COEUR d'ALENE - Jobs Plus is riding out the recession.
And through its help, so is Kootenai County.
The economic development organization recruited five new companies to the county last year, President Steve Griffitts said Tuesday at the organization's annual luncheon.
Yet with the accompanying loss of two companies and layoffs throughout member businesses, he reported 5,071 jobs among Jobs Plus companies in 2009, which were 123 fewer than the year before - the first net loss in the organization's 23-year history.
"That's 123 families adversely affected, and my job is to positively affect 10,000," said Griffitts, speaking to more than 250 elected officials, business representatives and Jobs Plus members in a Coeur d'Alene Resort ballroom. "So I didn't do my job last year."
Griffitts pointed out that the county has still seen some silver lining, with 98 percent of jobs maintained among member companies in 2009, as well as roughly 170 new jobs created so far this year.
"We retained 98 percent of the workforce in one of the most difficult economic conditions in our nation," he said, adding that Kootenai County has seen the least job loss in the state of Idaho. "We had to figure out what needed to be done then partner to accomplish that."
The corporation has already recruited a few new companies to the county this year, he said.
"We're grateful that we continue to find success," he said.
Griffitts also spoke of his optimism that the area will continue to churn out an attractive workforce thanks to the KTEC (Kootenai Technical Education Campus) levy that, if approved in August, will finance a joint professional-technical high school on the Rathdrum Prairie. He added that companies will continue to relocate here because of the quality of life.
Companies recruited by Jobs Plus in Kootenai County have paid more than $45 million in real and personal property tax over the organization's 23 years, he said. He asked the audience if it was a good investment.
"Our budget is $300,000 a year," Griffitts said. "You do the math."
The event's keynote speaker, Gov. Butch Otter, lauded how Idaho is one of five states in the nation that balanced its budget without having to raise taxes.
The governor's office has tried to use that to bring in new businesses to Idaho, he said, by contacting companies in states like Oregon and Washington where taxes were bumped up.
"We wrote them a love letter," Otter said. "We let them know we're not going to raise taxes; we're going to live within your means."
What communities those companies end up migrating to, however, is up to entities like Jobs Plus, he said.
"They decide what kind of corporate opportunity they want in their community," Otter said. "I don't decide that. That's not my job."
He emphasized the role businesses play in the state government's plans to increase Idaho's GDP from $51 billion to $60 billion, particularly in revenue produced by the growth of companies already in the state.
But Otter cautioned businesses not to expect employment to shoot back up anytime soon.
"Be careful. Don't be fooled because production is going up and expect employment is going to follow," he said. "It's going to lag a little."