By Brice Wallace
The word “tremendous” was uttered often during last week’s annual meeting of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
The organization, which works to recruit companies to Utah and expand existing ones, had 34 project “wins” during the 2016-17 fiscal year that had a combined commitment of 9,356 new and retained jobs, $915.2 million in capital investment and the use of 6.1 million square feet of property. Among the companies announcing projects were Amazon, Lucid Software, Decroworx, Duncan Aviation and UPS.
“I can report to you that the organization is in great shape and is strong on all fronts, and we had another great year this past year — a record year, actually, in square footage,” said Dean Luikart, outgoing chairman of the EDCUtah board. “This has been a tremendous year and the organization has just done some great things.”
Michael Flynn, EDCUtah’s chief operating officer, noted that not all of the new or retained jobs will materialize this year but have been committed to be created in the next 5-10 years, and that EDCUtah’s participation level in each project varied.
Flynn also said the 6.1 million figure for square footage topped the prior organizational record by more than 1 million square feet, and that the organization was involved in 136 new projects during the fiscal year.
“This is a tremendous rate of activity for an organization our size,” Flynn said. “In nine of the 12 months of the year, we averaged 10-plus new projects a month, and those all have to be managed and tended and taken care of, so, again, a tremendous rate of activity for our business development.”
Flynn said he was very pleased with the organization’s global strategy and outreach (GS&O) activities. GS&O is a lead generation effort that EDCUtah has been building over the past three years. “We’re seeing great results in GS&O,” he said, noting that it had been involved in a dozen recruiting campaigns that created 99 project leads. Of the 9,356 new and retained jobs during the fiscal year, 331 came directly from the GS&O team.
“This is a huge deal for us,” Flynn said. “We’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money on this initiative, and we’re excited to see it working so well.”
Flynn commended the entire EDCUtah team for its work during the fiscal year. “This was a challenging year but a gratifying year, and they did a tremendous job on focusing on the mission and delivering tremendous results,” he said.
As for the current fiscal year, Theresa Foxley, EDCUtah’s president and chief executive officer, said “EDCUtah 3.0” has several priorities. One is the relaunched public development department, whose “tool kit” helps connect city and county partners with EDCU’s research, marketing and business development efforts. “We believe as we get more penetration of our tool kit, we will have a better understanding of our communities, and that knowledge will help us attract and compete for projects that are a great fit for your communities,” Foxley said.
Another is expanding the organization’s survey work. It conducted its first existing-business survey on behalf of Salt Lake City and in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber. More than 800 companies were surveyed, “and our learnings will help influence policymaking and resource allocation at the city level,” she said.
Third is ongoing work on megasites. Analysis is being completed on the first site, in Utah County, designed to be a springboard for others that can give companies looking for large expansions or relocations better information about large, available locations. Foxley said megasites are “investment-ready tracts of land designed to help the state compete for game-changing projects by taking the risk and unknowns out of property development. It gives us, as an organization, a defined asset to go out and market.”
The annual meeting also featured awards presented for economic development activities. Gov. Gary Herbert received the Thayne Robson Leadership in Economic Development Award for his work in the public sector. Alan Rindlisbacher of Layton Construction, who was EDCUtah’s first employee, received the Nick Rose Leadership in Economic Development Award for his work in the private sector. The Utah Jazz Legacy Trust received the Cornerstone in Economic Development Award, with Gail Miller accepting the award on behalf of the Miller family. The award will be renamed the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Cornerstone in Economic Development Award for future years.
“These individuals have had a tremendous impact on Utah economic development,” said Foxley. “We are grateful for their service to the state and appreciate their continued support of our mission.”
The meeting marked EDCUtah’s 30th anniversary. Founded as the “Committee of 100,” the organization transitioned into the Utah Economic Development Corp. (UEDC) in 1987. EDCUtah now consists of more than 250 corporate and government investors working together to build economic prosperity in Utah.