Idaho has fewer people than Houston, still grows the most potatoes, and outperforms all 49 other states with a 21st-century economy that shows that the U.S. does best when it puts the world first.
President Donald Trump, whose White House website touts an “America First Foreign Policy,” may be surprised to learn that Idaho, which he won by a 2-to-1 margin in November, relies heavily on international trade for its economic success. It’s had the best combination over the 12 months that ended on March 31 of robust personal income, job growth, stock-market gains and home-price appreciation because its largest employers sell the bulk of their products overseas, count the world’s biggest multinational companies among their customers and suppliers, and make most of their money from the technology driving globalization.
Idaho eclipsed No. 2 Washington by almost four percentage points as its economic health improved 9.7 percent, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of the States, an index measuring employment, personal income, home prices, mortgage delinquency, tax revenue and the stock market.
Personal income among Idahoans, which increased 4.89 percent to within two-tenths of a percentage point of No. 1 Utah and No. 2 Washington, is growing at the fastest rate in the nation since 1948, when the data was first compiled. The 2.65 percent expansion of the job market was more than 44 states, with Idaho’s 3.1 percent unemployment rate dropping below Utah’s for the first time since 2008 and remaining 1.2 percentage points less than the national average.
By contrast, the economy of Idaho’s southeastern neighbor, Wyoming, is driven more by domestic industries like metals and mining, which provided 20 percent of its gross domestic product. It was the worst U.S. economy during the 12 months ended March 31, with the largest job and tax-revenue losses and second-worst stock market and mortgage delinquencies. Wyoming was the only state to suffer a decline in personal income, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Unlike Wyoming and West Virginia, which have lagged the rest of the country in population growth since 1990, Idaho surged more than 60 percent to 1.65 million people, climbing to No. 39 among most populous states from No. 42, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Idaho’s transformation to manufacturing and services from commodities and agriculture is reflected in its increasingly dynamic companies. Almost 78 percent of the state’s publicly traded equity consists of technology firms, up from 57 percent a decade ago.
Health-care and social-assistance industries account for a growing share of Idaho’s GDP, increasing to a record 9 percent from 6 percent in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Manufacturing GDP as a percentage of total GDP rose to 13 percent from 10 percent while corresponding ratios for mining and agriculture declined to less than 1 percent and 5 percent since 2012.
Global investors made Idaho a favorite: Its 16 companies tracked by Bloomberg gained 120 percent in the 12 months ending on March 31, dwarfing the total return (income plus appreciation) of 17 percent for the S&P 500 and 18 percent for the Russell 3000 index.
Micron Technology Inc., the Boise-based maker of memory chips and semiconductor components, returned 176 percent to shareholders, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Micron, which has 31,400 employees, also is outperforming the 10 largest semiconductor companies with a 12-month return that is double the average, and revenue growth quadrupling the average. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg say Micron sales will grow 62 percent this year, or three times the average forecast for the group. Micron is positioned where growth is greatest. Asia, which accounts for 73 percent of the company’s property, plant and equipment, up from 59 percent three years ago, delivers 75 percent of Micron sales. Three years ago, that was 69 percent.
The Micron business chain is increasingly global. While 10 percent of company sales are derived from Apple Inc., 66 percent of Micron’s customers are outside the U.S., compared with 49 percent five years ago. Some 63 percent of the company’s suppliers are non-U.S. firms, up from 56 percent in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Idaho’s traditional industries are finding a way to prosper through globalization. As recently as 2012, Hecla Mining Co., based in Coeur D’Alene, derived 45 percent of its sales from Canada. That percentage has grown to 67 percent, with 30 percent from Asia and only 3 percent from the U.S., Bloomberg data show.
Even the state’s famous potatoes are modernizing. Earlier this month, in another sign of Idaho’s embrace of science and technology to expand its markets, J.R. Simplot Co., the closely held supplier of french fries for McDonald’s and 1,000 other food products, received permission from Canada to sell potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish famine in the 19th century.
Education, infrastructure and quality of life are necessary for Idaho’s increasingly diverse economy, says 75-year-old Butch Otter, who was elected governor in 2007 just before the financial crisis and who this year became the nation’s longest-serving incumbent state chief executive. He credits the state’s Tax Reimbursement Incentive for expanding the mix of businesses by rewarding companies for their long-term commitments. “It’s about promises made, performance established and promises kept,’’ Otter said in an interview earlier this week, citing Chobani’s 2012 completion of the world’s largest yogurt plant in Twin Falls, the more recent Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine—the first medical school in the state—and the expanding aerospace industry.
