Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Economic development, circa 1949

Click to read a more legible version of this letter.
I've been researching local historical figures for a book called "Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls," due out in 2014 from Arcadia Publishing. One secondary source with a lot of good information is "Proving the Principle," a history of the Idaho National Laboratory.

While looking through it, I was intrigued by this memo from D.V. Groberg, a local developer, to E.F. McDermott, publisher of the Post-Register, detailing what needed to be done to land the Atomic Energy Commission's offices for the National Reactor Testing Station.

Anyone who thinks parks and golf courses don't matter in the economic development game need to take a look at this. Groberg's memo doesn't even mention the airport, which at the time was a landing strip with two log buildings but still better that the competitors'.

Competition came from Arco and Blackfoot, both of whom were found to be too small and lacking in services, and Pocatello.

Idaho Falls ended up beating out the "Gate City" by putting on better parties, hosted by the most "winsome" young ladies the boosters could trot out for the visitors. Pocatello, on the other hand, offered an all-male delegation that seemed diffident if not outright stiff.

The biggest drawback for Idaho Falls was the lack of a paved road to the desert. To minimize this, attorney Bill Holden persuaded Mayor Tom Sutton to put road construction crews to work at the west end of Broadway, to give the appearance that road construction was already underway.

And, as we all know more than 60 years later, it worked. The AEC put its headquarters in Idaho Falls, pop. 19,000, and the city went on to become what it is today. Could anyone get away with this kind of stuff today? Probably not. Those were simpler times, and sure fun to read about.