The hottest place to move in America is….Boise? Folks who live there seem to think so, and plenty of Americans agree with them. Idaho’s population climbed 2.2 % last year, the fastest-growing state in the nation. Employment is growing at the fastest clip in the nation, too. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the median price of a home soared 22% during 2017. But, for now, the area’s roaring economy seems to be keeping up.
Boise, hidden inland, is a hidden treasure, new residents told me. It’s the new Portland, Oregon.
I’d been told by Seattle friends for several years that I should visit Boise on my way across country with my dog Rusty. That would be skipping my beloved Missoula — you have to cross the mountains somewhere — so I put it off for a trip or two. Big mistake. Boise is the city I’m most anxious to revisit next summer. Look at my pictures and I think you’ll see why Rusty is anxious to go back, too. It might be the most dog-friendly downtown we’ve yet visited.
It stays light late in Boise, situated as it is so far to the west of the Mountain Time Zone. We were there in early July, so nightlife didn’t begin until 10 p.m. or so. Still, even on a Monday, the city was buzzing. There’s ample brew pubs, outdoor patios, and street life. A happy accident, we landed right in the middle of Freak Alley Gallery, an annual celebration of graffiti that takes over the city’s alleys. Gorgeous.
Summer evening weather can seem perfect. Locals swear winter is fun, too, with snow sports an easy trip away and many commutes more manageable than large coastal cities. Residents trade oceans for mountains; on that score, your mileage may vary.
Boise’s cultural scene is boosted by its large ethnic Basque population and the “Basque block” downtown. Basques left their homes near the Spanish-French border during the 1800s and flocked to southern Idaho; many were shepherds attracted by the ideal climate for their craft. The region is now home to the largest group of Basque ex-patriots in North America. (Read more here)
Boise is once again attracting migrants for a lot of reasons; Portland’s “demise” being one. Young people overwhelmed by housings costs are expanding their horizons to non-traditional urban centers; Boise lands on every “cities you might consider” list. One couple I met gave up on Portland rental prices a few years ago. They now live in a small palace that’s a 15-minute bike ride from downtown and have no desire to look back. They’re main fear is people like me, writing stories that attract too many new residents. Boise, like Bend, might have a short window as much as it has a bright future. Now that median home prices are over $300,000, the city doesn’t seem so affordable any more.
There are good jobs in Boise. Micron and HP is there. Chobani, the yogurt company, is there.
But will the good times last? Maybe, suggests Don Holley is professor emeritus in economics at Boise State University, in this column for The Hill. But the state’s small economy is easily buffeted by national trends, he warns.
“For some reason, recession impacts Idaho more severely than the nation, and recovery occurs much faster,” he said. “When the Great Recession hit, the unemployment rate in Idaho went from 4.0 percent to 10.1 percent. No other state experienced such an increase.”
My advice: Visit Boise as soon as you can. Hopefully I’ll see you there.