The main local headline for 2019 is that Utah is officially a boom state, with no end in sight. According to U.S. News and World Report, Utah is the third fastest-growing state, just behind Idaho and Nevada. Salt Lake City was number 24 on Forbes list of fastest growing cities. Saint George appeared in the top ten fastest growing cities on two lists. Provo and Orem were number 11 on the USA Today list. Despite its many wacky laws, many more people want to live in Utah.
The interesting part of this news is the overall migration pattern. Rural areas and small towns continue to be decimated. Wyoming, already the least populated western state, saw a population decline, along with Alaska. Eastern cities, still waiting for manufacturing jobs to return, are seeing the greatest drops in population. The clear trend is a southwestern migration pattern. Why are more Americans moving from the East to the West? And what is making some states’ and cities’ economies perform better than others?
The two most obvious answers are tech and livability. States and cities that are friendly to tech companies are doing far better than those who don’t have a strong tech sector. More people are choosing where to live based on intangibles. Livability is a measure that includes places that are good for raising families, along with access to the outdoors, nature and open space. Cost of living, low commute times, and good schools are also livability factors. Utah, Idaho and Nevada score high in these areas.
We can begin to expect longer commute times and more congestion from more cars. But the bright side translates into overall downtown vibrancy: festivals, bars, excellent restaurants and diversity — not just ethnic diversity, but cultural diversity as well.
We at Utah Stories believe growth is a good thing. While it might be hard to realize that when you are stuck in a traffic jam or can’t find a parking spot, it’s possible to expand your viewpoint while savoring a meal in a fine restaurant, visiting our ever-improving farmers markets, or taking in some excellent downtown theater. Concentrated city growth provides an overall higher standard of living.
In our February issue, we will be examining what we can all do to maintain Utah’s excellent standard of living.