Company Spotlight: Nightforce

Nestled on a hill above Orofino, Idaho, overlooking the Clearwater River, is a modest campus that’s home to a state-of-the-art machine shop and an optics lab filled with engineers. The optical components used at this shop aren’t meant to be snapped into eyeglass frames, however. They’re a powerful and vital component of Nightforce rifle scopes.

“We’ve been around for almost 27 years,” said Operations Manager Jesse Daniels. “The product was originally designed for hunting, but our owner has a passion for the military, and we started selling to tier one military groups in the 1990’s.”

The Nightforce dedication to the military has not only made their product popular among an intelligence alliance comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, but they also recently landed a prestigious military contract in which one of their scopes will be integrated as the squad variable power scope (SVPS) component of weapons deployed by the U.S. Special Operations Command.

“SVPS is definitely a milestone,” said Jesse. “When you land these big military contracts, you have a lot of people looking up to you because they look up to the military as well. A big win like this is great for our military business and it’s also a great influence for the commercial market.”

For a company based in a town like Orofino, calling this contract a big win is an understatement.

“It means a lot to us because our culture here revolves around our products. There is a lot of pride in what we do,” said Klaus Johnson, head of engineering at Nightforce.

Jesse and Klaus agree that the Nightforce staff is particularly adept at crafting rifle scopes because most are shooters.

“We’re building these scopes for military and long-range shooters, but we’re also building them for ourselves,” said Jesse. “We get to go out our backdoor in Idaho and test them ourselves.”

Although their scopes are used to win competitions for precision shooting and help defend freedom around the globe, Nightforce’s biggest asset is the passion their people have.

“Klaus and I have worked at other companies and you get a different feel here,” Jesse said. “Our top dealers visit, and they’re blown away by our story and the level of expertise in every area of our business. Our quality and our passion got Nightforce to where it is and will get us to our goals in the future.”

Visit Nightforce at

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine

There are 162 people in Idaho quietly making history. Their story began in September of 2018 when they walked through the sparkling glass doors of a building whose design rivals an art gallery or museum. They are the inaugural class of the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“We are the first and only medical school in the State of Idaho,” said Stephanie Dillon, director of communications and marketing at ICOM.

ICOM was founded by healthcare visionary, Dan Burrell, who funded $34 million to build the medical school in Meridian. Dan makes it his personal mission to bring healthcare access to the states and regions that need it most. Idaho, ranking 49th for the lack of physicians per capita and 50th for the lack of primary care physicians per capita, was a clear candidate.

Dan’s generous contribution, among others, resulted in the newest and most technology advanced medical school in the country.

“We have an amazing simulation lab that houses state of the art equipment for our student doctors to experience health encounters and scenarios they’ll see when they become physicians,” said Stephanie. “Students can even deliver babies using high fidelity simulation mannequins that have the ability to speak and react naturally.”

With access to technology that’s a mix of Tony Stark’s lab and Westworld, ICOM students are receiving an elevated level of education.

“These students will be very prepared when it’s time for them to go into clinical rotations and residencies,” said Stephanie. “We believe they will be more advanced than their peers because of the technology we’re able to offer them here.”

The students at ICOM will complete two years on campus participating in didactic learning through lectures and labs. During years three and four of their education through ICOM, they’ll complete clinical rotations shadowing a physician.

“Once they graduate from ICOM, the students will go on to their residency based on the specialty they want to pursue,” Stephanie explains. “But students from out of state are falling in love with Idaho and really crossing their fingers that they’ll be assigned residency here.”

Stephanie goes on to share that Treasure valley growth and Idaho’s diverse geography are a distinct draw when it comes to recruiting.

“Even the city kids like it here,” she said.

Whether they’re from New York, California or right in ICOM’s backyard, the students at Idaho’s first medical school have donned their white coats, passed their first semester, and are continuing full steam ahead towards graduation.

