St. George ranked 5th as fastest growing area in the country

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ST GEORGE, Utah – Washington County is in the middle of a population boom.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers show the St. George metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing in the country.

The report released Friday, shows St. George ranking fifth on the list of fastest growing areas. The metro area, which includes St. George, Washington City, Santa Clara and Ivins, grew from a population of 147,800 in 2013 to 151,948 in 2014 – a 2.9 percent increase.

“Our biggest growth is still coming in single-family home building permits, followed closely by condos and townhomes, and commercial lags behind. But we’re doing well in all those areas,” said St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

Pike was not surprised by the ranking, saying the area has always seen growth faster than the rest of Utah.

The mayor credits the climate, recreation and business opportunities as major draws. But Site Select Plus Director Scott Hirschi said he can’t point growth to just one industry.

“Growth is almost universal across every industry,” Hirschi said. “It’s slower than it has been in the past, but it’s steadier, it’s a much broader base.”

The St George metropolitan area has seen growth across the spectrum, from the very low to the incredibly high. Back before the recession, the growth rate was up to 8 percent.

Hirschi said that was way too high, and 2.9 percent is right about where they want to be.

“You’ve got enough growth that there’s economic opportunity. People don’t have to leave the area to be employed,” Hirschi said. “At the same time we’re not growing so fast that we’re over reaching our infrastructure.”

Hurricane resident Emily Bracey moved to Washington County in 2011. She said even in that time the growth was visible.

“It’s like a booming place out there now, and the same thing all around St. George, there’s probably 33 new developments that I’m aware of going on around St. George,” Bracey said.

Pike said they expect the growth to continue, but will do what they can to keep the rate small, that way the city doesn’t over reach its infrastructure.

Hirschi said that’s a hard thing to do, for now they’ll relish in the sweet growth spot.

Life-long resident Aubry Ence said it’s exciting to see all the new growth, and the businesses and shops it brings. But like many lifers, she’s sad to see the historically small town grow up.

“It’s good and bad,” Ence said. “I like the growth a little bit, but at the same time it’s fun to keep it small a town.”

The U.S. Census Bureau ranks The Villages, Fla. as the fastest growing community in the country at 5.4 percent. Next is Mrytle Beach, S.C. and N.C. at 3.2 percent, Austin Texas at 3 percent and Odessa, Texas at 2.9 percent.