COEUR D’ALENE — In many ways, getting broadband internet to rural Idaho feels familiar, said Mike Kennedy, president of Intermax Networks.

“A lot of people are contemplating how similar this is to rural electrification in the 1930s,” Kennedy mused.

As with rural electrification, the government is playing a large part in improving broadband internet in rural areas. Last fall, Intermax received $940,000 to improve service in Idaho’s panhandle from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which offered Idaho a share of the $1.49 billion it provided nationwide through its Phase II grants, funded by the Universal Service Fund. Intermax committed to providing 25 megabit per second (Mbps) download speed to 42 census block groups in north Idaho over the next five years.

In more metropolitan parts of the region, such as Coeur d’Alene itself, there might even be two fiber providers.

“But you get out to Rathdrum or Athol, there are none, and no expectations of it, due to density,” Kennedy said. “We have to figure out how to get those folks plugged in.”

In addition to those cities, Intermax also provides internet service to Hayden, Spirit Lake and Pinehurst, as well as operating Sandpoint’s city-owned fiber optic cable.

Much of Intermax’ service is provided through fixed wireless, which means the company puts a transmitter someplace central and tall – typically, in rural Idaho, the town’s water tower – and puts a receiver, which looks like a satellite dish, on customers’ homes. If the house has a sight line to the water tower, it can typically pick up the signal.

While it might not be as fast as a direct connection, it’s a lot cheaper than laying cable, Kennedy said.

“As long as they have line of sight, or near line of sight, you don’t have to tear up roads and rights-of-way,” he said.

And the speed – up to 100 Mbps – should be plenty, he said.

“Everyone gets excited about gigabit internet,” but people generally need only 8 to 12 Mbps, he said. “25 or 100 Mbps is going to be incredibly groundbreaking for rural areas.”

In one example, Intermax is going to be improving internet access around Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Kennedy said. There are 900 residences in the region that are “deeply underserved,” he said. His company will lay fiber to the top of the mountain, for nine miles, from Sandpoint, following the road and using utility easements. That fiber – aside from supporting conferences and other activities in Schweitzer – will feed the microwave transmitter that’s already on top of the mountain and improve service to those 900 residences, he said.

Kennedy was appointed to Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Broadband Task Force, which was created in May through executive order. Little came to North Idaho last fall, as lieutenant governor, on an economic development trip, and met with Kennedy to talk about the FCC award.

“I found him to be an extremely quick study, well read and understood things that are completely boring and unsexy, like putting extra conduit in the highway,” Kennedy said.

That extra conduit can be used later to string cable without having to dig up the highway again, a policy underway in a number of areas nationwide called “dig once.” At that time, Kennedy volunteered for whatever Little planned to do to improve Idaho’s internet service, which numerous studies have found ranks near the bottom nationwide.

The broadband task force will help determine the role that the state can play in improving broadband internet in Idaho, such as by offering incentives or tax credits, Kennedy said. And while rural residents used to be fine without broadband internet, that’s no longer true, he said.

“I can’t think of anyone I’ve talked to who didn’t want it on some level,” Kennedy said. “Rural folks can live off the grid, because they have access to their job elsewhere, or can sell products from rural North Idaho. It’s people in rural areas with the greatest needs.”

Lisa Brown, Washington Department of Commerce director, and Tom Kealey, Idaho Department of Commerce director, spoke Friday about the economies in their respective states during an Inland Northwest Partners conference at Banyan’s on the Ridge in Pullman.

Commerce Directors Lisa Brown (Wash., left) and Tom Kealey (Idaho, right) in Pullman for the Summer INP Meeting on June 7.

“I see broadband as really a significant challenge to get right,” Brown said.

“We’ve got to understand what we have and what we don’t have in order to appropriately direct investment into that middle mile and last mile,” she said. “That’s always the most challenging piece of deploying communications or telecommunications technology.”

Washington is trying to help rural areas with this problem by establishing a statewide broadband office that would coordinate grants to governments and tribes for broadband infrastructure.

Washington 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, told the Daily News in April that she and her colleagues in the House supported the legislation because it will increase competition in the internet service provider marketplace and bring better service to rural Washington.

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order in May establishing the Idaho Broadband Task Force, Kealey said.

The 40-member task force this fall will bring to the governor recommendations on ways the state can improve connectivity and speeds across Idaho.

The task force will try to map existing services and gaps in broadband infrastructure, which Kealey said will paint a picture for what resources are needed in rural and urban areas.

“We want to map what we have, be able to measure what we have in terms of access as well as speeds and features and services and options,” he said.

Brown pitched another idea that may bring people and commerce to eastern Washington. In light of Microsoft and other corporations last year offering funding to build a high-speed railway from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Brown said she would like to see a similar railway that connects western Washington with eastern Washington.

Brown and Kealey highlighted some positives in Washington and Idaho economies.

Washington’s overall economy is booming, with the highest GDP growth and 10th largest economy in the country.

“If we were a country, we’d be up there with Sweden or Belgium right now,” he said.

Kealey said Idaho is near the top of the rankings in several economic categories including first in travel dollars, third in the number of people moving to the state and fourth in job growth.

The national coworking culture is now fifteen years old. Successful coworking spaces know they need to be more than just secure wifi, free coffee and meeting rooms.

