Age of Agility: The Governor’s Conference on the Future of Work

by Eric Forsch, Business Retention & Expansion Manager, Idaho Commerce

Early in the mid-morning sessions at the Age of Agility Conference, the audience was shown a video of a Boston Dynamics robot successfully landing a back flip. What stood out wasn’t the mere shock at watching a robot do something many humans cannot do, nor the rapid acceleration of technological change, but that the robot learned this behavior on its own after trial and error and can teach other robots to complete the task was astonishing.

Robots are not going to replace human workers anytime soon. By all accounts, technological advances will create new jobs and allow people to become more productive. Many companies we have talked to are excited about automation, not because they want to replace workers, but because they want to keep the people they have and increase productivity.

Being ready for this future was the focal point of the conference. Starting with elementary schools, we need to empower teachers, communities, and parents to prepare children for the work of tomorrow. STEM jobs, research and technology, coding are vital for this future and it is crucial we allow our education systems to adapt, especially to a future that is changing so quickly.

Additionally, companies must be agile. It took sixty years for the telephone to be present in more than 80% of US households, but it took the cell phone less than fifteen. What this means for companies is they need to be nimble to succeed. Michael Simpson, President of PAIRIN, noted how his former employer Novell was great at developing new technology, but poor at getting customers to buy it, which serves as a lesson for communities, businesses, and workers of today.

The future is unknown, but for Idaho to continue to lead the nation in job and wage growth, we must continue to adapt and develop our workforce to meet future business needs. For more information on the Idaho Workforce Development Council’s work-based learning initiatives, get started at


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Opportunity Zones Update

With the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the words “Opportunity Zones” have become very popular and promising in the world of economic development. At Idaho Commerce, we have received a number of questions from investors and communities alike wanting to learn more about the program, better understand how to get involved, and strategize on how to best use the tool to benefit Idaho’s economy.

While there is still quite a bit we don’t know yet, below is a brief update on what we do know about Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds at this point. As more information becomes available, Idaho Commerce will be a resource to help communities and investors partner to utilize the program successfully in Idaho.

Idaho Opportunity Zones

Idaho Commerce received 59 applications from Idaho counties, cities and tribes to be designated federal Opportunity Zones. Applications were reviewed by the Idaho Economic Advisory Council (EAC) for recommendation to Governor Otter. On April 9th, 2018, the U.S. Treasury officially certified the Governor’s nomination of the 28 low-income census tracts to become Opportunity Zones in Idaho.

A map of Idaho and other US Opportunity Zones may be found here.

What do we know about Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones are a new tax incentive created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Investors who invest in Opportunity Zones (designated low-income U.S. Census tracks) may receive deferrals and reductions in federal capital gains taxes.

The longer the Opportunity Zone investment is held, the greater the benefits. Investments must be through a Qualified Opportunity Fund which can be established by individuals, trusts, partnerships and S corporations. At least 90% of an Opportunity Fund investment must be physically located in an Opportunity Zone.

Opportunity Funds are self-certifying, meaning that they do not require the pre-approval of state or federal regulators. Any type of appreciable investment ranging from real estate to venture capital may be eligible for the incentive. 1031 exchanges may be rolled into a Qualified Opportunity Fund provided that the investment substantially improves the Opportunity Zone property within 30 months.

Opportunity Zone benefits may be bundled with other state and federal incentives.

What we don’t know

The U.S. Department of Treasury has not issued final guidelines and forms for Opportunity Zone investors. We anticipate those guidelines will be announced sometime this Fall. Idaho Commerce is working with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to promote Idaho’s Opportunity Zones and connect communities and investors with the latest information.

Who can I contact to find out more information on Opportunity Zones

Idaho Commerce is closely monitoring the final guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury and will continue to update our partners throughout the State. Staff has participated in several webinars and meetings regarding other states efforts to better understand what is expected once the guidelines are finalized. Please feel free to contact Jerry Miller (208-287-0780) at Idaho Commerce with any questions related to Opportunity Zones.

For additional Opportunity Zone information, please visit these resources:

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CNBC Ranks Idaho One of America’s Top States for Business 2018

Choosing where to do business is a big decision. From workforce to costs of doing business, infrastructure to economic health – there are many factors that come into play and many of these elements vary widely from state to state. With so many options and locations to consider – 50 to be exact – what are the elements that make a state a good place to do business?

