Opinion by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter
I’m grateful for the time and effort of those who participated in the summit. Their perspectives will provide important guideposts as we advance Project 60 – the collaborative, coordinated statewide economic development effort in which private sector partners are volunteering to help us attract new employers to Idaho while we strengthen our existing businesses.
See the new Project 60 Web site at www.project60.idaho.gov to find out how you can help too.
Project 60 is about growing the economy by creating jobs that become community-building careers for Idahoans. That might seem optimistic while we continue struggling economically. But in my experience, attitude is a big part of recovery. And there is plenty of positive news about which to be optimistic.
For example, this summer Boise’s MotivePower received a contract for $44 million worth of locomotives, and the customer has an option to increase the order to more than $73 million. It’s the type of contract that provides job stability and career opportunities for Idahoans.
In the Treasure Valley, three companies worked together on a mutually beneficial deal: Krow Innovation brought in an international firearms distributor that will manufacture shotguns at Meridian’s Advanced Precision Machining. Employees there now will have more stable jobs and the company could double employment over the next year with this contract. Part of the deal also includes accessorizing the shotguns with products from Blackhawk Products in Meridian.
In Plummer, Bluewater Technologies has received a federal contract to clean up phosphorus in the municipal wastewater. The Hayden-based company is using technology developed at the University of Idaho to solve a problem that was stalling Plummer’s growth. The project should generate more than $30 million in regional economic development.
Another innovative Idaho business is Boise’s CRI Advantage, which was recognized as the U.S. Department of Energy’s small business of the year. CRI Advantage provides cyber security and information technology services for the Idaho National Laboratory.
Fourteen Idaho companies also landed on Inc. Magazine’s list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Among them was Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. in Moscow, which grew more than 600 percent last year!
It also is nice to see Idaho companies attracting investment, such as Balihoo in Boise, which has received $7 million from a Boston venture capital group. And COSSA, an education group in rural Canyon and Owyhee counties, has received a matching $2.5 million federal grant for a regional vocational-technical facility in Wilder. Besides creating four new permanent jobs, it will create immediate construction jobs and help our students receive necessary workforce skills.
Speaking of workforce, there are trained staff in 25 Department of Labor offices around the state matching worker skills and talents with employer needs. We also have the Workforce Development Training Fund, which reimburses qualified businesses up to $3,000 per employee for the cost of training workers to meet their needs. The program has helped secure about 20,000 Idaho jobs over the last 13 years. Meanwhile, millions of dollars in federal Trade Adjustment Assistance has provided new skills to workers laid off because of economic changes or foreign competition.
That kind of commitment creates opportunities even when we’re facing bad news. It’s unfortunate anytime a business decision affects people, as with Dell Computers announcing that it will shut down its Twin Falls call center. But it’s clear to me that local economic development and community leaders share my view that the great facility and well-trained workforce being left behind offer attractive opportunities for other businesses to move in and for careers to keep growing.
New opportunities also will be one of the themes on Thursday, September 24th, when I conduct an “Innovation Summit” in Boise. It will feature leaders from the high-tech manufacturing, energy and defense, higher education and research, software, entrepreneurial and small business sectors of Idaho’s economy providing insights on what State government should do to enable them to succeed. The public is encouraged to attend as panelists share their ideas on how to apply innovation and technology to growing Idaho’s economy with jobs that become careers – and whole new industries.
If that’s not cause for optimism, I don’t
know what is.