In search of more jobs

Frank Henderson-sponsored bill signed by Otter

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Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, stands beside Gov. Butch Otter Thursday in Boise following the governor's signing of House Bill 100 that provides funding for cities and counties to use to expand business and industry to create jobs.

COEUR d'ALENE - Generating more jobs in Idaho might get a little easier now that the Legislature passed House Bill 100, and the governor signed it into law last week.

"It is designed to create jobs, and we do need more jobs in Idaho," said Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, who sponsored the legislation. "This helps us be a little more competitive with our neighboring states when we are recruiting jobs."

But not everyone agrees that the state should be spending $3 million, which was appropriated to the fund, on job creation.

Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, voted against the bill along with Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Post Falls, and Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls. She said she has little faith in government creating good jobs.

"We don't have an extra $3 million in this budget," Sims said. "This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

Regardless, the bill did pass the house 59-8, and it passed the Senate 29-6. Henderson said the new law codifies the Business and Jobs Development Fund and renames it the Idaho Opportunity Fund. While the state has used the Business and Jobs Development Fund to recruit and retrain jobs for nearly five years, the fund was never codified in state law.

"In the past the fund was dispersed at the discretion of the Department of Commerce director," Henderson said, adding the new law clarifies performance measures that must be agreed to before the funds can be used for economic development.

The fund can be accessed by local municipalities to recruit, retain or expand jobs in Idaho. The funds are dispersed to qualifying companies only after the jobs are actually created. The law also spells out matching requirements that municipalities will have to come up with to access the fund.

"It also requires a match or co-investment from the cities and counties," Henderson said, adding the Department of Commerce has the discretion to waive the matching requirements for smaller cities that cannot afford it.

The money can be used by employers to help offset startup or expansion costs, such as impact fees, engineering fees, or even to build infrastructure. The employer must agree to create a certain number of jobs, at a specific pay rate in order to receive the funds, Henderson said.

"This is real similar to what our neighboring states are doing," he said. "Combine that with our low workers compensation rate, and low utility costs, and it makes us much more competitive."

The new law will go into effect on July 1.

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