Women entrepreneurs are key to Idaho’s economic success, driving much of the extraordinary economic growth Idaho has experienced over the last decade. In the last two years, 621 new women-owned businesses have opened their doors in the state of Idaho, fueling our economy and making our communities more vibrant. Women now own nearly 5,000 businesses and employ over 36,000 Idahoans, paying out more than $1 billion in salaries and wages to Idahoans.
To fully capitalize on America’s current economic climate, it is vital that Idaho’s women entrepreneurs are fully equipped to compete in and contribute to the nation’s economy. In recent years, Idaho has been without a women’s business center (WBC). WBCs provide tools and resources to female entrepreneurs to help them create thriving businesses, and as I dealt with the WBC program, it occurred to me that perhaps there was a disconnect between the program and rural states like ours. That’s why as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I made a promise to re-establish the Idaho Women’s Business Center to serve female entrepreneurs in every corner of the state.
To carry out my promise, I met with multiple community stakeholders and successfully urged former Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator McMahon to reopen the application process. Through conversations with Idahoans and the SBA, I realized that a more collaborative, state-wide approach for a WBC would better serve Idaho’s women business owners. We needed a model that would deliver assistance to women entrepreneurs throughout the state, not just to those living in a single county or large city. With this in mind, I worked with the SBA over the next few years to tailor the program to succeed in Idaho. I made this a top priority because I believe when women succeed in business, our labor force is made stronger and our communities are made healthier. Today, I am proud to announce that we delivered on the promise to bring a WBC back to Idaho.
I have full confidence that the Idaho Women’s Business Center will equip female business leaders in the Gem State with the tools they need to start and grow their businesses. Thanks to the partnership between the University of Idaho and the Idaho Hispanic Foundation, the Idaho WBC will not only serve Idaho’s urban centers, but will also provide services tailored to our rural communities. Resources such as one-on-one counseling and access to training and seminars will help female entrepreneurs across Idaho capitalize on ideas, start businesses, and create jobs.
I congratulate the Idaho Hispanic Foundation and the University of Idaho for their commitment to host the Center at this critical time for Idaho, and I look forward to working with the WBC to advance new ideas and help more women-owned businesses flourish in our state.
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has been a U.S. Senator since 2009.