Disappointed North Idaho legislators and business leaders spent Valentine’s Day wondering why Micron Semiconductor Inc. abruptly ended the courtship efforts of Kootenai County and three other Idaho cities for the Boise-based company’s huge expansion.
Beyond revealing the three finalists for the $1.3 billion wafer plant - Payson, Utah; Omaha, Neb.; and Oklahoma City, Okla. - Monday’s surprise announcement raised more questions than it answered.
Micron search team member Kipp Bedard said Monday that a consultant Micron hired told the company that Kootenai County and other Northwest sites didn’t stand up to the competition.
But the South Carolina consultant, Bob Goforth, said he hadn’t finished his report rating the Post Falls site and hadn’t made any finalist recommendations to the big computer chip manufacturer. Bedard didn’t return calls Tuesday.
In fact, Goforth hadn’t even visited Omaha or Oklahoma City. No other official Micron representative had visited Omaha either, said Vicki Krecek of the Omaha Economic Development Council.
Krecek attributed Omaha’s selection to its pro-business atmosphere, quality education and excellent infrastructure.
But other cities felt they offered those same attributes, and Goforth said he had rated some of the passedover sites highly.
Back in Idaho, Commerce Secretary Jim Hawkins said Micron’s decision may face some scrutiny from its board of directors, which includes prominent state business leaders.
But Hawkins and Gov. Phil Batt have said the state has done all it will do to persuade Micron to expand in its home state. The state won’t offer any last-minute incentives. Former Gov. Cecil Andrus had struck a deal with Micron nearly a decade earlier, under similar circumstances, to build a technology center.
While Micron evidently will take its new plant elsewhere, its headquarters and core operations will remain in Boise.
“We’re not going to give away the farm for a tractor,” Hawkins said at the Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce annual legislative banquet here Tuesday.
Oklahoma had touted its willingness to offer state incentives such as free land and tax breaks. Beyond rumored support from billionaire Warren Buffett, Nebraska’s legislature has considered two measures to help attract Micron.
Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Coeur d’Alene, commended Batt and Hawkins for sticking to their incentive-less guns.
“There plenty of companies that have come to Idaho without incentives, and we’ll keep bringing them here for all the right reasons,” Crow said.
Crow was among about 75 lawmakers and business leaders who attended the chamber banquet. Most seemed disappointed, but not overwrought, by Micron’s decision.