Meridian is the 10th fastest-growing city in the United States among cities with at least 50,000 residents behind five Texas cities and suburbs of Phoenix, Denver, Nashville and Des Moines, according to the U.S. Census bureau’s annual estimate of city populations.
The Census pegs Meridian at 99,926, as of July 1. Since that time, however, Meridian has added an estimated 22 residents per day to get closer to the 106,410 estimated on April 1 by the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho.
The official national population estimate tapped by all sorts of entities when mentioning population will keep Meridian below 100,000 for at least one more year.
The Census calculated a 4.6 percent population gain for Meridian in the one year up to July 1, more than four times the 1.0 percent growth across 287 cities in the western states with a population above 50,000. Bend, Oregon, ranked as the 12th fastest growing city at 4.3 percent, reaching 94,570 residents.
Frisco and New Braunfels, both in Texas, at 8.2 percent and 8.0 percent population growth for the year July to July, respectively, were the nation’s two fastest growing cities, according to the Census. COMPASS calculated 8.5 percent growth for Meridian for April to April.
The population and percentage differences between the Census and COMPASS don’t concern Boise Valley Economic Partnership researcher Ethan Mansfield much.
“If it’s off by 5,000, it’s not a big deal,” Mansfield said. “The Census may be slightly less accurate and less timely. My thought is these are all estimates anyway. And, frankly, that’s what COMPASS is doing as well. BVEP always uses Census numbers. (Clients) can fact check Census numbers. We can compare them across every region of the U.S.”
The Census has Nampa at 93,590 with COMPASS’s count nine months later at 98,370. Boise is at 226,570 with 1.4 percent growth over the prior year, according to the Census Bureau, and COMPASS has Boise at 232,300.
In Idaho, however, Post Falls had the fastest growth rate among larger cities at 5.6 percent, reaching 33,290 residents on July 1, according to the Census, a 1,757 person increase from 2016.
Post Falls passed Lewiston from 2016 to 2017 to become Idaho’s ninth largest city. Post Falls has been Idaho’s second fastest growing city behind Meridian since 2010, according to the Census,
Among Idaho’s other larger cities, the 2017 population estimate for Idaho Falls is 61,077, Pocatello is 55,193, Caldwell is 54,660, Coeur d’Alene is 50,665, Twin Falls is 49,202, Post Falls is 33,290 and Lewiston is 32,820.
In other sizeable Idaho cities, Eagle has 26,089 residents, Kuna 19,210, Garden City 11,890, Moscow 25,146, Chubbuck 14,869 and Ammon 15,540.
The 2.1 percent one-year population growth in Twin Falls doesn’t tell the whole story, city officials said.
“There is so much daily influx of people requiring services that don’t live here and don’t pay taxes here,” Mayor Shawn Barigar said.
Twin Falls has a service area of 250,000 to 300,000 people stretching from Elko to as far away as Stanley for retail, advanced medical care and education, Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler said.
“Any given day, our population increases 70 percent to 85,000 (with people coming into town for the day),” Rothweiler said. “Twin Falls has 77 sworn police officers. The city has determined that 48 percent of traffic citations are issued to visitors and 27 percent of paramedic calls are for visitors.”
Housing is not booming as it was in the early 2000s
In the same fastest-growing cities news release, the Census Bureau also addressed housing unit growth since the 2010 Census. All the more populated counties in Idaho and across the western states added homes in the top “more than 5 percent” category. Custer, Power and Shoshone were the only Idaho counties that did not add at least 2 percent to their housing stocks.
Comparing the housing boom of 2000 to 2007 to the recovery and ascending years of 2010 to 2017, however, the Census has Idaho’s more populated counties at the bottom of the chart with today’s housing production at least 5 percent lower than the early 21st century.
Clark and Minidoka were the only Idaho counties producing at least 2 percent more homes now than in 2000 to 2007. Nearby Elko and Lander counties in northern Nevada were the only counties in the seven westernmost states that built more than 5 percent the number of homes in the 2010s than in the 2000s.
Population growth 2010 to 2017
The population growth rate in Idaho’s 10 largest cities from 2010 to 2017
Meridian: 31.0 percent
Post Falls 20.0 percent
Caldwell: 18.1 percent
Coeur d’Alene: 14.7 percent
Nampa: 14.4 percent
Twin Falls: 11.1 percent
Boise: 8.7 percent
Idaho Falls: 7.0 percent
Lewiston: 2.9 percent
Pocatello: 1.8 percent
Source: U.S. Census Bureau