“They’ll be the first doctors that have ever graduated in Idaho,” said Stephanie. “They’re making history.”

Find the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine at 1401 E Central Drive, Meridian, Idaho, 83642 or at their home on the web,

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: Fin Fun

If Disney has taught us anything, it’s that life is much better under the sea. You may think this is a dream far from reach, but Idaho Falls company Fin Fun begs to differ.

“We’re a company that believes in making dreams come true, starting with children who’ve always dreamt of looking and feeling like a mermaid,” said Steve Browning, owner and president of Fin Fun. “It’s created an opportunity for those who want to get in the water to swim and be a true mermaid.”

These mermaid dreams began in Idaho with Steve’s mom, Karen. As a creative, fun-driven grandmother, Karen started making fins for her granddaughters in 2009. At the time, the Browning family mermaid tails were simply made of flowing swimsuit material, giving the illusion of the tail.

After years of selling sparkly tails on eBay to buyers around the world, Fin Fun developed a patented monofin to enhance the ability to swim like a true mermaid.

“The tails are buoyancy neutral in the water,” explains Steve. “It neither forces you up nor pulls you down, but it does allow you to propel yourself once you get the dolphin-kick motion down.”

Not so surprisingly, the literature on developing a mermaid tail is slim-to-none. Steve said there were only a couple of companies in the world attempting to do something similar when their tails came on the scene, and most of the Fin Fun product development was through trial and error.

“We wanted to ensure that everyone who uses the tail is as safe as possible,” said Steve. “We designed our own tail so that it would be functional, comfortable, and user-friendly. That’s something we continue to do.”

Fin Fun mermaid tails continue to make waves across the globe. In 2017, Steve and his brother Eric received the Idaho Small Business Persons of the Year award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Fin Fun was recognized as the U.S. Senate Small Business of the Month in May that year. Today, about 20% of Fin Fun’s customers are outside the United States in over 100 countries including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

“We’re grateful for our success, but we don’t always want to be known as just a mermaid tail company,” said Steve. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring fun, active play in to the lives of kids. We want to continue being fun and engaging.”

There is no doubt Fin Fun will continue to innovate and expand their product offering. From tails to blankets, dolls to books and an interactive website for kids, the world is their oyster.

Follow the Fin Fun adventures on their YouTube channel or at their home on the web,

Post Categories:

Project Spotlight: Community Development Block Grant

Established as part of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, administered by Idaho Commerce, allocates funding directly to the State of Idaho.

CDBG can assist cities and counties with the development and construction of public infrastructure and facilities. Funds are awarded based on several factors including percentage of local match, overall need, impact of the project and readiness to proceed.

Carey City Park and the Kellogg Wastewater System Upgrade are two successful recent CDBG projects.

Carey City Park

The City of Carey, Idaho, was awarded a $55,000 CDBG for construction of a new city park. The grant will aid in installation and construction of two handicap-accessible parking spaces as well as a sidewalk to connect the spaces to the existing park pavilion. The Carey Park project also includes the purchase and installation of playground equipment.

“We chose the Carey City Park because our little town, with no sidewalks, a main street that is a major highway, and no soccer or baseball areas, needs a place our children and families can go play safely,” said Branch Manager Gwenna Prescott. “This project is near and dear to our whole community.”

Kellogg Wastewater System Upgrades

The citizens of Kellogg, Idaho, voted in support of an $8 million bond to replace the aging and faulty sewer lines serving the city. In part due to the city’s commitment of investing $8 million into their sewer system, the city was awarded $1 million in CDBG funding to assist in the design and construction costs. These improvements will help the city meet the Clean Water Act and provide for the infrastructure foundation that allows for economic growth.

Click here for more information on the Idaho CDBG program.

Post Category:

Company Spotlight: Ventive

Disruptive (adj.): relating to or noting a new product, service, or idea that radically changes an industry or business strategy, especially by creating a new market and disrupting an existing one.

