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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Expansions, new companies stir jobs buzz

BOISE – 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 said. “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 upturn 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.”

Roberts’ replacement

Terry Gestrin, a Donnelly businessman and former Valley County commissioner, has been appointed to the Idaho House to finish the four months left in the term of former Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, whom Gov. Butch Otter appointed to the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Otter announced the appointment last week; Gestrin was the top choice of the GOP committee from the legislative district. Gestrin will face Democrat Karla Miller on the November ballot for a shot at a full two-year term.

Senators honor Armstrong

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch honored Boise’s Kristin Armstrong for her Olympic gold medal in the cycling time trial in London – her second straight gold in the event, after winning in 2008 in Beijing – with a statement in the Congressional Record.

“Kristin is truly a gifted athlete with immense abilities and talents,” the senators said in the statement. “Her capacity to push forward beyond the challenges provides encouragement to all of us, and we congratulate her on this, and her many, extraordinary achievements.”

Billboard draws outrage

The Idaho Statesman newspaper reported that the mayor of Caldwell asked the Ralph Smeed Foundation to remove a billboard message at a prominent entrance to the city that compares President Barack Obama to Aurora, Colo., theater shooter James Holmes, picturing the two side by side. The foundation refused. The billboard message has drawn national outrage.

Foundation Chairman Maurice Clements, a former Idaho lawmaker and an unsuccessful candidate for the state Senate this year, told the newspaper he planned to change the readerboard sign to a new message this past Friday as scheduled, rather than act on the mayor’s request earlier in the week. Among those who have objected to the message are families of the Colorado shooting victims, who say the sign politicizes the crime that killed more than a dozen people at a Batman movie premiere.

Clements told the Statesman he’s received about 1,000 emails and phone calls about the billboard message and has done interviews with the New York Daily News, TMZ and radio stations in Los Angeles and Denver.

Watch your speed …

The Idaho Transportation Department and law enforcement agencies across the state are partnering for a two-week anti-aggressive-driving push – including intensive patrols on popular routes focusing on speeding and other aggressive driving behaviors – that runs through Aug. 13.

The reason: Idaho has higher rates of crashes involving aggressive driving than the nation, and aggressive driving was a contributing factor in nearly half of Idaho car crashes in 2011. Speeding is a factor in more than a third of Idaho’s traffic deaths.

“Law enforcement is not just writing tickets for bad driving behavior,” said Boise police Chief Mike Masterson, whose agency is among 49 joining in the two-week enforcement push. “Law enforcement agencies across the state are partnering to target aggressive drivers and motorcycle riders to make our roads safer for Idahoans who want to arrive home safe to their families.”

First West Nile human case

Idaho has reported its first human case of West Nile virus this year, a Twin Falls County woman in her 40s who had recently traveled to Valley County. It’s not clear in which county she contracted the disease, which is spread by infected mosquitoes. The woman has recovered, Idaho Health and Welfare reported. Last year, Idaho had three human cases of West Nile Virus; in 2006, it had 1,000 infections and 23 deaths.

Mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus so far in Ada, Canyon, Gem and Payette counties.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at (208) 336-2854 or Follow the blog, Eye on Boise, at

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