Business Attraction Now Includes Talent Attraction

Business Attraction Now Includes Talent Attraction

Idaho Business Review June 2016

Business attraction now includes talent attraction

Anne Wallace Allen 2015Jan Rogers moved to Twin Falls in 1999 to help market the area to businesses. Working with city officials from several areas of the Magic Valley, Rogers, as executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, presided over some big-name arrivals such as Clif Bar, Glanbia and Chobani that have added or will add thousands of jobs to the area.

Last fall, Rogers was hired to work the same magic in a 14-county region of eastern Idaho with REDI, the Regional Economic Development Corp. of eastern Idaho.

In 1999, company site selection was about things like tax rates, utilities, quality of life, and power costs. When prospective companies visited Twin Falls, they brought with them plant managers, CFOs, and CEOs to assess possible sites.

But nowadays, workforce is the No. 1 priority of site selectors. When companies come to see a prospective location, they now bring a VP of human resources with them. So in her new job, Rogers has the much trickier task of finding the skilled workers that companies look for when they choose a factory site.

That’s just one change of many that we’re seeing in Idaho as educators, local leaders, and economic development groups respond to employers’ call for more skilled workers. In Boise, businesses, foundations and even political leaders have come out in force to help educators strengthen STEM education programs and the community college classes that are essential to closing the skills gap. Boise Valley Economic Partnership is taking the workforce gap so seriously that this year it hired Charity Nelson, a human resources manager, away from Micron to develop and implement talent attraction programs.

Nelson is going to help Boise-area companies recruit the people they need. And she’s also trying to to help local businesses create internship programs. The best programs convert 70 to 80 percent of their interns into full-time hires, she said. BVEP is holding a free event June 29 for Boise-area businesses aimed at showing them how to set up internships.

Rogers, who started in Idaho Falls in the fall, is also hard at work developing a talent attraction strategy. Among other things, she plans to survey the skilled workers who did choose to work in Idaho Falls, finding out more about them in the hopes of seeing what her group can do to attract others.

It’s well-known that young workers between the ages of about 18 and 35 tend to choose to live in major cities, and Idaho doesn’t have one of those. But Rogers thinks she can find other ways of drawing workers to the area.

“If I understand the demographic here, I’ll have a better sense of strategy on how to attract them,” Rogers said. She doesn’t think the worker shortage has much to do with the traditionally low pay seen in Idaho. “It’s a lot more complicated than people think.”

Rogers has already closely studied research about what younger workers are looking for. She’s sure they’re not just motivated by the same things that drove the baby boomers.

“Apparently they don’t value money in the same way we did. They’re waiting longer to get married, to buy a house, buy a car,” she said. She’s pretty sure her focus groups will show something she already knows: that younger workers take quality of life very seriously.

“Folks are going to find a place they want to be, and live, and then say, ‘I wonder if there’s a job?’” she said. “Before, in our generation, if it was a cool job, you didn’t much think about where it was.”

Idaho is a great place to live. All kinds of efforts are underway to show people that. But getting skilled people to move here is way more complicated than having accessible outdoor activities, a low crime rate, easy traffic, and a low cost of living. While people do move to Idaho for the quality of life, research shows plenty are also moving out to get jobs – and higher pay – elsewhere. Attracting and retaining skilled workers is a complicated business.

“If there was a best practice out there right now in the U.S., everybody would be jumping on it like a tick on a dog,” said Rogers. “But there isn’t. I don’t know if we’re going to come up with the panacea, but we’re absolutely going to try.”

Jan Rogers appointed to federal advisory council

Jan Rogers appointed to federal advisory council

image4Idaho State Journel
By Journal staff Jun 10, 2016

Sarah Glenn For the Journal

BOISE — Jan Rogers, CEO of Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), has been appointed to the United States Investment Advisory Council (IAC) established by the Commerce Department in April 2016. As one of 19 private and public sector leaders from across the nation, Rogers will advise U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on the development and implementation of strategies and programs to attract and retain foreign direct investment in the United States. Rogers will maintain her position with REDI along with the new federal appointment.

