When asked what companies are the largest employers and biggest economic drivers of the valley, we think of Micron, HP, St. Luke’s, Saint Al’s, Boise State, Albertsons, and a few others. Perhaps the Idaho National Guard Base at Gowen Field is overlooked.
But it shouldn’t be — it is in the same category.
The loss of military operations at Gowen Field would be a huge blow to this Valley. The Idaho National Guard is a major gear in the economic engine of our valley; hundreds are employed at Gowen and hundreds of local businesses serve and support the base.
In addition to the vital economic role Gowen plays in our regional economy, it is an important strategic asset in our nation’s defense. Blessed with great air space, weather, and topography, the men and women at Gowen have a 70+ year history of service to this nation’s defense around the globe.
Because of Gowen’s assets, the Pentagon has put them on a short list of potential guard bases for an F-35 Training Mission. The A-10 Thunderbolts currently based at Gowen will be phased out. Most military experts agree that a guard base without a manned flying mission is a target for a different kind of Pentagon list — a base closure list. While we advocate for any manned flying mission at Gowen, the F-35 brings maximum advantages.
The F-35 is our nation’s future aircraft of choice for decades to come. It is arguably the most technologically-sophisticated piece of equipment in our nation’s military portfolio. As such, it requires the most technologically-sophisticated maintenance and support teams. Nearby Ogden, Utah was selected to house a fleet of F-35s, and soon after, Lockheed Martin built a major technical support facility nearby. Dozens of other supporting civilian enterprises established high-tech shops in Ogden as well. The potential high-tech economic upside for Boise is undeniable. Such a mission would expand Boise’s portfolio of high-tech industries, adding additional high-paying technical career options in our valley.
The Boise Airport is one of our state’s most important economic hubs, and Gowen is a big part of that future. Around the globe, noise is a part of every airport’s daily operation and our Airport is no different as it continues to grow and expand. Unless we move the Airport 40 miles into the desert, as Denver did, there will always be neighbors inconvenienced by noise. Tolerating a few seconds of noise, a few times a day, seems like the least we can do for our neighbors in uniform.
The Boise Chamber has long-supported the men and women who serve our nation based at Gowen Field and Mountain Home, and we’d like to keep them here in our neighborhoods. Our community and our nation cannot afford to lose the military complex at Gowen Field. In the words of one local business leader, “this is the biggest economic development retention project of the decade.”
The best way to insure the long-term life of Gowen’s operations is to attract and land the F-35 Training Mission. Please join our Chamber in keeping Gowen Strong!
Bill Connors is president and CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.