Director’s Blog: “Made in the Magic Valley”

What an honor it was to keynote the “Making It in the Magic Valley” event this week!

From all of us at Idaho Commerce, I just want to give a big thank you to the Times News for hosting a wonderful event and to Idaho Power for being the title sponsor and always supporting Idaho’s economic development efforts.

Several of the honorees are companies we’ve worked closely with over the years, like Glanbia, Clear Spring Foods, Idaho Milk Products, and more recently, Fabri-Kal.

Others are companies I’ve recently gotten to know while traveling across the state in my role as Director of Idaho Commerce, and others are businesses I am excited to work with in the future and get to know better.

While reflecting on one of the honorees, DOT Foods, and my visit to their facility last summer, I was reminded of their company promise that is prominently displayed on their fleet of vehicles:

“Trusted values. Innovative solutions. Shared growth.”

That spirit perfectly encapsulates the success happening in the Magic Valley, and what has driven all of Idaho to unprecedented heights recently.

Reflecting back to 2015 when the U.S. Commerce Department Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership selected the Magic Valley as a top manufacturing community in the Food Manufacturing category, is validation of the incredible work and partnerships that have been happening in that area for decades.

Given the success Idaho has seen in job growth and economic productivity, more businesses are seeing that Idaho has a very positive economic climate and, in many ways, the Magic Valley has led the way in this expansion. And we expect this region to continue to be a strong driver in the state’s growth. In the years coming out of the recession until present, jobs in the Magic Valley grew by 12.5%, ahead of statewide growth of 11.6%, and we anticipate seeing this trend continue!

Another honoree, Glanbia, was one of our first TRI projects at Idaho Commerce and has been a staple of existing Idaho business success for a long time. Glanbia reported a 400% employee increase since 2005, including bringing their first US headquarters to Twin Falls in 2013, which created 100 new jobs.

With a footprint across the country, Fabri-Kal, another honoree, could have chosen to be most anywhere in the nation, but they chose to be in a place that understands food, that understands production, that understands innovation. There is no place better for all these important components than the Magic Valley.

Idaho’s economy is recognized nationally – even globally – as having a workforce that still makes things. Not only growing, raising, harvesting, or extracting the necessary raw materials, but imagining, designing, building, manufacturing, and finishing those goods and products better than anywhere else in the world.

There truly are few places that “make it” better than we do here in the Magic Valley!

Congratulations to the “Makings it in the Magic Valley” award winners:


Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News
Photo by Pat Sutphin, Times-News




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Power to the People: Inergy Solar Power


Idaho-based Inergy brings innovation, research and product development in solar energy to the gem state and with it— a mission to bring the world portable energy.

By: Idaho Commerce

About one fifth of the world’s population do not have regular access to energy. Regular conveniences that many in developed countries may take for granted daily are unattainable because of limited infrastructure, remoteness of location or proximity to energy sources and poverty.

Sean Luangrath, CEO of Idaho-based solar energy innovation company Inergy, witnessed these challenges first-hand while living in a camp for refugees of the Vietnam War in the late 1970’s and more recently while visiting Laos, his birthplace, after being away for over 30 years and was driven to commit his life to creating energy independent communities that could live “off the grid”. Luangrath and his partners have created a model that would help address this need.

With the support of funding from the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program, Inergy—in collaboration with the University of Idaho for technical oversight—began development of a compact solar powered system in 2016 that will provide whole-home power with a unit that weighs less than 100 pounds. The nature of all IGEM grantees is a partnership that maximizes the research capability of Idaho’s universities, promotes collaborations and encourages job development.

According to Luangrath, the solar powered system will be integrable with others like it, so neighborhoods experiencing a blackout during a disaster or villages that have never had power can create their own electricity grid through linking. Luangrath says that Inergy’s model is unique and will help deliver integrated power because of the bottom-up approach that requires only a small investment, as opposed to the massive investments of solar farms, solar panels on a home or even a farm of battery banks similar to the project completed by Tesla in Southern California.

“It’s possible that clean energy is being approached the wrong way,” said Luangrath. “Rather than taking a ‘top down’ approach where a great deal of investment and planning and in some cases, bureaucracy, is required –Inergy’s philosophy is that it should come from the bottom up and that energy should be attainable. Our mission is to bring the world portable solar power, and we can only do that if we make that energy accessible to everyone.”

The IGEM project is not the only solar endeavor of Inergy’s. Inergy just ran a successful IndieGoGo campaign for their most consumer-friendly product yet— a $65 take anywhere solar quick charger and light that will fully charge two phones, a tablet or GPS called the Raptor Pro. This charger joins a fleet of Inergy’s other solar generators that are helping people globally seek energy independence.

