Politics

"Look out Boise:" Silicon Valley looks to Idaho to solve expensive talent problem

NEWS ANALYSIS

‘The Bay Area is broken.'

That's the headline atop a San Jose Mercury News story on the need for affordable talent for companies based in the Silicon Valley area.

Here's the lead:

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"Silicon Valley may be the world’s tech paradise, but it’s a hiring nightmare for many local startups now forced to venture from Portland to Boise in search of talent."

The story shows why the immediate future of the greater San Francisco and greater Boise areas are linked.

It is very expensive to live in the Bay Area - and it won't get better soon.  The cost of land drives housing prices through the roof, and with it the costs of food, goods, services and of course talent.

A job somewhere like Facebook or Google could be appealing to many, but to have a standard of living that compares to one you might find in Boise could easily cost significantly more.

The average cost of living in Palo Alto is 39% higher than in Boise, according to data from PayScale. (A personal data point that can help illustrate this, I have been here since August as part of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University - I pay $3,800 for a 2-bedroom cottage near Palo Alto. Per month. For rent.)

Now, companies are finding the Treasure Valley (and other locations like Portland) are ripe for expansion.  The Mercury News looks at Jelli, which opened an office on 8th St. in Boise last year.

The company says the Boise area allowed it to find employees for a third lower than what they pay people doing the same jobs in California.

“As we’ve been looking to hire, we’re running into the same issue that everyone else is running into — in that the Bay Area is broken,” Michael Dougherty, CEO of Jelli told the Mercury-News.

Jelli says it has ten people in Idaho - with plans for another 30 or 40.

“The community’s cool,” Dougherty said. “There’s a lot of really great folks there.”

The influx of jobs can boost the economy, but drive growth faster than leaders or planners expect.

Boise Median Home Price

Data via Zillow

Unemployment in the Boise metro area hit a low of 2.5% in August of last year - the second lowest since 1990 according to non-seasonally adjusted numbers.

With low unemployment and an influx of workers searching for a lower cost of living in Boise - the price of housing is zooming.  Zillow shows the median listing price of a home in the full metro area to be $290,990. In the City of Boise proper, the median listing price is now over $ 300,000, and has increased a breathtaking 18% in the past year alone.

The quick growth is causing increased friction between government and citizens in the Capital City.  Groups like Vanishing Boise have grown quickly and are working to organize and mobilize citizens to have a larger voice in the development and planning process.

The City of Boise has responded to frustration by planning town halls and a series of conversations about Boise's growth.

Leaders will have to balance the demands of private landowners and the need to add housing and services, with an increasingly vocal base of citizens who want to slow growth and preserve the quality of life and cost of living Boise is known for.  The rapid expansion in the tech sector in Silicon Valley in California may soon be strongly linked to the fortunes of the Treasure Valley in Idaho.

 

 

City councilor/CCDC commissioner's building proposal turned down

Scot Ludwig has a very full hat shelf.

He owns a law firm. He serves on Boise City Council. He serves as a CCDC commissioner.

And he hopes to develop a pair of tall buildings in Downtown Boise. (Read here for details on the proposal).

Project rendering via Hummel Architects 

Project rendering via Hummel Architects 

Since BoiseDev first reported the plan early this year, Ludwig has encountered some bumps in the road. KTVB's Morgan Boydston reported a story on ethical concerns raised about Ludwig's tri-role as developer, CCDC commissioner and city councilor. The nascent Vanishing Boise group organized against the project.

Now, the Planning and Zoning commission has denied Ludwig's application for the project.

After a number of community members testified against various elements of the proposal, P&Z moved quickly to block the development.

Commission member Jennifer Stevens moved to deny the application. While she said she is excited about enthusiasm and glad there are developers with the resources to do projects - she had large concerns.

Photo courtesy Vanishing Boise

Photo courtesy Vanishing Boise

She referenced the city’s vision for 5th Street as a pedestrian corridor, and felt the parking structure Ludwig included was a problem.

“I’m really concerned with major access via a ramp, you blow that opportunity out of the water," she said. "You make it much harder to access one of our city’s best resources best amenities of Julia Davis Park.”

Stevens said the area “needs parking, no question about it,” but felt this location and the way it was integrated into the development were not appropriate.

Commissioners also felt the buildings were too tall for the area and denied the needed waiver.

The motion to deny the project was approved 5-1.  

Ludwig can appeal the decision.  His colleagues on Boise City Council would be the body to hear that appeal - with Ludwig presumably recusing himself.

Candidates backed by Boise's mayor take GBAD seats

Courtesy Ada County elections  

Courtesy Ada County elections  

The Greater Boise Auditorium District will have a new director after an election victory by political novice Kristin Muchow.  

Muchow and current director Hy Kloc were the top two vote getters in the GBAD election Tuesday, in a pool system where the top two take seats.   

Muchow, a manager at local firm Meeting Systems Inc., beats out GBAD incumbent Judy Peavey-Derr for one of the two seats. Muchow received an endorsement and large campaign contribution from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. Bieter previously ran against, and beat, Peavey-Derr in his reelection bid for mayor in 2015. 

Muchow received campaign contributions from Bieter's campaign account for $1,000, city councilor Scot Ludwig and his wife for a combined $1,500, as well as smaller contributions from city councilor Ben Quintana and mayor's office staffer Diana Lachiondo. Muchow raised more than $18,000 for the race. 

Kloc was also backed by a $1,000 contribution from Bieter's campaign war chest, as well as $250 from city councilor and state senator Maryann Jordan's campaign fund and $250 from city councilor Lauren McClean. He also had the backing of CCDC commissioners John Hale and Dana Zuckerman. Kloc raised about $10,000. 

Peavey-Derr listed just two donations totaling $300. 

A fourth candidate, Scott Mecham, raised just $100.  

Turnout for the election was 5.4%.