Gardner Co. founder pledges $1 million in scholarships to BSU

June 24, 2014 

Kem Gardner said he needed scholarships to get through college and law school, and he wanted to pass on the same opportunity to students at Boise State University.

He said he hopes the $1 million in scholarships he pledged to the university Tuesday will be used to propel refugees, women and minorities into the technology field.

Gardner is the founder of Gardner Co., the developer that built 8th & Main and is preparing to break ground on City Center Plaza, a two-building, Downtown Boise development that would feature retail, office, meeting, parking and convention space. He was one of several speakers at a press conference on the Grove Tuesday, when Boise State's leaders officially announced their intent to lease more than 50,000 square feet of City Center Plaza and use it as a home for upper-level computer science department activities.

A demand for software developers among Boise's tech firms, many of which are based within a few blocks of the planned City Center Plaza, is a key factor in Boise State's decision to locate part of its computer science department in one of the project's buildings. The school plans to lease two floors in the Clearwater Building, a nine-floor structure that will stand just west of the U.S. Bank tower south of Main Street between Capitol Boulevard and 8th Street.

The tech firms want access to more interns and potential permanent employees, and the university wants to help its students find work — not to mention finish their degrees if they get jobs before they graduate. Boise Mayor David Bieter called it "cross-pollination."

Ryan Woodings, founder of wireless network troubleshooting firm MetaGeek, said about half of his employees are software engineers and most of them are former Boise State students. Woodings said the main BSU campus might not be far geographically from the Downtown firms, "and yet it's a world away because our daily paths never cross each other."

University President Bob Kustra said putting soon-to-graduate software techs and potential employers next to each other will afford them the same kind of collaborative atmosphere that the rest of Boise State University enjoys on campus.

Steve Berch, a member of the Greater Boise Auditorium District board of directors, predicted a Boise State presence in City Center Plaza will lure more entrepreneurs to Boise. He said some of those entrepreneurs might get their first taste of the city at conventions hosted by the auditorium district, which also plans to occupy part of the space in Gardner's new development.

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