Gov. Norm Bangerter, joined by both of Utah's U.S. senators and his former primary intraparty opponent in the governor's race, left Thursday morning for a meeting in Southern California with officials of McDonnell Douglas to discuss bringing more of the aerospace company's operations to the state.
The governor, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Jake Garn, both R-Utah, and millionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman took off in Huntsman's jet. They are expected to return in time for the governor to deliver a high school commencement speech Thursday night in Heber City.The meeting will be the first attended by Huntsman in his role as the governor's economic development ambassador. Bangerter bestowed that title upon Huntsman after the surprise Republican challenger withdrew from the governor's race earlier this year.
Huntsman and both senators were silent during the brief press conference held just before the group boarded the plane, allowing Bangerter to describe the trip.
The governor said the effort to "tell the Utah story" was the first of its kind and would "show that Utah really is big at promoting economic development."
Bangerter said the discussion planned with McDonnell Douglas would be general rather than dealing with relocating specific projects to the state.
McDonnell Douglas built a plant in Salt Lake City last year to make panels for the planned Air Force C-17 jet transport, the aircraft criticized as a boondoggle by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah.
Although the C-17 program was approved by Congress, McDonnell Douglas' Salt Lake City plant was used instead to produce commercial aircraft parts.
As a result, the company still needs a new plant for the C-17 program and is reportedly considering locating it in the Ogden area.
Bangerter said the McDonnell Douglas plant in Salt Lake City already has about 100 employees and could have as many as 1,000 within the next two or three years.
McDonnell Douglas is saving millions of dollars by operating in Utah, Bangerter said, adding that area technical schools are training about 60 workers a month for the company.
The governor's spokeswoman, Francine Giani, said the trip would not cost the state anything because Huntsman's jet was being used.