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Otter: Some good news, some caution on state’s economy

Gov. Butch Otter, in his monthly “Project 60” message, says “we may finally be at the bottom of this downturn and starting to turn things around.” But he warns, “We are not yet anywhere near where we were or where we want to be,” and says, “Things might still seem a little worse before we start realizing they are better.” As he usually does in such messages, Otter highlights examples of businesses around the state that are growing, but he sounds a bit less jubilant than he has. “We are all in this together,” the governor writes. “None of us should be taking this recession lying down, or taking recovery for granted. We are addressing our challenges head on, and I’m proud to be part of that effort.” “Project 60” refers to Otter’s push to increase the state’s gross domestic product to $60 billion, which would be nearly a 15 percent increase. Click below to read his full message.


IDAHO BUSINESSES ARE ROLLING UP THEIR SLEEVES

WE’RE TURNING THINGS AROUND, BUT REAL RECOVERY WILL TAKE TIME AND CONTINUED EFFORT

By Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter

This month: Some good news, and a few words of caution.

We heard recently that the recession may be over. Our nation’s economy grew about 3.5 percent during the most recent quarter, marking the first three-month period of growth in more than a year. But before we celebrate, let’s remember that while we may finally be at the bottom of this downturn and starting to turn things around, we are not yet anywhere near where we were or where we want to be.

Employment is what economists call a “lagging indicator,” and things might still seem a little worse before we start realizing they are better. Caution and continued frugality are just as important as optimism right now, and the last thing we should do is declare victory and return to business as usual.

That being said, there is positive news in a wide variety of sectors across Idaho, from retail to wind energy. That speaks well of our growing economic diversity – a quality that we are working to cultivate. And even seen through the eyes of caution, it’s paying off in more career-path jobs and opportunities.

Jayco Inc. in Twin Falls is ramping up production and hiring another 30 workers, which will bring its employee count up to 180. Better-than-expected sales are credited for the increase in production, which will bring the travel trailer company’s employment level to nearly pre-recession levels.

In New Plymouth, a new headquarters is being built for Internet Truckstop – along with two of its spinoff businesses. The groundbreaking online service for truckers nationwide is optimistic that it will continue growing, so it’s left room for expansion. The company also is taking care to use Idaho products and labor as much as possible, creating even stronger ripples in our economy.

Federal stimulus money continues to help Idaho’s economy, especially in the energy sector. Last month, another $10 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants were awarded for geothermal projects in Idaho, resulting in a number of career opportunities created in the areas of drilling, exploration and construction.

Another round of grants sent $2.2 million to Boise’s M2M Communications, creating nearly 80 new jobs; and millions of additional dollars went to Idaho Power and Avista to build infrastructure which, in turn, will lead to more growth.

Even more energy projects are on the radar for Idaho. There is interest from two different wind energy companies in establishing projects in northern Idaho, and another company is considering Jerome. In addition, the Hoku Scientific plant in Pocatello is quickening its pace on construction after the company brought on a new investor. That solar-energy industry manufacturer will start production early next year.

In Nampa, more retailers have moved into the new Gateway Center, giving that major shopping center a strong launch. And a winery incubator has opened in Caldwell to stimulate new businesses in that growing sector.

In northern Idaho, U.S. Silver Corp. in Wallace recently created 21 new jobs. Its silver production is up, and the company is investing money in its site.

Finally, the first year of operation at the Lewiston pulp and paper mill under the management of Clearwater Paper is shaping up as a huge success. The Potlatch spinoff just reported excellent revenue and profits for its first nine months, and that means employment stability for the 1,600 people who work there.

While companies are focusing on their own business needs, many have taken the time to invest in Idaho’s future as well. Nearly 100 Idaho companies from throughout the state have answered my call to actively participate in today’s recovery and tomorrow’s prosperity by becoming Project 60 partners. They realize that economic growth is not just government’s business – it’s an effort in which we all have a big stake.

The teamwork and sense of community we are fostering throughout Idaho is making a critical difference.  We are all in this together. None of us should be taking this recession lying down, or taking recovery for granted. We are addressing our challenges head on, and I’m proud to be part of that effort.

Remember to share your stories of success and struggle with me at www.project60.idaho.gov. I want to hear about the start-up enterprise in your garage or barn, or any ideas you’ve been working on to help grow our economy – the Idaho way.

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Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter will release his Project 60 Update monthly, providing information about economic growth and business expansion throughout Idaho.

 


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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