Remember the 1970s? Salt Lake City was being touted as an undiscovered oasis in the economic desert. "The next Denver" was a favorite term although the thought of following in that city's overgrown footsteps appalled many Salt Lakers even then.
Governmental leaders were wringing their hands over how to handle the "explosive growth" (a favorite term back then) that was coming Salt Lake's way as the rest of the country - and world - discovered all that the City by the Wasatch had to offer business. "Economic Development" became the rallying cry of the new decade as 1980 dawned.Now the '80s are less than 12 months from becoming history and it seems Salt Lake is still waiting to be discovered.
That's the message George J. Kallis, Denver-based Mountain Regional Manager for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services brought to town this week.
Kallis, keynote speaker Thursday at the local Coldwell Banker office's Real Estate Forecast luncheon at University Park Hotel, told the gathering of real estate and property management professionals that Salt Lake City remains a "well-kept secret."
While Salt Lake has sat pretty much on the sidelines in the '80s as "key urban distribution centers" such as Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, New York and, most of all, Los Angeles, have been coping with that "explosive growth" once projected for the city, Kallis thinks Salt Lake may benefit from the "too-much-of-a-good-thing" growth of those areas.
"I speak of the potential `spill-over' from these hot markets to attractive `soft-belt' cities like Salt Lake," he said.
Salt Lake, said Kallis, has the amenities to attract most industries, including entrepreneurs. He praised it as "one of the most beautiful cities in the United States with an unlimited potential for tourism" along with a "very workable" transportation infra-structure that is well ahead of Colorado's.
Kallis also praised the city's International Airport, the availability of relatively affordable housing, sporting and cultural opportunities, and the "high quality shopping" the city offers.
But he questioned whether many people outside Utah are aware of these attributes and he also questioned whether the state has been using the right marketing strategies to promote them.
"I realize Utah has allocated over $5 million for economic development, which includes advertising and business generation. However, is Utah using the shotgun approach or picking its markets and taking a carefully-targeted rifle shot approach to marketing?" he asked the group.
It's clear that Kallis thinks Colorado is on target with its carefully orchestrated campaign to sell that state as a beautiful place to live, visit and economically operate a business. "This type of persistent and intelligent effort will be necessary to better sell Utah and Salt Lake City in the future," he said.
Kallis outlined the results of a new Coldwell Banker study titled "The Emerging Corporate Status: Relocating to the Soft Belt" and the "fascinating implications" it has for Salt Lake City. Specifically, that typical businesses in so-called "hot markets" like Los Angeles can significantly improve their profitability by relocating to attractive, "soft-belt" cities such as Salt Lake and Denver.
As an example, he cited the Great American Life Insurance Co.'s recent move from Orange County, Calif. to Salt Lake citing three specific reasons for the move: (1) Dissatisfaction with the Southern California labor pool, its high costs and poor work ethic. (2) The cost of renting physical facilities - termed "ridiculous" by the company - and (3) concerns about the deteriorating quality of life in Southern California.
As a clear antidote to those problems, Kallis believes Salt Lake's days as a "well kept secret" may be numbered.