We have all arrived in a new and different place and wondered about the people who make up the local populace and how they make a living. Who among us has not driven through small isolated towns and wondered what the inhabitants could possibly do to make a living in such remote and desolate locations? St. George Utah is no exception, as many of the visitors to this part of the world look out and see no discernible industry, factories, office plazas, or high rise buildings. For that matter they see a town that looks almost like a newly minted strip mall with the very first hints of sprawl.
St. George is the 8th largest city in the state of Utah, and the largest outside of the Wasatch front with 78,500 residents out of the 2.9 million inhabitants of the state. The population has steadily increased since its founding in 1862 and currently is growing at roughly 8% per year with the state of Utah close behind at 6.5%. Prior to the recession, St. George was the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation behind Greeley Co. in 2006.
The area can best be characterized as a family friendly retirement community dependant on steady growth of the consumer base to fuel an economy of retail sales, construction and service industries. Factors that contribute to the make up of the population include sunny, dependable weather patterns with mild winters suitable for golf and other outdoor activities, a low crime rate, (139.3 index vs. a US average of 302) and a conservative Mormon influence with a focus on family values. The median age of 35.5 years vs. 30.2 for the state reflects the prevalence of retired persons in the community. 19% of the population is over the age of 65 while the state of Utah has a rate of 9% overall. These numbers tend to change seasonally as many retired live elsewhere during the hot months of June—September.
68% of the population are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with the remainder having no religious affiliation (24%) or Catholic (4%). This is in stark contrast to Salt Lake City where the percentage of the population that identifies as Mormon is 35%. This level of conservatism is reflected in the voting statistics from the 2012 election where 82% voted for the republican candidate and 15.5% for the democratic candidate.
83% of the residents work in the city and their average commute time is 15 minutes. This is a major selling point to people from major metropolitan areas where many people often spend 2 or more hours of their lives commuting to and from work everyday. The population of the city increases a mere 12% due to daily commuting as most residents both live and work in the metropolitan area.
The unemployment rate in St. George as of 2014 was 4.2% vs a statewide average of 3.9%. This may be a reflection of the lag in housing construction following the recession, and a glut of foreclosed units on the market that need to be absorbed before new construction can ramp up. As a retail / service / construction economy without any significant industries to depend on, St. George is often reliant on continual growth and an influx of visitors from other areas to fuel its economy.
Most residents will be quick to tell you that this is a difficult place to make a living. Per capita income is $24,500 with 15.5% of the population living below the poverty line, with the state average at 12.7%
Median home value is 220,000, with median rent being just over 900/month.
We often tell our guests that St. George is not an “outdoor town” in the same sense as Boulder Co. or even Salt Lake City. When you take golf off of the table, the number of residents who regularly engage in the outdoor pursuits of hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, camping, backpacking or just general sightseeing is astoundingly low, given the population numbers. This means uncrowded trails, routes, canyons and viewpoints are the norm, and outside of Zion National park, crowds are the exception.