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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho Department of Commerce

First applicant for new Idaho tax incentive is airline planning new maintenance facility

An airline is looking into coming to Idaho to set up a maintenance facility in Boise that would create 100 new jobs with salaries of close to $50,000 a year, Idaho’s state commerce chief says, in part because of a new tax incentive law. The firm, which will be named on Tuesday when the state’s Economic Advisory Council considers its application, is the first to apply for the state’s new economic reimbursement incentive – a new tax break that will refund up to 30 percent of a firm’s state corporate income, sales and payroll taxes for up to 15 years if they create specified numbers of new Idaho jobs.

“I think people will be pleased when they hear the name of the company,” said Idaho Commerce Director Jeff Sayer. “We’ll be announcing whether or not the proposal is approved. And then there may be a subsequent announcement later, we’re hoping, in this particular case, where the company will be announcing they’ve actually chosen Idaho.”

The new tax incentive law just took effect July 1. It offers the tax breaks to firms that create at least 20 new jobs in rural areas or at least 50 in urban areas, if the jobs pay at least the county average wage. It’s available both to existing Idaho businesses and to out-of-state firms; Sayer said the first applicant is coming from out of state. “We’re among the final states that they’re looking at, and they’ve asked us to fast-track this particular process so that they can make their decision and get going,” he said. “If they choose Boise, it’ll be a huge win for our aerospace industry sector and the airport and Boise all at the same time, so we’re hopeful.” You can read my full story here at

Idaho commerce chief shakes up agency, lays off tourism, trade chiefs

Idaho’s longtime tourism chief and its head of international trade were both laid off Monday, as state Commerce Director Jeff Sayer launched a reorganization of his 53-person agency. Karen Ballard, the state’s tourism division chief for the past six years and a tourism staffer for the state for more than 20 years, is out of a job, as is Damien Bard, chief of the department’s Division of International Business. “Our reorganization is really us trimming back at the top levels of management, and streamlining our team so that we can be more responsive to the businesses of the state and changes that are occurring in economic development,” Sayer said.

Commerce will now have just three divisions: Administration, headed by Megan Ronk, former government relations, marketing and public relations officer; Business Expansion, including the international division, community development and more, headed by current team leader Gynii Gilliam; and Business Creation, including tourism along with sales and marketing, business attraction and national sales. The department is recruiting a leader for that division; you can read my full story here at

Reorganization eliminates job of Idaho’s tourism chief, Karen Ballard

Longtime Idaho tourism chief Karen Ballard is out of a job as part of a reorganization at the state Department of Commerce. Ballard, who’s served as administrator of the state Division of Tourism for the past six years, has been with the department working on tourism for more than 20 years; both her position and that of Damien Bard, administrator of international tourism, are being eliminated in the reorganization. “We are eligible to reapply for some other positions that are going to be here,” Ballard said. “It’s a streamlining of Commerce that’s going to have a few less people, but actually redistribute some of the salaries to be more equitable. … So they’ll be creating a new position for manager of tourism, and we’re hoping that one of my staff will be able to fill that position.”

Ballard said she won’t be reapplying for the manager post. “That is a reclassify and a downgrade of what my current position is,” she said. With a chuckle, she said, “Basically, they’re splitting my job up into two different directions, which makes me feel better for the amount of work my job was, with it needing to be split.”

Asked about her plans, Ballard said, “Well, I’m open to opportunities that might come my way.”

She said she was advised of the reorganization on Wednesday. “Now, we did know that (Commerce Director) Jeff (Sayer) was working on a reorganization,” Ballard said, “and we actually helped him with some of these ideas that he came up with. I had not anticipated that it would be the elimination of my job, but I understand what he’s trying to do, and it could be very productive for him.”

Prior to joining Commerce, Ballard worked in the hospitality industry in the Sun Valley area, including work for Elkhorn Resort.

Commerce chief reports encouraging news on jobs front

Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer is crowing about company expansions and recruitments that are running far ahead of expectations, just a month into the state's new fiscal year. “We have probably 10 projects, all in different regions of the state, that will bring anywhere from 50 to 200 jobs per project,” Sayer told Eye on Boise today. “The best part is that they're a combination of companies that are expanding and new companies coming into the state. So if that pace keeps up, this year should be a really exciting year for us.”

Details are scarce at this point, but Sayer is promising more later; the jobs in question will be added within the next four to 18 months. “We're finally seeing the culmination of several months of momentum that's been building across the state, and now it's finally coming to the surface where what we were hearing is actually turning into actual jobs,” Sayer said. “We're seeing growth in sectors that people aren't even aware exist in Idaho, like the aerospace sector near Spokane. We're seeing a lot of manufacturing. We're seeing a lot of strength in some of our existing industries that are finally starting to expand and grow.”

