New data from the Census Bureau ranks Lehi, Utah, as the 11th fastest growing city in the U.S., a reflection of the Wasatch Front’s strong economy, particularly in the area known as Silicon Slopes.
Lehi was the only Utah city ranked in the top 15 and one of just four in the West, according to the Census Bureau’s new population estimates for 2016.
At 4.6 percent growth, Lehi now has a population of 61,130 people.
“In the way that we’ve seen the Dallas-Fort Worth area begin to merge together into one large metroplex, a similar kind of thing is happening between the Provo-Orem and the Salt Lake City area," said Pam Perlich, director of demographic research with the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
She said there's a few reasons for Lehi’s fast growth.
“One is just that the connectivity between these two counties has increased because of very significant investment in transportation infrastructure — the I-15 expansion and FrontRunner," she said.
But there’s also the fact that this area has a lot of available land where companies, many of them tech focused, are finding it cheaper and easier to move — earning it the nickname Silicon Slopes.
“It’s very, very clear that that’s an area that was previously not developed that’s becoming developed,” she said. “It’s not what you would call expansion of the urban area in the rings, it’s the filling in of the space between these centers of population and economic activity.”
Other Utah cities that saw rapid growth include South Jordan, Orem and St. George.
Logan, in Cache County to the north, was one of five cities in the nation to cross the 50,000 population mark over the last year.
In general, Perlich said, smaller western towns and southern cities are continuing to see the most growth, following a geographic trend that’s been going on for decades.
As for population decreases, Vernal, Utah, located in northeastern Uintah County, experienced the largest, shrinking by about 4 percent to just 433 people.
Top 5 fastest growing Utah cities (from 2015-2016) with populations of 50,000 or more:
Lehi 4.6% - pop. 61,130
South Jordan 3.8% - pop. 69,034
Orem 3.4% - pop. 97,499
St. George 2.7% - pop. 82,318
Layton 2.1% - pop. 50,676
Source: Kem C. Gardner Institute, Census Bureau