To be a member of the highly sought-after Inc. 500, companies must see their industry through a unique, disruptive lens. Luckily for company number 172, they’re driven by disruption.

According to Jonathan Cardella, CEO and founder of Ventive in Boise, Idaho, the recipe is simple: “When you combine human capital with technology, you get creation and value,” said Jonathan.

Ventive manages the design, development and technical challenges companies face when building and launching successful products. Their team is made up of over 80 employees worldwide including designers, engineers, product managers and technologists.

“The easiest way to explain what we do is that we build apps, but mobile apps are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jonathan. “Bigger picture, we build custom software and mobile applications for startups and enterprises looking to transform industries and processes through technology.”

Director of Client Success, Stephen Heath, emphasizes that their goal is to help businesses scale rapidly.

“Obviously, creating software can be incredibly complex, so a big part of what we do is help businesses determine what a minimum viable product looks like,” said Stephen. “This allows us to get to market fast with something that’s going to catch on and continue to grow.”

Jonathan adds, “The goal is for the product to be so next-gen that it creates a lot of buzz.”

Process and product development aren’t the only ways Ventive does things differently. Their office is also an incubator for many seed-stage companies, some of which, Ventive invests in.

One of these companies, Revenly, is an example of how Ventive’s products are disrupting industries that have been plagued with problems for decades.

“No one is going to answer the phone when a debt collector calls,” said Jonathan. “We developed a product called that allows customers to be contacted via text by those debt collectors.”

According to Jonathan, the ability to review the balance, make a payment or set up payment plans through the app have resulted in an increase in payments.

“It’s been baffling to see,” Jonathan said. “We assumed people would want to go on payment plans, but surprisingly, most people just pay it off.”

Ventive is dedicated to helping the companies who use desks in their space, but they’re also incredibly passionate about the workforce they’ve built in Idaho.

“People believe there’s no talent here, but that’s not true,” said Jonathan. “There’s a lot of talent. Our model is to have really smart Idahoans managing really smart people all over the world. And when it comes to the work, if it’s influencing people and helping them, we want to be involved.”

Ventive is located at 121 N. 9th St., Ste. 101, Boise, Idaho 83702, or online at

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: Advanced Ceramic Fibers

Super strength, super speed, super durability and super senses; Superman may be known as the Man of Steel, but what if the steel he’s named after was even stronger? On top of that, what if through the process of making the steel stronger, it became lighter?

No, this isn’t foreshadowing to a future DC Comic Book. It’s the science behind Advanced Ceramic Fibers.

“If you have a steel bar and you give it a strength test, at some point it’s going to fail,” said Ken Koller. “But if you add in our material, the steel bar will be lighter and stronger.”

Ken Koller, CEO/COO, and Dr. John E. Garnier, Founder/CTO

Ken is the Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer of Advanced Ceramic Fibers in Idaho Falls, Idaho, where they specialize in a proprietary one-step Direct Conversion Process™ that enables any material, including metals, ceramics and polymers, to be made stronger, lighter and able to withstand increased temperatures and extreme environments.

“Our products are going to change the way materials are viewed,” said Ken. “It’s like introducing plastics for the first time into the commercial marketplace. It’s going to have a significant impact because there are so many different applications and benefits from its use.”

The reinforced material Ken is referencing is called Fi-Bar™, and here’s how it’s made:

Carbon fiber is purchased in shoestring-like spools of filaments called tows. Since carbon fiber doesn’t hold up well in very high temperatures or an environment susceptible to oxidation, it needs a shield. This shield is created from a thin layer of alpha silicon carbide that’s bonded to each individual carbon fiber filament during the Direct Conversion Process™.

Converted carbon fiber on a reel.

Alpha silicon carbide is second in strength only to diamonds, giving Fi-Bar™ it’s highly-desired qualities. Because of the Direct Conversion Process™, incorporating Fi-Bar™ into metals, ceramics and polymers increases their material characteristics, like strength, ultra-high temperature resistance and abrasion resistance, while reducing their weight. Fi-Bar™ can then be put into other materials, transferring those same properties along with it.