Each year, CNBC releases a data-driven report detailing the economic climate of all 50 U.S. states. To reach this conclusion, CNBC begins by scoring each state on 64 metrics within 10 categories: workforce, infrastructure, cost of doing business, economy, quality of life, technology and innovation, education, business friendliness, access to capital, and cost of living. Next, CNBC analyzes each state’s economic development marketing materials, then assigns weight to the qualities a state communicates as a strong selling points for business. Learn more about the categories and methodology here.

This year, Idaho ranked 11 overall with a total score of 1496. Our state improved in all 10 categories since 2017, where Idaho landed 20 overall.

Idaho received the most points based on our strengths in cost of doing business, business friendliness and economy, followed closely by cost of living and quality of life.

Cost of Doing Business
Cost is undoubtedly top of mind for companies considering where to do business. Key factors that companies consider include a state’s tax climate, tax incentives, and utility and real estate costs.

Companies that choose to do business in Idaho benefit from low operating costs and the lowest per capita tax burden of any other state. Our top corporate tax rate and top individual income tax rate is 6.925 percent. In addition, qualifying companies reap the benefits of a variety of state-sponsored tax incentives, property tax exemptions, and workforce training grants.

Business Friendliness
In Idaho, we choose to stand besides businesses rather than in their way. We don’t see the need to put restrictions and requirements in place that will slow companies down. Instead, we want companies to work hard and focus on growth and success. We strive to be a partner in helping companies access the people and information necessary to get things done and get down to business.

Idaho’s Rapid Response Team is just one example of our efforts to be a quick and collaborative partner for companies. This team includes representatives from ten of Idaho’s state departments that proactively engage with companies to communicate regulatory requirements and help companies quickly secure permits, discuss infrastructure needs, and uncover opportunities for grants and incentives.

It’s obvious – a healthy, diverse economy is important, especially for business. Idaho boasts one of the strongest economies in the nation.

Our state budget is balanced, our tax structure is stable, and we have zero state debt. We don’t defer taxes in one business category while increasing taxes in another. Our unemployment rate is low and we’re leading the pack in job creation and growth.

Idaho also has a small and accessible government. Businesses are able to access decision makers and leaders in a variety of industries and sectors. We value relationships and connection in Idaho and recognize the value the ability for a new or expanding business to meet with the people and partners that, in the end, make our state stronger as a whole.

In celebrating our strengths, we must recognize there will always be room for improvement.  This recognition lends the opportunity for businesses, decision-makers and community members across Idaho to seek out ways to take steps forward toward creating a stronger, healthier Idaho for tomorrow.


Company Spotlight: Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc.

Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. has served the ski industry for over 40 years. Growing up with many of the ski resorts we know and love, CEO Gunther Williams and team build chair lift seat and tower padding, covers for tubes used on tubing hills, and recently added military and law enforcement training gear to their product offering.

The team at Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. is passionate about working in the ski industry but even more passionate about providing good local jobs and wages that benefit their community and the economy. Employees are family and providing an enjoyable work environment is a top priority for Gunther and team.

With the belief that when everyone enjoys where they are working, the products produced are top notch and customers are happiest. This in turn provides the business an opportunity to reinvest in making the lives of employees and community even better. To this end, along with a robust focus on the organization’s culture, Gunther and team recently launched an innovative productivity experiment.

Gunther wanted to test if productivity could be increased by focusing on production needed and not hours working. The team shifted to a 5-hour workday and uses the timeframe as a benchmark to indicate if there are production issues in need of addressing.

So far, the experiment has been a success. Production is up, and employee satisfaction is up. By limiting unproductive time and focusing on production requirements, employees are producing more and getting more time outside the office to enjoy family, friends and activities they love.

It’s this innovative and inventive spirit that keeps Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. growing in the ever-competitive ski industry and leading the way in employee production and satisfaction. The next time you’re getting some turns in on your favorite ski hill, be on the lookout for Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. products!


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Tariff Exclusion Information

As of July 6, 2018, the U.S. is imposing additional 25 percent tariffs on 818 tariff items from China with a trade value of approximately $34 billion.

