Industry stakeholders share current, future look at workforce, growth, and more at Forum on the Future event

Alx Stevens//December 22, 2022

Industry stakeholders share current, future look at workforce, growth, and more at Forum on the Future event

Alx Stevens//December 22, 2022

Panelists tackled the (possibly) most pressing issues facing many, if not most, industries today — recruiting and retaining talent as Idaho continues to grow, with some pains — during Idaho Business Review’s annual Forum on the Future event, which intends to address the important issues business leaders need to know as they enter a new year. Two panel discussions offered the insights of nine business leaders representing various industries. What follows is a snapshot of those discussions.  

The Importance of Corporate Culture and the Value of Human Capital

Ryan Schulze speaks during Idaho Business Review’s annual Forum on the Future event, held Dec. 8 at Boise Centre. Fellow panelists Rob Graham, Jody Nelson and Sara Newton-Klitz and moderator Cindy Suffa listen. Photo by Pete Grady Photography

Culture is key, but what might that look like day to day for a business? It starts with leadership, as Jody Nelson and Ryan Schulze underscored. Nelson, with Lysi Bishop Real Estate, was part a cultural transformation with her company, and Schulze, with Business Interiors of Idaho (now Freeform), saw his company examine culture closely as it recently acquired another business and underwent B-Corp certification.  

“When I arrived, we were a company of really hard workers; there wasn’t a lot of cohesiveness…there wasn’t a lot of culture that was built yet,” Nelson described. “First, (we identified), ‘What is the culture that we want,’ talking as a group, getting on the same page as an executive team to make sure we were all speaking the same language, and then we had to communicate that message to our team, because it was going to be a shift of how we showed up daily…” 

“When you change, and when you’re trying to incorporate additional change into a culture, there’s storming, norming and then performing,” Nelson explained. “What I found helpful is talking as a team, laying the expectations out in front of everyone, together, then (meeting) individually with each team member…(seeing if) those align with you as a person right now. If not, that’s OK…” 

“People feel the culture,” Schulze said, explaining that while the acquired company was known for being a good company, there was still a coming together around culture at the merging of employees. “It took a lot of hours from our leadership team. Ultimately, we all knew we were headed in the same direction, so we were able to work through those differences.”  

His advice for companies in a similar situation: “Plan early, and expect that the plan is not going to happen like you think it is going to happen…and make sure the right people are in the room for those conversations…you’re going to get through all those speedbumps.” 

Freeform and Lysi Bishop Real Estate also share holding importance to values, a key element of culture, as Robert Graham, with Express Employment Professionals, stated. That can play a key role in hiring and retaining talent as well, Graham said, and he agreed the storming and norming is necessary when undergoing culture changes and defining of values. 

“When it comes to culture, if you haven’t defined that, then the rest of the steps don’t even come into play,” Graham said, further explaining that if current employees don’t know what the company’s values are, then they don’t know if their individual values align with those of the company. That extends to challenges in recruiting as well, for similar reasons. 

“When I’m advising businesses on what they’ve got to develop, it starts with culture,” Graham said. “Then figure out if you’ve got the right people in the right seats.” 

Speaking to finding employees, Sara Newton-Klitz, with Micron, shared that as the company is planning to expand in Boise, it is looking to non-traditional pathways to recruit workers. 

“Historically, we’ve always gone after, I would say the traditional pathway…students who are maybe seeking a two-year degree, a four-year degree,” she said. “If we’re going to be able to scale and be able to support the expansion…If we’re really all going to be successful (in) this, we are going to need to open up to nontraditional pathways.” 

One of those new pathways is a recently launched registered apprenticeship program, in partnership with the College of Western Idaho. 

Another, which Newton-Klitz described as a much more formal program, is a pathway for veterans. The intention is to provide pathways for the military servicemen and women who are transitioning from military into industry. 

“With the jobs at Micron, jobs and roles within the military actually have a very high transferable rate,” she explained. “And so, for us, we want to make sure that we’re saying, ‘You’re going to get credit for the great work you did in the military, for all of the education and the training received there. And that’s applicable to Micron in these ways.” 

Panelist Neil Nelson speaks as fellow panelists Justin Fredin, Beth Ineck, Jim Shipman and Matt Stoll listen. Idaho Business Review hosted its Forum on the Future event at Boise Centre. Photo by Pete Grady Photography

Planning for Strategic Growth 

So, what does current access to human capital look like? 

