IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - As the pandemic has ripped away the greater sense of normalcy around the world, many businesses are continuing to feel the financial effects.
The economic development coordinator for the city of Idaho Falls, Dana Briggs, says our community may not belong within those statistics.
“Idaho Falls has been lucky in the sense that sometimes the economic trends of the nation aren’t as immediately felt here in Idaho Falls," Briggs said. "And so from a commercial development standpoint, we’ve seen very little slowed down even through the pandemic. A lot of commercial real estate is still happening, a lot of development is still moving forward, and we’re seeing continual growth.”
Briggs says the city is committed to supporting well-planned growth and development. Idaho Falls offers economic development incentives to businesses in an effort to inspire them to build or grow their progress here rather than locate in another state or area.
The state of Idaho offers incentives as well. At the local level, businesses must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for those benefits.
“The qualifying criteria for this incentive is that a business must bring 100 or more employees to the city,” Briggs said. “And with those employees, it has to be $15 an hour as a minimum wage, as well as offering full health benefits, dental, and medical insurance.”
Intermountain Packing is a beef and bison processing plant that recently qualified for those benefits and plans to begin construction along Iona Road, between Holmes and 15th Street in September. The city has agreed to expedite processing and forgive approximately $126,500 in fees and other expenses.
“We chose Idaho Falls because it’s a great city, a great place to do business, and we are from this area,” Intermountain Packing general manager, Bob Stirling said. “One of the other main reasons is that it is on I-15 corridor and it’s central to many of the ranchers we will be working with. It’s a good central location and distribution hub for not only Southeast Idaho, but here in the Intermountain region...even though we’re based here in Southeast Idaho, we will be shipping to the continental 48 states and there is a possibility that we may even export to the European Union and Japan and other countries.”
The company is owned by a group of investors and this is their startup project. They are not owned by Roger Ball’s Intermountain Bison, though some investors are related to the Ball family.
“Intermountain Packing is a sole entity all by itself and there’s really no affiliation with Intermountain Bison,” General manager, Bob Stirling said.
Intermountain Packing proposes to build a $20 million, 50,000 square foot beef and bison processing facility on a 9-acre tract of property.
“The other [qualifying factor for the incentive], if it’s a new company, the capital investment is $5 million, and that’s for a new building, and if it’s an existing building expanding, it’s $2 million,” Briggs said. “And so if they meet those criteria, then they can apply for the incentive and go forward from there.”
Once the business applies for an incentive, the decision is left up to the Idaho Falls City Council.
“If granted, the benefits of this incentive are that some fees related to development that the city offers can be waived,” Briggs said. “And so those fees are things like a building permit, your plan review fees, and some road and bridge fees.”
Many ranchers have seen problems sending their cattle to slaughter because many processing plants in the Midwest were closed due to the pandemic. This has shown a ripple effect in our grocery stores, resulting in empty meat shelves.
The Midwest processes 1,000 head of cattle per day compared to only a dozen per day regionally.
“But there wasn’t anything in between, what we would call a midsized packing plant,” Stirling said. “So that’s why we’ve decided to come up with our own.”
Intermountain Packing is hoping to offer a plant that can process 500 cattle per day.
“Many of the ranchers here locally would have a home for their cattle and they would not have to ship them to the Midwest where most of the large packing plants are,” Stirling said.
Stirling says it will be a very beneficial economic benefit to the Idaho Falls community and to Southeast Idaho.
“200 new jobs here in Idaho Falls area with this new plant,” Stirling said. “These jobs will provide benefits such as health insurance, vacation time, and many benefits. And the average wage will be $15 an hour.”
There is also an indirect benefit that comes with new jobs being created in our community.
“By having more people in the community, we have more housing that needs to be built, we have more people that are shopping and being patrons of the amenities that we have and so it’s a ripple effect as we add more to the economy that everybody benefits,” Briggs said.
Intermountain Packing plans to open in the fall of 2021 when the pandemic will hopefully be far behind us.
“We’re very excited to be starting this new business here in Idaho Falls and we know that it will be successful and it will benefit a lot of people here in this area,” Stirling said.