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Alternative Energy and Information Technology Growing in Idaho

In addition to statewide initiatives, a number of regional industries are thriving.

Oct/Nov 08
"We had an outstanding year last year capped off by our recruitment of Areva," says Don Dietrich, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce. The French-owned energy services company is building a $2 billion uranium enrichment facility in Idaho Falls, near the Idaho National Laboratory. The deal was clinched by the Idaho Legislature's extension of a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel and a new cap on property tax valuations. According to Dietrich, the legislation was enacted after a request from Areva, but it is now open to all companies.

In alternative energy, "a whole renaissance of clean energy companies has popped up on the eastern side of our state," says Dietrich, citing as examples Nordic Windpower, producer of wind turbines, and Hoku Scientific, producer of polysilicon for the solar market.

"The governor has just rolled out an initiative to grow our state's GDP to $60 billion from the current $51.5 billion," says Dietrich. The three-pronged systemic growth initiative strives to retain and strengthen already existing companies, while recruiting domestically and targeting the recreational technology industry, specifically the production of firearms. This sector represents "a good alignment with our western culture and good fit in our rural communities," he says. The third part of initiative appeals to foreign direct investment, since about one-third of the state's current deals are internationally based.

Southern Idaho has attracted food production and manufacturers and suppliers for the recreational vehicle (RV) industry, attracted by the presence of market leaders Jayco and Dutchman. Jan Rogers, executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO), notes expansions by RV and vehicle-related suppliers Robert Weed Plywood, Northwest Manufacturing, and Keystone Automotive, and by food-related companies including Rite Stuff Foods potato products and Gossner Foods' cheese production plant.

In southwestern Idaho, Paul Hiller, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Workforce, says, "We're focusing on growth in the high-tech industry in the Boise Valley." Hiller points out that Microsoft chose Boise for one of only two new software production facilities outside its home base in Washington, and that Micron Technologies plans to build a $2 billion wafer production operation at its Boise complex.

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