Although it has been incorporated for 18 months, the Utah Economic Development Corp. is likely one of the least-known organizations attempting to attract new business and help existing business in Salt Lake County.
Rick Thrasher, UEDC president and chief executive officer, said economic development takes time and it might be awhile before UEDC's efforts show, although some progress has been made in attracting companies to Utah.He said UEDC has been the lead agency, worked with other agencies or been "quietly supportive" in recent announcements of business expansion in the area.
In a recent interview about his first 10 months on the job, Thrasher said the first few months of a new organization are critical because that's when policies and by-laws are being completed so the board can operate.
In its five-year action plan, UEDC will spend 58 percent of its resources on attracting companies, and "it would be prudent to dedicate our resources where there is likelihood of success. It wouldn't pay us to concentrate on getting a large industrial complex to move into Utah when there is little chance of getting it," he said.
Thrasher, who arrived last May after serving as president and chief executive officer of the Lakeland (Fla.) Economic Development Council, said a recent Utah Power & Light Co. study outlined 30 industries that would be compatible to Salt Lake County. That list already has been pared to 26. Four-member teams of volunteers are studying these industries, and eventually the list will be reduced to four or five.
These industries will be targeted through advertisements in trade journals, UEDC officials will join their associations and UEDC employees will attend appropriate trade fairs. "After we exhaust the potential with an industry for three or four years, we'll concentrate on other industries," Thrasher said.
In addition to attracting business to the state, UEDC also will spend resources on helping existing business. "New companies always get the most attention, but it is the existing companies that give a state the biggest economic boost," Thrasher said.
UEDC employees will encourage Utah companies to export their products because of the tremendous potential. UEDC will also solve problems that might result in Utah companies leaving the area and will lobby for or against legislation affecting business.
UEDC also will help companies bid to provide products to federal, state and local governments.
Thrasher said 3,120 counties, 10,000 municipalities and 35,000 organizations are trying to improve their own economic situation. Many are trying to lure Utah businesses away, just like Utah is attempting to lure business away from other areas.
"That's why it's so important to do things slowly and carefully when dealing with outside business and also keep existing businesses happy with their operation in Utah," he said.
The board consists of the mayors of 12 communities, three county commissioners, 16 people from the private sector and three at-large members. For the fiscal year ending June 30, UEDC is operating on an $800,000 budget, but Thrasher expects that between $600,000 and $700,000 will be spent.