This is a continuation of our conversation with James Wesley, Rawles on the subject of relocation to idaho. Read Part 1 for a full overview of the retreat options offered in Idaho. Here we dive. into the details of relocation.
Idaho has seen a lot of immigration lately from other states. How has that affected the economy and property market?
JWR: Idaho is now the fastest growing state in the country. And it has had some effects, but most of them positive. The economy is booming. Real estate is fairly hard to find. It’s hard to find privately-owned properties, especially in some areas that are in commute distance of cities with jobs. There’s some slight demographic changes going on, but by large, the majority of the people who are coming in are people who were fed up with California’s little politics and crime, smog, and traffic, and they really don’t want any part of that.
If anything, Idaho politics, especially North Idaho politics are growing more conservative with every passing day. The Republican central committees are now dominated by redoubters, and there is a very strong push to encourage any Republicans who are Republicans in name only to basically give up. The Reagan-style conservatives and libertarians have won, and now they are just consolidating their position in North Idaho politics. And the Republican Party, for many years, ever since the end of the Cecil Andrus days have been… The Republicans have essentially dominated Idaho, north and south, and that hold on the State has actually grown stronger and stronger. The Democrats essentially do not have much of an opportunity to hold the governorship or control the State legislature. It’s just not going to happen.
What opportunities are there for employment and business in Idaho?
JWR: The perennial strength in the Idaho economy is retail and any parts of the economy that are tied to tourism. But there’s still a lot of good employment possibilities in high tech, in machining, in plastics, and light industry. The timber industry has basically been in a depression for more than 20 years, and it’s not expected to come back to the same strength that it had before then. And there’s also of course, a large number of public service jobs because Idaho has more wilderness area than any other state in the lower 48, and because it has a large, large areas that are managed by either the Bureau of Land Management or by the US Forest Service.
There’s a few public sector jobs for people who are employed by the Idaho Fish and Game, by the hatcheries, by Forest Service, by the BLM, you name it. There’s a lot of public service jobs out there, but the employment opportunities for those primarily go to people who have degrees that are a good match. So for example, someone has a degree in biology, they can usually find a job with the Fish and Game or with the Forest Service, so they have a degree in botany or whatever. Or if they have a good background and prior experience with fisheries, they probably would have a good opportunity into the fish hatcheries for example.
Because Idaho has a fairly high number of retirees, there’s always going to be work for people who specialize in medicine, especially geriatric medicine, and all of the service economy surrounding that in supporting retirees. It’s a fairly diverse economy. It shouldn’t be confused with a coastal economy though.
In my experience, the families that do best relocating to Idaho are the ones that bring jobs with them, either they’re retired or they have home based businesses or small business that they’re relocating. And for the greatest possibility of with-standing a economic downturn, the families that will do best will be those that have multiple streams of income. So if you have a small business and you’re planning to relocate, I would recommend actually develop two home-based businesses before you relocate, and then your chances of success will be quite high.
Some other things to be aware of as you arrive in Idaho is that if you’re coming from an area with a strong economy and you’re coming into a weaker economy, especially if you’re outside of commuting distance of a metropolitan area that has good job opportunities, recognize that a lot of your neighbors are gonna be making $30,000 a year or possibly even less. So don’t expect a large walk-in clientele for your small business. The businesses that will do the very best are probably going to be Internet-based businesses where you’re bringing in money from out of state. And in terms of helping the local economy, that’s one of the very best things you can do because instead of being a drain on the local economy, you’ll be putting money into the local economy.
How should a family planning to relocate to Idaho prepare?
JWR: The main thing is to leave behind your big city attitudes and recognize that you’re arriving as an outsider and that you need to make the adjustment to Idaho culture rather than vice versa. And I think that’s probably the key to success in terms of getting along with your neighbors, developing friendships, developing good working relationships, developing a good local clientele for your business, and so forth, is learn how to be an Idahoan, don’t bring your big city expectations with you. There is a slower pace of life, there’s not a lot of razzle-dazzle, there will not be huge opportunities in public schools in terms of computer learning centers and high tech in the school, so don’t expect that, but the quality of education is quite high. There’s a large number of people who homeschool, and Idaho is now blessed with a large number of homeschooling cooperatives. These homeschool co-ops are thriving and doing amazing things with students.
The other thing that people need to think in terms of relocating are preparing yourself for a true four-season climate and one of those seasons is… mud! So be ready for it. You just brace yourself for cutting lots of firewood, being prepared to being snowed in from time to time if need be, and just be ready for a four-season climate and everything that comes along with it.
The other thing to recognize is that Idahoans tend to be fairly private people, and they will not bestow friendship on newcomers instantly. Every newcomer is gonna be viewed with a little bit of suspicion, and you basically have to prove yourself to be a good neighbor. And the best way to find good neighbors is to be a good neighbor. Be ready, willing, and able to help your neighbors, especially in inclement weather. If you have elderly neighbors, offer to do shopping for them in town, when you go into town, and pitch in, whether it’s hay harvesting or berry picking or whatever, get involved with your neighbors and be part of a community, and do your best to integrate yourself into the local life.
The scenic beauty is amazing, the air is fresh and clear, there is no traffic to speak of it outside of Boise and Coeur d’Alene. And if you take the time to explore Idaho, you will find some wonderful hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, you name it, it’s all there for the taking. If you’re willing to make the transition to an Idaho lifestyle, I think you will find it incredibly gratifying. You will find some of the best neighbors and friends you’ll ever meet, and you will also enjoy a quality of life that will astound you.