When Empire Airlines President and CEO Tim Komberec first began to look at corporate relocation and expansion in 2003, he wasn't even considering Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Well-courted by the much larger, international airport just over the border in Spokane, Washington with a longer list of facilities and at first glance, services, Komberec's focus was drawn away by a phone call.
"I hadn't considered Coeur d'Alene at all until they contacted us," said Komberec.
"They" were airport manager Greg Delevan and Jobs Plus, a.k.a. the Coeur d'Alene Area Economic Development Corporation. Soon other players eagerly and efficiently combined to compile a full proposal to address Empire's concerns and offer incentives, including the State of Idaho, Kootenai County, and of course the airport's board of directors. Coeur d'Alene Airport (COE) is owned by the county and operates under a local advisory board.
Komberec said the nonprofit Jobs Plus' full range of corporate relocation services provided Empire not only with more information about the relative benefits of relocating his business operations to North Idaho, they also surprised him. Komberec said Idaho's team showed more flexibility, high energy, and quicker action putting together a proposal which met Empire's needs - for both corporate and airport facilities. They instilled in him a confidence that Coeur d'Alene could deliver, as compared with competing Spokane, in what Komberec called "a horse race" between the two cities.
In addition to meeting Empire's needs, Idaho proved to be a better choice financially.
"Idaho is still cheaper than Washington State is, from a taxing and regulatory standpoint," said Komberec, who added he saved 60 jobs and soon developed 40 more as a result of Empire's location choice. Empire now has 293 employees and plans to hire more.
Empire's growth has been steadily impressive. What began in 1977 as modest Clearwater Flying Service in Orofino, Idaho soon grew into a major corporation with operations all over the western United States and British Columbia. Throughout its history Empire's business has included fire patrol, transport, air ambulance, air pollution monitoring, charters and flight instruction, commuter service, aircraft sales and maintenance. Its current focus is air freight, including major contracts with such companies as Fedex and Horizon Air.
Komberec was so impressed with Jobs Plus' business relocation services he became a member, joining the board of directors in 2010. A dedicated believer in the broad benefits of active regional business development, he is also on Idaho's Economic Advisory Board, which gives grants for economic development and job creation, and active in COE operations as a member of boards of the growing airport and the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association.
Finally, Komberec said a factor that can't be overlooked is quality of life. Compared with other corporate relocation options, this successful business owner believes Coeur d'Alene's natural beauty and Idaho's business-friendly and comfortable lifestyle continually confirm his choice.
"Every day I get to drive out here to go to work, I don't regret it."
© Coeur d'Alene Area Economic Development Corporation 2011
Story by: Sholeh Patrick, Correspondent
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