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Utah’s population grew more in the last decade than any other state, census data shows

It’s no secret that Utah, and Utah Valley in particular, has experienced significant growth in recent years. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the Beehive State’s population, as a percentage, grew more over the last decade than any other state in the country.

At the same time, state-specific data show that a significant portion of this population growth occurred in Utah County, which grew by more than a quarter.

Utah’s population was 2.7 million in April 2010 and steadily grew for years, according to estimates released by the Census Bureau on Monday. By 2019, the state’s population reached 3.2 million, an increase of 442,067 people, or 16%, over the decade.

The District of Columbia, which is not a state, grew by 17.3% since 2010. The next highest states in terms of growth percentage were Texas, 15.3%; Colorado, 14.5%; Florida, 14.2%; Nevada, 14.1%; and Idaho, 14%.

Ten states saw their populations decline over the last 10 years, including West Virginia, Illinois and Vermont.

Utah ranked 12th in population growth over the decade by raw number of people. Texas, which saw its population increase by 3.8 million people between 2010 and 2019, ranked 1st while Florida, 2.6 million, and California, 2.2 million, took the second and third spots.

With 1.7% population growth, Utah had the 2nd highest percentage of growth between 2018 and 2019, tied with Nevada and Arizona. Idaho ranked 1st with 2.1%.

The census estimates indicate that Utah is defying trends that show declining natural population growth in the country. Fewer births in recent years in the U.S. and an increase in the number of deaths has resulted in natural increase, which is measured by looking at births minus deaths, steadily declining over the decade, a Census Bureau press release says.

Only eight states, including Utah, had more births in 2019 than 2018, according to the Census Bureau. Between those two years, the number of births in Utah increased by 293.

“Our families are big and our families multiply fast,” said Chad Eccles, a senior planning for the Mountainland Association of Governments.

But net migration had a bigger impact on population growth in Utah than high fertility and reproduction rates, Eccles said, noting that people moving into the state outpaced new births in 2019.

State-specific data released by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah show that Utah County has been one of the state’s fastest growing counties since 2010.

Utah County’s population grew by 132,537 over the past decade, according to the policy institute data, which, in terms of raw numbers, is the biggest increase in the entire state. Salt Lake County, which added 121,263 people to its population, was the second largest.

As a percentage, Utah County experienced the 4th largest growth rate in the state at 25.5%. Wasatch County grew by 38.9% while Washington County and Morgan County grew by 30.2% and 28%, respectively.

Eccles said a number of factors contributed to the county’s growth, including business development in Silicon Slopes and more higher-education opportunities with the growth of Utah Valley University.

“People are just drawn to the quality of life that we see here,” the senior planner said.

If growth continues at such a rapid rate, Utah County’s population will rival that of the current most populous county, Salt Lake County, by 2060, according to Eccles.

To some, population growth means more economic opportunities and development. Others see growth leading to congestion, overcrowding and increased air pollution.

“In my opinion, growth is neither inherently good nor bad,” said Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of environmental science at Brigham Young University. “It’s a matter of how intentional we are with the growth” and the planning measures that are taken.

Abbott said there are three keystones to sustainable growth: Encouraging high-density housing in the right places, investing in energy-efficient infrastructure for homes and businesses and developing mass transit infrastructure.

Without sustainable planning, Utah County “could very quickly become a place that’s not that great to live in (and) that has huge transportation and pollution problems,” Abbott said.

On the other hand, “the growth could be a positive thing for Utah County” if adequately planned for, he said.

“The choice really is ours what the future looks like,” said Abbott. “The single number of how many people are going to be (here) doesn’t reflect what the actual quality of life will be.”

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald 

Hendrix Llewellyn, 3, slides down a hill on a saucer sled Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, at The Oaks at Spanish Fork. According to the National Weather Service, the majority of Utah County had gotten a little more than approximately three inches of snow throughout the valley, with as much as five-and-a-half inches of snow in Alpine, as of Thursday morning. Snow continued to fall lightly and periodically in the valley throughout Thursday. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Leatherby's, other new developments bolstering business growth in Orem

While Orem residents wait to hear the official word on what is happening with the west anchor at University Place, there is news about other retail businesses moving in.

“We are seeing continued active growth and a vibrant community with a strong business and retail base,” said Kathi Beckett, Economic Development division manager.

