Economic roadblock

Clark Krause, the new executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, had an interesting piece in the Idaho Statesman today. He talked about attracting new jobs as a team effort. It’s going to take a serious team effort  to help turn around this economy.

Gov. Otter, Commerce Director Don Dietrich and Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen are prominent members of that team. The Idaho Legislature is not – even though many candidates running for those seats talk about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The sad truth in the Idaho Legislature is that the weakest committee chairs in the House and Senate are on the commerce or business committees. The Senate doesn’t even have a business committee.

Don’t get me wrong, the chairmen and vice-chairmen are solid people, some of the friendliest and most sincere people in the Idaho Legislature. But they are not movers and shakers – the kind of people who offer innovative thinking at a time when Idaho cries out for creativity. Idaho has lost many jobs over the years, particularly with the demise of mining and agriculture, and the state’s economy still suffers as a result. Creating jobs should be one of the highest priorities in the Idaho Legislature. Unfortunately, it is about the lowest priority.

The House Business Committee is led by 74-year-old Max Black of Boise, who is in his 10th term. Black, one of the moderate holdouts in the unabashedly conservative House of Representatives, is where leadership feels he can do the least amount of damage. The vice-chairman is Frank Henderson of Coeur d’Alene, who in December celebrated his 88th birthday.

The chair of the Commerce & Human Resources committee is Sharon Block of Twin Falls, who was a kindergarten teacher in her professional life.

Leading the Commerce & Human Resources Committee in the Senate is 81-year-old John Andreason of Boise, who like Black is in his 10th term. Andreason, a former director of the Legislative Budget Office for 23 years, once was one of the sharpest minds in the Legislature. To put it mildly, he’s no longer in his prime. The vice-chairman of the committee is Shirley McKague of Meridian, one of the truly nicest people in the Legislature. I will say no more.

Krause, who spent six years leading the New Mexico Partnership, knows the good things that can happen with teamwork in economic development. The New Mexico Partnership is “an organization responsible for the sales and marketing efforts that attracted 46 companies and over 14,000 jobs to communities across New Mexico,” said Krause.

That’s a nice resume to bring here. It looks like there’s a pretty good team in place for Krause to enjoy similar success in Idaho – just not in the Idaho Legislature.

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