Idaho City has had its fair share of struggles, especially after the fire last year that took out a city block and five thriving businesses. The Idaho City Chamber of Commerce has been working on ways to speed up the improvements of the town. The goal is to improve the economy of the area. Meeting up with a professional group called Northwest Community Development Institute gave the Chamber Board a chance to plan a strategy for revitalization of the town. A professional study group is being tapped into that will help the Chamber. Several meetings along with field trips to Idaho City gave the group a chance to work on ideas to breathe life back into the town.
The NWCDI is a function of the University of Idaho Bioregional Planning and Community Design Department. They operate a post graduate course each year and this year its subject is the Idaho City economy. A group of experienced community planners worked out of the Riverside Hotel in Boise and traveled to Idaho City, despite the fires in the area, to study the economy of the community and make recommendations for its future. The Idaho Department of Commerce recommended Idaho City as it is determined to “rise from the ashes” of a major fire in its business center. The city, led by its Chamber of Commerce, has instituted an aggressive recovery program for the area with great success but only a beginning. The NWCDI study will help to provide professional guidance in economic recovery with a final report next spring at no cost to the city, residents or Chamber of Commerce. They simply have the opportunity to take advantage of the report. It doesn’t get much better than that…Idahoans being assisted by the University of Idaho and Department of Commerce.
The study began with presentations from the Boise County JC/RC on the county’s economy and the Idaho City Chamber of Commerce on the city’s economy in order for the study group to understand the present status of the economy and the area’s plans for growth. The group then made a trip to Idaho City to evaluate the area relative to its economic objectives. They specifically wanted no input or opinions from Idaho City residents, only an explanation of what they saw from a Director of the Historical Society. The evening was spent discussing what they heard from the perspective of their own diverse experiences so that they could make another trip to Idaho City and hone in on their collective impressions.
The next day they prepared for the second trip to Idaho City and during that listened to presentations by long time citizens, business leaders, Chamber leaders, law enforcement, county and city government leaders and others. The object was to learn “how we got to where we are and where we want to go.” With their notebooks full, they returned to Boise to turn the information into recommendations.
They met until mid-afternoon the next day and reported to representatives from the county and Idaho City. The general impression was that Idaho City is a “Phoenix Rising” and is on the cusp of success if the Chamber plan is encouraged and supported. There are specific things to do:
1 – First priority is to educate the Treasure Valley and tourists on what there is to do in Idaho City. This is a short term objective and includes the creation of signage in Route 21 approaches to Idaho City that will make travelers want to stop, explore and enjoy.
2 – Second, identify and support a “Block G” burnout area developer to create an “Old West Town” themed center for tourists. This is a medium term objective.
3 – Last, prepare residents with education so they will be the best candidates for the excellent paying jobs that will come with the CuMo Project. In tandem is preparation of the infrastructure necessary to include the people that will come to work in the mine from elsewhere. Even though the likelihood is not high, the same thing must be done when the future of gaming is resolved.
The Senior Class in the University of Idaho’s Bioregional Planning and Design school will continue to flesh out details and present a final report to Idaho City in the spring of 2017. That can serve as a guide for Idaho City’s successful future if everyone there and in the county supports it. In the meantime the Chamber is hard at work and the results show.