Trustees of Utah County's central economic development authority say a group blaming Geneva Steel for the county's air quality woes made at least one unsubstantiated claim during a meeting with the governor earlier this week.
The board of trustees for the Utah Valley Economic Development Association has voted to send a letter to Gov. Norm Ban-gerter stating that board members cannot corroborate the group's claim that the steel mill's emissions have hindered local economic development efforts.A group of county residents Monday pressured Bangerter to crack down on what it views as a tacit agreement by state air quality regulators to allow the steel plant to violate air quality standards.
Geneva Steel officials and regulators from the Utah Bureau of Air Quality have said repeatedly that the company is complying with all air quality regulations. But the citizen group has refused to believe the statements and demanded action from Bangerter.
UVEDA board members were concerned by one of the group's reported statements to the governor - that Geneva's emissions have kept an unspecified number of out-of-state companies from locating in Utah County.
No one on the 11-member board - which includes three Utah County mayors, two former mayors, two college vice presidents, managers of two of the county's largest industries and two representatives of federal jobs programs - could identify a single company that has refused to locate in the valley because of Geneva's emissions.
"I can name you companies that didn't come here specifically because of (Geneva's) large union work force," said Jim Ferguson, former Provo mayor. "But their concerns were unions, not air quality."
De facto trustee Gary Golightly, director of Provo's economic development office, said his office received a phone call earlier this week asking if Provo could back up the claim that steel mill emissions have kept potential new employers out of the county. He doesn't know of any such companies or situations, Go-lightly told the caller.
Board members also expressed concern about a Monday statement to Bangerter by an employee of
WICAT Systems, an Orem computer-based training and education company, who appeared to blame Geneva Steel emissions for WICAT's inability to attract and keep qualified employees.
UVEDA trustees expressed the opinion that internal factors at
WICAT may have more to do with its recruiting troubles than poor air quality. WICAT, which employs 650, has not shown an annual profit in its seven years of business as a for-profit company.
Trustees wondered if the citizen group that met with Bangerter is making other claims about Geneva Steel that cannot be substantiated. They expressed concern that elected officials like the governor may be hearing only claims that can't be backed up, rather than facts about the Geneva air quality issue.
Geneva Steel Director Chris Cannon, a UVEDA trustee, abstained from the board's vote to send Ban-gerter a letter and, surprisingly, argued against the motion.
Cannon said the board's taking of such a public stance might politicize UVEDA, a body whose mission of creating jobs is completely non-political. He favored using a more low-key channel to express the trustees' concerns to Bangerter.