The Idaho Pathways project is a collaborative effort of many parties to stimulate successful productivity and prosperity while positioning Idaho’s economy to be more competitive and dynamic in today’s global marketplace. To engage in such an effort requires time and the commitment of leaders from business and industry, state and local government, and a diversity of other economic development stakeholders as well as a willingness to align resources focused on a shared and sustainable economic development vision. In a rural Western state like Idaho with a shifting demographic base, it is essential to proactively include diverse age, gender, urban/rural, old/new and ethnic leadership cohorts with clear interests in Idaho’s present and future economic landscape.
The Idaho Department of Commerce and the six economic development districts of Idaho are key drivers of Idaho Pathways. The University of Idaho is supporting their efforts with financial support from Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Idaho Department of Commerce, the districts, the Idaho National Laboratory, the University of Idaho, and others. A list of committed project participants is found at the end of this Project Overview.
Regional and statewide economic development teams will utilize secondary research, recent governor’s summits on economic development and related topics, expertise at Idaho’s institutions of higher education, and the expertise of the team members (e.g., leaders from business and industry, governmental leaders, non-profit economic development organization leaders and other economic development stakeholders) to create an economic development vision. These teams will identify metrics and devise protocols for measuring the potential for movement toward successful outputs and outcomes, which reflect the vision. Structured, facilitated interactive group processes will be used to accomplish this.
One deliverable of the Idaho Pathways Project is an updated comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) for each of the economic development districts. These updated CEDS will be based on a thorough understanding of regional assets, networks and entrepreneurial culture and outputs from dynamic modeling to explore possible alternative scenarios that fit the Idaho reality and desired future quality of life and economic vitality in each of the regions.
Asset mapping provides an opportunity to examine both the inputs of a regional economy to determine innovation capacity and how elements are or are not networked. Mapping allows the region’s leadership to identify the resources that can be utilized to support development initiatives. The major categories that will be used in creating the asset map are the following:
The asset data identify the regional production capacity and wealth.
Economic modeling tools will use the asset data to (1) provide a snap-shot of the region’s economic base and competitive advantages, (2) understand the regional dynamics (growth or loss in capacity/wealth), and (3) identify regional capacity and potential economic development possibilities.
The centerpiece is the Targeted Economic Development Analysis Tool (TEDAT), which is a model based on a social accounting framework and incorporates a rural economic base model, a business location template for industries, occupations, and knowledge, skills, abilities and education (KSAEs) to identify industries and areas in which the community may have an advantage. TEDAT will identify what industries fit with the occupations and already present KSAEs in the community. Additionally, a cluster analysis is completed such that a community can identify economic sectors that are related to the present local economy that could easily be added. Alternatively, TEDAT can help identify training or educational programming that will lift the KSAEs of the labor force. Using an automated social accounting matrix for a region that represents all of the transactions that take place between the various sectors of the local economy as well as between the households, governments, institutions, and trade provides a tool for characterizing and stimulating changes in a local economy. It also is a powerful methodology for identifying the economic linkages, clusters, and drivers in a local economy. More importantly it becomes a tool to use with the regional teams to allow them to ask and explore the outputs of “what if” economic development alternative questions.
The regional and statewide teams will employ the asset mapping and modeling in interactive workshop settings to explore alternatives as they update their regional CEDS and create a statewide CEDS. This process is expected to provide a structure and platform to encourage (1) the development of realistic regional economic development visions, (2) the creation of data-driven and supported CEDS, (3) diverse and engaged economic development teams with new ways to stay networked, and (4) the potential to align economic development opportunities across the state, capitalizing on newfound supply and demand chain linkages.