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