April 9, 2019
Writer: Virginia Henry
In April 2015, Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI) was established. REDI is a public and private partnership helping to strengthen the economies in Eastern Idaho.
CEO Dana Kirkham first interacted with REDI when she was Mayor of Ammon. She had served on the city council for a few years before becoming mayor. She was inspired by REDI’s vision of regional development, so she decided to give it a try after her public service.
She started out at the star director of science technology and research and then became the CEO about 18 months later.
Kirkham is not an Idaho native. She grew up in Northern Virginia and started her career with the CIA. Eventually, job opportunities brought her and her family out to Eastern Idaho.
“There’s something to be said for the lifestyle in Eastern Idaho.” Kirkham commented. “There’s a great sense of security, there’s a lot to do as a family, and you still have all the amenities of a larger city.”
She said it is a great place to raise children and have outdoor adventures. Kirkham exclaimed that some of the most beautiful places in the world to here are in Eastern Idaho and the surrounding areas.
Kirkham explained that REDI has a three-fold mission to primarily aim to protect, expand and attract businesses.
REDI wants to protect the businesses that already exist in the communities. Keeping the businesses here vibrant and successful, which ties into its second goal which is to expand. REDI wants to create an environment where businesses can grow and continue to benefit the economic stature of rural Idaho. Lastly, REDI works to attract businesses that fit in the ecosystem so they can flourish.
Right now, Kirkham explained that REDI is identifying the top five industries in every county and seeing how they can build off of that.
Just a few weeks ago, Kirkham presented at the city council meeting in Rexburg the data that has been pulled together for Madison County and where it fits in with the region.
“We deal more with industry. People that are involved with business and industry would interface with us,” Kirkham said.
Data is provided when people are applying for grants and expansion with tax abatement. These are ways REDI works with the public.
“Not just letting things happen to you, saying this is how we want to grow and how we want to grow responsibly,” Kirkham said. REDI is focused on deliberate growth.
“Cost of living can be destroyed if we allow growth to happen too quickly,” Kirkham clarified. Thus, they don’t want to have too big of an influx of growth all at the same time.
REDI’s vision is to have more jobs created, Kirkham asserted. But not just random jobs, higher paying, good living wage, sustainable jobs. Kirkham said these types of jobs will help big businesses relocate to these areas.