“I am honored to have been appointed to the IAC and look forward to providing counsel on issues that affect foreign investment into the United States, particularly in rural communities,” said Rogers, who will serve a two­year term. “I’m excited to help set the priorities for this newly established council and work among many of the top public and private sector economic development and business leaders in the nation.”

Rogers has spent the last 15 years developing economies throughout Idaho including attracting 35 businesses, more than $1 billion in capital investments and 5,000 jobs. Prior to her current role at REDI, she served as the executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO) for 14 years and has led efforts to attract a record­setting seven projects in one year to Southern Idaho, including Chobani’s second U.S. manufacturing facility in Twin Falls. Rogers has also served as the president of the Idaho Economic Development Association and is currently on the board of directors of the International Economic Development Council.

“We are thrilled to have Jan representing Idaho and the United States as a business leader in economic development and foreign investment,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said of the appointment. “Her success in southern and eastern Idaho communities demonstrates her expertise in rural economic development the value of her advocacy for rural investment. She will bring a passion for her craft and a wealth of experience and knowledge to the U.S. Investment Advisory Council.”

The IAC’s inaugural meeting will be held June 21, to coincide with the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, a three­day event in Washington, D.C., that promotes FDI in the United States. The Summit will attract more than 2,000 participants from economic development organizations as well as U.S. and foreign firms, service providers, domestic and international media and senior Obama administration and government officials


Eastern Idaho is State’s Best Kept Secret

Eastern Idaho is State’s Best Kept Secret

World Class Science, Research and Innovation Corridor



The locals know it, as do community leaders, state legislators and the Idaho congressional delegation. But to the rest of the world, it is a well-kept secret that Eastern Idaho is united by businesses and institutions built around science, research and innovation in an area of national parks and breathtaking wilderness.  “We like to think we have earned the label as the I-15 “Scenic- Sci-Way,” an Innovation Corridor home to corporations and institutions with engineering and scientific know-how in their DNA,” said Jan Rogers Executive Director of Regional Economic Development (REDI).


Exploration through Science and Research


Eastern Idaho’s Innovation Corridor originated and is anchored by Idaho National Laboratory. INL put eastern Idaho on the map back in the 1950s by proving the principle of nuclear propulsion and nuclear energy. Today, the lab has evolved into an international center for advanced energy and security research and development, testing and deployment.  But more importantly, it has served as the foundational bedrock for a culture that understands and accepts engineering and innovation.


In harmony with the national lab, the Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering (RISE) Complex, located in the Idaho State University Business and Research Park in Pocatello, is a non-profit research facility dedicated to investigating the uses and behaviors of nano-scale materials, semiconductors, and bulk growth of crystals in the areas of nuclear science, engineering materials science, energy and bio-technology.


The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) in Idaho Falls is a research and education consortium that includes Boise State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho State University, University of Idaho, and the University of Wyoming. CAES supports a wide variety of energy research on both technical and policy issues, and is serving as a prime avenue of outreach to industrial partners.


Business Takes Advantage of Science and Research Sector


Many businesses have grown up as service providers to INL but now serve global markets. Other firms have located in eastern Idaho to avail themselves of its numerous research and user facilities. Technically oriented entrepreneurs and established businesses alike find the science, technology and research environment combined with an innovative workforce lend themselves to innovation.


Whether it is Premier Technology with over 200 employees based in Blackfoot that use state-of-the art welding and manufacturing techniques to create products for the mining, food and nuclear energy industry; or the start-up Printspace 3D led by Mark Jaster in Rexburg that bring creativity to additive manufacturing to meet the needs of NASA, these firms are here and intend to stay.


