Micro 100 Tool Corporation, Meridian’s largest manufacturer, lost 10 percent of its staff during the recession. But this year the company is back to a full staff of 111 employees, and revenue is bouncing back, Chief Financial Officer Mick Armstrong said.

Other local businesses are also returning to stable ground.

“We’ve found that most companies we’ve met with are seeing pre-recession revenues,” Meridian Economic Development Administrator Brenda Sherwood told City Council during an economic strategic plan update Sept. 10.

Manufacturing jobs are growing in Meridian by about 100 a year, Sherwood said. Overall, Meridian employers added 2,200 new jobs from January 2012 to March 2013. One of the top industries for job growth is professional, scientific and technical services.

“That’s imperative — it’s where we’ve been lagging in the past throughout the Valley,” Sherwood said.

Even companies that aren’t specifically in the tech industry are growing tech jobs, Boise Valley Economic Partnership Executive Director Clark Krause said, pointing to Meridian companies Bodybuilding.com and MWI Veterinary Supply Co. as examples.

“Almost every business across this Valley has more technology in it than there used to be,” Krause said. “... If you talk to them about what is their business, they may be building a product, they may be selling a service, they may be in the health industry, ... but a larger and larger portion of their portfolio is tech.”

Meridian faces the challenge of providing a skilled workforce that will strengthen existing companies and attract new business.

“We have gotten a lot of feedback from tech companies of what they’re challenges are at this point, and the biggest challenge obviously is they have more openings than they have people to fill them, especially in the software engineering, software developer category,” Krause said. “So they’re looking for what I call highly-skilled people from college-graduate level all the way to master software developers.”

Micro 100 has run into this challenge, Armstrong said. Many of its employees need strong math and specialized technical skills.

“Often the people we hire don’t have the necessary math skills, so it’s very difficult for us to hire somebody into our top machine operator positions,” Armstrong said.

The company has turned to the Idaho Department of Labor and the local school district for help. Since October, the Department of Labor has provided more than $100,000 to help Micro 100 train new employees through a machinist apprenticeship program in cooperation with College of Western Idaho.

“Also we’ve had some initial conversations with the Meridian school district and (Superintendent) Dr. Linda Clark,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to be meeting with her to share some of our own ideas and needs for the (district’s machine) tech program.”

City targets new growth strategies

Manufacturing is just one of Meridian’s targeted industries for growth. The city’s economic team is also focusing on health care, agricultural science and public safety, according to Economic Development Administrator Brenda Sherwood.

But when it comes to recruiting new businesses, Meridian faces some disadvantages. The city doesn’t offer financial incentives to seal the deal with interested companies, and because of its central location, land tends to be more expensive, Sherwood told City Council during a Sept. 10 presentation.

Her team is consulting with businesses and community partners to build an economic development strategy that will help the city take on these challenges.

“I think that the next few years are going to be imperative,” Sherwood said. “We’re seeing a lot of activity, and how we move on it is going to be vital.”

Meridian’s economic activity, 2012 and 2013:

NEW COMMERCIAL PERMITS

2013, Jan. 1 – Sept. 10

  • 39 permits
  • $47.6 million

2012

  • 40 permits
  • $65.5 million

JOB CREATION

Top 5 job-growth industries in Meridian:

  • Construction
  • Healthcare services
  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Retail

2,200: total number of jobs created in Meridian in 2012 and 2013 Quarter 1*

  • 1,300 in 2012
  • 900 in 2013 Q1

*Source: Idaho Department of Labor

Recruiting businesses, August 2012 - August 2013

  • 42 site selectors and commercial relocation consultants were given marketing information about Meridian
  • 59 leads were contacted and followed-up on in industries such as public safety, retail, manufacturing, construction and food processing

INITIATIVES

  • Wine Tasting Cooperative with Meridian Development Council — exploring opportunities for partnerships with wineries in Garden City, Caldwell’s Sunnyslope area and Idaho Department of Tourism.
  • Public safety cluster with private and public stakeholders — including new training facilities and local gun and equipment manufacturers.
  • Small Business Coordinator pilot program to guide new or small business owners through the application process.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.