BOISE, Idaho — Idaho achieved a notable distinction last year: It became one of the hardest places in America for someone to quit a job for a better one.
The state did this by making it easier for companies to enforce noncompete agreements, which prevent employees from leaving their company for a competitor.
While its economy is known for agriculture — potatoes are among the state’s biggest exports — Idaho has a long history as a technology hub. And the new law landed in the middle of the tech world, causing a clash between hungry start-ups looking to poach employees and more established companies that want to lock their people in place.
“We’re trying to build the tech ecosystem in Boise,” said George Mulhern, chief executive of Cradlepoint, a company here that makes routers and other networking equipment. “And anything that would make somebody not want to move here or start a company here is going to slow down our progress.”
Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a trade group that represents many of the state’s biggest employers, countered: “This is about companies protecting their assets in a competitive marketplace.”
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Versions of this clash have played out nationwide, as state lawmakers consider whether to make it easier or harder for companies to block workers from jumping to competitors. Both sides in the debate, which bridges party lines, say they are trying to create an environment in which local businesses can thrive.
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