Making More Than Potatoes in Idaho

Report from AmericaLast week I spent several days in Idaho visiting an old friend in Boise, the state capital. Driving around the state, I was amazed at the number of ranches and farms that dominate the “high desert” landscape of this picturesque state. From this viewpoint, it was clear to me that Idaho is a state dominated by agriculture.

But there is more being made in Idaho than potatoes. In fact, agriculture makes up just 5% of Idaho’s economy. As it turns out, manufacturing is Idaho’s biggest industry, accounting for over 14% of the state GDP in 2004 (20% larger than Real Estate, the state’s second-largest industry.) And what is exactly made in Idaho? High-end electronics as it turns out: 50% of Idaho manufacturing is comprised of Computer and Electronic Products manufacturing.

With the fast pace of computer/electronic manufacturing going on in the United States, it did not surprise me too much when I found out that Idaho’s manufacturing sector has been driving the state’s economic recovery since the 2001 recession. From 2002 through 2004, Idaho manufacturing GDP growth has averaged 10% per-year. Just by itself, manufacturing has amazingly accounted for 40 percent of the state’s economic growth since the end of the recession.

As a result of its manufacturing recovery, the economy of Idaho stacks up pretty well compared to the nation overall: from 2002 through 2004, Idaho’s economic growth has averaged 4.4% — incredibly half again as fast (55%) as the 2.8% pace of the national economy.

This is proof positive that a growing manufacturing base should be a goal of every state!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Gary Johnson says:

    Hi Dave

    I recently visited Idaho for the first time and just wanted to let everyone who appreciates winter sports, Idaho Rocks! No pretension, no lift lines, great skiing (or boarding) and really nice folks. I went to Sun Valley and fell in love with the place. I also found some really gifted furniture makers there . . . A real gem of a state