St. Gorgeous! | Urban Living
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St. Gorgeous!

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St. George is America's fastest-growing metro area, according to U.S. Census data, swelling in population by almost 4 percent last year. Why is that, do you think?

It's certainly become retirement heaven for many Baby Boomers, in part because the climate is similar to Arizona's. It still has a small-town feel, old and new architecture, small local businesses and the inevitable chains. Plus it's 120 miles from Las Vegas and 42 miles from Zion National Park.

The scenic area was named in honor of Mormon apostle George A. Smith. He was known as "The Potato Saint" because he urged early settlers to eat raw, unpeeled potatoes to cure scurvy. Come to find out, potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, a cure for scurvy. The first people that inhabited the area were the Anasazi, who grew crops along the Virgin River. I've hiked up a hill behind a gas station at the south end of town and seen many of their pictographs on boulders. The next people to settle were the Paiutes, followed by various Spanish explorers and trappers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent an experimental mission to the area to see if it was good for growing cotton. Turns out, it wasn't. But the St. George area still became known as "Utah's Dixie" and to this day has a nickname that recalls the cotton-growing states. The Potato Saint never actually lived there, but he sent people to farm the land, set up businesses and ran the church in that part of the state. The church built a temple in 1877 which can be seen from most of the town and today has become a handy manmade directional landmark.

Since those early days, St. George has just kept growing. If you're not retired yet, big employers there include SkyWest Airlines, Dixie College, the now-famous Squatty Potty (best poop of your life!), as well as Walmart, Sunroc, Costco and, of course, many different home builders like Ence Homes, Sullivan Homes, Bangerter Homes and SunRiver. The housing crunch has hit the area hard for home buyers, and rental properties for blue collar workers are scarce. I have heard from several local realtors that zero rental properties are available, and if a sign or ad does go up, 10 to 20 people try to outbid each other to sign a lease. Airbnb has also factored into low housing inventory, due to high demand for temporary rentals from tourists visiting nearby Zion National Park. The city is only a quick five-hour-ish drive or one-hour flight from Salt Lake City.