Some residents have been guessing as to what is coming where and when on social media, but Leatherby’s Family Creamery, which was once a busy family gathering restaurant in Provo, has made the official announcement it is coming back — this time to Orem.

With the announcement of new businesses, restaurants, temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the upgrade on the Orem Fitness Center and the new auditorium at the Orem Library, Beckett says Orem continues to be a growing and vibrant community.

New businesses mean additional sales tax revenue is anticipated to bolster city coffers and generate additional revenue to assist CARE Tax recipients such as the SCERA Center for the Arts and Hale Center Theater.

Orem’s Community Services division has approved the following developments that are at different points in the building process:

Leatherby’s Family Creamery Leatherby’s Family Creamery will be opening this spring in the old Mimi’s Restaurant location at 305 E. University Parkway, according to Kenny Whitehead, manager of the Taylorsville location and member of Leatherby’s corporate leadership.

For more than 30 years, Leatherby’s has been known for its ice cream and other soda fountain-style malts, shakes and floats, as well as baked goods, burgers, sandwiches, fries and more.

“We’re excited,” Whitehead said. “I think it will be a great location for us.”

Currently, Leatherby’s has two full-service locations in Taylorsville and Draper. Orem will also be full service. Area residents will remember Leatherby’s was located at one time where The Mix at River’s Edge is being built on University Parkway in Provo.

The original Leatherby’s started in California and the Utah stores franchised off of them. The California stores experienced financial issues, including bankruptcy. The Utah stores broke off and kept the name. There are three Leatherby’s still open in California, according to Whitehead.

To learn more about Leatherby’s Family Creamery and menu visit https://leatherbys.com/menu.

Veterans Affairs medical clinic

With the demise and sale of Rite Aid to the Walgreens Corp., the empty Rite Aid building on 800 South and State Street has been purchased and will be remodeled and fitted to be a Veterans Affairs medical clinic.

There are two other VA clinics in Utah County, one in North Orem and in Provo. The new Orem clinic has received the nod to begin construction. A completion date has not been announced.

University Place mixed-use parking and office space

The new eight-story structure that will hold five stories of parking and three stories of office space northwest of the old Macy’s location at University Place is in the final approval process, according to Beckett.

The terraced mixed-use facility is part of the ongoing seven-year plan to upgrade and make additions to the University Place campus.

The construction on the eight-story structure will begin sometime this spring.

Alpine Credit Union

The newly completed Alpine Credit Union building at 1510 N. State St. has received its occupancy clearance from Orem and will be fully functioning within the coming days.

Café 360

Another restaurant will join the list at Midtown 360 mixed-use housing and retail development located at about 445 S. State St. According to Beckett, the building permits have been issued.

While not sure what the fare will be, Beckett said it will be entirely different from the restaurants that are already at Midtown 360.

“We are excited to see something new come in,” Beckett said.

Other businesses in development process

Carrabba’s Italian Grill — Remodeling is still in progress at Carrabba’s Italian Grill at 683 E. University Parkway, at University Place. A reopening date has not been announced.

Feast Buffet — The Feast Buffet offering Chinese cuisine has recently opened at 1428 N. State St..

Golden Corral — The new building is under construction just east of the current site on University Parkway. It should be completed by the end of summer.

Orem Tech Center — Two of the scheduled five buildings at 1530 W. 1200 North are completed. Each building at the tech center is 96,000 square feet. The others are still in some phase of construction.

Salmon Pharmacy — The Salmon Pharmacy at 865 N. 980 West just southwest of the WinCo grocery store has received its temporary occupancy permit and is expected to be ready for complete occupancy in the next few weeks.

According to Beckett, there are many other business applications just coming into the system that cannot be publicly announced.

The city website says there are 67 projects under construction including remodeling of businesses, housing developments, multi-family units and more.

To find out more about what is happening in Orem visit the city website at http://orem.org/apb.

Isaac Hale Daily Herald 

Brigham Young University guard Maria Albiero (5) tries to drive the ball past Gonzaga University guard Katie Campbell (24) during a basketball game between the BYU Cougars and the Gonzaga Bulldogs held Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, at the Marriott Center in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Looking to avoid a repeat of 2018 ‘disaster,’ Utah County elections division gets a million-dollar budget increase

Utah County had an unexpectedly high rate of voter turnout during the 2018 midterm elections. As a result, many residents found themselves standing in line for hours — well past the 8 p.m. cutoff time — waiting to cast a ballot on Election Day.

