Leaders say team work brings ag companies to Idaho

Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Strong partnerships in southern Idaho have lured food companies to the region and resulted in expansion of others in the past year. The Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization highlighted five of those successes at its annual summit and is very close to announcing that two more large food companies will be locating in the region.

A can-do attitude across state and local government, economic development teams and the College of Southern Idaho has been key to several food and food science companies locating or expanding in southern Idaho over the past year.

Last year, the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO) focused on the area’s deep agricultural roots with a concerted effort to market the region’s ag base. Executive Director Jan Rogers said it’s paid off.

With five companies locating or expanding operations in the Magic Valley, SEIDO and southern Idaho have had a “wow” year, and SEIDO isn’t done yet, Rogers said during the organization’s annual summit held at the College of Southern Idaho last week.

The past year has seen the opening of Chobani Greek Yogurt’s 1 million-square-foot processing plant and Glanbia’s brand new headquarters and Cheese Innovation Center in Twin Falls, McCain Foods’ expansion of potato processing in Burley, Calva Products’ new milk replacer plant in Rupert, and Monsanto’s new Wheat Technology Center in Filer.

SIEDO is also very close to announcing that two more large food companies are coming to the region, Roger said.

The successes have come from strong state and community partnerships to help companies locate or expand in southern Idaho, she said.

“Economic development is a team sport (and) ‘Team Southern Idaho’ shows up with a whatever-it-takes attitude,” she said.

Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little are bullish on economic development, and Otter is always available for a meeting or a phone call when SIEDO needs help selling the region or the state, she said.

In addition, there’s a strong partnership between southern Idaho’s business community and the College of Southern Idaho, which has facilitated training for employees that will be needed when companies locate in the region. Since SIEDO was created in 2001, its alliance with the college has helped lure 30 new companies to the area, she said.

“You can’t do anything today without strong partnerships, and it’s going to take more in the future, she said.

Those strong partnerships are making a name for southern Idaho in the business world outside Idaho’s borders, with the area already well vetted before companies request information, she said.

“What we’re finding is companies are pre-selecting us, so the turnaround is much quicker,” she said.

Southern Idaho has become the template, the epicenter of economic development even when going through the toughest times of the recession, Otter said.

Companies are looking for predictability and stability, and southern Idaho has offered both, cultivating personal relationships and establishing trust with prospective businesses and maintaining regulations that private business can live with, he said.

Idaho can’t and won’t offer all the financial incentives that some other states can, he said, but it can offer companies timely permitting and licensing so there are no construction delays, which can be quite costly.

Idaho offers plenty of opportunity for value-added businesses for raw product being shipped out of the state and for companies who want to supply other successful Idaho companies, he said.

“Everybody wants to supply a winner, and we have winners. Somebody wants to supply a lid for that yogurt cup,” he said.

A big selling point for the state is that Idaho moves at the speed of business, but it takes partnerships, he said.

“We have a model -- nurtured, engendered, created right here in southern Idaho – and we can use it all over the state,” he said.


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