Inergy was born when former strangers united over a common mission—to bring energy to a world that did not have a prior avenue to it.
Luangrath had originally planned to move Inergy’s operations to Utah, but was so impressed with Idaho’s business culture and the support the company was receiving that he determined Pocatello would be the company’s headquarters indefinitely.

“The support in Idaho has been incredible. With the Idaho National Laboratory in our backyard, the state championing our efforts and the low cost of doing business, we’ve found the permanent symbolic headquarters for Inergy right here in Idaho,” said Luangrath.

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2017 Idaho Commerce Proposed Legislation

Proposed Bill:  TRI 2.0
As I’ve traveled the state over the last year as Director, I’ve met with many of you economic development professionals in rural areas who are proponents of the TRI but said that projects creating 20 jobs is unachievable.

This consistent feedback led us to our TRI “Micro” bill that would create a 3rd tier – a “micro” tier – for communities with less than 5,000 residents where a project could qualify for TRI by creating 10 or more jobs.

All the other parameters of TRI will remain the same – projects will still have to pay wages at or above the average county wage; require a community match; and declare TRI as a defining factor is relocating or expanding in Idaho.

We believe that by making TRI more accessible to Idaho’s smallest communities we’ll be able to positively impact Idaho’s rural economic development efforts.


The Idaho Information Technology Equipment Tax Rebate Bill would provide a sales tax  rebate on eligible server equipment in data centers located in Idaho.

Idaho is already home to several small data centers and as we all know, the need to store data in our data-driven society is not going any way.

The goal of this legislation is to help Idaho’s existing data centers expand, as well as recruit new data centers to the state.

As you can imagine, it is extremely costly for these businesses to continually add to and upgrade their equipment. With much of the equipment priced in the tens of millions of dollars, these businesses are looking to locate in states willing to waive sales and use taxes in order to make this cost of doing business possible.

Like most industries, data centers tend to cluster, and many are in areas where they are running out of land to expand. Additionally, given its temperate climate, low natural disaster risk, and ample land, Idaho is an ideal location to house a data center.

To qualify for the rebate, existing Idaho data centers have to invest $5 million dollars in eligible server equipment in a year to qualify for 100 percent sales tax rebate on that equipment and anything purchased over that amount.

New to Idaho data centers have to invest $25 million in capital investment, including brick and mortar, and create 20 above county average wage jobs within 2 years of operation. Once these requirements are completed then they will be treated as an existing data center.

This bill has a sunset clause after 7 years and will be null and void in 2024.

We’re excited about the potential behind this bill. Idaho has had several big name data centers look to move here, but they ultimately chose not to because we do not have this kind of rebate in place.

The economic impact of data center construction and permanent jobs is substantial and being better able to attract this industry will help Idaho continue to grow its tech sector.

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Director’s Blog: SHOT Show 2017

What an incredible turnout at the 2017 SHOT Show in Las Vegas last week! I was so impressed that we had representation from 49 different Idaho rec-tech companies. While we at Idaho Commerce can boast about what a great state we live in and how great it is to do business here, testimonials from actual companies who love doing business in Idaho speaks volumes to companies who are looking to make a move.

I am thankful for the time that companies like Nemo Arms and Buck Knives spent with Lt. Governor Brad Little and myself, and meeting with customers to showcase their innovative new products and remarkable technologies. I’m especially excited about Idaho success stories like Kryptek that started as a small business and have become internationally recognized by their revolutionary signature camouflage pattern.

The sportsmanship and camaraderie at SHOW Show truly exemplifies the rec-tech sector and we love having the quality of life, diverse terrain, and staunch support of the 2nd Amendment to encourage that sector’s continued growth and innovation.

I’m excited to see what new companies will join our Idaho family after seeing what incredibly opportunities our state has to offer.

I’d also like to give a special thanks to the sponsors of our Idaho reception:
Howell Munitions & Technology
Hawley Troxell
Vista Outdoor
Washington Trust Bank
Eide Bailly
Seekins Precision
Koda Adventure Gear
MGM Targets
Chris Reeve Knives
Lone Wolf Distributors
Valley Vision
Bannock Development Corporation
Snake River Economic Development Alliance (SREDA)
Silver Valley Economic Development Corporation (SVEDC)

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Director’s Blog: EORAC 2017

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Idaho Legislature’s Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee on the progress of Idaho’s economy and our perspective on the future of the state’s economy.

Over the last several years, rebounding from the “Great Recession” and growing steadily, Idaho has much to be proud of.

And many others have taken notice of Idaho’s job growth, business-friendliness, and high quality of life. In 2016, Idaho was recognized by Kiplinger, Governing Magazine and CNBC as a top state for doing business.

