Strength in Numbers

Companies Thrive in Utah’s Economic Clusters

Linda T. Kennedy

March 1, 2011

Aerospace and Aviation

The Aerospace and Defense clusters are very closely related in Utah, due in large part to HAFB, where many aerospace and aviation industry activities originated from. For one thing, the cluster is comprised of industries related to composites and advanced materials, and HAFB is the Air Force’s Center of Excellence for advanced materials.

“When we look to have greater capability in our Air Force systems, we need materials that are certainly at the cutting edge, and beyond, of being light and being strong, and that’s what composites really are,” says Gary Harter, GOED and Clusters managing director.

The advanced composites sector started in Utah a number of years ago through Hercules, known today as ATK. Now, other industry leaders such as Hexcel, ITT Integrated Systems, Rocky Mountain Composites and Applied Composites Technology are located in Utah. They are involved in all composites that support aircraft, missiles, medical, industrial, energy and recreational applications and offer 182 percent of Utah’s average monthly wage.

Aside from HAFB, aerospace cluster employment in Utah is approximately 8,000, with wages 89 percent higher than the Utah average wage.

“We formed an Advanced Composites working group a few years ago to address the industry’s needs,” says Harter. “Companies told us to do three things: focus on workforce, R&D and access to fiber. We completed two of three and continue to grow the third.” Also, in response to the industry’s needs, composites training programs are now available at four educational institutions along the Wasatch Front.

Finally, located along I-15 at Hill AFB, the Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park is one of the most strategically located aerospace research parks in the country. The 550-acre private development is attracting the interest of aerospace and aviation companies from across the country and has the potential to create thousands of new high-paying jobs in Utah.

“Utah’s aerospace and defense-related industries generate billions of dollars in revenue annually and employ tens of thousands of Utahns across the state in high-paying jobs,” says Governor Herbert. “Private and public leaders have teamed up with Weber State University to increase the size of the aerospace industry in Utah. By focusing on workforce needs in this area, we will develop the talent and innovation necessary to become the premier player in the aerospace industry.”

A Working Initiative

The clusters’ impact on GOED and the state’s overall economy has been astonishing, says Harter. “The industry sectors are all talking together, identifying what the needs are, and working within their own local communities, state government and academia to create conditions for success. It is really working in Utah.”

Harter explains GOED’s role with the industry cluster companies is to be a conduit for building relationships; GOED points companies in the direction they need to go for the answers they need to get. In the end, companies benefit with added growth, the workforce benefits through increased employment and the State benefits through its strong, vibrant industries.

 “A strong and progressive clusters initiative means more companies working in Utah,” says Governor Herbert. “Utah becomes more than a place companies would like to be, it becomes a place they need to be.” Doing business in Utah is a smart investment, according to Herbert. “If Utah were a stock, I’d say ‘buy’.”

Clusters at a Glance

Life Sciences

  • Number of Firms: 924
  • Total Employment: 25,672
  • Average Wage: $4,634


Software Development and Information Technology

  • Number of Firms: 3,598
  • Total Employment: 42,859
  • Average Wage: $5,236


Aviation and Aerospace

  • Number of Firms: 76
  • Total Employment: 7,984
  • Average Wage: $6,020


Defense and Homeland Security

  • Number of Firms: 7 + 5 military bases
  • Total Employment: 38,684
  • Average Wage: 5,891


Financial Systems

  • Number of Firms: 4,472
  • Total Employment: 43,506
  • Average Wage: $5,891


Energy and Natural Resources

  • Number of Firms: 1,131
  • Total Employment: 23,889
  • Average Wage: $5,248
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