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Tooele growth spurt is biggest

County tops Utah’s tally of post-census resident influx

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Tooele County, with its large military presence and vast amounts of undeveloped land, has been the fastest-growing county in the state since the 2000 Census was taken a year and a half ago.

And the state as a whole has grown by nearly 50,000 to 2,295,971 since that time, according to figures released this week by the Utah Population Estimates Committee.

The Census Bureau released state-by-state estimates last month, but Utah completes its own estimates each year that are used for state planning purposes. The Census Bureau estimated the state grew by just more than 35,000 people.

Following Tooele's 6.9 percent growth was Washington County, which grew 4.9 percent in the past year. Washington County was also the second-fastest-growing county in the state from 1990 to 2000, nearly doubling in size. Tooele was the fourth-fastest-growing county from 1990 to 2000, with Summit having the most growth in the decade.

Other counties with significant growth in the latter part of 2000 and first part of 2001 were Summit, Utah, Wasatch, Juab, Uintah, Beaver and Iron.

Though the growth among the different counties was different in the past year than it was in the past decade, it still followed the general growth pattern that has existed in recent years in the state.

"The biggest growth was in a doughnut around the Wasatch Front," said Neil Ashdown, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget and chairman of the Utah Population Estimates Committee. "That's largely taken place again, but the growth is on the southern end of the Wasatch Front."

The committee estimates about 14,000 people migrated to the state between 2000 and 2001, largely for economic reasons, Ashdown said. Though the state's economy has had a significant downturn, a large part of that occurred after July 2001, which is the cutoff date for the estimates, and in spite of that the state is still attractive to some outsiders.

"Even though Utah's economy is weaker than it has been, it's still doing better than neighboring states," he said.

People who move here for jobs often look for places to live where the land is less expensive, which is why counties including Tooele and Utah had high growth rates. Counties such as Iron and Washington had high growth rates in part because they attract some tourism, both have institutions of higher learning and are destinations for retired people, Ashdown said.

Although from 1990 to 2000 every county in Utah gained in population, from 2000 to 2001 a number of counties actually lost population. Among them were Emery, Garfield, Carbon, Piute, San Juan, Grand, Millard and Wayne.

The possible reasons for population loss in those areas varies from weakening economies in sectors such as mining and oil to the fact these counties are sparsely populated anyway, so even small numbers of out-migration affect the numbers.

"One family could move out and it could change the percentage," Ashdown said.

Small population losses over a one-year period are not too uncommon and aren't normally cause for alarm unless the trend continues over several years.

E-mail: ehayes@desnews.com