By Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter
In case you haven't heard, Illinois-based insurance giant Allstate is creating 500 to 600 career-path jobs in southeastern Idaho and Florida-based health insurance customer service contractor C3 is creating 900 to 1,200 jobs in the Magic Valley. Both are examples of the collaboration between State agencies and local leaders that is making Project 60 such a success throughout Idaho.
From Post Falls to Pocatello and from Princeton to Parma, Project 60 is the embodiment of our recognition that growing government won't grow our economy. It's the government's job to facilitate and ensure the tax and regulatory environment in Idaho is one in which private businesses large and small can thrive and create career opportunities -- and that requires teamwork.
But let's go back a year. I held a Business Summit in late August 2009, bringing together experts in their fields from many Idaho economic sectors to tell my Cabinet and me how we could best help restore Idaho's prosperity. One of their recommendations was that "Idaho should proactively recruit insurance companies to take advantage of Idaho's pro-insurance tax structure."
More specifically, Business Summit panelist Dennis Johnson of United Heritage Financial Group said, "We think Idaho's pro-insurance climate is a story that should be told outside our state more often."
Well, we've been telling it -- and it's working.
But telling it isn't enough. The State departments of Commerce, Insurance and Labor have been working closely with local leaders and economic development organizations like Bannock Development and the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency to put our best foot forward by highlighting the strength of our workforce, our communities, our quality of life, and our tax and regulatory policies. And they will keep working hard to ensure the training and certification of employees at both locations goes smooth.
The kind of responsiveness that collaboration creates is making a big difference in our efforts to grow Idaho's economy.
And as the final report and recommendations from my Business Summit concluded, "Careers in the insurance industry are stable, knowledge-based and environmentally sustainable jobs with good pay and low turnover. Most impressively, according to the Idaho Department of Labor this sector has very high multipliers throughout the economy."
For instance, the initial 900 direct jobs being created by C3's investment in Twin Falls figures to produce another 690 indirect jobs. That's 1,590 total -- a benefit not only to Twin Falls but to communities throughout the area.
Collaboration and teamwork from the local level to the Capitol is leading to tangible results for Idaho's communities, our economy and our future. And there is much more to come. AREVA soon will be starting work on its $3 billion plant near Idaho Falls -- a complement to the Idaho National Laboratory and Center for Advanced Energy Studies nearby -- and we still have about 100 companies in our recruitment pipeline.
Those of us in State government recognize our role as a resource for local efforts, making sure the economic data, workforce training funds, employee recruitment tools and infrastructure are available when they're needed. We are there to write the letters, place the phone calls, organize the site visits, make the right introductions and close the deals. And at every step of the way we coordinate with the people for whom all that is far more than statistics about jobs and investments -- they are their families, their friends and their neighbors.
Don Dietrich, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, may have said it best after the recent Allstate announcement:
"We had huge support from other agencies, and I can't tell you the countless emails and phone calls it takes to position the right people in the right place, at the right time," he said. "We are a small agency. That gives us the nimbleness to maneuver without the bureaucratic layers to cut through. We have great people who are empowered to make timely decisions, and they "get' business. We have to always think like a private-sector business while executing within the parameters of a government agency. It takes special people to do that; we are blessed."
That kind of commitment isn't limited to bringing in new employers; the same is true when our existing Idaho companies are ready to grow. Just ask Empire Airlines, MDU Utilities or Premier Technology. And the kind of business environment that works for the insurance industry also is working for biotech, alternative/renewable energy, semiconductors, recreation technology and many others.
Our economic future is as bright as our potential. The job of Project 60 is to empower individuals, communities and our entire Idaho family to realize that potential by working together so everyone benefits.