ON Semiconductor, a $3.5 billion global company, owns and operates a major semiconductor manufacturing facility as well as an engineering, research and design center in Pocatello. “Pocatello has been a fantastic location for ON Semiconductor with both a major manufacturing facility and a research and design center,” according to Arlen Wittrock, Consultant for ON Semiconductor and Chairman of the Idaho Economic Advisory Council.  “The skilled workforce is outstanding and community leaders have worked very closely with the company providing support and incentives as needed.”


It is also this expertise that led NuScale, a Fluor subsidiary, and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to put eastern Idaho on the short list for a carbon-free small modular reactor (SMR). While this project is still in development, the prospects for related engineering, manufacturing and industrial support are significant.  It is not a fluke that eastern Idaho was chosen for this project.


Talent Takes Center Stage


The technology-based industries are aided by higher education institutions north and south and in-between from Idaho State University in Pocatello to Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, graduate and undergraduate education plays an ever growing role in technology innovation and development.   Eastern Idaho is home to more than 33,000 post secondary students, many in every field of science and technology research.


With its’ large population of students, Eastern Idaho has the potential to excel. The opportunity in front of us is training and educating our student population in the skills and in the degrees that are in demand of not only our established companies but new companies that may want to relocate.


Quality of Place


Nestled between the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states and two national parks – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons are the 14 counties that make up Eastern Idaho.  A wonderful four season climate, incredible mountains and scenery, innumerable recreational opportunities tend to spoil the people who live and work here.  This is the secret we’re willing to share.  For business or talent looking for a meaningful place to live, work and play – Eastern Idaho has it all.

D.L. Evans Bank donates $10,000 to REDI

D.L. Evans Bank donates $10,000 to REDI

Left to right: D.L. Evans Bank Ammon branch manager Byron Wiscombe, North Pocatello branch manager Kim Weber, Idaho Falls branch manager Ray Parkinson, REDI board chaiman Park Price, and Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI.

Left to right: D.L. Evans Bank Ammon branch manager Byron Wiscombe, North Pocatello branch manager Kim Weber, Idaho Falls branch manager Ray Parkinson, REDI board chaiman Park Price, and Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI.

D.L. Evans Bank has donated $10,000 to Regional Economic Development Eastern Idaho. REDI’s primary mission is to define and market the 14-county region and drive opportunity to the counties, communities, and businesses of Eastern Idaho.

The money will help pay for local economic business development.


Small reactors a big focus on D.C. lobbying trip

Small reactors a big focus on D.C. lobbying trip




Small modular nuclear reactors were a key topic brought up by local leaders last week on a lobbying trip to the nation’s capital.

Discussions on the trip reinforced that eastern Idaho remains “at the top of the list” to host the nation’s first small modular reactor somewhere on the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site, Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham said.

“That’s a really envied position, by the way,” said Mike Hart, another attendee and part of the local Partnership for Science and Technology organization.

The annual two-day “Community to Capital” trip included six regional representatives who met with Idaho’s congressional delegation, DOE officials, contractor representatives and others involved in nuclear research and development. On Wednesday, four of those attendees — including Hart, Kirkham, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and REDI CEO Jan Rogers — presented at a press conference on what they learned in Washington, D.C.

“D.C. can be kind of an echo chamber, and the value of local input being carried by our elected officials was not lost on them,” Hart said. “It was extremely appreciated, both within the executive branch departments we visited, as well as our own congressional delegation.”



The group met a Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner, and stressed the importance of the small modular reactor project making it through the licensing process relatively quickly, so that it can be ideally finished around 2024. The reactor is being designed by Oregon-based NuScale, and is slated to be built and used by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS, a Salt Lake City-based energy cooperative.

“That is not lost on the regulators,” Hart said of having an expedient licensing process. “They understand their job is to regulate, but they also understand the market pressures on NuScale and UAMPS.”

The local officials met with Matt Bowen, a DOE official working on policy and commercialization efforts for small modular reactors. In addition, considering the project’s Utah ties, the group also met with the staff of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

“We basically wanted to touch base with the Utah delegation, to let them know we have their back,” Hart said. “That we’re looking, as a community, to host that reactor.”

