Only a few weeks into 2017 and it is already looking like big change for eastern Idaho. As 2016 came to a close a hefty number of building plans were solidified and in 2017 they will come to life. As the construction industry and housing markets are still recovering from the 2008 recession, eastern Idaho is seeing an unfamiliar jump in infrastructure expected in the next few years. While home building permit approvals are sky rocketing around the region, regional expansion is not stopping at residential building. Public and private entities alike are bringing big changes to the area. More than $22 million in commercial building permits were approved for eastern Idaho in 2016.
One of the leading news articles to hit the region this year was the approval to build a $1.65 billion Naval Reactors Facility at the Idaho National Laboratory. This landmark project is slated to begin partway through this year and continue with pre-construction and construction phases throughout the next seven years.
Also recently approved and underway is the Idaho Falls downtown Broadway project that will include two new buildings with office, commercial and residential space. Also downtown a $10 million project has begun to re-vamp the Bonneville Hotel and add retail spaces on its ground floor.
A substantial list of likely projects to develop in eastern Idaho’s near future include the Snake River Landing Convention Center, the remodel of Skyline High School, the new Idaho Falls High School, the proposed Eastern Idaho Community College and the two Idaho National Laboratory Cyber Security buildings.
It’s apparent the construction industry will need to transform to facilitate all of the new projects in the region. Though construction employment is still below pre-recession levels, it should not take much longer to fully recover under this amount of immense growth. The Idaho Department of Labor’s long-term industry projections indicate a 24.3 percent growth in the eastern Idaho construction industry by 2024.
Due to the surprising number of new projects slated for 2017, the projected growth numbers may prove to be overly conservative. Increasing the industry size by nearly 25 percent in such a short time is a major improvement for the region, and the economic future is even brighter than originally anticipated. Fig. 1 depicts the previous two years of construction employment. The blue dots represent projected employment expected in this industry by 2024. When considering the 360 job increase related to the NRF building project, the red dots indicate the anticipated employment growth based on this project alone.
Each of these projects will require substantial construction work, which will help build up the industry and encourage consistent future growth. In addition to the benefit the construction industry will see, the indirect and induced effect of these projects will provide benefits across many industries, region wide. Projecting the future is not a perfect science, but if these new trends are any indication eastern Idaho is slated to see significant change and strong growth through 2024 and beyond.
Hope.Morrow@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 525-7268 ext. 4340