Economic planners say Davis County can no longer be satisfied being the bedroom for Salt Lake and Weber County workers but must aggressively seek its own industry to bring the tax base that can support the ever-growing number of schoolchildren.
Rick Mayfield, Davis County director of planning and economic development, said about 50 percent of Davis County's labor force leaves each work day for jobs in Salt Lake and Weber counties. But he said the county is committed to changing that.The county wants to attract light industry and high-technology firms and has specifically targeted bio-medical firms and businesses that can supply the needs of Hill Air Force Base. And most probably they won't be out-of-state giants.
"We're looking more at the home-grown stuff," Mayfield said.
Mayfield said the posture for growth only makes sense, noting that increasing residential development alone won't pay for schooling the children such residential growth brings with it.
Davis County has more people under 21 than any where else in the nation, said Richard Nelson of the county's Private Industry Council. With that in mind, he said, Davis County needs more businesses to support education.
"While the nation is shrinking, Davis County's youth population is in a baby boom that never stopped," Nelson said.
Mayfield wants to attract businesses to change the current business landscape. About 85 percent of Davis County businesses employ fewer than 20 employees.
Some of the obstacles for attracting industry to the county are lack of commercial space, the draw of other Wasatch Front counties and seed money to attract business.
"It is hard to compete when governments can offer free land for businesses. We don't have that option," said Mayfield.
While the county was one of the first to start a $100,000 revolving loan fund and can offer modestly priced financing, the fund may prove only useful to smaller start-up companies.
Mayfield said that development in industrial parks and other sites where industry can locate is 10 years behind neighboring counties. Outside of North Salt Lake, Kaysville Industrial Park, Freeport Center and Layton Industrial Park, the county has little to offer prospective companies.
He notes, however, that Davis County isn't in stiff competition with other Wasatch Front counties for companies.
"What's good for Salt Lake and Weber counties is good for Davis County," Mayfield said.
He said the positive business attraction for Davis County remains its highly productive work force. Recently, American Gourmet, a frozen food company, located in Clearfield and plans to shift operations to Davis County because of its high productivity rate.
"Our labor force is more productive dollar for dollar and hour for hour," Mayfield said.
One area where the county does want to become more competitive is providing products and services for Hill Air Force Base. Only 5 percent of the base's suppliers are in Davis.