The current upswell is unexpected, Sayer noted. “This is probably six to nine months ahead of what I would have predicted. So it's fun. And we're seeing even more conversations that are starting to fill our pipelines, so it's not like once we get done with these we're done - there are several more coming.”

Commerce Dept. names Ronk as PIO, Gilliam as economic development chief

Megan Ronk, executive director of the Idaho Meth Project for the past five years, is the new public information officer for the Idaho Department of Commerce, Director Jeff Sayer announced today; he said she'll “play a key role in developing branding, marketing and communications strategies for the department.” Click below for the full Commerce announcement, and also for the department's announcement that it's named a new chief economic development officer: Gynii Gilliam, who most recently was executive director of Bannock Development Corp. in Pocatello. Sayer said Gilliam will “lead the agency's economic development team and will be responsible for creating economic growth, across all industry sectors, for the state of Idaho.”

Idaho exports headed for record level

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Overseas demand for Idaho dairy products and silver helped drive export growth to 16.6 percent from July to September, keeping the state on pace for record out-of-country sales for 2011. Idaho's third-quarter export growth trailed the national rate of 17.7 percent, compared to the year-ago period. Department of Commerce director Jeff Sayer says international markets continued to be a bright spot for Idaho's economy. Dairy exports rose by 70 percent to $194 million as fast-growing Asia Pacific countries had an appetite for whey protein and powdered milk. High prices for precious metals increased demand for mining products, where exports more than doubled to $362 million. And while domestic construction remains mired in a slump, Idaho wood products exports to Canada, Japan, Mexico and China rose 58 percent to $79 million.

Otter names new commerce chief

Gov. Butch Otter has named a new state commerce director to replace Don Dietrich, who resigned in August: Jeff Sayer, an eastern Idaho business consultant, CPA and former  president and chief financial officer for Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls; he'll start Oct. 3. Otter said, “Jeff’s diverse, bottom-line experience in private business and his commitment to Idaho make him a great choice to join my team. He brings an extraordinary skill set to this position that’s so crucial to helping businesses create career opportunities for Idaho citizens.” Sayer also is the brother of Doug Sayer, head of Premier Technology in Blackfoot and chairman of the Idaho Innovation Council. Click below for the full announcement.

Dietrich resigning as Commerce director

Idaho Department of Commerce Director Don Dietrich is resigning from his post effective Sept. 2. Dietrich, a former executive with Aspen Technology and Cargill Inc., said he plans to return to the private sector. He's also been a lightning rod as rumors have circulated that Gov. Butch Otter's “Project 60” trade-building initiative is really a plot to sell Idaho's sovereignty to China; the John Birch Society has been pushing the theory and using quotes from Dietrich about trade with China. The furor even spread to the Idaho Republican Party's Central Committee, which passed a “China Beachhead” resolution last month calling on the Legislature to look into it.

In his resignation letter, Dietrich wrote, “I am proud of what we have accomplished during these challenging times. However, it is clear to me that a change is necessary – for the Department and for me personally – in order for you to continue building on these successes and to meet my desire to return to the private sector.” Otter praised Dietrich as “a key member of my team for more than three years now,” and said, “His professionalism and commitment have been exemplary, especially as all of us in state government learn to do more with less.”

A search is under way for Dietrich's successor; click below for Otter's full news release on the resignation. Here's a link to a June 27 article by the Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker debunking the China-buying-Idaho rumors; Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary, when asked what connection there was between the China brouhaha and Dietrich's resignation, said he didn't think there was any connection. Here's a link to Otter's FAQ's about Idaho-China trade.

Promoting the state on a high-tech shoestring

With one of the lowest budgets for promoting tourism among states – but with a $3 billion tourist industry seen as key to the state’s ailing economy – Idaho is turning to high-tech tools and tricks to help market the state. The state’s Division of Tourism is beta-testing a new technology from a Sandpoint firm that enables prospective visitors to virtually fly over the state, checking out attractions, lodging and scenery along the route as they go. “We feel we have technology that will really help the state attract more visitors and help the tourism businesses attract more visitors,” said Mark Williams, CEO of GeoData Technologies.

Idaho’s also using new 360-degree panoramic photography on its tourism Web site, exploring an iPhone app and planning a campaign for spring around the reality show-style story of a stressed-out Seattle family that won a free Idaho vacation. “People don’t know about Idaho, and we don’t have the funding to get the traditional advertising out there,” said Idaho’s Division of Tourism administrator, Karen Ballard. “If we can use this online visual world, where you get the visuals of who and what we are, we’re all for that.” You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.

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About this blog

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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