Utah County Roundtable

December 2, 2014

Utah County Stats:

  • 3.3 percent unemployment rate
  • 551,891 total population
  • 116,288 Provo population
  • $58,167 median household income
  • BYU, Alpine School District, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center largest employers

Source: Department of Workforce Services


  • Donna Milakovic, Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • John Curtis, Provo City Mayor
  • Brandon Fugal, Coldwell Banker Commercial
  • Joel Racker, Utah Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
  • John Richards, Google Fiber
  • James Moyes, Redston Advisors
  • Matt Packard, Central Bank
  • Jeremy Hafen, Sunroc Building Materials
  • Danny Wheeler, Utah Valley Convention Center
  • John Garfield, Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
  • Rona Rahlf, Fishbowl/Utah Valley Chamber
  • Angela Romney, Anderson CRG
  • Russ Fotheringham, EDCU
  • Stan Lockhart, IM Flash
  • John Pilmer, Pilmer PR

We’d like to thank the Utah Valley Convention Center for hosting the event. We’d also like to express our appreciation to Donna Milakovic, former executive vice president of the Utah Valley Chamber, for leading the discussion.

Utah Valley is frequently touted as Utah’s “golden child” by local governments, business owners and educators. That’s because the area has a distinctive entrepreneurial vibe and a booming real estate sector that has led to remarkable growth and numerous national accolades. While this innovative edge sets Utah Valley apart from other markets, it also presents some unique challenges, like a shortage of needed workers. Here, local business leaders discuss the area’s overall strengths and weaknesses.

What are Utah County’s greatest strengths? What is driving the growth? What do you see in your industries as opportunities or weaknesses that could be focused on to continue that growth?

FUGAL: It’s led by corporate expansion, demographic growth and population growth. Numerous companies are expanding right now in this market, and as a result we’re actually seeing more people staying in Utah County than moving away after college. Corporate expansion and residential growth also bolster retail and create a real catalyst for retail developers, like the Outlets at Traverse Mountain. They are under construction on their second phase, which will be finished going into this holiday season.

FOTHERINGHAM: I deal primarily with people who are looking at Utah from the outside. They are looking at the quality of the workforce. That is as important as anything else in the beginning of this growth that we’ve experienced. That continues as we continue to graduate these students who are at BYU and UVU and around the state.

RICHARDS: There’s two things that are a phenomenon here that don’t apply in other places. It’s the Mormon Mecca effect of Provo. I live in a neighborhood where there’s people from California and the East Coast that relocated here to have a better upbringing for their children after they made their money outside of Utah. They come and start companies, invest in real estate and build buildings.

The second thing is BYU President Kevin Worthen just spoke, and he said the incoming GPA at BYU this year is 3.81 for the 4,500 freshmen. They predict by 2025 they could all be 4.0s for the incoming freshmen. Of the unusually bright, talented people that come here, a certain percentage are going to be attracted to stay here and start companies. We’re getting the cream of the cream from all around the world converging in Provo.

FOTHERINGHAM: Companies that are created here and grow here and then are bought by somebody else have moved out of state in the past. Now we’re getting a critical mass of companies that are staying here. When people come here they have a choice to move from one business to another.

I also want to put on the record that the air quality is a problem—it is a weakness we have. We cannot even consider large manufacturing concerns coming anywhere along the Wasatch Front, not just Utah County.

GARFIELD: There’s a Clean Air Task Force that meets monthly. It may be a challenge, but eventually we will attack the challenge. About five years ago the conversation was, “If we don’t do something about the infrastructure, I-15, transportation—if we don’t start doing things we’re going to fail and we’re going to be miserable.” Then I-15 was upgraded tremendously and we have FrontRunner coming into town. We have clients who come into town and say, “Man, I don’t want to come back here because of the air quality.” If we don’t attack it and just forget about it, then it’s going to impact us. But there’s a group of people out there from the state level to the local level saying, “We have a problem. Let’s attack it.”

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