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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Austin chefs were well-represented at the James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday night as two local restaurateurs took home the coveted award—more than any other Texas city.
Chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo, 2717 S. Lamar Blvd., took home the title of Best Chef Texas and chef Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2512 E. 12th St., took home Best Emerging Chef at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Nearby, Houston’s Julep was recognized for Outstanding Bar Program as the only other Lone Star State mention. The award has often been compared to high-caliber awards like the Oscars or the Grammys of food.
De la Vega told Austonia she wasn’t expecting to win—she hadn’t even prepared a speech—she was just happy for a weekend vacation with her husband and business partner Ernesto Torrealba. De la Vega said she considers it a joint award for the two of them.
“It was a little bit shocking, emotional, a little bit of everything. When we had to move from Mexico to here, I thought at some point, you know, it has to have a meaning,” de la Vega said. “We finally came to be recognized for the love and the sharing of the traditions from Mexico that we feel very proud of.”
De la Vega said when she originally started El Naranjo in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1997, it was the “perfect place, the perfect life and the perfect everything.” After the economy collapsed, de la Vega and her family had to move to the U.S.
They bounced from New Mexico to San Antonio, when she was asked to create and lead the Latin American Studies program for the Culinary Institute of America, which she accepted. Soon after, they moved to Austin and started a food truck for their lost restaurant in Oaxaca before they were able to build a brick-and-mortar shop in 2012. The rest is history.
De la Vega said she was proud to share the stage with Rico and represent her native cuisine, she just hopes she can live up to the hype of newcomers.
“To recognize Mexican cooking as one of the best cuisines in the world, I think it's huge,” De la Vega said. “Maybe there will be new people coming in that didn't even know that we existed and they may have bigger expectations so (I’m trying to) live up to the challenge right now.”
Rico echoed de la Vega’s pride in his emotional acceptance speech, mentioning it's huge for "La Raza," which directly translates to "the race."
“This is huge for la raza, this is huge for my people. For all the taqueros, anything is possible.”—Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2022 #jbfa Emerging Chef winner, sponsored by @SanPellegrino. pic.twitter.com/9K831GqM0T
— James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) June 13, 2022
“Honest to god I did not expect to win this award tonight, but it’s been a trial to get here,” Rico said. “This is huge for La Raza, this is huge for my people. For all the taqueros, anything is possible.”
Dust from the Saharan Air Layer took a trip over the Atlantic Ocean and into Austin's skies Tuesday, causing a hazy sunset and air quality that was labeled "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" by the National Weather Service.
The African desert's dust takes a trip across the Atlantic every three to five days in late spring, summer and early fall and tends to hit Central Texas most from mid-June to late August.
Did you notice the hazy skies today? This was attributed to Saharan Dust that has made it into the region. Here is a comparison of tonight's hazy sunset versus two nights ago before the dust arrived. The dust is forecast to impact the region through Friday. pic.twitter.com/tmj4VwQbOU
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) June 14, 2022
Other than creating vivid sunsets, the dry Saharan air can make the sky appear milky white at midday. Just one dust cloud can be as large as the United States—and each cloud can help prevent tropical cyclones from occurring in the humid ocean air.
Those who are most sensitive to changes in air quality—including the elderly, young children and those with respiratory conditions—should limit their time outside as dust levels peak in the Austin skies Thursday.
And while the dust can cause a sore throat or itchy eyes, Saharan dust is an irritant that cannot be alleviated with allergy medications.
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