What happened in Boise

You really can’t blame Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter for touting positive local economic news wherever he can find it – to the point of expressing a thrill at the earnings level at Micron Technology. (Can recall governors often expressing pleasure at business expansions; can’t recall a governor ever doing so at the mention of a quarterly statement.) Governors are supposed to tout their states.

But the problems Idaho faces are real and serious. Consider this snippet from a New Republic/NPR report:

“it’s now clear that Boise shared the fatal flaw that led Las Vegas and Phoenix into disaster. To be blunt, all three of the westernmost big metros in the Mountain West got way too entangled in hyperactive real estate activity. Construction and real estate industry concentration figures tell the story. In Las Vegas and Phoenix, famously, the share of employment in the main construction industries and real estate reached 13.4 and 12.8 percent of all non-farm jobs in 2006 — astonishing numbers that gave those metros a reputation. But as it happens, Boise was right there with them, despite its other strengths, and by 2006 had located its own 12.8 percent share of employment in building housing and offices and selling property. By comparison, the average for large metros around the country on this remained just 8.0 percent, and it was 10 percent for the other Intermountain West metros.”

Drive around the growth areas of Ada and Canyon counties, look at all the empty new buildings, and the numbers come into concrete focus.

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