TWIN FALLS — Ervina Covcic hikes through an almost supernatural landscape of stone monoliths and sagebrush at Little City of Rocks in Gooding County. After clambering over a few boulders, she looks right into the video camera.
“Yep, just potatoes,” Covcic says. “I wouldn’t come here.”
The video is just one of six that Southern Idaho Economic Development has released on social media since April. The agency is in the midst of a marketing campaign that it hopes will attract new workers to the Magic Valley by using humor and highlighting some of the area’s most beautiful attractions.
Southern Idaho Economic Development Executive Director Connie Stopher said she thinks the videos, which have 68,000 views so far on Facebook, will show people that southern Idaho has a lot to offer.
“It’s getting over that stereotype that we’re just potatoes,” Stopher said.
Five of the six videos open with a closeup of a potato while a narrator says, “Idaho, the land of potatoes. There isn’t much here, other than potatoes.”
Then the video proceeds to disprove that myth by showing young people sandboarding down dunes, rappelling a cliff through a waterfall or mountain biking.
In addition to joking about the state’s potato fame, the videos also play on a common Idahoan line.
“I’m sure that anyone who has been in Idaho for a long time, or any amount of time probably, has heard someone say, ‘I’m glad you’re here, but don’t tell anyone else about it,’” Stopher said.
The videos play on that phrase — but the intent isn’t to keep potential newcomers at bay.
Stopher said millennials and veterans are the primary target audience, as well as graduates of universities with food science programs.
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A few years ago, attracting new workers wasn’t a part of Southern Idaho Economic Development’s efforts. Now, Stopher said, the agency spends the same amount of effort attracting talent as it does attracting businesses.
“Unemployment being so low, we can’t reasonably attract more big business here without more people to put to work,” she said. “It’s really like a chicken and egg sort of thing.”
Southern Idaho Economic Development operates on a roughly $400,000 annual budget, receiving its funding from the College of Southern Idaho, regional governments and Business Plus.
Idaho Department of Labor South Central Regional Economist Jan Roeser said marketing is important for areas like the Magic Valley.
“If you don’t do marketing campaigns, you do stand a chance of being forgotten by the rest of the U.S.,” Roeser said.
Roeser also said the video campaign is a sound approach for the agency.
“Not every community is doing a campaign as organized, conscientious and disciplined as Southern Idaho Economic Development,” she said.
Annual population growth has slowed in Twin Falls and Jerome since 2017 when the city of Twin Falls had 2.1% annual growth. In 2018, annual population growth was at roughly 1%, the lowest it had been since 2012.
Jerome has been growing more quickly than Twin Falls. Since 2008, Jerome has seen its civilian labor force grow by 20%, while Twin Falls has only seen its civilian labor force grow by 7%.
There haven’t been as many new companies breaking ground in the area recently, Roeser said. That has led to a slowdown. A decline in the number of newly settled refugees, rising home prices and less housing availability have also contributed to slower growth numbers.
Southern Idaho Economic Development plans on releasing more videos this winter, highlighting some of the cold-weather recreation opportunities available in southern Idaho.