The stalled economy offered Boise one silver lining: $915,349 in lease payments from Union Pacific for storing its idle cars on the city's idle railroad track.
City staff is recommending the city use the windfall to upgrade the track itself, explore creating a "foreign trade zone" around the airport to boost commerce, and jumpstart a business incubator for local alternative-energy start-up companies.
The idea came from a brainstorming session on what to do with the 18.2 miles of city-owned tracks. It was one of the first things John Brunelle did when he joined Mayor Dave Bieter's economic development team in 2008 - a time when rail use was plummeting along with the economy.
He asked Union Pacific if the company needed to store rail cars - and it turned out the economy had sidelined many of its rail cars and the company didn't have a place to put them.
Though the city is facing an almost $4 million shortfall, city staffers suggest this lease money, which is put into themayor's economic development fund, be spent to help pull the city out of the recession.
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