It was in the 1980s at Simplot, where he spent three decades, that Otter realized what would come to drive Idaho today.
“We were advised to harvest the company’’ amid waning demand for potatoes and beef, he recalled on Wednesday in his Boise office. Instead, “We said, ‘Find more mouths to feed.’ That’s when we went international.’’
Here’s a hurray for all the police, road workers, medical officials, businesses, government agencies, outdoors groups, scientists and everyone else who has made plans for Idaho to enjoy a peaceful and orderly eclipse.
Nothing like this has every happened in our lifetimes, so it’s all but impossible to predict what to expect on the ground. Idaho Falls is directly in the path of totality, the prime viewing path, and is expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors, some of whom were already arriving this week for Monday’s celestial showcase. There were reports of runs on groceries and other supplies.
Twin Falls is slightly out of the path, and many officials here are expecting viewers to head north into the Wood River Valley and beyond.
What does that mean for those who live a little farther south? Besides a slightly less spectacular view of the eclipse, we hope not much. We’ll be surprised if Twin Falls looks anything like what we saw during the Evel Knievel jump, for example.
Whatever happens, this time, we’ve done what we can to prepare. Police will be out in force. Planes will be spotting from the air. Let’s all take special care to be safe.
This will be a wonderful event if we all remember those Idaho values of patience, respect and neighborliness come Monday morning.
Let’s all have a happy eclipse.
It seems we’re being forced to jeer some sort of desecration of our natural wonders every few weeks now. And this week is no different.
Graffiti now mars the Perrine Coulee waterfall in the cove tucked behind the hairpin turn on Canyon Springs Road into the canyon. Idiots spray-painted names, initials and some opinions about President Donald Trump too vulgar to print in a family newspaper.
Making matters worse, no one is sure who is responsible for removing it. The county owns Centennial Park, but the city owns the road.
As the bureaucrats sort this out, perhaps now is the time for a service organization to step up and remove the graffiti.
We must work together to preserve the natural beauty of our communities – and let vandals know that their work will never have a long shelf life.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the business community does a lot more than employ workers and sell widgets.
Glanbia gave us a good reminder this week. The cheesemaker awarded more than $175,000 to 14 nonprofits. The Twin Falls Safe House, a refuge for abuse and homeless children, even got a new van.
Similar groups survive on shoestring budgets, and donations from corporate leaders like Glanbia are almost incalculable in the good they do in our communities.
On June 8, Hospice Visions held our 5th Annual Live Butterfly Release Memorial Event at Canyon Crest Dining and Event Center. Attendees at this memorial event whispered a message to their butterflies to be delivered to their loved ones as only the butterfly can. Over 144 monarch butterflies were released from the Canyon Crest patio overlooking the Snake River Canyon. Hospice Visions would like to thank the following for making this beautiful event possible: Ruth Conway and Canyon Crest Dining and Event Center, Dignity Memorial, Trent Stimpson and Fred Colburn of Reynolds/Whites Funeral Chapel, Jim and Peggy Stevens, Lloyd and Darlene Stockton, Trevor Knudson, Frank and Jeanene Ellis, Matt and Carol Tombre, Adina Brown, Kevin Bradshaw, all who participated and the Hospice Visions employees who donated their time to make this a memorable day.
I just wanted to say there are still some very nice people here in Twin Falls. On June 30 I fell while filling my car up at Fred Meyer station. I couldn’t get up and two men and one woman had to help me up. At the hospital it turned out that I have a fractured hip. I don’t know the names of the folks that were so kind and helped me, I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and God bless you.
The first week of August Jerome County 4H kids showed and sold their projects they have been working on for the past year.
We would like to show our appreciation to our community for supporting our kids and their projects. The money raised to help these kids with college and their futures was very generous. It felt good to see the hands in the air, bidding to help our youth. The sense of community and helping others was shown at our auction and as parents we really appreciate it. We are proud to be in this wonderful community and to be surrounded by such great people.
Again thank you for your generous support of our kids.
Ted Larsen, JC Olsen, Dean Lusk, Andy Prescott