By the next night, the Utah County Clerk’s Office had an estimated 89,000 ballots that hadn’t been processed, the Deseret News reported.

Utah County elections director Rozan Mitchell, who in 2018 was consulting for then-Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson, described the lengthy lines and delayed ballot processing as a “disaster” for the county.

“(The elections division) was grossly understaffed,” Mitchell said, which is “what caused some of the election failures in 2018.”

Looking to avoid a repeat of 2018, and in preparation for a presidential election that is expected to bring unprecedented voter turnout this year, the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office, now under the leadership of Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner, requested a budget increase from the Utah County Commission.

When the commission completed its 2020 budget on Dec. 17, it approved a $1 million increase of the elections division’s budget. At 62.2%, it is one of the biggest increases approved in the county, trailing only the auditing division of the clerk/auditor’s office, which is getting a 63.8% increase, and non-departmental funds, which will increase by 65.8%.

By dollar amount, it is the third biggest increase approved by the commission, behind non-departmental funds and the Utah County Attorney’s Office, which received a $2.6 million increase.

The county has been in “dysfunction for way too many years when it comes to our elections,” Commissioner Nathan Ivie said in an interview, reflecting comments made by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2018. “One of the most important things we provide to the public is a safe, secure election.”

The elections division upgraded its equipment last year with money from state and federal grants, according to Mitchell, including high-speed scanners that can process 300 ballots per minute, three times faster than the old scanners, and auto-verify signatures. Mitchell said they purchased this equipment with the 2020 election in mind.

The million-dollar budget increase will be used to hire a full-time elections employee, as well as to bring on part-time staffers, Mitchell said. Additionally, it will go toward the printing and mailing costs the county pays when it sends out ballots to voters.

“This is really administrative costs for an election,” she said.

With primary elections in March and June and a general election on Nov. 3, Mitchell anticipates never-before-seen voter turnout and registration in Utah County.

“We will be sending out well over 900,000 ballots,” Mitchell said, which is more than double the number of ballots sent out the previous year. “So just print and mail services alone, (it) doesn’t even compare to what we had in 2019.”

Even with the new equipment purchased last year, Mitchell said the budget increase is necessary for the elections division to keep up.

“It’s going to take a small army to process all of those ballots,” said Mitchell.

There are other things that the elections division couldn’t foresee or budget for, such as the statewide tax referendum, packets for which will be turned in to the county on Jan. 21.

“And that’s another 40,000 signatures that we have to verify,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell added that the elections division’s budget is “never static” and typically significantly smaller during years without a presidential election.

“We’re going to see a drastically smaller budget request in (20)21,” she said.

Gardner said that even before she took office at the beginning of the year, the commission knew the elections division’s 2020 budget was “going to be significantly higher” than it was in 2019.

Budget increases across the board have been unpopular among some Utah County residents. During the commission’s Dec. 17 meeting, dozens of people spoke about the need to slash departmental funding and cut budgets across the board.

Ivie said that the elections division, and the clerk/auditor’s office in general, has been “one of the areas of greatest neglect” and needed a substantial budget raise.

“I think that (residents upset about budget increases) have to ask themselves the question, ‘Are you willing to pay for safe and secure elections in this county?’” Ivie said.

Overseeing elections is one of the only constitutionally-mandated roles of the county government, said Gardner. “Our society fails to be the American society without free and fair elections.”

Trump's plan to curb teen vaping exempts some flavors

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials will begin cracking down on most flavored e-cigarettes that are popular with underage teenagers, but their plan includes major exceptions that benefit vaping manufacturers, retailers and adults who use the nicotine- delivery devices.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes that are popular with high school and middle school students. But menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market.

The flavor ban will also entirely exempt large, tank-based vaping devices, which are primarily sold in vape shops that cater to adult smokers.

Together, the two exemptions represent a significant retreat from President Donald Trump’s original plan announced four months ago, which would have banned all vaping flavors — including menthol — from all types of e-cigarettes. The new policy will spare a significant portion of the multibillion-dollar vaping market. And the changes mark a major victory for thousands of vape shop owners who sell the tank-based systems, which allow users to mix customized flavors.

