Bottom Rung: Why Building A Strong Idaho Economy Takes Public Investment

May 10, 2013

Wells Fargo representative Josh Plummer talked to dozens of would-be call center workers at this week's job fair
Credit Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

Bob Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is three years into building his new company. It designs software for health care professionals with the aim of allowing doctors and others to interrogate vast amounts of health care data. Lokken founded it after his previous company, ProClarity Corporation, was bought by Microsoft.

Recently, he showed me around the downtown office where software developers work intently behind large computer screens. I wasn’t there to talk about better health outcomes through guided data analysis; I was there to talk about Idaho’s workforce.

This week, StateImpact Idaho is reporting on low-wage work through its series “Bottom Rung.” Retired University of Idaho economist Stephen Cooke offers a blunt assessment of Idaho’s shifting employment picture. He believes the state is on a path toward a growing number of low-skilled, low-wage jobs.

“There was an era, a golden age, if you will, when high-tech manufacturing came to Idaho,” he says. “That era seems to be fading, and now we’re into an era of low-wage jobs associated with call centers and retail.”

I wanted to hear what an employer would say. Not just any employer, but someone in that bastion of high-skilled and high-wage jobs: the tech industry. Click here to continue reading...