INL economic impact grew dramatically in ‘16


A new report says Idaho National Laboratory contributed $1.9 billion to the state’s economic output last fiscal year — an increase of $324 million, or 20 percent, compared with 2015.

The annual report, prepared by Rexburg’s Research & Business Development Center, said the lab’s gross economic activity accounted for 2.9 percent of the state’s total economic output last fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. The analysis did not include employment and economic impacts of cleanup operations or the Naval Reactors Facility.

“As Idaho’s sixth-largest private employer, we take great pride in Idaho National Laboratory being a major economic driver for our state,” INL Director Mark Peters said in a statement.

Economic impacts generated by the lab were divided into three areas. Direct impacts are expenditures made by INL on operations. Indirect impacts include economic activity that is the result of trade between the lab and Idaho companies. Induced impacts are generated by household spending that is earned directly or indirectly from INL operations.

According to the report:

• INL employed nearly 4,100 people last fiscal year, hiring more than 480 employees in 2016. INL’s website says it currently employs nearly 4,200.

• Counting direct and secondary economic impacts, the lab supported 11,276 jobs last year — an increase of 21 percent.

• The average base salary of INL employees last year was $92,660, up from $88,635 in 2015. The lab increased personal income in the state by $795 million.

• INL contracted to purchase more than $136 million in goods and services from Idaho businesses last year, and INL employees’ spending added $473 million to Idaho’s economy.

Lab officials said much of the job and business volume gains last year came from its homeland security and nuclear energy research divisions. Research areas growing the fastest include critical infrastructure, high-performance computing, cybersecurity and small modular reactors.

Dramatic growth in total economic impact over 2015 was partly the result of INL adding jobs and receiving more funding, said Will Jensen, who prepared the report and is the director of business for the Research & Business Development Center. The lab’s annual budget tops $900 million.

Another factor was an increasing “multiplying effect,” he said. Goods and services INL needs are increasingly located within Idaho, Jensen said, allowing it to pour more money directly into the state economy and support more jobs.

“As more businesses are added to eastern Idaho and the state of Idaho, it creates opportunities for businesses to source goods locally rather than outside in some other region,” Jensen said.

He said INL’s consistent wage growth is a “shot in the arm” for Idaho’s economic health, considering it is well-known as a “pretty low-income state.”

In a Tuesday interview, Peters said part of the lab’s dramatic economic output increase is tied to an increased federal priority on INL partnering with small businesses in the state.

Hiring of engineers and scientists is expected to continue, he said.

“The projections that we have for this year — granted, we’re entering into a bit of an uncertain period here — suggest (economic output) will continue to increase,” Peters said.

Luke Ramseth can be reached at 542-6763. Twitter: @lramseth