State Support, Skilled Workforce, Quality Potatoes: McCain Foods’ Burley Facility Announces $200M expansion and addition of 180 jobs

State Support, Skilled Workforce, Quality Potatoes: McCain Foods’ Burley Facility Announces $200M expansion and addition of 180 jobs


It was a huge economic win for Idaho sealed by teamwork at its finest.

McCain Foods, USA announced this month a substantial expansion to their potato processing plant in Burley, Idaho to the tune of $200 million and 180 new jobs. Doug Manning, the Economic Development Director in Burley, attributes the expansion to a community and state committed to a company that has been an economic staple in Idaho. Manning found his passion in economic development after witnessing an out-migration of young people in the Burley area during his time as Burley mayor in the late 90’s. In his current role, he is instrumental in brokering economic deals for the community he was raised in. Manning has been an important player in bringing more trade jobs to Cassia county and decreasing the unemployment rate to an impressive 2.6 percent.

But, Manning recognizes expansions like the one recently announced by McCain Foods are not attributable to one person or entity, but rather to a state-wide, long-term investment in a company. McCain’s Burley plant has been operating in since 1960 when it was opened by Ore-Ida and subsequently acquired by HJ Heinz. McCain Foods, USA acquired the plant in 1997. Since then, the location has grown to be the crux of Cassia County’s workforce, with an average of 530 employees working at the facility at one time. That number is now expected to grow to exceed 700.

According to Manning, McCain’s decision to put down roots in Idaho and grow in the state has been a joint effort on the part of the company’s leadership and collaboration between local and state officials, associations and the company. The potential for an expansion has been in discussion for about two years.

In December, Idaho Commerce approved McCain’s application for the largest-ever tax reimbursement incentive in the state. McCain will qualify for the incentive at 30 percent, which is expected to pay out $5.86 million over the next 15 years. As a result of the expansion, the state’s GDP is expected to increase by an estimated $560 million and an additional 360 induced jobs are expected to be created.

“This truly is a grand slam project for Idaho’s economy and one of the most prominent employers in the state,” said Megan Ronk, director of Idaho Commerce. “To have an existing Idaho company leverage the Tax Reimbursement Incentive to add more jobs, more state revenue, and more capital investment to the state is the best case scenario and we are thrilled it is finally coming to fruition.”

McCain is the largest manufacturer of frozen potato products in the world, supplying to thousands of restaurants and supermarkets across the globe. With the recently announced expansion, their potato production capacity throughout the state is expected to increase by 15,000 acres per year.

McCain has seen an increasing demand for their potato products globally over the last several years, and as McCain identified the need to expand in North America, the Burley location emerged as the leader. According to North America Regional President Jeff DeLapp, the differentiators for Burley were attributed to proximity to quality potatoes, availability of skilled workforce and the state level support. McCain expects to begin construction immediately and anticipates completion of the additional infrastructure in summer 2018.

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Welcome! Andrea Vlassis-Zahn

We are so excited to have Andrea Vlassis-Zahn joining the Idaho Commerce team! Andrea (emphasis on the “Drea”) is the newest addition to our already-amazing Business Attraction team.

Andrea is from a small town outside of Portland, Oregon called Happy Valley. And, “Yes – people are happy there!” She was introduced to Boise in 2000 as a relocation, at the beginning of her career in the Airline Industry. Years in the airlines gave her the opportunity to travel and volunteer around the world, and live in places like Denver CO, Seattle WA, and Portland OR. Thankfully for us, Andrea’s heart kept calling her back to Idaho, where she traded in her flight attendant wings for a wine glass.

Andrea spent years in the Idaho wine industry managing and supporting the wine community at one of Idaho’s leading wineries before making the difficult decision to leave the wine industry to go back to school. She is currently finishing her Bachelors in Business/Marketing at Boise State University.

In addition to her love and experience in travel and wine, Andrea has a vast experience in business management, marketing, and event production with a passion for building positive and strong community relations. She is excited to be a part of the Idaho Commerce team and have the opportunity to assist businesses throughout the State of Idaho.

If Andrea isn’t studying, you can usually find her enjoying Idaho’s great outdoors by hiking, biking, swimming, or cooking for friends and family, and indulging in a new passion: making craft hard cider. Andrea actually received her certification from Oregon State University and The Cider Institute of North America (CINA), this past summer in Cider & Perry Production.

Welcome to the team, Andrea! Cheers!



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Idaho’s First Medical School is Awarded Pre-Accreditation; Breaks Ground

Idaho’s first medical broke ground last week after having successfully completed the rigorous process of achieving pre-accreditation earlier this month. The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) was awarded pre-accreditation by the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic Accreditation, marking an important milestone for Idaho’s first medical school.

Pre-accreditation is a critical step in the full accreditation process, which includes the submission of a feasibility study, an onsite inspection, a public comment period and multiple in-person testimonials to the accreditation committee. ICOM was also required to deposit more than $37 million in escrow and operating reserves. Successfully achieving pre-accreditation is the school’s most recent step towards opening its doors in August of 2018.

Groundbreaking Ceremony in Meridian, Idaho

“This is a monumental day for Idaho’s first medical school. ICOM will be a game changer and make an incredible impact on the health of the region for generations to come. Idahoans will be proud of their first medical school,” said Dr. Robert Hasty, ICOM founding dean and chief academic officer.

Idaho’s first medical school is a significant economic win for the state of Idaho. ICOM plans to invest approximately $105 million in capital to build the 80,000-square-foot, $32 million building to house Idaho’s first-ever medical school and is expected to employ 70-90 employees within the first year of operation with average wages well above average Ada County wages.

ICOM first announced plans to build and operate Idaho’s first medical school in early 2016 after evaluating the capacity, the need for physicians in Idaho and surrounding area and the economic benefit. ICOM was a recipient of the state’s tax reimbursement incentive (TRI) and will receive approximately $4 million over the next ten years.

“Idaho Commerce and Director Ronk were a major reason why ICOM was able to come to the state. In addition to helping us learn and navigate the needs of Idaho, Idaho Commerce was instrumental in the state awarding a tax reimbursement incentive,” said Dr. Robert Hasty. “These funds will go to the ICOM scholarships managed by ISU’s foundation and will go exclusively to Idahoans and foster opportunities for folks in the state to ensure a better Idaho in the future.”

To date, ICOM has secured 22 affiliations with healthcare organizations throughout the region, several of which are currently involved in residency programs, are planning on developing residency programs, or are interested in developing residency programs. ICOM plans to train osteopathic physicians prepared for caring for persons in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and beyond.

For more information about the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, visit


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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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