By Brennen Kauffman
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Teton Valley News
The newest county population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that three counties in eastern Idaho have been the focus of the region’s recent growth.
Teton County was the fastest growing county in eastern Idaho, having increased 14.5 percent since 2010, and had the fourth highest increase in the state. Jefferson County was fifth in Idaho and Bonneville County was seventh.
Two of the only counties that lost population in the 2018 estimate are in eastern Idaho. Madison County was down 0.2 percent that year and Clark County was down 3.7 percent. In the longer view, Clark and Butte counties have the two fastest-shrinking populations in the state over the last decade.
Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho has also been gathering numbers about county populations. CEO Dana Kirkham said that Teton County’s growth is especially encouraging because it seems to be driven by a younger generation. Thirty percent of Teton County’s population is between the ages of 25 and 44, the highest percentage of any county in eastern Idaho, which Kirkham said indicated that people were moving for job opportunities.
“We’re seeing jobs pop up that encourage people to move to the area or come back to the area later in life,” Kirkham said.
Teton’s growth is more remarkable given the increased divide between the urban and rural counties in Idaho. Nearly a third of the state’s 35 rural counties saw their population either shrink or not change at all since 2010, while the nine urban counties grew by more than 10 percent on average.
Bonneville County has grown 12 percent this decade and that rate has accelerated recently. More than 1,000 people have moved into the county in each of the last three years.
The estimates match what Roger Christensen, chairman of the Bonneville County Commissioners, has seen from the building permits and other measures of growth in the county. He said the county has tried to plan ahead to prepare for this growth but that some infrastructure has been more of a struggle to keep up with.
“One of our biggest challenges is roads. We’re seeing a couple areas of growth that we’re trying to keep up with, especially on the east side of the city,” Christensen said.
These estimates will be the last that come out before work begins on the official counts for the 2020 Census. Idaho Falls has established a Complete Count Committee to make sure that the area’s population will be as accurate as possible when that effort begins. Idaho Falls Community Development Services Director Brad Cramer is leading that committee and he said that these estimates are not as crucial for the city as the official count will be.
“In some of our census tracts, it’s alarmingly high how many people were missed. The main goal is to reduce that error and get the correct count to as many groups of people as possible,” Cramer said.
Boise was among the 10 fastest-growing cities in the nation in 2018 and Ada and Canyon counties have been the two fastest-growing counties in the state since 2010. Last year, more than 20,000 new residents arrived in the Boise area — or nearly the entire population of Minidoka County.
Kirkham said that Idaho Falls can learn from the growth that has happened in the Boise area, both in terms of what attracted newcomers and what the region did to encourage the trend.
“Turn back the clock 20 years, and there’s a lot of similarities to eastern Idaho right now,” she said.
The Census Bureau had previously named Idaho the fastest-growing state in the county in 2017. The new estimates indicate that Utah has had the most growth of any state since 2010, with 14.4 percent more people living there now. Two metropolitan areas in Utah, St. George and Provo-Orem, were among the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas last year.