Guest Opinions

New fighter jet mission for Gowen would draw commerce, visitors to Boise

Carrie Westergard
Carrie Westergard

Leaders in the city of Boise have expressed their support for a new fighter mission at our Gowen Field. The Air National Guard is now taking a close look at Gowen as a potential location for F-35 planes and their crews, and a decision is likely this fall.

I am happy to say that as the executive director of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau that I support this new F-35 mission. The economic impact of such a mission — or the lack of one — is significant.

We already know that the Idaho Air National Guard is a major employer in the Treasure Valley. The Air Guard has 1,300 direct employees, over 600 full-time and 700 part-time employees.

But if Gowen Field were selected for the F-35 mission, it would boost our economy even further, from new jobs to a regular influx of visitors to our great city. That’s an economic impact that we at the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau cannot ignore. In addition, we know that a new mission will bring visitors in the form of civilian and military personnel who need to be trained in the F-35 systems, as well as military-based meetings and conventions like the Adjutant General Association, which met in Boise in 2016. These trainings and meetings mean more visitors to our hotels and restaurants and other amenities.

Boise is also, we know, a stellar location for a good show, and this resonates with our role at the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau. On Oct. 14-15 the Idaho Air National Guard will host Gowen Thunder, a Gowen Field Open House, featuring a rare combination of aerial teams including the USAF Thunderbirds and the Royal Canadian Snowbirds.

Gowen Thunder is projected to draw up to 150,000 people for the weekend. That’s tens of thousands of visitors in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and enjoying Boise’s amenities. Also, as we know, visitors to Boise spend their time — and money — with businesses like boutiques, florists, dry cleaners, grocery stores, banks, salons and rental companies. That’s a shot in the arm for our economy.

As summer opens in Idaho, we’ll once again welcome visitors to Boise, coming to share in sporting and cultural events. The X Games Qualifier at our redesigned Rhodes Skate Park, the Twilight Criterium and the Albertsons Boise Open golf tournament are just a few of our events that draw visitors. Add the Idaho Shakespeare Festival or Hawks baseball and we have much to offer visitors from near and far.

For those of us lucky enough to work in this great industry, it’s an honor to represent Boise to the outside world. Our pride in our city is a great selling point.

It’s with these reasons that I am proud to join our city’s leaders in supporting a new F-35 mission at Gowen Field. I encourage others in the tourism and hospitality industry to do the same.

Carrie Westergard is the executive director at the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.