A large mudslide derailed a Union Pacific train near Moyie Springs on March 15. No injuries were reported, though 12 railroad cars loaded with grain were involved in the derailment. Due to the steep terrain in the area, it was not immediately possible to bring in equipment to move the derailed cars. Multiple mudslides and floods have been reported since then, leading to a state of emergency declared by Boundary County and the city of Bonners Ferry. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee
The city of Post Falls will use an Idaho Transportation Department grant to improve pedestrian pathways and trails and construct new pathways in the city center.
Kootenai County declared a state of emergency on March 16 in response to extensive flooding caused by heavy rain and melting snow pack. Areas affected by flooding include Cataldo, Fernan Lake Village, Hayden and Rathdrum.
School levies around Kootenai County were successful in March. Plummer-Worley, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts all passed their respective levies.
Idaho’s “micro” counties, rural counties that have no town with a population greater than 5,000 within their borders, have experienced significant differences in economic growth and development from the state’s urban counties as well as other, larger rural counties.
Rural issues have received significant attention in Idaho. In addition to research conducted within the Idaho Department of Labor, both the Governor’s Office and the Department of Commerce have discussed specific initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth in rural Idaho.
Department of Labor analysts define “rural” as all counties that do not contain an urban center, as noted in previous articles. This definition doesn’t recognize some of the differences in non-urban counties by assuming any county without an urban center is “rural.” Further narrowing the definition to “micro” counties for the purposes of this analysis avoids this issue by identifying Idaho’s smallest communities and defining their counties as rural.
The city of Coeur d’Alene is moving forward with a bike share program. The city council reached an agreement with Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that has created more than 140 bike share programs around the country. City officials stressed the focus of the program is on commuters and is not designed to compete with companies that rent bicycles to tourists. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The landmark Dingle Building in the heart of downtown Coeur d’Alene is under new ownership, and the new owners have proposed to turn the property into a boutique hotel. This plan would include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor of the building with and an added fourth story to provide additional hotel occupancy. The plans have been submitted to the city and now await approval. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
North Idaho College has asked the state legislature for $594,900 to provide two free courses at NIC for Idaho residents during the summer quarter of 2017. NIC officials expressed hopes that providing free courses during the summer will raise their fall enrollment numbers. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The city of Rathdrum has announced plans to form an urban renewal agency. The goal of the agency will be the development of Rathdrum’s large vacant areas which are currently zoned for light industrial. Rathdrum is home to two technical schools, and city officials expressed hope that development of the industrial areas will help keep graduates from these schools working in the city. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Empire Unmanned – a northern Idaho manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles – has announced that it will offer a certification course for commercial drone pilots. The company’s sales tripled in 2016 as commercial uses for drones have proliferated. The certification course, which will be offered at North Idaho College, will reflect the evolving regulatory requirements promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene school board voted in favor of a $35.5 million bond measure and a $32 million operating levy, both of which will be put before votes in March. The measures come amid rapid enrollment growth which has left Coeur d’Alene schools significantly overcrowded. Due to rising assessed property values, tax rates would not increase even if both the bond and the levy are approved. Source: Spokesman Review
STCU credit union opened a new branch in downtown Coeur d’Alene after remodeling a former Bank of America Location. The new location, which offers business services and consumer and commercial lending, is STCU’s 20th branch overall and its third in northern Idaho. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission approved a permit for Lake Drive Apartments to build a 30-unit, five-story apartment complex in the underdeveloped East Sherman neighborhood. Lake Drive expressed hopes that construction could be completed in the summer of 2017. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The city of Coeur d’Alene relaxed its rules governing child care business licenses and will now grant licenses to applicants with marijuana charges more than five years old. The change was made to address a serious local shortage of child care providers. The city expressed optimism that the relaxed rules will help address the shortage. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
This is the third of a three-part series about Idaho’s rural economy. This part projects how rural Idaho’s population by age group and labor force participation will look in 10 years based on the previous 10-year trends.
Part one examines elements impacting Idaho’s rural economy today, including population, educational attainment, industries, occupations and wages.
Part two evaluates which dynamics influence rural Idaho’s dwindling labor force.
The population divide between urban and rural Idaho is expected to widen over the next decade, following a national trend that favors urban areas. This will create continued challenges to the economic success of Idaho’s rural areas by limiting the human capital available to employers.
The state’s population is expected to increase by over a quarter of a million people to 1.9 million by 2025.
Source: Communications and Research Division, Idaho Department of Labor, 2016; Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Thorne Research – a Sandpoint-based nutritional supplement manufacturer – announced it is pulling out of northern Idaho. The company, which employs 270 people in the region, will build a new facility outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The new facility is expected to open in 2018. At that time Thorne plans to close all its northern Idaho operations. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee
Kootenai County’s building division has hired two out-of-state companies to conduct and plan reviews in an attempt to work through a large backlog of building permits. Permit requests in the county are at an all-time high – even surpassing the boom of 2005-2007 – and the county’s building division lacks the staff to keep up with demand. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
A toxic blue-green algae outbreak has been detected in the chain lakes along the Coeur d’Alene River. Health advisories have been issued by the Panhandle Health District, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe encouraging people to avoid eating fish from the affected lakes and to avoid recreating near visibly polluted water. Source: Spokesman Review
Wilderness recreation areas across Northern Idaho are still obstructed due to both wildfires and prescribed burns. Several wildfires – some of which began as long ago as July – are still burning in Bonner and Kootenai counties. Crews have also begun prescribed burns to clear away fuel in all five northern counties. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee, Coeur d’Alene Press, Spokesman Review
After officer resignations left the city police department shorthanded, St. Maries signed an agreement with the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office to provide policing for the city. The agreement formalizes the role of the sheriff’s deputies in policing the city and places the city police under sheriff’s supervision. Source: St. Maries Gazette Record
Many factors have affected the economic picture on international, national, state and local levels over the past five to 10 years.
In Southwestern Idaho one example is a strong population growth. Over the decade from 2005 to 2015, this region’s population increased from nearly 617,000 to 750,000, a 22 percent increase. The two urban counties, Canyon and Ada, grew faster than this rate, while the other eight counties grew slower, highlighting the continually deepening divide in urban-rural population growth that is occurring across Idaho.
The Rathdrum City Council approved a request from Avista to change the city’s zoning map in preparation for a possible natural gas power plant. Avista, which owns a 302-acre site in Rathdrum, said it is exploring plans to build a natural gas burning facility to help meet a projected ramp-up in customer demand.
The North Idaho Outlet Mall, which has been mostly unoccupied for several years, is being rejuvenated and reoccupied. Tedder Properties – the new owner of the mall – will move its manufacturing operations into the southern end of the facility and lease the remaining spaces to retail occupants. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Broadband provider Fatbeam announced a $3.2 million donation to the University of Idaho’s Research Park in Post Falls. This will provide access to a fiber network – owned by Fatbeam – and a long-term contract for broadband internet access. Access to fiber is timely, as UI has recently made a push toward computer science, including launching a new cybersecurity lab in the Post Falls research park. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press