Eighteen months ago Salt Lake City was seldom mentioned as a finalist in corporate relocation plans, but recently that has changed and now the city has economic development momentum.
So said Blair D. Bryan, Irvine, Calif., a vice president of the Dallas-based Staubach Co., a corporate relocation consulting company.Part of the economic development momentum that Salt Lake City has can be attributed to last October's Fortune Magazine article that said Salt Lake City was the best place to do business, Bryan said. "If you don't capitalize on the momentum it will be difficult to get it started again," he said.
Speaking during an economic symposium of the Utah Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks in Little America, Bryan outlined the actual process companies go through in a relocation effort. "By the time corporate officials start to talk about real estate in the new area they already have spent 24 months in the relocation process."
That means real estate is not a major factor in the relocation process, figuring that many areas have buildings that could be used or land for new construction, he said.
He said Staubach officials, when working with a corporation wanting to relocate, discuss geographical area, metropolitan population, air service, housing availability, accessibility, operating environment and if other corporate headquarters are located there.
Other issues of concern are education, work ethic/productivity, availability of labor, attitude of government toward a particular type of business, road infrastructure and delivery time. Bryan said labor costs are the No. 1 priority with most companies.
He said a negative perception is that Salt Lake City is in a remote area, but this is easy to overcome by telling people how great the Salt Lake International Airport is and how it is located at the crossroads of the West.
Rick Thrasher, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, said only five manufacturing plants that employ more than 1,000 people each are built in the United States every year and thousands of development agencies are chasing the five to locate in their area.
That's why Utah's economic development efforts should be unified. Another reason, Thrasher said, is that Utah economic development agencies don't have as much money to spend as some areas.
Explaining the makeup of EDC and its goals, Thrasher said EDC's board of trustees consists of mayors and chief executive officers that allow for uninterrupted economic development. He said EDC works with several agencies in economic development and in two years a four-year goal of 44,000 net new jobs was realized Dec. 31, 1990.
Alan Rindlisbacher, EDC vice president for business development, said Utah has done a good job in business attraction, but more must be done because of the perceptions outsiders have of the state.
He pointed to another Fortune Magazine article in 1990 that said Salt Lake City and Ogden are two of the least likely areas to be considered for relocation by Fortune 500 companies. He said those responding to the survey ranked Salt Lake City fairly low in accessibility to domestic markets and prospective clients and low in accessibility to international markets.
The city scores quite high in availability of skilled workers, in the middle on transportation, rests in the middle about the perception of quality of life and about half of the respondents have the same opinion of Salt Lake City now that they did five years ago, Rindlisbacher said.