Should you meet Utah Governor Gary Herbert in his office in the State Capi...Read More
In recent years, a steady stream of announcements has hit the press regarding major companies that are expanding operations to the State of Utah. The state’s fertile business climate is enticing firms that have been struggling with the slow economic recovery facing many other areas of the country. In fact, from 2008 through the end of 2010, of the 52 projects the State offered incentives, 19 were to companies new to the State and 33 were to companies that had multiple facilities in other locations and in Utah. In all 33 deals, Utah ultimately prevailed over the other possible places the companies could have expanded.
While Utah has much to offer, behind the growth is a well-oiled machine that maximizes Utah’s strengths to recruit some of the world’s premier companies. The recruiting machine is managed primarily by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The group has orchestrated a highly effective program, creating strong win-win partnerships with a growing list of marquee companies anxious to leverage the native and program/incentive benefits the state provides.
A Strategic Foundation
The starting point for GOED is a clear, well-founded strategy driven by the State’s innovative Targeted Economic Cluster approach. The State has identified strategic business areas that represent highly attractive segments of economic development. “Utah’s competitive advantages are articulated in these cluster strategies in the form of our strengths and natural abilities that will translate into recruiting advantages,” explains Derek Miller, former deputy director at GOED and current chief of staff for the Governor’s Office.
A good example of this targeted approach is in the digital media sector, part of the State’s Software Development and IT cluster. For a number of years, Utah has been developing a growing depth of digital media talent through strong programs at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University, and an increasing number of skilled entrepreneurial startup “alums” with hands-on, in-the-trenches experience.
“In the past, we trained all of these good people, and the best and brightest were recruited out of state,” says Gary Harter, GOED managing director and cluster director. “By combining this valuable talent resource with Utah’s outstanding quality of life, business environment and other advantages, we are attracting major companies that will provide jobs and keep our talent pool in the State.”
Through each of the State’s seven economic clusters, GOED is helping to leverage a talented workforce, innovative educational programs and an existing base of companies into a perfect ecosystem for expanding and relocating new businesses.
With strategies solidly in place, the machine next shifts into active recruitment gear through a partnership with the Economic Development Corporation Utah (EDCU). This private-sector organization provides the expertise, relationships and manpower to recruit companies and manage prospective opportunities through the process. “They are our boots on the ground, knocking on doors, making the pitches and nurturing the relationships,” says Harter. “We have a strong partnership with them that has worked extremely well, saving us the need to staff up to try and do it internally.”
The State also works with consulting organizations that focus on corporate site selection activities. These partners work through industry associations, magazines and other mediums to ensure that Utah is well represented in the coverage and rankings provided to site selection decision makers in target companies.
The Right Ingredients
Utah is as easy sell for recruiters, as the State consistently ranks extremely high on three crucial factors. “Almost without exception, companies who have located in Utah cite three important differentiating factors: workforce, business environment and quality of life,” says Christina Oliver, GOED director of corporate recruitment and incentives.
Reckitt Benckiser (makers of Lysol, Woolite, Easy-Off and many other household brands) undertook a comprehensive network study to evaluate the possibility of improving the cost of distributing their brands in the United States while still maintaining outstanding customer service by relocating to a different state. Utah was highlighted in that study, and through a comprehensive vetting process (which included geographic location, construction sites and cost, etc.) narrowed the field to Tooele, Utah and three other cities.