By the Idaho Department of Commerce
Idaho’s economy is thriving. The state is making tremendous strides in growing existing companies and attracting new business. Its commitment to being a leader in economic growth and prosperity is invigorating communities and industries across its vast geography. The results are speaking for themselves. Idaho rounded out 2015 with the nation’s highest over-the-year percentage job growth. Manufacturing was a key driver of the job gains, with the state recording the nation’s second-highest percentage growth in manufacturing jobs.
But it is not just the manufacturing sector experiencing impressive gains; Idaho’s new and existing businesses are excelling in industries from food production, wholesale trade, scientific research and technology innovation. With nearly every sector growing in recent years, it is no wonder Idaho finds itself among the nation’s leading states for GDP growth, easily surpassing the national average. The momentum is palpable, and employers and employees alike are taking notice.
Nationally, Idaho has been recognized for its promising economic future and has once again found itself landing in the top ten of several rankings:
- 6th in the Nation for 2015 Best Economic Outlook (American Legislative Exchange Council)
- 9th in the Nation for Future Job Growth (Forbes)
- 6th Best State to Start a Small Business (Entrepreneur)
What is driving Idaho’s success in economic development? Some would say it is the skills and incredible talent of the workforce. Others would say it is the state’s leadership opening doors and removing barriers for business to thrive. Still others would attribute it to the low cost of doing business, thanks in large part to the lowest energy costs in the country. If you ask Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter or new Idaho Department of Commerce Director Megan Ronk, they would say it’s all of the above plus Idaho’s ability to “run at the speed of business” that has helped so many employers accelerate their speed to market.
To understand how this commitment and enthusiasm translates to results in Idaho, one need not look further than some of the state’s most recent achievements and successes.
The Tax Reimbursement Incentive
Idaho’s biggest economic development game-changer in recent years was the creation of the Tax Reimbursement Incentive (TRI) in 2014. The TRI provides up to a thirty-percent refundable tax credit for up to fifteen years on all payroll, sales, and income taxes for companies that hire at least fifty new employees above the average county wage in urban areas (or twenty new employees in rural communities). With a simple and straightforward application process and swift turnaround, companies are finding the TRI to be a quick and accessible incentive to stimulate new investment and job creation.
Since July 2014, twenty-six companies have been incentivized by a TRI award to relocate to or expand their existing operations in Idaho, creating over 4,000 jobs and investing nearly $600 million in the state. The approved projects are as diverse as they are impressive. Recently approved projects include a medical technology company in one of Idaho’s northernmost cities, two high-end hotels in one of Idaho’s trendiest resort towns, a new osteopathic medical school to serve the entire Intermountain West, and two plastic manufacturers in an emerging cluster in southern Idaho. Additional prominent projects include:
- Paylocity, a cloud-based payroll and human capital management software company was awarded a TRI award of thirty percent for fifteen years to bring 125 high paying jobs to Boise.
- Quest Aircraft, manufacturer of the Kodiak aircraft, was awarded a TRI award of twenty-five percent for twelve years to expand its operations and hire 187 new employees in Sandpoint.
- Heartland RV, a recreational vehicle manufacturer, was awarded a TRI award of twenty percent for ten years to bring 275 manufacturing jobs to Boise.
The Rapid Response Team
To support Idaho businesses at all levels of government and move projects forward at a speed unmatched by other states, Governor Otter called together some of his key Cabinet members to create a “Rapid Response Team” tasked with carrying out the State’s mission to run at the speed of business. The team responds to business needs and proactively engages with businesses to speed up permitting, discuss infrastructure needs, determine grant or incentive eligibility, and communicate regulatory needs.
The Site Readiness Program
To maintain Idaho’s position at the leading edge of economic development, State leaders were quick to recognize and jump on one of the fastest-growing trends in the site selection business: the demand for project-ready industrial sites.
In 2015, Idaho Power partnered with Idaho Commerce to initiate the Idaho Power Site Readiness Program to identify potential properties suitable for industrial end users. The program goal was to increase both the available inventory and the readiness of sites for industrial development in communities served by Idaho Power. The Idaho communities of Boise, Jerome, Twin Falls and Pocatello participated in the program and prepared selected industrial sites to be marketed for quick site selection.
Education and Training Investments
Idaho knows the future of its economic success depends on the education and skills of its workforce and its ability to attract and retain motivated and highly-skilled workers. In recent years, the state has made a firm commitment to increasing educational opportunities for its students and employees. During the 2016 legislative session, the State approved a 7.4 percent budget increase for K-12 education, with particular emphasis on literacy, STEM education and college and career readiness. To increase training opportunities for Idaho employees, the Idaho Department of Labor has worked collaboratively with Idaho companies to support customized training programs in some of Idaho’s fastest-growing industries. Through micro grants, industry sector grants and training grants, the Idaho Department of Labor is working with industry and education to train Idaho citizens for some of the most sought-after jobs of the future.
Idaho: Running and Succeeding at the Speed of Business
Running at the speed of business is no small task for a state to accomplish. But with strong leadership, widespread community support, and collaborative utility and education partners, Idaho is showing the nation that it’s just the state to do it.
To learn more and see how Idaho can run at the speed of your business visit http://commerce.idaho.gov.
Visit http://www.expansionsolutionsmagazine.com/idaho_ed for local economic development office directory listings.