What is a city? Is it a collection of people with commerce as the unifying force? That certainly was the start of most cities, and Boise attributes its inception and growth to the railroad, natural resources and icons such as Albertsons, Morrison Knudsen, Boise Cascade, Simplot, Micron and Hewlett-Packard.
However, cities are alive and organic, and they change due to a variety of forces, not simply commerce alone. Their future is determined by vision, leadership, cooperation and something special.
A bird’s-eye view of the city and its undeveloped and underdeveloped space provides a glimpse into the potential for growth. The development of Eighth & Main and JUMP are important milestones and are to be applauded. But these projects are just the beginning of what can and must be achieved if Boise is going to compete for the talent necessary to sustain its future.
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently wrote:
“For cities to have sustained success, they must compete for the grand prize: Intellectual capital and talent. I have long believed that talent attracts capital far more effectively and consistently than capital attracts talent. The most creative individuals want to live in places that protect personal freedoms, prize diversity and offer an abundance of cultural opportunities. A city that wants to attract creators must offer a fertile breeding ground for new ideas and innovations.” (Emphasis added)
Our community leadership has an opportunity to embrace innovative new ideas and the ability to clear a path towards an exciting future for the city. The mayor and city council have started to move forward in addressing improvements, public safety and public services. The Greater Boise Auditorium District has released its draft outline of the “Recommended Content of Proposals” as an impetus to bring about an open and collaborative decision making process inclusive of Capital City Development Corporation, Ada County Highway District, Boise Valley Economic Partnership and others who have put forth plans and ideas, and have started development of community assets.
But there must be more than simply leadership. In order to compete with the cities in our region and our nation, a new emphasis is required: one of cooperation. Marc Johnson, of Gallatin Public Affairs, wrote in April 2013, “Idaho’s convoluted and fragmented system of local government entities almost ensures that nothing much will happen unless all the local players find a way to get on the same page.”
To develop the live/work/play resources, the arts, architecture, education and culture necessary to attract and retain this new human capital will require unprecedented collaboration and cooperation by and between each of these stakeholders in the community and by the members of the community itself. The decision to collaborate and cooperate (or not) will likely determine whether Boise regains and retains its vibrancy from the heyday of its leadership heritage and makes the leap to an energetic and interconnected mosaic of diversity, commerce and abundant culture.
Perhaps the city needs a nongovernment entity to serve as a clearinghouse for the planning work being independently performed by all stakeholders. All of the final approvals would still have to cross the desks of the decision-makers. But the organizing group could develop the strategic controls necessary to keep several groups from duplicating effort.
I’ve not yet found a community that’s doing something like this. However, there is a success story in Grand Rapids, Mich., that has some of the key components for such a process.
Leadership and cooperation are imperative to build a robust city that addresses the needs of the community. They’re critical to attracting the new energy that will drive the future of Boise. The human capital that embraces creativity today will be attracted to a city that is vital and alive with art, education, design, technology and forward-thinking industry.
This is the opportunity to do something “cool, creative and in control” in Idaho’s capital city. Let’s do it. Now. Together.
Kim J. Trout is managing member of Trout Law, PLLC. Kim specializes in business, real estate and litigation-related matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.