Winning the jobs battles from within

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While it sure would be a lot of fun to break a non-April 1 story saying Amazon was opening a massive facility here, or that Boeing or Caterpillar would be employing thousands of Kootenai County residents with $75,000-plus jobs and boundless benefits, that kind of windfall simply isnít likely.

We have some magnetism here: Four fantastic seasons, beautiful scenery, and some of the finest human beings known to populate any region. We also have proximity to a major airport and an average or slightly better than average highway system, so transportation is an asset rather than a liability.

Then whatís holding us back in terms of attracting great, large companies to relocate or at least branch out here? You already know the answer by now, donít you? More than anything else, itís lack of sufficient workforce. Thatís not a condemnation of our education and training capabilities so much as it is the mere fact that weíre a county of a little more than 150,000 people, a great many of whom are beyond their working years.

So where do those realities leave us on the jobs front? Fortunately, in very good hands.

The Coeur díAlene Area Economic Development Corporation ó formerly known as Jobs Plus ó has for more than three decades brought thousands of jobs to your community. Add to that infusion the unknown or at least unpublicized number of jobs that were saved when good local companies were being recruited elsewhere, and the impact on Kootenai Countyís financial base is profound because of this organization.

All of this good was spotlighted a week ago at the CDAEDC annual luncheon, attended by 370 of this areaís business and civic leaders. This iteration of Jobs Plus works because the organizationís board and its private-public partnership give it both the support and the vision it needs.

In recent years, CDAEDC has gradually spent less time and fewer resources chasing outside businesses in an attempt to lure them here, and more time working with good local businesses and helping them grow. State-supported tax increment financing has been an effective element of the growth formula, but the wonders of strong existing relationships have been on display, too. Why spend years and small fortunes chasing a company thatís probably not going to move here when you can invest far less time and money on a company thatís here, thatís well known and simply needs a little help to get bigger and stronger?

If Boeing knocks on the door, of course CDAEDC will answer. But in the meantime, weíve got a good thing going, powered in no small part by strong community support and appreciation. To all those who work so hard and without recognition on this vital function, thank you.

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