WestViews: Opinions from newspapers in Idaho and the West commenting on Western issues

October 7, 2013 

DESPITE HICCUPS,REGION’S ECONOMYREMAINS STRONG

Times-News, Twin Falls

Dutchmen Travel Trailers Inc. announced its plans last week to soon shutter its Burley plant, costing the region 160 jobs.

Such a closure is a blow to any community. Tax revenue and employment are essential for a community’s growth.

But the relative lack of panic from Burley and Cassia County officials struck us strange, but also a positive sign.

“We have people coming to this state looking for an existing facility. That’s just another opportunity,” said Burley Mayor Terry Greenman.

Greenman’s optimism could be viewed as political spin, but we think there’s something to it.

Much of the region’s industry is rooted in agriculture, a point reinforced by last year’s opening of the massive Chobani plant in Twin Falls. But the Magic Valley’s economy continues to diversify. And it’s that industrial fluidity that gives us hope that closures of large plants, such as those in Burley over the past decade, are nothing more than hiccups.

It was a gut punch to the community when J.R. Simplot took with it 600 jobs in 2003 when its Heyburn plant went dark. But, since then, 10 manufacturing businesses opened plants in the small city.

The Magic Valley — with its breadbasket of dairies and farms, a willing workforce and governments offering rewards to newcomers — is a proving desirable place for industry to set up shop.

In a nation riddled with the dilapidated remains of a bygone industrial age, the Magic Valley is in the midst of a fabrication renaissance. While manufacturers sent jobs abroad and the nation hurdled toward the Great Recession, industry continued to grow here. State Labor Department data tells a decadelong story of a growing, evolving economy.

We haven’t worked through the growing pains, yet.

Jerome’s overtaxed sewer is a prime example of how many communities aren’t prepared to handle an influx of industry. Local governments must be willing to make the infrastructure investment if they want the long-term reward.

Dutchmen’s closure is ultimately a cautionary tale of how fast something can disappear. Local officials can’t become too complacent or begin courting just one kind of manufacturing. Having Chobani yogurt in the refrigerator is a welcome expression of local pride. But even the yogurt giant isn’t bulletproof.

It’s the Magic Valley’s industrial diversity that makes it strong. And, with a little taxpayer investment in sewers and roads, the region could be a manufacturing hub for decades to come.

JEER TO JFAC CHAIRS

Lewiston Tribune

JEERS ... to Idaho Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome. Under their leadership, Idaho’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee decided to continue its southeastern Idaho tour rather than attend former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa’s funeral in Boise on Friday morning. Cenarrusa was a genuine member of Idaho’s Greatest Generation. There’s a reason why Cenarrusa is the first Idahoan to lie in state in the Idaho Capitol Rotunda in nearly 25 years.

Between nine terms in the House and nearly as many as secretary of state, he spent more than 50 years in elective office — an Idaho record exceeded only by Cenarrusa’s dedication to serving the public in an impeccably fair manner. For a legislative committee to conduct its official business without interruption is a sign of disrespect to Cenarrusa and all he contributed, however unintentional.

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