“Think of the endless applications where increased strength and lighter weight are beneficial,” said Ken.

From medical rods to turbine engines, and sporting goods to space, the potential for Fi-Bar™ is seemingly infinite, making Advanced Ceramic Fibers one of the strongest companies in Idaho…literally.

The Advanced Ceramic Fibers production facility is located at 2300 N. Yellowstone Hwy., Ste. 210, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401. Visit their home on the web,

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: PEET Dryer

As a soldier in the U.S. Army many decades ago, Gene Peet was fed up with putting on the same pair of sweat-soaked boots day after day. After being denied a second pair, Gene took to tinkering and developed a convection dryer out of beer cans to keep his boots free of moisture for the beginning of each shift.

The young Peet family camping with an early PEET propane dryer.

Gene’s invention later translated to civilian life as relief for loggers on the St. Joe river. After a long day splashing through currents, the loggers would wake up to frozen boots, thaw them in boiling water, dump out the water and climb back into them before heading to work. The boot dryer allowed the loggers to start out dry and start out warm.

“The PEET Dryer company was the original founder, designer and inventor of shoe dryers,” said Andy Kennelly, vice president of sales and marketing at PEET Dryer. “People have tried to copy us over the past 50 years and, although they’ve made similar products, they’ve never built them with the exact quality we have.”

From wiring to heat resisters to each and every plastic component, PEET insists on the use of fire-resistant materials throughout, making their dryers the safest and most efficient on the market.

“Gene Peet knew if he built a faulty product, he’d never survive a recall,” Andy said. “He always insisted on only the best quality and best craftsmanship.”

PEET Dryer in the Miami Dolphin locker room circa 1980.

Starting out with a single-pair boot dryer, PEET has now expanded its lineup to include multi-dryers with glove ports, deodorizers and even specialty dehumidifiers for gun safes. Although their innovation continues to grow at a staggering rate, their roots remain deep in Idaho soil.

“Our dryers are still all handmade in a small factory with an all-female workforce,” said Andy. “Working in a small town like St. Maries, we have low turnover. When you have employees that have worked that long for you, you know you have a quality product.”

This family-run business emphasizes the importance of its employees, its customers and its community.

“To have a factory like ours produce steady work and give people a chance to live the lifestyle they want is very special,” Andy said.

PEET Dryer company photo.

Learn more about PEET Dryer on our Tested in Idaho website or at their home on the web,

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: Intermountain 3D, Inc.

Lynn and Brian Hoffmann have been in the business of unlocking imaginations since 2014.

“All of our customers are optimistic” said Lynn. “They’re coming in with something they’ve developed, and we make it possible for them to hold in their hands what they had in their mind.”

Lynn and Brian Hoffmann hold their 2018 Idaho Innovation Award finalist trophy.

As the owners of Intermountain 3D, Inc. in Boise, Idaho, the Hoffmanns specialize in 3D design, prototyping and short-run production printing. Their service is vital to product development engineers and entrepreneurs who need to create a perfect prototype before putting tens of thousands of dollars toward molds required for high-volume manufacturing.

“We’ll sometimes print 50 or 60 different iterations of parts and make adjustments for the company until it’s exactly what they need,” said Lynn.

The Hoffmanns recently expanded their business with production capabilities designed to address the 50-500 part need for customers doing short-run production, or mass-customization of production parts.

“One of our customers builds 80-100 shoe inserts at a time, but no two pieces are alike,” said Brian. “3D production printing is ideally suited for volume printing of individually unique parts.”

Interns sort and clean a recent printing batch.

As Hewlett Packard retirees, Lynn and Brian are no strangers to the technology behind printing. After keeping their eye on the 3D printing market, the two decided to start their own business.

“There really wasn’t anyone else in the area doing manufacturing-grade 3D printing,” said Lynn. “Until very recently, no one was doing it in the state at all.”

