Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Job Creation Council Moving Ahead

  The Boise County Job Creation/Retention Council (JC/RC) has received the unanimous approval of county commissioners to apply for two grants. The Department of Commerce grant application will require a commitment for three years of matching funds and the match is likely to be $15K per year plus an additional amount ($1-$10) for each resident of the county. 

  Because that Request for Proposal will be issued in the spring of 2013, the JC/RC will be hustling to get a Capital Matrix “matching” grant application submitted by November 2, 2012. This will raise the grant money to at least $50K. John Cottingham, president of the Boise County and Garden Valley JC/RC, will write the applications with guidance from county commissioners.

  These grants will provide all the funding needed to put a no-cost Rural Economic professional in place, to build upon the work already done in that field the past couple of years, by the JC/RC.

  Cottingham would, in essence, become an employee of Boise County, under the Commerce grant. He would report to the Boise County JC/RC board, as he now does, for program creation and leadership purposes.

  The county has already benefitted from the programs and accomplishments of the JC/RC, without any support from the Board of Commissioners. When Cottingham appeared before commissioners on September 24, he explained that all of the salary he would draw (less expenses and cost of any increased tax on the salary) as the ED professional, would be contributed to the non-profit Boise County JC/RC, to provide upfront money to fund its marketing and to support county programs.

  He cited examples: The JC/RC was awarded $6,500 for Face book/Google advertising but not the $3,500 requested for a web page that would direct tourists to Boise County activities, restaurants, etc. They would spend the $3,500 on that, in addition to a blog.

  “Idaho City worked with the rest of the BC JC/RC communities in developing a county-wide marketing plan,” he continued. “About $5K will be spent on upgrading the Idaho City Chamber’s web site and to coordinate with the Boise County Adventures program. Third, the money will provide matching funds for grants to our communities.

  “Fourth, the money will serve as reimbursement grants requiring payment for services before the grants will pay back the money contributed by a community.”

  Within the last two years, JC/RC communities have established objectives. Those already accomplished in Garden Valley include assistance to the City of Crouch, to develop a historical museum; the writing of a grant to fund development of a low-power radio station; and a sewer project, led by 2 Forks, to save jobs at Terrace Lakes and keep it open. An assisted-living builder/operator has been identified, for a facility to serve all of Boise County.

  Horseshoe Bend held four “Clean-Up HSB” events, with two more planned; they improved two buildings in the corridor and one in town; events held included Celebration of Life, a car show, a Kid’s Free Fishing Derby, and a 4th of July in the Park. The City plans to submit grant applications for a history museum and a community center.

  Idaho City JC/RC president, Bonnie Hardey, described the success of the recent Home Tour to benefit Mountain Kids Day Camp, which attracted local and Treasure Valley patrons. She told commissioners, “In order to thrive, we need to support each other in those ways.”

  Hardey described a banner they hung, which informed travelers of their cell service near Highway 21. She said, “The banner became a ‘stop light’. People would turn into the parking lot to check cell service then they would use our other services in town. We also want to help the city. When we write grants for water and sewer, it opens up avenues in the way people think. I’d love to see a Boise Basin Chamber of Commerce.”

     Cottingham stated that the Garden Valley Chamber was generally supportive and his impression from businesses is that “anything we can do that will drag people off of Highways 21, 17 and 55 will be supported by businesses.”

    The JC/RC is working with CuMo mine people, with the intent of making sure if there are jobs created by the mine, those jobs will be available for local residents. Cottingham has already set in motion a community skills inventory program, which will pinpoint local skills that need to be upgraded. BSU, colleges and other institutions will define what classes will be developed to bring up skill sets. It is a long-term project, which has the support of Governor Otter and his department heads. Grants supporting the training will come from the Department of Labor.

  Jerry Miller, Department of Commerce Business Development Specialist, said, “We look at the economics of a county. Boise County is severely handicapped, given land controlled by the federal government. We also look to see if the work plan is realistically consistent and if the communities are all on the same page. I wish more people would do their homework like John has. Lots of forethought has gone into his planning.”

  With a $5.4M judgment, commissioners were concerned with expectations of local financial support after the first three years of Commerce grant support. Bob Fry said, “The county will be locked into our’s unlikely we could come up with money to offset the program.”

  Miller said the Department of Commerce does an annual agreement with the program and financial sponsor. “If at some point you can’t make it work,” he assured, “we could look at one of the city entities to take over—or we can take it away. The application process makes it difficult to get in—but to get out, it’s easy.”

  John Cottingham reminded commissioners, “I’m going to donate all monies to JC/RC. It would make really good sense to put some in a reserve fund.”

  After commissioners batted around concerns of having an employee who works for nothing, Commissioner Terry Day stopped the ball: “I’m trying to visualize a 5-cylinder engine by imagining 4-cylinders representing Idaho City, Boise Basin, Horseshoe Bend and Garden Valley...I think John is the magneto that fires them. We’re missing a golden opportunity if we pass this by. I’m not looking back at old programs that were not entirely successful. I’m looking forward to this one.”

  Commissioner Fry said thoughtfully, “I don’t believe the money we pump into a community would necessarily create what eco-development couldn’t do itself.” Commissioner Anderson admitted to mixed feelings but said, “We’re all willing to entertain this at no cost to the county.”

  The Board authorized Cottingham to put together an application to submit to Capital Matrix, for matching monies that might be used for the Commerce grant.


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