Tag Archives: economy

2017 Total Solar Eclipse: Infrastructure Challenge or Economic Windfall?

-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.”

Image: Google

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.

Regionally, eastern Idaho has approximately 222,432 people spread across more than 19,000 square miles – much of it vacant without roads and little access to emergency services. The area’s infrastructure – roadways, cell towers, sewer systems, hospitals, emergency teams and more – is engineered to serve the residential population with capacity for anticipated tourism and economic activity. If the number of visitors  for the eclipse are realized for a condensed period of time, as estimated by NASA, the infrastructure will experience up to three times the number of people it was built to support.

While late August is still part of the heavy tourist season, the eclipse attendance will be the largest concentration of visitors the region has ever seen. Travel accommodation businesses, retail businesses and restaurants may see increased foot traffic and higher purchasing volume, but according to department economists, the benefits may pale in comparison to the actual visitor count. The Idaho Transportation Department anticipates seeing roads that would normally carry 1,100 cars per hour, increased to 1,800 or 1,900 cars per hour around the eclipse date. With many visitors intending to leave directly after the eclipse, a heavy increase in traffic may dissuade drivers from spending additional time at local restaurants and shops.

The average hotel room rate in eastern Idaho was $123.97 per day in 2016. With the eclipse, hotel rates are expected to increase significantly depending on the demand. In this case, eastern Idaho travel accommodation businesses are advertising rental spaces for $350 to $2,500 per night. Airbnb claims to have less than 19 percent availability currently open in the area. This is likely comparable to camping and RV site reservations. With an estimate of more than 3,700 rooms total in the region, some hotels, motels, lodges and inns throughout the region are already booked.

In addition, due directly to the sheer volume of visitors expected, the infrastructure costs the region may incur may exceed the profit margins private leisure and hospitality businesses will see.

That’s why Idaho businesses and government agencies within the path are holding frequent meetings in their communities to prepare and create the best possible plans available to accommodate the increase of businesses and at the same time benefit from the event.

For example, with so many small towns right in the path of ideal viewing, the Idaho Department of Commerce is working with the state’s Office of Emergency Management, local law enforcement and area hospitals to ensure all are prepared for the influx of people. In addition to holding a series of workshops in June, with one hosted by Idaho Falls the department has launched a website to serve as an information hub for both communities and travelers.

The website also features resources for businesses, visitors, residents and links to other resources, as well as plans and resources created by the Bureau of Land Management, the Idaho Transportation Department, the US Forest Service and the Idaho Tax Commission.

A quick glimpse at the eclipse impact on the hotel and rental industries can be found below:

Source: Statistica 2017
**The data above represents national averages, in conjunction with Idaho hotel/rental pricing and occupancy estimates for Aug-17.

For more information on what Idaho businesses and government agencies are doing to prepare for the eclipse, visit the Idaho Office of Emergency Management Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/IdahoOEM/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/IdahoOEM) accounts. Twitter users will find updates using the hashtag #IdahoEclipse2017.

Additional information can be found at these websites:

Hope.Morrow@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 525-7268 ext. 4340

 

Community College to Impact Spending in Eastern Idaho

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

Defining Rural Idaho Presents Challenges

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.

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New Labor Regional Economist Discovers Diverse Character of Eastern Idaho

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.

table-1

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.

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Forecasting Madison County’s Economy

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

Per Capita Personal Income Rising in Northern Idaho, Declining Statewide

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

Home, Lawn and Garden Centers Show Signs of Growth

idaho_garden_center_employment

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.
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