The Surprising Outlook in Idaho–Part 1

By November 16, 2007Report from America

Report from America It has been twenty years since I was in this state in the upper northwest and I was not prepared for what I found here, as the keynote speaker for the 61st meeting of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho (ATI). The ATI meeting was a unique mix of state legislators and business people and Gov. “Butch” Otter joined the ATI meeting for lunch and as the featured luncheon speaker. All in all, an impressive assemblage of men and women interested in the future of this state.

I wasn’t prepared to find a state economy that is red hot and one of the top growth economies in the United States. Idaho ranks first in so many important measurements of growth, innovation and entrepreneurialism, that it is hard to know where to start:

  • It’s first in the nation with its investment in manufacturing.
  • It is first in the nation in the number of patents issued on a per capita basis.
  • And it’s only 5th among the states that show a high start-up rate among new businesses.
  • It’s the #2 state in terms of non-agricultural employment growth and has the fifth lowest cost of doing business.
  • Its exports have increased by 55 percent, ranking it 7th in the nation.
  • And it has greater percentage of workers in “high-tech” than even California.
  • Did you know all this was going on up here?

    A state known for great skiing and potatoes has become a LOT more. West of the state of Missouri, only three states obtain as much as 12-13 percent of the state economy from manufacturing and those three are Texas, Kansas and–you guessed it–Idaho. I had the distinct pleasure to visit two of the states major food processing plants while I was here. The Amalgamated Sugar facility in Nampa, just north of Boise. And the Dairlygold milk processing plant in Boise.

    Did you know that food processing and manufacturing is the largest single sector in U.S. manufacturing? Bigger than autos. Bigger than chemicals. Bigger than electronics. And Idaho has a commanding lead in many ways within this industry and is carefully laying the basis for further growth within this sector. Hewlett Packard is here and Micron Technologies was born and raised here. But the blog entry that I’ll finish up with tomorrow looks at food manufacturing and the amazing things going on with simple products like milk and sugar beets.

    Join the discussion 2 Comments

    • Bill,

      I’m glad you made these great discoveries, and I hope you had a great time visiting Idaho. I’m very appreciative of all of your kind words about our terrific state. We are constantly working to improve the attractiveness of Idaho as a home to technology and manufacturing businesses. As “hot” as our economy is, we believe we have lots of room to improve and grow. I hope you will come again sometime and bring some CEOs with you so that we can show them all Idaho has to offer.

      Brian Dickens
      Idaho Office of Science & Technology

    • Isaac Grauke says:


      Thanks for the article. How important is the training that community colleges provide to manufacturing and what is Idaho doing to ensure a ready supply of skilled workers?

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