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Boise & Intermountain Cities Doing Well

7/17/2014

Idaho Business Review - Brad Iverson Long

Boise and other cities in the region have attracted businesses and families in recent years with a combination of low living costs, strong traditional industries like agriculture and manufacturing, and an environment that’s friendly to business, said Demographer Joel Kotkin.

The Intermountain West, led by Denver and Salt Lake City, is one of the three primary job growth regions in the country, along with the Great Plains and the Third Coast, the Gulf Coast area that includes Houston, according to Kotkin’s data.

Kotkin spoke July 15 at a lunch hosted by Zions Bank in Boise. The bank was holding a meeting of its board of directors. Kotkin is an author and distinguished fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

Kotkin said recent data from the U.S Census, Moscow-based Economic Modeling Specialists International and other sources shows Boise and other Intermountain cities are adding jobs and will continue to attract young families. Some of the reasons are economic, such as low energy costs, while others are cultural. “One of the reasons companies come here or they grow here is that they’re not considered a pariah,” Kotkin said. Relatively low home prices are key to attracting younger people, including those born after 1983.

“People move to places where they can afford to live,” Kotkin said, adding that a strong housing market improves the construction sector and other parts of a regional economy. He also said cities that can accommodate a suburban environment will attract young people.

Kotkin said cities like Boise must understand what they have to offer potential residents, and improve what can be fixed. That includes education and regulations. But he cautioned against trying to mimic other cities. While Boise is doing a good job of attracting some technology sector jobs, “you’re not going to recreate San Francisco in Boise,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of tech companies that are coming in and saying ‘I can get the people I want here, and I want to be in the Intermountain West.’ When you add in the low cost of electricity and the good regulatory environment, that’s a pretty compelling case for a lot of companies.”

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Clark Krause
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