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South Jordan Journal

A decade of growth: South Jordan’s double-edged sword

Feb 07, 2022 02:54PM ● By Collin Leonard

A view of the growing city (The City of South Jordan)

By Collin Leonard | [email protected] 

In the past decade, the US Census Bureau reports South Jordan as the fifth-fastest-growing city in the country with a population over 50,000. The city outpaced both the state and county, with a staggering 51.8% growth rate. Utah was the fastest-growing state within the same timeframe, at 18.4%, and Salt Lake County experienced growth of 15.1%.

The metrics, at first glance surprising, do not tell the full story. The comparisons in the census favor cities close to the 50,000 population mark (for example, South Jordan in 2010). Phoenix, for example, had a much greater numeric increase, but its growth rate as a percentage of its existing population was significantly less than the smallest cities in the same category. These rates do not provide a strong basis for comparison between cities of different sizes, but the fact remains: South Jordan is experiencing an unprecedented influx of new residents.

As the city grows, many are wondering how these changes will affect the small businesses, home ownership, education and more. Brian Preece, South Jordan’s director of City Commerce, has held a front-row seat watching the city develop for the past 17 years. 

“Retail has stopped expanding almost everywhere,” he said. Medium-box stores and office spaces are no longer the strong markets they once were; the pandemic has increased reliance on ecommerce and allowed employees to work from home. According to Preece, “food is the new retail,” but commercial space is finite as developers struggle to keep up with demand. Local businesses follow in the wake of newly built communities but zoning appropriately for residential versus commercial space is a complex balancing act. The housing shortage and rising home prices incentivize more residential construction, but Preece says in the past “a diverse portfolio of businesses helped South Jordan weather the recession better than surrounding cities.”

 The city is running out of commercially zoned land, but some builders are improving the situation. Daybreak, a planned community acquired recently by the Larry H. Miller Group, will benefit from mixed-use zoning to fill tenant spaces with service oriented small businesses. Preece believes the corridors that are now connecting Bangerter with Interstate 15 will also improve the flow to local nodes of commerce.

Katie Fagan-Small, a Utah small-business expert, has been helping businesses for 20 years. She believes the new work-from-home ecosystem is driving side business opportunities, which are made more attainable through government funds. Lower interest rates on a variety of small business loans are there to help current and future entrepreneurs gain independence. Some industries have taken a big hit during the pandemic, and others have grown uncontrollably. 

According to Fagan-Small, education is an industry experiencing the greatest strains as the city grows, but even that provides opportunities for childcare businesses to crop up. The pool and pet industries are big winners if winners exist in a pandemic, though most have been hampered by the unmet demand for labor. Fagan-Small and Preece agree there are always things that will need to be done in person, and the service sector is one of the best ways to “Bezos-proof” a business.