While Christmas shopping around Tooele Valley this year, you may have noticed a lot more vehicles on the road, more packed parking lots without a stall to spare, or more Christmas lights shimmering from homes across the valley at night.
They are not apparitions. There are a lot more people in Tooele County than ever before.
As reported in the Dec. 12 front-page story headlined “County’s population continues to grow,” Tooele County is the fifth fastest growing county in the state, according to the Utah Population Committee at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. What gave the county that distinction, according to the committee, are these key numbers:
From 2010 to 2019, the county’s population grew from 58,385 to 70,889, which adds up to a 21.5% growth rate over the last decade. Doing the math, that’s more than 12,500 new people who are living here.
But there are more numbers to consider. According to the Utah Population Committee, the biggest contributing factor to that growth is migration — people who are moving here from elsewhere. UPC notes that the county lost 49 residents due to negative net-migration in 2010. But after that, it’s been all uphill. Net migration jumped in 2016 from 483 in 2015 to more than 1,400 — and stayed above 1,000 every year through 2019.
For those who watch U.S. Census Bureau updates on county population nationwide, the numbers by UPC don’t closely correspond with counts by the Fed. The Census Bureau reported in March 2018 that Tooele County’s population grew by 2,857 between 2016 and 2017 for a 4.4% growth rate.
That rate put the county as the 7th fastest growing county in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. However, UPC population estimates for 2016 through 2017 are 1,103 less for a 2.8% growth rate. A demographer with the Gardner Institute explained the difference is likely caused by different methods used to estimate population.
Population numbers and projections typically don’t align when estimated by two or more organizations. Yet, regardless of differences, Tooele County’s population is clearly on an upward trajectory that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Last July the Gardner Institute projected the county’s population will reach 88,190 by 2028.
To put that into sobering perspective, that’s an additional 17,301 people projected to be living here within the next nine years. And when we say “here,” that means mostly in the confines of Tooele Valley, which is Tooele County’s main population center.
If the Gardner Institute’s projections are even reasonably accurate, there will be significant planning and development issues that will require intelligent leadership to solve without selling out cheap on the valley’s quality of life. Such a balance won’t be easy to achieve.
These are big, exciting times for Tooele County, with Christmas 2019 now upon us, and a New Year just a week away. But evidently, even bigger times lay ahead, which will demand bigger thinking, bigger planning, bigger action. We better be ready. 2028 will be here soon enough.