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Article

Businesses Welcome

Utah County Leading in Economic Efforts

By Peri Kinder

September 1, 2009

Two years ago, outside companies interested in moving to Utah County had only one shovel-ready site to choose from. Today, almost 30 sites are available and waiting for the perfect company to take it. The hard part is getting the word out. Instead of calling state or local officials, as some did in the past, today’s business leaders search the Internet for potential sites to locate their company. If the search doesn’t give significant information, the leaders move on. So, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah) proactively changed its Website (edcutah.org) to give business leaders the information they need. Now, companies can look at available land, office space, demographics, resources, business analysis and workforce information. An online application also allows businesses to submit an immediate request for information. Since the incorporation of this system, Utah County is leading the way in responses. “We respond to more of the RFIs than any other county in the state,” says Russ Fotheringham, Utah County economic development manager. “I have a positive outlook about what’s going to happen in the future.” And there’s good reason for a positive outlook. The National Security Agency recently announced plans to build a 1 million-square-foot data center at Camp Williams, located on the southwest side of the county. The center, intended to monitor worldwide communications, will provide more than 1,000 high-paying jobs plus bring in a $2 billion investment in the area. But it’s more than one project putting a smile on Fotheringham’s face. A top-secret project has been in the works for nearly two years, which could bring in another $1.25 billion to Utah County. A manufacturing firm is considering a land purchase that would equal the size of Salt Lake City. Although carefully avoiding specifics, Fotheringham is optimistic the development will be announced soon. Building Success It isn’t only outside companies bringing new construction to the county. The redesign process of The Utah Valley Convention Center on Freedom Boulevard in Provo is planned to help begin the revitalization of downtown area. The center will provide 80,000 square feet of space for regional or local events, business training or exhibitions. “The design should be completed by mid-August and bid out for estimates in fall of 2009,” says Kelly Ward, Zions Bank area president who is overseeing the project. “We hope to begin construction in the spring of 2010. At Zions Bank we’re doing a number of things to rebuild downtown Provo into what it used to be.” With little competition, the Utah Valley Convention Center is expected to lure people and businesses to Provo, providing quality convention services for the community. Zions’ other project is the Zions Bank Financial Center. The eight-story building will have retail and restaurant units on the ground floor. Using 5,000 square feet, the Provo Zions branch will be relocated to the main floor of the building while the third and fourth floor will become office space for Zions Bank. The Rock Canyon Room reception center on the eighth floor of the building will provide a place for business meetings, weddings or other events. Zions is currently negotiating with other companies to lease the remaining space. A recent study performed by ERA reports Provo could add another 1 million square feet to the downtown area. “With the convention center and Zions building, we see that as a move to spur that growth. We really think we’ll see some great things happening,” says Ward. “The economy might slow the time-table but I’m really encouraged we’ll see some great stuff.” Down the Road Steve Densley, president and CEO of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce, agrees with Ward and detailed many future projects including the massive I-15 reconstruction and other transportation developments. Additionally, Duncan Aviation recently leased 15,000 feet of hangar space at the Provo Municipal Airport to provide service and support for business jets, and plans are underway to raise $20 million for the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. Also, Microsoft is adding 100 high-paying engineer jobs at its Lehi site. Fotheringham believes the technology and engineering programs at Utah Valley University and BYU helps encourage high-tech firms to bring their business and jobs to the county. With approximately 60,000 college-age students in the valley, companies have many options when it comes to hiring qualified employees. “The level of business readiness with these grads is really high,” he says. “More and more, the [universities] are part of an economic development force.” With an eye toward the enhancement and improvement of Utah Lake, the Utah Lake Commission master plan determines how the lake will be developed and preserved in the future. It includes issues involving the wildlife and fish in the area, water depth, land use and transportation. Besides enhancing the beauty of the lake, the commission wants to encourage use of the recreation area and develop residential and business projects. To view the entire master plan, visit www.utahlakecommission.org. Moving Forward In a recent study, geo-economist and corporate relocation expert Dr. Ronald Pollina, listed Utah second in the top 10 pro-business states for 2009. The study focused on job retention and creation. Utah County leaders are working toward the top ranking next year by bringing in more higher-paying jobs, giving companies access to the resources they need and welcoming new business ventures with open arms. Although many counties are struggling with the economy, Utah County leaders foresee good things coming. “Surprisingly, I see the economic outlook as very positive,” Fotheringham says. “There’s some fun stuff happening,” Densley adds. “But we’re certainly not out of the woods.”
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