Opportunity Machine

[City of Twin Falls Parks and Recreation Logo]

TWIN FALLS - Twin Falls, the largest and unofficial capital of the 6-county Magic Valley region of south-central Idaho, is no stranger to HUD's Community Development Block Grant program. Indeed, the program's been an "opportunity machine" for the community.

According to The Times News, since 2011 the City of Twin Falls has competed for and won some $1.5 million" in CDBG funds awarded by the Idaho Department of Commerce which, as the balance-of-state CEBG entitlement community, receives about $10 million a year from HUD to insure that, as required by statute, the state's smaller cities and towns benefit from the CDBG program. Twin Falls has used CDBG to expand its economy by helping create the infrastructure for manufacturing plants opened by Chobani (www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/11/09/yogurt-maker-chobani-expanding-tiny-town-twin-falls-idaho/848727001), the world's largest producer of Greek yogurt, and Clif Bars, probably best known for its lines of organic nutrition and energy bars.

"You couldn't find a better place" than Twin Falls, said then-Governor Jay "Butch" Otter (www.capitalpress.com/state/idaho/clif-bar-cuts-ribbon-on-sustainable-bakery/article_8bc95d74-0d5f-53da-960c-adf96a16e5e3.html) at Clif Bar's ribbon cutting, "to cook your biscuits," Nor, maybe, a better way to create opportunity. When Chobani opened its doors, USA Today referred in its headline to Twin Falls as "tiny." Not anymore.

Where you find job growth, population growth won't be far behind. When their production lines ramped-up, Chobani and Clif Bars brought some 500 new jobs to Twin Falls. And both expected to hire still more. Those jobs have helped nudge Twin Falls population, says the U.S. Census, above 50,000 residents.

That's a big deal and, for Twin Falls, another big opportunity. Under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, cities with 50,000 or more residents can request, at their discretion, to be designated by HUD as one of more than 1,100 CDBG entitlement communities. What that means is that as long as Congress appropriates funding for the CDBG, those 1,100 communities are guaranteed a seat or share of the dollars it designates for CDBG entitlement communities.

As of September 2019, there were 9 CDBG entitlement communities in Idaho – Boise, Caldwell, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Meridian, Nampa, Pocatello and, as mentioned earlier, the Idaho Department of Commerce "balance of state." With vote on October 7th, reported KPVI-TV, the City Council of Twin Falls decided to become the 10th.

The City estimates entitlement status will generate about $342,000 a year in CDBG funding for a wide variety of eligible community development projects. Over the last eight years it's won $1.5 million from the "balance of state." As an entitlement community it can expect to generate that amount in just four years. Better still, it won't have to cross its fingers and compete every year against an estimate 193 other Idaho small cities and towns when it wants CDBG funds. As long as Congress appropriates, Twin Falls receives.

And best of all, the City of Twin Falls and its citizens – not bureaucrats in Boise or Washington, D.C. – decide how and where and when those CDBG dollars get spent. Yes, under statute, there are strings attached to the use of CDBG funds. But as long as projects principally benefit persons of low and moderate income, the list of eligible activities is a long one. For the past 50 years, CDBG has been synonymous with flexible and locally-driven decision-making.

"At its core, HUD's CDBG program is all about giving communities the resources to help them chart and control their own destinies," said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Jeff McMorris. "We're pleased earlier CDBG funding has helped enable Twin Falls to be in a position to do precisely that. We welcome Twin Falls to the community of HUD entitlement communities."


Content Archived: February 1, 2021