A report detailing the findings of a financial summit held by Gov. Butch Otter earlier this year suggests that Idaho investors would like tax incentives that could spur investment, a better state website to help businesses and investors, and better relationships between new or small Idaho-based businesses and local investors.
Idaho’s Department of Finance and Department of Commerce prepared the report based on testimony at a meeting in January. The report doesn’t consider costs or political ramifications of the suggestions from investors and business leaders. Otter’s held three other business summit, with past events focused on business, innovation, and small business.
The investors favor tax incentives to help venture capital investors and angel investors, which are people who invest their personal money in a company, often through pooled angel investment groups.
Otter and House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, backed a plan in the Legislature this year giving incentives to investors of companies that use at least half of that investment to pay workers in Idaho. That legislation passed the House by a wide margin, but died in a Senate committee.
The report was also critical of the state’s official websites for businesses, such as the Business.Idaho.gov site and the Business Wizard site run by the Idaho Small Business Development Center at Boise State University. Both sites were outdated, according to the report, and didn’t have comprehensive information for businesses of all sizes. The report calls for a centralized business website with three full-time employees keeping the site up to date.
The report also recommended bringing back a program in the commerce department that helped small businesses apply for federal grants and awards. It reimbursed companies for the costs of applying for grants as well as offering advice to businesses. That program cost the state $250,000 during the two years it ran, from 2007 to 2009, but did net companies $110 million in grants, awards, and loan guarantees.
It’s unclear if the state can find money for these programs. The Idaho Department of Commerce has been one target of spending reductions due to dwindling tax revenues, with its budget reduced more than 50 percent in the past two years.
Among the other recommendations are that state endowments and trusts invest in Idaho-based startup companies, when allowed for by state law. The report also asks the state to set up a business resource council that could act as a clearinghouse for investors and small- or mid-sized companies looking for the money needed to expand.