In May, BoiseDev highlighted the work of the Brookings Institute, which put a spotlight on the Boise area’s economic future.
The report took an unflinching look at many factors that mix into a prosperous urban area. Readers widely shared the BoiseDev story and viewed it more than 20,000 times. While it looked at the broader metro area, the report echoed around the halls of Boise’s city hall and state government.
Separately, the top two candidates for Boise mayor weighed in. Mayor Dave Bieter’s campaign issued a news release late last week. Lauren McLean submitted a guest opinion to BoiseDev, which runs today. (We also solicited a piece from Bieter’s campaign and his office, but have not yet had a reply).
Both McLean and Bieter met with the report’s authors – and drew different takeaways from the work and their interactions.
The distribution of success
“(Report co-author Marcela) Escobari and her co-authors in the report did an impressive job of analyzing the economic opportunities and challenges facing our entire metropolitan region,” Bieter said in the prepared statement. “My time with Ms. Escobari this week only added to my respect for their work.”
Bieter said Escobari told him Boise is “well-positioned to continue its success and the City of Boise is focusing on the right policies to ensure that success is as equitable as possible.”
McLean keyed on in that equitability, with a different take.
“Boise is falling behind and our city’s problems will only worsen without bold and urgent action,” she wrote. “Our growth has disproportionately benefited our highest wage earners while leaving out the middle and working classes. That’s a problem, and disproves that ‘livability’ has been attained and shared throughout our city.”
Bieter points to efforts the city started to broaden the employment base for industrial-type jobs.
“We have made incredible efforts to diversify our local economy — especially industrial complexity — through the creation of the Gateway East Urban Renewal District,” Bieter said. “We’ve also been consistent in our support of local entrepreneurs and passionate in our efforts to increase industrial development with living wage jobs.”
McLean also comments on jobs, and echoed the Brookings Reports’ concept of finding jobs in clustered industries to drive growth.
“Not all jobs are created equally. Here in Boise, 48% of our jobs are low-wage, which is 4% above the national average,” McLean wrote. “We need to be focused beyond just quantity: meaningful, good-paying, quality jobs are the key to our future.”
A difference in going-forward ideas
Bieter, in essence lauded his track record. McLean called for a new direction.
“The Brookings report and my visit with Ms. Escobari spelled out in black-and-white the sentiments many of us have long felt and known — and been working hard to address,” Bieter said.
“We need fresh perspectives, deeper partnerships across our valley, and forward-thinking leadership to ensure Boise retains its special sense of place, builds opportunity, and truly becomes a city built for everyone, with everyone,” McLean wrote. “Only then will the people of Boise truly thrive, today and for generations to come.”