One year later: Did Idaho's "love letter" attract Washington and Oregon businesses?

Feb 9, 2011

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. So we thought it was a good time to update a story from nearly a year ago. Last March, Idaho Governor Butch Otter penned a "love letter" to Washington and Oregon businesses. He was trying to romance companies into moving to his state.

The governor's pitch

Governor Otter's love letter last year read more like a top list of reasons business owners should divorce Oregon or Washington. He blasted Oregon's tax on high-income earners, and mocked a shortfall in Washington that was bigger than Idaho's entire state budget. After he sent the letter, Otter launched this campaign called "Just Make the Shift."  In a promotional video, he asks:

"Are you looking to relocate your business? Hello I'm Governor Butch Otter inviting you to take a look at Idaho."

Besides the video, the campaign features a website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, direct mail pieces and ads that run in Washington and Oregon. The message is simple says Don Dietrich, head of Idaho's Department of Commerce:

"We're basically adjacent to Washington and Oregon and so why don't you just make the shift across the border and become part of our business community here. We think we've got something better to offer."

Any takers? Idaho claims two

So, has cupid's arrow struck in the heart of any Washington or Oregon businesses? Dietrich claims two love matches over the past year. We can't independently verify it was the "love letter" that did the trick because Dietrich won't name names. He says it's up to the companies to out themselves.

But one he describes as a light manufacturing business that employees five to ten people and moved its entire operation to Idaho. The other is a food processing plant. But Dietrich says that company isn't moving its headquarters:

"Most of these guys don't want to leave. The vast majority are looking at expansions. And the expansions are taking place here as opposed to doing it at home."

Dietrich is proud of Idaho's track record in the 11 months since Governor Otter sent his love letter. But Dietrich admits he's not tracking whether any companies are, in turn, spurning Idaho with a promise of a bit more tender, loving care from another state.