ITC Board Meeting at Idaho National Guard

The members of the ITC Board of Trustees are a diverse group that represents many different industries in Idaho. What unites them, however, is a shared interest for improving Idaho’s business environment for technology companies. Most recently, members of the ITC Board had the privilege of meeting at the Idaho National Guard base on Gowen field.

Our Chairman, Von Hansen, CEO of AlertSense, facilitated the meeting. After introductions and catered lunch, the ITC Board had the privilege of hearing from Col. Tim Donnellan, Commander of the 124th Fighter Wing. Because of the 124th Fighter Wing’s economic impact and use of cutting edge technology, the ITC allocated time on the agenda for a brief presentation.

Donnellan explained that 75% of their force is traditional, full-time civilian employment. With a total of 1,375 airmen, the Idaho National Guard contributes an estimated $155 million to Boise’s economy. There is a significant investment in the technology that empowers the 124th Fighter Wing, which flies the A-10/OA-10C Thunderbolt II.

Although the A-10 has been around for decades, to meet the needs of a changing battlefield, new technology has been implemented in new iterations of the A-10. The most current platform, the A-10C, includes a central computer, datalink, an improved fire control system, and electronic countermeasures. One of the improvements used by the 124th Fighter Wing includes use of the advanced LITENING AT targeting pods, which has laser designators and laser rangefinders to allow for precise targeting.

Because Boise is a promising location to host the new F-35 fighter, Donnellan briefly explained the technology behind the new craft. As a 5th generation fighter, the F-35 utilities the most advanced technology the Air Force has deployed to date. The F-35 has superior capabilities for air to air and air to ground, made possible through advanced sensors and a helmet mounted display. These features provide superior situational awareness and allows for precision strikes in all weather conditions.

Donnellan asserted that Boise is a competitive option to receive between 18-24 F-35’s, which could be deployed as early as 2021. Although there have been concerns about increased noise from the F-35’s, the Idaho National Guard has been engaged in community outreach to explain the potential impact. Donnellan explained that because engagements will only take place in the morning and afternoons, which will not require afterburner use in most conditions, the potential impact will be far less than most people realize.

After Donnellan’s remarks, Cheryl Charlton, CEO of Idaho Digital Learning Academy, took the floor. Her presentation explained the incredible progress that has taken place in computer science education in Idaho. Cheryl explained that prior to the ITC’s partnership with IDLA and Code.org, there was little alignment or synergy between K-12, Higher Ed, Industry, Government.

Thanks to the ITC and its partners, this has completely changed. Prior to the partnership between ITC, IDLA, and Code.org, there were only six teachers certified to teach computer science. To date, there are now more than 132 certified teachers with a potential impact of almost 13,000 students that have the opportunity to learn computer science. With such rapid growth, Idaho was recognized by a White House panel as being one of the top three states in the nation for computer science education.  

Following Cheryl’s update, we had a brief presentation from our Hall of Fame Chair, Larissa Martineau, National Staffing Practice Manager of RESPEC. She announced the selection of this year’s Hall of Fame candidates: Barbara Morgan, the first teacher-astronaut to complete a shuttle mission, and Burt Rutan, a longtime innovation in the aerospace industry. Morgan and Rutan will be inducted into the ITC Hall of Fame during the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction scheduled for October 24, at the Boise Centre.

After Larissa’s announcement, the IT Board split into three different groups for a brainstorming session around the ITCs main focus areas: Access to Capital, Talent, and R&D Commercialization (Tech2Market). The breakout groups were led by Jay Larsen, ITC President; Alisa Bondurant, ITC Director of Talent; and Mark Stinson, BioBridge. When asked what we could do differently in terms of people, processes, and services, the ITC Board had the following suggestions:

Capital:

  • One on one mentoring
  • Create stronger capital network
  • Tech Tuesday (dedicated event for entrepreneurs and investors)

Talent:

  • Create tech group similar to BYP for young tech professionals
  • Help young students start a STEM track earlier
  • Create additional scholarship funds

Tech 2 Market:

  • Develop business recruitment partnership with BVEP and Boise Chamber
  • Connect with other market and companies
  • Tax incentive programs to attract R&D stakeholders

After the brainstorming session, we had a guest presentation by Ron & AJ Osborn, representing the Arthur J. Gallagher company. Their presentation was on the existing challenges and opportunities in the healthcare market. In today’s market, without a standardized system, there are higher costs and fewer options. They explained that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance market is disappearing. Today, 21% of all ACA customers only have access to one carrier in their area. Because American healthcare is a complex interdependency between individuals, providers, employers, and insurers, there are no easy fixes to the current system.

Ron and AJ spoke briefly about solutions that some companies have implemented, such as private exchanges, voluntary benefits, and multiple employer solutions, but because of time constraints, were unable to go into greater detail. Our Board asked Ron and AJ to return to the next ITC Board Meeting, scheduled for October, to break down some possible solutions.

The ITC Board then had the privilege of touring the hangar for the 124th Fighter Wing. The tour included an overview of the A-10 aircraft, a presentation about technology used by ground troops, and background information about the Idaho National Guard’s cyber squadron. Members of the ITC Board were energized to learn about the assets available to protect Idaho.  

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