Utah Valley's official unemployment rate may be only about 5 percent, but it's not likely to stay that low unless organizations like the Utah Valley Economic Development Association continue to be successful.

The latest UVEDA client report indicates that the association is actively working to attract several new firms to the area. UVEDA Chairman DeLance Squire said about a dozen firms "are active prospects that could be coming here within a reasonably short period of time."That list of prospects includes an aircraft manufacturing firm that would create 600 local jobs. The company, which will hold a second site tour this month, is looking for 18 acres on which to house a 200,000-square-foot building.

Another firm, a major manufacturer, is looking for 20 acres on which to build a facility that would create 500 jobs. And a Santa Clara, Calif., software company is looking for a 10,000-square-foot building in which to expand locally.

"All of us involved in economic development in the valley are much busier than we were two years ago," Squire said. "There has been a significant change the last two years."

During the past 10 days alone, two Southern California firms have contacted local officials about the possibility of locating in Utah Valley.

Considering the valley's growing demand for jobs, increased interest from out-of-state firms offers a welcome economic shot in the arm. The large number of job applicants in comparison to openings when four firms opened during the last year, however, reminds development officials that they still have lots of work to do.

A challenge affecting UVEDA's ability to attract outside firms is a growing shortage of ready sites, Squire said. The success of filling industrial parks in Provo and Orem, for example, has prompted officials in those cities to look for alternative sites.

"We're really running out of the parks that we've developed," Squire said.

UVEDA officials stand by decisions to attract firms like Stouffer's Frozen Foods and the Sears telecatalog center, even though the firms' jobs may pay less than other industries. However, UVEDA is putting increased emphasis on attracting jobs with higher wages.

"We're putting our emphasis on companies that pay high enough salaries to support a family," Squire said. He said a need continues for part-time, low-paying jobs, "but there's also a need to move into more jobs that pay a full-time salary for full-time work. Those are the ones we're trying to attract now."

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Job demand outstrips the supply

Economic development has made some headway in Utah Valley, and demand for jobs remains high:

Company New jobs available Applicants

Sears Telecatalog Center 800 5,000

Geneva Steel 60 2,400

Longview Fibre 50 2,600

ShopKo 211 2,000