Portland, Ore., resident Sandy McPherson knew there would be some employment adjustments when Utah Power & Light Co. merged with PacifiCorp.

But he didn't realize things would happen so fast for him because he didn't learn about his Aug. 20, 1990, relocation to Utah until a week before.Never having been to Utah, McPherson and his then-fiancee, Becky, had some apprehension about the move, mainly because of some preconceived ideas about the state. She also worked for PacifiCorp.

With the help of people in PacifiCorp's relocation office and assistance from Robin L. Hough, director of corporate relocation and marketing for Gump & Ayers Real Estate Inc., the move to Utah was a smooth transition.

"These relocation people made me feel comfortable, and I was glad there was somebody there to welcome us when we got to Salt Lake City. They helped overcome our apprehensions about moving," Sandy said.

The McPhersons are among the thousands of people relocated annually by their employers who feel the $39,660 average relocation cost apparently is better than hiring and training someone else.

Sandy lived in the Portland area for 10 years before moving to Salt Lake City and also lived in Coos Bay, Ore., and Yakima, Wash., while working in several jobs for PacifiCorp.

"I had been to several cities in Wyoming and had the horrible feeling that was what Utah was like. I pictured the wind blowing 24 hours per day like it does in Casper," he said. With such preconceived notions about the state, he probably was a challenge for relocation experts.

PacifiCorp's relocation people put him touch with Hough and on Aug. 20 she met him and gave him a "relocation packet" containing a map of Salt Lake City, orientation material and a history of the area. One of Hough's main jobs was to get Sandy into a house, so together they visited various locations in Salt Lake Valley to get an idea of the price of houses.

Gump and Ayers examined Sandy's financial condition and prequalified him for a mortgage, and for 10 days the house search continued. Finally, he purchased a house in Sandy, but his stay in a hotel continued until the furniture arrived Oct. 2.

Becky joined him and they flew to Lake Tahoe to get married (the second marriage for each). "We planned to get married in Portland, but the transfer got in the way," Sandy said.

With help from Hough, the McPherson's adjustment to Utah has been a smooth one. Sandy is supervisor of the company's central cashier's office and Becky is a secretary. Unlike many instances when a transfer involves getting a job for a spouse, Sandy said he didn't ask the PacifiCorp relocation office for help in getting her a job.

Hough said that until a short time ago, there wasn't much need for relocation offices because a good share of Utahns were leaving and not many were coming in. But with an improved economy and economic development efforts, relocation is getting more attention.

In 1988, the Gump & Ayers Relocation Center helped 241 transferees, which increased to 291 in 1989 and so far in 1990, 328 people have been assisted.

Because of the large amount of money involved in relocating an employee, the company is interested in getting the mortgage closed and the person "up and running and ready for work quickly," she said.

One of the problems facing relocation experts is overcoming preconceived notions about Utah, Hough said. They push the idea that Utah has a diversity of religions, cultures, recreation, sports, cultural events, good housing prices and, of course, the mountains.

Hough said one of her favorite techniques is to send a potential transferee a post card featuring Salt Lake City with the mountains in the background. "That always gets them," she said.

A transplanted Texan, via Denver, Hough knows what it's like to move to unfamiliar territory. She thought Utah was a desert, very conservative and that Salt Lake Valley had 200,000 people. "I was impressed because the mountains were so close," Hough said.

With UP&L, Kennecott Corp., the University of Utah, FBI, Sears Roebuck & Co., and Holiday Inn as clients, Hough meets transferees at the airport, gives them a packet of information, tells them about religious activities, where the public and private schools are located, makes hotel reservations and offers other information such as where to vote and how to find the golf courses.

She often employs real estate agents to help the transferee find a house. Because the family might have become a one-income family on account of the move, the amount of the mortgage will be limited accordingly.

In looking for a house, Hough says she must consider the needs of a family's children. For example, if a child was a member of a high school swim team, the relocated parents might want to buy a house in an area where the school has a swim team. "We take many things into consideration when helping people relocate," Hough said.

Hough said indications point to continued increases in people relocating in Utah. For example, members of a 20-employee company in California recently approached their boss and said they wanted to leave Los Angeles because of the long drives to work, pollution, expensive housing and crime. They will be coming to Utah and getting relocation help.