“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:19
A little over a decade ago my wife and I sat down to figure out where we would be relocating from Georgia for work and school. I actually created a spreadsheet of likely markets and ranked them based on a number of categories to see which would average out the highest. Things that we considered were cost of living, pay, convenience, amenities, job markets, political environment, etc. That is what initially drew us to Utah: a conservative Christian market with a favorable business environment and a direct pipeline to Georgia via Delta hubs at their respective airports. At the time I was far less concerned about the political environment than I am now, but one thing that we tacitly committed to was preserving whatever drew us to our adopted home. People haven’t always put this much thought into their home destination, but being so intentional meant that it was quite the endeavor to uproot only to watch the new home turn into Atlanta 2.0. Having grown up in Metro Atlanta and seeing what the 1996 Olympic Games did to it, I didn’t care to spend 4 hrs. or more of daylight sitting in traffic. Life is too short for that.
When we arrived in Salt Lake City in 2010 we enjoyed everything that Salt Lake had to offer. There was no shortage of cultural opportunities or nightlife available. We had ski passes to Snowbird at a steep discount through the ski club at the University of Utah. We could leave our driveway and arrive at the parking lot at Snowbird in 26 minutes. We could take 1300E and be at the University 8 miles away in under 20 minutes. We could be at the airport in 15 minutes, get parked, get bags checked, and get through security in under an hour. We truly felt as though we had found a hidden gem. The traffic was relatively light and the infrastructure still vast from the 2002 Olympics.
By the time we left Utah, I was driving 10 miles south of our home in South Salt Lake to work, and sitting in traffic for upward of an hour each way. The Silicon Slopes initiative of Utah made it one of the fastest-growing markets in the US with maybe the most finite room for growth given the limited space in the Salt Lake Valley. Simultaneously, our neighborhood signs were consistently getting tagged with gang symbols and our cars were getting broken into on a regular basis. We had our first child in 2014 and so by the time that school and career training were completed, we were ready to seek out a quieter and more family-friendly market than the booming Salt Lake.
In 2014 a job opening came up in Pocatello and friends from the University invited us up to interview for the position. We obliged our friends for a chance to visit but weren’t necessarily convinced Idaho would be our landing spot. My wife interviewed with 4 other companies in Salt Lake, but ultimately we decided to continue our adventure in a new and quieter place in Pocatello. For my part, my employer allowed me to take my job with me and work remotely. Our oldest was born in Salt Lake in March and by July we were moving into our new home in Idaho.
It’s not unusual to visit public spaces such as National Parks and see advertisements for “Keep America Beautiful” or “Leave No Trace”. Idaho is no stranger to fighting to protect its most sacred spaces. Many times these campaigns are organized or promoted by the left spectrum of politics, and this is one area that everyone can and should find agreement. In the Bible, God often calls His people to nature to hear from Him. Whether it’s Moses ascending Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments or Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, we recognize the sacred and Holy nature of untainted natural spaces and we desire to protect them. Similarly, when we are guests in another’s home we go out of our way to leave it in such a manner that it imposes the least amount of burden on our hosts. This brings us to relocation.
In 2019, KTVB News anchor Mark Johnson joked on air about visiting Idaho for locally hosted sporting events. He quipped about Idaho’s population growing every time we hold these events because people come for the festivities and stay indefinitely. He then proclaims “you can’t move here, we’re full!” And while this is humorous and the sentiment is probably felt around the state, he is not wrong. Idaho has consistently been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation over the past 5 years. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic only stands to exacerbate this mass exodus from economically prohibitive surrounding states. In a list of states exporting population to Idaho, California and Washington consistently rank at the top. And it’s hard to blame people leaving these cost or freedom-prohibitive markets who can find refuge in the lower tax or lower regulation environment that Idaho affords. Often times it’s merely a matter of having any political sway at all, as densely urban economic centers outstrip their rural counterparts in political and financial influence across their state.
Assuming that people are moving to Idaho for a slower but improved lifestyle, these political refugees should be welcomed. But as any conservative will probably tell you, this migration happens with a good amount of trepidation. Time and again we see these densely populated urban centers over-tax and over-regulate their population into submission until they’re left with no other option but to seek refuge elsewhere. Oftentimes these new populations bring the same policies and belief systems with them that created the environment they fled in the first place. Sure, a 900 sq. ft. apartment that sold in San Francisco can buy quite the McMansion on acreage in Idaho; but while rising home prices can be a boon to local sellers, it also stands to price local buyers out of their own real estate market. Perhaps instead of bringing a million dollars in equity into a new market and asking “what can I get for this?”, homebuyers should be asking to see a home that meets their needs and then put the rest in the bank? And though one may disagree with the social policy of their new locale and believe it rudimentary, it’s often that social policy that creates low crime and family-friendly environments worth moving to in the first place. If you’re considering Idaho as a place to call home, cherish those things that make Idaho, Idaho, and help to protect them. The same can be said of any market where you hope to put down roots.
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.” – Patrick Henry