TWIN FALLS — The business scene of 2015 was a tough act to follow, but Twin Falls managed to continue its momentum through 2016.
While the city did not see the same influx of new business as it did at Canyon Park West in the latter half of last year, a number of other happenings this year are worth noting. Here are five trends we noticed in Twin Falls business and economic development over 2016:
The arrival of new restaurants in 2016 brought more fanfare from Twin Falls residents.
Perhaps the most notable of these was the February announcement of a Red Robin opening in the former location of River Rock Grill. The opening quickly broke into the list of most popular business stories of the year published on Magicvalley.com. Red Robin opened its doors at the end of August.
And the local cuisine also diversified a little: Twin Falls got a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in March and Blue Island Grill opened in August, offering Hawaiian-themed dishes.
But the opening of another restaurant not far from Twin Falls garnered attention for another reason: Mom’s Tumbleweed Café in Castleford. It was a heart-wrenching tale of a family’s work to make their late mother’s dream come true — and the sit-down restaurant was something Castleford residents who knew Tonya Harkins looked forward to.
Besides restaurants, northwest Twin Falls also welcomed a new elementary school and new homes. As the Times-News reported in April, hundreds of homes have been cropping up in areas previously used for farming as developers capitalize on a new housing boom.
“We’re enjoying the good times,” developer Gary Nelson said at the time.
St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Hospital, meanwhile, opened a new surgery center late this year, in order to expand its ability to perform outpatient surgeries.
Following a spring start in production, Clif Bar had more than 200 employees in August, with plans to hire nearly 70 more by spring 2017.
But the company wasn’t the only one to announce an expansion: Fabri-Kal said in April it would move a research and development facility to Burley, and Chobani announced it would hire another 100 employees by the first half of 2016. The yogurt manufacturer also planned to spend nearly $100 million on expanding its factory to add in new production lines and an office for research and development.
Joslin Field Magic Valley Regional Airport decided to upgrade its facilities with a terminal expansion this year. The $4.3 million project won’t be complete until early 2017 at least.
Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey also made changes in 2016, expanding air service to and from Seattle and adding a nonstop Portland flight late this year.
Renewed interest on canyon rim
Developers this year have actively begun laying the groundwork for new buildings along the canyon rim — this time, east of the Magic Valley Mall.
Pillar Falls Plaza, just north of the Pole Line Road and Eastland Drive intersection, got its preliminary plat approved at the December Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The nearby Rio Vista development began designing for residential and commercial use, and Canyon Village — on the south side of Pole Line Road, is moving ahead with residential and commercial development.
If these plans prove fruitful, Twin Falls could soon see a mix of new hotels, condominiums, restaurants, offices and town houses along the canyon rim.