Simultaneously, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced a process to obtain product exclusions from the additional tariffs. The request period will end October 9, 2018. If you want to learn more and would like to file a request, please visit their website.

The Idaho Department of Commerce has a team dedicated to international business. If you have any questions or comments concerning the imposed tariffs or trade, please contact Jennifer Verdon via email or 208-287-3165.

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CDBG Spotlight: Nezperce and Grangeville


City of Nezperce – Finished construction of a new 9,475 square foot, five bay, regional emergency services facility. This project is a collaborative effort between the City of Nezperce Fire Department, Nezperce Rural Fire District, and Nezperce Ambulance Inc. The facility will house all equipment, supplies, office space for records, training space, kitchen, restrooms/showers, and sleeping quarters.



City of Grangeville – Completed new construction of a 4,300 square foot Kids Klub youth facility originally opened in 1996. Kids Klub, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, provides programs consisting primarily of K-6 afterschool care, pre-school instruction, and summer camps for children.

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Community Spotlight: Jerome

MAGIC VALLEY QUALITY MILK PROCUCERS (MVQMP) (1756 S. Buchanan St, Jerome) began construction of its $20 million expansion project this spring, and is expected to create 12-15 new jobs.  Designed by Power Engineers and Dairy Industry Consultants with Petersen Bros. as their contractors, the target completion date is Spring 2019.

MVQMP was founded more than 20 years ago as a milk marketing cooperative.  Now, they are expanding in to processing milk into finished retail and food service products, specifically condensed milk, condensed skim milk, and cream. The project will involve constructing a two-truck bay milk receiving building, a group of silos, and expansion of existing site utility services.

The City of Jerome was awarded a $250,000 Rural Community Development Block grant for road improvements adjacent to the plant.



Photo: KMVT

COMMERCIAL CREAMERY (218 S Birch St, Jerome) broke ground on the construction of its new dryer and warehouse facility on April 19, 2018.  This $6 million project is Phase I of a four-phase expansion plan. With Starr Corporation as their contractor the project is set for completion before Spring 2019.

Commercial Creamery makes cheese powders and creates the ingredients needed to produce a variety of foods, including unique snack seasonings, and rice and pasta dishes. Commercial Creamery Company serves clients in more than 30 counties around the world.

This project is funded in part by the City of Jerome’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA) for infrastructure.



MR. GAS TRAVEL CENTER (1223 W. Main St, Jerome County) opened for business on May 15, 2018, and is one of the largest truck stops in the U.S. This is a $6 million project and will employ 25 part- and full-time staff. The facility sits on 15 acres of land and will include 16 gas lanes and diesel pumps, plenty of passenger vehicle parking, and 165 semi-truck parking spaces. The Center will also have a convenience store and upscale restrooms and shower facilities.

The City of Jerome will benefit by the 2,000-foot extension of their water and sewer service all the way to the Center. It is referred to as a “gateway” project to open the west end of Jerome for improved commercial opportunities.

The project received a $50,000 Gem Grant from Idaho Commerce.

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Welcome! Jason Barnes

We have another new face at Commerce!

Jason Barnes, Business Attraction Specialist

Another transplant to Idaho, Mr. Barnes left Ventura County California to join the Gem State in July 2017. He has a B.A. in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands and a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. Mr. Barnes has served as Congresswoman Brownley’s Field Representative where he handled all community and public affairs in her district. Prior to join the Idaho Commerce team, Jason served as the Journal Clerk to the Idaho State Senate during their 2018 legislative session.


One of Mr. Barnes’s passions in life is giving his free time to the YMCA Summer Camp Program. Every summer for the past 10 years, Jason has been a volunteer camp director working with kids to build their character, and act as a positive role-model.

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Welcome! James, George, and Eric

We are excited to welcome several new faces to our Idaho Commerce family. Here is a brief introduction to three of the five newest members of our team.


James Varner, Administrative Assistant

Mr. Varner will work with the Shared Services team and assist with the Economic Advisory Council. He will primarily work with the Community Development, International Trade, and Business Attractions teams.


