Economic development agencies combine forces to promote region.
This past April, two existing agencies – Grow Idaho Falls and Bingham Economic Development – combined forces to form the Regional Economic Development Corporation for eastern Idaho, also known as REDI. This new entity is taking a more expansive approach to business recruitment by promoting what the entire region has to offer when it comes to both work and the overall quality of life in the area.
“The idea is when small towns or counties try to compete for economic development opportunities, they sort of struggle to be heard because there are so many voices out there,” says REDI interim director Darlene Gerry. “There are so many entities that are bigger and represent broader regions, and have a larger inventory of things they can offer to meet the needs of the businesses that are looking to relocate or expand.
One Clear Voice
“We wanted to merge the economic development efforts in eastern Idaho, so we are one entity that speaks with a louder voice. The goal is to bring more jobs and higher-paying jobs to eastern Idaho," Gerry says. "We plan to do that by marketing this entire region, which really has a lot to offer businesses. This move to regionalism is going to help us market ourselves better and get people’s attention.”
From an employment standpoint, Gerry says eastern Idaho provides a well-educated workforce that is particularly skilled in high-tech areas. She credits that to the existence in the region of several major research-and-development facilities, including the Idaho National Laboratory (the U.S. Department of Energy’s lead nuclear energy research laboratory), the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (a research and education consortium involving four universities), and the Idaho Accelerator Center (focusing on nuclear physics, materials science, biology and national security).
“We have a highly educated workforce with a good work ethic,” says REDI chairman Park Price, who also is president and CEO of the Bank of Idaho. “Businesses that are already in this region are very happy with the work that’s being done here. But we aren’t able to get on enough outside radars. REDI gives us the ability to get noticed, to give us more at-bats in attracting companies.”
The Livability Factor
In addition to the workforce, REDI officials plan to promote the quality of life available in eastern Idaho. “That alone won’t get a business to relocate somewhere,” Gerry says, “but it sure is a nice thing to offer.”
Price says there are numerous advantages to living in the region compared to many major metropolitan areas, most notably affordable real estate, short commute times, low crime rates and easy accessibility to a range of outdoor activities – Yellowstone National Park, Sun Valley Ski Resort and Jackson Hole are all less than three hours away.
“There is a lot of skiing, hiking, hunting and fishing right out your door,” Price says. “But we also have an amazing variety of arts. Symphonies, performing arts, repertory theaters, art museums. I’m always amazed at the different things there are to do here that you wouldn’t expect when you come to a community of this size. There are just a lot of reasons for businesses to be interested in eastern Idaho.”