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Austad is new Ida-Lew ED specialist

Jessaca Austad is the new Ida-Lew economic development specialist. She is seen here outside the door of her Grangeville office, located above the Grangeville Post Office.

Photo by Lorie Palmer
Jessaca Austad is the new Ida-Lew economic development specialist. She is seen here outside the door of her Grangeville office, located above the Grangeville Post Office.

— Jessaca Austad has found her niche.

Austad started her new job as Idaho-Lew Economic Development Specialist June 1.

“I love this job – every day I think, ‘I get paid to do this!’” she smiled from her office above the Grangeville Post Office on Main Street.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, and raised in Northern Idaho at Rathdrum, Austad knew she wanted to better her life at an early age.

“My mom was a single mother, raising my three brothers and me, and she worked two or more jobs to do it,” she said.

Austad worked her way through high school and college, majored in business, and went to work for State Farm Insurance. She worked in their business planning office at the state level for eight years. It was through this job that she, divorced and the mother of two young children, met Marty Willis of Grangeville. Willis is a State Farm agent.

“We fell in love on a mountain, hunting,” she smiled.

After more than a year of dating, she and her two children, age 6 and 10, moved to Grangeville. She worked for a time for architect Rhonda Wemhoff and also for M&K Cleaning.

“When I applied for this job, I knew it was my dream job,” she said.

As an ED specialist, Austad works closely with city council members and county commissioners as well as other governmental agencies, Idaho Department of Labor and CEDA (Clearwater Economic Development Association) throughout Idaho and Lewis counties. Her goal is to not only be a networking agent for existing businesses, but also try to help bring business to the area. This can be accomplished in several ways, from finding commercial space for out-of-area businesses to helping an existing member of the area start a business to assisting in a business’s desire to expand.

“There are so many resources available for employee retention, training and more,” she said. “I want to help in any way I can.”

She will also be a help to non-profits and even seniors who may need assistance with small home additions or renovations to help them live independently.

Because she herself came from “very meager means,” she said. Austad is hoping to connect with the townspeople and win their trust.

“I do understand what it’s like to live with very little,” she said. “I would love to help people end that cycle and rise above it.”

Employee retention is something she has been working on for local businesses, she said, and knows some of the issues are simply life skills training.

“Not everyone knows what is expected of them at a workplace,” she said. “I can help with explaining and training those expectations.”

Austad is also on the lookout for grant funds that may help existing businesses achieve their goals.

When she isn’t working, Austad enjoys being in the outdoors with her family and playing sports as well as coaching. Willis has two children, ages 8 and 12, and all four of their kids attend Sts. Peter and Paul School. Austad has volunteered there in several positions and has spent time coaching basketball.

“I played every sport in high school – volleyball, basketball and softball – and also rodeoed and later played indoor soccer,” she said. “I enjoy all those sporting activities as well as golf, hunting, horseback riding and camping.”

Austad invites anyone with questions to stop by her office (call first as she travels frequently) at 300 West Main Street, Suite 201, ask questions and visit with her about what assistance she can offer. Call her at 983-8302 or e-mail Log onto


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