Business investment in sustainability aids environment, economy
This region has long lured companies with an enviable quality of life that offers residents countless ways to commune with nature. Likewise, many companies are working to protect that natural environment with sustainable projects that help both the community and the economy.
“Southern Idaho is really competitive on land prices, utility costs, and there are a number of incentives that are available at the state, county and local level to help businesses land and be successful in Southern Idaho,â€ says Connie Stopher, executive director of Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization.
“Another advantage that businesses have is the ability to lower their carbon footprint and save money while they do it. Fifty-eight percent of the electricity produced in Idaho comes from renewable energy sources. Additionally, Idaho has the second lowest annual average price for electricity. Solar projects in Southern Idaho are generating enough power to fuel 400,000 homes. These sustainability efforts are ongoing, and consumers are going to continue to see how moving their businesses to Idaho is not only good for their bottom line, but for the environment as well.”
Solar Power at Middlekauff Automotive Group
One such sustainable undertaking is the solar project headed by Middlekauff Automotive Group, the parent company of two of the largest automobile dealerships in the region. In 2017, with the help of Meridian-based EvenGreen Technology, the company installed rooftop solar systems at both dealerships and retrofitted the parking lot lamp posts with LED lights.
Southern Idaho averages more than 255 days of sunshine a year, so the project seemed a natural fit, says Middlekauff Automotive Group owner Gregg Middlekauff.
“With over 255 days a year of the sun shining in Twin Falls, solar is very efficient and effective. it helps to shade the rooftops, thus reducing the showroom space AC load,â€ he says. “But our motivation for upgrading to solar technology was far more than financial. Because of our history and long-term commitment to the Magic Valley, it is another way we promise to continue offering superior value and service for the customer, but also to this community we call home.â€
In fact, the solar energy system is the first of its size in the region and is projected to save in annual greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of 42 passenger cars, the carbon dioxide emissions of 63 tons of recycled waste and the carbon sequestered by 1.6 acres of forest.
Green Building, Products & Processes
Another example of environmental stewardship, Twin Falls-based Hamilton Manufacturing, makes environmentally friendly dust-control and erosion-control products. The fourth-generation, family-owned and -operated manufacturer was also the first cellulose insulation manufacturing facilities in the country and boasts the “greenestâ€ insulation in the U.S. market.
Organic food producer Clif Bar & Company opened a $90 million sustainability-focused bakery in Twin Falls in 2016. The 300,000-square-foot facility features vaulted skylights, walls constructed from recycled barnwood, light-directing solatubes and multiple indoor plants. Since the bakery opened, it has earned Food Processing’s annual Green Plant of the Year Award as well as Food Engineering’s Sustainable Plant of the Year Award for energy efficiency for using alternative sources of energy, reduced pollution and water usage, its innovative green design and for going “above and beyond industry standardsâ€ in prioritizing sustainability and employee well-being.
“It was really important to us that our Twin Falls bakery embodied our company values,â€ says Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary. “We wanted it to be a healthy, welcoming place for people to work – a workplace that sustains our people, the community and the planet.”
Stopher says this commitment to employees, the environment and the community inevitably boosts the companies’ bottom line, and that’s good for the economy of the entire region.
“Whenever there is investment in the community and the economy, that ripples out to cause other growth. Southern Idaho has been really smart about how they’ve invested in the community as a result of all the growth we’ve seen. New walking and biking trails, new schools, parks and investments in downtowns, these are all benefits that we’ll continue to see for years to come,â€ Stopher says.