DR. BOB KUSTRA'S ADDRESS ON HIGHER EDUCATION
“Go back to your college experience,” President of Boise State University Bob Kustra addressed a filled Stueckle Sky Center audience on Monday, June 11. As Kustra set the stage for perhaps his final address to the Chamber, those in attendance paused for a moment and considered the president’s words, remembering fondly (or not so fondly) the “frayed notes” and rambling professors of their college days.
Higher education is an ever-evolving organism, just as its courses, faculty, and foundation continue to seek out new innovative means to tailor the collegiate experience. Office hours, before merely a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity during any given week, are now a key interactive advantage offered to students nearly around the clock. Digitized textbooks and online dashboards, a component of a growing hybrid educational campaign, are changing the ways students earn degrees at Boise State University. In fact, degrees themselves are not merely the sole definitive document they once were. Kustra argued that tailored degrees versus a “paste education” system are what’s carving out a student’s unique educational track. “Forget the major,” he asserted. Much of Boise State’s future is dedicated to this notion that a student’s educational understanding and eventual application in the workplace should not be defined by one all-encompassing phrase, such as “communications” or “applied science.” More and more students are wanting to showcase their unique interests, instead opting for various minors and certificates.
The Chamber and the community will miss Bob’s unique leadership. It is rare for a university president to aggressively move outside the academic walls to robustly engage with the community it serves. The Chamber is honored to have worked so closely with President Kustra on so many projects and achievements during his career. We wish him the best in all future endeavors — and, of course, who could blame him for choosing the greatest city in the country to ride off into the sunset.
Connor Jay Liess
Boise Metro Chamber
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“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.” –Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Much like the fated wonderment in Joyce Carol Oates’ 1966 novel title, the above line taken from Jane Jacob’s narrative on assessing the vitality of a city echoes an overwhelming understanding — the Boise Valley is growing at an unprecedented rate. Make no mistake about it. It’s not some prophetic exaggeration; it’s happening right before our eyes.
This year’s Leadership Conference, hosted and presented by the Boise Metro Chamber, focused on this very concept. It’s not just a Boise thing, or a Meridian thing, or a Nampa thing. It’s a Treasure Valley thing. Although Boise gets a lot of the spotlight because of its role as the state’s capital, the thought of “growth” seeping into our cities and quietly erecting new buildings, paving new roads, and planting new parks is anything but covert. It’s been a decade-long, valley-wide hot bed of activity that many cities in the Boise metro area are now facing head on.
In his remarks, the president of College of Western Idaho, Bert Glandon, mentioned while on his way to the conference he passed an empty, dilapidated structure on the side of the road, the words “Store” and “Saloon” on the structure’s façade. “There was nothing there … They didn’t plan.” While buildings along Main and Front Streets will certainly not be boarding up their saloon windows anytime soon, Glandon’s observation resonated with those in the room. Planning for this inevitable upswing in the valley’s population is not a task to be reckoned with on a whim. It all starts with three key ideas that Mayor Bieter so eloquently laid out.
Why Cities Exist
“There’re three reasons why a city exists,” Mayor Bieter began. “To keep its residents safe, to prosper, and to enhance what’s so sacred to its inhabitants.” The former two need no explanation and may not even get a surprise out of most. But the latter is a concept that every city here in the valley is fighting for. Individuality is something not learned or copied from other cities; it is a reflection of its people and the years and decades they’ve spent cultivating it. And now the question becomes, as more and more seeds ride the wind and take root here in the valley, what kind of garden are we going to see in five, 10, 25 years?
Along these lines was an idea that Council Member Elaine Clegg touched upon. It is “quality of life” and “livability” that drive a city’s growth. One can simply stand in the heart of downtown and walk a quarter mile in any direction and immediately stumble across a new brewery, dog park, or local coffee shop. Although just three examples of what make Boise “livable,” it’s clear the ears of the city are well attuned on its residents. And if having the most dog parks per capita of any city in the nation makes Boiseans happy, then other trends in growth best take note.
‘Breaking Down the Walls’
But as mentioned earlier, this trend is not exclusive to the city of Boise alone. Much of the call to arms at this year’s conference was in support of unity. During his inspired presentation, Mayor of Caldwell Garret Nancolas posed the question as if sitting down at a local coffee shop with the Treasure Valley and catching up after several years, “What’s Boise doing these days? How’s Kuna? What about Meridian?” The tides are impacting everyone. Homes are sprouting out in Meridian; students are flocking to the campuses of CWI and College of Idaho out in Nampa and Caldwell; jobs are attracting thousands to Boise. And above all else is a livability factor that continues to charm those seeking outdoor recreation and creative entrepreneurship. Beyond the figment of “walls” that speakers Skip Oppenheimer and Clegg called to deconstruct between these eight cities that make up the Treasure Valley, the weekend’s gentle murmur became a voice of unity. Individuals were suddenly eager to get back to their respected locations in the valley and start laying the groundwork in preparation of this growth while the emotions were still high, none more so than Elaine Clegg.
Making one of the strongest cases in favor of improved transit, Council Member Clegg, among many other speakers, notably Jeff Sayer, Bert Glandon, and Cece Gassner, argued that in order to accommodate this kind of growth the valley would need to combine forces and establish better means of transit for both suburbanites and commuters. Conceptualizing new and improved bus routes connecting Nampa to Boise, more strategic measures to handle perpetual rush hour traffic, and even the possibility (necessity) for a light-rail system linking workforce with workplace quickly became the foremost topics of discussion during the three-day gathering. And in a rather poetic cessation was this idea of transit uniting separate entities as one cohesive system, rolling out the red carpet, so to speak, for the inevitable topic on everyone’s minds.
