The growth challenges along the Wasatch Front are well known. What receives less attention is the extraordinary growth pressures being felt in Utah's Wasatch Back, an area defined as the east side of the Wasatch Range encompassing Morgan, Summit and Wasatch County. We need leadership and investment to guide this growth if we are to preserve the things we hold dear.
The Wasatch Back Is Booming
The Wasatch Back resides in the center of the fastest growing region in the country (Mountain West), in the fastest growing state in the region (Utah), and in the rapidly growing urban part of the state. This is true for both population and jobs; the Wasatch Back is at ground zero for economic and demographic growth.
Job growth in Utah from March 2017 to March 2018 is twice that of the nation. That's impressive. Job growth in Wasatch and Morgan Counties, however, is five times that of the nation. That's even more impressive ... and daunting. A similar trend holds in population growth. In 2017, Wasatch County increased by 4.1 percent, compared with 1.9 percent for Utah and 0.9 percent for the nation.
But There Are Economic Challenges To Face
Much of the growth is coming from migration as people choose to live in the beautiful and livable Wasatch Back. Net migration in 2017 registered an estimated 443 in Summit County, 886 in Wasatch County, and 107 in Morgan County. Compound this migration, combined with natural increase, over a decade and you gain increased understanding about the transportation, water and education needs in these counties.
Then consider the investment occurring at the Salt Lake City International Airport, Point of the Mountain, and potentially an inland port, and you start to see why the beautiful Wasatch Back with its extraordinary life quality and accessibility to jobs creates a supersized growth challenge.
Early in my career I studied under Thayne Robson, one of the most brilliant economic minds this state has ever known. He once gave a speech to the American Institute of Architects where he opined about Utah's growth challenges. Even though this was over four decades ago his words carry profound meaning today. He said the following:
"There are a lot of people who would simply like to let the future happen to us, saying there is some great invisible hand somewhere guiding the destiny of mankind ... I'm convinced that in much of our economic market system, in much of what we do in building...