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Demographers Predict Dramatic Growth in Utah County In Decades To Come

Erik Neumann
Dr. Pamela Perlich (center left) and Natalie Gochnour (center right) of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute presented demographic information during a discussion at the Thomas S. Monson Center.

Officials at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute this week released a new collection of long-term demographic data about the state. The report projects significant growth outside of Salt Lake City.

The data will be used to guide policy makers in decisions concerning everything from transportation to education. Dr. Pamela Perlich is the institutes’ Director of Demographic Research. She says the biggest growth is likely to be not in Salt Lake County, but to the south, in Utah County.

"It will become much more urban, than sort of this old Utah County which was quite rural and had an agricultural base to it," Perlich says. 

Perlich says the change will happen as developable land in Salt Lake County becomes increasingly expensive.

"So it becomes more economical to begin to develop more residential land further south," she says. 

Perlich and a team of demographers compiled data sets including birth and death rates, employment and labor numbers, pubic education, Medicare, and IRS information, along with Census data.

They forecast that in 50 years Utah County will be nearly equal in size to Salt Lake County.

Bill Lee is the Chair of the Utah County Commission. He says the demographic trends are bigger than he expected, but are not totally surprising.

"We have towns that are like Eagle Mountain [that] came out of nowhere. And all of sudden that sprouted up. That could happen again in some other spot," Lee says. 

Based on the institute’s forecast, Lee said he will be focusing on the resource management this growth depends on like preserving transportation corridors if highways need to get bigger and better access to water.

"You can have all the land in the world but if you don’t have water, like he said, you’re not growing very fast," Lee says. 

According to Dr. Perlich the factors driving growth are migration to Utah and the state’s above average birth rate.

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