West Ada

In ranking of fastest-growing cities, Meridian and Nampa beat out Boise. Here’s why.

Update Oct. 15, 2019: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Nampa was ranked the seventh-fastest growing city in the country.

For the past several years, growth has been a hot topic in the Treasure Valley, with Idaho being one of the fastest-growing states in the country and Boise one of the fastest-growing metro areas. And according to a new study by financial website WalletHub, two other Valley cities are rivaling Boise in terms of growth.

The WalletHub article analyzed hundreds of cities by multiple metrics, creating rankings of similarly sized cities as well as overall rankings. In both lists, Meridian and Nampa ranked far ahead of Boise thanks to growing populations and rising incomes.

Meridian was ranked the seventh-fastest growing city in the country, with a total score of 73.76 out of 100 possible points. The only places ranked higher were Lehigh Acres, Florida; Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; Bend, Oregon; Enterprise, Nevada; Frisco, Texas; and Fort Myers, Florida. Nampa earned the No. 46 spot in the overall rankings, with 60.29 points, while Boise trailed far behind at No. 174 with 49.78 points.

In the rankings separated by city size, Nampa was part of the “small city” category for areas with fewer than 100,000 people. Both Meridian and Boise were included in the “midsize city” category, which included cities with populations between 100,000 and 300,000 people.

Nampa’s estimated population has reached 102,030, making it the third city in Idaho with more than 100,000 residents, according to data released by COMPASS, the Treasure Valley’s regional planning association. But WalletHub was using older figures for its rankings.

Compared to other midsize cities, Meridian moved up to the No. 4 ranking, while Boise took the No. 95 slot. Against other small cities, Nampa ranked No. 12.

Measuring Idaho cities’ growth

WalletHub looked at a variety of metrics to create its scoring system: population growth, working-age population growth, growth in share of college-educated population, job growth, increase in ratio of full-time to part-time jobs, median household income growth, growth in share of households with annual income above $75,000, unemployment rate decrease, poverty rate decrease, growth in regional GDP per capita, increase in number of businesses, increase in number of startups, increase in venture capital investment amount, growth in number of technology companies, median house price growth, building-permit activity growth and foreclosure rate decrease.

Those 17 metrics were each weighted differently and fell in two broader categories: “sociodemographics” and “jobs and economy.” Meridian’s ranking was hugely influenced by its sociodemographic metrics — overall, it had the fourth-highest score for those measurements. On the other hand, Nampa and Boise were both stronger in economic measurements.

The website first looked at average annual population growth in each city between 2012 and 2018. Meridian’s average growth rate of 4.85% earned it the No. 1 overall ranking out of the 515 cities WalletHub analyzed. Nampa (2.31% growth rate) was No. 42, and Boise (1.26% growth rate) was No. 155.

Meridian again took first place for average annual growth in the working-age population (6.77%) and average annual growth in number of employed civilian population (5.57%).

WalletHub assigned all three Treasure Valley cities the same score for several metrics: growth in regional GDP per capita, increase in number of businesses, increase in number of startups, increase in venture capital investment amount and growth in number of technology companies. Most notably, the Treasure Valley saw a 2.3% growth rate in number of businesses, giving the cities a No. 63 ranking, and a massive 763% increase in venture investment, earning the No. 35 spot.

Nampa also excelled in several categories. It earned the top spot for the “increase in poverty rate” category — the percentage of families below the poverty line fell by more than 3% between 2012 and 2018. In contrast, Boise’s poverty rate decrease 0.12% in the same time period, and Meridian’s fell just 0.4%.

Nampa also saw a boom in its full-time employment, earning it the No. 9 slot in the “full-time to part-time employment” category, and its employment growth in general ranked No. 27 overall.

You can find the full metrics and an explanation of methodology at WalletHub.com.

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Nicole Blanchard is the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors reporter. She grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University and frequents the trails around Boise as much as she can.