Anti-tobacco advocates immediately condemned the decision to permit menthol and exempt tank-based vapes. They have lobbied the Trump administration to follow through on its initial pledge to ban all flavors except tobacco, arguing that teenagers who vape will simply shift to using menthol if it remains on the market.

“Only the elimination of all flavored e-cigarettes can end the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop e-cigarette companies from luring and addicting kids with flavored products,” said Matthew Myers, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable aerosol. They have been pitched to adults as a less-harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, but there is limited data on their ability to help smokers quit.

The Food and Drug Administration has struggled for years to find the appropriate approach to regulate vaping. No e-cigarettes have yet won FDA approval, but the agency permits their sale under a policy called “enforcement discretion.” Under Thursday’s policy change, the FDA said it would begin targeting companies that continue to sell the prohibited flavored products.

Under current law, the FDA is scheduled to begin reviewing all e-cigarettes in May. Only those that can demonstrate a benefit for U.S. public health will be permitted to stay on the market.

“We have to protect our families,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of the announcement. “At the same time, it’s a big industry. We want to protect the industry.”

The flavor restrictions apply to e-cigarettes that use prefilled nicotine cartridges mainly sold at gas stations and convenience stores. Juul Labs is the biggest player in that market, but it previously pulled all of its flavors except menthol and tobacco after coming under intense political scrutiny. The small, discrete devices are the most popular brand among underage users.

Many smaller manufacturers continue to sell sweet, fruity flavors like “grape slushie,” “strawberry cotton candy” and “sea salt blueberry.”

The flavor restrictions won’t affect the larger specialty devices sold at vape shops, which typically don’t admit customers under 21. These tank-based systems allow users to fill the device with the flavor of their choice. Sales of these devices represent an estimated 40% of the U.S. vaping business, with sales across some 15,000 to 19,000 shops.

Even with the exemption for products sold at vape shops, industry advocates were not happy with the restrictions. Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association said narrower flavor options for Juul and similar devices “will result in more adults smoking.”

Still, the new policy represents the federal government’s biggest step yet to combat a surge in teen vaping that officials fear is hooking a generation of young people on nicotine. In the latest government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month, despite federal law banning sales to those under 18. Late last month Trump signed a law raising the minimum age to purchase all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 nationwide.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration decided to exempt menthol after reviewing new data showing the flavor was not popular with teens.

“As we got better data on the flavors, we modified our thinking,” Azar said.

Survey data published in November reported that less than 6% of teens picked menthol as their top choice for vaping. In contrast, mint was the most popular flavor among sophomores and seniors.

Incoming FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the government’s approach attempts to balance the problem of underage vaping with “the potential role that e-cigarettes may play in helping adult smokers transition completely away” from regular cigarettes.

When Trump officials first sketched out their plans at a White House event in September, they specifically said menthol would be banned. But that effort stalled after vaping proponents and lobbyists pushed back and White House advisers told Trump that a total flavor ban could cost him votes.

Industry groups including the Vapor Technology Association launched an aggressive social media campaign — #IVapeIVote — contending that the plan would force the closure of vaping shops, eliminating jobs and sending users of electronic cigarettes back to traditional smokes.

Trump’s initial announcement came amid an outbreak of unexplained lung illnesses tied to vaping. But since then, health officials have tied the vast majority of the cases to a contaminating filler added to illicit THC vaping liquids. THC is the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high. Makers of legal nicotine-based vaping products have tried to distance themselves from the problem.

FDA officials said Thursday they will continue targeting vaping products that appeal to underage users in other ways, such as packaging that mimics juice boxes, cereal or kid-friendly snacks.

Administration also pledged to work with the industry as the May deadline for product review approaches. Officials noted that products submitted by the deadline that don’t appeal to kids will be permitted to remain on the market for up to one year pending FDA review. They also clarified that some vape flavors could return to the market if manufacturers can establish that they benefit adult smokers by helping them quit cigarettes.

Trump suggested ahead of the announcement that the flavor restrictions might be temporary.

“Hopefully, if everything’s safe, they’re going to be going very quickly back onto the market,” he told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.