That slippery giant, Costco, that has eluded Idaho Falls for years — despite widespread public support for the wholesale retailer — again is looking at a possible Idaho Falls location.
Brent Wilson, a brokerage services specialist at Thornton Oliver Keller and Costco’s local real estate broker, said the company is currently evaluating the Idaho Falls market.
“Unfortunately, my agreement with Costco stipulates I cannot speak with the press about their expansion plans,” Wilson said via email. “However, I can tell you they are currently evaluating the market.”
Costco, which is notoriously quiet about its expansion plans, has not indicated that it is moving to Idaho Falls. A company spokesperson said Costco does not comment on new locations until three months before a store opening.
But just the mention of a market evaluation could reignite Costco fever in the area.
That fever gained momentum in 2012 and 2013, after the company announced it was conducting a study of the Idaho Falls area. Costco’s interest ignited a bidding war between city officials in Idaho Falls and Ammon.
The company’s interest in the Idaho Falls area even sparked the Idaho Falls City Council to pass what became known as the “Costco ordinance” to make the city more attractive to big businesses that, in turn, could give a boost to the local economy.
The ordinance allowed the city to offer incoming businesses incentive packages that will include waived fees and near-site improvements to streets and other infrastructure. It gave the city a formal process for future negotiations with Costco or any other business that can deliver a $5 million capital investment and the equivalent of 100 full-time jobs averaging at least $15 per hour.
Costco tensions between Idaho Falls and Ammon may have died down, when Costco passed on the area, but public interest did not.
Ask parents with hungry children what they hope to see replace Sears in the Grand Teton Mall and many of them will say Costco, a store that sells bulk products for cheap.
A Costco store will typically occupy about 150,000 square feet and the company usually buys land and builds from scratch, rather than renovating a current building, Wilson told the Post Register in December. That would most likely rule out the 73,000-square-foot vacancy in the Grand Teton Mall — the space that Sears occupied before closing this year — as a possible Costco location.
Snake River Landing and Sandcreek Commons, both Ball Ventures properties, were being considered as possible Costco locations years ago. Cabela’s opened in Sandcreek Commons instead.
Idaho Falls residents, and residents of surrounding cities, must travel to Pocatello to shop at Costco — and many make the drive. Costco also has stores in Boise, Nampa, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls and one is being built in Meridian.
Since an Idaho Falls Costco was last discussed, the area has continued its explosive growth and could certainly support a retail giant such as Costco, now more than ever.
A recent economic study ranked the Idaho Falls metropolitan area the state’s second strongest economy, behind only the Boise metropolitan area. The study, from the POLICOM Corporation, an independent research firm that analyzes local and state economies, ranked Idaho Falls 108th out of 383 U.S. metropolitan areas.
Another recent study, from QSR Magazine, which focused on restaurant density and growth potential, found that Idaho Falls and Pocatello, taken as a combined metropolitan area, should grow 7 percent over the next four years.
“We work hard to be appealing to all companies that consider locating in our community and would welcome a Costco with enthusiasm should they choose to consider Idaho Falls,” said Dana Briggs, the city of Idaho Falls’ economic development officer, in a statement. “We think that Idaho Falls would be an ideal market for a company like this and we would be excited to work with them if a decision were made to locate here.”
The city of Ammon also hopes to signal to Costco that it’s interested in hosting the store.
“The city of Ammon is encouraged to hear that Costco is looking again in this area, which we think could easily supply their needs,” said Ammon mayor Sean Coletti in a statement to the Post Register. “We think Ammon would be a very nice fit.”
Costco currently operates 768 warehouses, including 533 in the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a Feb. 3 Costco Wholesale Corporation news release.
While the new interest from Costco is promising, previous talks, which seemed very promising, died without much explanation. Until official word from Costco, Idaho Falls residents will just have to wait and see.