On the national scene, Boise is a bit distant from being a tier-one meetings destination, but planners who want to combine awe-inspiring natural beauty with a spark of entrepreneurial ingenuity may want to give it more than a passing glance.
The city actually helps operate a public-private partnership downtown, named Trailhead, which serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurs.
“It’s a great resource for entrepreneurs to gather and use to find resources for startups. It’s a very entrepreneurial town—things are popping up all the time,” says Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise CVB, adding that Boise State University also gets into the act with its Venture College. The university even hosts an annual Hackfort event that brings tech innovators in to engage in TED-style talks, panels, presentations and workshops to explore the intersection of technology in music, education and civic life.
That Boise is a town primed for cutting-edge business and tech ventures may come as a surprise to those who associate it with being primarily an agriculture industry town, so I guess one could say it’s a very “organic” atmosphere that’s been created to foster business.
“We are definitely trying to be strategic in working with our development partners,” says Westergard of the CVB’s desire to reach out to innovative business and association groups. “And with some bigger cities, they would be just one of the many groups in town, but here, you’re it. You own the town, and that shows through in the services groups get when they’re here.”
Westergard says that many groups utilize facilities at Boise State University, or, for larger events, the Idaho Center sports complex in nearby Nampa, the gateway to Idaho’s wine country.
Boise’s traditional ag attributes can be enjoyed in numerous farm-to-table dining options located in its eminently walkable downtown core, with the city’s primary meeting venue, Boise Centre, with 50,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and a 349-fixed-seat auditorium, plopped down right in the center. As part of the Civic Center Plaza development, the Boise Centre broke ground last year on an expansion that by the end of 2016 will add a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, 14,000 square feet of meeting space and 7,000 square feet of prefunction/lobby space, all connected via skywalk to the primary facility.
The main downtown meetings hotels include the stylish, 112-room Hotel 43, the 186-room Hampton Inn & Suites Boise-Downtown, and the AAA Four Diamond Grove Hotel, with 250 guest rooms, 20 breakout meeting rooms and 36,000 square feet of meeting space overlooking the 5,000-seat CenturyLink Arena.
Boise also prides itself as being a very bike-friendly town, with rentals popular with visitors.
Some interesting event venues include the historic Old Penitentiary, an 1870 construction that housed some of the most notorious criminals of the Old West, and Discovery Center of Idaho, a hands-on science center with 10,000 square feet of function space.