By JILL DAVIES
Utah County’s pro-business attitude, highly educated work force and low tax base have made it an ideal location for high-tech businesses to locate during the last decade, said Dane Spencer, appeals appraiser for the Utah County Assessor’s Office.
With the increase in business opportunities, the population has also risen dramatically. Five years ago, Utah County was home to just over 275,000 residents. The 1997 population reached 318,000 and it is projected that Utah County will have over 340,000 residents by the year 2000, according to the Visitor Information Bureau.
“A larger percentage of the educated work force that are getting out of college are staying in the area,” Spencer said. “They used to get out of college and leave, but I think, more and more, there are employment opportunities here with small software companies and other diverse businesses.”
Spencer cited Microsoft, Micron and Geneva as companies that have contributed to growth in Utah County. Intel is currently talking about coming to Utah County as well, he said.
According to a report from the Utah County Development Department, 538 new major business projects were announced in 1997. This includes a $90 million expansion of Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, a $57 million test facility at Micron and a $30 million air separation plant at Geneva.
The number of projects, with a total value of $515 million, is more than double than was announced in 1995.
Along with new businesses and the population influx has come the need for more housing, said Kevin Call, executive vice president of the Utah County Association of Realtors.
“There’s no question that the value of homes in the last five years has risen dramatically in Utah County,” he said.
Call said the value of homes has risen as much as 60 percent since 1993.
“There was a high demand for homes up until a year and a half ago because the supply of homes did not meet the demand,” he said.
Call said the property value has not risen as significantly since 1996. “We’ve got a lot of homes available for sale. That’s stabilizing prices right now,” he said.
Utah County housing continues to be pricey, however.
“The Provo area is listed as one of the least affordable areas in the nation right now because family incomes are not keeping up with the increased prices of housing in Utah County,” Call said.
The price of homes will continue to rise due to heavy impact and zoning fees imposed by Utah County cities, Call said.
“We’ve got a relatively strong economy, a shortage of developmental land and restrictions from cities (that) don’t allow for much affordable housing,” he said.
Spencer said population growth can also be attributed to Salt Lake residents who have moved to the north end of Utah County.
“They are willing to commute since there is a better environment here (in northern Utah County),” he said.
Spencer said older couples from California also choose to retire in Utah County, where they can get more house for their money.