Blog Post

Insight: Utah’s growth demands cooperation, not sabotage

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in the Deseret News

The poet E. E. Cummings wrote, “More, and more, and still more … are we all morticians?”

This quote reminds me of the seemingly limitless growth occurring in Utah right now. We have more people, more jobs and more opportunity. We also have more congestion, more pollution and more need for water. For growth to be good, it must be guided by great leaders who represent our shared values. We must turn the “more of anything” into “more of the right thing.” Quality growth should be our north star.

I worked in the state planning office during the most challenging decade of growth in recent state history — 1991 to 2000. Three times during this decade annual population growth reached or exceeded 3 percent, compared to 1.9 percent in 2017. The state added 571,240 people during this 10-year period. That’s approximately half the size of the population in Salt Lake County today. More than 218,000 more people moved into the state than moved out. Growth was Utah’s middle name!

I find it instructive to consider what state leaders did during these high-growth years to preserve the life quality we enjoy today. State and local government took several important steps. They hosted a growth summit, simulcast by the major television stations, that triggered a statewide dialogue. They joined with Envision Utah and created an extraordinary quality growth partnership. They created a Quality Growth Commission that provided planning grants to local government. They made plans for and purchased rights of way for light rail transit, commuter rail and th