JEROME — Idaho may have more cattle than people, but the proper development of people will lead to its economic strength.
That’s one of the core messages presented by Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Cameron Mulrony to a regional business group on Tuesday.
Speaking at the annual Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization summit, Mulrony represented the state’s second largest industry: beef. There are about 2 million beef cattle in Idaho, he said.
“Every dairy cow becomes a beef cow at some point,” Mulrony said.
The focus of this year’s summit was finding opportunity in rural areas, with an emphasis on bringing in people.
In a series of anecdotes, Mulrony explained how people are the most valuable asset for a community. Part of cultivating a workforce is to allow young adults to leave, but make them aware of opportunities available for when they come back, he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the seven counties served by SIEDO have a high percentage of people ages 19 and younger when compared to the entire state of Idaho and the nation.
“Nineteen and younger is an important population for us,” Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser said. “That’s our incoming workers.”
Nationally, the population is aging, creating a need for service jobs and health care workers. Idaho’s jobs that are most in demand are typically in the medical field, including registered nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists.
The region has experienced good growth in its labor force in the past 17 years. Twin Falls and Jerome counties grew their labor force 24.3 percent between 2000 and 2017. While Mini-Cassia was lower — with only 12.7 percent growth — those two counties have done better than others in the region over the past 10 years. Roeser said Mini-Cassia struggled initially but recovered better from the recession.
Idaho’s employment population is expected to grow 14.4 percent from 2016 to 2026, Roeser said, with south-central Idaho accounting for about 12 percent of that growth.
Also at the summit, Idaho Commerce Business Retention and Expansion Manager Eric Forsch talked about increasing housing costs in Idaho and how technology could change industries such as trucking.
“There’s a huge economic incentive for the industry to make changes very quickly,” he said.
He also spoke about opportunity zones, which use tax cuts to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities. In our region, there are opportunity zones in downtown Twin Falls, Buhl, Jerome and Rupert, Forsch said.
SIEDO Executive Director Connie Stopher and outgoing chairwoman Brandi Turnipseed recapped what the organization accomplished over the past year — including marketing efforts, site visits and business announcements.
“We don’t expand businesses in this region if this isn’t a good place to be,” Turnipseed said.
Incoming chairman Nathan Murray said the region has seen about $385 million invested over the year.
“I think Burley has about 75 percent of this,” Murray said.
As more foreign companies look at Idaho, SIEDO will be more active in prompting foreign direct investment, he said.