Big changes — and big growth — for Utah County over next 50 years

VINEYARD, Utah County — Thien and Brittany Nguyen took a big risk on a small town.

He wanted to quit investment banking and try working at a startup. A freelance illustrator, she also craved a change. So the pair left Gilbert, Arizona, with their infant son, Tyson, last summer for a new home in Utah County’s growing high-tech corridor.

“We’re rooted here with not much of an intention of moving anywhere,” Thien Nguyen said.

Families like the Nguyens, are expected to drive a population boom that will triple the number of Utah County residents over the next 50 years to 1.6 million, a new report projects. Workers from out of state and growing families will help Utah County edge closer to Salt Lake County’s longtime No. 1 spot and anticipated 1.7 million population, according to estimates released Monday by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

“That’s a tremendous amount of growth,” Pam Perlich, the institute’s director of demographic research, said Monday at a panel discussion with state lawmakers, Utah County leaders and Utah public education officials, as well as water and transportation managers.

Household growth accounts for roughly three-quarters of the increase, the analysis found, and outside migration for the rest.

By the time 2-year-old Tyson reaches retirement age, his spacious 2,100-square-mile county will have urban neighborhoods, more foreigners and others from out of state, not to mention packed schools, light-rail cars and more roads, researchers estimate.

Nguyen, 28, is the human resources director at Jolt, a 70-person software company in Orem that helps businesses train and manage employees who work in restaurants or other jobs outside of an office.

The move to Utah, he said, is a…

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