Fortune magazine isn't the only one predicting vast, quick economic growth for the Salt Lake area. So is the U.S. Department of Commerce.

It released a study this week predicting the Salt Lake-Ogden metropolitan area will be among the fastest-growing in jobs, income and population over the next decade among the nation's 54 largest metropolitan areas.The bad news, though, is that even with the projected fast growth, the area will still rank dead last in income per person. That is mainly because families in Utah are larger, and each income earner supports more people.

The Commerce Department said that the average 1988 per capita income in the Salt Lake area was $13,090. It projects an 18.4 percent increase by the year 2000 to $15,501 in constant 1988 dollars.

That is the sixth-highest expected growth rate among the large metropolitan areas. But Salt Lakers' incomes per person would still rank dead last - just behind the $16,012 per capita income of San Antonio.

Fred Ball, Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that while he is pleased with the added recognition, "These (per capita income) figures drive me crazy."

Ball said Utah's high birthrate, large family size and large youth population skew the picture.

"We have a highly educated and skilled work force, and we do not want companies coming here because they think they can exploit a low-paid work force," Ball said. "One of the main thrusts in state economic development is to increase salary and wage scales. We want jobs that are commensurate with the education of our people."

Alan Rindlisbacher, vice president for business attraction at the Utah Economic Development Corp., said the reports validate the strength of Utah's economy.

"As we continue to get favorable ratings, we are pleased to see outside validation of things we believe in strongly," Rindlisbacher said. "The economy of Utah is looking strong, and we are excited to see this coverage come our way."

Like Ball, Rindlisbacher is concerned about elements of the study that paint a negative picture. But he believes once companies look at all the statistics in context, Utah's image remains strong and positive.

The highest per capita income in 2000 - $30,582 - is expected to be in San Francisco. The greatest change in per capita income over the decade - 22.2 percent - is expected in Nashville.

The national average per capita income in 2000 is expected to be $19,104, and the national average growth rate over the decade is expected to be 15.9 percent.

The Salt Lake area is expected to have the 10th-largest increase in total personal income - a measure of relative market size - from $13.9 billion in 1988 to $18.9 billion in 2000, or 35.66 percent.

It would rank 51st among the 54 large metropolitan areas, up from its current ranking of 53rd. Los Angeles is expected to have the largest total personal income, $209 billion. West Palm Beach, Fla., is expected to have the fastest growth, 48.41 percent.

The Salt Lake area is also expected to have the 11th-fastest growth in the number of jobs, from 556,000 in 1988 to 678,000 in 2000 - for an increase of 21.85 percent.

The job total would rank 46th-best, up from Salt Lake's current ranking of 49th. West Palm Beach is again expected to have the fastest growth, 30.37 percent. Los Angeles would have the most total jobs, 5.9 million.

The Salt Lake area is expected to have the 17th-fastest growth in population, up 14.56 percent from 1.07 million in 1988 to 1.22 million in 2000.

West Palm Beach is expected to have the fastest population growth rate, 24.82 percent. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is expected to have the largest population, 9.86 million.