When national headlines screamed about Boise State University's "shocking" and "stunning" victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, the state's economic development gurus couldn't be happier.
"I have been saying for months now, ‘Thank God for the Broncos,' " Paul Hiller, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, said Tuesday.
More than 70,000 people watched the game in Phoenix and millions watched on TV. Before the kickoff, the Fox network broadcast several features about Boise State players and gave a national audience a peek at life in Boise. Hiller said buying such publicity would have cost the city and state millions.
"This is huge for us from the standpoint of raising the level of awareness of our community and the entire state," he said.
Hiller's organization, a division of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, has collected $5 million from hundreds of businesses with the goal of recruiting companies and bringing new jobs to the area that pay at least $40,000 a year. The Boise victory will make that task easier, he said.
"This will open a lot of doors for us," Hiller said. "This will get us in front of companies and let us tell the Boise story."
Hiller said he plans in coming weeks to develop a plan to capitalize on the newfound attention.
Gov. Butch Otter said business executives received a positive impression of Idahoans by watching the game.
"This national exposure showed folks the tenacity and competitiveness of our people. Those are the kind of qualities loved by employers and companies that want to set up a business," Otter said in a statement. "But beyond that, I was proud of the classy way that everyone representing the university, the city and our state accepted victory. They treated it as an honor and a privilege — not an excuse for vandalism or violence."
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter sees the victory less as a marketing tool than as a chance to gain respect for the team and city.
"I think the football team and the city have a lot in common," he said. "We have a sense here, whether it's football, Boise State University or the city as a whole, that we're not waiting to arrive; we have arrived."
A spokeswoman for Idaho Commerce and Labor said the exposure will help Idaho companies recruit employees. Georgia Smith said Idaho conducted a national survey in 2001 to gauge perceptions of Idaho. People said a nationally recognized sports program would be a top attribute for Idaho to be considered an attractive place to live.
"The millions of people reached by the broadcast and the way the Broncos conducted themselves on the field was phenomenal," Smith said.
Contact reporter Ken Dey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 672-6757.