Attracting new businesses and jobs to Idaho requires a solid infrastructure, access to a skilled workforce, and regulations that don’t suffocate innovation. As of November 2017, Idaho’s unemployment rate is 2.9%. But that number doesn’t capture how many people are underemployed, including folks who are working part-time, but want to work full time. We want Idaho residents to have jobs that provide long-term opportunities and pay enough to support their families.
Because if you’re born in Idaho, you shouldn’t feel like you need to leave to achieve success. It starts by identifying potential industries for growth, including leisure and hospitality, information technology, construction, manufacturing, and healthcare.
Madison and Bonneville Counties continue to generate extensive revenue from agriculture. In 2012, that number was $131,062,000 (Madison) and $204,176,000 (Bonneville). We need to pursue new trade opportunities and open new markets for our ag products. We also need to ensure that unnecessary regulation doesn’t prevent our producers from building sustainable businesses.
Economic development comes with pros and cons. It adds dollars to our economy, but it also involves change, and change can be disruptive. As we consider new economic development, we want to make smart choices that pay attention to local needs and goals. We can’t just look at the bottom line number. Any economic incentives or packages need to respect the rights of all parties.
In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Idaho Cs and Ds on our infrastructure (but our rail system managed to pull a solid B). We need to continue investing in efforts to repair our bridges, secure our drinking water, and upgrade our electrical grid. Beyond these obvious needs, Idaho will also benefit from adding a reliable broadband infrastructure to help our businesses stay competitive in domestic and global markets.
It’s tempting to pick any one part of Idaho’s tax policy and say, “Let’s lower that rate,” or “Let’s just end that tax.” But Idaho’s overall tax policy needs to be revisited. By identifying just one piece to change and ignoring the rest, we may create problems elsewhere. For example, of course, we could drop the tax on groceries. But the loss of those dependable tax revenues might mean we can’t make changes to personal income taxes and still maintain a diversified source of revenue. We need to review all the ways Idaho generates revenue and make smart choices about where we should cut.
Without water, our communities, our industries, and the source of Idaho’s wealth disappears. Wise stewardship over the last few decades has helped Idaho remain competitive among our neighbors. But we can’t stop. We need to develop infrastructure that allows us to store and manage this valuable resource. From aquifer recharge to improving old and inefficient water systems, Idaho has the opportunity invest in a way that will protect Idaho’s water assets for years to come.