Southern Utah’s long-simmering economic growth appears to have reached a rolling boil. I have compiled some recent News Articles about the Growth and Economy in St. George. This City is no longer just a retirement destination. It is becoming a thriving metropolis!
About 1,000 members of the St. George area’s businesses community came together for the Washington County Economic Summit on Thursday to talk about the area's economic prospects for 2017 but also to celebrate what was a historically strong 2016.
Construction crews are raising homes, schools and business out of the desert ground, part of a building surge with more money behind it than at any time in the area’s history. More than $250 million worth of new nonresidential construction was permitted, almost $80 million more than any other single year.
Few are struggling to find work, with unemployment rates barely above 3 percent, and companies can't wait to hire them, with the county having added more than 4,000 new positions in the last year, an increase of nearly 8 percent.
Some of the largest projects ever built here are either under construction or waiting to break ground, led by massive new buildings planned in healthcare and education and large-scale changes in transportation.
The population is swelling, with increases at 3.7 percent annually and more than 20,000 people having moved to the county since 2010.
Things are so good, area economist Lecia Langston was even starting to get a little suspicious.
The county has never had a larger or more diversified economy.
Terri Kane, CEO at Dixie Regional Medical Center, gave a presentation on on a massive new hospital expansion already underway.
The $300 million project, familiar to passers-by as they’ve watched massive cranes piecing four-story towers together along River Road, will double the size of the hospital’s medical facilities but also focus heavily on medical research and treatment innovation, including the precision genomics and advanced cancer care planned to take place at a new cancer center.
Dixie State University is working to shape its mission around the job demands of the changing regional economy, with more attention on technology and medicine as well as a real-world teaching emphasis that will require students to work more cooperatively with the business community off campus, said Michael Lacourse, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.
“We need to be working with all of you in this room because we want our students to not only do the course work in the classroom but to have experience doing real jobs out in the real world,” he told the audience during the summit’s popular “What’s Up Down South” presentation on major 2017 developments.
ST. GEORGE — Real estate development in Washington County is trending toward positive growth but still faces challenges such as rising construction costs and prohibitive impact fees.
Thursday’s St. George Area Economic Summit included breakout sessions previewing residential and commercial real estate development in Southern Utah. The presentations highlighted how population growth, vacancy, regulation, construction costs and inventory are shaping the area’s real estate landscape.
Population and inventory
As Utah leads the nation in population growth, Southwestern Utah leads the state in growth, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. Since 2010, the county has grown by 22,000 people and is projected by the Governor’s Office to reach a population of 200,000 by 2020.
“I will tell you it’s been my experience looking at some of the population projections provided by the state, they’re almost always less than what reality is,” Washington County Board of Realtors Vardell Curtis said.
With the spike in population growth, housing vacancy rates have shrunk to their lowest numbers in decades, with rental vacancy at less than 1 percent and single family homes at around 3 percent for the St. George area, according to research by NAI Excel.
The vacancy rates are exacerbated by a relatively low supply of inventory. As of the third quarter of 2016, housing supply was projected to last only 36 months.
“We definitely are running into a shortage, and that can bring up the price of homes,” Southern Utah Home Builders Association Executive Officer Mari Krashowetz said.
Housing and employment
“Unemployment has ped to 3.2 percent in Washington County. That is pretty much full employment. Anybody that wanted a job has a job,” Curtis said.
Residential real estate is currently ripe with buyers, creating an ideal seller’s market.
Housing is key to continued economic development
“Housing is key to continued economic development,” Krashowetz said. “When we build a thousand average single family homes in our community that creates just under 3,000 jobs and generates about $111 million for government – local, state and national.”
Housing will need to keep pace with some of the major economic developments in the area, including the expansion of Dixie Regional Medical Center and Dixie State University. Thousands of jobs are expected to be added to the economy as a result of these developments.
Projects in the works
Despite looming challenges, several major commercial and residential real estate projects are already under construction or slated to begin this year.
On the residential end, some of the bigger projects include:
- St. George Downtown City View, a $30 million mixed-use development, including a hotel, 100-unit apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail.
- 300 new twin homes and new Hampton Hotel at SunRiver.
- 120-140 condos and 30-40 homes by Bloomington Country Club.
- 244 multi-family apartment units in Rivers Edge at 501 S. 2200 E.
Some large commercial projects are already in the works.
- 3,600-acre area off of Interstate 15 exit 2. This is a 20-year State Institutional Trust Lands Administration project that includes residential, resort, commercial and education developments.
- Dixie State University expansion.
- Dixie Regional Medical Center expansion.
- Ridge Top Complex.
(Photo: Trevor Christensen / The Spectrum & Daily News, Trevor Christensen / The Spectrum & Daily News)
January 13, 2017
St. George-based SkyWest Airlines is making some changes to its offerings out of its home city’s regional airport, adding another flight to Phoenix this spring as it continues evaluating the St. George area’s growing travel market.
Airline officials confirmed Tuesday they plan to offer a second flight to and from Phoenix starting March 5, bringing the total number of roundtrip flights offered at the airport to eight, at least during peak seasons. Flight tickets are already available.
“The demand remains really strong there,” company spokesperson Layne Watson said, noting that the airline is still feeling out the demand for trips to the Phoenix area after adding the new destination in August.
SkyWest is currently the only airline offering flights in and out of the St. George Regional Airport, with four flights daily between Salt Lake City, and typically two each day between Denver.
This month only one daily flight is offered between Denver, but the second flight is scheduled to resume Feb. 15, a seasonal change the airline also made last year.
Population growth, increasing tourism and a strengthening economy have helped fuel a surge in travel demand out of the St. George Airport, which initially saw few travelers when it first opened in January of 2011.
Last year nearly 70,000 enplanements were counted at the airport by the Federal Aviation Administration, a 17 percent increase over the previous year and nearly double the numbers counted in 2010, the last year of operation at the former airport.
The newer facility now ranks as the 258th-busiest out of the 512 commercial airports tracked by the FAA.
Combined with the Salt Lake City flight, which is a Delta Airlines connection, and the Denver flight, which is a United Airlines connection, travelers have hundreds of potential destinations available by traveling through those larger airports.
Celece Seegmiller, owner of the St. George office of The Travel Connection, said the Phoenix destination has been a major convenience for area travelers, especially for clients heading to popular winter destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean.
“Check-in is easier, security is easier, parking is easier,” she said. “We always try to send our clients out of St. George whenever possible.”
Local governments have helped promote the airport as a more comfortable alternative to flying in and out of much larger airports in nearby Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, and adding new destinations has been a priority for encouraging economic development.
To help entice SkyWest to start the Phoenix flights the City of St. George offered up to $250,000 as a profit guarantee to cover any losses if the flight didn’t take off, with Washington County chipping in another $100,000. The St. George Tourism Office has also helped with an advertising campaign focused on attracting travelers via Phoenix’s American Airlines connections.
The city also has plans this year to invest in an expansion of the facility’s parking lot and on runway improvements.
SkyWest first opened in St. George nearly 45 years ago and is often cited as the largest of the area’s business successes. The company started with 15 employees and struggled for years before eventually growing into one of the world’s largest independent commuter airlines. SkyWest flights carried more than 30 million passengers last year and the company now employs some 11,700 workers.
Elected officials locally have cited the airline’s local ties as the reason commercial flights have been offered out of the region, despite the relatively small surrounding population.
Market studies have indicated local demand is tempered by the proximity of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.