Southern Utah Business Climate Positive for 2016

St. George—Things are looking good for business in Southern Utah. A group of nearly 20 business leaders, who gathered for Utah Business’ annual Southern Utah roundtable, were mostly optimistic when it came to forecasting the region’s business climate in 2016.

Bruce Jensen, president and CEO of Town & Country Bank, shared the results from a survey the bank conducted at the region’s “What’s Up Down South?” economic summit. The data gleaned from 159 randomly-selected businesses was “very encouraging,” said Jensen.

“Sixty-seven percent of respondents said that their annual earnings should exceed those of 2015. Forty-two percent anticipated that increase to be within 10 percent of last year’s revenues, and 34 percent expected it to be within 11-25 percent. That’s a marginal increase,” said Jensen. He continued on to say that new hiring was expected by 67 percent of respondents, and that all indications were that St. George would continue to expand, economically. “From a banking perspective, we are seeing no slowdown whatsoever in our loan demand, locally.”

His sentiments were echoed by Pam Palermo, director of membership services for the St. George Chamber.

“At the chamber, we see a huge growth in small business again, and again, and again. It’s definitely continuing to grow,” she said. “Small business just continues to grow.”

Already, several notable projects are in various stages of development around Southern Utah. Rick Rosenberg, mayor of Santa Clara, says the city is expecting to see the opening of the long-awaited Harmons grocery store, which has been in the works since 2008.

“Santa Clara is on the cusp of having the first major commercial center within the city,” says Rosenberg. “The city is extremely excited about it… All the new Harmons stores are very modern and European. They have all these neat things inside; gelato and artesian bread and a cooking school upstairs. It’s a beautiful facility.”

Chris Hart, mayor of the city of Ivins—a small community of roughly 7,000—says that 2016 may be one of the most active for the city in terms of construction. The city is expecting the Sentierre Resort, what Hart calls “the first five-star, world-class resort in Washington County,” to break ground on its 44 villa units and hotel central complex in the near future. Rocky Vista College of Osteopathic Medicine will also break ground in early spring on a 105,000 square-foot complex and adjacent student housing.

“The outlook for Ivins for 2016 is pretty remarkable for a city our size. Ivins is a city that seems to attract some pretty exclusive kinds of projects. In our general plan we declare ourselves to be a destination resort, which we’re striving to become,” he said. “My job is to just get people to Ivins. Ivins sells itself pretty well.”

The roundtable was moderated by Jeriah Threlfall, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Washington County. Read the full account of the Southern Utah Roundtable in the March issue of Utah Business.