The money Utah puts into its Custom Fit program pays big dividends, members of the Joint Public Education Appropriations Committee heard Wednesday.

Testimonials from officials of businesses that have benefited from the program, which offers state help by training workers for new or expanding companies in the state, helped sell the committee on the need for even more money.A spokesman for All American Gourmet, for instance, told committee members the company saved about $1.5 million in start-up costs when it relocated to Utah. Short-term specific training for new employees helped get the business on a solid enough footing to pay more than $1 million in taxes after only six months in Utah.

New or expanding companies have requested more than $2.3 million in assistance through June of this year, while the program has only $608,670 in unencumbered money to fill the requests, said Custom Fit Director Gary Lloyd. To date this fiscal year, approximately $700,000 has been earmarked for 35 companies.

The committee appeared amenable to trying to find up to a half million additional dollars for Custom Fit's next years' budget if money is available. The money is a good investment in Utah's economic future, committee members agreed.

The committee even cast tentative eyes on a $485,000 request by higher education for short term training funds, saying it could be better spent in the Custom Fit program.