The rapid population growth in North Idaho has created challenges for city and transportation planners. It has contributed to the affordable housing crisis affecting Kootenai County and beyond. For many, the changing landscape of the region, with the rise of new commercial buildings and residential properties, is cause to mourn.
But growth does have benefits.
It generates new jobs, raises property values and increases tax revenue, leading to better services and amenities for residents.
Another advantage of growth is tied to the information in our cover story about our region’s shifting age demographics and how they are a significant factor driving the labor shortage.
Negative natural population growth — more births than deaths — is occurring in Idaho and throughout the nation, according to regional economist Sam Wolkenauer.
“In this environment, Idaho has gained a relative advantage as a desirable state that reliably attracts high in-migration year after year, which has consistently made Idaho one of the fastest-growing and most thriving states in the nation — an advantage that should continue into the foreseeable future,” wrote Wolkenauer, in a recent report on growth.
However, in-migration by people 65 and older far outweighs the number of younger folks flocking to North Idaho. With an increasing number of older residents needing services, especially related to health care, retail and hospitality, there is an even greater need for workforce age residents to decide North Idaho is the place to live.
Maybe it’s time to add a few items to the list of things being done to address the challenges of growth: Attract more working age people to North Idaho and do more to keep our younger residents from moving away.