What has booming population growth, a bustling outdoorsy scene and new trendy hangouts at every corner?
Turns out that's more of a trick question than many Austinites might think.
Month-by-month, Austin seems to be at the helm of Texas' California migration and has seen itself cast as the United States' next Silicon Valley. But despite less attention, Boise, Idaho has much of the same talk—and they're growing at an even faster rate.
With a similar outdoor and music scene, competing population statistics and more odd coincidences—their original newspaper is even called the Idaho Statesman—the two cities share more similarities than they might at face value.
Here's a look at how both cities are welcoming their unprecedented growth while grappling with not-so-unique growing pains.
"Don't California My-"
Idaho may still be thought of as a quiet farming state by faraway onlookers, but the state was the second-fastest growing in the nation with 17.3% growth in the past decade, according to the 2020 Census. The growth has mostly been fueled by migration to Boise from priced-out West Coasters and city dwellers looking for a slightly quieter life. Texas was just behind as the third-fastest growing state with 15.91% growth.
The Boise City metro was ranked the fastest-growing in the nation by Forbes in 2018 and has hardly changed pace. Austin and Boise often share top spots on national lists; according to Business Insider, the Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX metro grew 33% in the past decade with a population of 2,283,371, while the Boise metro grew 24% to 764,718 residents.
Californians accounted for 10,073 new moves to the Boise metro in 2020, up 27% from the year before. Meanwhile, move-ins to the Lone Star State literally changed national politics as California lost a Congressional seat and Texas earned two in 2021, with many of those making their way to Austin. Each state even sports popular "Don't California My Texas" and "Don't California My Idaho" slogans for disgruntled natives.
They both even had one errant political candidate who suggested a wild idea to keep the Californians out. In 2020, a Boise mayoral candidate suggested building a wall to keep out Californians, according to a City Journal article. Sound familiar? In a similar vein, an Austin City Council candidate suggested the city put up a dome around the city to do the same in 2018.
Many disgruntled natives criticize California migration with "Don't California My Texas" slogans. (Don't California My Texas/Facebook)
Similar flags are flown proudly in both Texas and Idaho. (Don't California My Idaho/Facebook)
Music, Greenbelts and river tubing
With its Barton Creek Greenbelt, picturesque Hill Country views and river tubing, Austin may think it has the Northwest city beat in the outdoors department. But Boise has eerily similar attractions; the Boise River Greenbelt, for instance, provides over 25 miles of hiking, biking and swimming through the city, while those wanting to take a signature Texas river tubing trip can take to the Boise River. The region swaps Hill Country attractions for Bogus Basin, a mountain resort that serves as a skiing hub in winter and hiking oasis come summer.
The Live Music Capital can even be compared to Treasure Valley's music scene; while not as reputable as the world-renowned Austin City Limits Festival, the city's annual Treefort Music Fest is growing quickly since its founding in 2012 and has been called "the west's best SXSW alternative."
ACL is Austin's biggest festival of the year and features artists from around the world. (Greg Noire/ACL)
Treefort Festival is an emerging artist music fest set in downtown Boise. (Treefort Music Fest/Facebook)
Each metro is pushing outward as well. Meridian, Idaho, the state's third-largest city that sits just minutes west of Boise, was the sixth-fastest growing large city in the nation by percent change from 2010-19, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While Meridian grew by 48.3% in the past decade, Northwest Austin suburb Cedar Park was just behind with 44.2% growth in the same time span, while Round Rock was the 13th fastest-growing with 33% growth overall.
Austin, sometimes known as "Silicon Hills," has experienced a wealth of new tech HQs as tech giants and startups flock to the hub. With Tesla and Oracle making waves in the Texas Capitol, it might be tough for a smaller city like Boise to compete. But a few firms, including payroll provider Paylocity, have made the move to Boise, with significant investments from fintech company Clearwater Analytics as well.
But everything isn't always peachy in these trendy new hotspots.
Affordability crises and infrastructure issues have racked both Boise and Austin. A 2019 report by the state of Idaho predicted that the region would add more than 100,000 residents by 2025, and the result of straining growth has been rapidly increasing rent.
A Forbes article ranked the city as the No. 1 housing market to watch in 2021, but current residents are feeling its effects. According to Apartment List, the city's rent increased more than any other city from March 2020-21 with a 39% rent jump. On Tuesday, the city said it would need 27,000 more housing units in the next 10 years to solve its housing crisis. The average one-bedroom rental in Boise costs about $1,500 monthly, $700 more than what the average Boise renter can afford.
Meanwhile, a new Zillow report says Austin could become the most expensive city outside of California as soon as the end of 2021. Austin's average one-bedroom rent is now just behind Boise at $1,442 a month, $367 more than what the average Austinite can comfortably afford. The median home price in the city of Austin hit an all-time high of $566,500 in May, rising more than $142,450 year-over-year, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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