Diversity is essential for Boise's prosperity and livability | Welcoming America

Diversity is essential for Boise's prosperity and livability

Welcoming America | April 27, 2015

We are pleased to announce a guest blog post from Boise Mayor David Bieter. Boise was one of the first cities to join our Welcoming Cities & Counties Initiative in 2013, and we are thrilled to share what Boise is doing to welcome all its residents.

Boise is a city built by immigrants. It's one of our great strengths.

Like my grandfather Lorenzo Garmendia, who arrived in Boise from the Basque Country almost a century ago, the people who have come from around the world to live, work, and raise their families in this beautiful place, decade after decade, have done so with creativity and purpose. And that has helped to make our city, and all of Idaho, stronger and more prosperous.

Our diverse past is documented in Ethnic Landmarks, a book produced by Boise State University in 2007 that details the crucial contributions of 10 separate ethnic groups to the development of Boise.

Our diverse present is exemplified by our Neighbors United Network, a coalition of more than 20 government agencies, educational institutions, health care providers, community groups, and faith organizations that work to assist refugees in becoming economically integrated in our community. Over the past two decades, more than 11,000 refugees have resettled in Boise, adding tremendously to the richness of our ethnic and cultural landscape. Just last week, Neighbors United was praised by the White House Task Force on New Americans in a report, "Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents"

Which brings us to our diverse future. Two years ago, the Boise City Council unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, and public accommodation. None of the dire consequences that were predicted by the ordinance's critics have come to pass. And similar laws are being adopted by cities around Idaho, because they recognize that a welcoming community is one that attracts talent and resources.

If Boise is to maintain and enhance its livability, we must continue to celebrate and support our diversity and ensure that everyone who lives here has an opportunity to succeed.

A potent symbol of that opportunity, and that success, appears this Saturday with the grand opening of the Boise International Market at the corner of Franklin and Curtis roads. More than two years in the planning, the market provides both startup assistance and a public marketplace for multicultural businesses specializing in international products, food, art, music, and dance. With more than two dozen vendors and restaurants at its launch, BIM demonstrates just how important our city's diversity is to our economic development.

There's more work to do. The Responsible Business Initiative, an initiative led by Boise State and supported by Wells Fargo, the City, and multiple community partners, will continue throughout the year to discuss the importance of diversity in business and what owners and citizens can do to support it.

Diversity isn't a buzzword. It's our birthright. 

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