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Research Details Positive Economic Impacts from Idaho National Laboratory Operations

The results of a comprehensive new study of the economic impact that Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site operations have on the state reveal that INL is responsible for more than 24,000 Idaho jobs and generates a total economic impact exceeding $3.5 billion.

Boise State University’s Department of Economics was awarded a research contract by INL last February to conduct an expansive analysis of the lab’s multidimensional impact on Idaho’s economy. The findings are contained in a report jointly released today by Boise State and INL.

The study evaluated the combined operational impacts of all five major employers at the INL site – the U.S. Department of Energy Idaho Operations Office, as well as private contracting companies Battelle Energy Alliance (INL R&D and support services), Bechtel Marine Propulsion (Naval Reactors Facility operations), Bechtel BWXT Idaho (Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project) and CH2M-WG Idaho (Idaho Cleanup Project).

“Although state government is Idaho’s largest employer, it is important to keep in mind that most of its funding comes from sources within the state,” said Geoffrey Black, chairman of the Department of Economics at Boise State and a researcher on the project. “INL is not only the second largest source of jobs in the state, but nearly all of its funding comes from outside Idaho. This provides a huge shot in the arm to the state’s economy. Particularly in the eastern part of the state, nothing else comes close.”

Key findings of the impact study include:

  • INL (based on 2009 year-end data) ranks as the second largest employer in Idaho. With more than 8,000 direct employees, INL had the largest impact on employment in Idaho of any employer other than state government and is by far the largest employer in eastern Idaho.
  • Secondary effects of INL operations accounted for an additional 16,133 jobs, for a total of more than 24,000 Idaho jobs.
  • INL increased personal income in the state by nearly $2 billion.
  • Directly and indirectly, INL operations accounted for more than $135 million in personal income, corporate income, sales and other taxes paid to the state.
  • Direct tax payments to the state of Idaho by INL employers and their workers significantly exceed the cost of state-provided services.
  • INL employers paid $2.5 million to Idaho colleges and universities for their employees’ continuing education.

In explaining the overall relevance of these findings, the report stated that the stabilizing effects of INL and its relative increase in the share of employment, output, income and tax revenues allow for more effective functioning of state and local governmental services. This has been particularly relevant during the economic downturn.

“Funding and employment at INL has remained comparatively steady while other critical sectors of the state’s economy have been hard hit,” Black said. “The fact that such a large business entity has been a solid source of jobs, income and tax revenues is crucial to maintaining a much greater degree of economic vitality for Idaho. The state’s economic picture is substantially brighter than it would be without INL.”

In addition to Black, Boise State Economics professors and researchers Don Holley and John Church worked on the report. This is the third INL impact study conducted by the trio.

Boise State and INL are partners on a number of research initiatives, including the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a public/private partnership comprising Idaho’s three public universities, private industry and INL. CAES integrates resources and expertise to create new research capabilities, expand researcher-to-researcher collaborations and enhance energy-related educational opportunities. A key component of CAES, the Energy Policy Institute, is located on the Boise State campus. CAES also has launched an initiative to build an Energy Efficiency Research Institute (EERI) that will be housed at Boise State.

The full INL impact study can be viewed on the College of Business and Economics website at https://cobe.boisestate.edu/blog/2010/12/09/inl-impacts/.

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