Posted: April 6, 2015 2:01 p.m. in the Post Register
By AUBREY WIEBER
SHELLEY — Two eastern Idaho counties have adopted a regional approach to economic development, and officials hope the rest of the region will soon join.
Bonneville County’s Grow Idaho Falls Inc. and Bingham Economic Development Corporation held a press conference Monday to announce a merger between the two, abandoning a lone-wolf approach of bringing in business in favor of a regional effort. Regional Economic Development Corporation of Eastern Idaho is aimed at expanding economic development throughout the region.
So far it’s a two-county operation, but all of eastern Idaho has been invited to join.
“We are looking to partner and work with all of the surrounding areas,” said Darlene Gerry, interim executive director.
A national search is under way for an executive director. Once hired, the director and board will hire staff and build a website.
Ann Riedesel, the former president of Grow Idaho Falls, has been working on the project since the beginning. She said the merger will change how businesses are recruited.
“If somebody needs a highly educated technical workforce, we’ve got it,” Riedesel said. “If somebody needs an industrial site with rail access, we’ve got it.”
A regional approach leads to smarter pitches by counties, while making it easier for businesses looking to relocate or expand, Riedesel said.
“It gives (site selectors) access to more information with fewer points of contact. It makes their job easier.”
Park Price, president of Bank of Idaho and board member of the Federal Reserve’s Salt Lake City branch, will help shape the regional effort.
One of Price’s duties will be lobbying other counties to join the ranks. Originally, the plan included Bannock County, but after an Oct. 29 meeting between city mayors from all three counties, Bannock dropped out.
Price said he is optimistic that Bannock County will eventually join.
“They wanted to see if what we were saying would really occur,” Price said. “So we are going to prove to them that this works.”
Price, former owner of the Park Price Motor Company in Pocatello, said selling cars up and down the valley taught him the power a regional effort can hold.
“There has always been silos (between eastern Idaho communities),” Price said. “Everybody felt they had distinct interests that were separate from everybody else, but in fact, they are not.”
The location of the press conference — Golden Valley Natural Foods, an under construction meat snack plant in Shelley — serves as an example of the type of work Regional Economic Development Corporation of Eastern Idaho hopes to do. While Golden Valley was a singular effort of Bingham Economic Development Corporation, the idea for similar projects will be easier to recruit with a regional approach. Golden Valley will bring an estimated total of 500 jobs to the area once completed.
Shelley Councilman Jeff Kelley said Bingham Economic Development Corporation was instrumental in bringing Golden Valley to eastern Idaho, being “a liaison between the city and company.”
Idaho Department of Labor Director Kenneth Edmunds said recruiting a business, such as Golden Valley, is an example of what can be achieved by strong economic development organizations, and that eastern Idaho is a “sleeping giant,” ripe for substantial economic growth.
Mark Young, member of the Idaho Economic Advisory Council, said Regional Economic Development Corporation of Eastern Idaho is only as powerful as the counties involved.
“The advantage will be as they become larger,” Young said. “The long term benefits are the most key, with (Idaho State University) and (Brigham Young University — Idaho) as the bookends and the Idaho National Laboratory and (Eastern Idaho Technical College) as some of the crown jewels right in the middle of the district.”
Park Price has been one of the key players in creating Regional Economic Development Corporation for Eastern Idaho. The group is comprised of Grow Idaho Falls Inc. and Bingham Economic Development Corporation and was formed to promote business in the region. Monte LaOrange / email@example.com
Local business leaders and politicians gathered at Golden Valley Natural Foods in Shelley on Monday morning for the announcement of the Regional Economic Development Corporation for Eastern Idaho. The new entity is a combination of Grow Idaho Falls Inc. and Bingham Economic Development Corporation. The goal is to promote economic development within the region. Monte LaOrange / firstname.lastname@example.org