Abraham Lincoln told Congress in his first State of the Union message in 1861 that "Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not existed first." It is a principle that underscores Idaho's campaign for jobs that pay well and include benefits.
Skilled workers are critical for a robust economic expansion that will achieve Gov. Butch Otter's Project 60 goals of growing our statewide economic output to $60 billion a year and beyond - and just as importantly, to address chronic underemployment and get employee compensation levels back on the track we were on before the Great Recession.
For two centuries, Idaho's path to prosperity has been marked by the commercial perseverance and commitment of individuals who made our state a magnet for innovators and entrepreneurs. Together with the men and women whose labor makes businesses successful, Idaho has an economy that CNBC called the most improved for business in 2012.
Yet it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge how tough the recession has been on worker paychecks.
During the downturn, statewide wages dropped nearly 7 percent - $1.5 billion - and only recently recovered that loss. Entrepreneurs took an even greater hit - 24 percent during the recession - but have since seen profits rebound 44 percent to a new high.
The departments of Commerce and Labor recognize that those entrepreneurs - in concert with their workers - are the future of our state and responsible for the synergy that makes Idaho stand apart as a great place to live, raise a family and prosper.
Otter, through his departments, has a blueprint for rebuilding and strengthening our economy by attracting higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs - jobs that enable more Idahoans to take full advantage of everything our state offers.
Commerce's economic recovery strategy for Idaho focuses on building such emerging business clusters as software development, aerospace, biotechnology, and recreation technology. All have footholds in Idaho and provide competitive wages and benefits.
Labor complements Commerce's approach with a workforce development and training strategy that supports job development in such high-growth, high-demand industries as health care, power and energy, advanced manufacturing, high technology and aerospace.
Together with businesses and higher education institutions, we foster career paths, educational curriculum and training programs that help Idaho workers advance their skills and earn the kind of living wages they deserve. Later this spring an education- and industry-based task force will release its strategy for increasing the number of Idahoans with credentials, apprenticeships and degrees in demand by rapidly expanding industries that pay well and provide benefits.
And while Idaho is not excessive in creating financial incentives, the state offers businesses several solid policies and programs designed not only to increase their bottom line, but also to improve skill sets and as a result, boost wages and benefits for our more than 400,000 hourly workers.
- The Idaho Business Advantage is an incentive package available only to businesses creating at least 10 new jobs averaging $40,000 a year or more plus benefits - the equivalent of more than $19 an hour.
- Otter's proposed Hire One More Employee (HOME) Act awards a tax credit to companies creating new jobs that pay at least $12 an hour in high unemployment areas and $15 an hour elsewhere.
- Access to the Workforce Development Training Fund for reimbursement of training costs for new employees is limited to jobs paying at least $12 an hour plus benefits and in the last decade has helped pay for training for jobs averaging $17 an hour.
Otter and his departments are strategically investing the state's limited resources in business opportunities that provide the highest return on that investment, measured by good-paying jobs and strong capital expenditures.
Roger B. Madsen is director of the Idaho Department of Labor, and Jeffery Sayer is director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.