Orem and Provo appear to be pretty great places to live and have a business. The two cities led Utah County in new residential and commercial building construction in 1988.

Orem City issued 208 single-family-home building permits during the year, twice as many as Provo's 97.Permits for construction of 34 new commercial buildings were issued in Provo, while Orem issued 22 such permits during the year. Pleasant Grove came in third, with 11.

Officials from Orem and Provo are pleased with the growth in their cities.

"We perceive that to be very good news," Orem Mayor Blaine Willes said. "We are anxious to have a good tax base, but really the purpose of the city is to have a good place for people to live."

Willes said a committee working to help the city determine long-range goals has identified promotion of quality of life and educational and recreational facilities as things the city should emphasize. The rate of home construction in the city supports the idea that Orem has these qualities and should work to maintain them.

"As I analyze why Orem is growing so fast in the county, the only thing I can think of is that Orem is the best place to live in the county," said Kent Partridge, chief building official for Orem. "It has a good variety of retail business and is not a student community."

Orem and Sandy have been the fastest-growing cities in Utah and Salt Lake counties since the 1970s, Partridge said. Partridge said he is telling inquirers Orem has a population of 67,000.

"I'd been quoting people 65,000 up to a month ago," Partridge said.

Jim Wilbur, Orem senior planner, said the average home value listed on permits issued in 1988 was $85,413.

"Orem should be proud of that type of construction," Wilbur said. "The quality of homes (being built) in Orem is probably what the council desired when the moratorium (on construction of multiple-dwelling units) was enacted in 1978."

Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said not only is Provo showing healthy commercial business growth, but sales tax revenue in the city has increased 25 percent during the past three years.

"I think it is (the result of) part of a plan to rejuvenate Provo put together in 1986," Jenkins said. "It has been working out to our best expectations."

Gary Golightly, director of economic development for Provo, said Provo also was the fastest-growing city commercially in 1987.

"We're providing a partnership with these companies to find a way to come into the area and grow," Golightly said, "while at the same time protecting the integrity of our city.

"The underlying factor here is that we are creating new jobs at all levels, and that is spurring on demand for (more) commercial growth."

Golightly said Provo's emphasis in 1989 will be to sustain diverse commercial growth, particularly in the downtown area.

Austin Sargent, a research analyst with the Bureau of Economics and Business Research at the University of Utah, said approximately 5,200 single-family building permits were issued in Utah in 1988.

That actually represents a decline of 19.8 percent from a 1987 figure of 6,500.

"What we're seeing in October through December is that the rate of decline has slowed quite a bit," Sargent said. "We expect a slight upturn next year."

Sargent projects that approximately 5,700 to 6,200 new homes will be built in Utah during 1989.

From 1980 to 1988 building construction figures for the state fluctuated greatly. In 1980, 7,700 permits were issued. That figure dropped for two years - 5,400 in 1981 and 4,800 in 1982 - and then soared in 1983, to 8,800.

Home construction held steady until 1987, when construction again slowed and 6,500 permits were issued.