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Davis Journal

Future is bright in Davis County

May 15, 2023 10:31AM ● By Bryan Gray

Kent Andersen is a “numbers guy.” Last night his “numbers” were personal – his 5-year-old daughter was being fitted for her junior soccer uniform.

But his “day job,” director of Davis County’s Community and Economic Development office, entails numbers that reflect the direction of the county through the next several decades.

It’s no secret that Utah is one of the nation’s highest-growth states. Utah County especially is under the microscope with estimates that its population could grow to 1.6 million alone in 35 years, about three times the estimate of Davis County. Utah County has space to grow whereas Davis County is already 83% developed – and the remaining 17% of developable land is mostly centered in the north, notably West Point and Syracuse.

But like a national politician in the last century, Andersen is the county’s own Happy Warrior, a sociable optimist who chose government as a career since “it had the potential of having the most impact on people.”

Davis County has its challenges. It is the smallest county land-wise in the entire state but has the third largest population (365,000). It is hemmed in by the mountains in the east and a lake to the west. The proximity to Salt Lake City’s booming nightlife entertainment and culinary options draws sales tax away from the county. Its rural lifestyle and once abundant orchards and farms are being relegated to history books.

Yet Andersen doesn’t frown at the future. The numbers show a glass half-full. 

“In about 25 years, our population will have grown about 43% to around 520,000,” he estimates. “Two different studies by two separate organizations show the same direction. With only a sliver of land available, multi-family housing – apartments, condominiums, townhomes – are necessary to absorb the new residents.”

And the residents will be different. Andersen’s statistics predict that net migration from other states and counties will soon top the natural births that led past growth. This points to Davis County being less LDS, potentially less conservative politically.  It also presents an opportunity to partner with Hill Air Force Base, Weber County, and other business groups to create a work-life climate.

“With the data, we share assumptions with various city leaders,” says Andersen. “They see the need to lure appropriate businesses taking advantage of the growth, offering well-paying jobs conveniently located through transportation corridors. More people working locally is beneficial in so many ways. It will take the stress off our highways, create less pollution.”

Most notably in the southern end, the county has an aging population. Still, some 35% of the population is under age 19, and a significant number would prefer to remain in or near the county. Given the numbers, few can expect to own a four-bedroom house on a half-acre, and newcomers moving to Davis County will ensure that home prices will not decline.

And there will still be a need for junior soccer and other youth recreation opportunities, to which Andersen enthusiastically notes the youth sports tourism at the Fairgrounds complex.

“Our future is bright,” he says. “We’ve got the numbers. Now it’s all in how we plan.”  

Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.λ