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“A damned accident:” Echoes of Boise’s history inform its future

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“In attempting to explain the Boise phenomenon, many local executives cite the industrious workforce, the… climate, the solid core of American values – and, most especially, the recreational opportunities in the nearby mountains.”

Thirty years ago, in June of 1989, The New York Times put its Newspaper of Record focus on the Boise area. Like it had before – and since – the NYT story took a tone of “wow, how can this be?” about the City of Trees and its success in business.

The story, under the banner headline “Unlikely, But Boise Means Big Business” quotes some of the giants of Boise business history. JR Simplot. Walt Minnick. Micron’s Joe Parkinson. Albertsons’ Gary Michael.

Simplot, always good for a good quote, gave the Times a doozy:

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“Boise is a damned accident,” he said.

That accident, a business oasis in the desert more than 300 miles from another major population center, gave rise to more than just Albertsons, Simplot and Micron. It supported TJ International (now part of Weyherauser), Ore-Ida (part of HJ Heinz), Morrison-Knudsen (now part of AECOM), Boise Cascade and more.

The Times piece predicted the changing of the guard we’ve seen since 1989.

Past echoes the future

“The burning question is whether yet another generation of mavericks will continue to shape Boise’s future. ‘There are going to be some funerals around here in a few years,’ says Boise State’s John Keiser. ‘It’ll be interesting to see what happens then. Jack Simplot, Joe Albertson – this is very much their town.'”

While some of the businesses have morphed and merged, several still provide anchors to the Boise economy.

“The city is rich in home-grown entrepreneurs who have built an impressive array of world-class businesses,” the Times wrote.

And over the 30 years since the NYT story, new entrants like TSheets, Winco Foods, Scentsy, BodyBuilding.com, Clearwater Analytics and Kount built on the springboard of the older-line companies.

[Intuit to nearly double local employees with campus expansion]

While a spring report from the Brookings Institution provided warning signals for some sectors of the economy (and the exit of Motive Power this fall), the Boise area continues to be a ‘damned accident,’ that still grows and changes.

If you’re looking for a great history of the Boise economy’s roots – give the story a read.

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