incentives build on Idaho’s future
By Roger B. Madsen, Director, Idaho Commerce & Labor
Idaho’s aggressive marketing effort, enviable quality
of life, skilled and dedicated workforce and judicious use of financial
incentives have all sustained an almost unprecedented period of growth
through the 1990s. These qualities also allowed us to survive a recent
recession with significantly less disruption than most states.
We did not let that downturn hold us back. Last year, Gov. Kempthorne
and the Legislature took steps to further economic growth. They merged
the Commerce and Labor departments, created an Idaho Office of Science
and Technology, renewed tax credits for broadband investment and research
and development, expanded the job creation tax credit and increased
financial support for rural economic development.
In 2004, Idaho had the fourth highest rate of job growth and the seventh
highest rate for personal income growth in the nation.
But opportunities for expansion are even greater in 2005 – if
we seize them.
Gov. Kempthorne’s $1.6 billion initiative to improve key transportation
routes throughout Idaho offers the immediate prospect of thousands of
construction jobs in every corner of the state. Over the long term,
it promises solid economic growth as increased transportation access
encourages business retention and expansion into our rural areas.
The Connecting Idaho plan allows Idahoans, without any new taxes, to
immediately enjoy the economic benefits of compressing 30 years of critical
road projects into ten. This method will also cost us less money to
do these projects now through bonding than it would with the current
About half of Idaho’s federal gas tax allotment
will pay off bonds used to finance these projects. There is no risk
to the state or its citizens, and the payoff is huge. Improving transportation
will unify our state and save lives when U.S. 95 and other routes are
safer to travel.
As Idaho’s economy continues to expand, economic prosperity must
be felt in every region. Too many rural communities have high unemployment
rates. Reinforcing the Rural Idaho Initiative with another $950,000
provides additional funds for job creation projects, and puts more economic
development professionals on the front lines to retain, attract and
expand area businesses.
Another $375,000 invested in science and technology will only increase
what the industry already contributes to Idaho’s economy. Boosting
the capacity of the TechConnect program will help high-tech entrepreneurs
get their ideas to the marketplace, and ramping up state Small Business
Innovation Research efforts will help thousands of Idaho businesses
secure federal funds for commercializing technological research.
Gov. Kempthorne’s tax incentives for corporate relocation will
cost the state and its taxpayers nothing. If the incentives succeed
in attracting a major employer or convincing one to expand, the payoff
is huge--at least 500 jobs paying an average of $60,000 or more plus
benefits, along with new employment opportunities connected to construction
of a $50 million complex. The positive economic impact would be substantial
throughout the state.
Using the existing cigarette tax to restore the century-old state Capitol
and develop a Capitol Annex in the old Ada County Courthouse offers
another $100 million in construction employment on top of preserving
a building at the center of Idaho’s history.
The planned $6 million development at Ponderosa State Park on west-central
Idaho’s Payette Lake would enhance the lure of one of Idaho’s
most popular destinations. More campsites, bike paths, improved facilities
and increased public access to the lake will only increase Valley County’s
Idaho is poised for another expansion that should extend beyond the
next decade. Our economic challenges of the past four years have admittedly
left the state facing difficult financial decisions. But investing now
in tools to intensify economic development offers a return that dramatically
exceeds the modest cost.
It means more jobs, higher incomes and a rising standard of living in
what is already the greatest state in the nation.
Roger B. Madsen is the Director of Idaho Commerce & Labor
and a former state senator from southwestern Ada County