The Mayor is Going Where? To Sell What?
Posted on September 20, 2020
(My regular column is suspended during the pandemic, but we’re running some old ones I thought readers might enjoy. They originally were published in The Idaho Statesman. Many are humor columns, slightly modified, from the 1980s. In times like these, we need humor.)
No one can ever accuse Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne of a lack of salesmanship.
The mayor is planning a trade mission to Taiwan, where he said he will be “looking forward to opening doors for local businesses to expand into new markets. … We must become more aggressive in promoting the sale of local products other than agricultural goods.”
Kempthorne is one of nine mayors chosen by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to visit Taiwan, courtesy of a Chinese industrial association. To make sure their honors stick strictly to business and don’t engage in a lot of male-oriented frivolity on the junket, the association also is springing for their wives to accompany them.
A news release about the trip didn’t address what struck me as a pretty obvious question.
What kind of Boise products will the mayor be plugging in Taiwan?
To find out, I called his office. My call was referred to the city’s economic development director, who said it was “a matter of analyzing what they need that we produce.”
“I’m sure one of the things he’ll discuss will be wheat.”
Of course! Never mind that the mayor said we need to promote products “other than agricultural goods.” Boise wheat is legendary, so well known that he couldn’t not promote it in Taiwan.
It’s always mystified me that Boise is known as the City of Trees when by all rights it should be the City of Wheat. Everyone knows that Boise wheat is known and coveted throughout the civilized world.
Once Kempthorne corners the lucrative Taiwanese market, Boise wheat will be even more famous and sought after. Look for fields of billowing wheat to spring up all over town. Vacant lots and backyard gardens will explode with amber waves of Boise grain.
So much economic development could come from the mission that it could be the beginning of a bold new era for the state’s mayors.
Consider the potential. If the mayor of Boise can go all the way to Taiwan to sell wheat, anything is possible.
The mayor of Meridian, for instance, could fly to Hawaii to sell water towers.
One of the Hawaiian islands has the wettest spot on the planet. The Hawaiians need places to put all that water, and Meridian is at least as well known for water towers as Boise is for wheat, so it’s a natural. Meridian’s mayor would be so busy selling water towers that he wouldn’t have a single minute to waste on luaus, surfing or other amusements. Taxpayers could rest assured that it would be all business.
The possibilities are endless:
The mayor of Lewiston could go to Australia or the British Isles to sell seaports.
The mayor of Hagerman, known for its fish hatcheries, could sell trout to Norway.
The mayor of Sun Valley could sell ski lifts in the Bahamas.
The mayor of Pocatello could pitch potatoes in Ireland.
The mayor of Jerome could spend months in the Virgin Islands, tapping the lucrative Caribbean Tupperware market.
Or, the mayors could stay home and run their cities.
But how much fun would that be?