We have seen several articles and studies come out recently regarding the St. George area population growth. Below are a few I wanted to highlight. But first, how does this impact you and your business.

Right now, I am working with three mid-sized companies relocating their entire companies from California to the St. George area.

They are buying and leasing industrial real estate ranging from 6,000sf to over 50,000sf. They are tired of the anti-business climate, the ever-escalating costs of doing business, and the high costs of living in California and are looking to make a change.

This is just the beginning of what I think will be a wave of California companies relocating to the Las Vegas and St. George area markets. I am very bullish on the St. George market.

No, it’s not just because I’m in the commercial real estate business.

It’s because I’m in the commercial real estate business that I’m at the forefront of seeing what is coming to our area. Even though we will see us up and down cycles in the market, I am 100% bullish on our market over time.

We have a lot of growth coming our way. Let’s enjoy the ride and make sure we plan our infrastructure and investments appropriately!

St. George Area Ranked #2 in The U.S. for Starting a Business

A report that came out earlier this week from Wallethub surveyed over 1,200 cities where the population was less than 10,000.

These cities were then ranked based on a variety of factors including costs, access to resources, nearby universities including DSU and SUU, and the overall environment for businesses.

Where did the St. George area rank? #2. Second in the nation.

What you have here is vitality and energy coming via a growing talent pool, plentiful business resources and a place where nearly everyone wants to live.

We ranked #8 in the Business Environment rank, 86 in Business Costs Rank, and 194 under the Access to Resources rank.

Overall, our total score was 60.44, just under Holland, MI who came in at first with a score of 60.68, barely above St. George.

Here’s a link to the report: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-small-cities-to-start-a-business/20180/.

While we rank #2 in the nation, we still have some work to do as a community.

We can improve our flexibility on some zoning and transportation issues in order to make room for quality businesses looking to locate in our market.

We can work on the impact and building permit cost breaks for employers looking to relocate or grow their businesses here—beyond incentives provided by the city, county, and state.

We can further expedite the permit and review process, again for employers relocating or growing. We are doing a good job, as the ranking shows, but we can improve.

St. George Area Ranked Third in The U.S. for Population Growth

The St. George metro area was recently ranked #3 in the U.S. for population growth behind Midland, Texas and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The year before we came in at #1 in population growth! How does this translate?

We added about 6,000 residents last year with about a 3.5% increase.

That puts us at just under 172,000 residents for 2018.

Cedar City came in at #4 in the nation with a 3.8% growth increase to just under 53,000 residents.

What’s driving the growth in the Washington to Iron County corridor?

It’s not just retirees. We have younger workers and families also coming to the area.

What we often see is an individual or family move here after traveling here for vacation, tournament, or another event such as a marathon.

As relatives come to visit, they too want to move here, followed by some friends, associates, and more relatives. They bring or start a new business here attracting additional growth.

Long term estimates put the Washington County population at a half a million in the next 40-50 years!

Can you imagine the changes that will take place in this county over that time?

The cities and county are already feeling the pressure to plan for the long-term impact on traffic, water, and other services.

For commercial real estate, crossing the 250,000 population threshold will put us on the demographic map for several of the retailers and restaurants that have been sought after by residents including Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang’s, and Trader Joes.

We will see other industries also come in the market further expanding our job and economic base, diversifying us are mainly real estate, construction, and tourism-based economy.

We have already seen huge gains in healthcare, IT, and some local home-grown manufacturing and distribution companies (think Paparrazi, PrinterLogic, etc). I’ll touch on this next.

But first, one of the biggest challenges we face in the US Economy is labor. My focus is mainly industrial.

Having a healthy population growth provides labor that fuels business growth. Plain and simple. Business growth provides jobs and income that fuels further business growth.

32% Population Boost

When we look at our population dynamics in St. George, we need to consider the tourist population, those that come here and spend money. We sometimes call this our “Trade Population”.

It’s a more accurate reflection, although somewhat seasonal, of who comes here and spends money in hospitality, food, retail, and other services.

They use our services, parks and our resources. It’s who travels on our roadways.

So, how does this influx of population impact our reported population?

In a report that came out last month that focused on 2017 numbers, (found here: https://gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/WashCounty2017PopEst-Report.pdf), The Gardner Public Policy Institute at the U of U estimated that we experience over a 32% population increase from overnight visitors and seasonal residents.

This would have taken our population number in 2017 from just under 166,000 residents to over 220,000.

It’s a difference of just over 57,000 people. Breaking that number down further would give us 74 percent of permanent residents and 26 percent temporary residents.

Some other key finds from the study:

  • Seasonal pattern of the overnight visitor population is 28,103 overnight visitors during the peak season in the fall and 11,498 during the low season in the winter.
  • Approximately 20% of the county’s total housing units are secondary homes—approximately 28,966 homes in 2017.
  • Overnight visitors stay in commercial or private accommodations (thus the recent boom in hotel and VRBO construction), and seasonal residents stay in secondary homes.

I don’t see this declining any time soon.

With the trends being more experiential vacations—Instagram and Facebook-worthy shots—this will continue to grow in St. George thanks to its proximity to the national parks, including Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc. and the 300+ days of sun we experience in a typical year.

How does all of this impact you and your business?

The impacts will vary. You will see increased opportunity, but, you will also see increased competition for attracting and retaining labor and talent. Real estate costs will continue, on average, to increase. We will see cycles, but over time–especially taking into account the strain on current resources such as water, increasing construction costs, and land scarcity–costs will continue to go up. At the same time, real estate values will increase accordingly.

Plan now and invest for the growth so that you can enjoy the journey!

*Please note my new contact information below.

Travis Parry, SIOR, CCIM
Partner – LINX Commercial Real Estate

[email protected]