Three out-of-state companies that supply materials to Morton International for its automobile air-bag assembly operation will move to Utah in the next three years, bringing with them 75-100 jobs each.

That word comes from C.H. Fenton Jr., vice president of Morton's Automotive Safety Division, who said the companies are involved with aluminum forging, stampings and pyrotechnic initiators for the air bags and could be relocating to Box Elder County, Summit County and the Freeport Center.He declined to give names of the companies but said there is a possibility a company that supplies Morton with its nylon air bags also will relocate to Utah.

Fenton told members of the Pioneer Partnership in the Alta Club that Morton already is supplying 50 percent of the driver-side air-bag inflators in the world and by the 1995 automobile model year the company will be selling $1 billion worth of air bags.

Although the air bag has been in the development stage for 30 years, Fenton said it wasn't until a few years ago that automobile companies started getting serious about installing them on the driver side. Now there is a push for passenger side air bags, and research is being done on side air bags to inflate when a collision occurs from the side.

The growth of the air-bag business has been phenomenal, Fenton said, a classic case of corporate growth and how to successfully manage it. After Morton and Thiokol Corp. split a year ago, Morton retained some facilities west of Brigham City, but the offices remained in Ogden.

In 1987, Saab and Mercedes installed air bags on their automobiles, and Morton was producing 10,000 air bags per month. This year, Morton produces 2.5 million air bags per month, and by 1995 that total will reach 14 million, Fenton said.

All of that means fantastic growth for the company and a boost to the Utah economy. Fenton said Morton had 187 employees in Ogden in 1987. That total is 1,300 today and within three years will reach 5,600. Most of the employees come from Utah and Fenton said he is pleased with the excellent work force of Utahns.

"If I had to do it all over again I would," Fenton said in response to a question about Morton being pleased with expansion of the air-bag business and keeping it in Utah. "The people rolled up their sleeves and went to work," he said.

Fenton said the company has spent $400 million on facilities in the past three years and it appears more money will be spent in the future.