Demographic recruitment efforts have been underway by the Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) group for some time. These efforts aim to attract people of independent means to relocate to Carbon and Emery counties in order to boost the local workforce and economy.
Zions Public Finance Inc. has helped guide the efforts taken on by the BEAR group. Susan Becker of Zions recently presented the information that is being utilized to shape the recruitment.
Becker reported that around 1980, both Carbon and Emery counties saw a decline in population. Though numbers have leveled out, the hope is to bolster the population and, as a result, the economy.
Some of the information being utilized is a Minnesota study that questioned people who had relocated to rural parts of the state. Of those polled, 77% said one of the reasons they moved was to find a less congested place to live while 75% also said they wanted a better environment for raising children. Other top reasons for relocating to a rural area included quality education, lower housing costs and costs of living, and outdoor recreational activities.
Of those that were polled, 75% moved with a spouse while 51% moved with children. Using this information, an ongoing campaign was launched to encourage people to make the move to rural Minnesota.
Many of these statistics can translate to those considering moving to rural Utah. According to Becker, some of the top groups of people seeking to live in rural Utah are outdoor enthusiasts, affordable housing seekers, retirees and young professionals. The area also sees natives moving back to the area after leaving for a time as well as Californians that are “fed up” with traffic, high costs of living and overpopulation.
In addition, Becker said that due to COVID-19, even more people may begin seeking rural lifestyles. With approximately 62% of the nationwide workforce working from home, businesses are recognizing that many employees can work from wherever they choose. This could lead people to choose to live where the cost of living is more affordable and recreation abounds, instead of making a residency decision based on commute times.
In terms of local housing, the median home value in Emery County is $139,500 while Carbon County sits at $136,100. In comparison, the median home values for some urban Utah cities include Eagle Mountain ($254,600), South Jordan ($379,200) and Draper ($435,200). In California, the median home price in Glendale is $724,800 while Walnut Creek is $758,500. Becker and the BEAR group believe that affordable home prices could be a large draw for many people considering relocation.
However, Carbon and Emery counties are seeing less homes on the market. Two years ago at this time, Carbon County had 200 homes on the market. Now, there are only about 55. In Emery County, an average of 100 homes were on the market two years ago while only about 20 homes are listed for sale now.
While housing is more affordable in Carbon and Emery counties, Becker reported that many other things come at a lower price tag as well. When compared to Salt Lake City, Carbon and Emery counties have been deemed more affordable in terms of food, transportation and other miscellaneous spending.
According to Becker, it’s not just those in urban Utah that are looking for rural places to live and work; one of the biggest groups relocating to the Beehive State are Californians. Pre-COVID, the Edelman Trust Barometer Survey reported that 53% of California residents are considering leaving the state while 63% of millennials are thinking of leaving. According to those surveyed, the main reason to consider moving is the high cost of living. Post-COVID, the reasons range from COVID lockdowns to responses to riots as well as high taxes.
Other groups attracted to rural living are retirees and young professionals. Becker said retirees are often looking to be closer to family and are seeking affordable housing. Meanwhile, young professionals are attracted to the opportunity to telecommute while enjoying recreational activities in their spare time.
Using this information, the BEAR group continues to work to attract these types of people to relocate to Carbon and Emery counties. The hope is that a growing population will enhance the local workforce and bolster the economy.
BEAR produced a website, www.whereshouldilive.org, that highlights the positive aspects of the local communities. Highlighted items range from affordable housing and healthcare to quality schools and recreational opportunities.