A scene of St. George’s efforts to build housing for new residents, St. George, Utah March 3, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – It’s no secret that crowds of people are migrating to Utah.
According to a new study conducted by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, an estimated 71,936 new residents have moved to Utah since the 2020 census. Iron County has recorded the fastest growth rate at 6.2%, adding 3,574 new residents. Washington County’s 4% growth rate was the third fastest in the state, adding 7,321 new residents.
Opinions about this growth vary, especially when it comes to water. Most Washington County officials are trying to harness the growth to build a stronger economy and a more diverse community. But the state is in the midst of a mega-drought, which may hold back continued growth. It remains to be seen how this will impact growth.
St. George News had the opportunity to meet some of our new neighbors. Each of them shared their reasons for leaving their former home state and what they are doing as they move into their new home in St. George.
A restaurateur, Connors moved from Las Vegas, Nevada, to St. George to open Farmstead Bakery. The main reason he moved was because Nevada had made it impossible for restaurateurs to earn enough to survive. So Connors made a commitment to open a new restaurant in St. George.
âUtah has opened as we open,â said Connors.
In the process, Connors brought at least three of his associates with him. They included Chef Chris Herrin, Pastry Chef Marie Yonge and Ben Garcia. Together they have made Farmstead one of the most popular places to have a pastry and coffee, or a turkey croissant sandwich.
“If we’ve been successful,” said Connors, “it’s because of our team of rock stars.”
“And the warm welcome we received in St. George,” added Connors. “It’s beyond anything I’ve ever had in Vegas.”
Richeson, a gunsmith who owns Rich’s Gun Shop, said it was difficult to leave a successful business in Donald, Oregon, to move to St. George. He had two gun stores in Oregon, one with a live ammunition range and a shooting range. But with the social / political unrest the state has experienced over the past year, Richeson said the handwriting was on the wall.
âOregon has terrible leadership,â Richeson told St. George News. âWe were locked in by Antifa, and the members of Black Lives Matter made it oppressive there. I knew it was time for me to get out.
So, after talking with his wife about where they might move, his wife suggested St. George.
“She had never been there,” Richeson said, his eyes wide. âI had only been there for firearms licensing training a few years ago. “
“But, when she said Saint-Georges, that seemed right to me,” he added.
As a result, Richeson moved his store, along with three of his employees, including his son, to St. George. While trying to build a client base in Utah, they have already received a visit from former clients in Oregon.
âWe are fortunate to have such loyal customers,â he said. âNow we look forward to serving St. George. “
Cory La Franchi
Like Connors, LaFranchi is a restaurateur. He owned and ran the award-winning Street Eats food truck in Seattle. But when the pandemic hit, LaFranchi said he started to reconsider where he wanted to be. Not only was he losing money, he was away from his family.
âI really wanted to be closer to my family,â he said. âI also wanted to live in a cheaper place. In Seattle, we were paying $ 11,000 a year in taxes alone. So we had to go there nonstop just to make ends meet. “
Selling his Seattle home was the easy part. It happened faster than expected and he made a profit of $ 100,000. But when he started looking for a new home in St. George in August 2020, a harsh reality set in.
âThere was nothing on the market,â he says. âWe lost our first choice to a cash buyer. W were outbid for our second choice. I started to wonder if we had made the right choice since we were living in a trailer. It was 115 degrees outside and the air conditioner couldn’t keep up.
Then a little miracle happened. âWe closed a house in downtown St. George,â he said.
Now he is Executive Chef at the Cliffside Restaurant. He was also named one of the 30-in-30s of the St. George’s Area Chamber of Commerce, which celebrates the contributions of local business owners to the community.
Between Utah’s robust economy, its many outdoor activities, and its conservative approach to politics, Utah has become a destination for those looking for a new life.
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