Pocatello, Idaho -

Eastern Idahoans had a chance to ask experts direct questions about important economic issues.

The issues included everything from the INL, growing a local business and even questions about national issues like Medicaid.

The panel of officials ranged from Bear Lake County, Power County and Fort Hall, as well as the Pocatello/Chubbuck area.

"It's bringing in a lot of different folks from the area, from different agencies, organizations, businesses" said Dan Cravens, economist with the Idaho Department of Labor. "So it's going to be a really interesting mix."

Cravens, co-moderator, said he felt it was important for people to attend because of the good information you could get from the panelists.

"(They can) maybe provide feedback to individuals or economic development directors, folks from the Idaho Department of Commerce, folks on the government side of things onto what they think would help and benefit economic development," said Cravens.

A familiar face among the panelists said that one thing eastern Idaho does well is work together.

"By using all our agencies together we can be very, very successful and I think when we find successes in any place in eastern Idaho a lot of it is due to the collaboration that we can put together, getting everybody on the same page," Former Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase said.

Chase said Idaho has one of the highest numbers of people who work for minimum wage, as well as a median income among the lowest in the nation.

"Those are not good statistics and I think one of the things that I'll talk about today is that it's important we recruit companies that are going to pay good livable wages with benefits,” Chase stated. “You really need those to make a community survive."

Chase also pointed out that businesses that work with numerous agencies in the area tend to be more successful.

"If you're just a business, I think it's very important that you understand what people are doing for economic development,” Chase said. “Because again, I believe very strongly that the concept that makes us very successful is we, not just talking about me."

Turnout was much higher than expected, and though the event was supposed to run only from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., people were leaving around 10 p.m. still deep in discussion after the event. Panelists said this was a good sign that so many people are taking a personal interest in the local economy.

Dan Cravens also said this was the first time anything like this has happened in Pocatello in the three years that he's been a resident of eastern Idaho.