It’s no secret that Utah is growing at a rapid rate. The Beehive State was the fastest-growing state in the nation between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And growth is only going to continue, with Utah’s population projected to increase from 3.4 million today to 5.5 million in 2060, according to the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

All that growth will present Utah with many opportunities but will bring with it a variety of challenges, which is why Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Thursday launched a statewide survey to get input from everyday Utahns about how they want the state to grow.

“We're here to talk about growth,” he said. “What makes Utah great also makes Utah grow. People come here, they like it, and they want to stay. But we know that growth can threaten what makes Utah great if we don't plan for it.”

That’s where the Guiding Our Growth initiative comes in. The effort was launched by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to promote a statewide “conversation” about growth that would help guide policy decisions going forward.

“Utah can remain a great place to live, but we must work together to protect or improve Utah’s cost of housing, water resources, transportation conveniences, recreation opportunities, and never, ever losing our sense of community,” Cox said. “So, today we are inviting all Utahns to take an online survey to help guide our future growth.”

The survey — which can be found at www.guidingourgrowth.utah.gov/beheard — is open to all residents through Aug. 31, and gathers input on four categories of growth challenges: housing, water, transportation and open space and recreation. Cox said the results will then be distributed to state and local leaders.

A view of the University of Utah and downtown Salt Lake City is visible from Red Butte Garden on Thursday.
A view of the University of Utah and downtown Salt Lake City is visible from Red Butte Garden on Thursday. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Although those leaders won’t be bound to enact every policy favored by their constituents, Cox said having a forum like this will allow for more direct input from residents than is possible in town halls or legislative sessions.

“Most legislators — almost to a person — they want to do what’s best for the state and they can't do that if they don't hear. Yes, they have town halls, they get some social media input, but oftentimes those are vocal minorities that show up,” Cox told KSL.com. “Now, I know what a lot of people want. They want us to not grow at all. I would love to be able to keep everything the same, but that's not how it works when you do well. When your state is successful, people want to live here.”

“We want to make sure that our kids and grandkids have a bright future and we don’t become victims of our success,” he continued. “It is such a great place to live, but we can be intentional about making sure it's a great place to live for a long time to come.”

Mallory Bateman, director of demographic research at the Gardner Institute, said the public feedback is especially important considering that Utah’s growth will continue to change the demographics in the state.

Gov. Spencer Cox leaves the kickoff press conference of the Guiding Our Growth statewide survey at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 11, 2023. The survey asks Utahns what they want for the future of the state when it comes to housing, water, transportation, open space and recreation. Utahns are invited to take the survey at https://guidingourgrowth.utah.gov/. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“We’re still the youngest state in the nation, but we're aging and we’re becoming more racially and ethnically diverse,” she said. “We're excited that the Gardner Institute’s long-term planning projections are part of this conversation to help Utahns guide our growth into the future.”

Because of the various issues growth will pose across the state, state planning coordinator Laura Hanson said the survey will be personalized locally. Respondents will be asked to provide their ZIP code, then be directed to one of three surveys: one for urban areas, one for rural areas that are growing and one for rural areas that are experiencing slow or no growth.

“(It’s) designed to meet people where they are in Utah as ... growth in Utah is not evenly distributed across all of the different parts of the state,” Hanson said. “That way, if you happen to live in Wayne County, we're not talking about skyscrapers and public transit, you're getting feedback or questions that are more tailored to your community.”

The survey is the second phase in the state’s Guiding Our Growth initiative. The third phase will include sharing results with policymakers and Utahns, and is expected to run through the end of the year.

“There is a possibility that we will do a kind of PSA campaign where we ... try to push (the results) out to people to let them know what they want the future of Utah to be and help their fellow Utahns understands that that's the vision moving forward,” Cox said.

Laura Hanson, with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, and Gov. Spencer Cox speak at the kickoff of the Guiding Our Growth statewide survey at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 11, 2023. The survey asks Utahns what they want for the future of the state when it comes to housing, water, transportation, open space and recreation. Utahns are invited to take the survey at https://guidingourgrowth.utah.gov/. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News