“Coworking spaces have to go above and beyond to stay competitive and thrive—developing niches spaces for certain businesses (legal, fashion and beauty, blockchain, film production), offering unique experiences such as coliving or childcare, plus getting creative by opening spaces in underutilized real estate like hotel business centers or within stores.”

—Madison Maidment, COO of Coworker

Members of MosCoWork in Moscow, Idaho, have the option of renting dedicated desks or part time subscriptions.

One novel idea is an app that connects you with another local option: your neighbor’s living room. Codi, a new startup launching soon in the Bay Area of California, turns apartments and houses into temporary, affordable coworking spaces during the day.

“I used to work from home, and it’s very isolating. When you go to coffee shops, they can be very distracting. And there were no working options close by, and downtown coworking spaces are very expensive.”

—Christelle Rohaut, CEO/founder of Codi

LiquidSpace is a national online network that connects people with spaces.  Users can search for meeting rooms, coworking space, private office suites, brainstorming-ready spaces, event spaces, and, dedicated desks. Searches can be customized to neighborhoods or specific properties to be the first to know of new space availability.

The list of coworking spaces in the Inland Northwest continues to grow, as rural communities recognize the need to attract flexible workforce and encourage a startup culture.

Bonners Ferry: The Plaza Downtown
Coeur d’Alene: The Innovation Den, SpaceShare CDA, Rockford Building
Hayden: Panhandle Area Council Business Incubator
Moscow: MosCoWork
Sandpoint: The Office Sandpoint

Liberty Lake: Liberty Lake Portal
Pullman: Crimson Commerce Club (C3)
Harrington: The Post & Office
Spokane: Niche Coworking, Fellow Coworking, Level Up, Regus, and StartUp Spokane

OTHELLO, Washington – In early May, McCain Foods USA Inc., a division of McCain Foods Limited, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, announced a $300 million investment in its Othello, Wash., potato processing facility, significantly expanding its North American production capacity. This 170,000-square-foot expansion will add another state-of-the-art battered and conventional french fry processing line to its production capabilities in the U.S. and bring an anticipated 180 new jobs to the community. Of note, this investment also brings environmental efficiencies, reducing the facility’s carbon footprint while doubling its production, underlining McCain’s commitment to sustainability.

“This investment signals confidence in Washington, its potato growing community and its skilled workforce availability,” said Jeff DeLapp, President, North America. “It quickly follows other McCain capacity investments, helping to meet the continued increasing demand for McCain products and builds toward a strong, sustainable future in manufacturing and agriculture.”

This added capacity will require an approximate 11,000 additional acres, sourced from local potato growers in the region, and follows a similar high-capacity expansion in Burley, Idaho to service the U.S. and global markets. Construction will begin this month with anticipated completion in early 2021.


About McCain Foods USA

McCain Foods USA is a leading supplier of frozen potato and snack food products for the foodservice markets, retail grocery chains and private label brands. Everything from appetizers to sweet potato fries can be found in restaurants and supermarket freezers across the country. McCain Foods USA Inc., headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, employs 4,000 people and operates production facilities in Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Washington and Wisconsin.

For More Information, Contact:

Eric Benderoff | [email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2019 (LIBERTY LAKE, Wash.)—Inland Northwest Partners announces their summer meeting to be held at Banyan’s on the Ridge (Palouse Ridge Golf Course) in Pullman on June 7, 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with a continental breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m. Lisa Brown, Director of Washington State Department of Commerce and Tom Kealey, Director of Idaho Department of Commerce, will share the keynote presentation titled, “State of the States: Trends Shaping the Economies of Washington and Idaho.” Cost for INP members is $40, nonmembers is $60. To register, visit inwp.org/events.

The presentations of Directors Brown and Kealey will culminate a day of presentations under the theme of “Value-Added Agriculture: Cultivating New Jobs for Your Community”.

“Throughout the Inland Northwest Region, it’s exciting to see even more economic activity and job creation related to our strong agricultural sector from crop production, craft brewing, and agritourism.,” says Paul Kimmell, Chairman of INP Board of Directors. “It’s always great to showcase some of this success and continue to build on these opportunities.”

Other presentations include Chanel Twealt, COO for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, who will discuss agriculture as a regional economic driver; Dr. Laura Lewis, from WSU Food Systems, who will discuss the craft brewing and distilling industry; and, Adams County Economic Development Director, Stephen McFadden, who will discuss renewable energy, food processing and the cannabis industry.

Inland Northwest Partners members meet quarterly to share common economic challenges and solutions within the eastern Washington and northern Idaho region. Topics include technology, financing community initiatives, forging regional partnerships, local business expansion and retention, and job recruitment. INP often partners with local chambers or state organizations for value-added training.

Banyans on the Ridge is located at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course, 1260 NE Palouse Ridge Dr. in Pullman. For more information about becoming a member of Inland Northwest Partners, visit inwp.org or email [email protected]. 


Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the long-term vitality of a two-state region through its core offering of educational meetings, programs and seminars.  More than 300 business and community leaders from eastern Washington and northern Idaho are members. INP is also part of a regional marketing effort known as the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA), a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies. To learn more, visit inwp.org.