-Idaho Communities Prepare for Both Scenarios-
Nineteen Idaho counties – from Washington County in western Idaho to Teton County in eastern Idaho – are within the “path of totality” and are expected to see a large influx of visitors during this year’s total eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
Preparing for the total solar eclipse is taking center stage locally, regionally and nationally. Experts from Great American Eclipse.com anticipate anywhere from 93,000 to 370,000 visitors across the path of totality in Idaho, including Sun Valley, Stanley and Washington County. But the majority of visitors are expected in eastern Idaho, with NASA estimating upwards of 500,000 in eastern Idaho alone. Anyone trying to book a rental property in the region for that weekend using Airbnb will see a message that “2167 percent more people are looking for rental properties in Idaho Falls now (Aug 18-22) than on average.”
Eastern Idaho can provide roughly 8,000 units of rental sleeping spaces including hotels, motels, rental homes, lodges, campsites and RV parks. If each space is shared by an average of three people, the accommodation capacity is around 24,000 people – less than one half to one sixth of the visitor count expected to spend the night prior to eclipse day. Putting this into perspective, if 90 percent of the visitors are around only long enough to see the eclipse, using the region’s resources and infrastructure the economic benefits for the hotels, restaurants and retail outlets may be less than if they were to spend the night.
A community college can fill educational, community and social needs in a region. Spending the first two years of a four-year degree at a community college and increased educational attainment levels could add $5.2 million in annual spending to eastern Idaho’s regional economy.
In May, Bonneville County voters approved a tax measure allowing Eastern Idaho Technical College to become a community college. Continue reading
Idaho is comprised of 44 counties – seven urban and 37 rural – as classified by the Idaho Department of Labor. Idaho fits snugly between economic urban powerhouse states Washington and Oregon and more rural neighbors Montana and Wyoming. The geographic placement of Idaho creates a unique situation.
The broad county categories of urban and rural are based mostly on population density. Though a simple classification system, it may have some significant restrictions. As time passes more people are leaving rural areas out of economic necessity such as seeking better job opportunities, education access and health care amenities. Migration out-flow data shows that rural counties like Madison and Clark have the highest rates of out-migration – up to 17 percent annually. Meanwhile, only Canyon and Ada counties have experienced an annual out-migration of only 3 to 6 percent. Though these changes mimic national trends, rural communities throughout Idaho are still active and pushing to thrive. Besides population density, there are many characteristics that separate a rural area from an urban one.
As a new resident of eastern Idaho, I am quickly learning there is much more to this traditionally rural area than I anticipated. Each region in Idaho is immensely different from one another, but eastern Idaho has vast diversity within itself. The rural, scenic, untouched beauty of Custer and Clark counties is hard for many people to find within a reasonable distance of their daily lives. In Idaho, these scenic views are just a couple of hours drive away. The Idaho Falls metropolitan area is alive, well and the forefront of economic mobility in the region. Although small compared to metro areas nationally, swift and advanced development of medical facilities, retail shopping and restaurants makes the Idaho Falls metro area an ideal place for young families or for a retirement in paradise. Along with the many economic upsides, there are also challenges for this part of the state.
Eastern Idaho is made up of nine counties; one urban and eight rural. Each county has experienced population growth within the last few years. Teton County, a rural county and close neighbor of Wyoming, has experienced a 34 percent population hike since 2010. After recently visiting the towns of Victor and Driggs, the reasons behind this rapid growth are clear. These quaint towns are infused with rich culture, diverse food and gorgeous views of the Teton Mountains with the kind of outdoor recreational activities most people dream about. For these reasons and more, there is an influx of migrants – retirees, young outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages – swarming to these towns looking for adventure.
Community leaders and economic development professionals are typically interested in the types of businesses that should be added to their local economies. Any answer comes against the backdrop of the existing business mix that is the result of a century or more of economic evolution and market forces.
But in some cases industry growth struggles to keep up with population growth.
Madison County was Idaho’s fourth fastest growing county between 2000 and 2012 when its population increased 36 percent – almost 10,000 residents. Much of the growth was spurred by the transition of two-year Rick’s College into four-year Brigham Young University-Idaho. But neighboring Jefferson and Teton counties were also in the top-five fastest growing counties in the state.
A long-range plan called Envision Madison is under way in Madison County to ensure the community remains economically viable while maintaining its quality of life as growth continues. City planners and government leaders – and entrepreneurs looking for the next business idea – are hunting for strategies to facilitate continued natural growth. Fortunately there are a few statistical tools that can aid the process. Continue reading
Personal income is the total of wages, business profits, investment earnings and transfer payments like Social Security and pensions, and in Idaho that total jumped 3.9 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Per capita personal income – that total divided equally among every man, woman and child – was $34,481 in 2012 in Idaho – 79 percent of the national average of $43,735. Idaho’s per capita income has been steadily declining in relation to national per capita income over the past decade, dropping from 83 percent in 2002 when it ranked 40th among the 50 states to 49th among the states in 2012.
During the same period, personal income and per capita income increased for all five northern Idaho counties. The largest increases were in Benewah and Shoshone counties, where there was a significant increase in wages and salaries. Compensation and bonuses from the mining industry was most likely the source in Shoshone County, and earnings in local government probably explains the growth in Benewah. Continue reading
Punxsutawney Phil took some heat this year for falsely predicting the early onset of spring. All the while thousands of Idaho retail workers were prepping so potential customers can get started on projects around the house.
Home Depot has big hopes this year, announcing plans to hire 80,000 seasonal workers nationwide – 10,000 more than last year. Local media outlets reported plans for Home Depot to add 100 workers in eastern Idaho, 225 in the Boise area and 30 to 40 in Twin Falls.
Employment typically averages a little more than 30 per home center in Idaho. But that average is likely skewed by both the larger number of smaller local business and big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot in more urban areas. Employment at a lawn and garden center, however, barely hits 10 during the peak season between the second and third quarters each year.