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Nez Perce County Comprehensive Plan


Economic Development


Growth and development of a community are closely tied to economic development policies. This component of the plan examines employment, income, industries, businesses and population trends and presents related policies for future, beneficial economic development in Nez Perce County.

The purpose of this component is to provide Nez Perce County decision-makers with goals and policies that recognize the value of businesses to the community and the importance of a quality community to new business development.

Nez Perce County's economic development policies build upon the following:

  • The unique strengths and characteristics of the Nez Perce County area;
  • The role of Nez Perce County as a regional retail and tourism center;
  • Its strategic location along the Idaho State Highway 95 corridor;
  • Service by the Port Districts of Lewiston and Clarkston; and
  • Its agricultural tradition.

The economy of the unincorporated and rural areas of the county is principally based upon agriculture, forestry and livestock. However, these areas are dependent upon economic centers - towns and cities - to provide goods, services and employment opportunities. Towns and cities also provide necessary market and transportation outlets for their products. Consequently urban economic conditions are an important planning consideration, where they will have an impact on growth, development and economic health in the rural areas.



Click for Table 3-1
(Agricultural Data)
Agricultural Data

Agriculture, including forestry and livestock raising, provides the financial mainstay for the majority of rural residents in Nez Perce County (Table 3-1). The number of farms has decreased over the past 33 years. In 1964 there were 605 farms, averaging 946 acres in size. By 1992, the number of farms had declined to 345, averaging 1385 acres (Figure 3-1).

Nez Perce County is a major wheat growing area of the state, producing from 5 percent to 8 percent of the state's entire wheat production each year. Most areas of the county receive relatively limited precipitation, and production consequently can vary markedly during the year, depending upon the characteristics of the growing season. (Fig 3-1)

Industry and Commerce

Click for Figure 3-1
(Number of Farms vs. Farm Size)
Number of Farms vs. Farm Size

Lewiston and the neighboring City of Clarkston, Washington, make up the industrial and trade center of the region that includes North Central Idaho, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon. Major firms that export from the area include Potlatch Corporation, a producer of paper products, plywood and lumber; Blount, Inc., a manufacturer of firearm ammunition; and several food products, publishing and machinery industries. In 1995, Nez Perce County listed 7,375 manufacturing employees.

Nez Perce County is the location of Idaho's only seaport, the Port of Lewiston. The port lies 465 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean along the Columbia/Snake River systems. The Port of Lewiston specializes in intermodal transportation: barge, rail and truck. Assets range from the region's largest warehouse on navigable waters to a large inventory of commercial "containers" suited for any kind of cargo or commodity imaginable.


The economy of an area is heavily dependent upon the size and type of labor force that exists within the area. Future planning for an area requires some insight as to the composition and the anticipated growth of the labor force in order to provide for future expansion commercial and industrial activities.

Table 3-2 shows employment statistics for 1985 and 1990, and projects anticipated future employment through 2015. In 1990, the manufacturing industry was the major employer with wholesale and retail trade close behind. The 1979 Nez Perce County Comprehensive Plan projected that trade industry employment would outpace manufacturing employment by the year 1990. However, manufacturing employment has kept ahead of trade employment and is projected to grow steadily through 2015.

Click for Table 3-2
(Employment Forecast
by Industry)

Employment Forecast by Industry

Table 3-3 shows projections of total employment within the five county region from 1990 to the year 2015. It shows that Nez Perce County has the largest labor force within the region, accounting for 46 percent of the regional labor force in 1990 with the same figure projected for 2015.

Figure 3-2 shows Nez Perce County unemployment trends over the past several years. Nez Perce County's unemployment percentage decreased dramatically between 1985 and 1990 dropping below the state's percent-unemployed rate in 1990. This remarkable change is consistent with a statewide trend. The reason for the drop locally may be attributed to Nez Perce County becoming a regional hub for medical services and retail shopping. Prior to 1985 many county residents traveled north to Spokane, WA for these services. The unemployment rates in recent and current years, 1996 and 1997, are low, indicating close to full employment in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.


Idaho's economic outlook shows the state's economy growing through the end of the 1990s, but at a much slower pace than during the first half of the decade. Total employment in Idaho, which includes agriculture, mining, government, transportation, communications and utilities, wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance and real estate, and services are forecasted to increase at an annual rate of 2.2% over the 1998-2015 period. The state's agricultural employment is forecasted to decline a modest rate of -0.1% per year. This decline is consistent with, but much slower than, national agricultural employment trends of -1.2% per year.

