Published: June 25, 2024 | Updated: June 24, 2024

North Idaho's industry leaders remain

A home is under construction in Coeur d'Alene.

A home is under construction in Coeur d'Alene.

When it comes to the number of jobs in Kootenai County’s major industries, little has changed over the past decade. 

Government, construction, retail, tourism and professional services continue to dominate the landscape. 

“Two decades ago, we saw some changes,” said Gynii Gilliam, Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation president. “But in looking at data in the area for the last eight to 10 years, it’s pretty much the same.” 

According to a June report from CDAEDC, comparing local industries, government provided the most jobs in 2023 at 12,441 with average earnings per worker of $78,490. That was up from 11,859 jobs in 2018. 

In retail, there were 10,299 jobs paying an average of $48,458 last year. In 2018, retail jobs in the area totaled 9,274. 

In health care and social assistance, there were 9,286 local jobs in 2023 paying an average of $70,012. The total number of jobs in 2018 was 8,221. 

The accommodation and food services industry provided 8,723 jobs in 2023 in Kootenai County paying an average of $28,000. Jobs in that field totaled 7,575 in 2018. 

In construction, there were 8,622 jobs in 2023 paying on average $67,515. Construction jobs in the area totaled 6,332 in 2018. 

“Earnings have grown, like everywhere,” Gilliam said. “It’s not keeping up with housing prices, but they definitely have grown.” 

Industries that showed the most job growth in the past five years in Coeur d’Alene included: 

• Educational services: 45% increase, from 669 to 968. 

• Professional scientific and technical services: 44% increase, from 3,035 to 4,385, 

• Construction: 36%, from 6,332 to 8,622. 

• Real estate and rental and leasing: 32%, from 1,198 to 1,579 

• Arts, entertainment and recreation: 29%, from 1,982 to 2,565. 

Tourism remains an industry leader.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, Idaho’s $3.7 billion tourism industry employs more than 45,800 Idahoans and generates $475 million in local, state and federal tax revenues. This is equivalent to saving every Idaho household $740 in taxes annually.

“Idaho’s economy is powered by a blend of industries that brings about stability, collaboration and innovation,” according to the Idaho Department of Commerce.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor top employers in Kootenai County are Kootenai Health, the Coeur d’Alene School District, Walmart, Hagadone Hospitality, Kootenai County, Post Falls School District, North Idaho College, Lakeland School District, Coeur d’Alene Casino and Silverwood Theme Park.

The Department of Labor projects that the number of jobs in natural resource and mining in Region One, North Idaho, is expected to decline 10% to 2,249 from 2,511. 

A commerce report said that Idaho is home to the only U.S.-based memory chip maker, Micron Technology, and is the center of Hewlett-Packard’s profitable imaging and printing group, which introduced the HP LaserJet printer. The Idaho National Laboratory designed and constructed the first nuclear reactor to generate usable amounts of electricity.

“Technology and innovation are strong drivers of Idaho’s economy. Perhaps that’s why the number of high-tech companies in the state grew 61% over the past decade. Idaho’s innovation industry continues to push technology boundaries, promote start-ups, and fuel growth and discovery throughout the state,” the report said.

A proposed American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center in the Inland Northwest could be a boon, Gilliam said.

“Manufacturing is really growing here,” she said. 

The Biden administration announced last year it designated 31 technology hubs that are aimed at innovation and job creation. The local entry, a center planned in Spokane to serve the region, including North Idaho, was among roughly 400 applications received. 

Thayne McCulloh, president of Gonzaga University and a leader of a local consortium that formed to support the center’s creation, was pleased they advanced to the next round and possibly landing $40 million to $70 million. 

“I think this is a huge win for the region,” he said. “There is tremendous potential in Eastern Washington and North Idaho for all kinds of amazing things to happen.” 

The center would combine applied education research, workforce training and advanced production, principally located in a 386,000-square-foot repurposed manufacturing facility near Spokane International Airport.

Backers believe it could create thousands of skilled, high-paying jobs and allow locals to keep up with the rising cost of housing. 

Dr. John Mitchell, who taught economics at Boise State University, said some large cities, such as Seattle, are seeing rising office and retail vacancy rates. 

He said the world’s economy is changing, which could be an opportunity in Idaho.

“We are getting the chance to watch a new or different world unfold,” he said.