And up steps Mayor Nancolas with perhaps the most profound observation of the weekend.
“A vision without a plan is only a dream. But a vision without a funding mechanism is a hallucination!” As the audience applauded, a collective nod of approval mirrored the statistics found in Dr. Cook’s survey. Currently, Idaho legislature allows just 13 instances of localized option sales tax, reserved for those cities that ride the economic wave that is the tourism industry. But as the numbers demonstrate the incentive’s popularity, the next question becomes how?
As we heard in closing at the conference, the only way an effort like this comes to fruition is if a coalition of businesses, public entities, and the great citizens of Idaho band together. When local option sales tax makes its way on a bill at the legislature, it will be up to that collective voice to be ready to stand up and support the measure.
‘Seeds of Regeneration’
Nearly everywhere we look, urban vitality has taken root and begun to mimic the growth patterns of its inhabitants. Budding businesses, residential properties, and sprawling parklands mark the topography of the Treasure Valley. And while there are and always will be those that detest the flourishing “seeds of regeneration” that Jacobs mentions in her book, no one can deny the overwhelming promise and possibility that the Boise Valley is experiencing. Those who call the valley home should not look about in amazement with their arms flapping around because so many others are flocking here by the thousands; they should look forward, hopeful and proud, with arms out wide.
There’s one final note I wish to add. During her presentation, Council Member Clegg spoke on the idea of “smart growth.” Merely growing as a valley in terms of its populace is one thing; but growing, while maintaining culture, heritage, triumphs and failures, and “enhancing what’s sacred” is entirely another. Boise will never be another Portland or Seattle or Salt Lake City — and that’s quite alright with us. But we better get acclimated to the term “growth” here in the Boise Valley. We’ve seen how it’s transformed this beautiful place over the past 25 years, and we will be ready for whatever it throws our way during the next 25.
Connor Jay Liess
Boise Metro Chamber
Q&A with Connie Miller, President/CEO of Icon Credit Union
What is your favorite film?
I don't watch movies, but when I do, I love wholesome movies with kids in them. "Field of Dreams" was an inspiring film.
What is the best book you've read recently?
"Curiously Strong" by Priscilla Giddings
What sport do you enjoy watching most?
BSU Bronco football, Eastern Washington University football (to be honest — mostly because my son, Jacob, is their video coordinator), and Sweet Sixteen basketball (I love rooting for the underdogs).
Who is the most interesting historical figure?
Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Guides in 1912. (The name changed to Girl Scouts in 1913.)
What is your favorite hobby or thing to do during the weekend?
Crafting wreaths, camping, and most recently exploring Idaho with our Razor side-by-side UTV.
Favorite Idaho escape?
Pine and Featherville amongst the pine trees by the river.
Favorite place in Boise to take a visitor?
MK Nature Center and Shoshone Falls.
What is the most important trend in your business or industry?
We continue to grow! We have a new location in Nampa at 12th and Maine and are excited about our new locations planned in the Treasure Valley. We are launching our robust business services department, too. We remain in top 2 percent of healthiest credit unions in the country!
What is the best advice you've received?
One would have to be "Right is right, even if no one else does it." –Juliette Gordon Low. The other would be when someone gossips about you or falsely accuses you of something, stay true to your values. You likely have something they want.
Who is a local business or business person you admire?
Terri Hughes, local executive coach and author of "Simple Shifts." Leadership takes courage. Terri effectively helps leaders uncover their blind spots to be a more effective leader.
What do you enjoy most about your company or organization?
It has been an incredible journey of over 20 years at Icon Credit Union (formerly named Idaho FCU), working for an organization that supports doing the right thing in financial services. Icon is part of an incredible cooperative movement in Idaho that provided $90 million in direct benefits to Idaho credit union consumers last year, and being a contributor in the nonprofit local cooperative credit union movement is truly a fulfilling part of my career. I'm proud that our organization is committed to volunteerism from our employees (more than 2,000 hours/year). I'm blessed today to work with a culture-rich employee base and truly am inspired by my amazing team on a daily basis. I'll always be invested in building leadership qualities, strong cultures, encouraging our youth, and serving on boards and nonprofits. Icon has always supported these efforts. I recently accepted an appointment to the Twelfth District of the Federal Reserve Bank Community Depository Financial Institution Advisory Council and will step up as State Board Chair for Junior Achievement this summer. I am excited for both opportunities to represent Idaho in building financial strength at many levels, from kids to the economy.
Tell us about a current or upcoming project or company-wide initiative.
We have a few great initiatives planned this year. One is building on our program serving the underserved in banking and establishing a credit builder program for zero score individuals. We're also expanding into Canyon County and planning more expansion in the Treasure Valley. Another important initiative is the launch of our robust business lending and business services platform later this year. In addition to these great initiatives that will serve the needs of current and future members of Icon, I also see the increased need to continue my ongoing presentations to community partners on topics of mission leadership, keeping drama out of the workplace, and building healthy and productive workplace cultures. Personally, I'm very excited to print my book about the ways employees can prevent sabotaging their careers. It's so close!