Total nonagricultural employment, the most common and comparable measure of employment, is expected to increase at an annual average compounded rate of 1.98% in the state over the 1995 to 2015 period, producing gains of nearly 229,000 jobs in the next 25 years (Idaho Power).

In the Idaho manufacturing sectors, employment growth is projected for food processing, electrical and non-electrical machinery, fabricated metals and publishing and printing.

Click for Table 3-3
(Area Employment Forecast)
Area Employment Forecast
Click for Figure 3-2
(Unemployment Trend)
Unemployment Trend

The non-manufacturing employment categories of wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance and real estate, contract construction, and services are forecasted to experience strong growth.

Locally, the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, Clarkston Chamber of Commerce and Valley Vision 2001, a non-profit corporation, encourage and promote diversification of the Lewis-Clark Valley economy. Valley Vision 2001 is a public-private partnership of more than 200 investor members from throughout the Lewis-Clark Valley. Its purpose is to provide retention and expansion services to local companies from outside the region in establishing operations or outsourcing arrangements within the Valley.

Actions to attract new industries to the Nez Perce County area will depend on the local "quality of life", education opportunities for employees, and an available work force. Transportation facilities, cultural events, medical care, education, and retail shopping are other criteria prospective businesses will consider in site selection. A local economy dependent on a number of major employers will be less affected by cyclic fluctuations in major economic sectors.

While pursuing economic development policies and actions, it is noteworthy that the following state and national employment trends may affect Nez Perce County's economic development focus:

  • Continuing increases in retail trade, services and manufacturing employment;
  • Moderate increase in government employment;
  • Moderate increase in finance, insurance and real estate sectors;
  • Moderate increase in transportation, communications, and utilities;
  • Increasing number of single female heads-of-household with one or more jobs;
  • Increasing number of retired workers re-entering the casual labor market;
  • Increasing number of multiple wage earners per household and continued expansion of entry-level and low skilled positions; and
  • Increasing labor participation rate for females.


Goal Statement:

To maintain Nez Perce County's proportionate share of the economy of Idaho State and the region, through selective economic growth programs.


  1. Nez Perce County should promote the expansion of its present employment base by encouraging the development of additional diversified industries that minimize pollution of Nez Perce County's environment.
  2. Nez Perce County should support economic programs that will stimulate interest in developing new industry.
  3. Nez Perce County should encourage industrial expansion and development that will more completely utilize our present labor force skills.
  4. Nez Perce County should encourage the establishment of new basic industries that will utilize more of our renewable resources in the local area, while minimizing impacts on the natural environment.
  5. Nez Perce County should encourage diversification of our agricultural base.
  6. Nez Perce County should encourage a greater and more diversified use of port facilities.
  7. Nez Perce County should encourage development of industries that can make greater use of bulk shipping capability available through barge transportation.
  8. Nez Perce County should encourage the establishment of water transport-oriented leased warehouse facilities.
  9. Nez Perce County should encourage the further development of port facilities to provide a greater trans-shipment service.
  10. Nez Perce County should encourage economic activities that:
    1. Are clean and minimize pollution;
    2. Will reduce the need for county residents to commute out of the area;
    3. Will maintain the county's fiscal stability; and
    4. Will provide high quality employment opportunities.
  11. Nez Perce County should encourage higher education and vocational and technical institutions that provide important employment and training skills for local residents and businesses.
  12. Nez Perce County should support the development of transportation improvements that will encourage and support business.
  13. Nez Perce County should work cooperatively with area chambers of commerce and economic development organizations that promote increased economic activity in North Central Idaho and the Nez Perce County region.

Economic Strategy Chart


Planning & Building
Office Location
Brammer Building
1225 Idaho Street
Lewiston, ID 83501

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 896
Lewiston, ID 83501



Alison Tompkins

E-mail Alison

Building Official

Kile Allen

E-mail Kile

Senior Customer Service Specialist

Cody Lorentz

E-mail Cody

Planning & Zoning

Commission Chairman

Frank Dillon

Vice Chairman

Shawn Wentworth


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