Moscow growth holds steadyI absolutely LOVE the spinmeistering on display in this article. Moscow is growing nearly three times less than the rest of the state, and it's "healthy?" Post Falls is a "famous" place? Moscow "hasn't been discovered?" These people have a future in the PR Department of the White Star Line.
Rate considered healthy right now, but growth in Pullman, falling UI enrollment could create slowdown
Moscow grew much slower than many other Idaho cities between 2000 and 2006, but experts say the rate is normal for the city.
However, an increasing population in Pullman and a decreasing enrollment at the University of Idaho could slow Moscow's growth in the future.
Idaho grew 13.3 percent as a whole between 2000 and 2006, according to recently released census data. Some cities grew dramatically - Post Falls grew 36 percent, Nampa grew 40.3 percent, and Meridian was up 64.2 percent. In contrast, Moscow grew only 4.8 percent over the six-year period.
Harley Johansen, head of the University of Idaho geography department and a population dynamics professor, says Moscow's growth rate is normal.
"You could say Moscow's not keeping up with the state, but it is a healthy growth," Johansen said.
He said people come to Idaho for amenities like clean air and scenery, and while Moscow has those, famous places tend to draw more people.
City supervisor Gary Riedner agreed.
"We haven't been discovered - or should I say haven't been discovered to the extent that Coeur d'Alene and the Treasure Valley have," he said.
Riedner said the current rate of growth is good for the city.
"I would rather have steady growth - moderate steady growth - than have exponential growth," he said. "When you grow at a steady pace, you have time to plan for public infrastructure."
Moscow is growing faster than most of the immediate area. Latah County as a whole grew .3 percent between 2000 and 2006, Nez Perce County grew by 2.4 percent and Whitman County shrunk by 2.2 percent.
Steve Peterson, a University of Idaho research economist, said a below-average growth rate is historically normal for the area because it is mainly dependent on two industries - natural resources and government - neither of which are particularly fast-growing.
The only major city in the area with faster growth than Moscow is Pullman, which grew 7.6 percent between 2000 and this year, according to state of Washington population estimates. This growth could affect Moscow, Peterson said.
Peterson, who helped conduct the 2006 study "Growth in Moscow," said some of Moscow's growth is due to people working in Lewiston or Pullman but living in Moscow, though that could change as legislation in Pullman and Moscow changes.
"Moscow's entering the phase of having more restrictive (policies) while Pullman is loosening up," he said. "If everything else held constant, that's likely to put a dent (in Moscow's growth)."
Riedner said he doesn't think Moscow has deliberately enacted legislation to limit growth. Legislation like the Large Retail Establishment Ordinance, the so-called big-box ordinance, is meant to reflect what type of development the community wants.
Fritz Hughes, Pullman Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Pullman is possibly more open for growth than Moscow. The city also has space for growth, local people willing to invest in new businesses, and retirees moving to the region and demanding retail, he said.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories has been a force in bringing people to Pullman, Hughes said, because it's "growing by leaps and bounds."
Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman agreed that high-tech industry has helped Pullman. The city's growth is historically tied to Washington State University, but after enrollment declines in the 1980s and '90s, the city "did make a concentrated effort to diversify our economy outside of higher education and agriculture," Sherman said. "We've had a little more growth in the high-tech sector than Moscow has."
Pullman's city council has taken measures to encourage and prepare for growth, he said. One goal it adopted is to develop a "welcoming business atmosphere."
Margaret Howlett, executive director of the Latah Economic Development Council, said growth in Pullman is not necessarily a bad thing for Moscow.
"Like it or not like it, we're a regional economy. Pullman and Moscow are joined at the hip. I don't think it has to be a negative for either side," she said.
Though population growth is steady, median family income in the area is increasing, which is good for the economy, Howlett said.
Dropping enrollment at the UI could also affect Moscow's growth.
Total Moscow-campus enrollment in 2000 was 11,635, but in 2006 it was 10,765 - a 7.4 percent drop. Peterson said the UI makes up half of Latah County's economy in jobs, income and sales, and the student population decline "may put some downward pressure on population growth" in the city.
Howlett said creating more high-paying jobs and diversifying the Moscow economy could bring in students and keep them in the area.
"If there are opportunities for some of the well-educated people in the universities to stay, I think they will," she said.
But this is my favorite line: "Riedner said he doesn't think Moscow has deliberately enacted legislation to limit growth. BWWHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAAA!!!!!!!
Fritz gets the award for most diplomatic answer of the year. And as always, Steve Peterson cuts through the BS to get to the truth of the matter.
The only downer in this story is the negative growth rate in rural Whitman County. I thought the county commissioners had promised a flood of new development once the Rural Residential Housing Ordinance was passed. I have't heard a peep as of yet. I'm afraid it's going to be more of the same old no-growth.