County's growth has youthful feel

Projects coming online to serve students, create jobs

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JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Josh Benton, with CNI Construction, marks out the placement lines Monday for lifts that will be installed one of the mechanic labs at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus.

Kootenai County is building for the future.

Much of the growth occurring has a theme - setting tomorrow's leaders up for generations to come.

The Kootenai Technical Education Campus (KTEC) is a 54,000 square foot, $7.9 million technical-professional high school opening in Rathdrum this fall for students in the Lakeland, Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene school districts.

Frontier Arena, headed up by the Kootenai Youth Recreation Organization (KYRO), is a $2.8 million ice arena off Seltice Way in Coeur d'Alene that's about to open.

And the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County is expected to open its 10,000-square-foot, $1.3 million facility under construction next to the Post Falls Library between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today's Press features a special section called "Building Kootenai County" that takes a look at positive signs of growth despite a sluggish overall economy.

Mark Cotner, KTEC professional-technical programs director, said construction of the high school is on schedule to open in time for this fall's start of school.

"We're up to the wire, but we're going to make it," Cotner said Monday. "We're in good shape. Contractors Northwest has done an outstanding job."

Equipment will be moved into the school starting next week and teachers report to work Aug. 20. There will be a grand opening on Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m.

Voters in the three school districts approved financing for KTEC about two years ago.

The school will start with about 500 students. About 950 students applied.

Eight half-day programs will be offered, including automotive technology, diesel technology, industrial welding/metal fabrication, engineering design and automation, health professions/certified nursing assistant, computer repair and networking, construction trades and resort management.

Programs will change over the years based upon demand from local industry.

"Our No. 1 goal is to make sure students will have the skillset to feed themselves directly out of college," Cotner said.

Fundraising for the nonprofit Boys and Girls Club's facility reached its finish line last week thanks to $501,000 that was raised during a fundraiser hosted and sponsored by Duane B. Hagadone, chairman of the Hagadone Corp., and his wife, Lola, at their Casco Bay estate on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The effort was the culmination of about 10 years of work and planning for the club, which offers after-school and summer programs to 500 kids ages 6-18 at sites in Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene.

The facility will be named after the late Jordan Johnson, a Post Falls High student who died at 15 due to a heart condition.

"It's humbling when you think about how the community has stepped up for kids," said Ryan Davis, the club's executive director.

With KYRO's Frontier Arena, which was needed after heavy snow collapsed the club's previous facility in 2008, the fundraising goal of $800,000 has been met and the equipment is on site.

Job creation is the focus of some other contraction projects.

Post Falls-based Ground Force Worldwide mining equipment manufacturer recently celebrated the opening of its new expansion, an 85,000-square-foot, $7.5 million factory along Seltice Way that created about 100 jobs.

The company's four factories with about 250 employees is a dramatic turnaround from when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy several years ago and going through layoffs. Part of the turnaround has been due to the emerging underground mining industry.

Ground Force CEO Ron Nilson said Ground Force, which builds massive equipment for Caterpillar, recently signed a contract with that company to build Cat's first underground mining motor grader. The result is expected to create another 100 jobs, he said.

The $35 million Beck Road interchange under construction on Interstate 90 in Post Falls, slated to be completed by late November, is expected to spur on economic activity near the state line.

Initially the project will be privately funded by the developer of The Pointe at Post Falls, a commercial development anchored by Cabela's and Wal-Mart.

Under the State Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) legislation approved by the Legislature in 2007, the private company will be eligible for reimbursement using sales tax reimbursements from retail development within the project.

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Contractors work on preparing the concrete flooring in one of the education labs for sealing Monday.

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