Once their doors opened, it was time to get to work. Their first print project was an electrode adaptor for a neural researcher in Montana.

“It was a highly precise job, as you can imagine, and he’s still one of our best customers,” Lynn recalls.

Since then, Intermountain 3D, Inc. has been a go-to resource for reverse engineering of existing parts and creating prototypes and finished parts for everything from plumbing supplies to medical devices, assembly line equipment to fishing reels, and aerospace parts to elk bugles.

Lynn and Brian feel fortunate to work with creative product developers throughout the west, putting their advanced manufacturing techniques and expert advice to good use as they help get products to market faster and more effectively.

Intermountain 3D, Inc. is located at 9225 Chinden Blvd, Suite F, Boise, Idaho 83714 or online at

Post Categories:

Company Spotlight: The Bridge Cafe

Breakfast burritos, sandwiches, salads and soups. Oh, the delicious soups.

“I make all my soups from scratch,” said Tony Bridges, owner of the Bridge Cafe in Boise, Idaho. “Everyone should try my mulligatawny.”

Tony Bridges, owner of the Bridge Cafe

After 12 years and two previous locations, Tony and his family-run business recently landed in the tunnels of the Len B. Jordan building where he serves homemade meals to patrons from the surrounding Capitol block.

“The location and our prices make it easy for our customers,” said Tony. “I try to make this their home kitchen.”

Slicing, dicing and stirring his way through the kitchen at Bridge Cafe, it’s evident that Tony has a rich history of culinary experience and training. What’s not as evident are the hurdles Tony has overcome to run a successful restaurant.

“It’s called Stargardt,” Tony explains. “There’s a small pinhole in my retina. I have to look slightly to the side to focus on things and see them clearly.”

In Idaho, visually impaired entrepreneurs have access to helpful resources through the Business Enterprise Program offered by the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. According to Program Supervisor Corey Bresina, the purpose of the program is three-fold: to provide opportunities for visually impaired individuals who have an interest and aptitude for operating a facility, to demonstrate alternative techniques for coping with visual impairment, and to educate the public regarding the ability of those individuals to independently operate a business.

“I don’t know if I would get this opportunity in other states,” Tony said. “I appreciate the opportunity I have in Idaho.”

Tony emphasizes that he and his family work really, really (really!) hard for their customers, but don’t just take his word for it, head to Bridge Cafe to taste the difference for yourself.

The Bridge Cafe is located at 650 W. State Street, Boise, Idaho. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Post Category:

Employee Spotlight: Cherie Norris and Kathy Schofield

By Taylor Walker, Public Information Specialist, Idaho Commerce

This summer, the Idaho Commerce office got a little bit brighter with the addition of two new employees, Cherie Norris and Kathy Schofield.

Cherie Norris (left) and Kathy Schofield (right)

Cherie Norris, Grants and Contracts Analyst
As an Idaho Commerce grants and contracts analyst, Cherie is responsible for reviewing grants, ensuring their terms are met, and verifying that funds are used in alignment with statutes and regulations. The bulk of her time is spent working with our Idaho Tourism team.

“It’s something different from the grants I reviewed in past jobs,” said Cherie. “It’s work with a fun focus.”

Previously, Cherie performed similar roles with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Housing.

Cherie has two daughters, both University of Idaho graduates, and two dogs. She likes to spend her free time scrapbooking, knitting, cross-stitching and people watching.

Kathy Schofield, Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants are the glue of any office, and Kathy is no exception. After realizing how much she missed interacting with people throughout the day, Kathy came out of retirement to join the Idaho Commerce team.

“I love promoting this amazing state we have the honor of being a part of,” said Kathy. “Living, playing and growing.”

Kathy has two sons, one daughter, 11 grandchildren and two dogs. Her garden is full of greens and she enjoys quilting, puzzles and any activity that keeps her connected to her family.

Post Category: