Utah Valley Economic Outlook

September 9, 2013

In Utah Valley, 77 percent of people speak a second language. How do we capitalize on that?

SCOTT: I’ve only been down here for four months; it’s more culturally rich than I had even thought.

What we do is translation. And in 25 years, we’ve moved to nine different places all right here in Provo because it is so culturally diverse.

MOYES: Sometimes we have a misperception that Utah County can be a place where, “I can’t have any fun, I can’t do anything.” I don’t have an answer, but the fact that many people speak different languages is perhaps a way that allows businesses overcome some of the cultural biases that they have.

HUNT: That’s really where tourism starts to be a great public piece to attract foreign attention. People come here to see all of the great natural wonders that we have. They go back with the impression of what Utah is all about.

RACKER: I like to say everything about economic development starts with a visit. It’s not a difficult thing to show people our quality of life once they’re willing to take a look.

The Outdoor Retailer—think of the outdoor recreation companies that have been out here, they’ve seen how accessible things are, and all of a sudden they’re the decision makers that we talked about. They’re the ones saying, “Let’s move there. Let’s do it.” If we can get more people to visit the state and get an interest in it, then we’ll see more of that.

FOTHERINGHAM: I want to go back to a couple of things—the language ability here, the regulatory atmosphere here, the 70,000 students in this area and entrepreneurial spirit. Incrementally, this area has become attractive to outside people.

At EDCU, we’re seeing more and more large projects looking at Utah, projects that, in the past, would never have considered coming here. And so incrementally, all of these positive factors are drawing attention to the state, and we’re seeing more and more large manufacturing, as well as technology companies, looking at the state.

FUGAL: And internally, people are uniquely optimistic. Everyone thinks they’re either going to be the next Omniture or the next Nu Skin. What inspires me every day is these young entrepreneurs who actually believe they can attain that level of success. It’s driving a work ethic and a level of creativity that is going to serve Utah County well for years to come.

GARFIELD: Sometimes we’re our worst critics and we say there’s nothing to do in Utah County. But when you get into it, understand it, experience it, there’s so much to do. For example, around three blocks, there’s 50 restaurants, and not one is a national brand. And they’re the funnest, coolest restaurants you can find. And Provo has one of the top music scenes in the country.

There is so much to offer here and sometimes we, the Utah Valleyites, are our worst critics. But really there is diversity. You can go into the lobby of the hotel, and there’s a bar right there. And they realize, “Oh, I can get a drink in Utah Valley.”

We let other people define us too often. What is our image? What should we do to improve that?

ALDER: Russ and I and three others, we meet every month to address the question that you just raised. We coined a phrase that we hoped would catch on. We called it the Utah Valley technology corridor. Really from Novell to Lehi, we have a corridor.

Unfortunately, investors in Salt Lake have an impression of, “How did that happen in Utah Valley?” There’s nothing to coalesce around. We have had these successes that have been huge, and many times the investors in Utah miss them here because they didn’t come down to take advantage of the opportunity. We have to be proactive in trying to create an image that pulls us all together. 

FOTHERINGHAM: We just participated in the conference up in Logan, and they have spent about $140,000 putting together a branding program for them that you’re going to be hearing about soon. It’s a super program. We need to work toward doing that same thing. A lot of the financing for that branding program has come from the private businesses up in Cache Valley.

RICHARDS: As a 12-year transplant from Seattle, I don’t know if anybody from outside the state views Salt Lake City and Provo any differently. But there’s a huge bias, a real bias from Salt Lake County to Utah County. I tried in the last 12 years to crack that a little bit, and it’s been hard.

For instance, this year, because of the micro-cultural difference between those counties, BoomStartup split into two. And it’s working much, much better. The resistance to commute deep into Utah County from Salt Lake County, and things like that, has worked much better. I’ve determined that there’s nothing we’re going to do to fix that Salt Lake County-Utah Valley bias. I’m just calling it like it is.

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