Idaho’s economy has backed up those accolades and fared well over the last year – not only when compared to our neighbors, but nationally as well. Idaho’s employment increased 3.6% between March 2015 and March 2016 – the nation’s largest percentage increase over that same period of time. Idaho’s real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 2.8% in the second quarter of 2016 – the third largest increase nationally and second largest regionally. Idaho wages grew 4.2% in the second quarter of 2016 – twice the national average, fourth largest increase nationwide and third largest regionally.

Overall, measured by job growth, Idaho’s economy is expected to continue growing by 3% over the next 18 months, ahead of the projected US average of 2%. We expect the top contributing industry sectors to be led by agriculture, especially animal production; manufacturing, especially paper, chemicals, fabricated metal products, machinery, and electrical equipment; and data processing and other information services including cloud-based software companies.


Beyond job growth, one of the more important data points we track at Idaho Commerce are the state’s international exports. While we certainly have several large exporters in the state, 88% of Idaho’s exporters are actually small businesses.

U.S. exports decreased by 5 percent in 2015 – the first national decline in 6 years – and unfortunately Idaho’s total exports declined as well, down 16 percent from 2014.

There are several reasons for the decline in export numbers over 2015. Primarily responsible are decreasing commodity prices, a strong dollar, and increased global supply and competition in several key sectors and products where Idaho companies have long sold abroad.

However, the bright spot in the export discussion, even though export numbers are not yet complete, preliminary 2016 estimates show an increase in exports can expected. October 2016 showed a 16.95 percent increase year to date over October 2015 year to date. We’re forecasting an equivalent bounce-back after a relatively challenging 2015.


Idaho Commerce also tracks the Travel and Tourism industry closely. Travel and tourism is Idaho’s third largest industry behind agriculture and technology and continued growth in the Idaho Tourism program is an important economic driver for the state, particularly in rural areas.

The travel and tourism industry employs over 46,000 employees statewide and, in 2015, contributed over $1.3 billion to the state GSP. In 2015, travelers to Idaho spent over $3.3 billion dollars last year representing over 33 million person trips throughout the state, an annual increase of 7.6 percent.

And in FY2016, Idaho Tourism had its best year ever, achieving the state’s highest revenue-generating year on record for 2 percent lodging tax collections at over $9.9 million in collections. This increase represented 13.41 percent growth year over year.

We anticipate that lodging tax collections will continue to increase at approximately 9 percent annually particularly with the additions of over 1,800 proposed hotel properties statewide. Additionally, statewide occupancy rates continue to increase along with the average daily rate numbers.

And last week we received some exciting earned media recognition that Idaho had been named to Vogue Magazine’s 10 Hottest Travel Destinations for 2017. This is huge recognition for the state. This is a global publication and a worldwide list. Idaho was the only U.S. state on the list, sharing company with places like Madagascar, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

Vogue is exactly right when they said, “Idaho is having a moment.” It’s an incredibly exciting time in our state with more and more visitors and businesses taking notice.


We’ve said it many times, but the Tax Reimbursement Incentive (TRI) has truly been a game changer in our ability to be competitive on a national and global scale for attracting new jobs and capital investment to the state.

Since the incentive went into effect on July 1, 2014, we’ve seen outstanding activity. To date, there have been 33 approved projects, with almost 5,200 jobs projected to be created, over $960 million in planned new capital investment, $2.3 billion in new wages, with a projected $257 million in new taxes paid to the state, at a projected cost of $60 million in tax credits

As these estimates turn into actual number, we’re are projecting a 4 to 1 return on investment for the state. It’s important to understand that because this is a performance based tool, the credit is not issued until the minimum job and wage requirements are met. And the credit is calculated based on the taxes actually paid, so the state isn’t paying out anything until the company meets its commitments and has already paid its taxes.

We are excited about the ever growing pipeline of projects that now have Idaho on their map as a result of TRI. But it has been even more exciting to work with some of our Idaho companies to leverage TRI to help them attract internal capital to grow and expand.

Idaho is home to over 57,000 businesses and, as a result, much of the job growth and capital investment that the state experiences is due to the success of our existing Idaho companies. The Idaho Department of Labor estimates that 85 percent of the total jobs in Idaho are with companies that have been in the state for more than five years.

Those statistic are important to remember because initial critics of the program stated that TRI would only be used for new companies in urban communities. But as the program has developed, nearly equal number of existing Idaho companies have been able to leverage TRI for a competitive expansion. And we’ve actually seen more projects happen in rural communities, making this a very usable tool communities across all of Idaho.

The last year has given us many accomplishments to celebrate and build upon, but there remains much to do. My team and I are as committed as ever to continuing to work with Idaho businesses and communities to play a role in strengthening, diversifying and advancing Idaho’s economy.

Obviously there is still some uncertainly out there and we still face challenges but, Idaho is incredibly well-positioned and will continue to gain momentum in this time of advancing economic opportunities.

