Idaho is often regarded a 'fly over state' – meaning it is passed over. But Jeffery Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, told attendees at the Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, DC on March 23 to 24 that Idaho “is full of surprises”, citing the fact that the US Bureau of Economic Analysis ranks the state as having the fifth highest growth rate in the US, and the fact that it is home to expanding companies from France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Japan and Canada. Its growing sectors, he said, include agribusiness, plastics, agri-technology and energy.

Take Frulact Group, for example. The Portuguese company, which produces fruit-based preparations for international food industries, last year chose Rupert, Idaho as the site of its first FDI project, a $30m manufacturing deal. Other companies in Idaho include Japan’s Setouchi Holdings, which purchased local aircraft manufacturer Quest Aircraft; France-based Materne Industries, which developed a $85m food processing plant in the state, and Ireland’s Glanbia Foods, which was involved in a $82m expansion.

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While Idaho has long been associated with potatoes, Mr Sayer stressed that food production in Idaho is extremely advanced. “Glanbia operates the largest yogurt manufacturing plant in the world in Idaho Falls,” he said. 

Last year Agropur, Canada’s largest dairy co-operative, acquired Davisco Foods International, which has a large cheese processing plant in Jerome, Idaho. Other international companies expanding in Idaho include Canada’s McCain Foods, France’s Lactalis, and German's Nunhems. Known as the US’s most diverse food basket, southern Idaho secured a record-setting seven FDI projects in 10 months last year, including new investments from food giants Chobani, Monsanto, Clif Bar and Frulact Group, as well as expansions of Glanbia Foods, McCain Foods and Calva/Brewster.

Plastic is Idaho’s second largest cluster. “The growth here is in food-grade plastics,” said Jan Rogers, executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organisation. “Wheat straw and soy straw is the base material, and we have plenty of wheat straw.” Another draw for plastics manufacturers is the cost benefits of located in Idaho. “We have among the lowest energy costs in the US,” said Ms Rogers.