If all the planned development in Utah Valley actually takes place, 1989 could be the best commercial year ever, according to economic development officials.
If there's an end in sight to the recent growth, it's not projected for 1989. More business is expected for the county's two largest cities, Provo and Orem; a new industry could be moving into Spanish Fork; there are plans to turn Utah Lake into a haven for business and tourists; and Provo is getting a new ski resort."If the companies we're working with build the buildings they're planning, then we'll have probably as good a commercial year as any we've ever had," said DeLance Squire, chairman of Utah Valley Economic Development Association and president of the Commission for Economic Development in Orem. "I honestly believe Orem is going to have the largest spurt of commercial growth it's ever had.
"There are a lot of exciting things under construction," Squire said. Among them, WordPerfect Corp. is building two new buildings and could add more by the end of the year. Novell Inc. is also constructing a new building.
A company is looking to occupy the Kirby Building in Spanish Fork, which could mean 200 to 300 new jobs, according to Squire. Mack Truck purchased Pleasant Grove-based Savage Bros. and could employ 40 to 50 people. Two other companies are looking to build in Utah County, each of which could provide 200 to 250 new jobs.
Utah County is proving to be attractive to businesses wanting to get out of the big city, according to Steve Densley, president of the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce and recently installed president of the state chamber.
"Traffic backup is minimal, the crime rate is lower and the county's colleges are helping provide an ideal business environment," he said. "Utah County is starting to capture the imagination of the world."
Another reason for the county's rising star status is a new spirit of cooperation among the cities, he said. "They understand that they're not enemies. Salt Lake City proper has a population around 165,000. When you consider that Provo and Orem have a combined population of 150,000, it makes sense to work together in Utah Valley."
When an area experiences major economic woes, the problems are obvious. Unemployment goes up, the area tax base dwindles and business heads for greener pastures or gives up altogether.
When an area is booming economically, the pluses are obvious and problems seem obscure.
Utah County has seen both days. Unemployment hit 7 percent in the mid-1980s, Geneva Steel closed in 1986, and Utah County cities even struggled to get along.
That environment changed. The most recent figures from Provo Job Service showed unemployment at 4 percent. Geneva didn't stay closed and Utah County cities are cooperating better with each other.
Now that the county is beginning to prosper, county development officials say any problem associated with growth is mere inconvenience compared to the stress during economic struggles.
Industries wanting to move into existing buildings aren't finding much space, which is about the only problem resulting from the recent economic upsurge.
Even office space has been scarce. In Orem, there was very little office space available within the city until WordPerfect moved some of its employees into new buildings.
"The major consideration cities and individuals need to make is where they can make sites available," Densley said. Provo and Orem need to find more space now that Orem's Timpanogos Research Park is full and Provo's East Bay business park is nearly full.
One perennial minus that finally appears on the verge of becoming a plus is Heritage Mountain.
The elaborate resort seemed destined to be a dream without financing, as would-be owners never seemed to have enough money to even buy a lift ticket.
But Heritage Mountain's current owner, Victor Borcherds, scaled down some of the plans, and construction could begin as early as July. He has a summer plan also. During Memorial Day weekend, Heritage Mountain will open a water park.
Borcherds is also scheduled to announce renovation plans for the Excelsior Hotel Tuesday.
According to Densley, if all goes as planned, Utah Valley could become a resort community.
Among prospective contributors to a resort atmosphere is Utah Lake. During the current legislative session, lawmakers will entertain a proposal to create a Utah Lake Authority Board.
That board would oversee dredging lake inlets and diking the lake to clear it of its clay content, Densley said. More business would be located near the lake, and as many as nine golf courses could be constructed. There might even be a whole city constructed on the west end of the lake.
"We're within one hour of the airport, and private jets can land in Provo's airport. We're close to the ski resorts. This could be one of the biggest resort areas in the western United States.
"We never know for sure until everything is signed, but if they come through we're going to be in great shape," Squire said.
(CHART) Projections for 1989
- Possible result of three new companies locating in Utah Valley - 600 to 900 new jobs.
- Possible result of growth of 85 Utah Valley high-tech companies - 1,200 new jobs.
- University Avenue from mouth of Provo Canyon to south Provo I-15 interchange under construction.
- Novell to complete third building.
- WordPerfect to complete sixth and seventh buildings, could build three more.
- Signetics considering significant building expansion.
- Spanish Fork's Kirby Building could possibly be occupied.
- Provo's Excelsior Hotel to undergo renovation.
- Heritage Mountain Ski Resort to begin construction.
- Heritage Mountain Water Park to begin operations.
- Utah Lake Authority board created.
- K mart and Sears Telecatalog Center to open at Provo's East Bay Park.