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Idaho Falls listed top performing city in the nation once again

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)- For the second year in a row and the third time in 4 years, Idaho Falls is the Milken Institute's "Best Performing Small City" in the nation.

Milken looks into a variety of economic factors, such as a city's GDP, unemployment and employment numbers, job and wage growth, broadband coverage, and income inequality.

"In the sense that Idaho Falls has very low income inequality, and the resiliency of the community to natural and economic disasters. So it's that happy mixture [with] Idaho Falls of good growth, so solid growth over the medium and long term as well, coupled with the high ranking in access to economic opportunities of its population," said Maggie Switek, Senior Director of Research at the Milken Institute.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper says keeping the top spot for the second year in a row is a huge honor.

"They're looking at valid, broadly accepted or acknowledged data points in an economic indicators that everybody agrees are important things. And as they put all of those together, they see our city as a place that we're great. Things are happening," Mayor Casper said.

Idaho Falls went up against over 200 different cities, and kept the top spot.

"We already had housing affordability and broadband coverage in last year's report. But this year, in addition to those, we incorporated the measure of income inequality and community resilience. And really Idaho Falls is pretty well in both of those," Switek said.

One reason Idaho Falls makes the list is because of the growing industries in the area, led by the Idaho National Laboratory.

"For 75 years, we've been here and we've been an integral part of the nation's energy evolution. We're very, very proud of that," she added that with over 6,000 employees they are the sixth largest employer in the state. "A fact that people don't know is for every one job at INL, we create 2.01 jobs out in the community. So when people rank us and say this is a terrific place to live and a great place to work, we absolutely stand behind that," said Liz Raley, a representative for the INL.

Another reason Idaho Falls made the list is its growing tourism industry.

"Over time, we have gone from being just a place to get gas on the way to Yellowstone, to [a] destination. We have also seen... and there's a lot of work being put into making Idaho Falls, making eastern Idaho a destination of its own," Mayor Casper said.

"The steady growth in the leisure and hospitality industry really stands out to me just because in many, we see it in many other places following the pandemic, just a rebound. But in Idaho Falls, it seems that you're really attracting more and more tourism and that has been steady and happening even before the pandemic," Switek said.

The mayor says they will continue to ensure the future growth of the city is Sustainable.

"We're going to continue to try to make Idaho Falls a place where it's easy to develop, where you can develop in a timely manner. We're going to try to make all of the pieces work together well, because we do want to be welcoming and attractive for many, you know, for decades to come," Mayor Casper said.

Idaho Falls isn't the only local city to make the list. Pocatello also made the top ten coming in at number 7. Pocatello moved up 32 spots on the list, as last year they were at number 39.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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