Gov. Norm Bangerter has been calling news conferences almost weekly this month to introduce new companies that have decided to move to Utah.
But officials within the administration differ over whether the announcements indicate a sudden surge in economic development.And, in one case, officials admit the state had little to do with enticing the new business.
While Democrats have criticized the announcements as well-timed campaign gimmicks, an aide to Bangerter said Tuesday the governor is making the frequent announcements to show Utahns the economy is strong, rather than merely to take credit for the new jobs.
Reed Searle, Bangerter's chief of staff, said the recent spate of new businesses is nothing new. What is new is that the governor is going out of his way to draw attention to the economic good news.
But Kirk Green, state urban marketing director, said the announcements are the results of years of hard work.
"When I stepped in back in September of 1985 there wasn't much in the pipeline," he said. "A lot of our marketing is now bearing fruit."
Bangerter called a press conference Monday to announce that an Idaho-based farmers' cooperative has decided to open a milk processing plant in Wellsville, Cache County. The plant will employ at least 30 local residents.
Bangerter had little to do with enticing the cooperative to the state. Officials said the cooperative decided on its own to move to Utah, apparently after learning of a building there that was for sale.
"We had the plant listed for sale," said Justin Anderson, a Gold Key Realty official. "Their people approached one of our agents."
The sudden flood of announcements have been called eleventh-hour politicking by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson, whose campaign staff recently asked why Bangerter didn't make such announcements each week during his four-year term.
Searle said the governor could have made such announcements regularly during his term. However, the governor now feels strongly it is important residents change their attitudes about the economy.
And, despite differing opinions on how healthy the economy was in recent years, officials in the Bangerter administration agree the present and future look bright.
Utahns' image of their state's economy is too negative, Searle said. Rather than taking personal credit for the new jobs, Bangerter is trying to show that his economic policies have been successful.
"Governors don't cause businesses to come to a state or not to come to a state," Searle said. "The governor's message is that the people need to become economic developers. Half of economic development is attitude."
Searle concedes the announcements are tied to the governor's campaign strategy, but insists Bangerter is merely trying to show the state's economy is not as poor as many people think.