September 1, 2011

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Utah County Report

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2011

Utah County is facing growing pains, with the added constraints of a down economy. Major tech companies are locating or expanding in the county, but that has put a strain on the talent pool. And with little new construction, commercial space is becoming scarce for mid-size companies. However, local business leaders see optimism in the area’s innovative and risk-taking culture.

We’d like to thank the Provo Marriott for hosting the event and Jeff Edwards, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, for leading the discussion.

Participants: John Garfield, Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center; Brad Whittaker, CEDO; Brandon Fugal, Coldwell Banker Commercial; David Williams, Fishbowl Inventory; Joel Racker, Utah Valley CVB; Joe Brown, 77 Holdings; Brad Wittusen, Redstone Advisors; Russ Fotheringham, EDCUtah; Mike Alder, BYU; Jeff Edwards, EDCUtah; Steve Densley, Utah Valley Chamber; Jon Anderson, Commerce Real Estate; Noah Westerlund, Agel Enterprises; Keyvan Esfarjani, IM Flash

What do you think the overall outlook for Utah Valley is right now? Is there any kind of theme that you see emerging in all the things happening in the area?

ALDER: Entrepreneurism has suddenly risen to be really, really important at BYU. We have always had an excellent entrepreneurial center. But there’s a lot of focus now. And that organization is bridging into the tech transfer office. So it’ll be taking probably 10 enterprise-worthy technologies forward with MBA teams and seasoned entrepreneurs this next year.

WHITTUSEN: We serve as the financial advisor for 401(k) plans, which gives us a little bit of insight into hiring trends. We’re seeing some of the construction, engineering and technology companies that we work with starting to hire again.

It seems like these are trends that are echoed nationwide. The highly educated, highly skilled workforce—the unemployment rate for that class of people is very low right now. We’re seeing that for the companies we’re working with.

FUGAL: It’s a more diversified pick up as well. The growth that we’re seeing in Utah County— as opposed to years past, where it’s been largely focused on technology or the nutraceutical industry—we’re seeing a very diversified growth period where all sectors are being represented, with perhaps the exception of construction.

GARFIELD: When you speak about construction, I feel like I’m in the middle of it, with the convention center being built across the street and Nu Skin, with its new headquarters going to be built, I-15 construction, and all the potential new bus and transit routes. We have Frontier Airlines now—who would ever have guessed that we would have commercial air in and out of Provo? The future looks really good in Utah County. It’s very exciting to see where it’s going to go from here.

RACKER: There have always been these industries that you thought of in Utah County. And according to the state statistics, one in 10 jobs in Utah Valley is somehow related to tourism. But tourism has never really risen to the surface as a major industry in our community. But now with the convention center, with other things that are going on down here, we’re going to see a lot of that impact. If we see the same results as other communities that built convention centers, we’ll see additional hotels, restaurants, improvements in the quality of what we have.

What is the timing on the convention center?

RACKER: We’re supposed to get the keys from Okland Construction the end of March of next year. Our first convention we’re looking at is in April. We’re very excited because we’ve got a lot of things lining up.

And it’s an exciting building. You walk around in it and just the substance of the building, the feel of that facility, is going to be a great addition to what we have down here.

DENSLEY: Some of the things I get really excited about as I look across that valley—not only have you got Frontier, but you’ve got two or three other airlines that are currently watching Frontier carefully.

I’m excited about the convention center, the Nu Skin expansion. And you’ve got Adobe in the north, which adds to our IM Flash complex out there. It sends a neat signal to the rest of the world, to see Adobe right there at that huge campus. Of course, Microsoft’s got its building at Thanksgiving Point. The NSA project—the spin off, the serendipity that could happen with that seems incredible.

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