Federal Program Brings Huge Impact to Idaho’s Panhandle in 2020

MOSCOW and WORLEY, Idaho – A federal program designed to create jobs and expand access to critical services will make a huge impact on Idaho’s Panhandle in 2020. Two new projects totaling over $41 million are currently under construction in Moscow and Worley, highlighting the power of the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program to catalyze growth in rural and low-income communities. The program comes to the region from the nonprofit community development lender MoFi, which has been working in Idaho since 2012. Both projects are on track to open in fall 2020.

The projects – Marimn Health’s new $20 million youth wellness center on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation near Worley, and a new $21 million headquarters for Emsi, a labor market analytics firm in Moscow – were selected to receive NMTC financing in 2019, after MoFi met with project leaders and determined them to be a good fit for the program. MoFi identifies projects based on factors including job creation, job quality, the provision of services in low-income communities, and alignment with state and local economic development priorities. MoFi sells the tax credits to investors, typically banks, and puts the proceeds from the sale into the project, providing about 20% of the total costs. The projects that MoFi supports would not have been able to move forward without the tax credit.

“It’s a federal tax credit, but decisions on where to invest and which projects to support are driven entirely at the local level,” said MoFi President Dave Glaser. “With our most recent award, MoFi was able to help finance four projects in the Northern Rockies, two of them in Idaho. We’re so excited to be working in the Panhandle, a region where we’ve seen engaged community and tribal leaders, solution-focused entrepreneurs and a collective commitment to growing in smart, impactful ways.”

Congressman Russ Fulcher, U.S. Representative for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, said, “I applaud Marimn Health’s partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to provide recreation and health opportunities to the reservation’s youth. I am also proud of EMSI’s commitment and investment to bring new jobs to Moscow, Idaho.”

The new tribal youth center, spearheaded by Marimn Health, the tribe’s health care organization, will provide programming and resources to promote health and wellness, including a family water park, outdoor sports fields, fitness areas, indoor and outdoor play areas, picnic areas and more. It will also provide office and meeting space for behavioral health and medical exams.

Marimn Health CEO Helo Hancock said the project expands access to recreational and wellness programs that will help prevent key challenges facing youth on the reservation, including drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and unacceptable graduation rates.

“We are creating a blueprint for all communities to use in the battle against addiction, abuse, crime and poverty, regardless of geographic location,” said Hancock. “The Youth Center will spark positive change and be a safe place where our amazing youth can be supported in crafting the brighter future they deserve. With the help of MoFi and the New Markets Tax Credit financing, we were able to make this project a reality.”

Emsi’s new 71,000-square-foot, four-story headquarters will provide space for the technology company to accommodate its growing staff and remain a vital part of the downtown core. As the largest private employer in Moscow, Emsi aspires to bring on several hundred new jobs in Idaho over the next five to 10 years, in addition to retaining nearly 160 full-time-equivalent positions in Moscow. All are quality jobs that come with benefits and training.

Emsi COO and CFO Timothy van den Broek credits the NMTC program with being a crucial piece of the financing that made it possible to remain in Moscow: “NMTC and our partnership with MoFi allowed us to make a compelling pitch to our investors for significant capital investment in the wonderful city of Moscow. Rather than expanding in typical tech talent hubs, the progression of this project allows us to focus on creating great jobs at our corporate headquarters in Moscow. As a company whose mission is to enable economic prosperity in communities by understanding the labor market, I am personally very excited that we are able to contribute to the economic prosperity of our own community.”

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said, “The City of Moscow is committed to creating a remarkable and sustainable future. In Moscow, we do that by providing the foundation for great things to happen. Partnerships are the key to that goal – as I always say, when we work together, our potential knows no bounds. Working with the State of Idaho, Department of Commerce, MoFi, PEP, Emsi and more is how this project became a success for Moscow.”

The NMTC program was enacted in 2000, as part of a bipartisan effort to spur private investment and economic growth in low-income and rural communities that lack access to the capital needed to support businesses, create jobs and sustain healthy economies. The credits are awarded annually through a competitive process; to date, MoFi has received nearly $600 million in New Markets Tax Credits.

The credit, which has not yet been made a permanent part of the federal tax code, has remained thanks to incremental, short-term extensions. Late last year, the final Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump included a one-year extension of the program.

Advocates of the program, including MoFi, would love to see it receive a permanent extension. Glaser said, “Since 2012, MoFi has used the NMTC program to help finance over $273 million in projects in Idaho that have created or retained over 2,400 jobs. But there’s so much more to be done. We’re working to ensure this powerful financial tool remains available to rural communities and neighborhoods that have been left outside the economic mainstream.”

MoFi has used NMTC to support 11 projects across Idaho, including an expansion of Premier Technology in Blackfoot, Idaho, a new manufacturing facility for Golden Valley Natural in Shelley, and new headquarters for Capitol Distributing Inc. and Fresca Mexican Foods, both in Caldwell.

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Photo courtesy of EMSI.