James Varner joined the Idaho Commerce team after moving to Idaho from Las Vegas, NV. While living in Las Vegas, James attended the College of Sothern Nevada and became a member of the College’s dance company where he had the opportunity to travel around the western United States and to Italy and Spain, winning the title of International Dance Champions. James is bringing a wealth of customer service abilities to the Commerce team, and is already becoming a great asset to the department. James moved to Idaho to be closer to his family, including his five brothers and two sisters.



George Lynch, Senior Economic Development Policy Advisor

Mr. Lynch will work with partners throughout the state advising the Director on policy initiatives for issues such as broadband access, affordable housing, and other key challenges the state faces in furthering economic development.


George Lynch, new Senior Advisor on Economic Development Initiatives, joins Idaho Commerce after three years at Bloomberg Law as a Senior Legal Editor where he specialized in state and local tax law and regulations as well as international and U.S. privacy and data protection laws. Prior to joining Bloomberg, Mr. Lynch worked for the U.S. Commerce Department where he was involved in enforcing fair trade laws on behalf of U.S. companies. Mr. Lynch has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine and his law degree from American University Washington College of Law. He and his fiancé, Rachel, live in Boise.



Eric Forsch, Business Retention and Expansion Manager

Mr. Forsch will oversee the department’s business retention and expansion team responsible for engaging Idaho businesses and providing information about available resources and programs. Mr. Forsch is rejoining Idaho Commerce where he previously served from 2011 to 2017 as a Senior Business Attraction Specialist playing an integral role in department initiatives like the SelectUSA trade show, the development of a statewide unmanned aircraft system (UAS) consortium and numerous business attraction projects.

Eric Forsch, Idaho Commerce’s new Business Retention and Expansion Manager, is rejoining the department after first joining Idaho Commerce in 2011 as a Business Attraction Specialist. Prior to rejoining Idaho Commerce, he served as the Market Principal for Manpower in Boise. Mr. Forsch has also served as an Adjunct Professor at the College of Western Idaho, and three years in the banking industry. Mr. Forsch received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Boise State University and an Master of Arts in History from University of Colorado. In his spare time, he enjoys brewing beer, woodworking, and spending time with his wife, Hailey, and their three dogs.

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Company Spotlight: Tedder Industries

A devotion to public safety has led to robust economic development in Post Falls, Idaho, creating hundreds of local jobs that are in service to an industry built on Constitutional rights.

Tedder Industries is a rapidly growing manufacturer that creates firearm accessories for its national and international brands Alien Gear Holsters, Bigfoot Gun Belts and Old Faithful Holsters.

Company growth since 2013 allowed founder and CEO Thomas Tedder to invest in the previously deserted outlet mall on the border of Post Falls near State Line off I-90 in 2016. The location had been defunct for nearly a decade, but it now houses active production lines and newly renovated spaces for business owners to lease.

The company’s dedication to innovation has led to investments in 3-D printing and injection-molding machinery within its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. This machinery provides the company the ability to design, prototype and launch advanced products for gun safety enthusiasts.

Tedder Industries seeks to challenge the status quo in its Idaho facilities, questioning traditional gun holster designs in its industry and replacing them with technologically advanced, modular holster systems.

“Hundreds of employees at Alien Gear Holsters work every day to make our country safer,” Tedder said. “In our North Idaho facilities, we’re constantly rethinking how we can better protect others with our equipment. For us, innovation is a requirement.”

There are about 200 employees spread across production and other teams. As the company develops its several anticipated product launches throughout 2018, it may need to scale production teams in suit, depending on market demand.

Its new machinery drastically lowers the amount of time required for mechanical engineers to put a product idea through prototyping and testing. An idea can go from a whiteboard to a 3-D printed model in a matter of hours.

This process, over the course of a couple years and with thousands of labor hours from skilled engineers, has led to the company’s flagship product line, the ShapeShift Modular Holster System.

Although Tedder started the company at his kitchen table in Arkansas nearly a decade ago, its operations have expanded internationally to four continents through strategic development and a bit of elbow grease from carefully cultivated teams, each with a clear understanding of what the company stands for.

Tedder Industries’ efforts have resulted in 8 years of advocacy for the safe exercise of Second Amendment rights, securing American communities one family at a time.


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