In talking to several experts on the new type of reactors, the local group learned that eyes will be on eastern Idaho to see if the project succeeds. The first-of-its kind design is thought to be safer and easier to build than traditional large water reactors.

Casper said the local delegation learned that eastern Idaho “should be prepared to host an onslaught of international visitors, who are going to want to come and watch, and see what’s going on.”

Other big topics discussed on the trip include:

Spent nuclear fuel. The group talked with the Idaho congressional delegation and DOE officials about continued frustration over an inability to send spent nuclear fuel to Idaho National Laboratory for research. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has not allowed the fuel in until cleanup commitments are met.

The local officials said there was widespread discussion on the trip about a future need to “decouple” the radioactive waste cleanup mission of the site and the INL’s research mission in a 1995 state agreement, so that such shipment delays don’t occur in the future.

The future of a waste treatment facility. The local contingent talked with DOE officials, including Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Monica Regalbuto, about what to do with the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project after its current mission of treating radioactive waste in Idaho is finished in the next couple years.

One proposal that has been floated is the desert facility’s mission could be extended, and begin accepting waste from other states. DOE officials told the group they are continuing to examine that proposal.


Pocatello, Chubbuck enjoy economic lift

Pocatello, Chubbuck enjoy economic lift

By Michael H. O’Donnell

Idaho State Journal

image14POCATELLO — The economic doldrums of the Great Recession are in the rear view mirror for residents of Pocatello and Chubbuck, according to local economic development experts Arlen Wittrock and John Regetz.

Wittrock, chairman of the Idaho Economic Advisory Council, and Regetz, executive director of the Bannock Development Corp., presented a picture of a quickly recovering local economy to members of the Pocatello Rotary Thursday.

The two men used a slideshow to show job growth and economic advancements since 2012, and the picture is bright.

“Things are looking up, but I believe in continuous improvement,” Wittrock said.

The entire state has seen improvement with Idaho ranked No. 1 in the nation last year for the largest percentage gain in private sector employment, according to Wittrock.

As a member of the state’s Economic Advisory Council, Wittrock helps decide which businesses in Idaho will qualify for tax breaks under the Tax Reimbursement Incentive law passed in 2014. So far, the council has approved 26 projects that brought either expansion or new businesses to the Gem State from in-state and out-of-state companies.

The state law allows companies to receive up to a 30 percent refund of payroll, sales and state income taxes over 15 years if they produce at least 50 new jobs that pay higher than the county average.

Amy’s Kitchen received a 26 percent tax credit, which is valued at an estimated $6.7 million over the 15-year period, when it decided to move into the former Heinz plant in Pocatello.

In addition, Amy’s received a 75 percent property tax abatement over a 5-year period from the Bannock County Commission.

The company currently employs about 300 people in Pocatello with plans to expand to 1,000, according to Wittrock.

“Incentives are critical to economic development,” Wittrock said, adding that Idaho must compete with other states that offer incentive packages. “Government doesn’t create private sector jobs, but it can provide a good environment for private sector jobs.”

Wittrock said the incentive recently awarded to The Burrell Group to build the new Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine next to ISU’s Meridian campus is the most important one the state has approved. Burrell has pledged to spend $124 million on the for-profit school and has a working agreement to share campus facilities with ISU.

In addition to landing Amy’s Kitchen, Wittrock and Regetz shared that Bannock County has seen increases in employment from Great Western Malting, ATCO, Western States Caterpillar and SME Steel.

Even though county unemployment now stands at 3.4 percent, both men said higher-paying jobs are the key to continued prosperity.

Wittrock said Bannock County, like the rest of the nation, has experienced a shrinking middle class and “we have to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

One of the keys to doing this is to partner with Idaho State University to make sure the local workforce is prepared to fill better-paying positions. Regetz said the Bannock Development Corp. has identified eight high-tech jobs for which qualified employees are hard to find.

