Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #6: The Palouse Is Facing “Runaway” Urban Sprawl and Out-Of-Control Growth

Wal-Mart Myth #6 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

Charge #6: The Palouse region is growing fast in terms of population and employment. The Palouse is facing “runaway” urban sprawl and out-of-control growth.

Fact: Population and employment growth is relatively modest (if at all)

  • Moscow, Latah County, and the Quad County region have had below average population and employment growth for several decades. It is one of the slower growing regions in Idaho and Washington.

  • Fact: slow county population growth

  • 2000-2005: The Latah County cumulative population growth rate (-0.6%) has been below both the State of Idaho (10.4%) and the United States (5.3%).

  • Whitman County’s population peaked in 1974 at 41,952 people and has not yet recovered.

  • In 1969 Kootenai County (35,005 people), the home of Coeur d’Alene, and Nez Perce County (30,224), the home of Lewiston, had about the same population. By 2005, Kootenai County was 3.4 times the size of Nez Perce County (127,668 people versus 37,931).

  • Fact: Moscow has experienced modest population growth

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 12.1% over the decade 1980-1990

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 15% over the decade 1990-2000

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 2.8% over the period 2000-2004

  • To some extent the population growth in Moscow may be partially replacing population declines in Latah County

  • But Moscow was still below the Idaho State population average growth rate

    Moscow grew cumulative approximately 33% from 1980-2004. The entire Quad County region grew 12.7%

    Fact: Economy is heavily dependent on slow growing government and aging natural resources industries
  • The Quad County economy is heavily dependent on aging natural resource based industries and government operations. At best they represent slow growing industries and may face actual declines in the future.

  • Fact: We will not become “Post Falls”

  • Latah County has not, and will not, face population growth of the magnitude of Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, or Boise:

  • Not in your life time

  • Not in the life time of your children

  • Not in the life time of your children’s children

  • Unless lightening strikes:

  • Bill Gates decides to move Microsoft to Moscow.

  • The Idaho State legislature decides to move Boise State University to Moscow.

  • The region acquires about 10 to 15 new firms equivalent to Schweitzer Engineering in the next few years.

  • ……..and how likely are any of the above events?

    So….where did all that construction come from?

  • Latah County’s per capita real incomes and real median family incomes have been rising over the last 3 decades (in part) because Moscow has become the home and shopping center of the Palouse. This has created the illusion of rapid population growth.

  • Average household size has been declining over time.

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