July 6, 2009 — Vol. 25 No. 21
Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter today helped launch THE CORE, a health care, education and technology enterprise zone that will add new emphasis to Idaho’s Project 60 economic development initiative.
The governor was joined by Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, Idaho State University President Arthur C. Vailas and dozens of private businesses that operate within an approximately three-mile-long corridor straddling Interstate 84, just minutes from Boise Airport.
“The powerful spirit of partnership is what brings us here today, and it’s what will ensure Meridian and all of Idaho grows and prospers in the future,” Governor Otter said.
THE CORE was launched Wednesday, June 24, at a former information-technology manufacturing facility that has been retrofitted with private and public investments into a university campus, magnet high school and administrative center for Meridian School District.
Mayor De Weerd of Meridian made it her mission to create a strong jobs base by supporting existing industries by bringing together like-minded or complementary businesses. She spoke to the powerful fusion of health related services, technology and advanced education and research that differentiates THE CORE industry cluster.
“Early in this decade, a new vision emerged in Meridian. This vision was clear – Meridian would become a community where not only is the living good but a community where you can make a good living,” De Weerd said. “This has led us to strive for economic excellence and to create jobs – thousands of them. We are doing just that and transforming our city.”
Vailas played a significant role in Houston’s development of a health care, education and technology center that leveraged the three disciplines and created one of the world’s leading centers for research and economic development. Seeing how the synergies developed in Houston, he said the fuse is lit for the Idaho economy in the launch of THE CORE.
“It is an honor for researchers, our physician and health care partners, members of the faculty and staff of Idaho State University to contribute our expertise to THE CORE and to join these business and political leaders to chart a course for the future of the Idaho economy,” Vailas said. “I’ve seen and served in leadership capacities in organizations that drove and benefited from the growth that comes from collaborative clustering like that of THE CORE. I agree with Gov. Otter: this is powerful.”
Vailas noted ISU research today generates $31 million per year in new money to the Idaho economy from federal, state and business sources. He said that activity is just the beginning of the economic upsurge that will transform the Idaho economy if the state can replicate the Houston experience.
Idaho government data show that the health care industry will be Idaho’s greatest job creator of the next generation. Health care will be Idaho’s fastest-growing, largest and highest-paying industry between now and 2016, with nursing and pharmacy standing out as the hottest occupations of all.
Technology firms already at work in and around THE CORE include Bodybuilding.com, a leading provider of health and nutrition products to athletes; MWI Veterinary Supply, a national supplier of animal health products to veterinarians; Silverdraft Studios; Crucial/Lexar Media, a global provider of memory products, and other growing enterprises.
Idaho developer Dennis Baker owns the emerging Pinebridge development that links Meridian’s city center with Eagle Road and forms an important land base for THE CORE near the enterprise zone’s “anchors” of St. Luke's Meridian Medical Center and Blue Cross of Idaho. He said he has seen the power of the fusion of health care, technology and advanced education help transform and sustain the Utah economy in several developments his company is a part of there.
“As a lifelong Idahoan, I am energized to help state leaders create economic expansion that will last,” he said. “We can do that through THE CORE’s fusion of health sciences, advanced education and technology because that combination of disciplines drives economic growth.”
Baker and other speakers at a news conference today said there will be continuing demand for high quality health care, driven in large part by the aging of the U.S. population and the continuous research for new methods, medicines and techniques to improve quality of life. The cluster of businesses that spin out of research and development activities, the stability of mature health care centers such as St. Luke’s and advanced research and educational training from leading institutions such as Idaho State University creates a strong current for growth.
De Weerd pointed out that the collaboration of the Meridian Joint School District #2 and ISU, which bears the mission of delivering health care higher education in Idaho, has helped create many new layers of opportunity: creation of a new magnet high school, co-development by Meridian School District and ISU of a huge former high tech manufacturing center into a complex of offices, classrooms, laboratories, distance learning and other facilities, and programming that will allow high school students to earn college health care credits from Idaho institutions.
Idaho State University will move into its Meridian Health Science Center on Aug. 1. The facility’s purchase and build-out is a partnership of the Otter administration, the Idaho Legislature, Meridian Joint School District #2, donors to Idaho State University and the family of Sam Skaggs, co-founder of one of the nation’s leading chains of drug and discount retail stores.