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Jan. 23, 2012

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  Economic Review  
Jeff Edwards President's Message
EDCUtah Hosts Successful Entrada Open House

Annually, the evening before the "What's Up Down South?" summit in St. George, EDCUtah hosts its Entrada open house, which is a networking/educational event for Southern Utah elected officials, business leaders and economic developers.

Attendees at this year's open house, held Jan. 10, had the opportunity to hear the vision and feel the energy of Linda R. Baker, new chairperson for the Washington County Economic Development Council. Linda Baker, chairperson of the Washington County Economic Development Council, addresses attendees. Linda is also vice president of the southern region for Workers Compensation Fund and previously served as chairperson elect for the council. She has been devoted to economic development in Southern Utah for some time. Linda was introduced to the audience by Todd Brightwell, EDCUtah's senior vice president of business development.

EDCUtah also hosts the annual open house to get to know local leaders and provide an update regarding economic development activity in Kane, Iron and Washington Counties. Todd noted that interest in Southern Utah is quite strong, thanks largely to key assets like the new St. George airport, great industrial sites like the Fort Pierce industrial area, fantastic workforce availability, good building inventory, and strong regional cooperation.

Todd also reported that EDCUtah is working a near-record number of projects. Ten key projects, should they bear fruit, could bring approximately 2,500 jobs to Southern Utah and add approximately $1.75 billion in capital investment. We are seeing a lot of interest in Utah right now, including in Southern Utah, and we expect that to pick up as the California economy improves and businesses are able to sell their real estate and move forward with their relocation plans.

Today's Economic Review also includes links to many of the ED-related news stories from the past week. As always, if you have comments, suggestions or topics you'd like to see in the Economic Review, please contact us by clicking the "Comments" link on the bottom of this page. Enjoy!

Jeff Edwards

Jeff Edwards
President and CEO

Feature Story
Economy Looks Brighter for Business Leaders Gathered at 'What's Up Down South?' Economic Summit

As of September 2011, job growth in Utah's Dixie was up 2.6 percent and by the end of 2012 it may finish around four percent. That's great news for an area of the state beleaguered by a slow recovery from the economic meltdown and crash of the real estate market.

"I wouldn't be surprised if job growth in Washington County doesn't show up closer to four percent by the end of 2012, based on the trend and better numbers we are seeing," says Lecia Parks Langston, regional economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. "Almost every industry is up except for construction and professional business services. As you look at all of the numbers, there is a lot to be optimistic about."

Langston reported the positive news during a breakout session at the 15th Annual "What's Up Down South?" Economic Summit, which was held Jan. 11 at the Dixie Center in St. George.

Summit planners themed this year's event "Shifting Dixie's Economic Paradigm," focusing on the opportunities within the current southern Utah business landscape. Surprisingly, one such paradigm shift is occurring within the area's manufacturing sector, which experienced year over year job growth of nine percent. According to Langston, in a good year the county typically sees manufacturing job growth of about three percent, so the nine percent figure is not only good but also points to more diversification within the economy.

Diversifying the Economy
Helping to diversify the economy is of primary importance to two of the summit's leaders: Jill Elliss, "What's Up Down South?" planning chair, and Scott Hirschi, director of the Washington County Economic Development Council.

"Scott is the recruitment arm. My responsibility is to help create businesses with value-adds," says Elliss, who is also USTAR's southern region tech outreach director. "What we are trying to do is build an economic ecosystem that hasn't been here before. Washington County has brought in some manufacturing, and we now need to develop our technology industry."

Elliss describes the economic paradigm shift as a three-pronged approach. One prong focuses on assisting level-one businesses (one-person startups). Another prong focuses on assisting level-two businesses (those that have employees, such as restaurants, hotels and retail establishments). The third prong focuses on building the infrastructure for level-three businesses (those with potential to have national clients and higher paying jobs) and level-four businesses (global businesses). A business incubator has also been set up to nurture and grow the level-three and level-four businesses, she adds.

The annual "What's Up Down South?" summit has also become a key ingredient in diversifying the economy. Approximately 840 forward thinkers packed the Dixie Center for the one-day event, drawing information and energy from summit speakers and breakout sessions. George Feiger, CEO of Contango Advisors, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, and Hyrum Smith gave keynote addresses. Feiger offered his outlook regarding the financial crisis in Europe, the emerging market picture and his outlook for the U.S. economy. Governor Herbert highlighted the economic success of the region and state.

Summit Sessions
The Summit's most popular breakout session was the "What's Up Down South" five-minute bullet point presentations, which provided information about significant developments affecting the southern Utah economy. Two rounds of breakout sessions focused on the following topics:

  • Residential Real Estate
  • Social Marketing Your Personal Brand
  • Water in Washington County Past, Present, Future
  • Technology Advances in Southern Utah
  • Soltis Investment Update: Looking Ahead
  • It's All About the Economy: a presentation on local demographics
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • True Life SBA 504 Borrowers
  • Getting out of the Stone Age: Taking Your Business Global
  • Ownership and Visioneering - Two Explosive Imperatives for 2012
  • Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: a discussion from statewide business leader about the urgent need for job creation

Following the lunch session, Summit participants were invited to attend the afternoon bonus sessions, which included the 2012 Vision Dixie Report and "An Entrepreneur's Journey," presented by successful serial entrepreneur and USTAR regional director Alex Lawrence. Two energy-related sessions followed: One on natural gas and the other on renewable energy.

Calendar

Feb. 15
Utah Energy Development Summit (Salt Palace)

Feb. 21-24
Technology Venture Development Executive Education Seminar (University of Utah)

Oct. 16-19
Technology Venture Development Executive Education Seminar (University of Utah)

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The EDCUtah Economic Review is a weekly publication of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. It is distributed to EDCUtah partners and selected other government and civic organizations interested in Utah's economic development.

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New St. George airport snagging interest of passengers, businesses
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