Printed on: September 25, 2013

Growth from within

Casper wants city office for economic development


EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth and final installment of articles profiling candidates in the Idaho Falls mayoral race.

When Costco Wholesale opened its doors in 2008 in Pocatello, Rebecca Casper said she felt a twinge of disappointment.

When Allstate selected the Pocatello-Chubbuck area for its new 75,000-square-foot facility that would bring 500 jobs to Bannock County in 2010, that disappointment was magnified.

Idaho Falls, she said, lost out in a big way.

"When things like that happen, I think we really need to ask ourselves, 'What is the effect?' " she said. "How would it have benefited us? What would 1,000 new jobs feel like here?"

One of four candidates vying for the mayor's position, Casper said she is prepared to advocate for economic development on a new level: through city government itself.

Casper is calling for a new office of economic development to actively recruit new business to Idaho Falls and the region. The office would work close-

ly with already-established local economic development groups such as Grow Idaho Falls, the Downtown Development Corp. and the Partnership for Science and Technology. She said she doesn't know how many staff members would be dedicated to the office, or even what it would be called. Those things, she said, will work themselves out.

All Casper cares about is that the office does its job by bringing new employment opportunities home to Idaho Falls.

"I don't want people to fear that there will be these drastic changes the first week I walk in through the door," she said. "These things should, of course, be phased in over time. It takes time to build those relationships."

Casper called on council members to take more time to discuss where the city's proposed spray park should be located, saying the project should be put off until next year.

"While I absolutely want to see development of amenities that attract citizens and visitors, I am concerned about the widely disparate views surrounding this project," Casper said. "There is no reason to rush this project; we have the luxury of taking the time to do this right."

The spray park is one of several long-term budgetary items that must be addressed by a new council, she said. Another is the long-term overtime budgetary issues with the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

Casper said she would support hiring new firefighters to curb the chronic overtime costs because that also would create jobs.

"There is room for improvement on how the budget is developed," she said. "Council members deserve to have more information available to them when they seek it out."

Casper said her toughest challenge is getting her message of economic growth out to residents.

"I enjoy it, though," she said. "It's invigorating because you find people who care. You find more people who care than you thought you would."

Reporter Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762.

Rebecca Casper

Marital status: Single

Children: Four children

Schooling: Bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University, Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley

Occupation: Adjunct professor at Eastern Idaho Technical College and Brigham Young University- Idaho, small business owner

Years in Idaho Falls: 14


Extra insight

First three profiles on Idaho Falls mayoral candidates:

Sept. 13: Sharon Parry

Sept. 18: Tim Downs

Sept. 20: Brian LaPray

If you go

What: First public forum for Idaho Falls mayoral candidates

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. today

Where: University Place auditorium, 1784 Science Center Drive in Idaho Falls