Utahns have a reputation for being optimistic. It could be explained by a confident attitude about the economy. A Gallup poll released in February 2016 found Utah residents are the most positive in the US about their state’s economy. According to the poll, Utah sits firmly atop the Economic Confidence Index, a measure of economic conditions and outlook, with 84 percent of residents describing state economic conditions as “excellent/good” and 83 percent viewing the economy as “getting better.” The results are based on a 50-state poll, conducted by Gallup from March 30 to Dec. 22, 2015. The state scored a +75 out of 100, 11 points higher than second place North Dakota.
Turns out there are even more statistical reasons for optimism. The state recorded a 3.4-percent unemployment rate in February, more than a point lower than the national average. “The labor market in our state continues to grow and support economic prosperity,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist at Utah’s Department of Workforce Services. “With the addition of more than 44,000 jobs, Utah’s businesses continue to provide opportunity for job seekers who have the skills needed in today’s labor markets.”
The state touts its highly educated and well-trained workforce, and is energetically encouraging that workforce through substantial investments in STEM education for K-12 education as well as focusing attention on certificate acquisition through community colleges and traditional four-year colleges and universities. Utah’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Existing industries and companies new to the state routinely cite the workforce as a top reason for their investment. The past year has brought sizeable investment and job creation to the Beehive State, and not just in cities. Companies are choosing to locate in more rural locations, bringing with them hundreds of jobs in the process.
Making Themselves at Home
One of the top job creation expansions in the past 12 months came from EMC Corporation, a leading provider of cloud computing. The company announced it will invest $62 million in its “Center of Excellence” located in Draper. EMC also plans to add jobs to Utah’s booming tech sector by creating 700 new jobs in the next 10 years.
“We are extremely pleased with the progress the company has seen during the last several years and the strong partnership we have formed with both community and government leaders,” said Vance Checketts, vice president and general manager of EMC’s Utah operations. “EMC prides itself on being an employer of choice, not only globally, but locally as well, and it was an honor to be recognized by Utah Business Magazine as a ‘Best Large Company to Work For.’ ”
Procter & Gamble (P&G) was another big job creator in Utah in 2015. As part of P&G’s overall strategy to revamp factory operations in the North American sector, the company announced last May that it was expanding its paper products factory in Bear River City, north of Ogden. The expansion includes a $500-million investment that will double the existing facility to close to 1.2 million sq. ft. (111,485 sq. m.) and create 200 new jobs over the next 20 years. Yannis Skoufalos, P&G’s Global Product Supply Officer, called the move “a strategic part of P&G’s North American supply network redesign.”
A Honey of an Investment
A more recent expansion comes from Honeyville, Inc., a local, family-owned food products company that is growing its manufacturing facility in Honeyville, north of Ogden. The company announced a $23-million investment in February 2016. The expansion will generate 115 new jobs. Honeyville specializes in private label co-packing, mixing and blending, grain milling, heat treatment, wholesale ingredient distribution and consumer products, and was founded in Parowan, Utah, in 1951. It has locations in Arizona, California and Ohio, so expansion in Utah wasn’t a given.
“Honeyville has experienced significant growth, and after careful consideration found Utah to be the ideal state for expanding operations,” said Ed Hemphill, Honeyville’s president. “Utah has an outstanding workforce, has established a balanced regulatory environment and is a great location for employees to thrive and enjoy a high quality of life. Utah is also an excellent location to effectively serve several western states.”
In February, four companies announced plans to expand into rural Utah, specifically Carbon and Emery counties, southeast of Provo. Day Pacer, Key Research Solutions, Accelerated Business Solutions and Direct Business Lending plan to create a combined 300 jobs in the two-county region, all in the customer contact industry.
Utah’s industrial and business diversity have certainly played a key role in the state’s growth coming out of the Great Recession. With jobs on the rise in several private-sector industries — including Education and Health Services (9,700 jobs); Trade, Transportation and Utilities (8,700 jobs) and Leisure and Hospitality (8,300 jobs) — there’s no doubt Utahns will maintain that trademark optimism.
Patty Rasmussen has written about economic and business development for more than a decade with Site Selection and other business publications. As a freelance journalist she covered the Atlanta Braves from 1998 until 2010, and wrote for media outlets including Major League Baseball, Womenetics.com and WebMD.