Beth Ineck, with Boise Valley Economic Partnership, presented recent statistics as a snapshot: 

  • The Boise metropolitan statistical area is projected to exceed 1 million people in 2033. 
  • Boise’s growth rate has been 24% between the 2010 and 2020 census, “significantly more than any of our metro counterparts across the country.” 
  • There was 3.3% growth between 2020 and 2021, with about 26,000 people moving into the area, or “around 70 people a day have moved into the region.” 
  • In 2020, it is estimated 68% of that in-migration is from California; Washington followed at 11%. 
  • In 2021, the area saw an abnormal drop in net migration (in-migration and migration out) of those aged 20-34. 

“One of our biggest concerns,” Ineck said, “in that 20-34 is our biggest loss was in the specific age group of 25-29.” 

About 1,000 people were lost in that age range, but there was an increase of 3,000 for those aged 30-34. 

“So, certainly thinking about housing affordability and how that plays a role in these numbers on the net migration,” Ineck added. 

What could that mean for the area’s future? 

Neil Nelson, with ESI, and Jim Shipman, with Colliers, both spoke to some housing trends and projections in the construction and real estate sectors. 

Shipman, in short, said that the area can take a lot more, and needs more, multifamily housing, which will not only service some of those in the 20-34 age group, but some of the retiree-age group as well. 

“Affordable housing affects everybody,” Shipman said, while agreeing with Ineck that the area’s current housing situation might be contributing to some of that migration out. 

“It’s a weird dynamic right now,” Nelson said, “because with single-family pausing or new home starts hitting the brakes…we saw Beth’s numbers on growth, and that really hasn’t stopped. It’s unprecedented times to make deals work.” 

This is in part attributed to instability around construction costs and changing rent and interest rates. 

Justin Fredin, with Hawley Troxell, spoke to some different challenges, current and future, for the multifamily sector.

All Forum on the Future panelists returned to the stage for a Q & A session with the audience. Photo by Pete Grady Photography

“As Jim indicated, the unfortunate fact is that multifamily housing often faces significant headwinds in being built or developed,” Fredin said, adding that those challenges go beyond a neighborly resistance to such developments. He explained as attorneys, the common challenges he and his peers see are around regulations. 

“I think a number of changes could be made that would help facilitate greater construction of multifamily housing,” Fredin said. “We’re seeing, for example, the city of Boise is reexamining its zoning ordinances. Obviously, it’s very much still a work in progress, but some of the proposals are encouraging…reducing minimum lot sizes, reducing parking requirements…increasing the number of permitted uses, which means fewer projects having to go through special use permits, conditional use permits…” 

“So, I certainly don’t want to oversimplify things,” he added, “but I think the fact is, if you want to see more multifamily housing, increasing the number of locations where it can go and making it cheaper and easier to build go a long way.” 

Building on the conversation around multifamily, and looking ahead at additional growth, Matt Stoll, with the Community Planning Association of Idaho (commonly called COMPASS), stated that he has learned while many dislike high-density, what is disliked more tends to be sprawl. 

“We’re going to have to realize, as a community or region, how we want to develop,” he said. “It’s not an issue of whether we will grow or not, but how will we grow.” 

He gave examples of guiding plans: comprehensive plans for local cities and his organization’s long-range planning process for the area’s transportation systems. And in those plans, he added, developments like multifamily can be strategically planned for. Once that’s done, he continued, the next step is to explain to the current citizens in the area how those projects pencil out and are intended to be beneficial to the community as a whole. 

When it comes to transportation, Stoll said Treasure Valley residents can expect to see a number of projects in specific communities. He pointed out that while people may not be commuting for work as much, they are driving, for example, while running errands or attending events. Going forward, a challenge will continue to be funding. 

“Even with what the Legislature has done in 2015, 2017 and 2021, which was significant…we’re still dealing with inflation, and the cost of the project is going up significantly. We are short annually, for Ada and Canyon counties financially, $193 million a year in revenue that’s needed to maintain and expand the transportation system, state highways, local roadways and public transportation…We do not have a dedicated funding mechanism to match the federal funds that are available to us. And also, we don’t have the local funds to maintain the public transportation system.”