Incorporated in 1920, Layton, Utah, named after Mormon leader Christopher Layton, grew from humble roots to become one of the most prosperous cities in the state. Layton is ranked as the 39th Best Place to Live in the US by 24/7 Wall Street, a recognition that is attributable to forward thinking, progressive leadership and sound development decisions. The city has established itself as a great place to live, work and play.
As Mayor Bob Stevenson explains it, “We have a little bit of everything.” Layton is a suburban city with a lot to offer, including a prosperous economic base built upon strong community values. Located along the northern part of the Wasatch Front mountains and extending to the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake, the area is naturally blessed.
Just twenty-five miles north of Salt Lake City, to which many of its residents commute on a daily basis, Layton has become a commercial and retail hot spot. The city has the third strongest retail market in Utah and a population of just over 70,000 which is growing at a rate of 1,000 additional people a year. The scope of the economic development and impact on a community of this size is quite remarkable.
“In Layton, we like to talk billions. Our total assessed value of our city is about $6 billion. The commercial value is $1.6 billion. We had a total taxable sales of $1.28 billion in 2013, and the largest single site employer – Hill Air Force Base – was an economic driver in 2013 of $3.32 billion,” shares Layton’s Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Kent Andersen.
As a community, Layton provides a number of amenities and services to accommodate its growing population, as well as acting as a regional draw. Not only is there a regional hospital – Davis Hospital and Medical Center – but there is also a regional mall. Layton Hills Mall has over 120 stores and restaurants, and this retail center is fully leased, drawing customers from Northern Utah and as far away as Idaho and Wyoming.
Similarly, the city provides the region with auto dealerships, a number of large construction and hardware stores – such as Home Depot and Lowes – and a mile long stretch that has been dubbed ‘Restaurant Row’ by Layton residents. Restaurant Row provides a number of big name chain restaurants to satisfy a number of tastes.
Layton enjoys a great school system and a well-educated population. With the primary education provider of Davis School District, residents can also enjoy convenient access to Utah State University, the University of Utah and Weber State University (both the local Davis Campus and the main campus), which provides a strong skill and employment base from which employers in the city can draw. The unemployment rate is extremely low, at 3.6 percent, and it boasts high median household incomes.
Layton is an active, family-oriented community that welcomes change and development. Its town center includes Layton Commons Park, Davis Arts Council, Edward A. Kenley Centennial Amphitheater, a museum, and Layton Surf ‘n Swim. There is also an emphasis on arts and culture which serves to enrich diversity in the community. Mayor Stevenson explains, “We have a terrific amphitheatre and arts program, which is another great thing that draws a lot of folks from inside and outside of the community.”
The city is a very safe place, with a low rate of serious crime. Mayor Stevenson gives credit to the Layton Police Department and the preventative actions it takes, adding that people in Layton are friendly and get along with one another. “People find it really comfortable here. People look out for each other and take care of each other. It’s just our nature.”
It is undergoing efforts to improve the diversity of available housing stock, specifically in its historic downtown. “We now have a little bit of an urban area,” Andersen describes, “but we also have suburban and rural portions of our community with mixed types of housing.”
The city has invested in transit-oriented development (TOD) in its historic downtown, building its first private, multi-family TOD. The 156 unit apartment complex is complete with one and two bedroom units, as well as 2,000 square feet of retail space. Kay’s Crossing, a residential and commercial addition to its downtown, is a five-storey, urban format accommodation, with under-structure parking. It offers residents an option of walkability, allowing them to work, live and relax in the downtown.
Kay’s Crossing is adjacent to Layton’s FrontRunner station, a heavy rail system that transports commuters north and south on the Wasatch Front. “The FrontRunner station is a very visionary project that you don’t see very many western states and communities get involved with,” explains Mayor Stevenson. The FrontRunner rail station has done a great deal to improve the city’s accessibility.
Layton’s strategic location provides access to a number of transportation networks. The area is located near I-15, I-80, I-84 and Highway 89, railroad lines and is only twenty-five minutes from Salt Lake International Airport.
Layton enjoys an excellent transportation network. “As we continue to grow, transportation is the lifeblood of economic development, and we have been very proactive,” says Andersen. Over the next two years, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is planning three projects in Layton to the tune of $50 million to relieve traffic congestion and improve access to and from the city for residents and businesses alike.
Layton has established itself as a strong commercial center, contributing to and servicing its growth in population. The leadership of the city has established a number of local and state-wide partnerships. Being proactive in strategic business attraction and retention via financial incentives will further support its continued growth.
The city enjoys many large employers including a Kroger distribution center, Weber State University – Davis Campus, May Trucking and, most importantly, Hill Air Force Base, which has been a pillar of the community since 1940. At a time when many military bases in the United States are scaling back, Hill Air Force Base is growing and expanding economic opportunities.
One of only three logistical centers in the United States, Hill Air Force Base is a Materiel Command base that has been recognized for the efficiency with which it is run. The base employs around 24,000 employees, 15,000 of whom are civilian. The base is currently undergoing significant renovations in preparation for the arrival of the F-35A Lightning II. The construction projects, with a price tag of over $100 million, will be ongoing until 2019.
Hill Air Force Base will become home to 72 F-35As, as well as a squadron of F-22s that have been relocated from California. The hosting and maintenance activities associated with each will bring additional economic benefits to Layton and the region. F-35As are highly technical and will likely require the addition of 500 high-paying technical and engineering positions each year.
There is expectation that these will be the “planes of the future up until 2050,” and Mayor Stevenson is very hopeful that growth will continue until that time. The city is prepared for this growth, also investing in the East Gate Business Park, an industrial / business park adjacent to Hill Air Force Base. To support the base and help the growth of Layton’s aerospace and defense sector, the park is convenient for contractors like Janicki Industries, a composite manufacturer, which have direct access to the base.
Infrastructure and public utilities have been installed in the East Gate Business Park. Zoning will allow contractors the flexibility required, while the location will facilitate easy access to and from transportation routes. With over 600 acres of developable land available, this has presented itself as another major opportunity for Layton.
Beyond investments and efforts to attract jobs in manufacturing, industry and distribution, the city has also capitalized on the many natural assets that make it unique. There is an amazing parks and recreation program in Layton and there are plenty of things to see and do.
Thurston Peak, a 9,700 foot mountain, and surrounding foothills offer a variety of outdoor fun, including hiking, biking and camping. Of course, skiing is located just a short distance away at Snowbasin Resort. With access to the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island, there is no shortage of family-friendly recreation in Layton.
Smart economic and planning decisions made by forward thinking leadership, supported by a vibrant, diverse and friendly community, have made Layton a great place to live, work, invest and recreate.
“Having a fully employed workforce, affordable housing and retail options all play together well,” explains Andersen.
Building upon its strengths, enhancing its natural attractions and maximizing opportunities to diversify has led to an ever-growing Layton, bringing prosperity, preserving its values and accommodating growth for decades to come.