Collaboration Between Tourism, Economic Development Key for Weber/Davis

Kaysville—Weber and Davis counties continued to experience growth in the last year, and the outlook for the future is sunny, according to area leaders who met on Tuesday morning at Utah Business’ annual Weber/Davis regional roundtable. Roundtable attendees credited leveraging tourism to attract and retain businesses and talent to the area, creating an intersection of economic development and tourism.

“From my perspective and Davis County’s perspective, I think the outlook is fantastic,” said Bret Millburn, commissioner of Davis County. “If you ask me if there’s a theme, it’s that we’re open for business and everyone’s welcome, and there’s a place for every sector.”

Sara Toliver, president and CEO of Visit Ogden, says that for a long time, corporate meetings and athletic events have acted as the bread and butter for the area’s tourism numbers—but now, the focus has shifted toward using every opportunity to showcase the area and everything it offers as a tool for economic development.

“[Athletic events are] great for our group business market, but it’s also been a great opportunity to market our destinations to a target demographic of outdoor recreation enthusiasts, who oftentimes travel with their families and are looking for things for the entire families to do while they’re out perusing the course before the race,” said Toliver. “It’s been this great ‘kill two birds with one stone’ thing, because we have been able to bring them in and see what the community has to offer beyond that race they’re here to compete in and showcase our destination to the world… Every single business relocation [or] move of an employee begins with a visit. We can create that experience that shows the quality of life that someone in our business will have once they’re in our communities.”

Mike Bouwhuis, president of Davis Applied Technical College, said that site selectors are most impressed with the location when they realize that they will be able to offer—and enjoy—a higher quality of life for themselves and their prospective employees.

“We’ve married tourism with economic development. I think that working together creates real synergy,” he said. “We can physically demonstrate—you have educational and workforce capability, but you also have recreational capability.”

With Lagoon, Farmington Station, Antelope Island and ski resorts all close by—along with Seaquest Interactive Aquarium, a new aquarium set to open late this summer in the Layton Hills Mall, which offers such attractions as swimming with rays and sharks—the area leadership is hopeful to create a “live-work-play” hub where Millennials will not only visit, but decide to stay in the counties.

“Millenials are now the generation that’s traveling the most,” said Toliver. “They’re looking for that authentic, unique experience. They want the memories. It’s an opportunity to create that type of experiences for them.”

The mindset of creating new and unique experiences has gone into education as well as tourism, said Bouwhuis. “I think with this next generation, we really have to consider experience. I think that’s what people are going for,” he said. “We have to consider that with education. We have to change the way our sterile walls look, the way we interact with our young students. They’re looking for experiences, and if you can’t accommodate that, they walk. They go somewhere else.”

Bouwhuis continued to say that the two counties should work together to ensure that youth and talent picks them over nearby Salt Lake City or heads down to Utah County. Collaboration between counties—not just sectors—is also important in continuing the healthy growth of both.

“Over the years, we’ve worked with each other. We compete with each other,” he said. “But I’m happy if someone locates in Weber/Davis and not somewhere else in the state, because we get that talent and we get that growth and that energy here when they locate here