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Idaho-Mexico Trade Office Vacancy Filled

Idaho-Mexico Trade Office Vacancy Filled

Idaho has a new Director and Official Representative in Mexico! The state has hired ATTEND Marketing International and Fabiola McClellan out of Mexico City to represent Idaho full-time in Mexico and Central America. The Idaho-Mexico Trade Office will provide a wide range of services to facilitate trade and assist Idaho companies with export market development in both Mexico and Central America. Ms. McClellan will be available to assist companies with:

  • Identifying potential customers and providing matchmaking services including arranging key in-country meetings with buyers, business partners, and government officials for Idaho companies visiting the market
  • Conducting buyer pre-qualification and due diligence
  • Developing trade leads and facilitating requests for Idaho products
  • Providing market information and research
  • Coordinating Idaho “pavilions” with Idaho exhibitors at targeted industry trade shows
  • Providing Spanish translation services on product literature and promotional material (nominal fees may apply depending on length of text)
  • Representing Idaho at in-country industry events and associationmeetings

Ms. McClellan has a distinguished resume. For the past three years, she has been the Managing Partner of ATTEND Marketing International which has managed multiple USA Pavilions at various trade shows throughout Mexico. From 2010-2013 she served as a Senior Marketing Specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service in Mexico. Between 1998 and 2007 she lived in Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil and London, England and was involved in various leadership roles with the American School Foundation. Between 1992 and 1997 she worked for Disney Consumer Products in Mexico as a Food and Promotions Director and was then promoted to Marketing Director. Previous to her work at Disney she was a Brand Manager for Nestlé U.S.A. and Mexico.

Ms. McClellan has a BA from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas in French Language and International Studies; a BBA from the University of Texas at Austin in Marketing and International Business and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin in Marketing and Finance.

You can contact her directly at:
Skype: FMcClellan
Tel: +52-155-3494-9877

Av. Santa Fe 94 Of 1 P8
Zedec Plaza Santa Fe
CDMX 01210, Mexico

Ms. McClellan will be in Idaho and available for one-on-one appointments February 27-March 10, 2017. To schedule an appointment with Fabiola, contact Skylor Lenz at or (208) 780-5154.

Fabiola McClellan

Fabiola McClellan

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Study: Magic Valley a top spot for food processing

Study: Magic Valley a top spot for food processing

TWIN FALLS — Drawn by local work force training and inexpensive land and labor, food and beverage processing companies are turning their attention to the Magic Valley, now more than ever.

A new study rolled out this year by The Boyd Company — an independent site selection consultant for corporations — lists Twin Falls in the top six North American regions for the food processing industry. The ranking considers operating costs for building a hypothetical 300,000 square-foot processing facility employing 500 workers.

Read full article here.

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SIEDO wins food-processing award

TWIN FALLS — Southern Idaho’s food processing and production has once again garnered national attention.

The region was honored by a national publication for economic development. Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization received the 2016 Award of Excellence from Expansion Solutions, a magazine for site selection consultants and corporate real estate brokers.

The award noted SIEDO’s success in expanding the food-processing and production industries here in Idaho.

Read the full article here.


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Welcome! Sarah Flick

Sarah joins the Idaho Department of Commerce Tourism Development team (and the Pacific Northwest!) from south of the Mason Dixon Line.

She moved to Idaho with her husband after spending the last 12 years in South Carolina where she received a degree from the College of Charleston with a focus on Hospitality and Tourism.

With past experience in Marketing and Brand Management, she is excited to marry her love of travel and marketing to help promote the amazing new state she’s just beginning to discover.

She is passionate about the sustainable food movement, is an avid explorer, and slowly is working her way through the Idaho wineries one weekend at a time.

We are excited to have Sarah’s experience join our team! Welcome to Idaho (and Mountain Standard Time), Sarah!

©Tamara Kenyon Photography |
©Tamara Kenyon Photography
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Boise Valley Welcomes Priefert Manufacturing

Boise is a place where family-owned businesses have deep roots. Companies like Simplot and Albertsons have thrived here because of the founders that believed in building a legacy for their business and their families.

J.R. Simplot started one of the nation’s largest food production companies in the country out of Boise. The height of his success came from innovations around potatoes, french-fries and feeding the troops. Today, four of J.R.’s family members still serve on the executive committee for the Board of Directors of the J.R. Simplot Company, and the Foundation has invested heavily in the community.

Joe Albertson opened his first store in 1939, and now Albertsons is one of the largest supermarket brands in the country. Even with impressive growth, Albertsons roots and family values are still a part of the company today. In 2016, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation celebrate 50 years of giving back to the community with more than $650 million benefiting Idaho children and families.

This month, Boise has a new family owned business to welcome to the community. Recently,Priefert Manufacturing announced that they would be expanding to the Boise Valley. Read more here.



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