POST REGISTER | Feb 6, 2024
For the third time in four years the Milken Institute has named Idaho Falls the nation’s best-performing small city.
To paraphrase author Ian Fleming, once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern.
So there’s no other choice than to recognize the pattern that the city of Idaho Falls is by and large doing things right from an economic perspective, at least according to the metrics used by the Milken Institute.
The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank focused on accelerating measurable progress on a meaningful life, focusing on financial, physical, mental, and environmental health. It annually ranks metropolitan areas in the United States “based on 13 indicators that cover labor market conditions, high-tech impact, and access to economic opportunities,” its website said.
Idaho Falls took the title of “America’s Best-Performing Small City” for the second straight year and the third time in four years.
“It’s a tremendous honor for Idaho Falls to top the Milken list yet again,” Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said in a city news release. “This prestigious recognition reflects hard work from talented citizens all throughout our city that has allowed Idaho Falls to continue to be a top location for economic opportunity.”
The best-performing cities rankings offer “an objective evaluation of the economic performance,” the institute’s website said. Of the 13 indicators, Idaho Falls ranked in the top 50, out of 203 small cities evaluated, in all but two. And it was in the top 10 in five indicators, including job growth, short-term job growth and wage growth
The Northwest and Idaho, in particular, fared well in the small-cities rankings, Coeur d’Alene was second, Twin Falls was fifth and Pocatello was seventh. Western cities held eight of the top 10 spots for small cities.
Idaho Falls maintained its hold on the top spot thanks to its “robust labor market growth,” the report said. But the roses also had thorns. The city’s “strong and inclusive growth, however, has not been fully reflected in its wages,” the report said. Idaho Falls ranked 79th in wage growth from 2021 to 2022, the lowest of any of the top 10 small cities.
When it came to large cities, the Intermountain West made a strong showing with Boise ranked third, followed by Salt Lake City and Provo-Orem. It was Boise’s second consecutive top five appearance.
The report noted that between 2017 and 2022, Boise’s wages increased by 62% — the fourth-highest growth rate among large cities.
The small-city rankings demonstrate Idaho Falls’ ability to “leverage its resources to promote economic growth and provide residents access to essential services and infrastructure needed for success,” the city’s release said.
Casper said in the release that city leaders “have consciously worked to ensure that Idaho Falls is attractive to employers and their employees.” As proof, she cited everything from “affordable fiber” internet to the home to “forward-thinking” planning to a “thriving” airport and some of the region’s lowest power rates as assets for the city.