“We’re educating high school students and the public about these careers,” Regetz said.

To do that, ISU, counties in Southeast Idaho, the Idaho National Laboratory and major businesses like Monsanto create job fairs under a program called YourFIT. The program has been under the stewardship of Scott Rasmussen, the dean of the College of Technology at ISU.

Regetz said the labor force in Pocatello and Chubbuck has grown from 41,189 jobs in 2012 to 42,974 in 2015.

“Hourly wages are up 12 percent,” Regetz said.

Both Regetz and Wittrock said efforts need to continue to address the underemployed in the county and to work with regional economic efforts like REDI, the Regional Economic Development for Southeast Idaho organization, headed by Jan Rogers.

Wittrock said Southeast Idaho needs to work collectively to attract new businesses. But each community must maintain a strong economic development organization.

“Our focus has to be on bringing in the higher-paying jobs,” Wittrock said.

Bingham Memorial, Kidney Institute break ground on dialysis center

Bingham Memorial, Kidney Institute break ground on dialysis center

By Cydney McFarland

BLACKFOOT — Thursday was World Kidney Day, and to celebrate, Bingham Memorial Hospital and doctors from the Idaho Kidney Institute broke ground for a new dialysis center in Blackfoot.

Longtime patient Jeanne Wride congratulates her doctor, Naeem Rahim, at the groundbreaking of the dialysis center in Blackfoot.

Longtime patient Jeanne Wride congratulates her doctor, Naeem Rahim, at the groundbreaking of the dialysis center in Blackfoot.

“It’s no secret that there have been issues between the county and Bingham Memorial in the past, but when it comes to bettering health care, that is where we see eye to eye,” said Bingham County Commissioner Mark Bair. “The real winners today are the citizens of Bingham County and the surrounding counties.”

The new center is a partnership between Bingham Memorial and the Idaho Kidney Institute. The Kidney Institute, founded by brothers Fahim and Naeem Rahim, has served eastern Idaho for more than 10 years.

“With this new facility, we’re about to provide more care,” said Fahim Rahim.

The Kidney Institute has doctors who specialize in all aspects of kidney health, including kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, dialysis treatment and kidney transplants.

According to Fahim Rahim, the new treatment center will help better serve those with kidney transplants and offer patients access to home dialysis treatment, pediatric care and — with 8,000 square feet dedicated to dialysis treatment — there will be twice as much space for patients in need of treatment.

This is huge for both new patients and long-time patients such as 76-year-old Jeanne Wride.

Wride has been a patient of Naeem Rahim for seven years. She was in kidney failure when she began seeing Naeem Rahim, but three years later, at 72 years old, she was healthy enough to receive a kidney transplant.

“The cut-off is usually 70,” said Wride. “But they found a match. They said it was such a perfect match — that it could’ve been my sister.”

With her new kidney, Wride was able to better take care of her husband, who was on dialysis, but he unfortunately passed away. Wride did well, up until February when she became very ill had was admitted to the hospital.

“There was one day that I really thought I was done, and I looked up and there was Dr. Rahim, and he said, ‘Jeanne, I got your back, and you’re going to be fine,’” said Wride. “You’re not supposed to love your doctor, but I love him. He’s saved my life three times now.”

The new building is expected to be complete in fall of 2016. The consulting architect for the project is Ted Booth of Christopher Kidd and Associates. The project manager is David McDonald.

“I’d just like to thank our partners at the Idaho Kidney Institute who have committed to the high standards that we have set for ourselves,” said Naeem Rahim. “A disease is a disease no matter where we live, and we’ll continue to fight it no matter where we are.”

Groundbreaking for Idaho Kidney Institute in Blackfoot

Groundbreaking for Idaho Kidney Institute in Blackfoot

LESLIE MIELKE of AM-News Blackfoot, Staff Writer,

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Ready to break ground for the Idaho Kidney Institute that is coming to Blackfoot. From left are Bingham County Commissioner Mark Bair, U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, Dr. Fahim Rahim, Dr. Naeem Rahim, co-founders and managing partners of the Idaho Kidney Institute, Joe Cannon, chairman of the board of Bingham Memorial Hospital and Jeff Daniels, CEO, Bingham Memorial Hospital.

