The newly formed Boise Elevated isnt a lobbying group. Its not trying to replace the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, either.
But a group made up of powerful Boise businesspeople plans to act in the area in between.
The nonprofit started early last year when its president, George Iliff, the managing owner of Colliers International, met for lunch at The BrickYard steakhouse with more than a dozen businesspeople from a handful of industries, including banking, law and development. About 80 people showed up at the groups meeting the following month. They talked about a range of issues, but all of the attendees agreed on two, unifying ideas:
1. Boises business community hasnt been involved in public decision-making by the city or other local agencies for several decades, and,
2. It really should be.
Boise Elevated is building its membership now. In an interview Friday, Iliff said members hope to get involved in local politics later this year. Detailed goals and strategies havent been ironed out.
Q: What decisions do you want to be a part of?
A: We want to be the go-to resource that the public sector will join with when its deciding whats best for the community. One of the things we are looking at is the local-option tax. We met with (state) Sen. Chuck Winder earlier this week and talked about his bill and what its all about. We havent decided where we stand on that, though, as a business community, weve typically been in favor of a local option. Were looking at transportation issues. Were interested in what the mayors plans are for future bonding.
Q: Those issues sound similar to those lobbied for by the Boise Metro Chamber. How is Boise Elevated different?
A: First of all, Im a past chair of the chamber. Were not a chamber replacement. Were more of a support to the chamber. Our focus is more to address some issues and problems in the community that the chamber cant take on, or maybe doesnt want to take on. Theres been some discord between some of the public entities that perhaps we can help with and mediate. Thats not necessarily something the chamber wants to focus on.
Q: How is Boise Elevated different from a lobby group?
A: We are not going to be in the Capitol lobbying for a particular position. (We will work) from a statement standpoint, to come up with a position that well make known.
Q: Is there a recent issue that the city could have resolved better if it had consulted with the business community?
A: The bonding issue. (Two bonds promoted by Mayor Dave Bieter to authorize up to $32.5 million in debt for new and improved parks, open space purchases and fire-station improvements failed on the November ballot). We could have been in discussions on the front end about what the components were. I dont think the business community was engaged enough in the process. If wed been a part earlier on, perhaps the result would have been different.
Q: Do you feel that the city has turned a deaf ear to the business community?
A: No. I think that theyve sometimes not used a resource that they could have. Were hoping that they will.
Q: Do you want Boise Elevated members to be regulars at city meetings?
A: We dont want to be looking over the shoulder of the mayor and council on a regular basis. We want to be issue-focused.
Q: So, is it incumbent upon the mayor or city council members to pick up the phone and call you?
A: Thats not the case. Were been largely silent from a unified business standpoint, so its incumbent on us. Were doing internal research within our group to find out what the important issues are to members. We will go forward and invest some money in understanding what the overall business community concerns are. Well get that information to the city.
Q: One could take a cynical view about business involvement in government and be concerned this group is trying to influence government in a business-centric way. What is your response?
A: Business, whether its a two-person firm or Idaho Power, employs people that make up the community. As those businesses grow and thrive, you have people who are able to consume, to live well, to have jobs. To me, business may be a bad thing to some people, but its the underlying foundation to what makes a community work. If you dont have support from the business community, then businesses can have a difficult time surviving or thriving. Were trying to be hand-in-hand with the public sector to find solutions that are good for everybody and not just for businesses.
Zach Kyle: 377-6464Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle