By LUKE RAMSETH
Two months after launching, eastern Idaho’s new-look economic development agency is taking shape.
The Regional Economic Development Corporation of Eastern Idaho, known as REDI, is the result of a merger of economic development agencies in Bonneville and Bingham counties. The new agency was announced in early April.
Last week, an executive board of directors was elected. This week, a search began in earnest for a permanent executive director. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of dollars in donations have poured in from several eastern Idaho businesses, interim executive director Darlene Gerry said Wednesday. It also has a website, redi4idaho.org.
“We’ve had a really warm reception,” Gerry said. “The private industry has stepped up.”
Informal talks between the two economic development groups, Bingham Economic Development Corp. and Grow Idaho Falls, began nearly two years ago. The original plan was to also include Bannock Development Corp. in the new entity.
But late last year Bannock County Commission members, along with the mayors of Pocatello and Chubbuck, rejected the merger idea, citing different interests and a unique market.
Bonneville and Bingham officials went ahead with the plan anyway. They pointed to recent economic success in the Magic Valley as a good reason to collaborate on economic development. A regional approach there brought in food manufacturers such as Chobani and Clif Bar.
Gerry said she hopes Bannock will join REDI eventually. Already it has some Bannock representatives on its boards, and the agency will keep the economic interests of other, smaller eastern Idaho counties in mind, too, she said.
“We’re going to market the entire region,” Gerry said.
REDI has a 23-member advisory board. Ten members are from Bonneville, 10 from Bingham, with two from Bannock County and one from Jefferson County.
The advisory board last week elected a seven-member executive board of directors.
The board president is Park Price, CEO, president and director of Bank of Idaho, and a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Salt Lake City branch. The vice president is R. Scott Reese, emergency management director at the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Board members from Bingham County are Layne VanOrden, a partner in VanOrden, Lund & Cannon PLLC, and Dan Cravens, Southeast Idaho regional economist at the Idaho Department of Labor.
From Bonneville County are Teri TeNgaio, Teton District manager for Intermountain Gas Co. in Idaho Falls, and Kevin Koplin, a partner in Cooper Norman. The at-large director is Dan Ordyna, CEO of Portneuf Medical Center.
A separate five-member search committee, which includes Gerry, this week began narrowing a list of possible candidates for the REDI executive director job.
Gerry, who teaches part time at Idaho State University, said she is not interested in the job long-term.
After the search team narrows the candidates, REDI’s executive board will make the final call on a permanent leader later this summer, she said.
The agency partly will be funded with public money, contributed from both counties and several local cities. The rest of its roughly $450,000 annual budget comes from businesses.
Idaho Central Credit Union committed $20,000 each of the next three years. Melaleuca, Portneuf Medical Center and Mountain View Hospital each gave $15,000. Developer Ball Ventures also put in $5,000.
The agency, along with Bengal Solutions, an ISU-based consulting team, is in the early stages of gathering data and compiling a comprehensive economic report on the region.
It will identify the strongest industries and educational assets in the region. It also will try to identify all other possible attractions for a company moving here. Gerry said such a report will help develop branding and marketing materials for eastern Idaho, and target industries most likely to move here.
“It’s not just luring new businesses into the area,” Gerry said. “(The report is) going to assist us in working with businesses we have here, in helping them succeed and expand and stay in this area.”
Luke Ramseth can be reached at 542-6763. Twitter: @lramseth