest regionally.

Overall, measured by job growth, Idaho’s economy is expected to continue growing by 3% over the next 18 months, ahead of the projected US average of 2%. We expect the top contributing industry sectors to be led by agriculture, especially animal production; manufacturing, especially paper, chemicals, fabricated metal products, machinery, and electrical equipment; and data processing and other information services including cloud-based software companies.


Beyond job growth, one of the more important data points we track at Idaho Commerce are the state’s international exports. While we certainly have several large exporters in the state, 88% of Idaho’s exporters are actually small businesses.

U.S. exports decreased by 5 percent in 2015 – the first national decline in 6 years – and unfortunately Idaho’s total exports declined as well, down 16 percent from 2014.

There are several reasons for the decline in export numbers over 2015. Primarily responsible are decreasing commodity prices, a strong dollar, and increased global supply and competition in several key sectors and products where Idaho companies have long sold abroad.

However, the bright spot in the export discussion, even though export numbers are not yet complete, preliminary 2016 estimates show an increase in exports can expected. October 2016 showed a 16.95 percent increase year to date over October 2015 year to date. We’re forecasting an equivalent bounce-back after a relatively challenging 2015.


Idaho Commerce also tracks the Travel and Tourism industry closely. Travel and tourism is Idaho’s third largest industry behind agriculture and technology and continued growth in the Idaho Tourism program is an important economic driver for the state, particularly in rural areas.

The travel and tourism industry employs over 46,000 employees statewide and, in 2015, contributed over $1.3 billion to the state GSP. In 2015, travelers to Idaho spent over $3.3 billion dollars last year representing over 33 million person trips throughout the state, an annual increase of 7.6 percent.

And in FY2016, Idaho Tourism had its best year ever, achieving the state’s highest revenue-generating year on record for 2 percent lodging tax collections at over $9.9 million in collections. This increase represented 13.41 percent growth year over year.

We anticipate that lodging tax collections will continue to increase at approximately 9 percent annually particularly with the additions of over 1,800 proposed hotel properties statewide. Additionally, statewide occupancy rates continue to increase along with the average daily rate numbers.

And last week we received some exciting earned media recognition that Idaho had been named to Vogue Magazine’s 10 Hottest Travel Destinations for 2017. This is huge recognition for the state. This is a global publication and a worldwide list. Idaho was the only U.S. state on the list, sharing company with places like Madagascar, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

Vogue is exactly right when they said, “Idaho is having a moment.” It’s an incredibly exciting time in our state with more and more visitors and businesses taking notice.


We’ve said it many times, but the Tax Reimbursement Incentive (TRI) has truly been a game changer in our ability to be competitive on a national and global scale for attracting new jobs and capital investment to the state.

Since the incentive went into effect on July 1, 2014, we’ve seen outstanding activity. To date, there have been 33 approved projects, with almost 5,200 jobs projected to be created, over $960 million in planned new capital investment, $2.3 billion in new wages, with a projected $257 million in new taxes paid to the state, at a projected cost of $60 million in tax credits

As these estimates turn into actual number, we’re are projecting a 4 to 1 return on investment for the state. It’s important to understand that because this is a performance based tool, the credit is not issued until the minimum job and wage requirements are met. And the credit is calculated based on the taxes actually paid, so the state isn’t paying out anything until the company meets its commitments and has already paid its taxes.

We are excited about the ever growing pipeline of projects that now have Idaho on their map as a result of TRI. But it has been even more exciting to work with some of our Idaho companies to leverage TRI to help them attract internal capital to grow and expand.

Idaho is home to over 57,000 businesses and, as a result, much of the job growth and capital investment that the state experiences is due to the success of our existing Idaho companies. The Idaho Department of Labor estimates that 85 percent of the total jobs in Idaho are with companies that have been in the state for more than five years.

Those statistic are important to remember because initial critics of the program stated that TRI would only be used for new companies in urban communities. But as the program has developed, nearly equal number of existing Idaho companies have been able to leverage TRI for a competitive expansion. And we’ve actually seen more projects happen in rural communities, making this a very usable tool communities across all of Idaho.

The last year has given us many accomplishments to celebrate and build upon, but there remains much to do. My team and I are as committed as ever to continuing to work with Idaho businesses and communities to play a role in strengthening, diversifying and advancing Idaho’s economy.

Obviously there is still some uncertainly out there and we still face challenges but, Idaho is incredibly well-positioned and will continue to gain momentum in this time of advancing economic opportunities.

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