Idaho is the country’s fastest-growing state, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday.
A total of 1.7 million people live in the Gem State; it grew 2.2 percent between July 2016 and July 2017.
Jan Rogers, CEO of Regional Economic Development for Idaho, attributed the growth to a mix of circumstances.
“I think it’s the sun, moon and stars aligning at once for Idaho,” she said. “We’ve had really good leadership at the state and regional level; we’ve had great opportunities with new business and expansion and we’ve been able to retain a workforce and talent pool to allow these expansions.”
Nevada, Utah, Washington were the next fastest-growing states, with 2, 1.9 and 1.7 percent growth, respectively. Florida and Arizona came in next at 1.6 percent growth.
“Domestic migration drove change in the two fastest-growing states, Idaho and Nevada, while an excess of births over deaths played a major part in the growth of the third fastest-growing state, Utah,” Census Chief of the Population Estimates Branch Luke Rogers said in a release.
Idaho also made the Census Bureau’s top 10 list in 2016 and 2015, with 1.2 and 1.4 percent growth, respectively.
The state has added nearly 200,000 new residents since 2010, when its population was just over 1.5 million, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The population increase is beneficial because businesses move where talent lives, Rogers said.
According to Idaho Department of Labor data, eastern Idaho is neck-and-neck with northern Idaho as the Gem State’s second most populated region behind the Treasure Valley, where more than one in every three Idaho residents live.
Ada and Canyon counties accounted for 50 percent of the state’s population growth in 2016, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Eastern Idaho is tied with south-central Idaho for lowest unemployment rate: 2.6 percent.
Much of eastern Idaho’s growth — in both people and jobs — is related to the expansion of federal programs in recent years, Rogers said.
A Naval Reactors Facility spent fuel handling facility is under construction at the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls; two Idaho National Laboratory cybersecurity and computing buildings are planned for the lab’s Idaho Falls campus and the FBI recently broke ground on a data center in Pocatello.
Rogers also pointed to educational and private sector growth, including a Mountain View Hospital expansion and planned cobalt refinery near Blackfoot.
“Our federal programming is expanding and so are other businesses that support them,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of activity, and that activity begets more activity.”
Rogers said there’s still work to do if Idaho wants to top the Census Bureau’s list next year. Chief among those priorities: keeping Idaho’s homegrown millennials as well as attracting ones from other states.
“Eastern Idaho has so many assets to work with that if we could pull the story together and focus it in a way others could see it, this region is going to take off like a rocket,” Rogers said.
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.