Is urban renewal the way to bring big business into Idaho? Many Idahoans think that the state is wasting funds on incentives for big business. These Idahoans feel that big businesses would come here with or without extra incentives, but is this really the case?
Urban renewal is a community tool to revitalize an area using a dedicated source of funding, a process that is able to spur new developments.
In one of the latest large urban renewal project, Twin Falls was able to provide the incentives necessary to Chobani, a large Greek yogurt company, to build their new plant in Twin Falls. The building of the plant cost over $20 million to the federal, state and local government. Without this incentive, the plant would have never been constructed in Idaho. The cost of tax dollars becomes minute after seeing that the plant generated $30 million, and will continue to provide jobs and extra commerce in Twin Falls.
This spending topic does not need to be sensitive. These projects are necessary, and the state sees large returns from them. Chobani is only one of a few large businesses brought into the state due to urban renewal funds. Beyond direct incentives, urban renewal has allowed restoration of city layouts that have opened up opportunities for new businesses.
The Urban Renewal Law passed in 1965 has caused many successful developments. Without urban renewal funds in Idaho, the face of Downtown Boise would be very different. With urban renewal funds and being able to incentivize and sell properties at a discount, Boise was able to bring the Wells Fargo Bank building, U.S. Bank, The Grove Hotel, Union Block, City Hall and various parking structures.
Without extra incentives, some of these projects have not have been constructed in Idaho or been prolonged until these business could generate enough capital for their development.
According to the Association of Idaho Cities, urban renewal and allocation financing is defined as, "The most successful tools available to Idaho communities for attracting and retaining businesses, generating economic development, promoting job creation, and encouraging developing of deteriorating and underutilized areas." Idahoans need to understand what urban renewal has accomplished and its potential. There is no reason to resist urban renewal in Idaho. We need to be open-minded, use its power and continue developing the great state of Idaho.
Urban renewal is a great opportunity to continue to grow Idaho's economy, in the world's competitive market. Let's all join in and support urban renewal projects. Your future job may depend on the next urban renewal project.
Chad Lloyd is a dual major in finance and economics at Utah State University and an Idaho resident.