During a two-day blitz through the East seeking more jobs for Utah, Gov. Norm Bangerter learned that Morton International is planning to triple its Utah work force - making it one of the state's largest.
And he also found how to better guide Utah companies through heavy competition and red tape for contracts to help rebuild war-torn but wealthy Kuwait.Bangerter traveled to Chicago and Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday and met with Morton International's president and chairman, the Kuwaiti ambassador, the secretaries of defense and commerce and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - which is overseeing assessment of damage in Kuwait.
Bangerter said Morton officials in Chicago told him they plan to increase their work force at their Brigham City plant, which makes air bags for cars, from 1,600 workers now to about 5,000 over the next four years. That would make it one of the state's largest employers.
"They, I believe, are essentially the world leader in the air bag business today," Bangerter said. He added that Morton is expanding to keep up with an expected bonanza from new requirements that cars contain air bags on both the driver and passenger sides.
Bangerter said the state knew of Morton's general plans to expand and wanted to verify them and ensure all was going smoothly. But he found Morton likely needs a new exit from I-15 in the center of Brigham City to help its plans.
"We're trying to work with them to provide a better access to Brigham City. They are now having to run those huge trucks all the way through town. So we think it's going to require another off-ramp," Bangerter said.
He said the Morton plant is on the west side of Brigham, but its freeway exits force all traffic to go east or through the town. He said a new exit in the middle of town would also help serve other industries that an expanded Morton plant is expected to attract to Brigham as subcontractors.
"They anticipate there will be some other industry coming. They've already brought in some," Bangerter said. He added that he discussed possible state help in operating training programs for Morton.
Bangerter said meetings with Kuwaiti Ambassador Saud Nasir al-Sabah and the defense and commerce departments also helped him figure how to better help Utah businesses win contracts to help rebuild Kuwait.
"I think we know what pitfalls to avoid," he said. "There are a lot of people about the land with an 800 or 900 number saying, `Call us and we'll send you to Kuwait and you can make a lot of money.' It appears the only people making money are the ones receiving the phone calls."
He added, "I think people who are interested in exploring that (seeking contracts in Kuwait) ought to contact our community and economic development people - Stan Parrish and his staff" and the state will help them through the red tape involved.
Bangerter said the Kuwaiti ambassador stressed that he doesn't want companies calling his embassy directly. "He said they're deluged with telephone calls. They have 22 lines in here, and he can't get a line to call out."
Unlike most politicians now meeting with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Bangerter did not have to complain about proposed base closings because none is planned for Utah. Did Bangerter thank Cheney for that? "You bet I did," he said.
Bangerter also met with Utah Republicans in Congress to "discuss some partisan strategy." At the Commerce Department, he discussed trade possibilities with representatives from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
He said short-term trading possibilities for Utah companies appear to be brightest in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. He also discussed the possibilities of sending retired Utah executives to help former communist countries transform to a free market system.