Employment and good jobs is the real issue for Idahoans and Idaho's economy. Since the recession began in 2007 Idaho has lost almost 60,000 jobs, and almost one in five Idahoans is unemployed or underemployed. Recovering those jobs -- and saving the ones we have -- must to be our top priority. Idaho needs to begin to put Idahoans back to work.
Good jobs and business growth depends on a number of factors. First in most people's mind is usually low taxes. But more important than low tax rate (especially if state revenue cannot meet other needs) is a stable, predictable tax structure so that employers can project with some clarity the future and allow them to build a business plan for growth.
Equally important, especially for the 21st century economy, is the educated and skilled workforce. The rest of the world is developing the technology-savvy workers international markets require for successful products. Good public schools, community colleges and universities, affordable and with the capacity to meet workforce development needs, is essential.
Attractive communities that make it a pleasure to keep your family in Idaho are also important. Often referred to as "quality of life", this includes recreation opportunities but also vibrant cities and towns. That means re-investing in the municipal infrastructure and services that families and businesses require.
The telecommunications infrastructure and the system of roads and rails are another important factors for businesses. Who would look twice at a locating a business somewhere without good road access or robust cell and broadband service?
Finally, expanding business and making more jobs requires the availability of credit or equity financing, especially difficult for smaller businesses right now. We need support for start-ups and small /medium business financing programs.
Last session, Idaho Democratic Legislators presented the Idaho Jobs and Opportunity Blueprint (IJOB). It was a package of bills developed through discussion with business professionals and people from our local communities. Our Idaho Jobs and Opportunity Blueprint borrowed from programs in other states while drawing from the inherent strengths of Idaho. We hoped it would be the beginning of wide ranging discussions focused on how the legislature can improve the jobs economy in Idaho.
Economic development often is viewed as attracting a big employer to move in. Those "home runs" are rare. Most job growth comes from existing companies, and having the telecom and transportation, the workforce and attractive communities, as well as a transparent and stable tax system will help us recover the lost jobs.