When it comes to the question of whether the F-35 fighter jet should be based in Boise, views vary widely on the controversial proposal depending on your perspective. (Catch up on the issues here.) But the Idaho Department of Commerce makes their position clear.
“We see [the F-35] as big opportunity for jobs, and high-end jobs,” says Commerce Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer Matt Borud. “Great jobs – whether it’s engineering or high-end mechanical work. Those are the exact kind of jobs we want to see in Idaho that frankly our workforce is qualified for. It’s the right way to be growing our economy.”
Borud says that when the Air Force announced in December 2016 that Boise’s Gowen Field would be one of the finalists to base the F-35, they began talking about how to garner public support for the Air National Guard.
“We had learned from folks at the Guard that public support is one of the areas that the senior Air Force officials who are making this decision would be evaluating. They want to be in a place – in a community – where the mission is welcome and it’s something that folks are excited about.”
What resulted from those meetings was the Gowen Strong campaign. In 2017, the Idaho Legislature approved $100,000 for the marketing and PR campaign geared to the F-35 mission. As of October 30, the Department of Commerce had spent $65,286 on Gowen Strong.
Some of the biggest expenditures have been for print, digital and radio ads. In August, In the Bag Promotions received $1,485.03 for tote bags. Borud says the goal is to inform the public about the F-35, and promote the idea of a continued Boise mission for the Idaho Air National Guard.
He says even if the Air Force does not select Gowen Field as one of two primary sites, Commerce plans to continue their efforts.
“It is vital that there is a flying mission at Gowen Field. We certainly hope it’s the F-35, but if it isn’t, we will remain at the table to keep doing what we can for the next opportunity.”
The Air Force is expected to make a decision about the F-35 by the end of the fall.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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