Bieter chides state for economic development policies

Sean Olson//May 29, 2013

Bieter chides state for economic development policies

Sean Olson//May 29, 2013

Boise Mayor David Bieter addresses the Boise Young Professionals at the Arid Club May 28. Bieter pushed for impact fee reform during the speech. Photo courtesy of BYP.

Boise Mayor David Bieter offered sharp criticism to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the economic strategies of his state agencies in a speech before the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Boise Young Professionals group May 28.

Bieter said he was upset the state is marketing itself as a place where businesses can find cheap labor – referencing a tactic the administration has used to lure new firearm and bullet manufacturers to northern Idaho. The pitch is especially tough to swallow, he said, because Idaho is now ranked first in the country for the creation of minimum-wage jobs and 50th in the nation in overall wages.

“We don’t want to race to the bottom. Our economic development strategy shouldn’t be: We’re the lowest; we’re the cheapest. It should be: We have a work ethic unparalleled and we have the skills that you need, so bring your company or grow your company here,” Bieter told the crowd at the Arid Club in a speech he said would mirror some of the points he will make at his June 12 State of the City address.

The mayor also used the speech to continue his push for reforming the Ada County Highway District’s impact fee system and discuss his support for a multi-use sports stadium.

Bieter said the state, and Boise, should try and get the most “high-knowledge” and high-wage jobs it can. He said companies like WhiteCloud Analytics and Balihoo should be what Idaho aspires to, not low-wage, unskilled work. The state’s approach to the firearms industry is the opposite of sound policy, he said.

“That is not the recipe for economic development and economic success,” he said.

Bieter chided ACHD for its impact fee structure. The city administration has been pushing ACHD about the structure, saying ACHD charges huge amounts for infill development, even when improvements aren’t going to be needed for the surrounding area. He used the example of the 8th and Main project, which he said had a $1.6 million impact fee bill that would not cover any improvements that would help the developer.

“Our impact fee situation in the city of Boise is running counter to what good development ought to do,” Bieter said. “That has got to change.”

Officials at ACHD have argued that the impact fees fit well into national averages and that without that structure the county would be unable to keep up with population growth.

Bieter again addressed the possibility of a multiuse sports stadium, but said he favors expanding the convention center operated by the Greater Boise Auditorium District before any district cash can be used for a stadium.

“The priority should be to expand the convention center so we can be more competitive for the markets where we have a chance,” Bieter said, adding that the expansion wouldn’t necessarily take up all of the money available – $50 million within a couple of years, by some estimates – for capital projects.

“I think there could be some more left over as a seed for a stadium, a multiuse stadium that can really be a great community amenity and drive some more (economic) activity,” Bieter said.