BusinessWeek on Boise

Boise is one of the “comparable” cities to Spokane, used by government and others to compare how one region is doing with another.

BusinessWeek writes about the collapse of home prices now reaching into Boise, Idaho and the Northwest. Boise, like Spokane, has been watching the decline in its tech job sector as major employer’s like Micron went from about 10,000 workers to 5,000.  Like Spokane, where locally grown businesses have a long history of being bought out by outsiders, Boise’s locally grown Albertsons was bought out, bringing 70 years of local growth to an abrupt end.

A comment to that article adds a statement that is directly applicable to Spokane:

Even though most long-time residents don’t like it, the area’s economy has been based on population growth for the last 25 years or so. Many people in California (and other areas) could sell their house and buy a bigger house in Idaho for less, and have money left to spend at the new retail developments. Population growth has slowed to a crawl, and the traditional industries in Idaho such as natural resources and agriculture do not pay very well. Empty houses and stores have consumed prime, gravity-irrigated farmland. Most people are lucky to earn $30,000/year.

The above is an accurate description of the Spokane economy which is now based primarily on attracting retirees – or soon to be retirees starting to slow down and end their careers by capturing their California home equity wealth, moving to inexpensive Spokane (low housing costs, low wages) to preserve their wealth. I highlighted the section that also explains Spokane’s retail and service economy as well.

That is, then, the source of Spokane’s population growth.


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