As the U.S. Census Bureau released data on urban areas on Monday, it switched the official name of the old "Salt Lake City" urban area to "Salt Lake City-West Valley City" instead.
That started a small celebration among West Valley City officials. "This is another of those coming-of-age milestones for our city," Mayor Mike Winder said.
"We incorporated as a city in 1980. It took years to get map makers to even put West Valley City on the map. It took years for the Utah Department of Transportation to put West Valley City on freeway exit signs." Winder said. "This change is one more recognition that West Valley City really is Utah's second largest city, and it is a major player in the metro area."
Winder added that more references in Census data now to the "Salt Lake City-West Valley City" urban area "may even help with our economic development efforts as we recruit businesses from out of state."
Salt Lake City officials said that while they might now be forced to share the name of the urban area, they believe their city is still the heart of the region.
"We remain the business, culture and financial center of the areas and experience a continually rising daytime commuter influx that currently doubles our population during working hours," said Art Raymond, spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker.
He added, "While the new Census designation may be more a change of vernacular than anything else, it certainly highlights the urbanization trend and why Mayor Becker's vision for maintaining our quality of life through sustainable policy is of such great importance."
Still, Pam Perlich, a senior research economist at the University of Utah, said she also believes "the renaming is an important moment for West Valley City. It really has emerged as an important community within the larger county."
She adds that the name change also might help highlight how the area is growing more diverse, because much of the growth of ethnic communities in the state has been centered in West Valley City and in western Salt Lake City.
Winder added, "The last Census showed that 45 percent of West Valley City is made up of ethnic minorities, and 31 percent of West Valley City residents speak a language other than English at home." He adds that for cities of at least 100,000 population, West Valley City ranks No. 2 only to Honolulu in the nation for its number of Pacific islanders.
In 2010, the Census reported the population of Salt Lake City at 186,440 and West Valley City at 129,480.