What is a Boomtown?

What is a Boomtown? November 29, 2011

NPR just released a fascinating podcast about a boomtown that’s flourishing from gold mining.  Surprisingly, this town is in Nevada, where the unemployment rates continue to rank highest among all other states.  Elko, Nevada is a ‘boom town’ that has a population of 18,297 (according to the 2010 census) and is considered to be the buckle of Nevada’s gold belt.  With the price of gold at record highs, the city of Elko is raking in the profits from gold mining, but they’re still anxious about the inevitable end of the gold rush.

Boomtowns like Elko are known for rapid growth and prosperity but also have the risk of becoming a ghost town if the resources dry up.  Neighboring towns around Elko know this reality all too well.  As you drive along the highway in northern Nevada, there are eerie signs of once thriving boomtowns that have been completely abandoned.  The risk of a collapsing boomtown seems to be overshadowed by the potential of making a good living and finding a job in an economy that’s struggling right now.

Boomtowns in the United States

Precious metals and oil aren’t the only things that drive people to a booming community.  Climate, metropolitan developments, and other jobs can be just as much of an influence to bring people to a new boomtown.  Here are a few examples of boomtowns in the United States as well as what made them famous during their respected eras:

  • Akron, OH (1910 – 1920)  Cereal, lamp, toy, tire, rubber
  • Belleville, CA (1860 – 1870) Gold mining
  • Borger, TX (1925-1935) Oil discovery
  • Cincinnati, OH (Early 1800’s) Western migration
  • Ellsworth, KS (1860’s) Cattle town and railroad
  • Gary, IN (Early 1900’s) Steel industry
  • Sioux City, IA (1890’s) Steam railways
  • Pittsburgh, PA (Early 1900’s) Steel industry

Finding a Job in a Boomtown

Uprooting your family can be a risky move, especially if it’s for a job in what seems to be a boomtown.  Finding a place to live can be one of the most challenging parts of moving to a new boomtown because of a job because the large influx of people will cause the housing options to fill up fast (that’s the nature of scarcity).  Before you make the decision to run to a boomtown like Elko, NV, consider the risks and always have a backup plan in case the well ‘dries up.’

Do you know of any boomtowns in your area?  Feel free to share them in the comments.

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  • Detroit, at it’s height, was the center of the auto industry and was one of the largest cities in the world as a result. Since then, it’s been a struggle. Same thing, people came here from all over the country for jobs, which were plentiful up until the point that the auto industry started going global.