One of the key economic points we try to pay attention to is the matter of a local economy’s base – the core of service or production that serves as the center of the economic engine. In times past, for example, you might have a group of farmers who raise crops; that production forms a center of economic production, which spreads outward toward crop storing and transportation, toward business and legal and medical services, toward needed retail, and so on and on. Usually such an economic base, its central engine, is manufacturing or production of some sort, or at least something generating value. If there’s not a strong core generating value, then much of what happens in an area is simply the shifting around of money, and that can become a declining circle as everyone takes out their piece. A value, a wealth, enhancer needs to be somewhere central in the system, and best if the association is tight with one of the largest employers in the area.
So the throwaway line in the stories about Micron Technology‘s diminished employment in the Boise area – by August, estimated to be about 5,000 – have significance even beyond the considerable and very important direct loss of jobs. Micron, which for a decade or more has been the largest private employer in Idaho, also adds a lot of wealth as a manufacturer of high-tech materials, has been a wealth/value-creator, which has made it a very useful central economic engine.
What does it say about the structure of Idaho’s economy that the pending biggest private employers in the state come August will be a hospital network – St. Luke’s (about 7,600 jobs) – and a big-box retailer – Wal-Mart (about 6,900)? What sort of an an economic base do they form? Maybe even more than the raw loss of jobs, Idaho policy makers need to start considering seriously how the state’s economy is structured.Share on Facebook