I just listened to the Nov. 12 Pocatello City Council Work Session meeting available for viewing on the Pocatello Community Media YouTube channel at youtu.be/a5MmKn4njGM or the city website at pocatello.us/AgendaCenter.
You may want to listen to it, too, starting at approximately 57:30 on the video. It was a real eye-opener regarding local economic development — or lack thereof. It was refreshing to finally hear straight-forward information from a professional with a proven track record of experience, knowledge and insight regarding economic development and what it takes to develop an area economically. Teresa McKnight, CEO of Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), promotes our entire East Idaho region (14 counties in all) to companies potentially interested in locating or relocating to the region. According to the discussion between McKnight, the mayor and City Council members, commercial firms seriously considering any area may ultimately choose to locate elsewhere based on overall costs.
Businesses perform a “due diligence” — they crunch the numbers before considering a move. Any area or city may not pass that financial number-crunching test. Good, responsible businesses conclude that they do not want to move their company or employees to an area with higher costs. Bottom line, in my opinion, Pocatello may be less attractive to new businesses due to overall costs, which includes a variety of components including the perpetual increase of property taxes.
Upon council members questioning McKnight, she suggested it is in the best interest of all communities to take a deep dive into their overall policies, processes, procedures and red tape (including items like fees, permitting, infrastructure costs, etc.) to ensure potential new businesses can navigate these systems quickly, cost-effectively and efficiently. She strongly suggested leadership try putting themselves in the position of a new business looking to relocate to their area. Leadership should examine the same factors companies examine to gain a realistic perspective of what businesses see when looking at their area or comparing city-to-city. This provides an opportunity for elected leaders to work toward making adjustments and improvements to items they can control to make their area more appealing — and more competitive for recruiting new businesses. Businesses make decisions on the bottom line — on the cost to do business in a given area. Anything limiting income or increasing costs on a project is viewed negatively when it comes to choosing where to locate or relocate.
Based on the discussion regarding how businesses look at potential areas, I anticipate Pocatello to continue losing new business opportunities. We lose these opportunities to other areas that are more economically competitive — not only those cities outside of our state, but also those cities within our own region like Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Rexburg, etc. One company currently looking to relocate in this area voiced concern about the local residential property taxes. They intend to relocate much of their workforce. However, their veteran employees (vital to their operations) may not be willing to relocate here because they would be paying higher costs (in large part, property taxes) than what they currently pay in California.
Government is supposed to work for us. During the July 9 City Council Work Session budget segment (toward the end, around 6:12 on the video, available for viewing through the city’s web site Agenda Center and the city YouTube channel), the mayor stated that because no one is attending these meetings (presumably to comment/complain about our city budget — which drives approximately 50 percent of our taxes), the general population in Pocatello is satisfied with our budget, happy with how our city is functioning and does not have a clue regarding the budget. So because our mayor does not hear from us, all must be good in Pocatello. Citizen engagement is critical if we want change and if we want to become a serious player in regional economic development efforts. Unless citizens in Pocatello begin holding our local elected leaders accountable for taking actions to correct our current economic situation, Pocatello can never become the vibrant, exciting and thriving community that I know it can be, and we will continue to lose out on economic growth and sustainability. This is truly the biggest issue facing our community. We do not have enough businesses in our community to remove the tax burden placed on the backs of residents. This will continue if we continue to lag behind on recruiting new business to Pocatello!
Please consider becoming involved in your local community efforts such as Pocatello for Accountable Government Entities (P.A.G.E.) on Facebook, routinely checking the Facebook pages of our City Council members, attending future City Council meetings and asking questions of our elected leaders via the City website at: pocatello.us/directory.
The electorate has chosen its leaders. Now we need to follow through with the messages we send through our votes and “help” these elected leaders understand that we do care about improving our economic environment. We want Pocatello specifically to be more appealing to businesses looking to relocate here. We need good-paying jobs from financially stable companies that want to become part of our community for the long haul. More good businesses mean more employees with decent wages — which means more money circulating through our local economy. A larger commercial tax base also means an overall higher city-wide valuation which will result in less stress on homeowners to foot such a large part of the cost of city government and property taxes in Pocatello.
Lydia Noble is a long-time resident of Pocatello, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and recently retired from a 30-year career at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) as a Business Professional. She co-founded Pocatello for Accountable Government Entities (P.A.G.E.) out of concern about Pocatello’s high property taxes and to work to ensure that retirees on fixed incomes are able to continue residing in Pocatello.