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Keeping government out of business decisions

Staff Writer | December 16, 2021 1:00 AM

As Idaho industries inch into the international arena, business leaders are pushing lawmakers to make stable, commerce-friendly decisions in 2022. 

In the past few years, Idaho has been lauded by Forbes, U.S. News, CNBC and the Tax Foundation as a "top" state for business.   

Though some outsiders might think Idaho is all about taters, big brand names like Cliff Bar, Chobani, Amazon, Micron Technologies, Buck Knives, Hecla Mining, Simplot, and WinCo Foods all have commercial bases in Idaho — and they're growing. 

The Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry (IACI) is a Boise-based lobbying group representing about 300 businesses statewide. The association's reach ranges from banks to hospital organizations, technology, manufacturing and agriculture. 

Despite these industries' different products, IACI Director of Strategic Communications Amos Rothstein said their wants tend to be the same. 

Most important, he said, is ensuring Idaho remains a business-friendly state that allows them to grow operations within minimal government interference. Rothstein said they want to keep taxes low, make critical decisions internally and hire a strong workforce. 

"A lot of businesses have moved here from places in Oregon, Washington, and California because they got wrapped up in a lot of taxes and a lot of regulation," Rothstein said during a Coeur d'Alene visit last week. "We hope that by helping businesses facilitate that relationship with their area representative that there is more power in the constituency." 

As a lobbying group, IACI's primary responsibility is to advocate for and aid their businesses in crafting legislation that will support their needs. Recent initiatives have revolved mainly around COVID-19, state and federal vaccination rules, and supporting hospital associations. 

By removing government interference or biases toward individual industries, Rothstein said IACI members believe there would be a more equal playing field for companies to succeed and listen to community wants. 

"As Idaho grows, its presence in international markets and all of the other industries become more relevant," he said.

Idaho is already producing international exports. Rothstein pointed to southern Idaho businesses like Lactalis, a French company with a factory in Nampa, one of the largest U.S. cheese producers that supplies goods across Europe. He said another Magic Valley company is producing kosher-grade products used throughout the Middle East as well as American customers. 

"Mozzarella that is made from Idaho dairy cows is used to ship most of the commercial Italian cheeses," Rothstein said.  

Other topics Rothstein says are top of mind for IACI members include:

• Keeping Idaho's minimum wage and letting "the market play a role in determining pay"

• Expansion of Medicaid and health care coverage for Idaho workers 

• Increasing access to child care and assisting businesses in providing child care

• Getting rid of personal property taxes

• COVID-19 measures

• The decorum of the legislature

Idaho's rich history of being a business-friendly state is something IACI wants to preserve, he said. To continue the Gem State's image as an incubator for small and large businesses, Rothstein said the association needs strong, predictable government leaders. 

"We are at a crossroads right now in Idaho about where we want the direction of the state to go and the public image that we want the state to display," Rothstein said.