Cedar City's economy continued to surge in 2018 with strong new job creation, low unemployment, increased activity in construction permitting and gross taxable sales. Iron County led Utah's 29 counties in population growth by percentage in 2018. The county had an estimated 3.58% population increase over 2017. Additionally, Southern Utah University leads Utah's system of higher education in student enrollment In terms of percentage growth with a 7.69% increase over last year.
As we roll into 2019, there are new factors that could prove to be beneficial to development in Cedar City and Iron County. The new opportunity zones program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act opens the doors to exciting new investment opportunities in Iron County. Two new opportunity zones were designated in Iron County and they Include some outstanding possibilities for development. The county's vast rail-served industrial area qualifies for opportunity zone benefits, as does the historic downtown area and properties along Main Street that are ripe for development. There are properties in both of the county's opportunity zones that are basically shovel ready.
Cedar City's transportation assets, including rail, interstate highway, and regional airport, place this community within easy reach of every major market in the Western United States. Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City are all less than a day's trucking away. This contributes largely to the success of numerous manufacturers here. The Cedar City Regional Airport is bracing for an increase in passenger enplanements as Sky West Airlines switches their three daily flights between St. George and Salt Lake to Cedar City during a four-month stretch in 2019. Major runway reconstruction at the St. George airport will divert more traffic here.
Tourism continues to be a strong draw to Cedar City as well. The Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Southern Utah Museum of Art have had two seasons to settle Into the $38 million Beverly Taylor Sorensen Center for the Arts on the SUU Campus. The Tony Award-winning Shakespeare Festival continues to attract visitors to Cedar City after 56 years. The Utah Summer Games...