Idaho Commerce Director Bobbi-Jo Meuleman (pictured) cited the significant impact the state's five indigenous tribes have on the Gem State's economy when she addressed about 150 tribal and western planners gathered at the elegant $49 million Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center in Fort Hall on Monday, Aug. 6.
The 2018 Tribal Planning & Western Planner Conference was the first time the major conference has been hosted by a Native American tribe, underscoring its theme of “Building Partnerships through Understanding, Cooperation and Consultation.” It was convened in Spearfish, S.D., last year and is scheduled for Santa Fe, N.M., next year.
Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Nathan Small welcomed delegates from as far as Alaska, Canada and North Carolina by stressing even though it has been 150 years since the Fort Bridger Treaty established the Fort Hall Reservation in July 1868, Shoshone-Bannocks still adhere to their language and traditions.
In office since January, Meuleman noted Idaho's five tribal reservations – Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Kootenai and Shoshone-Paiute – have a $570 million annual impact on the state's economy, their exports average about $1.5 billion each year and they employ some 7,570 people. Collectively, they are among the top 10 employers in Idaho.
A 2013/14 University of Idaho report about the economic impacts of those five sovereign nations showed they added 13,840 jobs to the state's economy and their total annual sales transactions exceeded $1.1 billion, including multiplier effects. Their value-added gross state product (GSP) amounted to $653 million or 1 percent of the state's GSP in 2013. More than 500,000 people, including 60 percent from out of state, visit Idaho tribal casinos each year.
In total, the five tribes of Idaho own more than 963,325 acres and have 9,555 members living in Idaho. If compared with Idaho’s total 44 counties, the five tribes would be ranked 20th in terms of land area. They have more than 150,000 acres under cultivation in Idaho, producing direct revenues/expenditures of $100 million annually.
Meuleman noted that Idaho has been gleaning positive national attention lately because it boasts the nation's top performing state economy, highest job growth, fastest expanding population, surging earnings and top travel destinations. She credited Idaho's success to existing businesses creating new jobs and making investments that have grown the economy.
Solid community infrastructures, expeditious permit applications, easy access to top government leaders, available land and resources, plus cheap energy, also have enhanced Idaho's reputation as a business-friendly state, she said, noting traditional industries are using more advanced technology, providing employment opportunities for young people and adding value to domestic products.
“We're looking to proactively attract business. Idaho is in a really great position,” Meuleman said.
Traditional industry sectors pay well and are projected to grow, she added. Their average annual wages and 10 year growth projections are as follows: Food manufacturing, $57,000, 20 percent; agriculture support, $36,000, 16 percent; computer/electronics product manufacturing, $128,000; 13 percent; wood product manufacturing, $52,000, 12 percent, and mining, $85,000, 4 percent.
Meuleman also showed a slide about how emerging industries compare: electrical equipment, appliance, component manufacturing, $73,000, 66 percent; information services, $75,000, 52 percent; beverage manufacturing, $44,000, 49 percent; data processing, hosting, $86,000, 29 percent, and advanced manufacturing, $58,000, 28 percent.
“The last thing we want to hear is that a company is leaving,” Meuleman said.
The Idaho Department of Commerce employs 43 people. Its Business Retention & Expansion division made more than 500 company visits in Fiscal 2017 and coordinated with 19 rural economic development officials.
Its International Export Assistance division has trade offices in Taiwan, China and Mexico.
The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) provides funding support for public/private commercialization projects between the state's research universities.
Meuleman praised the success of Idaho's innovative tax reimbursement incentive that has benefited the operation of companies like Amy's Kitchen, SkyWest, Albertsons, McCain Foods, Glanbia, Paylocity, Jayco and more than 30 other businesses in the state. It has been used to create 1,680 jobs for 28 rural projects and 19 urban projects. It has been used by 24 existing and 23 new Idaho companies.
About $9.2 million has been awarded in federal Community Development Block Grants for improvements in water systems, wastewater treatment, senior and community centers, wells and downtown revitalization projects. Another $500,000 has been awarded in state Rural Community Development Block Grants.
Tourism is the state's third largest economic sector, positively impacting smaller communities. It is expected to continue growing the next three years with 26 percent of survey respondents indicating they enjoy cultural experiences and visiting historic landmarks, Meuleman said, noting urban areas in Idaho are growing, but rural areas are getting left behind.
She said Idaho's three most formidable challenges are its work force, broadband service and affordable housing needs. In response to a question, she said the commerce department has had no bad experiences dealing with Idaho's five tribes, but she conceded communication always can be improved.