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Idaho Experts Panel: Important Policies that Idaho Should Pursue

(Editor’s Note: We’re starting a new feature at Idaho Politics Weekly. Each week we’ll ask a group of experts a question and publish their responses.)

This week’s question: If you were King of Idaho, what important policy would you enact?

Greg Strimble, GS Strategy Group. I would enact personal and corporate tax reform to make Idaho more competitive with neighboring states and help balance the state’s traditional agriculture and natural resources economy with the technology economy of the future.  

Jeff Sayer, former director of the Idaho Department of Commerce. I would respond to Idaho's most important factor for our economy -- skilled talent pipelines.  But I wouldn't just settle for blanket investments in education. Those investments are important but their benefits are 15 years away and still do not guarantee students will have the necessary skills.  I would insist on mechanisms where large blocks of higher education funding were directed by industry leaders.  We are not going to solve our talent shortages fast enough unless we take bold, tactical steps that empower industry to decide which programs deliver the most important skills they need. The outcomes would train skilled talent for the highest industry needs paying premium wages. It would ensure education funding is influenced by industry demand.  In short, the markets would decide and set the priorities for portions of higher education.  That is how we achieve the highest possible return on our education investment.  

Ken Holsinger, CEO, Klowd.com. We are building a much-needed foundation for the future of the technology workforce in Idaho. Much more needs to be done and at a more aggressive pace. As costs are rising in places like Silicon Valley and the demand for skilled workers continues to climb, Idaho can position itself to significantly grow our badly needed higher paying jobs. Many do not see what is already happening towards this effort. Over the last ten years, a large amount of headway has been made by some great business leaders in our state.

These are just a few of the efforts being made both through policy and through business leaders throughout the state:

  • ·Code training initiatives in the K-12 classrooms
  • ·Public / private partnerships like Trailhead in Boise for entrepreneurial training and now an immersive code school opening in 2 weeks
  • ·Significant focus by our colleges and universities to increase their Computer Science programs
  • ·Public / Private partnerships and initiatives around positioning and incentivizing existing companies and new initiatives around Ag-Tech

Some of the policy framework is being laid, but I have seen the fear and pushback from many in our legislature as these initiatives are presented. For some, it is just a lack of understanding, for others a fear of changing the status quo. Some have even shared their fears that the rural communities will fall even further behind. If we truly want to increase higher paying jobs and improve our schools and “go on” rates, we must support these initiatives and leaders that are working hard to enact these policies. We are behind, but we have good models to follow. The aggressive policies and tax breaks and investments from Utah have proven that a state much like ours has a legitimate shot at changing the trajectory of the business and education climate. 

These are not my thoughts or initiatives, but rather a highlight of just a few of the efforts being made. I applaud the efforts of many of our local business leaders and a handful of enterprising government leaders. Let’s do this together!

Jess Whiting, Startup Grind Director, Boise. How do we turn our state into a thriving business? Last week I walked the streets of Dubai in awe of the incredible accomplishments of this emirate and the inspirational vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

America is known for being the land of dreams, and I realized after experiencing Dubai, that we don't dream big enough. After meeting with the previous president of the stock exchange, US embassy, and ascended to the top of the Burj Khalifa, we met with the Nakheel, http://www.nakheel.com/en/corporate, one of the world's largest real estate developers. You know them from their record-breaking projects like the man-made islands like the Palm Jumeirah. Or the world islands where the wealthiest have started buying their own islands.

I love this quote from Sheikh Mohammad: "Governments, like people, grow old. They start life small and eager to survive, fueled by youthful energy and fresh ideas but eventually, with few exceptions, fade into obscurity. Governments, too, can lose the hunger and ambition of youth, and become complacent.”

For a day, I would drive ambition, youth, and energy into Idaho. Forget the politics that often leave Idaho entangled with itself while other states often pass us in many ways. It's time we think big, bring together the "doers" and the "dreamers" and create a future that brings nations to us...in awe.