Commerce Director Plans Resignation

Idaho Commerce Director Jim Hawkins will hang up his economic development tools June 30, he announced Wednesday.

“I have two families; my immediate family and the people of Idaho,” Hawkins said in a statement. “The hour has come to spend more time with my immediate family.”

In Hawkins, North Idahoans had their most prominent local link to Boise and southern Idaho. Born and raised in the Lake City, Hawkins was a businessman here until appointed to head the state’s Commerce Department in 1987 by Gov. Cecil Andrus.

Idaho’s job vitality then paled compared with today’s. An anemic economy caused the state to lose population. Job and income growth lagged.

Hawkins persuaded a thrifty Idaho Legislature to invest millions of dollars in economic development. Beginning about 1989, the Idaho economy began a growth spurt envied around the country.

Exports - especially in the agricultural sector - took off, earning the state the top export growth rate award in 1994. The state’s high-tech sector, anchored by emerging Micron Technologies Inc., grew by leaps.

Braced by large companies like Micron, Boise Cascade and others, southern Idaho has a dramatically different economy than North Idaho’s resource and tourism economy. Hawkins understood the differences.

In November 1994, U.S. News and World Report named Idaho as the best economic performing state since 1991. Hawkins modestly spread the achievement to Idaho’s business leaders.

Later that same month, Idaho elected Gov. Phil Batt, who decided to keep Hawkins on as the only holdover from the Andrus administration.

“He’s a very intelligent person, well organized, always had a definite plan for moving the department ahead and worked very hard night and day toward accomplishing his goals,” Batt said Wednesday.

Hawkins’ father, a prominent Coeur d’Alene attorney, died at age 59. That factor contributed to Hawkins’ decision.

“The light went on the past few months,” he said. “I have two grandchildren in town, and I might see them once a month. I’m going to spend time with my family.”

Batt said Hawkins’ staff will run the department beginning in July. Early candidates for Hawkins’ replacement include retiring Boise Cascade Vice President Alice Hennessey.

Hawkins was Coeur d’Alene’s 1967 Distinguished Citizen of the Year. He graduated from the University of Idaho in 1959 and this month received an honorary Doctorate of Administrative Science.

“I’ve spent the last nine and a half years of my life doing what I love most - representing and working for the people of Idaho,” Hawkins said.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Eric Torbenson Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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