Leaders of for-profit and nonprofit Idaho organizations are optimistic about 2016. They attribute that to a strong 2015 — a year of rising revenues and investment spending, falling unemployment rates and near-constant construction in the Treasure Valley despite mostly flat selling prices.
“The business climate has taken a big step forward in the past year,” says Zelda Geyer-Sylvia, the outgoing CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho, in Business Insider’s latest quarterly survey of Valley business leaders. “More businesses are hiring, and there is more competition to find qualified workers. I expect that trend to continue.”
Andrew Scoggin, executive vice president at Albertsons, says a foundation is being laid for “well-planned and diverse business growth” in the Valley, which bodes well for the Boise company’s employees and customers.
But some companies are “still smarting” from the economic slowdown, and they’re trying to get by with skeleton crews despite increased demand for their products and services, says Northwest Bank CEO Rob Perez.
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“This will breed opportunities for those businesses who are focused on ‘quality’ and ‘exceptional service’ and have the systems and process in place to ensure the same,” Perez says.
As evidenced by the changing skyline in Downtown Boise, it feels like the significant development that has occurred has created true momentum, not only for the Downtown corridor but for the Treasure Valley as a whole. A vibrant Downtown is the best symbol for the kind of growth that is possible in Boise, and it is self-reinforcing. This is a change in the business climate that we hope continues.
William G. Gilbert, The Caprock Group
TSheets CEO Matt Rissell believes local startups will continue to multiply but hopes the Treasure Valley’s economy will become more diverse, “to the point where [it] will no longer be so highly dependent on only a few large businesses.”
I believe that one of our challenges in the innovation ecosystem has been that we operate inside many silos. Silos usually exist because people had a great idea and wanted to get started fast. Instead of trying to integrate into an existing structure, they built their own for expedience. We are seeing more integration and cross-collaboration with concerted efforts by organizations such as Trailhead Boise, Startup Grind, Wayne Brown Institute, BVEP, Treefort/Hackfort, BSU and others. I am hopeful that trend will continue and we will experience even more positive outcomes for the community, and more collaboration among the various entities.
Karen Meyer, Ravenware Consulting
Some Idaho leaders note that the area’s low unemployment rate does not tell the whole story. Idaho’s wages remain among the worst in the U.S. That limits both consumers’ ability to meet their basic needs and the shrinking middle class’s ability to meet the needs of charitable organizations.
“While we’ve nearly tripled the amount of food assistance we provide since 2009, we’re still only reaching about 65 percent of the population in need,” says Karen Vauk, CEO of The Idaho Foodbank. “As an independent nonprofit, identifying the revenue needed to expand our capacity and close this gap is a significant challenge for us.”
What are you most worried about for 2016? For five years from now?
“I think the cost of health care in general — whether it’s the cost of prescription drugs or the continued rise in medical care — is something we’ve got to address quickly. We’ve got to work with partners in the provider, broker and hospital arenas to come up with solutions to ensure people have access to the highest quality care at prices they can afford. That’s no small task, but a problem that we must solve to ensure Idahoans have access to care and the financial security they need.”
Zelda Geyer-Sylvia, Blue Cross of Idaho
As we look down the road over the next five years, water will continue to be a focus and a challenge as population in the area continues to grow and the demand for water resources is stretched. Given the arid climate in which we live and work, water could be a limiting factor to growth if the resource is not managed effectively.
Darrel Anderson, Idaho Power
“We are very interested in seeing educational strategy implemented throughout the state that will provide for a next generation of business leaders who can think strategically and execute on those strategies to continue to take care of our customers’ evolving needs and wants.”
Andrew Scoggin, Albertsons
“The regulatory limits around real estate lending, which continues to be a larger driver of credit demand. Maintaining employee engagement at levels necessary to outproduce our competition and to attract the talent necessary to employ our high-touch model. The ability to maintain our culture during periods of inorganic grown.”
Rob Perez, Northwest Bank
“Rising cost of doing business.”
John D. Jackson, Jacksons Food Stores
“For businesses to thrive and grow in the Pacific Northwest, creating wealth for the owners and increased wages for employees, we need a stronger national economy. I am looking forward to the elections in the fall and a more positive, pro-business administration in Washington regardless of which party wins.”
Jim Kissler, Norco Inc.
The 12 panelists
Darrel T. Anderson, president and CEO, Idaho Power
Ken Cortez, co-owner and vice president, Metalcraft Inc.
Zelda Geyer-Sylvia, president and CEO, Blue Cross of Idaho
William G. Gilbert Jr., co-founder and managing director, The Caprock Group
John D. Jackson, CEO and owner, Jacksons Food Stores, Jackson Oil, Jackson Jet Center and Capitol Distributing [new, succeeding Bob Lokken of WhiteCloud Analytics]
Jim Kissler, CEO, Norco
Karen Meyer, Ravenware Consulting
Rob Perez, president and CEO, Northwest Bank
Matt Rissell, CEO, TSheets
Andrew Scoggin, executive VP, human resources, labor relations, public and governmental affairs, Albertsons Companies Inc.
Karen Vauk, president and CEO, Idaho Foodbank
Raino Zoller, executive director, Trailhead Boise