Gov. Little interview: How to manage growth in a booming state

Editor’s note: This is part of a six-part series of stories on our interview with Gov. Brad Little. Additional stories will appear all this week.

Idaho is currently the fastest-growing state in the country – and the only state to break 2% growth the last time the census measured it.

During his interview with BoiseDev this week, Gov. Little talked about how to keep the state special as more new Idahoans are minted every day.

He said two opposing forces are at work.

“You’ve got ‘not in my backyard, I want to just way it was forever.’ And some of the worst people to do that are the ones who just moved here,” he said. “But then you’ve got managed growth.”

With growth comes change. And with change comes the need for good policy.

“One of the sayings I talk about all the time is ‘change is inevitable adaptation and survival are optional.’ If you’re going to have growth, let’s try and manage it as best we can.”

He said that attempts to limit growth outright can have unintended consequences.

“Sometimes what they do to limit growth exacerbates growth because it moves it somewhere where it’s not managed at all.”

He said for the most part, the decisions about how and where to grow are best made at the local level. He mentions Kuna – a rapidly growing area that straddles the line between Ada County and Canyon County.

“It was always kind of rodeo out there now Kuna is concerned about growth they’re getting their arms around it.”

The full audio of the 30-minute interview is available in podcast form for members of BoiseDev FIRST as an exclusive benefit of membership. Listen now or sign up for access. Hear his full thoughts on growth, transportation, climate change, urban renewal and more.

He noted that for a time there “was no bad development in Meridian,” and pointed to how the city is now trying to better manage growth. The city is in the midst of a comprehensive plan update that could change the way development happens in coming decades.

In Idaho, Boise’s unique

Many of Idaho’s cities are growing into open land – either desert areas or former farmland. But Boise has a different calculus.

“Boise being the biggest urban area is really really unique because it’s constrained by the Boise foothills, by Eagle, by Garden City, by Meridian, by Kuna,” he said.

“That’s why they’re building up instead of out. And when you build up you’ve got higher densities.”

He said a recent new urban renewal district established in the desert area south of Interstate 84 can make sense for Boise’s growth pattern

“That’s local government doing what they’re supposed to do. In Boise… that’s the one freeway exit that we’ve got capacity at Eisenman at Isaac’s Canyon,” he said. “And so that would be a natural place to put a development out there is because you’ve got capacity on that. You surely don’t want to do it at Eagle Road or you do want to do it in Meridian.”

Gov. Brad Little on Idaho’s growth

This story is part of a special six-part series, outlining how Idaho’s new governor looks at issues related to growth. BoiseDev FIRST members get access to a special podcast containing the full interview with the governor.