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Business leaders, officials tout growth of southern Utah’s job market

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ST GEORGE, Utah - Economic development managers say southern Utah is becoming a hot spot for business; Thursday, business leaders met at the “What’s Up Down South” economic summit to look for ways to continue growth in 2015.

Economists reported, on average, the job market grew close to five percent in 2014. It’s not much change from the year before, but directors said the market is becoming more diverse, making it more stable.

“I think that is a great indicator in the future for our community,” said Scott Hirschi, an event organizer and Site Select Plus Executive Director.

Along with job growth and new construction, home prices are also up in the region. Washington County Board of Realtors CEO Vardell Curtis said it’s also very slow growth, but slow growth is OK.

“2013, 2014 were almost mirror images of themselves,” Curtis said. “2015 looks to be much the same, which quite frankly, we need a breather.”

Economists said slow growth is actually what they aim for. When things grow too fast, it can cause problems--as was witnessed during the recession back in 2008.

“Growth was out of control,” said Curtis about construction at that time. “There was no way to manage it, there was no way to keep up with it, quite frankly. What we’re seeing now is that a lot more planning is involved, a lot more common sense is involved, a lot less greed is involved.”

Several local businesses gave presentations at the summit on growth throughout the area, including plans for a hospital expansion and various city renovation projects. But leaders say, for now, they’ll relish in the slow growth.

“We’re going to enjoy what we’ve got right now,” Curtis said. “”Because it is very constant, very consistent. Very predictable and very manageable.”