Bringing the Economy Home


With $140,000 On The Line, Idaho Girl Scouts Try Their Hand At Lobbying

Famous for its potatoes, trout fishing, and blue AstroTurf, Idaho might not have much in common with Hawaii. But here’s one thing: Idaho and Hawaii are the only two states in the country to tax Girl Scout Cookies. Now, some local Scouts are beefing up their sales pitches and learning to lobby.

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Election Day: Idahoans Cast Their Votes On Propositions 1, 2 And 3

The most potent statewide issue on this Election Day is the tug-of-war over Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Today, as we have talked to voters at polling places in the Boise area, we’ve asked how they decided to vote, and why.

The propositions correspond to three education laws that the Legislature approved in 2011.  The laws have been contentious ever since.  At the most basic level, the laws do three things: limit collective bargaining for teachers, create a merit pay system, and increase the use of technology in schools.  ‘Yes’ votes on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 keep the year-old education laws in place.  ‘No’ votes repeal the laws.

You can read more about the propositions and the corresponding laws here.  For an Idaho voter guide, with links to voter information click here.

In the comments section below, tell us how you voted, and why, on the three referenda.

From Idaho’s Liberal Stronghold Come Diverse Views Of November Election

There aren’t many places in deep red Idaho where you’re likely to hear the kind of proud introduction Gini Ballou offered up not long after we met.

“I’m Gini Ballou,” she said.  “My mother stopped to vote for John F. Kennedy on her way to the hospital to have me.  And the greatest gift I ever got for my birthday was the ’08 election, when I was given President Obama on my birthday.”

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Why Idaho’s Doctor Shortage Won’t Be Easy To Solve

Dr. Jennifer Petrie has known since she was a high school student in Lewiston, Idaho, that she wanted to be a rural family physician.

Petrie works at the Emmett Medical Center, less than an hour’s drive north of Boise.  She sees patients four days a week in her small, sparse examining room here and also works the emergency room shift a couple times a month at the neighboring hospital.

Dr. Petrie is a generalist. She didn’t want to choose a high-paying specialty.  For her, seeing all kinds of people was the most appealing thing about being a doctor. Continue Reading

How Traditional Japanese Homebuilding Reversed The Fortunes Of One Idaho Sawmill

Before the recession hit, the sawmill in the North Idaho town of Laclede was known for its reliability.  It had never seen a shutdown, not in Steve Spletstoser’s nearly 30 years of working there.  Then came 2008.

“It was really eye-opening to see,” Spletstoser says.  “Your livelihood is hanging in the balance.”  Day after day, the mill cut lumber, and day after day it piled up.  Very little left the lot.  Continue Reading

Why One Idaho Company Is Growing Its Own Workforce

Even with thousands of Idahoans out of work, one Boise-based company can’t find enough employees.  Western States Equipment needs mechanic techs, jobs that by definition fall into the middle-skills category.

About half of all Idaho jobs fall into this group: jobs like mechanics, welders, police officers, or air traffic controllers.  These are jobs where you need more than a high school diploma, but less than a college degree.

According to the National Skills Coalition, not quite half of Idaho’s workers are trained for these jobs.  While many Idaho schools are ramping up efforts to train workers, the pipeline isn’t full yet, so one Idaho business has taken training into its own hands. Continue Reading

A Rancher, A Logger, And Economic Fate In Rural Idaho

In Idaho, the timber and ag industries are heavy hitters.  They play big roles in the state’s history and identity.  But the recession has dealt them different hands, dividing rural Idaho into winners and losers.  StateImpact Idaho takes a look at two industries, two counties, and two economic fates.

Rancher Chris Black and his son, Justin, manage a thousand head of cattle on 135,000 acres in the foothills of southwest Idaho’s Owyhee Mountains.  They spend most of their time miles apart – miles from anyone, in fact – working cattle.  But this day is a little different.  They’re walking to the corral not far from the small solar and propane-fueled house where Chris Black lives on and off from April through November. Continue Reading

An Entrepreneur, Stimulus Money, And An Idaho Mill Town That Wants To Rise Again

Stories about mill towns tend to go something like this: generations of families work at the local sawmill.  Then, the mill shuts down, taking hundreds of jobs with it.  Emmett, Idaho is one of those towns.  Boise Cascade closed its mill here in 2001.  But that’s not where this story ends.  Instead, it picks up with a Montana entrepreneur and millions in stimulus funding.

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Airstream Dealership Signals Upswing In Idaho’s Economy

The silver bullet known as an Airstream trailer has roamed the nation’s highways since the 1930s. It’s as iconic as a Coke bottle.  The start of summer brings with it thoughts of exploring and camping.  For some people, that means hitching up the Airstream and heading out on the highway.

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Tiny Idaho Town Ponies Up, But Its School Still Suffers

You might not guess it, if you happened to pass through, but tiny Rockland, Idaho, population 318, is a place of distinction.  The town has no grocery store.  Its gas station is just a couple of unmanned pumps where you pay by credit card.  But what this town does have is a school, and local people stand behind it.

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