Boise’s unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.4 percent, slightly above the national average. With talk of a double dip recession, it does not appear that the unemployment rate will be dropping significantly any time soon. So, during these difficult times, how do we generate jobs and put people back to work in Boise? Well, as we all know, there are several ways including incentivizing companies to move here or growing new businesses organically.
Bringing businesses to Boise is a great approach but it can also be a daunting task. Cities across the country (as well as internationally) are competing fiercely for companies that are looking to move from their current venues. And, without attractive tax incentives and benefits, it is difficult for smaller cities to compete against bigger cities for those few companies that are willing to move.
That leaves smaller cities with having to find ways to create jobs organically. Unfortunately, that’s not such an easy task either. To create a culture of innovation, it takes a long-term, concerted effort by both the public and private sectors working together to bring its local talent and organizations together to accomplish such an endeavor. In short, there is no quick fix.
One local organization (Boise Young Professionals Group (BYP)), a program of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, appears to have developed a creative way to start and grow businesses and hopefully put more people to work. And, they are seeking to accomplish this mission critical task by simply tapping their large talented pool of young professionals and connecting them to successful entrepreneurs. At its core, it entails leveraging the city’s intellectual capital and incentivizing them to come up with sustainable and viable companies that will be located in Boise.
On September 7, a new program called b|launched debuted through BYP. The first annual program essentially matches five successful Boise entrepreneurs with up to 50 talented local Boise young professionals with the goal of creating at least two new start-up companies this year.
Here is how it will work: The b|launched program will recruit up to 50 people from the BYP pool of talented young professionals. These young professionals will be divided into five teams comprised of one local successful entrepreneur and 10 talented young professionals – diverse in skill and background. Each team will meet for three months in a think tank atmosphere focused on developing a creative and sustainable business idea. The groups will then compete against each other for initial funding. All five local entrepreneurs have contributed initial seed funding to launch the two most sustainable companies. Each participant will have an ownership stake in the funded company.
What makes this program different from others? First, five seasoned and successful entrepreneurs have agreed to fund and lead a team of young professionals from concept to company. In other words, these former and current CEO’s are taking a significant amount of time from their personal endeavors to assist in establishing a company with a group of other individuals and are committed to teaching them what they know. Second, the object of the program is to start a company from scratch; this means that each individual will be involved in the idea creation process as well as the formation and subsequent growth of a company. This is highly unusual since individuals typically join pre-established companies and are never involved in the actual idea creation process. Third, each of these young companies will receive critical assistance from community stalwarts such as Perkins Coie LLC and Key Bank.
How does this help our community? The program will train up to 50 people on how to start a company. These young professionals will work with local entrepreneurs (that have already done it or are doing it) in the creative process as well as development of the product and company. These individuals will also be educated on aspects of business development that simply cannot be learned in a classroom.
Given the economic downturn, cities need to encourage and foster a local culture of innovation. Cities need to train their young professionals on how to develop entrepreneurial skills; not only for their own personal growth but also for the potential contribution they can make to their respective communities. It does not mean that an ambitious program like this one can turn around any struggling economy, but one company with sustainable growth can make a big difference in a city like Boise. That is the goal.
At the end of the day, there is an absolute imperative for cities to come up with creative solutions that will help generate jobs for its local citizens. This program will hopefully create the impetus that will allow Boise to develop more innovators that will make significant contributions to this community.
Faisal Shah founded MarkMonitor, Inc., a company that protects brands, reputation and revenue from online risks. In 2006, Mr. Shah also founded FTF Technologies, Inc. (also known as First to File), a web-based patent prosecution and management service.