Printers and powerbars. Semiconductors and sugar. Water filters and French fries. What’s the common thread that ties these together? Made in southwest Idaho’s Boise Valley region.
Manufacturing and the Boise Valley may not be top of mind for many, but some of the nation’s leading manufacturing companies, including Micron Technology and J.R. Simplot Company, call this region home. Hewlett-Packard Company and PowerBar have manufacturing facilities in the Boise Valley area, too. The region’s manufacturers run the gamut of high tech, general manufacturing, food processing and agricultural biotech.
While the total number of manufacturing jobs across the nation continues to drop, manufacturing companies are thriving in the Boise Valley. With a growing labor pool, pro-business regulatory environment, comparatively low energy rates and affordable costs of living and doing business, the region has much to offer manufacturers.
The Boise Valley is no longer a hidden gem of the manufacturing world. In a testament to the region’s burgeoning business climate, Forbes magazine’s 2008“Best Places” list ranked Boise the second-best place in the country for business and careers. For the fourth straight year, Boise landed in the top five.
In Forbes’ rankings, Boise ranked highest in job growth, net migration and cost of doing business. These attributes reveal just some of the reasons why the Boise Valley has emerged as a manufacturing sector magnet. However, there’s more to it.
WHAT’S BRINGING BUSINESS TO BOISE?
The Boise Valley serves as a conduit to provide highway, air and rail access to the Northwest. The seaport terminal of Portland, Ore., is less than a day’s drive from Boise. In fact, the region offers market access to 66 million consumers within a 750-mile radius.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development rates Idaho number one in manufacturing investment and sixth in long-term employment growth. Characterized as stable, enthusiastic and loyal, the Boise Valley’s skilled workforce is 279,500 strong and unemployment is low. With an average commute time of 18 minutes, it’s no wonder that the Boise Valley’s workers express such optimism.
“Our new production facility will double its staff in the next year alone, drawing from the experienced people right here in the Boise area,” said BlackHawk! Products Group™ President and CEO, Mike Noell. “By adding the right employees and equipment, we’ll boost production capacity in order to meet increased demand for our products.”
BlackHawk’s plant in the City of Meridian handles assembly and packaging of products for military, law enforcement, security and outdoor sports. Those products include rifle stocks, handgun holsters, apparel, cases and protective gear.
Boise Valley manufacturers looking to expand their operations are hiring from within the region’s skilled workforce, but they’re also recruiting workers from outside the state who are seeking good jobs in a region with lower housing costs and a great quality of life. Based on average housing costs, utilities, health care, transportation, groceries and other services, Idaho’s cost of living ranks second-lowest among the 11 Western states. The median cost of a home is approximately $235,000 in the Boise Valley, which includes both Ada and Canyon Counties.
Recent reports indicate that manufacturers are reducing their workforces due to decreasing demand for products and an economic slow-down; however the long-term trend toward growth in the Boise Valley remains strong.
The manufacturing industry in Ada County, where Boise is located, added 500 jobs in 2007. “Metals fabrication manufacturing and the high tech sector led the way in hiring,” reported the Idaho Department of Labor in January 2008.
In neighboring Canyon County last year, “the manufacturing sector added just under 1,000 jobs increasing by 11.6 percent as the industrial manufacturing and high tech sectors performed well,” according to a January 2008 Idaho Department of Labor report.
Located in Canyon County, Nampa is the second-largest city in Idaho and boasts the densest manufacturing area in the Boise Valley, with six million square feet of manufacturing space. Simplot and Great American Appetizers both produce frozen foods in Nampa, but the area attracts a variety of manufacturers.
Selkirk Metalbestos fabricates metal for vents and industrial ventilation. Woodgrain Millwork manufactures molding and trimming building materials. Plexus produces medical devices and electronics.
“Manufacturing companies have come to Nampa because energy costs are low, and so is the overall cost of doing business,” said the City of Nampa’s Economic Development Director, Cliff Long. “Food processors and agricultural biotechnology companies have a notable presence in Nampa because the climate is so conducive to their production.”
The region’s hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters make the area very attractive to major seed production companies such as Allied Seed, Harris Moran and Seminis, as well as agricultural manufacturers and wineries. In fact, the Snake River Valley received an official American Viticultural Area designation in 2007.
SUPPORT FOR MANUFACTURERS
Both established manufacturers and those new to the Boise Valley have many business resources, including TechHelp, The Food Technology Center and Idaho’s Workforce Development Training Program.
Boise Valley manufacturers have access to TechHelp, which provides technical assistance, training and information to strengthen the competitiveness of Idaho manufacturers, processors and inventors through continuous product and process improvement.
“Idaho manufacturers are growing their businesses and winning in a world market,” said TechHelp Executive Director Mike Wojcicki.
The Food Technology Center in the City of Caldwell has helped food manufacturers test, produce and package more than 200 Idaho-made products. At its 7,000-squarefoot certified food processing facility, the Center provides comprehensive business, technical and educational assistance to develop or improve food products.
Idaho’s Workforce Development Training Program offers funds to equip new, fulltime employees with new skills or upgrade the skills of current workers. Up to $2,000 is available for each new job created. The funds give Idaho businesses a competitive edge in their industry.
With the right resources and an attractive business climate, the Boise Valley grows ever more magnetic for manufacturing companies old and new.
Paul Hiller is Executive Director, Boise Valley Economic Partnership. As the economic development organization for the Boise metro region, BVEP provides customized, confidential and complimentary services to businesses relocating, expanding or starting-up in the area. Visit www.bvep.org.