A new business voice rising: Boise Elevated

Boise Elevated wants to influence public decisions made in the city.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comJanuary 13, 2014 


George Iliff, managing owner of Colliers International, says Boise Elevated members hope Boise officials will welcome them to the table before making important decisions.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

  • Other members of Boise Elevated

    - Brian Ballard, partner at Hawley Troxell law firm

    - JoAnn Butler, partner at Spink Butler law firm

    - Bill Clark, owner of Clark Development

    - Doug Fowler, president and CEO of development company Lenir Ltd.

    - Rob Perez, president and CEO of Northwest Bank

    - Norm Semanko, attorney at Moffatt Thomas and executive director of Idaho Water Users Association

The newly formed Boise Elevated isn’t a lobbying group. It’s 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 group’s meeting the following month. They talked about a range of issues, but all of the attendees agreed on two, unifying ideas:

1. Boise’s business community hasn’t 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 haven’t 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 it’s deciding what’s 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 it’s all about. We haven’t decided where we stand on that, though, as a business community, we’ve typically been in favor of a local option. We’re looking at transportation issues. We’re interested in what the mayor’s 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, I’m a past chair of the chamber. We’re not a chamber replacement. We’re more of a support to the chamber. Our focus is more to address some issues and problems in the community that the chamber can’t take on, or maybe doesn’t want to take on. There’s been some discord between some of the public entities that perhaps we can help with and mediate. That’s 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 we’ll 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 don’t think the business community was engaged enough in the process. If we’d 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 they’ve sometimes not used a resource that they could have. We’re hoping that they will.

Q: Do you want Boise Elevated members to be regulars at city meetings?

A: We don’t 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: That’s not the case. We’re been largely silent from a unified business standpoint, so it’s incumbent on us. We’re 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. We’ll 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 it’s 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 it’s the underlying foundation to what makes a community work. If you don’t have support from the business community, then businesses can have a difficult time surviving or thriving. We’re 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

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