Ready to break ground for the Idaho Kidney Institute that is coming to Blackfoot. From left are Bingham County Commissioner Mark Bair, U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, Dr. Fahim Rahim, Dr. Naeem Rahim, co-founders and managing partners of the Idaho Kidney Institute, Joe Cannon, chairman of the board of Bingham Memorial Hospital and Jeff Daniels, CEO, Bingham Memorial Hospital.

A groundbreaking ceremony of the Idaho Kidney Institute took place on Thursday, March 10, in Blackfoot. The new facility will be located just north of the Bingham Memorial Medical Plaza. It will offer the latest technology in the region for the care and comfort of patients suffering from kidney disease.
This new, state-of-the-art dialysis center is being built the Idaho Kidney Institute, Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH) and Bingham County. The project is a cooperative effort. It will be funded by the co-founders and managing partners of the Idaho Kidney Institute, the brothers, Drs. Fahim Rahim and Naeem Rahim and BMH.
The groundbreaking took place on World Kidney Day that is a global campaign aimed at raising awareness of kidney disease.

– See more at:

Economics discussed over lunch at Stinger’s



Stingers Bar and Grill was packed Wednesday when area Great Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce members gathered to listen to Jan Rogers, CEO of the Regional Economic Development Corporation for East Idaho (RED!), speak at the group’s luncheon. REDI is an organization whose mission is to help strengthen the economies of the 14 counties of Eastern Idaho through retaining and attracting businesses.

Rogers discussed marketing strategies to spread the word about Eastern Idaho and to attract new business and help existing businesses to expand.

“We are nestled between a national wilderness and two national parks,” Rogers said. “We are bookended by two universities,” Rogers said. “We want to express that so others will know about the wonders we have here in Eastern Idaho.”

Rogers presented a talent attraction video depicting what Eastern Idaho has to offer professionally and recreationally.

“In the finals it’s about the community and how you take care of them (businesses),” Rogers said. “It’s the intangibles that are closing the deals and nobody does that better than Idaho.” Rogers commended ethic, independence and their work straight forwardness. When asked what they are doing for this generation Rogers responded “We are going to put together 1O focus groups of millennials to learn what they are looking for.” Before joining REDI, Rogers was the Executive Director for Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SEIDO) for 14 years. She has spoken at several national state and local economic development conferences and is currently on the board of directors of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

REDI to bring business to eastern Idaho

REDI to bring business to eastern Idaho


Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI, has a background in marketing communications and advertising. She lived in Dallas before moving to the Magic Valley in 1999 to market the region. “I’m trained to find the brand; it’s what I’ve done my entire life,” Rogers said.

Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI, has a background in marketing communications and advertising. She lived in Dallas before moving to the Magic Valley in 1999 to market the region. “I’m trained to find the brand; it’s what I’ve done my entire life,” Rogers said.

Eastern Idaho offers flowing rivers and vast wilderness — world-class fishing and plenty of space to see the stars from beside a tent.

There are two universities in eastern Idaho, in Pocatello and Rexburg, fewer than 80 miles from each other, with a major national research laboratory situated between.

And while many eastern Idahoans want to keep those gems a secret, the woman in charge of marketing the region is looking for more exposure.

“We haven’t done a good job of telling the story, as a state, of all the wonders we have here. We should be the ‘it’ state,” said Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI. “Part of our problem, from a marketing perspective, is that there’s no focused message on ‘What is eastern Idaho?’ You have to market what differentiates you from everyone else in the world.”


REDI, Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho, is a public/private partnership set up to strengthen regional economies. Established last April, the organization is trying to market the attributes that make the region unique in an effort to attract new businesses and the burgeoning millennial workforce.

“The biggest issue, a national issue for any economic development effort at all, is talent,” Rogers said. “If you can demonstrate that you have the talent, and you can fill that pipeline as it develops, and you’re a place where this new talent wants to come and be, then you’re ahead of the game. Businesses will follow.”

REDI represents Bingham and Bonneville counties, and coordinates with 12 other counties. It’s a conduit between businesses searching nationally for a place to expand, and the local cities and counties trying to court them.

“The real economic competition is national and global, and competing effectively on those scales requires regional collaboration,” said Dana Briggs, economic development director for the city of Idaho Falls. “And regional success translates into improved local employment opportunities, tax base and amenities for our city and residents.”

A team approach

Rogers headed SIEDO, southern Idaho’s economic development firm, for 14 years before moving east for her new position. During that time, a plethora of businesses from different economic sectors set up operations in the Magic Valley.

“People ask me what my greatest success was in southern Idaho — Dell, Chobani, Clif Bar — none of the above,” Rogers said. “The greatest success was being able to pull the region together so they worked as a team. Focused, with a focused message, an endgame in mind, and egos set aside.”

REDI developed out of Grow Idaho Falls and the Bingham Economic Development Corporation. The new organization’s broad geographic focus is designed to foster unity within the region, as Rogers did in southern Idaho.

The importance of regional unity is echoed by Chris St Jeor, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.

“In regional economic development, they say a rising tide raises all ships,” St Jeor said. “If you have a specific region with five different agencies competing for the same project against each other, they’re putting that many resources into it, and getting the same face time with the business. If they’re able to collaborate, they can leverage power as a whole.”

The original intent was to also include Pocatello and Bannock County in the effort, but those overtures were rebuffed by the Bannock Development Corp. board of directors and the mayors from Chubbuck and Pocatello as well as all three members of the Bannock County Commission citing “different interests and different markets.”

Appealing to a younger crowd

One of REDI’s biggest challenges is marketing eastern Idaho to millennials, the largest percentage of the world’s workforce, said St Jeor.

REDI is preparing to hire an independent research firm this fall to conduct focus groups on millennials in the region in an effort to figure out what attracts them to an area, and keeps them there. Doing so is critical in a region with an aging workforce.

“Personally, I’m afraid that if we brought in any sizable new piece of business at this point that our existing businesses would be throwing bricks at us because of the extra pressure it would put on the talent,” Rogers said.

The Idaho National Laboratory, for example, is feeling the strain of retiring baby boomers. As eastern Idaho’s largest employer, roughly 30 percent of its staff is 50 or older, said INL Director of Partnerships Amy Lientz.

“The other challenge is that we’re growing at the same time, so we have to pay attention to our aging workforce — the areas in which they’re departing — while at the same time making sure we’re looking at the areas in which we’re developing,” Lientz said. “And we’ve found we have similar needs to other industries in eastern Idaho; we all have this challenge.”

Drawing on past success

Drawing a stronger millennial workforce will draw businesses, Rogers said.

From there, regions can observe a domino effect once employers start to initiate operations, St Jeor said.

Rogers cites that as a big factor in southern Idaho’s recent success attracting businesses.

“We wouldn’t have even gotten a look from Clif Bar if we didn’t have Chobani,” Rogers said. “Once you get that momentum going, then you have to leverage it. And it’s addictive. When you win you just want to keep winning; you get on a streak and it’s very powerful.”

Southern Idaho was able to leverage its identity as a diverse agricultural region, with crops, sheep, cattle, fish and honey production, to draw food-related corporations to the area.

REDI is attempting to do the same in eastern Idaho, with a shifted focus to the region’s own strengths.

“We’re going to helpfully drive more opportunity to the region, whether you come to live here or do business,” Rogers said. “My hope is the region will come together. It didn’t happen overnight in southern Idaho. But I don’t have 14 years to put in eastern Idaho, so we’re going to have to ramp it up. And I think we can. I hope we can.

Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 542-6762.