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Salt Lake metro becoming tech hub

Published: Sunday, Jan. 13 2013 11:30 p.m. MST

One of the buildings housing IM Flash Technologies in Lehi.

IM Flash Technologies

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s technology sector continues to prosper, making Salt Lake City a prime location for many companies looking to join one of the area’s top economic drivers.

The country’s high-tech economy has grown at a rate nearly six times faster than the national average, according to a report from commercial real estate firm CBRE. The growth is being driven mostly by increased demand for mobile, search, social and cloud computing software and service technologies, the report states.

The report stated that employment in the national tech sector grew approximately 10 percent between 2009 and mid-2012 compared to 1.7 percent for the rest of the economy.

The job growth trends for the “Tech-Twenty,” the most influential high-tech oriented cities, show both strength and variance. While economic worry may be surfacing within the high-tech industry, all signs point to further growth ahead, the report said.

“Urban areas grow together,” said Stan Lockheart, spokesman for Utah County-based IM Flash Technologies. “You have the Cottonwood Corporate Center, the University Research Park … all of these little technology pockets up and down the Wasatch Front.”

He noted that Ogden has also made a concerted effort to expand its technology sector to bolster its already burgeoning ski and outdoor industries. Combined with the efforts in the Provo-Orem areas, the tech sector is becoming connected across much of northern Utah.

Currently, the area known as “Silicon Slopes” — where southern Salt Lake County meets northern Utah County — has experienced the highest rate of tech growth. Home to high-profile technology firms like Adobe, eBay, IM Flash and Microsoft, the concentrated technology hub has brought with it thousands of high-paying jobs and enhanced Utah’s reputation as a sought-after locale for high tech.

“One out of every 14 flash memory chips in the world is produced in Lehi, Utah,” Lockheart said. “That’s kind of cool!”

He said that growth along the Wasatch Front is “robust” making it “a hot place to be.”

“It’s a very positive environment to have,” he said.

The technology sector is growing at about five times the rate of the national economy, explained Darin Mellott, senior research analyst for commercial real estate firm CBRE. He said that there are an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people working in the tech industry statewide.

“The tech sector is one of the reasons why we are being recognized as a competitive metro area,” he said. To ensure continued success, civic leaders should work to establish the educational foundation to produce the workforce high-tech companies will demand in the years to come.

“We need to make sure that these companies have the labor pool that they need,” Mellott said. Programs like the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative are key to creating the environment necessary for Utah to maintain its current momentum as a high-tech hub.

“We’re expecting job growth around the 3 percent range (for the overall area economy),” he said. ”The tech sector has been growing at 7 percent. It really shows how explosive the growth has been to the broader economy.”

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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