Whenever a company moves to Utah or opens a branch office, there is plenty of publicity, press conferences and speeches by Utah economic officials about how glad they are the owners saw the light and picked Utah.
But what about the businesses that have been in Utah for many years? Are they often taken for granted, left to fend for themselves with the hope they will stay in the area?Because other states are trying to lure Utah businesses away, Utah economic development officials believe that keeping Utah businesses happy, reducing their problems and making it easier to expand are ways to keep the companies in the state.
One group heavily involved in retention of Utah business is the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, which works in conjunction with several agencies in this endeavor. EDC is a public-private organization whose board of trustees consists of mayors and corporate executives.
Working to help business are John Hiskey, EDC's vice president for the Salt Lake County Division, and B Murphy, business liaison representative, whose position is funded by the Wasatch Front Private Industry Council, the governing board of the Job Training Partnership Act.
Rick Thrasher, EDC president, said his organization becomes aware of business problems through many sources. Working in conjunction with chambers of commerce; county, city and state government officials; and private companies, EDC is helping contribute toward a net increase in employment.
For example, in the six months ending Dec. 31, 1990, on the company expansion projects in which EDC was involved, the net increase was 876 jobs, Thrasher said.
Hiskey said several companies that relocated to Utah already have been back to EDC talking about expansion. One company, he said, came to Utah in 1989 and already has expanded twice and EDC and others helped arranged for training at Salt Lake Community College.
Thrasher said the main help EDC can give companies is training by working with SLCC, JTPA officials and the Utah Department of Employment Security. For example, when Eastern Airlines shut down its Salt Lake reservation center and 700 were laid off, these entities were able to get quite a few people placed quickly with a minimum of disruption in their lives. For the others, training programs were established.
Murphy said help from EDC isn't contingent upon the company being a contributor to EDC. One West Jordan manufacturing company was having electrical power problems that resulted in periodic shutdowns. Utah Power & Light Co., a contributor to EDC, sent some people and solved the problem.
Thrasher said company officials weren't extremely upset and weren't threatening to leave the area, but since the problem was solved the company has expanded by adding 60,000 square-feet of space, 20 more employees were hired and another 50 will be hired later this year.
He considers EDC an economic development agency with a private sector orientation. "Companies feel they can call us because we serve as a vehicle to approach a problem without being adversarial. We have no money at stake and our success is measured in jobs only," Thrasher said.